He is a Gentle Servant
About 750 years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Isaiah anticipates the Savior’s coming. Isaiah 42 presents Jesus as a gentle Savior. The people have sinned and God will judge them by sending them into the Babylonian exile, but God will restore His people to himself. In order to restore His people to himself, God will send His servant Jesus, the Messiah. We learn a few important things about this gentle servant from Isaiah 42, which contains the first of the so-called servant songs.
The Servant is God’s Servant (42:1)
Indeed, Jesus is God’s servant (John 4:34). The servant will not function in His own strength. Rather, God will give His Spirit. Matthew relates how God gave Jesus the Holy Spirit at His baptism (Matthew 3:16,17).
The Servant is Gentle (42:2,3)
In his Isaiah commentary, John Oswalt states that “God’s answer to the oppressors of the world is not more oppression, nor is his answer to arrogance, more arrogance; rather, in quietness, humility, and simplicity, he will take all of the evil into himself and return only grace. That is power.” Matthew 12:15–18 affirms that Jesus is the gentle servant. I am reminded of the 18th Century hymn written by Charles Wesley:
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child;
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to Thee.
Loving Jesus, gentle Lamb,
In Thy gracious hands I am;
Make me, Savior, what Thou art,
Live Thyself within my heart
The Servant will Bring Peace (42:4)
Peace is part of God’s justice. Earlier in Isaiah, the Messiah was called Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). In the New Testament, Paul makes it clear that the only way we can be reconciled to God is through Jesus’s death. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:13,14). I am reminded of the well-known carol:
“Hark!” the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
The Servant will Bring Light (42:5,6)
What does a world in darkness need? It needs light. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!” (Isaiah 9:2). During His earthly ministry, Jesus affirmed that He is the Light of the World (John 8:12). I am reminded of the 19th Century Christmas carol:
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
The Servant will Bring Freedom (42:7)
Sin enslaves. Who can free those enslaved by the power of sin? The gentle Servant will. The problem of sin was not original to those in Isaiah’s time. It goes all the way back to the beginning of creation with the rebellion of Adam and Eve.
The New Testament is clear that Jesus was not just a good teacher or a good example to follow. No, He is much more. He is the savior who came to save us from our sins. The apostle John affirms “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). I am reminded of the great Christmas carol:
God rest ye, merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay;
Remember Christ, our savior,
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray.
“Fear not,” then said the angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a savior
Of pure virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.
This text teaches us some very practical lessons:
- We are to be gentle like Jesus.
- We are to be servants like Jesus who came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).
- We are to point others to Jesus. We all have broken friends and family members who are enslaved by sin. We need to point them to Jesus who can free them and save them.
- We are to praise Jesus. After he introduces the servant, Isaiah bursts into song:
Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.
I conclude with Chris Rice’s lyrics:
Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!
Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!
Dr. Tiberius Rata is the assistant dean of the School of Ministry Studies and professor of Old Testament Studies at Grace College & Theological Seminary. Dr. Rata is passionate about instilling in his students a love for God and His inerrant Word so they can be pillars in their churches, leaders in their work places, and model citizens in their communities.
This guest post is written by Dr. Tiberius Rata