Sermon Preached August 9, 2020
Turn with me to Isaiah forty-two verses one through four. Isaiah forty-two verses one through four. This is a simple sermon. I don’t have anything extravagant for you, except to lift your eyes above the troubles, above the worries that easily ensnare you. To cast your gaze upward to the throne room of heaven, where Christ reigns far above pestilence, lawlessness, and war. Let us read, starting in verse one
Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.
He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.
Father in Heaven, we come before you in the name of Christ and by the power of the Spirit, and ask You to illuminate this passage before us. Make us aware of its meaning and ambitious to obey its message. In Christ’s name, Amen.
The first question to answer regarding out text is Who the prophet Isaiah is referring to. Who is the Servant of this passage? Some have suggested that the Servant is Israel. That can’t be immediately true, because Israel has never fit the description Isaiah gives the Servant. Rather, I think the Servant in Isaiah is Israel as it should be. The Servant is Who God’s people were called to be – which is to say, faithful. Israel was called to be faithful to God.
Now, as I said, Israel never fulfilled this purpose, so who came in Israel’s place? Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus came as a true and greater Israel, to do the work that they would not do. So inevitably, this passage is about Christ. This is a Messianic prophecy, and we are going to walk through the text with that understanding. We are going to walk through this text with the understanding that Isaiah is prophesying about Christ.
Now, with that in mind, I believe this passage answers three questions pertaining to Jesus. It does not give us a complete picture of the Christ, but it answers three questions.
Who is Christ?
First, Who is Christ? “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him” (v.1a). Here we see that Christ is the Chosen One of God. Christ is the Chosen One of God.
Christ is upheld by God – “My Servant whom I uphold.” “Uphold” means to support, as Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ hands when Israel fought the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16). In every matter, Jesus has the support of the Father (e.g. Acts 2:24). Even when He was swallowed up in death for the immeasurable sins of His people, the Father came to the support of Jesus (Acts 2:24). In the second Psalm, nations and rulers come against Christ (vv.1-3), but verse 4 says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill’” (vv.4-6). It is clear that if you oppose Jesus, you oppose the Godhead.
Then we read explicitly that Christ is the Elect One of God. Millions of people have been chosen by God for salvation (Revelation 7:9) – Abraham’s children are as numerous as the stars and the sands on the shore. But there is only One Messiah. There are many citizens in the kingdom of God, but there is only one King. And Christ certainly fulfills His election. He succeeded where Adam failed. Therefore, Isaiah says plainly that God delights in (Isaiah 42:1) Christ. Jesus is the delight of God.
He is the spotless Lamb. There is no blemish in His beauty. There is no weakness in His armor. He has no frailty, He has no hidden flaw, He has no secret vice. Christ is the delight of God. And God delights in Him because of His works. You have to have grace and forgiveness in order to find pleasure with God, but Christ earned this joy. We have a deep chested Savior – a strong, capable Messiah.
And if that were not enough to convince you of the magnificence and perfection of Christ, we then read that God has put His Spirit upon Him. The eternal Trinity is fit into these words. The Father puts the Spirit upon the Son incarnate. He does not put the Spirit into the Son, but upon Him. That means the Spirit assists Christ in every endeavor. The Father chose Him, the Spirit assists Him, and He is the Son incarnate. The full glory of our Triune God rests upon the man Jesus Christ. In Him all the glory and wonders of the Triune God are perfectly translated to us – or, as we read in Hebrews, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (1:3).
Christ is the Elect One of God. He is the Chosen One of God. God has chosen Him to be the only Judge and the only Savior of all the earth. And so, all of God’s grace and judgment is mediated through Christ (Romans 2:16; Ephesians 1:3). This is why we pray to God “in Jesus’ name.” We come to God in the name of His Elect Servant, Jesus Christ. This is also why the most basic Christian confession is, “Jesus is Lord,” which we find in Romans 10.
And if there is a man who has the ear of God like Jesus does, if there is a Redeemer in Whom the Father so perfectly delights, if there is a Servant upon Whom the Holy Spirit abides, then I say let us have peace with this great King. Let us have peace with Him. The first question is, “Who is Christ?” Christ is the Chosen One of God.
What Will Christ Do?
Second, what will Christ do? The answer is found throughout the passage. “He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles” (v.1b). “He will bring forth justice for truth” (v.3b). “Till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law” (v.4b). Christ will bring justice. Christ is the Chosen One of God Who will bring justice to the earth. The day when justice will finally permeate the earth is not mentioned, but the fact that this will happen is clear.
Isaiah mentions the coastlands or the islands to make the point that there is no place on earth that will be left unconquered. There will be no pacific island, no Scotland hill, no South American village, no North Korean missile that escapes the rule of Christ. He will bring everything to a point, and His law will have dominion.
Today, it can feel like we are on the losing team. We are weighted down by the rapid moral decline of our society. We are a lowly people and we feel helpless to prevent the immorality that continues to march forward. This text brings us a promise of victory. In the end, the LGBTQ+ movement does not win. In the end, Karl Marx does not win. In the end, baby murderers do not win. In the end, the courts of California do not win. Man’s law will be thrown into a pit, and God’s law will reign over the earth. Christ will be victorious.
So, it is inappropriate for us to lose heart. It is unacceptable for us to act like Jesus is not the King of kings and Lord of lords. With or without a pandemic, with or without encroaching Marxism, we are believers in the promises of God, and God has promised justice. These are hard times, that is true – but hard times do not excuse faithlessness. Hard times do not give us an excuse to abandon the promises of God and live like Christ is not Lord.
The second question is, “What will Christ do?” Christ will bring justice.
How Will Christ Do This?
Third, how will Christ do this? As Christ brings justice, while He spreads His law across the earth, how will He go about His work? I see two answers to this question. First, He will do it with confidence. “He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street” (v.2). Christ’s earthly ministry was never about popularity. He never sought the adoration of crowds. He never sought affirmation from men. He simply did what He was sent to do.
Noise is often linked with insecurity. People who cry out and cause a ruckus are usually anxious about their own abilities and authority. I call this, Barney Fife Syndrome. Who watches the Andy Griffith Show? Barney Fife is the uptight police officer who is always waving his badge in people’s faces. He always has to tell people, “I’m the law. I’m in charge.”
Christ was not like this. He chose to be the Christ instead of telling everyone He was the Christ. And He is still doing that, by the way. We tell everyone that He is the Christ, but He doesn’t. There are atheists in universities gathered in lectures halls and library rooms, who are laughing at the Bible and the Christ revealed there. And while those atheists laugh, you can look up and see great throne at the right hand of the Father, reigning over sinners. There are Communists in China persecuting Christ’s church and scoffing at the absurdity of the Gospel. And while they scoff, you can look up and see the King of kings, reigning over sinners. He is not crying out, or raising His voice, or causing His voice to be heard in the street. One day He will. One day He will give a cry of command, and the dead in Christ will rise, and the wicked will call for mountain to fall on them to hide them from His wrath. But not today. Today, Christ is silently, patiently going about His work.
I believe this demonstrates the confidence that Christ has in Who He is and what He has to accomplish. This is the quiet determination of someone who knows that he will be victorious. We find this explicitly at the beginning of verse 4: “He will not fail nor be discouraged.” It is impossible for Christ to fail in His mission of bringing justice to the world. It is impossible for Him to even be discouraged. So How will Christ bring justice to the earth? First of all, He will bring justice confidently.
Second, He will not ruin the weak. He will not ruin the weak. “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (v.3). This is referring to Christ’s enemies. Christ’s enemies are bruised reeds and smoking flax. A reed is quite weak. It isn’t a tree, it’s a reed. And here we have a bruised reed – the image of frailty. This is who the Pharisees were to Christ. This is who the Romans were to Christ. The only power these men had over Him was the power He allowed them to have.
And we have smoking flax – nothing more than smoldering grass. It is like a fire that cannot quite start. It’s a candle flickering in such a way that you think at any moment it might go out. All you have to do it wet your fingers and pinch. This is who the Pharisees and the Romans were to Christ. In the bright sun of a clear day you don’t notice the light of an ember on the ground. In the same way, the carnal glory of Christ’s enemies pale next to the eternal glory of God that dwells bodily in the person of Jesus Christ.
This is who Christ’s enemies were: bruised reeds and smoking flax. And yet, read what Isaiah says of Christ: “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” This is the definition of meekness. Chooses to be patient and merciful with even His enemies. One day He will bring His enemies to ruin, but not today. Today is the day of salvation, the day of patient, the day of grace. Today, He chooses not to ruin the weak.
This is the picture of Christ that we see in the first four verses of Isaiah 42. We have answered three questions. Who is Christ? He is the Chosen of God. What will Christ do? He will bring justice to every corner of the world. How will Christ do this? He will do it with confidence and mercy. These are the glorious truths our passage teaches us about Jesus.
Now, there are a great many lowly in the kingdom of God. There are a great many poor, a great many destitute, a great many needy in the Church. But consider this, my brothers and sisters: if Christ is patient with His enemies, then how much more patient must He be with His church? If Christ would not break the weak Pharisees, those bruised reeds, then do you really believe that He will over-burden His church?
Will He grow impatient with your constant need for repentance? No. Will He lose His temper with your daily return to sin? No. Will He become vexed and annoyed by your many petitions and prayers? No. Will He ever grow weary of pleading your case and interceding on your behalf before the throne of the Father? No, beloved. Will He ever tarry in a far land when you must have His aid? No. Will He groan when the time comes for your resurrection, because He really doesn’t want to spend an eternity dealing with you? No. No, no, no, no!
If Christ has mercy for His enemies, then surely, He has mercy for His friends! Tell me, have you ever known a Lord Who was so kind? I assure you, you will not find your sin such a gracious master. You will not find Satan such a gentle lord. So why do we still have pet sins? Why do we harbor iniquity? There is no sin that leads with an easy yoke.
Now, some of you have lowly spirits. Are you anxious and fearful of a virus? Are you angry to the point of sin about riots? Are you lonely? Are you selfish? Are you convicted sin? You have a lowly spirit. On the other hand, some of you have lowly bodies. You are weak, frail, perhaps old. You can’t do much, and so you don’t feel very useful or practical. Lowly spirits, lowly bodies. There are a great many lowly in the church – many bruised reeds, many flickering candles.
There is a King Who does not break bruised reeds. He does not put out flickering candles. You say, “But I am a bruised reed! I am a flickering candle!” Wonderful – He will have you. This King will have you, beloved. He is the Savior of deplorables, the Benefactor of poor accounts, the Elder Brother of weak men, the great King of a great many lowly. And if you come before His throne today, He will mend your bruises and kindle your affections.