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This sermon was preached on Sunday 05/08/01 Am, by Kevin Matthews.
Please Read Isaiah 42:1-7
This morning we are going to look at the first of four ‘Servant songs’ that are found in the Book of Isaiah. Today we will consider together Isaiah 42:1-7, and on following Lord’s Supper Sundays we will look at Isaiah 49:1-6, 50:4-9 and 52:13-53:12. These Servant songs give us a clear picture as to just what the Messiah would be like from the standpoint of Old Testament prophecy.
As you know, we have been considering the Gospel of John for some time now and one of the recurring themes in that Gospel has been the misunderstanding that was prevalent throughout Jewish society of the promised Messiah’s role, right from the religious leaders through to the average person in the street. Throughout the Gospels you run into people who want to take Jesus, even by force and make Him a rival king to Caesar. Even the disciples were concerned about when Jesus would restore the Kingdom to Israel in a physical sense. There was this constant longing for an earthly ruler and so generally speaking, the Jewish people had missed the boat with Jesus. They didn’t get what Jesus was on about and so they rejected the very One who in actual fact was the Messiah, the promised One of whom the Old Testament Scriptures give so much abundant proof.
This Jesus was so much more than a miracle worker, for He was the Saviour of the world. His was a salvation that was not from mere earthly domination but from sin. He was not some great rebel leader, but a Servant who would actually save His people from their sin.
In the midst of the prophecies concerning the deliverance of Judah from the Babylonian captivity, through the providential work of Cyrus the Persian king, who also was the unknowing servant of God, the theme suddenly changes. Suddenly another Servant is introduced into the prophecy.
‘Behold my servant, whom I uphold (42:1a),’ Here is an attention-grabbing announcement by God to Judah. In the midst of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning a temporal deliverance from Babylon, God speaks - ‘Hey! Look! Focus on this One who is My Servant! Look at Him! Here is a message that you people need to hear.’
And this morning I want to let out a similar cry to sinners gathered before me - to you who have come together this Sunday morning. Behold, the chosen Servant whom God upholds! I want you to focus on Him this morning, to put aside your bulletins, your hymn books and to consider Jesus, the chosen Servant of God - and this especially so as we meet together to remember the Saviour who died for sinners and that personally for those of you here who believe. Consider with me this morning this very same Jesus, whose death we declare to the world through the symbolism of the Lord’s Supper each month. If you don’t know this Jesus this morning, then please, you especially look on this Servant of the Lord with the view of turning to Him by faith and taking hold of the salvation He brings.
This One who would bring deliverance from a greater dominion than that of any earthly domination is the Servant of God. He has come at God’s bidding, doing God’s work and achieving all that God the Father has appointed unto Him to achieve. Who is this Servant of God, this chosen One? Matthew tells us that He is Jesus.
‘But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; And charged them that they should not make him known: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust. (Mt 12:15-21).’
Matthew under the inspiration of God identified Jesus as the Servant of God foretold in the Servant songs of Isaiah. This passage in Isaiah then is clearly speaking of Jesus. What sort of Messiah should the Jews then have been looking for in the time of John the Baptist? They should have been expecting One that these Servant songs describe. One, who is the Servant of God, sustained and upheld by God, One in whom God delights with all His Being. Peter also identified Jesus as the Servant of God, for ‘The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go (Acts 3:13).’
Notice also that this Servant has been chosen or elected to this role by God Himself. Of all the persons that existed, of all the persons that have come upon the earth and of all that will come upon the earth, Jesus alone is chosen. None other was able to do this work of saving sinners. God chose Jesus for this role. He passed all the others by. He passed you by also Christian, for you were not able to save yourself. Do you see that? How could you do anything to change your situation, being dead in trespasses and sins, ‘Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mt 20:28 ).’
He gave no others the opportunity or the task to save sinners; He simply passed over them in all their inability to achieve it and chose Jesus to do the job. Was He unjust in doing this? Was He denying other people a fair go or a fair crack at it? No! No one else could do the job, so why foolishly flounder about with vanities, only Jesus could answer the call. He was being merciful, choosing to save people He had every right to condemn forever. So God looked upon the Person of His Son and appointed Him to do the work of saving the elect sinners that He had chosen for Himself, ‘to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done,’ prays Peter in Acts 4:28. A plan for the salvation of man had been drawn up in eternity by God, and now Jesus was to come and realise that plan in history, thereby actually saving lost sinners.
There is no other possible way whereby sinners might be saved, except by the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the God-appointed way to salvation. Why will you look elsewhere or for something else for salvation? Why do you foolishly think that you can do anything yourself or that you did anything yourself - are you God that you can give life to the dead, sight to the blind, hearing to the death, righteousness to the unrighteous? There is no other way. Sinner, you must look unto this Jesus from the very midst of your sin in order to be saved, and being spiritually blind you can’t even look. You need spiritual sight, and you need God to give it to you - you can’t save yourself! This is the One upon whom the salvation of sinners has come, the Servant appointed to the task.
God’s Servant had God’s Spirit upon Him (42:1) that He might indeed ‘bring forth judgment to the Gentiles (42:1d).’ His was a difficult task, and He was dependent upon God for the success of His mission. This is a task that He must do and will do, for the power of God is His strength. What we can’t do, God can do and will do for our salvation.
Throughout the gospel narratives you come across references speaking of how the Holy Spirit was upon the Lord Jesus Christ. The virgin birth came about because of the Spirit’s work (Lk 1:35), the Spirit descended upon Him at His baptism to confirm and testify to Jesus’ appointment as the chosen One (Mt 3:16,17), the Spirit was with Jesus in the time of His wilderness temptation (Mt 4:1), the Spirit was upon Him throughout His earthly ministry (Mt 12:28; Lk 4:14; Acts 10:38) and the Spirit was with Him through His death and resurrection (Heb 2:33; 9:14; 1 Pet 3:18). All the way the Spirit of God was there, equipping Jesus for the task.
There is no way that the chosen Servant of God would fail in His mission, for ‘he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles (42:1d).’ His mission was accomplished because He was especially endowed with the Spirit of God. Almighty God was at work, determined to bring about the salvation of His people, so who could prevent the Servant’s mission from being successfully completed? ‘And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD (Is 11:2).’
What was it that the Servant of the Lord was going to accomplish? Isaiah tells us here that ‘he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles (Is 42:1d).’ The idea being expressed in this verse is that of bringing the Gentiles into a right relationship with God. What this means is that the Gentiles would be able to stand in a manner uncondemned before God and that without any degree of duplicity or double standard. The elect will be justly accepted while those who perish in their sins will be justly condemned. There will be no room for a legitimate claim of unfairness, for all will be judged according to strict justice.
Many from these other nations will be saved, even though many of the Jews will not be saved, and this while still answering to the strict and unmoving demands of strict justice and law. The elect Gentiles will stand just because of what the Servant has done, and those who stand outside of a relationship with the Servant will be justly condemned because of their sin.
Christian though a sinner, you stand just before God because of what the Servant of God has achieved on your behalf. What a reason to praise God and to be thankful. Unsaved sinner, you stand justly condemned because you are a sinner and have broken the law of God. You have no ground to cry foul of God because you are not saved, for you are not saved because you love your sin and won’t believe the free offer of the gospel. What a reason to fear and dread eternity.
Do you notice how He achieved this salvation of sinners? Was it with a lot of fanfare? Did He come with a sword to overthrow kingdoms and nations, and to force men and women and children to submit with an iron fist? How did He come?
‘He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth (42:2,3).’
You would think that a Deliverer would come with brandished sword at the head of some mighty army, but this was not the Lord’s style. Neither did He come with all the fanfare that we have come to expect from all the present day wonder workers and big time evangelists. There was no need for Him to come with great publicity or with any attempt to whip up excitement and a perceived authority through a loud voice or raucous entourage.
Jesus the Servant of God was no self-assertive brigand or loudmouth superstar, for He was the suffering Servant, come to save His people from their sin. There was no screaming orders or the giving of commands that are necessary to follow for salvation, for He was the quiet and doomed Saviour who would achieve actual salvation through the sacrifice of Himself.
Yes, this Servant came to serve and to offer up Himself for the salvation of the elect, as One who was moved with compassion for the lost sheep of Israel. Those oppressed by sin He would liberate, those weakened by the tyranny of sin He would strengthen, those wounded by the cruel master of evil He would bind up, those faint under the heavy burden and crushing power of wickedness He would rise up and those dead in trespasses and sins He would bring to new life. Yes, even for those who were under the curse of eternal damnation, teetering on the very edge of an eternal and personal cataclysm He would restore to a position of a just standing before God.
This He will accomplish and this He did accomplish and that in accordance with strict justice, law and truth. He answered the Father’s call, He accomplished the mission laid out for Him in the annals of eternal and sovereign purpose, and He successfully brought men, women and children from a state of eternal damnation into the possession of eternal salvation and everlasting dwelling with God.
‘He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law (42:4).’
Do you hear that sinner? The elect Servant of God will continue on until His mission is complete. He will not fail, He will not be dissuaded from pursuing and achieving His goal - eternal salvation and everlasting justice has been reached by a Servant who did not stop until He got it for you. He came to achieve salvation for all that the Father gave Him, for those chosen in Him from before the foundation of the world, resisting all the difficulties that stood in the way of bringing guilty sinners into a place of righteousness and finally achieving it with complete and undeniable justice and truth. Truly it is a finished work, even though we yet wait for the redemption of our bodies. It is done, and it will be done. Not one will be lost who should be saved, for the Servant did not stop until the work was done.
‘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: 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 (42:5,6).’
Sinner do you recognize what these verses mean for your salvation? Not only was the Servant of God working for your salvation, but even God the Father was also working for it. He, the offended Creator and Sovereign is also working to bring about the salvation of the elect. All the power and might of He who created the world and who sustains it in His providence is working behind the scenes as it were, in order to make sure that His Servant accomplishes the task set before Him.
Is there any doubt about the salvation of the elect? It’s not possible that the mission to save the elect could fail, for God would have to cease to be God for that to happen. Sinner, do you recognize that the entire weight of God lies behind the divine effort to save you? All that power has worked on your behalf and is working on your behalf - how will it fail to achieve its goal?
Yes, the most difficult task that was ever undertaken, yet it was achieved, for God was there holding the hand of His Servant. When all the opposition arose during His mission to save sinners, the Father helped Him through it. When all the forces of evil were enflamed against Jesus, the Father was with Him and enabling Him to get through it. Even when all the powers of heaven were mustered against Him at the cross, there was the Father holding his hand and sustaining Him, even though it was His wrath that was poured out upon Him.
Not even the righteous standard of the law and the cry of Divine and perfect justice can prevent your salvation, for the Servant was called in righteousness, with a plan that would accomplish the salvation of sinners and place them into a position of acceptance with God that fully answered the demands of a broken law and outraged justice.
All those who are chosen in Christ will be firmly established in their salvation, upon the Rock of Ages that cannot move, while those outside of Christ will fairly and justly be condemned to an eternity of punishment for sin.
The promise of salvation that has been given by God throughout the ages was realised, the covenant of God to man, that He would through the Patriarch Abraham bless the entire world was accomplished. God gave a promise, based upon His eternal purpose to save a people from their sin for Himself, and He came through with that promise, answering it in all of its fullness. He came through with the goods for your salvation Christian.
Even the difficulty of mans unwillingness to be saved He broke through. The Servant of God was given as a Light to the Gentiles, to a people who were in darkness and blinded to spiritual things and truths. These were people who could not recognize the salvation of God, who dwelt in the most impenetrable spiritual darkness, yet Jesus came as a powerful torchlight into the darkness in order to bring them out of it.
‘for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house (42:6d,7).’
Yes, you who were spiritually blind and unable to see the truth of salvation in Christ, He gave new sight that you might see it. You could not even perceive the Kingdom of God, let alone enter it according to John 3. New life was needed and this He gave you. You would have remained forever in your darkness unless the Lord had brought you out of it, blinded forever and going headlong into Hell - but He brought you out, He opened your eyes. You see because He first granted you sight, you love because He first loved you and went to you in order to get you. Christ always gets His man.
Don’t get caught up in all the garbage of a salvation made possible and achieved through the free will choice of man, for there is no such thing. You were blind and could not even see it. Hear what Jesus said to Paul, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest (Acts 26:15b).' 'Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (Acts 26:18).’
Listen, it wasn’t Paul who opened their eyes, it was Jesus through the instrumentality of Paul who opened their eyes. You didn’t believe because you chose to believe of your own free will - you chose to believe because Jesus brought you out of darkness into light, from the power of Satan to God and gave you the gift of faith so that you would believe. Yes you wanted to believe, but only because He enabled you to see it and want it. There is no room in God’s plan for any of the free will glory hunters; salvation is all of God!
Can a prisoner freely choose to get out of jail? No, one in authority must release him, and this Jesus did for you also. You were locked up as spiritual prisoners in a spiritual prison, unable to get out and too blind to recognize that you even needed to get out. Yet even here, Jesus let you out because of His enabling power, throwing off the chains that bound your will that you might choose to believe - listen, there is no believing without the freeing being done by God! Faith itself is even the gift of God and is therefore given to you.
Sinner, you who yet remain in the prison house of sin, you will remain there until such time as God sees fit to free you from it. You think you are OK, that there is no such thing as a prison house in which you are enslaved, but this is because you sit in it in complete darkness, being blinded by the god of this world, unable to perceive spiritual things and unwilling to leave the lifestyle that you have so wickedly embraced. Oh that God would grant you eyes to see, ears to hear, an unshackled will that you might want to believe and faith that you will believe.
For you sinner, saved by grace through the electing purpose of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have much to remember and to be thankful for before the throne of grace this day as we come to the Lord’s Supper. Yes, you must give God all the glory for your salvation, for it came not because of you but because of Him. You declare to a watching world this afternoon that Jesus came for you, that He gave you eyes to see and that He released you from the prison house of sin.
‘Long my imprisoned spirit lay
fast bound in sin and natures night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.’
Let us be forever satisfied with the finished work of Christ for us and not seek to take any of the praise of it for ourselves. How wickedly ungrateful that would be! We boast in Christ, for He has achieved salvation, even the chosen Beloved Servant of God.
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