Scripture reading – Isaiah 42

 

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Isaiah 42 reminds us that many Old Testament prophecies had immediate applications and far-reaching implications. In the previous chapter, the LORD challenged Judah to prove their idols (Isaiah 41:21-24). He then concluded with the declaration, “Ye are of nothing, and your work of nought” (Isaiah 41:24). Isaiah 41 ended with the LORD observing the deplorable condition of those who turned from Him and worshipped idols: “Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: Their molten images are wind and confusion” (Isaiah 41:29).

With lifeless idols serving as the background, Isaiah 42 begins with the words, “Behold my servant” (Isaiah 42:1). I believe the prophetic setting for Isaiah 42 is after the fall of Babylon and during the reign of Cyrus, king of Persia (Ezra 1:1-3).

 

“Behold my servant” (42:1-4)

 

Who was the servant the LORD invited His people to look upon and behold? The answer may surprise you, for I believe the servant was King Cyrus, whom the LORD used to free the Jews from Babylonian captivity and permit them to return to their homeland. Yet, a Messianic implication to Isaiah 42:1-4 describes and fulfills the person and character of Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:17-21).

In the immediate, the Persian king Cyrus was chosen by the LORD (Isaiah 42:1) and “anointed…to subdue nations” (Isaiah 45:1). Among the nations to be humbled by Persia was Babylon. Thus, God’s Spirit moved King Cyrus to do something extraordinary. And in his words: “The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:2).

Cyrus crushed the Gentile nations by the strength of his army (Isaiah 42:1), so it was a different servant of God described in Isaiah 42:2-4. In those verses, we read of a man who would come in peace and show compassion and tenderness (Isaiah 42:2-3). Matthew 12:17-21 identifies Jesus Christ with Isaiah’s words. While the Pharisees plotted “how they might destroy” Jesus (Matthew 12:14), He responded by humbly withdrawing from them in peace (Matthew 12:15-21).

“Behold my servant” (42:1-4)

The Messiah’s Commission, Work, and Ministry Among the Nations (Isaiah 42:5-9)

Who commissioned Cyrus to be His servant and the One Who would come in peace with mercy and compassion? (Isaiah 42:5-7)

The Commissioner was “God the LORD,” the Creator of the heavens and the earth (Isaiah 42:5a). He is the giver of breath and spirit to mankind (Isaiah 42:4b). It was the LORD who called Cyrus to fulfill His purpose for His people and to deliver them from Babylonian servitude and the darkness “of the prison house” (Isaiah 42:6-7).

Jesus Christ came in peace and righteousness, but Israel was meant to serve as “a light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6). By God’s Word, Law, and Commandments, Israel had the means to offer spiritual sight to the blind and deliver sinners from the prison and shackles of sin (Isaiah 42:6-7).

 

The LORD’s Preeminence Over Idols (Isaiah 42:8-9)

As He had condemned idols in the previous chapter, the LORD repeated, “I am the Lord: that is my name” (Isaiah 42:8). The LORD declared He would not share His name or glory with any other. No promise of the LORD had failed in the past, and no prophecy would fail in the future (Isaiah 42:9).

 

A Song of Praise and Redemption (Isaiah 42:10-12)

The LORD invited all the earth’s inhabitants to sing unto Him “a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth” (Isaiah 42:10). From the sea to the desert, all were invited to sing and “shout from the top of the mountains” and “give glory unto the LORD” (Isaiah 42:11-12).

The LORD’s Promise to Deliver His People (Isaiah 42:13-17)

The LORD’s Promise to Deliver His People (Isaiah 42:13-17)

The LORD warned that He would triumph over “His enemies” (Isaiah 42:13). Babylon had its way and destroyed Judah and oppressed the Jews; however, the LORD did use Cyrus and his army to “destroy and devour at once,” and Babylon fell in a night (Isaiah 42:14; Daniel 5). The LORD had not forsaken His people, and He promised He would “lead them…make darkness light… [and] crooked things straight” (Isaiah 42:16). Those who had put their trust in idols would “be greatly ashamed” (Isaiah 42:17).

 

Closing thoughts –

Our study concludes with the LORD addressing the sinful character of Judah and the people (Isaiah 42:18-25). Like all sinners, they were spiritually deaf and blind (Isaiah 42:18-19). They had seen “many things” and observed nothing. They had heard much but understood little (Isaiah 42:20).

Though the LORD delighted in revealing His righteousness and declaring His law to Israel, the people disobeyed and rejected Him (Isaiah 42:21-22). Therefore, the LORD determined to judge His people and pour His wrath upon them (Isaiah 42:25).

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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