Today, a journey of reflection. Do join me.
In Isaiah 42 we have one of the “Servant Songs” that paints beautiful pictures of the perfect servant of God. Jesus is, of course, in view. But, as God speaks through Isaiah, he contrasts this faithful servant with the nation of Israel. Called to be God’s servant, Israel had stopped listening, seemed to have no faith, and became self-serving (see Isaiah 42:18-20). The challenge for us is clear. Will we be a deaf “servant” or will we be attentive to our Master?
Christian leaders are called to be God’s servants in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus. More than that, through the work of the Spirit, we are “in Christ” and Christ is in us. So, we can hear these verses as our Father’s words to us. We’ll be immersing ourselves in Isaiah 42.1-8. Please don’t hurry through these verses. You don’t rush when your Master is speaking! You stop and soak in every word.
As you read, pause often and long. Reflect on what your Father is saying to you. What do the verses affirm and what do they expect? How do they reassure you and what must you reassess? I’ll try to help you with questions and comments between each thought, but ignore them if you find the Spirit whispering something else to your soul.
Here we go.
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
Do you know your Father chose you? Do you know that he upholds you? He won’t let you fall. But upholding you is no chore for him because his soul delights in you. You bring pleasure to his heart and a smile to his face. You have nothing to prove.
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
Do you know you’re empowered by the same Spirit who empowered the Lord Jesus? The personal, powerful presence of God rests on you and indwells you. So, let him fill your life, infiltrating every hidden recess and shaping every thought. Enjoy that! But remember, his empowerment is not only for your pleasure, but for this purpose: so that, like Jesus, you will act justly towards others.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
Do you long to be recognised? Craving thanks? Hungry for praise? Ambition for the big lights? Remember, you’re a servant. I know you’re so much more besides, but you’re never more than the one whom God called to serve. So, avoid drawing attention to yourself. That’s not what servants do! Your Lord didn’t do it and nor should you. You shouldn’t want to do it, because your desire should be for his glory. The Spirit can get people’s attention just fine without your help. Instead, be attentive to your Master. Keep your head down and keep serving.
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
Do you crush people or encourage them? Yes, we all need encouragement, but when it doesn’t come, we can become testy, even critical of others. Who are the bruised reeds and smouldering wicks around you? Have you hurt them? How can you put that right? How can you make your goal justice for them, strengthening them in God’s truth, leading them in his grace?
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
In these verses, we’re back to your own discouragement. Maybe you feel faint. Like you’ve nothing left to give. The last thing I said just passed you by because you’re feeling too wounded. But the work isn’t finished. People are still waiting for the law of Christ – the liberating law of love – the justification that makes it possible. There are people to be served. Will you give up? How will you keep going?
Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
Now we’re in a different league. From our faintness to his power. From our smallness to his bigness. From our discouragement to his unfathomable majesty. Stretching out the heavens, spreading out the earth, like some cosmic potter rolling out the clay. Crafting each body and gently breathing life into their nostrils. Did you think he didn’t know you? Did you suspect he didn’t care? Did you doubt that he knows how you tick? He knows you better than you know yourself and he knows the people you serve.
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
He has a name. Yahweh. The I AM - the ever-existent, self-sufficient, unchanging One. He called you, but maybe you think he chose the wrong person for this job? He doesn’t make mistakes. Perhaps you think he tricked you and promised you what he can’t deliver? He doesn’t tell lies. He called you in righteousness. He knew what he was doing, and he won’t let you go. Like a parent with a toddler, he holds your hand and he won’t ever let go. However close the crowd and however fast the pace. So toddle on and let him lead you!
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
So there it is. Don’t forget it’s first about Jesus. He is the One who was given as a covenant for the people and the light for the nations. He brought you into the new covenant in his blood. In him, you’re bound to God in an everlasting bond of love. Held in his promises. And you’re the declaration of those promises to the people you serve. Extolling his greatness. Expounding his word. Echoing his call. Embodying his promises. Exemplifying his faithfulness.
And you’re a light too, because his light is in you. Jesus is the Light of the World, but we, his people, bear his light. You shine in the darkness. You bring the hope of Christ and the gospel of grace to the nations, by which the Spirit opens blind eyes and releases captives. Don’t forget that. Don’t settle for something less. Your service is needed because people need Jesus.
Perhaps you find yourself in these verses. Broken and bruised. Down but not out. A jar of clay with a treasure inside. God’s servant whom he upholds and in whom he delights. So, remember who you are – God's precious child. And be encouraged today as you serve him. You do so by serving others in his mighty name.