2 December 2013

Isaiah 42:1-17

"He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching." (vv. 3-4)


Today's passage is the first of the Servant Songs in Isaiah. These prophetically point towards the Messiah (the one anointed by God to restore and redeem the Israelite nation). Christians read these passages of Isaiah in light of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

This part of Isaiah offers a moment of calm and respite in a book that has been full of overpowering themes. It was written in the context of exile; the powerful experience of being destabilised and ostracised from home, identity, hope and family.

In chapter 42, God's people are offered space to breathe, and to recalibrate; in light of the coming Servant of the Lord. For the Israelites who received these words, it is possible that they understood these words to be prophetic about the Israelite nation. For Christians, these words are seen to be speaking about the person of Jesus Christ.

The marks of the Servant of the Lord are stark given the exilic context. The servant is gentle, tender and compassionate. Justice will be brought forth through the consistent and compassion actions of the servant; a servant who will neither grow faint nor be crushed.

Justice can be understood in so many different ways:

  • God's restoration of the whole earth
  • the reconciliation of a broken nation to God
  • the reconciliation of Israel to her neighbours and conquerors
  • the inauguration of a new heaven and a new earth
  • God being declared as sovereign.

What we find here is that the work of the servant is to participate in all of these features of justice.

But these aspects of justice are not abstract constructions. The importance of the Servant of the Lord is that justice is also about relationship. The servant brings forth healing, freedom, release and worship through being part of, and in relationship with, all people.

To Ponder

  • What is the most important aspect of justice for you today?
  • Who and what do you put your hope in?
  • How might you demonstrate hope in the Servant of the Lord today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling

Joanne Cox-Darling is a Methodist presbyter currently serving in the Wolverhampton Circuit, where most recently she participated in a harvest festival in a farmyard, surrounded by a 'small' dairy herd of nearly 200 cattle. Joanne is the chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency ( - described by the Archbishop of York as the "possibly the easiest form of evangelism you will ever do".