42 Eternal One: Look here, let Me present My servant; I have taken hold of him. He is My chosen, and I delight in him. I have put My Spirit on him; by this he will bring justice to the nations.
This poem is the first of several Servant Songs. God’s special Servant is described in various ways. In this song (42:1–9), the Servant is portrayed as one who faithfully establishes justice in the world and serves as a light for the nations. In the second song (49:1–13), the Servant is called from the womb and ordained to restore the nation of Israel and take salvation to the ends of the earth. In the third song (50:4–9), the Servant is portrayed as a teacher, intimately in touch with God, yet brutally beaten and disgraced by his enemies. In the fourth song (52:13–53:12), the suffering and rejection of God’s Servant takes priority over his other tasks; yet even in his suffering God is working to repair the world from the harm done by sin and evil.
2 Eternal One: He will not scream or yell, crying out for all to hear. 3 What is bruised and bent, he will not break; he will not blow out a smoldering candle. Rather, he will faithfully turn his attention to doing justice. 4 And though he faces obstacles, resistance, and great pressure, he will not crack; he will not give up until things are set right. Even the coastlands wait patiently for his instruction.
5 God, the Eternal One, who made the starry skies, stretched them tight above and around; Who cast the shimmering globe of earth and filled it with life; who gives breath and animates the people; Who walks and talks with life-giving spirit has this to say:
6 Eternal One: I am the Eternal One. By righteousness I have called you. I will take you by the hand and keep you safe. You are given as a covenant between Me and the people: a light for the nations, a shining beacon to the world. 7 You will open blind eyes so they will see again. You will lead prisoners, blinking, out from caverns of captivity, from cells pitch black with despair. 8 I am the Eternal One. I Am is My name. My beauty is unique, a weighty splendor all My own. And nothing else—no idols could possibly gain My praise. 9 Look here, what’s done is done and gone. The now is new, and there’s hope in the not-yet. I will tell you what’s to come, even before the events are brand-new.
10 So make up a song like none other. Sing a new song to the Eternal. And let His praise echo clear across the earth. Let those who go to sea set sail with praise in the air. Let those who live along the waters’ edge sing His praise. 11 Let desert places, urban and rural, wild and settled, sing! Let the settlements of Kedar and those in the craggy cliffs of Sela join in the celebration. The peaks of mountains, too, raise your voices with a great, glad cry. 12 Let them all give glory to the Eternal. Let them praise the One who is, was, and will be heard along the coasts. 13 As a hero throws himself into battle, the Eternal will take on His enemies; with passion, shouting out a deafening roar, He will power over them.
14 Eternal One: As a woman fiercely strains to give birth, I will gasp, pant, and cry out. I have been quiet for a long time; I have held back in the face of it all. Well, no more. 15 When My power is loosed, I will make level the heights and render them bare. I will dry up the rivers until bare islands appear, and empty the sweet water from the pools. 16 I will escort the blind down roads they do not know, guide them down paths they’ve never seen. I will smooth their passage and light their way. I will indeed do it—they are abandoned no more.
17 Meanwhile, those who put their stock in worthless images, who worship things impotent and breakable And say to idols, “You are our gods,” will be turned away and mortified.
18 Eternal One: You, deaf to the world, hear! You, blind in your eyes, look! And you will see. 19 My servant is as blind as any. Who could be more deaf than the one who goes where I direct and tells what I want told?
The identity of the Servant is much debated. On the one hand, Isaiah often refers to God’s people, Israel, as “the servant of the Eternal” (41:8–9; 42:19; 45:4; especially 49:3). Yet at other times the Servant seems to be an individual, distinct from Israel, with a special mission to and for Israel. Early Christians hear these Servant Songs and reflect on Jesus’ significance; they better understand His role as the light of the world, teacher, and Suffering Servant of God. They see His life and ministry as the embodiment and representative of true Israel and therefore the fulfillment of these words. They use the prophet’s poetry to formulate songs and sermons that express not only Jesus’ unique relationship to God but also His unique career as the Light of the world.
Who is as blind as the one committed to do what the Eternal One wills, the servant of the Eternal? 20 The seer-of-much nevertheless doesn’t get it; privy to sound and speech and tone, he still doesn’t hear. 21 On account of God’s goodness, His right ways and deeds, the Eternal was pleased to make the instruction grand and glorious. 22 But this people is compromised. They’ve been plundered and robbed. They have lost—things, liberty, place, and name. They are all trapped in holes and tucked away in prisons. They’ve been plundered and depleted with none to the rescue. They’ve been stolen away with none to insist, “Give them back.” 23 Is there anyone who understands? Who, out of all of you, will pay attention, understand, and take note concerning what’s to come?
God is the one who lies behind these events. He makes it possible for His people to be defeated and taken away.
24 Wasn’t it the Lord, because we turned our backs, who gave up Jacob’s descendants, Israel, for robbery and plunder? We refused to live as God would have us live. We did not heed the instruction that God gave us through Moses so long ago. 25 That’s why God sent all fury against Jacob in the shape of war, and we were burned. We experienced all this; Yet we didn’t get it. God’s people did not take it to heart.
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