New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Isaiah 42:1 Behold, My servant, whom I uphold- The servant, be it Israel the nation or an individual Messianic figure, would be upheld by Yahweh in order to achieve the restoration; and in the case of the likes of Cyrus and Zerubbabel, would have had righteousness imputed to them had they wished to go along with God's program (Is. 41:10 s.w.).

My chosen, in whom My soul delights- The reason why there are no accusers against us, not even our own sins, is because we are “God’s elect” (Rom. 8:33). The supreme chosen one of God was of course the Lord Jesus, “mine elect, in whom my soul delights” (Is. 42:1). And yet later on in the servant songs of Isaiah, “mine elect” clearly refers to the people of Israel (Is. 45:4; 65:9,22). The true Israel of God are therefore those counted as somehow “in” the elect one, the singular servant of God, Messiah Jesus. Those baptized into Him are therefore His elect. And how do we know we are “God’s elect”? If we are baptized into Christ, “mine elect”, then for sure we are. And further, we have heard the call of the Gospel, we have been called- so, we are God’s elect, His chosen ones. Of course the objection can be raised that the whole idea of calling or election may appear unfair. Indeed, the Greek word for “elect” can carry the idea of ‘the favoured / favourite one’.  There is no ultimate injustice here. The chosen One is the Lord Jesus, beloved for the sake of His righteousness, His spirit of life. Those who respond to the call to be “in Him” are counted likewise. And all this is the way, the method used, in order for God to be the one who counts us as right in the ultimate judgment- for “It is God that justifies”.

I have put My Spirit on him- The Is. 42 passage concerning Jesus as preaching to the Gentiles is quoted in the Gospels from the LXX. But this reads: “Jacob is my servant, I will help him: Israel, is my chosen, my soul has accepted him... he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up his voice... but... He shall shine out, and not be discouraged” (Is. 42:1-4 LXX). The passages primarily exhorts Israel at the time of their living in Babylon to live up to their role as a missionary nation; they didn’t need to cry or lift up the voice in preaching, because their own example and being would be the witness. They would “shine out” as the light of the Gentile world in which they had to live. But they failed in this; and yet the prophecy came true in the Lord Jesus, the true servant of Yahweh. But the prophecy still has to be fulfilled in us, the servants of the Lord, as those in Christ, as we live through our Babylon years. See on :5.

He will bring justice to the nations- This bringing forth of justice, or declaration of the sentence (s.w. Ps. 17:2), will be "unto truth" (:3). The result of the judgment will be "truth". Mercy and truth are associated with the Abrahamic covenant. The idea may be that through their condemnation and judgment, they will learn Yahweh's ways and accept covenant relationship with Him. That was the prophetic vision for a remnant of all the nations in the eretz; they were to join a repentant Israel and Judah in returning to the land to form a multiethnic people of God in the restored Kingdom. But they didn't repent and so this has been deferred to the last days.

Isaiah 42:2 He will not shout, nor raise his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street-
When Paul wrote that “the servant of the Lord must not strive” in his preaching ministry (2 Tim. 2:24), he was alluding back to how the servant song described the Lord Jesus in His preaching as not striving or lifting up His voice in proud argument (Is. 42:2 cp. Mt. 12:19). We are the servant in that we are "in Christ". All that is true of Him is to be true of us. "Shout" is always used in Isaiah of shouting or crying in distress, condemnation or disappointment in human strength (Is. 19:20; Is. 33:7; 46:7;  65:14). The idea may be that He will not cry like this, but rather be heard by Yahweh and bring blessing to others. Yet the verse is quoted in Mt. 12:19 about the teaching style of the Lord Jesus. The Lord didn’t shout out in the streets who He was. He wished His followers to follow His example in showing the message to the world just as He did- in who He was (Mt. 12:18). Christ's instruction to His recent converts not to spread the Gospel in an unseemly way, because it was written about Him personally that “he shall not strive nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets". In other words, the true preacher of Christ is solidly identified with Him by the very act of preaching. Truly "we are ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20) in our witnessing. His voice is our voice.

Isaiah 42:3 He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a dimly burning wick. He will faithfully bring justice-
"Bruised reed" in Is. 36:6 is better "broken reed", and this is the very phrase used here about how the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, would not break a "bruised / broken reed" (Is. 42:3). Egypt were a broken reed, recently broken in battle and now useless to save Israel. They were too weak to uphold the weight of Judah if they were to lean upon it for strength. God turns the figure around- He as it were is in need of man, He wishes to trust upon us; and although we are broken reeds, we will not be crushed nor will He be disappointed. He so wishes to work with us.

The events of the crucifixion were so packed with fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and shadows that the Lord’s discernment of them must have given Him a wonderful boost of strength, in knowing who He was and where He was destined. For example, when they put a broken reed in his hand as a mock sceptre, His mind would have flown to the Messianic Is. 42:3: “A bruised reed shall he not break...he shall bring forth judgment”, as they mocked him for his apparent inability to do.

The Hebrew words used in Is. 42:3 suggest this is a reference to the candlestick; the words respectively mean a shaft / stem, and a wick. Little strength, little light (if the reference is to the reed which took oil to the lamps of the candlestick), little heat- but all the same, the Lord Jesus seeks to fan it into life rather than walk away in disappointment; and by doing so, sets a challenging example to many of us, whose most frequent complaint is the weak state of the brotherhood's members. If the reference is to a damaged and smoky candlestick, this becomes the more poignant- for the candlestick was a clear symbol of Israel and then of the ecclesias (Rev. 1:12,13,20; 2:1). 

When judgment is finally cast out by mercy at the last day, then the dysfunctional candlestick will be quenched or destroyed in condemnation. Note how the metaphor of quenching a fire is used here for condemnation; but in another metaphor, condemnation is spoken of as the very opposite- unquenchable fire. This is sure proof that we are not to read 'unquenchable fire' as literal.

Isaiah 42:4 He will not fail nor be discouraged until he has set justice in the earth, and the islands will wait for his law-
LXX "He shall shine out". The Lord's patience with the useless candlestick of Israel and the weakness of the ecclesia (see on :3) will be "until" His final victory over judgment. That happened in one sense on the cross, but in another sense it will only happen when death is swallowed up in victory at the day of judgment. Until then, both He and us are to patiently bear with the damaged and dysfunctional ecclesial candlestick. But in that day, those elements of the candlestick which refuse to give light to the house will be "broken", the Greek in Mt. 12:20 meaning 'broken in pieces'- the language of condemnation (Mt. 21:44).

Ezra, Nehemiah, Joshua, Zerubbabel... all overlooked the encouragement of Is. 42:4 concerning the servant-Messiah: “He shall not fail nor be discouraged”. Of course, the Lord Jesus Himself, along with these earlier potential Messiahs, could have failed and been discouraged. This was a conditional prophecy, if ever there was one. But the Lord Jesus made it real and live in His own experience; the others assumed, as we so often do, that these kind of scriptures are meant for someone other than us. Just as so many in the world assume that the good news of the Kingdom applies to us who preach it, and it must be very nice for us...but refuse to let the personal reality of it sink in for them.

Isaiah 42:5 Thus says God Yahweh, He who created the heavens and stretched them out, He who spread out the earth and that which comes out of it-
The simple fact we are created by God means that we are responsible to God in some sense, and therefore liable to His judgment. The stretched out hand of God is used as a figure both for His judgment of man (Is. 31:3) and also for His creation of man (Is. 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 51:13). The knowledge that we are created by Him makes us responsible to His judgment, and we have to look at our bodies, our lives which He has created… and act accordingly.

He who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk in it- This is the same phrase regarding how God's Spirit is given or "put" (s.w.) in the Messianic Saviour figure of :1. The idea is that all the people in this new system will also have the Spirit put within them; and the same phrase is used of the Spirit being potentially "put" or "given" in the restored exiles (Ez. 37:6,14). They were to all have the Spirit of the servant saviour. This has now come to fulfilment in the spirit of Christ being the sustaining force in the new creation, and will be more literally manifest in the reestablishment of the Kingdom at the last day.

But the reference is also to the simple fact that God created the heavens, earth and man upon it. And this means we should use our lives to come into covenant relationship with our creator (:6). God "wrought us" as He did in order to enable us to have this longing. According to the Bible, the spirit of man is God's. He gave us that life force, and at death "the spirit returns to God who gave it" (Ecc. 12:7). If we seriously believe this, then we will see death as an opportunity to give back to God what He gave us, namely our very life force. If in our lives we followed this principle, realizing nothing we 'have' is really ours but His, and therefore we were open handed with our possessions and knowledge of Him, freely giving it out as it were to Him, then giving back our life force to Him will be but a natural progression from this way of living. And thus we will see immortality not as something we personally crave for our own benefit, but rather a further opportunity to reflect back to Him, to His glory. Thus understanding Bible truth about death affects how we face death and eternity, and therefore radically influences our lives now.

Isaiah 42:6 I, Yahweh, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand and will keep you, and make you a covenant for the people, as a light for the nations-
The hands of God's servants were held or [s.w.] strengthened at the return from exile (s.w. Ezra 1:6; 6:22; 7:28; Neh. 2:18; 6:9). They could then have fulfilled the Kingdom prophecy of Is. 35:3 that the weak hands would be strengthened (s.w. "hold"). This taking by the hand would supremely have been through entering the new covenant; to give the hand was to enter covenant (s.w. Jer. 31:32). But these potentials were refused by the exiles. And so they became fulfilled in the Lord Jesus personally, who became the essence of the covenant and the light of the world.

Isaiah 42:7 to open the blind eyes, to bring the prisoners out of the dungeon, and those who sit in darkness out of the prison-
There are many connections within Isaiah between the servant songs, and the descriptions of the people of Israel into which the songs are interspersed. The Saviour-servant was to bring out the prisoners from the dungeons (Is. 42:7), so was every Israelite “to let the oppressed go free... loose the bonds”, and to “undo the bands of the [heavy] yoke” (Is. 58:6) as the Lord Jesus Christ did (Mt. 11:28,29); His work of deliverance is to be replicated by each of us in our witness. Whoever is in Him will by this very fact follow Him in this work. In Isaiah’s first context, the suffering servant was King Hezekiah. Yet all Israel were to see themselves as ‘in’ him, as spiritual Israel are to see themselves as in Christ. Significantly, Isaiah 40-53 speak of the one servant, whereas Isaiah 54-66 speak of the plural “servants” who fulfill in principle the work of the singular servant.

Those who are thankfully redeemed in Christ, now lovingly reconciled to Him, are described as blind, starving prisoners, bound in the darkness, awaiting execution (Ps. 107:14; Is. 42:7; 49:9; 61:1; Zech. 9:11). Our prayers should be like those of a man on death row in a dark dungeon, waiting to die, but groaning for salvation (Ps. 102:17,20).  This is the extent of our desperation. We are “the poor” (Gk. ‘the crouchers’), cringing in utter spiritual destitution (Mt. 5:3).

Isaiah 42:8 I am Yahweh; that is My name. I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to engraved images-
The implication is that the Jews had tried to praise Yahweh through praising their images. They never rejected Him, and yet they accepted idol worship. They achieved this in their conscience, as we can be tempted to do, by reasoning that idol worship was done in the name of Yahweh worship. But praise of Yahweh is because of His unique characteristics or Name, which no other idol has. Therefore as His Name is, so is His praise world-wide (Ps. 48:10); beyond the barriers of distance and language, those who know the Name are united in praise. Is. 42:8 speaks as if God's Name is itself His praise, so strong and inevitable is the link between knowing His Name and praising it. Therefore "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name" (Ps. 29:2) suggests that the Name of Yahweh demands praise from us. To simply declare the Name is of itself to praise (Heb. 2:12). This explains why at least 15 times in the Psalms and often elsewhere, praise is to be given to God's Name (Ps. 7:17; 9:2; 44:8; 54:6; 61:8; 69:30; 74:21; 99:3; 113:1; 135:1; 138:2; 142:7; 145:2; 148:5,13; 149:3).

Isaiah 42:9 Behold, the former things have happened, and I declare new things. I tell you about them before they come up-
As explained on Is. 41:22, the emphasis and flavour of the words used is not upon prediction but rather explanation, of attaching meaning to event. God alone can provide such explanation of both past and future events according to the far reaching narrative found in the prophets. The idol religions explained just a few isolated incidents. This is what is unique about the one true God- that He alone attaches meaning to event, both in personal and collective life, and indeed to all human history. Whether we correctly perceive it is another question, but He alone does this and holds the masterplan.


Isaiah 42:10 Sing to Yahweh a new song-
We sing the “new song” now, because we sing / meditate of the “new things” which will be in the Kingdom. In that day, we will “sing a new song” (Rev. 5:9; 14:3). And yet this is undoubtedly picking up on the way in which we can now sing the ‘new song’, every morning (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1). Likewise, all things will be made new at the Lord’s coming (Rev. 21:5), and yet those in whom the new creation is worked out already have all things made new in their spiritual experience (2 Cor. 5:17,18). The life that He had and now lives is the essence of the Kingdom life. Who He was and is, this is the definition of the Kingdom life. It’s why one of His titles is “the kingdom of God” (Lk. 17:21). And it’s why it can be said that we ‘have’ eternal life now, in that we can live the essence of the life we will eternally live, right now.

And His praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is therein, the islands and their inhabitants- The frequent mention of the ends of the earth / land is understandable, because the exiles were located, both those of Israel and Judah. They along with the repentant remnant of the Gentiles were intended to unite together as a new multiethnic people of God in a restored Kingdom.  

Isaiah 42:11 Let the wilderness and its cities raise their voices, with the villages that Kedar inhabits-
Is. 21:13-16 mentions these areas as those who will have remnants who survive and are envisaged as repenting and turning to Yahweh. Even remote Bedouin villages will accept Israel's God.

Let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains!- "The inhabitants of the rock"; the reference is probably to Petra, which like "Sela" means "rock". Even Edom, the sworn enemy of Israel and Yahweh, would ultimately have a remnant who turn to Yahweh; although this and :12 may be an invitation for them to do so, a call for their repentance.

Isaiah 42:12 Let them give glory to Yahweh-
Connecting with Is. 42:8, the "them" is those who have now quit idolatry.

And declare His praise in the islands- The same phrase only in Ps. 51:15 about David's praise of Yahweh after his repentance; and it again is repentance which is in view here.

Isaiah 42:13 Yahweh will go out like a mighty man, He will stir up-
Yet Yahweh would "stir up" Cyrus (s.w. Is. 41:2,25; 45:13), so this could have been fulfilled through that "mighty man". But he failed. The "mighty man", the gibbor, therefore became reapplied to the Lord Jesus (Is. 9:6 s.w.). But He will act through the stirring up of a repentant Judah (s.w. Is. 51:9,17; 52:1), seeing that no man would be 'stirred up' (s.w. Is. 64:7). All the potential candidates had refused the Divine nudges to be stirred up.

Zeal like a man of war, He will raise a war cry. Yes, He will shout aloud, He will triumph over His enemies- The Hebrew word translated " zeal" in the context of God's zeal for us (Is. 9:8) really means the jealousy which flares up in a man for a woman (the same word is in Num. 5:14,15; Prov. 6:34; Song 8:6 etc.). That jealousy burning like fire (Ps. 79:5) is His passion for us His people. He is a jealous God in His zeal for us; and therefore any other relationships with the things of this world cannot be contemplated by us. That zeal of God will be poured out upon us at the second coming, resulting in a consummation with Him as the wife of His covenant (Is. 42:13,14; 64:1). This is a figure which would be unseemly for a man to devise. But this is His passion for us, which the humility of God drives Him to use; and surely it will one day be revealed. To use this very figure of a man in love and consummating his relationship in marriage is so apparently inappropriate that it reflects the humility of God in even considering the use of it. We are God's heritage, His reward / wages (Heb.), His recompense for all His labour for us (Ps. 127:3 Heb.).

Isaiah 42:14 I have been silent a long time, I have been quiet and restrained Myself; now I will cry out like a travailing woman, I will both gasp and pant-
Insofar as we realize that God is not passive, but has feelings toward us far more deep and passionate than we can ever know, so far we will realize that life with Him is a daily, passionate experience. It cannot be ‘the same old scene’. Consider the passion of God: “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant” (Is. 42). “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart is changed within me; All my compassion is aroused” (Hosea). The prophets are full of such passionate intensity. The prophets are not just predictions of the future. They reveal the passion of God’s feelings for His people. At the very time when He condemns them for their adultery against Him, their ingratitude, their worthlessness, He cries out His belief in the blessedness He will one day grace them with.

God's long term 'holding His peace' at Israel's sins resulted in a build up of internal forces within God: "For a long time have I held my peace... restrained myself, now will I cry out like a woman in travail, I will gasp and pant" (Is. 42:14; 63:15; 64:12). God crying out, gasping, panting... leads straight on, in the context, to the suffering servant. This is the same idea as God's heart growing warm and being kindled in internal struggle about His people in Hos. 11:8,9. And all this went on supremely at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. We note His eagerness to compare Himself to a woman in labour, who stereotypically was veiled from male observation and identity with.

Isaiah 42:15 I will destroy mountains and hills and dry up all their herbs. I will make the rivers islands and will dry up the pools-
This looks forward to the literal changes in the eretz promised to Abraham spoken of in Isaiah's 'little apocalypse' in Is. 24. Politically this will mean the collapse of all mountains or nations within that territory. God's mountain of the Dan. 2 vision is to be over all. We note that "islands", a common word in Isaiah, here simply means the dry land where non-Israelite people live within the eretz.

Isaiah 42:16 I will bring the blind by a way that they don’t know, I will lead them in paths that they don’t know. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. I will do these things, and I will not forsake them-
This is the message of Is. 40; that a  way would be made for the exiles to return. This is the scene of Jer. 31:8, where the blind and limping Jacob and his family are brought back to the land from exile in the east. The literal way or path was also to be a spiritual path which they had not then yet known; for the blindness here is essentially spiritual (:18). It was all by grace; they would be returned despite their unbelief and impenitence. Their crooked ways would be made straight in that God would as it were make their ways straight.

But this huge spiritual potential was unused by the few exiles who did return. And so these things are reapplied to the way of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus warned that the blind cannot lead the blind- and explained what He meant by adding that "The disciple is not above his master: but every one when he is perfected shall be as his master" (Lk. 6:39.40). We are all learners of the one Master, and not leaders. Only if we are perfect can we be leaders of the blind- for it is Jesus personally who was prophesied as leading the blind (Is. 42:16). Hence we read in Mt. 23:10: "Nor should you be called 'Leader,' because your one and only leader is the Messiah".

Isaiah 42:17 Those who trust in engraved images, who tell molten images, ‘You are our gods’ will be turned back. They will be utterly disappointed-
"Turned back" is the phrase used in Ps. 129:5 of the Assyrians who hated Zion being turned back to their own land. But it also applies to those within Judah who were idolaters. Their judgment will be at the same time as that of their national enemies. For they worshipped the same idols as their enemies. But the term essentially means 'to backslide' in moral apostasy (Is. 50:5 s.w.). How they lived in their lives will be how they are at judgment day. They will not suddenly appear as different people. "Utterly disappointed" is better 'greatly shamed', the shame of condemnation, of realizing that all human political help has come to nothing (s.w. Is. 30:5; Jer. 2:26); that the way and trust of a lifetime has come to nothing.    

Isaiah 42:18 Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see-
LXX "Look up, ye blind, to see"; if there was a desire to see, shown by looking up; then they would see. These are the spiritually blind of :16, the exiles who by grace were to experience the psychological transformation of the Spirit which is part of accepting the new covenant. But they must have the desire to see and hear; and the exiles didn't even have that (see on Is. 48:8). And so this becomes true of a new, repentant Israel in our days and the last day.  

Isaiah 42:19 Who is blind, but My servant? Or who is as deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is as blind as he who is at peace, and as blind as Yahweh’s servant?
- see on Is. 44:2. The spiritual transformation of the blind and deaf was to be on account of their identification with the servant of Yahweh who was representative of them in their blindness. This may have had potential fulfilment in Isaiah, but Judah refused this. The sending forth of Isaiah was the sending forth of God's word to His people (s.w. Is. 6:8; 9:8). Isaiah like the Lord Jesus and like us, was the word made flesh. The man became his message; there was a congruence between him personally and the word preached. In the immediate context, Isaiah himself was the servant messenger sent forth (s.w. Is. 42:19; 48:16; 61:1); but he was largely rejected, and Jewish tradition has it that Isaiah was sawn in two by Hezekiah's son Manasseh (Heb. 11:37). And so the messenger came to fulfilment in the Lord Jesus.

The servant-Messiah is described as being blind and deaf (Is. 42:19)- just as those who returned from Babylon were called blind, yet having eyes; deaf, yet having ears (Is. 43:8). They had the potential to see and hear; and the servant-Messiah likewise was at that time deaf and blind, but had the potential to see and hear with the vision and words of Messiah. It is hard to understand these words otherwise. So we conclude that another reason why the restoration didn’t turn into the promised Messianic Kingdom was simply due to poor leadership. Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah returned from Babylon and were intended to be leaders who would crown Joshua / Jesus as the Messiah-Priest-Branch who would rebuild Jerusalem. But nothing is heard of them further. Perhaps it is to them that Zech. 11:8 refers: “Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul loathed them…then said I [on God’s behalf], I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die”. They had gone into captivity because of poor shepherds, and now at their return they again lacked men willing to be their Saviours; and God is saying that He would not do the shepherding job which He had delegated to others. It could be that Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah all died in one month as a result of Zechariah’s prophecy at the time of Ezra 5:1. Or it could be that the three potential shepherds who failed were Zerubbabel, Joshua and Nehemiah.

And so the blind and deaf servant came to be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. Because the Lord on the cross truly felt a sinner, He felt forsaken by God. This is to me the explanation of one of Scripture’s most enigmatic verses: “Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? Or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? Who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the Lord’s servant?" (Is. 42:18,19). The Lord Jesus, as the servant, was to share the blindness and deafness of an obdurate Israel. He identified with us even in our sinfulness; and yet He was the blind who was perfect; and this is the very thing that empowers the spiritually blind to see.

Jeremiah mourned Israel’s lack of spiritual sensitivity and failure to live up to their potential- they had eyes, but didn’t see (Jer. 5:23), they were God’s servant, but a blind one; His messenger, but unable to hear any message (Is. 42:19). So the prophets weren't satisfied just because a minority responded to their message of God's love. They were heartbroken because the majority rejected it. I suspect we tend to think that 1 response in 1000 is good, 1 in 10,000 isn’t bad. But what about the other 999, or 9,999, who receive our tracts, hit our websites, hear our witness- and don’t respond? Is our witness in the spirit of the prophets? Are we happy that the tiny minority respond, and don’t spare a thought for the tragedy of the majority who don’t? Not only their tragedy, but the tragedy for God?

 There is a real paradox here: a blind servant, or slave. What master would keep a blind servant? Only a master who truly loved him, and kept him on as his servant by pure grace. Yet this useless blind servant was God's servant and messenger- even though the blind were not acceptable as servants or sacrifices of God under the Law (Lev. 21:18,22)! God uses His spiritually blind servant people to proclaim His message to the world. The disciples, still blind to the call of the Gentiles, were sent out to preach to the whole world! And we too, blind as we are, are turning men from blindness to light. Paul points out the humility which we should therefore have in our preaching: there are none that truly understand, that really see; we are all blind. And yet we are "a guide of the blind, a light to them that sit in darkness" (Rom. 2:19). Therefore we ought to help the blind with an appropriate sense of our own blindness. The first century Jewish Christians failed utterly in this. And sadly much of our earlier Christian preaching was not accompanied by an awareness of our own limited spiritual horizons and vision.  


Isaiah 42:20 You see many things, but don’t observe. His ears are open, but he doesn’t listen-
LXX "Ye have often seen, and have not taken heed; your ears have been opened, and ye have not heard". If they desired to see and hear, then the gift of the Spirit would have opened their eyes and ears (see on :18). But they didn't show any desire to be spiritually perceptive. And so the opening of eyes didn't happen. The gift of the Spirit works likewise today. The Corinthians were given the Spirit, but were not "spiritual" (1 Cor. 3:1) because they refused its operation. And this can be true of all who have been baptized and potentially received the gift of the Spirit.

Isaiah 42:21 It pleases Yahweh, for His righteousness’ sake, to magnify the law, and make it honourable-
GNB "The LORD is a God who is eager to save, so he exalted his laws and teachings, and he wanted his people to honor them. But now his people have been plundered; they are locked up in dungeons and hidden away in prisons". The context speaks of God's attempt to open the eyes of His people to His law; we could read this with GNB as meaning that God tried to make them obedient, but they refused. But we can read with AV that Yahweh "is well pleased for his righteousness' sake", and the referent would be the blind and deaf righteous servant of :19, the representative Lord Jesus, who identified with their blindness but Himself was righteous. "He will magnify the law" (AV) would then refer to His perfect obedience to the law and honouring it in His own person, whilst also representative of sinful Judah.

Isaiah 42:22 But this is a robbed and plundered people. All of them are snared in holes, and they are hidden in prisons. They have become a prey, and no one delivers; and a spoil, and no one says, ‘Restore them!’-
See on :21. They need not have remained in the holes and prisons of captivity, but they refused the saving work of the representative servant. And the exiles in Persia, as the book of Esther makes clear, didn't perceive their prosperity as actually being in holes and prisons, spiritually snared by their own materialism. See on Is. 49:24. Israel as a nation are often spoken of as being in prison in a Gentile world (Ps. 79:11; 102:20; Is. 42:7,22; 49:9); just as Joseph was. Prison and death are often associated because a spell in prison was effectively a death sentence, so bad were the conditions. Israel being in prison is therefore a symbol of a living death.

Isaiah 42:23 Who is there among you who will give ear to this? Who will listen and hear bearing in mind the time to come?-
In the first instance, this is an appeal to the exiles to repent. "The time to come" could refer to their further suffering, or to the wonderful Kingdom which potentially they could have a part in if they repented (s.w. Is. 41:23). But they retained their deaf ears (see on :18), refusing to have them opened. And so the appeal becomes a timeless one, for all who would seek to have a part in the restored Kingdom.

Isaiah 42:24 Who gave Jacob as plunder, and Israel to the robbers? Didn’t Yahweh, He against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in His ways, and they disobeyed His law-
LXX "For what did he give to Jacob up to spoil, and Israel to them that plundered him? Did not God do it against whom they sinned? and they would not walk in his ways, nor hearken to his law". This is in answer to the skepticism of the exiles encountered by Ezekiel, who considered they were suffering unjustly and the entire deportation had been unfair.

Isaiah 42:25 Therefore He poured the fierceness of His anger on him, and the strength of battle; and it set him on fire all around, but he didn’t know; and it burned him, but he didn’t take it to heart
- See on :24. The tragedy was that those taken into captivity weren't reformed by their sufferings, and now their children likewise refused to "take it to heart" and repent. Here we have another connection with Job, the book which appears to have been rewritten for the exiles with Job as representative of both the exiles and the righteous servant. "Have you considered My servant..." (Job 1:8) is the same phrase here "take it to heart". The book of Job was therefore written as a way of appealing for the repentance of the exiles and for them to contextualize their own sufferings.