Isaiah 42

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 9, 2000


There is a man who has invented a new art form. He makes a mosaic out of thousands of little pictures. When you stand back, all you see is the overall picture. Yet when you look up close, you realize that there are actually thousands of individual pictures.

In a way, this is similar to what happens in weaving as well. When you look at a cloth, you only see the overall color. Yet when you look up close, you will see many different colored strands that make up the cloth.

Sometimes the words of a prophet are of a similar nature. The prophet will sometimes write or speak from what would seem to be the broad picture. Yet when you get up close, you find that there are actual several images that overlap, or several different strands of color that are woven throughout a work.

:1-4 The Servant

:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect,

Who is "my servant"?

I think there is a sense in which there are three prophetic strands woven together through this passage.

Cyrus - Back in Isaiah 41, we saw the thread of Cyrus, who would be used by God as a servant (Is. 44:28; 45:1).

Israel – When we get to verses 18-25, the strand will change to the nation of Israel, also clearly called God’s "servant" (Is. 44:21)

Jesus - This is the thread that is we see woven into this section. Why not just take this as either Cyrus or Israel? Because Matthew tells us this is Jesus.

(Mat 12:14-21 KJV) Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. {15} But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; {16} And charged them that they should not make him known: {17} That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, {18} Behold my servant, whom I have chosen …


Jesus was a servant.

(Phil 2:1-11 KJV) If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, {2} Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. {3} Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. {4} Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. {5} Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: {6} Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: {7} But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: {8} And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. {9} Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: {10} That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; {11} And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is to be our example. And He was a servant.

I think it’s very easy to get trapped into thinking of ourselves. When we think of ourselves, we are constantly worried about whether we are happy or whether we think our "needs" are being met. When we are thinking of others, we become concerned about their needs.

:2-3 He shall not cry … A bruised reed shall he not break

Matthew said that Jesus fulfilled these verses (Mat. 12:9-21) when He began to have problems with the Pharisees. They wanted to destroy Him because He was breaking their Sabbath traditions. I think Jesus fulfilled these verses in at least two ways.

(Mat 12:15-17 KJV) But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; {16} And charged them that they should not make him known: {17} That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet …

Lesson #1

No publicity.

Jesus didn’t need a publicity agent. He didn’t promote Himself. Sometimes after doing a miracle, He would tell the person not to tell anyone about Him. But when people began to hear about Jesus, it was all He could do to keep the crowds away.

bruisedratsats – to be crushed, oppressed

reedqaneh – reed, stalk, something that is fragile or easily shaken (Mt. 11:7).

breakshabar – to break, break in pieces; rend violently, wreck, crush, quench

smoking flax …a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish (NAS)

Lesson #2

Jesus cares for the hurting.

Sometimes we tend to feel a little uncomfortable around some kinds of people. We may try to avoid them, but Jesus won’t.

(Luke 7:36-50 KJV) And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. {37} And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, {38} And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. {39} Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. {40} And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. {41} There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. {42} And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? {43} Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. {44} And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. {45} Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. {46} My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. {47} Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. {48} And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. {49} And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? {50} And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Simon didn’t feel comfortable having this woman in his living room. Jesus had no problem. She was received by Jesus because she was crying to Him for help. She wept over her sins. It’s almost like Jesus was her last hope. And He doesn’t turn her away.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. If you’re willing to come to Jesus for help, then there’s a little bit of fire smoldering in your heart. Jesus won’t try to put out the fire, He’ll fan the flames.

Note: Parents – be careful that your discipline doesn’t end up putting out the fire in your kids. Husbands and wives – be sensitive to the other when they’re hurting.

:5-9 Message to the Messiah

:6 for a light of the Gentiles;

This would be something that the Jews would have a hard time with. They considered the Gentile nations as nothing more than fuel for the fires of hell. But God said the Messiah would be a light even for us Gentiles.

:7 To open the blind eyes

Though Jesus would fulfill this in a literal sense by healing blind people (John 9:6-7), this is meant primarily in a spiritual sense, those who are blind spiritually (John 9:39).

:7 to bring out the prisoners from the prison

Jesus came to set us free from the prison of sin and death.

The Bible says that without Jesus, we are dead –

(Eph 2:1-5 NLT) Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins. {2} You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. {3} All of us used to live that way, following the passions and desires of our evil nature. We were born with an evil nature, and we were under God's anger just like everyone else. {4} But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, {5} that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's special favor that you have been saved!)

Jesus can set you free. He died on a cross to take your place in prison.

:8 I am the LORD … and my glory will I not give to another

LORDYHWH ("Yahweh") – "the existing One"

glorykabowd – honour, abundance; splendour, glory

It’s easy to fall in love with the spotlight. When God uses you, you will find that people will put a kind of "spotlight" on you. It’s not only a wonderful feeling to be used by God, but it’s kind of neat to have people thanking you for it all. But the spotlight belongs on Jesus.

:9 Behold, the former things are come to pass

As we mentioned last week, our God is like no other in His ability to tell us of things to come, and they happen. He’s saying here that things He’s spoken of coming to pass have already happened, and now He’s going to reveal new things that also will surely happen.


:10 Sing unto the LORD a new song

When God does a "new thing" (vs. 9), it is time to sing a "new song".


A new thing requires a new song

Old songs are great. They can bring much comfort and can make the praise of our God very easy to do. As a worship leader, I know that there can be great value in leading songs that people know. If you lead too many songs that the people don’t know, it’s now worship, it’s just a performance by those up front.

Old songs are also dangerous. If you want, you don’t even have to think about the words. You can be thinking about problems at work, things you want to buy at the store, when you’re going to call your friend, all while effortlessly singing an "old song". There’s a danger of the old becoming worthless in that we don’t allow them to express our heart through them.

Life is a lot like a song, isn’t it? We can develop certain ways of living, certain habits, certain ways of thinking about things that can be like an old song. Our old habits may make us comfortable, but sometimes they’re nothing more than just old ruts.

When was the last time you sang a "new song" to the Lord? And I don’t mean in church. When was the last time you let God change some of your life? When was the last time you allowed God to establish a new, healthy habit for your life?

Is it time to "change your tune"?

:11 the villages that Kedar … let the inhabitants of the rock sing

Kedar – the name of one of Ishmael’s sons; his descendants settled what is now modern Saudi Arabia, about 250 miles southeast from Jerusalem. One of the Jewish translations (the Targum) reads, "the Arabians that inhabit the wilderness shall praise".

the rockcela’ – crag, cliff, rock; also the name of Petra, one of the main cities of the Edomites, and also one of the places where the Jews may be fleeing to during the Tribulation period (Is. 16)

I personally wonder if somewhere around this spot in the prophecy Isaiah is jumping into his distant future, the time at the end of the Tribulation period. Could it be that these songs of praise could be coming from the Jews in the wilderness who are being rescued at Jesus’ return?

:13-17 The Lord to the rescue

:14 I have long time holden my peace

(Isa 42:14 NIV) "For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back.


God is still waiting.

There will be a time when God will no longer be patient, but for now, He still has some patience left.

(2 Pet 3:9 NLT) The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.

Some people will ask you the question, "If God is so loving and so powerful, then why does He allow evil to exist in the world?" Well the truth is, there will be time when God will no longer put up with it. For now He is being patient and "holding His tongue" because He wants to give people a chance to repent.

:14 now will I cry like a travailing woman

crypa’ah – to groan, cry out, scream

travailing womanyalad – a woman giving birth.

One of the commentaries (JFB) said this: "Like a woman in parturition (I had to look up this word, it means "the action or process of giving birth to offspring"), who, after having restrained her breathing for a time, at last, overcome with labor pain, lets out her voice with a panting sigh."

I think that comes from a guy who has never been around when his wife delivered.

Another commentator (John Gill) writes, "when sharp pains are upon her, and just going to be delivered; and that so loud as to be heard all over the house" – I think he must have been around when his kids were born!

I think Bill Cosby had a best way of describing this very thing – this is the time when your wife is in such great pain and she wants to try to convey to you just how much pain she’s in. So she grabs you by the lower lip, pulls it up and wraps it around your head and yells at you, "You did this to me!"

The point is, God will one day "let loose" and destroy His enemies.

:16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not

Here is good part! Instead of judgment and destruction, we turn to salvation.

The "blind" are those who have a hard time seeing the Lord.

I believe there is a special group of people in mind here. The Jews for now have a type of blindness on them –

(Rom 11:25-26 NKJV) For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. {26} And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;

For now, we are in a time when God is dealing with the Gentiles. When that time comes to an end, God will once again be turning His attention to the nation of Israel.

:18-25 Warning to the blind

:19 Who is blind, but my servant? … as he that is perfect

Is this the same "servant" as in verse 1? I don’t think so. Isaiah goes on to explain that this blindness is because this "servant" isn’t paying attention to what he sees. In fact, this "servant" is being disciplined because of his disobedience.

So who is this servant? Israel (Is. 44:21)

perfect – the Jews were perfect in that they "had it all". God had chosen them, God had spoken to them, God had given them His law. They had the proper rituals, the priests, the worship, they had it all, but were still blind to the things of God.

Joh 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

:20 Seeing many things, but thou observest not

They see things happening but aren’t paying attention to them. They hear the good things, but don’t pay attention.

Think of all that the nation of Israel has seen! The plagues in Egypt, being taken through the Red Sea, the miracles in the wilderness, God’s incredible hand in conquering the Promised Land, the victory of Gideon, the power of Samson, the miracles of Elijah and Elisha. The list goes on and on.

But were the people still worshipping their little idols rather than God? Yes.

:22 But this is a people robbed and spoiled

These are a people who are caught in all kinds of traps. Nobody helps them.

:24 Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned?

Why are they caught in these traps in the first place? It’s because they have refused to do the things that God has asked them to do. And so God let them get caught in their traps.


Be careful about excuses.

We have a tendency to not want to face the truth. For some of us, the best thing we could ever do would be to realize that we’re responsible for the mess we’re in.

But instead we like to blame it on the boss who didn’t like me, or the parent who didn’t treat me right, or the friend who hurt me.

Could it be possible that it was your fault?

:25 …it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.

Wiersbe: "How sad it is when God disciplines us and we do not understand what He is doing or take it to heart (v. 25)."


Are you going blind?

In a way, you "have it all" too. You have the Bible. You have the written record of all that the Israelites had seen.

For you Christians, are you getting bored with God’s Word? Ask God to renew your sight.

For some of you, you have now heard the message of how God can save you. Will you let Him? Will you let Him help you? Or will you turn a deaf ear?