Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
The servitude of Jesus.
I. In Christ, service and freedom were perfectly combined. He gave the service of being, the service of work, the service of suffering, the service of worship, the service of rest, each to the very highest point of which that service is capable. But when He came, knowing, as He did, all to which He was coming, He came with these words upon His lips, "I delight to do it."
II. Christ had many masters, and He served them all with perfect service. (1) There was His own high purpose, which had armed Him for His mission, and never by a hair's-breadth did He ever swerve from that. (2) And there was the law. The law had no right over Christ, and yet how He served the law, in every requirement, moral, political, ceremonial, to the smallest tittle. (3) And there was death, that fearful master with his giant hand. Step by step, inch by inch, slowly, measuredly, He put Himself under its spell, He obeyed its mandate, and He owned its power. (4) And to His Heavenly Father what a true Servant He was, not only in fulfilling all the Father's will, but as He did it, in always tracing to Him all the power, and giving back to Him all the glory.
III. There is a depth of beauty and power, of liberty and humiliation, of abandonment and love, in that word "servant," which none ever know who have not considered it as one of the titles of Jesus. But there is another name of Jesus, very dear to His people, "the Master." To understand "the Master" you must yourself have felt "the Servant."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 9th series, p. 27.
References: Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 42:2.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 17. Isaiah 42:1-4.—W. M. Punshon, Penny Pulpit, No. 871 (see also Old Testament Outlines, p. 206); W. Hubbard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 291; C. Short, Ibid., vol. xv., p. 241.
Isaiah 42:3(Matthew 12:20)
I. The first reference of this passage is to Christ's cause in the world. Thus interpreted, the passage is full of inspiration to each Christian philanthropist. Christ's cause—the cause of virtuous happiness here on earth, and of glory to God in the highest—this cause, amidst its seeming feebleness, is divinely secure. The same principle pervades the Lord's dealing with each individual soul. The entire eventual holiness of His people—i.e. their perfection in knowledge, faith, and goodness—is the Saviour's steadfast purpose; and in carrying out that purpose He exerts an unwearying and victorious patience.
II. Those who are seeking salvation should (1) avoid what would quench the smoking flax. There are regions so very cold, the icy realms of everlasting winter, that it is hardly possible to get anything to ignite. And so it is with cold companions. You will find that religion perishes whenever you walk in the counsel of the ungodly or stand in the way of sinners. (2) When once a brand of wick is fairly lighted, its tendency is to aid its own incandescence and keep up its clearer shining. And so the grace which has already grown most is likely to be most growthful; the piety which has become habitual will be not only permanent but progressive. For a smoking flax there is no specific like heaven's oxygen; for a faint and flickering piety there is no cure comparable to the one without which all our exertions are but an effort to light a lamp in vacuo—the breath of the Holy Spirit.
J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 178.
Isaiah 42:3The lesson which this passage teaches is that the Saviour is infinite in kindness.
I. The sinner is obscure, but the Saviour is omniscient.
II. The sinner is a thing of grief and guilt, but the Saviour is gentleness and grace impersonate.
III. The sinner is in himself worthless, but the Saviour is mighty; and out of the most worthless can make a vessel of mercy meet for the Master's use.
J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 164.
The source of Christ's perfect tenderness to sinners is none other than the Divine compassion. It was the love and pity of the Word made flesh. It teaches us, however, some great truths, full of instruction, which we will now consider.
I. It is plain that this gentle reception even of the greatest sinners implies that, where there is so much as a spark of life in the conscience, there is possibility of an entire conversion to God. Where there is room to hope anything, there is room to hope all things. Such is the mysterious nature of the human spirit, of its affections and will, such its energies and intensity, that it may at any time be so renewed by the spirit of the new creation as to expel, with the most perfect rejection, all the powers, qualities, visions, and thoughts of evil.
II. Another great truth implied in our Lord's conduct to sinners is, that the only sure way of fostering the beginning of repentance is to receive them with gentleness and compassion. On those in whom there is the faintest stirring of repentance the love of Christ falls with a soft but penetrating force. To receive sinners coldly, or with an averted eye, an estranged heart, and a hasty, unsparing tongue, will seldom fail to drive them into defiance or self-abandonment. A sinner that is out of hope is lost. Hope is the last thing left. If this be crushed the flax is extinct. Truth told without love is perilous in the measure in which it is true. There is in every sinner a great burden of misery, soreness, and alarm; but even these, instead of driving him to confession, make him shut himself up in a fevered and brooding fear. And it was in this peculiar wretchedness of sin that the gentleness of our Lord gave them courage and hope. It was a strange courage that came upon them; a boldness without trembling, yet an awe without alarm. What little motions of good were in them, what little stirrings of conscience, what faint remainder of better resolutions, what feeble gleams of all but extinguished light,—all seemed to revive, and to turn in sympathy towards some source of kindred nature, and to stretch itself out in hope to something long desired, with a dim unconscious love. It is an affinity of the spirit working in penitents with the Spirit of Christ that made them draw to Him. It was not only because of His infinite compassion as God that Christ so dealt with sinners; but because, knowing the nature of man, its strange depths and windings, its weakness and fears, He knew that this was the surest way of winning them to Himself.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 377.
References: Isaiah 42:3.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 19; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 18.
Isaiah 42:3-4I. Consider, first, the representation of the servant of the Lord as the restorer of the bruise that it may not be broken. "He shall not break the bruised reed." Here is the picture. A slender bulrush, growing by the margin of some tarn or pond, its sides crushed and dinted in by some outward power, some gust of wind, some sudden blow, the foot of some passing animal. The head is hanging by a thread, but it is not yet snapped or broken off from the stem. And so, says my text, there are reeds bruised and shaken by the wind, but yet not broken. And the tender Christ comes with His gentle, wise, skilful surgery, to bind these up and to make them strong again. The text applies (1) to mankind generally, (2) especially to those whose hearts have been crushed by the consciousness of their sins.
II. Look next at the completing thought that is here in the second clause, which represents Christ as the Fosterer of incipient and imperfect good. "The dimly burning wick He shall not quench." There is something in the nature of every man which corresponds to this dim flame that needs to be fostered in order to blaze brightly abroad. In a narrower sense the words may be applied to a class. There are some of us who have in us a little spark, as we believe, of a Divine life, the faint beginnings of a Christian character. We call ourselves Christ's disciples. We are; but how dimly the flax burns. How do you make "smoking flax" burn? You give it oil, you give it air, and you take away the charred portions. And Christ will give you, in your feebleness, the oil of His Spirit, that you may burn brightly as one of the candlesticks in His temple; and He will let air in, and take away the charred portions, by the wise discipline of sorrow and trial sometimes, in order that the smoking flax may become the shining light.
III. Lastly, we have the representation of the servant of the Lord as exempt from human evil and weakness, as the foundation of His restoring and fostering work. "He shall not burn dimly nor be broken till He hath set judgment in the earth." There are no bruises in this reed. Christ's manhood is free from all scars and wounds of evil or of sin. There is no dimness in this light. Christ's character is perfect. His goodness needs no increase. And because of these things, because of His perfect exemption from human infirmity, because in Him was no sin, He is manifested to take away our sins.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Jan. 28th, 1886.
References: Isaiah 42:4.—Archbishop Benson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 232; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 20, vol. x., p. 288. Isaiah 42:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 986. Isaiah 42:9.—Ibid., vol. xxv., No. 1508.
Isaiah 42:14-16The solemn practical truth of the text is that God can do the most terrible things and the most gentle; that power belongeth unto God and also mercy; that He is either glorious as heaven or fearful as hell.
I. Look at the doctrine of the text in relation to bad men who pride themselves upon their success and their strength. The doctrine of the text is that there is a Power beyond man's, and that nothing is held safely which is not held by consent of that Power. As he would be infinitely foolish who should build his house without thinking of the natural forces that will try its strength, so is he cursed with insanity who builds his character without thinking of the fire with which God will try every man's work of what sort it is. The so-called success of the bad man has yet to stand the strain of Divine trial. Though his strength be as a mountain, it shall be wasted; though it be as a hill it shall be blown away, and the world shall see how poorly they build who build only for the light and quietness of summer. Remember, we are not stronger than our weakest point, and that true wisdom binds us to watch even the least gate that is insufficient or insecure.
II. Look at the doctrine of the text as an encouragement to all men who work under the guidance of God. God declares Himself gentle to those who truly need Him. He promises nothing to the self-sufficient; He promises much to the needy. The text shows the principle on which Divine help is given to men,—the principle of conscious need and of willingness to be guided. A true apprehension of this doctrine will give us a new view of daily providences, viz., that men who are apparently most destitute may in reality be most richly enjoying the blessings of God. Clearly, we are not to judge human life by outward conditions. Blindness may not be merely so much defect, it may be but another condition of happiness. It is because we are blind that He will lead us. It is because we are weak that He will carry us. It is because we have nothing that He offers to give us all things.
Parker, City Temple, 1870, p. 277.
References: Isaiah 42:16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 32; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 847, vol. xxii., No. 1310.
He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.
Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands.
The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies.
I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.
I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.
And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.
They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods.
Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.
Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD'S servant?
Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.
The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.
But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.
Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come?
Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law.
Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.