Isaiah 42:4
He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
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(4) He shall not fail nor be discouraged . . .—Both verbs in the Hebrew point back to those of the previous verse, He shall not burn dimly nor be crushed, as if to teach that in helping others to strength and light, the servants of the Lord, after the pattern of the Servant, gain light and strength for themselves.

The isles shall wait for his law.—The relation of “the servant” to the far off Gentile world is still dominant in the prophet’s mind. The LXX. Version, given in Matthew 12:21, “In His name shall the Gentiles hope,” is a paraphrase rather than a translation. The words describe the “earnest expectation,” the unconscious longing of the heathen for One who shall be a true teacher (Romans 8:22).

Isaiah 42:4. He shall not fail, nor be discouraged — Though he be thus meek and gentle, yet he is also courageous and resolute, notwithstanding all the many and great difficulties and conflicts to which he will be exposed, and he will persevere till he have finished his work. Till he have set judgment in the earth — Till, by his holy life, his extreme sufferings, his many miracles, his resurrection from the dead, his visible ascension into heaven, and the wonderful effusion of his Holy Spirit, in extraordinary gifts and graces on his apostles and other servants, he shall fully evince the certain truth and infinite importance of his doctrine, and the divine original and authority of that holy religion which he came to establish: or, till he shall erect his kingdom in the world, or a church for himself among men, and, by the power of his gospel and grace, shall reform mankind, and fix such principles in their minds as will make them wise and holy, just and good. Lowth thinks this prophecy relates chiefly to the propagation of the gospel in the world by his apostles and other messengers; observing that Christ himself was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and consequently could be a light to the Gentiles only as he commissioned others to preach the gospel to them: see Ephesians 2:17. And, taking the words in this comprehensive sense, they import, that our Saviour and his apostles would not be discouraged at the difficulties they were to meet with in the discharge of their office, but would still continue unwearied in their work, till, at last, they should surmount all opposition, plant judgment and truth in the earth, and make the remotest parts of the world own their dependance upon him as their Lord, and submit to his government. And the isles — Of the Gentiles, the countries remote from Judea, as the word often signifies; shall wait for his law — Shall gladly receive his doctrine and commands from time to time.

42:1-4 This prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, Mt 12:17. Let our souls rely on him, and rejoice in him; then, for his sake, the Father will be well-pleased with us. The Holy Spirit not only came, but rested upon him, and without measure. He patiently bore the contradiction of sinners. His kingdom is spiritual; he was not to appear with earthly honours. He is tender of those oppressed with doubts and fears, as a bruised reed; those who are as smoking flax, as the wick of a lamp newly lighted, which is ready to go out again. He will not despise them, nor lay upon them more work or more suffering than they can bear. By a long course of miracles and his resurrection, he fully showed the truth of his holy religion. By the power of his gospel and grace he fixes principles in the minds of men, which tend to make them wise and just. The most distant nations wait for his law, wait for his gospel, and shall welcome it. If we would make our calling and election sure, and have the Father delight over us for good, we must behold, hear, believe in, and obey Christ.He shall not fail - He shall not be weak, feeble, or disheartened. However much there may be that shall tend to discourage, yet his purpose is fixed, and he will pursue it with steadiness and ardor until the great work shall be fully accomplished. There may be an allusion in the Hebrew word here (יכהה yı̂kheh) to that which is applied to the flax (כהה kēhâh); and the idea may be that he shall not become in his purposes like the smoking, flickering, dying flame of a lamp. There shall never be any indication, even amidst all embarrassments, that it is his intention to abandon his plan of extending the true religion through all the world. Such also should be the fixed and determined purposes of his people. Their zeal should never fail; their ardor should never grow languid.

Nor be discouraged - Margin, 'Broken.' The Hebrew word ירוּץ yârûts may be derived either from רצץ râtsats, to break, to break in pieces; or from רוץ rûts to run, to move hastily, to rush upon any one. Our translators have adopted the former. Gesenius also supposes that this is the true interpretation of the word, and that it means, that he would not be broken, that is, checked in his zeal, or discouraged by any opposition. The latter interpretation is preferred by Vitringa, Rosenmuller, Hengstenberg, and others. The Chaldee renders it, 'Shall not labor,' that is, shall not be fatigued, or discouraged. The Septuagint renders it, 'He shall shine out, and not be broken.' The connection seems to require the sense which our translators have given to it, and according to this, the meaning is, 'he shall not become broken in spirit, or discouraged; he shall persevere amidst all opposition and embarrassment, until he shall accomplish his purposes.' We have a similar phraseology when we speak of a man's being heart-broken.

Till he have set judgment - Until he has secured the prevalence of the true religion in all the world.

And the isles - Distant nations (see the note at Isaiah 41:1); the pagan nations. The expression is equivalent to saying that the Gentiles would be desirous of receiving the religion of the Messiah, and would wait for it (see the notes at Isaiah 2:3).

Shall wait - They shall be dissatisfied with their own religions, and see that their idol-gods are unable to aid them; and they shall be in a posture of waiting for some new religion that shall meet their needs. It cannot mean that they shall wait for it, in the sense of their already having a knowledge of it, but that their being sensible that their own religions cannot save them may be represented as a condition of waiting for some better system. It has been true, as in the Sandwich Islands, that the pagan have been so dissatisfied with their own religion as to east away their idols, and to be without any religion, and thus to be in a waiting posture for some new and better system. And it may be true yet that the pagan shall become extensively dissatisfied with their idolatry; that they shall be convinced that some better system is necessary, and that they may thus be prepared to welcome the gospel when it shall be proposed to them. It may be that in this manner God intends to remove the now apparently insuperable obstacles to the spread of the gospel in the pagan world. The Septuagint renders this, 'And in his name shall the Gentiles trust,' which form has been retained by Matthew Mat 12:21.

His law - His commands, the institutions of his religion. The word 'law' is often used in the Scriptures to denote the whole of religion.

4. fail—faint; man in religion may become as the almost expiring flax-wick (Isa 42:3), but not so He in His purposes of grace.

discouraged—literally, "broken," that is, checked in zeal by discouragements (compare Isa 49:4, 5). Rosenmuller not so well translates, "He shall not be too slow on the one hand, nor run too hastily on the other."

judgment—His true religion, the canon of His judgments and righteous reign.

isles … wait, &c.—The distant lands beyond sea shall put their trust in His gospel way of salvation. Mt 12:21 virtually gives the sense, with the inspired addition of another aspect of the same thing, "In his name shall the Gentiles trust" (as "wait for" here means, Isa 30:18). "His law" is not something distinct from Himself, but is indeed Himself, the manifestation of God's character ("name") in Christ, who is the embodiment of the law (Isa 42:21; Jer 23:6; Ro 10:4). "Isles" here, and in Isa 42:12, may refer to the fact that the populations of which the Church was primarily formed were Gentiles of the countries bordering on the Mediterranean.

He shall not fail, nor be discouraged; though he be thus meek, and gentle, yet he is also courageous and resolute against all the great and many difficulties and conflicts to which he will be exposed, and will not give over till he have finished his work; or, as others render the words, He shall not be darkened (this glorious light shall not be eclipsed or obscured; or, He shall shine forth brightly and gloriously, as the LXX. render this word) nor broken by all the attempts and vigorous endeavours of his enemies who design it.

Till he have set judgment in the earth; till he have published and established his law or doctrine (as this judgment is expounded in the next clause) among the nations of the earth. And this word till respects only the time past, but not the time to come, as if he would then fail, or be discouraged, when once he had

set judgment on the earth; which is contrary to reason, and to other evident scriptures. And so this word is used, Genesis 28:15 Psalm 71:18 Matthew 1:25.

The isles; the countries remote from Judea, to which God’s law was now confined, as this word is oft used.

Shall wait for his law; shall gladly receive his doctrine and commands from time to time.

He shall not fail,.... For want of strength to go through the work of redemption: or, "grow dim" (i) and dark, as a lamp for want of oil, or as the wick of a candle ready to go out. Hence the Septuagint version, "he shall shine (k)"; in the glory of his person, as the Son of God; in the fulness of his grace, as Mediator, which shall never fail; and in the hearts of his people by his Spirit; and in his Gospel published to the world:

nor be discouraged; at the number, power, and menaces of his enemies, he had to grapple with, sin, Satan, the world, and death: or,

nor be broken (l); with the weight of all the sins of his people upon him; and with a sense of divine wrath; and with the whole punishment due unto them, inflicted on him, enough to have broke the backs and spirits of men and angels; but he stood up under the mighty load, and did not sink beneath it, but endured all with an invincible courage and resolution of mind:

till he have set judgment in the earth; fully satisfied the justice of God for the sins of his people, and performed the work of their redemption in righteousness; and then he sent and settled his Gospel in the world, proclaiming the same; and fixed a set of Gospel ordinances to continue the remembrance of it, till his second coming. Maimonides (m) produces this passage to prove that the Messiah shall die, because it is said, "he shall not fail--till", &c.; but this does not signify that he should fail afterwards, but that he should continue always:

and the isles shall wait for his law; his doctrine or Gospel, the law or doctrine of faith, particularly that of justification by his righteousness, with every other; this the inhabitants of the islands, or distant countries, the Gentiles, should be desirous of hearing, readily embrace and receive, and trust in Christ, made known to them in it. The Septuagint version is, "and in his name shall the Gentiles trust"; and so in Matthew 12:20.

(i) , "non caligabit", Pagninus, Montanus. (k) Sept. (l) "nec fraugetur", Paguinus, Montanus. (m) Porta Mosis, p. 160.

He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he hath {i} set judgment in the earth: and the {k} isles shall wait for his law.

(i) Till he has set all things in good order.

(k) The Gentiles will desire to receive his doctrine.

4. His constancy. The words fail and be discouraged correspond in the original to “dimly burning” and “broken” in Isaiah 42:3. (See R.V. marg.) The former is used of the failing eyesight of Eli (1 Samuel 3:2); cf. Ezekiel 21:7 (R.V. marg.).

for his law] his instruction (see on ch. Isaiah 1:10), his revelation of the truth. It is doubtful whether the verb of this clause should be rendered “shall wait” or “do wait.” If the latter be correct, the remarkable thought may be expressed that already the best of the heathen are dissatisfied with their religious systems and long for a purer faith.

Verse 4. - He shall not fail nor be discouraged; literally, he will not burn dimly nor be bruised. He will himself show no signs of that weakness which he will compassionate in others. As a "Light" (Luke 2:32; John 1:4-9), he will burn brightly and strongly; as a Reed, or Rod, he will be firm and unbroken. Till he have set judgment in the earth; i.e. till he has succeeded in establishing true religion upon the earth (compare the last clause of ver. 1). The isles; or, the countries (comp. Isaiah 41:1, 5). Shall wait for his Law; or, shall long for his Law. Yakhal is "to wait longingly." It is, as Delitzsch observes, "an actual fact that the cry for redemption runs through the whole human race." They are possessed by "an earnest longing, the ultimate object of which is, however unconsciously, the Servant of Jehovah, and his instruction from Zion" ('Comment. on Isaiah,' vol. 2. p. 177). Isaiah 42:4The figures in Isaiah 42:3 now lead to the thought that the servant of God will never be extinguished or become broken Himself. "He will not become faint or broken, till He establish right upon earth, and the islands wait for His instruction." As יכהה (become faint) points back to כהה פשׁתה (the finat or glimmering wick), so ירּוץ must point back to רצוּץ קנה (the bruised or broken reed); it cannot therefore be derived from רוּץ (to run) in the sense of "He will not be rash or impetuous, but execute His calling with wise moderation," as Hengstenberg supposes, but as in Ecclesiastes 12:6, from רצץ equals ירץ (Ges. 67, Anm. 9), in the neuter sense of infringetur (will break). His zeal will not be extinguished, nor will anything break His strength, till He shall have secured for right a firm standing on the earth (ישׂים is a fut. ex. so far as the meaning is concerned, like יבצּע in Isaiah 10:12). The question arises now, whether what follows is also governed by עד, in the sense of "and until the islands shall have believed his instruction," as Hitzig supposes; or whether it is an independent sentence, as rendered by the lxx and in Matthew 12:21. We prefer the latter, both because of Isaiah 51:5, and also because, although לדבר ה יחל may certainly mean to exercise a believing confidence in the word of God (Psalm 119:74, Psalm 119:81), לתורתו יחל can only mean "to wait with longing for a person's instruction" (Job 29:23), and especially in this case, where no thought is more naturally suggested, than that the messenger to the Gentile world will be welcomed by a consciousness of need already existing in the heathen world itself. There is a gratia praeparans at work in the Gentile world, as these prophecies all presuppose, in perfect harmony with the Gospel of John, with which they have so much affinity; and it is an actual fact, that the cry for redemption runs through the whole human race, i.e., an earnest longing, the ultimate object of which, however unconsciously, is the servant of Jehovah and his instruction from Zion (Isaiah 2:3) - in other words, the gospel.
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