Sunday, I preached on Isaiah 42:1-9. The passage notes that Messiah was going to come, not as a military conqueror, not to crush, not to condemn (as we also see in John 3:17), but coming in compassion, to seek and to save that which is lost. Yet, the passage also affirms the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, it seemed very fitting to close our service with this hymn.
1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
This passage is strongly Messianic (referring to the coming Messiah).
The Three Servants
In the first few verses of Isaiah 41, we have a reference to a servant of the Lord who will rise from the East, a conqueror raised up by God whom the nations will fear, and who will deliver God’s people. This cannot be a reference to our Saviour, for He came not from the East, but was born in Bethlehem, nor will He come from the East when He returns. This servant of God, though he did not know God, is later named in Isaiah 44-45 as Cyrus, the Persian emperor whom God used to end Israel’s captivity (note Ezra 1:1-4).
In Isaiah 41:8-9, God says that Israel is His servant. Though they have sinned against Him, He has not cast them away, and they will still fulfill the service He intended for them all along, to be a light to the Gentiles (note Isaiah 2:1-5).
Here in Isaiah 42, we have another reference to a Servant. He is clearly an individual, not the nation, and He is not Cyrus, for the servant of Isaiah 41:1-7 would instill fear, but this Servant is gentle, coming not to crush but to conquer by changing hearts.
This Servant is clearly Jesus, the Messiah. The first verse of this chapter is in view at His baptism, when the Spirit is seen descending upon Him, and the Father speaks to say He is well-pleased with Him. The early part of the passage is quoted in Matthew 12:18-20, identifying the Servant as Jesus, the Messiah. The second part is quoted by the Lord Jesus in Acts 26:17-18, where He tells Paul that He has chosen Paul to be a messenger of His work in opening the eyes of the Gentiles.
Through the Lord Jesus, Israel will accomplish its service to God. He is the solution to the problem of Isaiah — that the nation, through its lack of trust, has not been true to its covenant with God and is not fulfilling its proper role.
The Eternal Identity of This Servant
How can Jesus be sufficient to solve this problem? Very simply, this Servant is God. He is a Lawgiver, not just as a messenger, for the Law is His Law. He is the Guarantor of God’s covenant, which only God could guarantee. He is the Light, the Opener of blind eyes, the Deliverer of prisoners. This passage includes many statements which could only be properly attributed to God.
And then, in verse eight, Jehovah declares that He will not give His glory to another. He will not attribute to anyone else the glory which is His alone. The statements that preceded this could only be true if Jehovah is giving his glory to another — or if Jesus is Jehovah, God the Son, with Father and Holy Spirit the Triune God. Verse eight assures us that this Messiah, Jesus the Christ, is indeed Jehovah, God the Son.
This Jehovah, the one true God, declared before it came to pass — a new thing, that God Himself would walk the earth. He Himself would be the Servant.
Who is this so weak and helpless,
Child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered,
Coldly in a manger laid?
‘Tis the Lord of all creation,
Who this wondrous path hath trod;
Christ our God from everlasting,
And to everlasting God.
Who is this, a man of sorrows,
Walking sadly life’s hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing,
Weeping over sin and Satan’s sway?
‘Tis our God, our glorious Saviour,
Who above the starry sky
Now for us a place prepareth,
Where no tear can dim the eye.
Who is this that hangeth dying
While the rude world scoffs and scorns,
Numbered with the malefactors,
Torn with nails, and crowned with thorns?
‘Tis the God who ever liveth
‘Mid the shining ones on high,
God in the glorious golden city,
William W. How, 1823-1897
Music: John A. Lloyd, Sr, 1815-1874
William Walsham How wrote about 50 hymns. His best known is, “For All the Saints,” which we also sing.
The tune (EIFIONYDD) was written by John Lloyd. He was an Englishman, the son of a Baptist minister, and lived in Wales at the time of its composition, but he had many ties to Wales and spent some years of his life there. This is one of his earliest hymn tunes.
The recording below is not what I usually look for when I post hymns. I usually look for something which is played as if a person were accompanying a congregation, because that is how we sing in our church. This is a recording someone made for an album, apparently, and the arrangement differs a little from what we sing. But it is well-done, and not so overly elaborate that you cannot sing along with it.