We are sure that these verses are to be understood of Christ, for the evangelist tells us expressly that in him this prophecy was fulfilled, Matt. 12:17-21. Behold with an eye of faith, behold and observe, behold and admire, my servant, whom I uphold. Let the Old-Testament saints behold and remember him. Now what must we behold and consider concerning him?
I. The Father’s concern for him and relation to him, the confidence he put and the complacency he took in him. This put an honour upon him, and made him remarkable, above any other circumstance, Isa. 42:1. 1. God owns him as one employed for him: He is my servant. Though he was a Son, yet, as a Mediator, he took upon him the form of a servant, learned obedience to the will of God and practised it, and laid out himself to advance the interests of God’s kingdom, and so he was God’s servant. 2. As one chosen by him: He is my elect. He did not thrust himself into the service, but was called of God, and pitched upon as the fittest person for it. Infinite Wisdom made the choice and then avowed it. 3. As one he put a confidence in: He is my servant on whom I lean; so some read it. The Father put a confidence in him that he would go through with his undertaking, and, in that confidence, brought many sons to glory. It was a great trust which the Father reposed in the Son, but he knew him to be par negotio—equal to it, both able and faithful. 4. As one he took care of: He is my servant whom I uphold; so we read it. The Father bore him up, and bore him out, in his upholding him; he stood by him and strengthened him. 5. As one whom he took an entire complacency in: My elect, in whom my soul delights. His delight was in him from eternity, when he was by him as one brought up with him, Prov. 8:30. He had a particular satisfaction in his undertaking: he declared himself well pleased in him (Matt. 3:17; 17:5), and therefore loved him, because he laid down his life for the sheep. Let our souls delight in Christ, rely on him, and rejoice in him; and thus let us be united to him, and then, for his sake, the Father will be well pleased with us.
II. The qualification of him for his office: I have put my Spirit upon him, to enable him to go through his undertaking, Isa. 61:1. The Spirit did not only come, but rest, upon him (Isa. 11:2), not by measure, as on others of God’s servants, but without measure. Those whom God employs as his servants; as he will uphold them and be well pleased with them, so he will put his Spirit upon them.
III. The work to which he is appointed; it is to bring forth judgment to the Gentiles, that is, in infinite wisdom, holiness, and equity, to set up a religion in the world under the bonds of which the Gentiles should come and the blessings of which they should enjoy. The judgments of the Lord, which had been hidden from the Gentiles (Ps. 147:20), he came to bring forth to the Gentiles, for he was to be a light to lighten them.
IV. The mildness and tenderness with which he should pursue this undertaking, Isa. 42:2, 3. He shall carry it on, 1. In silence, and without noise: He shall not strive nor cry. It shall not be proclaimed, Lo, here, is Christ or Lo, he is there; as when great princes ride in progress or make a public entry. He shall have no trumpet sounded before him, nor any noisy retinue to follow him. The opposition he meets with he shall not strive against, but patiently endure the contradiction of sinners against himself. His kingdom is spiritual, and therefore its weapons are not carnal, nor is its appearance pompous; it comes not with observation. 2. Gently, and without rigour. Those that are wicked he will be patient with; when he has begun to crush them, so that they are as bruised reeds, he will give them space to repent and not immediately break them; though they are very offensive, as smoking flax (Isa. 65:5), yet he will bear with them, as he did with Jerusalem. Those that are weak he will be tender of; those that have but a little life, a little heat, that are weak as a reed, oppressed with doubts and fears, as a bruised reed, that are as smoking flax, as the wick of a candle newly lighted, which is ready to go out again, he will not despise them, will not plead against them with his great power, nor lay upon them more work or more suffering than they can bear, which would break and quench them, but will graciously consider their frame. More is implied than is expressed. He will not break the bruised reed, but will strengthen it, that it may become a cedar in the courts of our God. He will not quench the smoking flax, but blow it up into a flame. Note, Jesus Christ is very tender toward those that have true grace, though they are but weak in it, and accepts the willingness of the spirit, pardoning and passing by the weakness of the flesh.
V. The courage and constancy with which he should persevere in this undertaking, so as to carry his point at last (Isa. 42:4): He shall not fail nor be discouraged. Though he meets with hard service and much opposition, and foresees how ungrateful the world will be, yet he goes on with his part of the work, till he is able to say, Isa. is finished; and he enables his apostles and ministers to go on with theirs too, and not to fail nor be discouraged, till they also have finished their testimony. And thus he accomplishes what he undertook. 1. He brings forth judgment unto truth. By a long course of miracles, and his resurrection at last, he shall fully evince the truth of his doctrine and the divine origin and authority of that holy religion which he came to establish. 2. He sets judgment in the earth. He erects his government in the world, a church for himself among men, reforms the world, and by the power of his gospel and grace fixes such principles in the minds of men as tend to make them wise and just. 3. The isles of the Gentiles wait for his law, wait for his gospel, that is, bid it welcome as if it had been a thing they had long waited for. They shall become his disciples, shall sit at his feet, and be ready to receive the law from his mouth. What wilt thou have us to do?