6 April 2020

Isaiah 42:1-9

'Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.' (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 36:4-11


Today’s passage is the first of four within Isaiah that we explore this week known as the “servant songs”.  They all focus on a servant of God who has been chosen to do God’s work and yet in doing so experiences suffering and dies. They are seen as prophetic statements not only giving hope to a people in exile who will have been the first to hear them, but also to generations to follow who were waiting for a Messiah.

God’s servant’s mission is to “bring forth justice”, a task that is repeatedly emphasised (verses 1, 3, and 4). This could be seen at different levels, with “justice for the nations” (v. 1), thinking about the plight of an exiled nation waiting for the powerful Cyrus the Great, king of the Medes and Persians (550-530 BC) who was to conquer Babylon and bring an end to the Jewish exile, as well as justice for the blind and the prisoner (verse 7), focusing on the needs of the poor and most vulnerable individuals within society.

In contrast to the powerful warlords and rulers, who would so often leave a trail of devastation in their path, the description of the servant suggests sensitivity, humility and peace, someone who does not need to shout or raise their voice to achieve their aims, and who will not be a threat but a support to the frailest, those who could be seen as “a bruised reed” or “dimly burning wick” (v. 3).

But this approach should not be seen as weakness, for the servant will remain resolute. They will not be crushed or tire as they face conflict and difficulties, but they will stick to the task until justice is established.  This might seem hard to imagine, particularly when those listening to these words probably had a lived experience that those who shout loudest and throw their weight around so often get what they want. However, the servant has the creator God on their side and who will as a result become “a light to the nations” (v. 6).


To Ponder:

  • Where is there a need for justice today? What role can you play to challenge injustice?
  • How does this image of the servant who does not lift up their voice contrast with that of Jesus driving out the money changers from the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13)?

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former Vice-President of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member the BMA Council and is chair of the BMA's GP committee.

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