God’s Servant, God’s Justice
Bible Text: Isaiah 42:1 – 9, Matthew 12:15 – 21 | Speaker: Clayton Fopp | Series: Isaiah – Future Echoes | God’s Servant, God’s Justice
Isaiah 42:1 – 7
Matthew 12:15 – 21
Bringing peace and justice …
I’m not much of a gun person, I’ve never shot a firearm in my life, but there’s one type of gun who’s name and reputation I know, and that is the Colt Single Action Army.
It was first produced in the late 19th Century, and many, many thousands were used by troops and law enforcement officials, as they sought to bring peace and justice to the US, especially in its vast regions of lawless western frontier. And the Single Action Army became known as “the gun that won the west.”
Much later, General George Patten famously carried one, and it was John Wayne’s firearm of choice in his many movies, to the point where he would bring his own gun from home to the set each day for filming.
But it wasn’t so much the names of who used it that stuck in my mind, but the Single Action Army’s nickname, which of course, was the, Peacemaker.
And I remember in one book I read as a teenager, one of the characters describing the slightly contrary sounding nickname;, a gun, called a peacemaker. This gun which was the favourite of soldiers and law enforcement,
How does a gun bring peace?
How does a gun ensure justice?
Well, this character said, as he sat behind the wooden desk in his detective office, the peacemaker brings peace and justice, by blowing a hole in the person who’s disrupting the peace!
The person who’s acting unjustly.
That’s how peace and justice comes.
By giving the person who’s causing the trouble a potentially fatal wound!
Well this part of Isaiah, is about someone, someone we’ve called God’s servant, but who could equally be called “the peacemaker.”
We’re told, verse 1, he will bring justice,
verse 3, he will bring forth justice,
verse 4, he establishes justice,
He brings peace,
He does what is right,
He brings freedom and liberty, verse 6 and 7, and makes things the way they should be.
But actually, who are we talking about?
In Isaiah 42 we meet this character introduced there in verse 1 as God’s servant.
And there are 4 sections in this book of Isaiah that have become known as the “servant songs”, including this one and chapter 53 which we’ll look at next week.
But who is this one who brings peace and justice?,
Opening eyes that are blind, verse 7?
Is Isaiah talking about one nation or one person?
Is it one person, or is it more than one person?
If you go to a funeral in Australia, the song that you’re most likely to hear as people file past the coffin is Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way.”
My wife Kathy’s grandmother had wanted to have it at her funeral, until she heard it was the most common song played at funerals, and then “I did it my way” was also, everybody else’s way, and that didn’t quite seem to fit!
But not every culture has been as individualistic as ours.
In the culture and society of Old Testament Judah, your individual identity was much more closely tied to national, or community identity,
So, some of you know, I’m literally hours away from turning 40! And so if I was to talk about who I am, the fact that I’m 39 years and 364 days, and some hours, that would be at the forefront of my mind.
You pick one of God’s people Judah, in the days of Isaiah, 8th Century BC, and if we were able to ask who they are, the aspect of their identity at the very forefront of their mind, is not that they’re about to turn 40, but that they were part of this nation that God had formed.
They were Judah first, Clayton second.
So when we come to the servant songs in Isaiah, and this is the first one, we find the same kind of overlap between individual and nation. Sometimes this servant sounds very much like an individual, other times it seems like the whole nation is on view.
Judah were the people God had chosen to demonstrate to the rest of humanity, what it was like to live under God’s kind and kingly rule.
It wasn’t that God liked them more than everybody else, but that they were the means of his blessing reaching everybody else
But Judah wanted to be like God themselves,
They wanted all the blessings themselves, but without God telling them what was right and wrong.
That’s what the Bible calls sin, and it’s exactly the same today. We want the good things from God. We want the blessings God offers us, but we want God to keep out of our lives, thanks very much.
And so as people keep pushing God to the edge of their life and beyond, sin continues.
How, then, can the blessings of God reach, all the world?
If that was God’s intention at the beginning, but Judah are patently unable to do it, we’ve got a problem, haven’t we?
How is God going to bring about his blessing?
How are all the nations of the world going to know his justice,
And so that’s why these “servant songs”, starting in Isaiah 42 are so significant.
Here we learn that the nation of God’s people, and then the remnant, is reduced again, to, just one person.
One person who would do what all the others had failed to do,
One person who would do what all the others could not do.
Yes, this is God’s desire for his people, but we get to a point where a nation can’t do it, and only an individual can.
God’s plans for his people are embodied in the servant
And so the reason that sometimes it seems that we’re talking about the nation, and sometimes it seems like we’re talking about an individual, is because we are!
The servant is the embodiment of God’s people,
He represents God’s people,
He enables God’s people to do, in significant part, what he does, which is what they were supposed to do in the first place.
But clearly the world-wide scope of what’s pictured here, isn’t fulfilled in the Israel or Judah of Isaiah’s day, or even in the centuries after, so we’re left expecting an individual who will come at some point after Isaiah.
He will be the true, servant of God.
The things that God is most concerned about, the servant acts on.
The work that God wants completed, the servant achieves.
You want to know what God thinks is important?
You want to know what God’s priorities are?
Well, have a look at what this servant does!
If you’ve ever wondered what God’s plans for the world are,
What God hopes to see in the world,
What God is working towards, because that sometimes can be hard to figure out, can’t it?
Well, have a look at what this servant will do, this one who truly obeys God’s commands.
Maybe you came today to find out about God,
To find out what God’s on about, w
What God thinks matters,
Well if you were to follow the servant around for a day or 2, you’d get a pretty good idea.
Of course, we can’t, but we can read about him in Isaiah, can’t we?
God’s servant brings justice (v 1 – 4)
And certainly the big idea in those first 4 verses is that the servant brings justice.
Some of us, I know, carry the scars of being incredibly wronged at the hands of others.
That’s a reality, isn’t it?, living in a world that has thrown of God’s pattern for life, as we’ve been saying, sinful, selfish decisions, making me the arbiter of what’s right and wrong, it means I’m going to hurt other people.
If my goal is to do it my way, well if you get in my way, what happens to you is not important, is it?
And if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of that situation, and let’s face it, we all have;,
Someone has wronged you,
Someone has hurt you,
God, speaking through Isaiah, says to you, justice is coming.
Have a look at some of the language, some of the great promises there,
here is my servant, whom I uphold,
, I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.
Verse 3, In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
Verse 4, he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.
In his law the islands will put their hope.”
See, this servant song is really a job description, it tells us what the servant does, what bringing God’s plans and purposes to fulfilment in the world is going to look like.
Those of you who go off to work every day, most of you probably have some sort of job description. Not quite sure what you’d think if your boss handed you a job description in the form of a song like we have here! Maybe that’s something to explore at your next annual review!
But that’s what this is, it’s a job description. And the first verses you’ll notice are talking about the servant, but then from verse 5, God speaks to the servant.
And we find that the first part of this servant’s job, is to bring justice to the nations.
When this servant turns up, wrongs will be righted. That’s God’s promise.
A week or so ago in the Bosnian War Crimes trial in The Hague, Slobodan Praljak one of the Bosnian Croat military commanders had his appeal against his sentence rejected. He’d been found guilty of war crimes, massacring Muslims, and sentenced to 20 years prison. But rather than spend the rest of his life behind bars, he pulled out a little bottle, drank poison in the court room, and died shortly after.
He did not serve the sentence that his crime deserved.
It can look like he got off,
Took the easy way out, maybe.
Well, Isaiah says, no he didn’t get off scott-free, justice will be done.
And the repetition and the sheer expanse of the justice that’s pictured here, justice to the nations,
justice on earth,
Talking about the islands, that just means the most far-flung parts of the world.
This justice is everywhere, for all time.
It’s not just that justice will be done over here for a bit,
Or that somebody there will have their wrongs righted.
It’s a picture of complete justice, everywhere, forever.
There will be no escape,
And if we really get a picture of the breadth and depth of what’s being promised, we’d conclude that even death won’t allow you to escape.
See what God promises his people in Judah, in the 8th century BC, is a completely new way of doing things,
A new way of God’s priorities being worked out in the world.
That’s the point of verse 9, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
Out with the old, in with the new, “and you Judah, this is not happening yet, but I’m telling you, I’m letting you see my plans for how I’m going to bring my purposes about”, before they spring into being I announce them to you.”
What is God’s justice?
But what is God’s justice?
What can we expect?
Well, justice in God’s eyes isn’t more than simply people getting what they deserve, for their wrong decisions or evil actions.
Justice is much bigger than that.
Back in Exodus 26 God had provided a plan, a blueprint if you like, for the tabernacle, the tent that he commanded Moses to build.
The tabernacle was the forerunner of the temple, while the people wandered in the desert. And the blueprint was to show people how it ought to be. And it was an incredibly detailed plan, even down to what colour the embroidery needed to be on the curtains.
In the original language, the word for that blueprint of the tabernacle, that’s the same word that’s translated justice here in Isaiah 42.
Justice is God’s blueprint!
It’s how, things, ought, to be.
See what God promises us here in Isaiah 42 is not just that what happens inside the Mount Barker courthouse is always going to be right, and in every other courthouse in the world forever.
I mean, that would be something, wouldn’t it?
But the promise here is much greater,
This is that everything will be established according to God’s plan,
Everything will be done according to God’s blueprint.
When the servant of God establishes justice, human relationships will look like human relationships are supposed to look.
Maybe you look at the relationships around you sometimes, the relationships you’re in, perhaps, and maybe think, there’s got to be more than this, surely this isn’t what it’s supposed to be like.
When the servant of God establishes justice, our experience of the world, will be as it’s supposed to be.
We’re about to go into the season of “year in review” in the media aren’t we? All the footage and headlines that got our attention in 2017.
Well, let me say now, what all that is going to tell us;,
Our world is not the place it’s supposed to be.
Our world is stained by sin, out of step with its creator, groaning to use the Apostle Paul’s description in Romans 8.
But when the servant of God establishes justice, our world will be, according to the blueprint.
When this servant does his work, brings God’s justice, our relationship with God will be as it is supposed to be, according to the blueprint.
That’s the justice that the servant of the Lord brings.
Yes, there will be a righting of wrongs, and if you’ve been hurt by injustice, and you long for justice, then hang on to that promise.
But if wrongs are righted, only to happen again, for more wrong things to be done, what kind of solution is that?
If justice is just about law and order, well the law can be established, but won’t the bad guys just find new ways of getting around the law?
The servant’s justice gives us a reason to hope (v 9)
Friends, let’s broaden our picture of justice.
Let’s long for this kind of justice.
Long for, and pray for, the justice that the servant of the lord establishes, as he brings God’s plans, and purposes, and ideals to fruition.
The servant rolls out God’s blueprint across the world.
See that’s why it’s in his teaching, or in his law, that everyone will hope.
This is real reason and confidence for hope, isn’t it?
I don’t know whether you heard that the 2018 Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne has been cancelled, apparently due to “lack of interest.”
The theme was going to be, “A reason to hope.”
I must confess, I found it slightly amusing. It seemed reminiscent of “The psychic fair has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances”!
Anyway, it’s not funny that people have been inconvenienced, and no doubt some will be out of pocket, but I thought, “due to lack of interest”, there’s no way in the world that there’s a lack of interest in “a reason to hope.”
The people I speak to, that’s the thing they want almost more than anything else. “Clayton, give me a reason to hope.”
Perhaps it’s what the Atheist Foundation offers as a reason to hope that’s failed to attract the interest. That I can certainly understand.
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
Friends, we don’t know what’s in store for us this afternoon,
Or next year.
But here is reason to hope.
God’s servant, will build according to Gods’ blueprint.
Justice comes with gentleness (v 3)
And God tells us that this justice doesn’t come violently imposed.
The original readers of Isaiah were all too familiar with that kind of rule and authority,
Just in the previous section, God has described how Cyrus, King of Persia would sweep across the known world. Chapter 41 verse 25, He treads on rulers as if they were mortar,
as if he were a potter treading the clay.
Cyrus established his kingdom, and the rule of his law, with the pointy end of a sword, and with the heel of his boot.
That’s law and justice, Colt Peacemaker style. Put a hole through people who are getting in the way.
But that’s not how God’s servant establishes his justice,
His pattern for life.
On the contrary, what’s unique and distinctive about the rolling out of God’s justice, or, we could say, the establishment of God’s kingdom across the world, is the care with which it’s established, the gentleness, the genuine concern for hurting and fragile people.
See verse 3, A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
Now, remember smouldering stubs of firewood from last week?
This is different.
This isn’t God showing his power over someone, for our benefit.
This is God showing his care, for us.
Let me tell another birthday story, just ‘cause, you only turn 40 once!
A couple of years ago for my birthday, Kathy and the kids got me a kayak.
And so since then, I’ve spent a lot of time around the muddy, marshy, edges of waterways, stuck in the reeds, trying to go a different direction
So I’ve had some experience with this image that God uses, to picture what his servant is going to be like.
Ordinarily a reed is fairly strong. It’s no steel beam, but it’s strong.
People build boats, and walls, and fences, with reeds.
But what happens is you give the reed just a little bit of a kink?
A reed with a weak spot.
A reed that’s bruised.
What happens then?
Well, one little bit of force, and it breaks.
Perhaps can’t even hold up its own weight.
It buckles under the first breeze.
All it takes is one touch, and the bruised reed is broken.
People who are weak,
Those who feel that they’re holding things together with their very last bit of strength,
Whoever thinks, “One more disappointment, one more setback, and that’s the end of me, I can’t take any more”,
Those people, you, if that’s you, need have nothing to fear from the way God’s servant will roll out justice.
God’s pattern for humanity will become a reality, and how different God’s pattern is, from what we know and experience today.
Isaiah 42 promises enormous change in our world, do you see that?
I can’t help but think, the people, those few people, who signed up for the atheist convention looking for hope,
Would, would not their minds be blown, if they read and understood these words?
If someone, anyone, said “let me tell you about someone you can hope in, who’s unlike anyone else you’ve ever met.”
There’s a reason to hope.
Jesus is the servant
Because we know from what we read in Matthew 12, that ultimately, this promise is fulfilled in Jesus.
As we said, while God wanted this for the nation, they always chose other paths for themselves, so the people looked for an individual who might be able to fulfil all this.
Zerubbabel, the governor, who we met a couple of weeks ago in Haggai, people wondered, “Is he the servant?”
But there’s no one who comes close, is there?
Until we encounter Jesus, who all the New Testament authors agree, is the servant promised in Isaiah 42.
But Matthew tells us specifically, that this promise of God’s servant and the justice he brings, it’s fulfilled particularly as Jesus is healing people in the face of, deadly opposition.
Come over to Matthew 12, page 977 of the blue Bibles.
The Pharisees, Jewish religious leaders, verse 14, are plotting how they might kill Jesus, and aware of this Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, 16 warning them not to tell who he was.
17 This was to fulfill, what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
, justice to the nations.
, 20A bruised reed he will not break, and so on.
It’s right in this flurry of healing and restoration that Matthew, writing under the inspiration of the Spirit of God says, This was to fulfill the promise in Isaiah.
The 16th Century church Reformer John Calvin said “Christ was sent, in order to bring the whole world under the authority of God, and under obedience to him.”
That’s the task of the servant, establishing God’s “big picture justice”, putting God’s world back the way God wants it,
And doing that in a way that draws people to himself, and draws people to God,
Giving people a taste of what it is to experience the blessings of God. Remember that thing that Israel was supposed to do but kept failing at?
We have 3 more days of school in our household, so we’re well and truly into that whole “end of year gift to the teacher” kind of stage.
I read the other day that 50% of teachers said in a survey that the thing they most like to receive from their students as an end of year gift is home-baked goods.
And 50% percent of teachers say the thing they least like to receive, is home-baked goods!
So my only advice if you’re wondering about what to give is find out which half your kids’ teacher is!
But on several occasions, we’ve given our kids’ teachers, in a Christian school, copies of The Jesus Storybook Bible.
One of the great things about this Bible is the way it sets each Bible story in the context of God’s plan that centres on Jesus.
In fact the subtitle of the book is “Every story whispers his name.”
And there’s some similar language repeated through the story, so when Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead, for example, we’re told “Jesus was taking the sad things, and making them come untrue.”
It’s a, funny sort of line, isn’t it?
Jesus was taking the sad things, and making them come untrue.
And yet it’s exactly the picture of God’s justice, brought about by Jesus, the servant of God.
Jesus makes the sad things come untrue.
He fixes God’s broken world.
Jesus establishes justice on earth
He ushers in God’s rule,
Reconciles people to God, and to each other.
Wrongs are righted,
Justice is assured, because a whole new kingdom is being established,
And we’re enabled to live a new kind of life.
A life with God at the centre instead of ourselves.
The servant will succeed because this is God’s work (v 5 – 8)
So we know what it is to long for God’s all-encompassing justice, but we never need to worry that, well it’s a good plan, but is it ever going to get off the ground?
God himself says, this is his work. And so it will succeed.
Vere 5, This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth,
And addressing the servant, verse 6,
6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
Being Christmas time,
And nativity scene, season,
The opening of Advent calendars and all that, in our house there’s lots of discussion about stars, “How did the wise men know to follow the star?
How did they tell it apart from all the other stars? And why did no one else follow the star?”
All of those kinds of questions!
But of course, living in this part of the world, we get to enjoy the stars, don’t we?
Most of us are away from the city, so there’s less light pollution,
We live in South Australia so there’s no electricity half the time anyway,
So we get to look up and see the vast number of stars in the sky.
According to Space dot com, which would seem to be the place to go to find out about these things, the number of stars in the universe is one, followed by 24 zeros. I thought it was an unusually precise number, actually! But perhaps they were rounding up!
But one, followed by 24 zeros, worth of stars,
That’s quite a lot isn’t it?
That’s quite big.
So do you hear what God is doing, here?
The might and power of the creator and sustainer of the universe, stands behind the promises of Isaiah 42.
These things only exist because God himself holds them in his hand.
And it’s this God who says to his servant,
“I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you
We will march into battle for my people together.
You will achieve my purposes.
You will bring my justice.”
And again we see that the justice this servant brings is more than just the legal righting of wrongs, it’s God’s blueprint for life.
Verse 6, I will, make you to be a covenant for the people
Through the servant of God, a new relationship with God is possible. A new covenant with God is established.
It’s because of his righteousness that God sends his servant (v 6)
And why does God do this?
Why does he send his servant, who we find out later, suffers terribly, in order that these things might become a reality?
It’s because of his righteousness. See it there at the beginning of verse 6, I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
Righteousness is part of God’s character. He is morally, legally, ethically, right and pure.
But God’s righteousness is not an abstract quality, some hidden aspect of his being, that you really need to go looking for.
Like my creative side. You have to go pretty deep in order to find that!
No, God’s righteousness, is apparent because of what he does.
The justness and rightness of his character compel him to act in the world.
Ever been tempted to doubt God’s commitment to righteousness?
That God really cares about what’s right, and pure, and just?
Ever thought that perhaps God just looks the other way when injustice is perpetrated.
Look how committed to righteousness and justice God is.
God’s servant brings light and freedom (v 7)
And we’re given a little bit more detail about what God’s righteousness compels him to do through his servant in verse 7.
The servant brings light, and the servant beings freedom.
I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison
One of the very first ways that Jesus is described, even as he’s just a baby, is in exactly these terms, A light for the Gentiles.
In Luke chapter 2, Simeon, an elderly, God-fearing man, saw in this little child, the fulfillment of God’s promises to a hurting world.
He holds baby Jesus, and he says,
my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Maybe when you’ve battled with sin, and when I say battled, I mean really battled, you’ve given it your all, and every day it feels like your starting back from the very beginning.
Or maybe it’s not sin, but unwise or unhelpful patterns of behavior,
Maybe it’s despair, and hurt, heartache,
All these things which flow from a world broken and made dark by sin.
Maybe you look in the mirror, that mirror where you see, actually inside yourself, and you think “I’m not the person I want to be”
“I’m not the person God wants me to be.”
And perhaps somewhere in the midst of all of that, maybe, you’ve asked yourself,
Is this it?
Can I change?
Am I stuck in the prison of these thoughts or feelings or habits forever?
Well, here’s your answer.
God’s servant brings light and freedom, driving back the darkness of sin and hopelessness.
Because Jesus, in his life and death, removes the stain of sin, we’re free to live according to God’s blueprint.
We see God, as he is, we see God, like this.
A God who brings justice.
And frees captives from prison
The Colt Peacemaker, brought peace and justice by putting a nasty hole in the person breaking the law.
Jesus, the servant of the Lord, bring peace and justice, by having holes put in him, as he reaches down to bring us out of the dungeons of sin and death, and despair and hopelessness.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.