Baptism of Christ , Pietro Perugino

Baptism of Christ , Pietro Perugino, Sistine Chapel

“Thus says the Lord: Behold! My servant whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7)

The Servant theme runs all through the latter part of the book of Isaiah: the promise of an anointed servant who will deliver God’s people and re-establish God’s rule (Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6,50:4-9, 52:13-53:12) Our reading today is the first of those great prophecies, the promise that God’s coming servant will “bring forth justice to the nations.”

What does he mean by justice? Far more than the word normally connotes, for in Isaiah the concept has cosmic significance- it is to set right everything that is out of joint or off-kilter from the plan God had for humanity and creation:

“It is through him (the Servant) that God’s purposes for His world will be realized, by the opening of the blind eyes, the freeing of the captives, and the release of those who sit in darkness. In short, the Servant will undo all the horrendous and degrading effects that sin has had on the human race and restore to people their true freedom and dignity as sons and daughters of God.” (The Message of Isaiah, Webb, IVP,  p.172)

But it is not just the mission of the Servant that is revealed in this passage, it is also the surprising method by which he will accomplish it:

“The real wonder of the Servant’s mission, however, lies not so much in its breathtaking scope as in the manner in which it will be accomplished. He will not be a military conqueror…The source of his strength will be the Spirit of God (v1). The instrument of his rule will be the Word of God (v4b). His manner will be gentle rather than overbearing (vv2,3a), and there is more than a hint in the opening line of verse 4 that his mission will involve him in personal suffering.”

But who is the Servant? Though they did not know his name, today we do. It is, of course, Jesus. God himself has confirmed it in multiple ways and through the fulfillment of many prophecies. And he has also spoken it. At Jesus’ baptism by John in the river Jordan , as he emerged, the Holy Spirit descended upon him as a dove and God announced, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” That is, in part, “Behold! This is the One you have waited for; this is the Servant; this is the one who will ‘bring forth justice to the nations, the one ‘in whom my soul delights’”

What are we to do with this scripture? How are we to apply it? The answer is the first word: “Behold!” That is the one and only command.  We are to visualize Jesus, contemplate with awe who he is, what he has come to do, and how he will go about doing it. We are to meditate on these verses from Isaiah and, when we do, we are to see Jesus. Every word of every Gospel, every story and every event, can and should be a place to pause and behold him in the light of these great promises. We are to behold him and, having beheld, worship, for he is the breathtaking fulfillment of every promise of God.

Please do not take this lightly. Too often we are so bent towards action that we discount every call to just “Behold”( even when it comes as a direct command). This is to our own harm for it is in contemplation, pondering, and beholding that we discover the source, the goal, and the motivation for all our actions. Take a moment. Quiet your heart. Think of Jesus and “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights…..”

 

 

Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.