Yahweh promises to rescue His chosen servant Israel (Isaiah 41:8-9). But Israel isn’t just an object of Yahweh’s care. Israel is also an instrument of Yahweh’s justice.
“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. . . .” (Isaiah 42:1-43:7).
SPIRIT AND SERVANT
At creation, the Spirit hovered over the waters to form and fill (Genesis 1:2), and in the book of Judges the Spirit clothes judges to bring justice to Israel. Yahweh’s Servant is His ultimate agent of justice. Isaiah 41 ends with a call to behold the worthless images (v. 29); Isaiah 42 begins with a call to behold Yahweh’s Servant (v. 1). Yahweh’s Servant Israel will achieve the saving justice that the idols promise but cannot deliver. Filled with the Creator Spirit, the Servant brings justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1). He will accomplish His work quietly and gently (vv. 2-3), but accomplish it He will (v. 4). The Servant will be a light among the nations, a light so bright that it opens the eyes of the blind (v. 7). He will break open prisons (v. 7). Israel can be confident Yahweh will accomplish this because He creates the heaven and earth at the beginning (v. 5). The Creator God can “declare new things” (v. 9). Ultimately, of course, the Servant is Jesus, the True Israelite and light to the nations.
With the new things comes a new song (v. 10). Justice makes people glad, and all creation will join in singing praise to Yahweh the “man of war” who overcomes evil and establishes righteousness (v. 13). The sea of Gentiles and all the creatures of the sea join in, and so do the islands across the sea (v. 10). From the wilderness of the Ishmaelites in Kedar to the mountain of Yahweh, all will glorify the Lord (v. 11-12). Yahweh Himself will break His silence (v. 14). He will bring new creation gasping and panting like a woman in labor (v. 14), demolishing the old creation (v. 15) to make a way for the blind to walk, to make a way of light in the midst of darkness (v. 16). In leading the blind into the light, He will also deal with the source of blindness – worship of blind gods that blinds the worshipers. Justice means that Yahweh will shame those who trust in images.
BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
Verses 18-19 take an unexpected turn. After an exhortation to the deaf to hear and to the blind to see, we are told that the Servant of Yahweh too is blind and that His messenger is deaf (v. 19). Israel is set up as a Light and a Servant to bring the nations to Light, but Israel herself needs new eyes. Israel the Servant brings people out of prison, but Israel herself is trapped in caves and dungeons (v. 22). Yahweh Himself has given Jacob over to plunderers because of his sins (v. 24). Yahweh’s wrath burns against Israel (v. 25), so how can Israel ever be Yahweh’s Servant?
In Yahweh’s cunning providence, Israel is blind, deaf, and imprisoned along with the nations. But that is not where they are going to stay. Yahweh promises to take them through water and fire (Isaiah 43:2), exchanging Egypt and other nations to ransom the life of His precious Beloved (vv. 3-4). He will bring them from the prison of exile, gather them from the ends of the earth, to make them a light. Because Israel is created for Yahweh’s glory (v. 7).
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Monday, September 10, 2012 at 5:21 am
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