The Servant of the Lord, 1-17

Trinity and gender issues Isa 42:14)

It is argued by many that God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we are not at liberty to tamper with divine revelation simply in order to satisfy our liturgical needs or to bow to cultural pressures. Maternal images of the Godhead do occur in Scripture, Num 11:11-12; Deut 32:18; Isa 42:14; 46:3-4; 66:7-9; Hos 11:3f; 13:8; Mt 23:37; Lk 13:20f; 15:8-10. Are these sufficiently numerous or weighty for us to demand that liturgical language be either inclusive or gender-free? Some inclusive revisions of the liturgy refer to the Trinity as ‘Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier’; or as ‘God, Word, and Spirit’. But these are at once more specific (and therefore more limited) and more abstract than the usual definition of the Trinity. There may be more mileage in language about God which uses more mix of both maternal and paternal images and metaphors.

Isa 42:1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.

Verses 1-4 – ‘This description of justice and the one who will administer justice is compelling. The reader is drawn to the strength and mercy of the Servant and longs to see the day of his coming. Justice here is personal, filled with mercy and love and deliverance; it is associated with what is right and good and holy. Integrity and truthfulness and faithfulness are implicit in the passage, revealing the nature of God’s justice.’ (DBI)

Isa 42:2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.

Isa 42:3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

This saying is taken up in Mt 12:20.

Isa 42:4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.”

Isa 42:5 This is what God the LORD says—he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:

Isa 42:6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,

“I…will make you to be a covenant for the people” – The Servant, then, cannot simply be identified with the people.  ‘He at least represents a group within it, perhaps the faithful remnant, if not an individual. Thus the reader is being gradually educated as to the identity of the true Servant of God.’ (EBC)

‘A light for the Gentiles was one of the earliest designations of Jesus (cf. Lk. 2:32) and one of the formative titles of his church (cf. Acts 13:47).’ (NBC)

Matthew Henry comments that ‘God, in giving us Christ, has with him freely given us all the blessings of the new covenant.’  He sees in this passage two blessings in particular: (a) light – ‘a light to the Gentiles’, and (b) liberty – ‘the free captives from prison’.

A light to the Gentiles – ‘not only to reveal to them what they were concerned to know, and which otherwise they could not have known, but to open the blind eyes, that they might know it. By his Spirit in the word he presents the object; by his Spirit in the heart he prepared the organ. When the gospel came light came, a great light, to those that sat in darkness, Mt. 4:16; Jn. 3:19. And St. Paul was sent to the Gentiles to open their eyes, Acts 26:18. Christ is the light of the world.’ (MHC)

Isa 42:7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Isa 42:8 “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.

“I will not give my glory to another” – ‘God claims that all appropriate honors should be rendered to him, and that men should cherish no opinions, maintain no doctrines, indulge in no feelings, that would be derogatory to the honor of his name.’ (Barnes)

See Ex 34:14.

‘That is, “I will not let my glory be diminished, which it would be if I were found to be false or fickle in my promises.” He declares that he will abide by his promises because he wishes to vindicate his glory and preserve it entire, that it may not be diminished in any respect.’ (Calvin)

‘What an assurance…that in reality there is only one God, jealous for his name and glory, a God as much in control of the future as he is of the past, therefore the Guarantor of the fulfilment of his Word.’ (Motyer)

‘Baal prophets might make false claims about Baal’s power or people like Rabshakeh might claim that the gods of his foreign army have given them victory in war (36:18–20), but the prophet has repeatedly announced that these gods are really nothing in comparison to God (40:15–26; 41:24). They cannot do anything good or bad (41:23); they cannot predict the future or show how the present is based on past predictions (41:22). God does all of these things; therefore, his name should be glorified for he truly is God Almighty.’ (Smith, NAC)

Isa 42:9 See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

Isa 42:10 Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them.

Isa 42:11 Let the desert and its towns raise their voices; let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy; let them shout from the mountaintops.

Isa 42:12 Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands.

Isa 42:13 The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.

Isa 42:14 “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.

As in Isa 40:10f, where the Lord is depicted as both a returning soldier and a tender shepherd, so Isa 42:13f presents two contrasting images: a mighty warrior (v13) and a mother in labour (v14).  The two metaphors, although strikingly different in many ways, are similar in that they both represent God as crying out with strenuous effort.  (See discussion in Women’s Bible Commentary)

The aptness of the analogy is seen in two further ways: (a) childbirth involves a time of strenuous activity after a long period of patient waiting, and the same pattern is seen in the present verse; (b) the Lord is about to ‘birth’ a new era (Isa 42:16; cf. Isa 66:9f).

Isa 42:15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools.

Isa 42:16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Isa 42:17 But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame.

Israel Blind and Deaf, 18-25

Isa 42:18 “Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see!

Isa 42:19 Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the LORD?

Isa 42:20 You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing.”

Isa 42:21 It pleased the LORD for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious.

“What renders God amiable to Himself should render Him lovely to His creatures, Isaiah 42:21.” (Charnock)

Isa 42:22 But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They have become plunder, with no-one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no-one to say, “Send them back.”

Isa 42:23 Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come?

Isa 42:24 Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law.

Isa 42:25 So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.