The Call and Commission of a Servant
What responsibility was assigned to the Servant called by God?
Isaiah 42:1-7 contains the account of the call and commission of an unidentified Servant. This Servant (perhaps a reference to Israel or Isaiah or to the Messiah as per Matthew 12:14-21) is identified as God’s Servant who is empowered to bring forth justice by God’s Spirit (42:1-2). The Servant will neither break nor extinguish those striving after righteousness (42:3) nor will he be discouraged until he has “established justice in the earth” (42:4).
In Isaiah 42:5-9, God, the creator of the universe (42:5), appointed Israel to be a servant to the nations. Israel’s role as a servant to the nations included being “a light to the nations” (42:6) that still serve graven images (42:8), giving sight to the blind, and setting prisoners free (42:7). God, who was unwilling to share His glory with graven images (42:8), would “declare new things” (42:9) or things previously unknown and unexpected (such as the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus and the return of Israel from captivity).
Isaiah 42:10-13 is a hymn of thanksgiving for the deliverance from Babylon, a type of second Exodus. Isaiah 42:14-17 express that God would prepare a way to lead His blind people home. Idolaters, however, would be held accountable for their apostasy (42:17).`
The Past Performance of a Servant
What characterized the past performance of God’s servant?
This passage identifies the blind (Isaiah 42:14-17) as God’s own people who failed to function as His servant. They were a blind, deaf, and unresponsive people (42:18), yet still identified as God’s servant (42:19). God chose them and gave them His Word (42:21), but they did not obey God’s Word (42:24) and were “plundered and despoiled” (42:22) as a result. Verses 23-24 accentuate the fact that God’s people were in captivity because of their sin rather than because of the strength of their enemies. The people were spiritually insensitive. They were like a man in the midst of a blaze who was insensitive to its heat (42:25).