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 aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for 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. I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:1-9 ESV)
In the previous chapters of Isaiah, the people of Israel are told repeatedly that they turn to the wrongs things for justice, righteousness, and even life itself. They turned to idols that could never save. But now, in this first “servant song” in Isaiah, we see where they should have been turning – to the “Servant” of God.
This doesn’t make sense. To usher justice into the world, don’t we need someone in power to raise a mighty army to thwart the oppressors? Shouldn’t we get a charismatic leader who can rally the people into some major protest movement to get the common folk to rise as one against their foe? In other “servant songs” that follow in Isaiah (49, 50, 52, 53, 61) we see that this “Servant” brings deliverance by suffering. He represents the people by His sacrificial service, which ends in His own suffering and death. His death is not a martyr’s death that brings people into the cause. Typically, people follow a martyr because they see that now that he is dead, someone else must rise and take up the mantle the martyr left behind. No, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah dies a death where the death itself brings deliverance to the oppressed. Remember that on the cross, Jesus was not just an example to follow or a martyr that needed someone to keep his movement going. He died a death that defeated all enemies, including the greatest enemies of all – sin and death.