The Two Servants of Isaiah

COPYRIGHT WARNING

In correctly interpreting the text of Isaiah, chapter 42, it is necessary to understand and pay close attention to the context. If we are diligent, we will notice a marked change in the language of verses 1-17 an verses 18-20. By a simple oversight in our understanding of these important verses from the text of Isaiah 42, we may miss one of the most important principles of Biblical interpretation: A correct Exegesis of the true purpose of Isaiah’s prophecy.

God is clearly demonstrating the difference between His Faithful Servant, the Messiah, and His earthly servant, the nation of Israel. When we combine these two sections of Isaiah 42 together and assume that God is speaking only to Israel, we miss important attributes of the Messiah and greatly distort other sections of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah.

Isaiah’s description of the Messiah:

Isaiah 42:1-17 “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. Isaiah 2 He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. Isaiah 3 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. Isaiah 4 He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” Isaiah 5 Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it: Isaiah 6 “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, Isaiah 7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house. Isaiah 8 I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. Isaiah 9 Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Isaiah 10 Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise from the ends of the earth, You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, You coastlands and you inhabitants of them! Isaiah 11 Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, The villages that Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing, Let them shout from the top of the mountains. Isaiah 12 Let them give glory to the LORD, And declare His praise in the coastlands. Isaiah 13 The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies. Isaiah 14 “I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once. Isaiah 15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills, And dry up all their vegetation; I will make the rivers coastlands, And I will dry up the pools. Isaiah 16 I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them. Isaiah 17 They shall be turned back, They shall be greatly ashamed, Who trust in carved images, Who say to the molded images, “You are our gods.’

Isaiah’s description of Israel:

Isaiah 42:18-20 “Hear, you deaf; And look, you blind, that you may see. Who is blind but My servant, Or deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is blind as he who is perfect, And blind as the LORD’S servant? Seeing many things, but you do not observe; Opening the ears, but he does not hear.

Chapter 42 of the Book of Isaiah is composed of two parts:

Verses 1-17: the Servant who is the Messiah, the faithful one.
Verses 18–20: the servant (small “s”) who is Israel, who is unfaithful to the Lord.

The mixing together of these verses of scripture from Isaiah 42, as the Servant who is the Messiah and the servant who is Israel, has caused some who interpret these verses to conclude that the entire text is speaking of Israel and not the Messiah. This is of course an error. The first 17 verses of Isaiah 42 are distinctly descriptive of a person who is identified much later in the New Testament as Jesus Christ.

Verses 18-20 describes My blind servant. This is a correct description for the spiritual condition of Israel during the time that Jesus appeared before the leadership of the Jews and confounded their ability to rightly identify Him as the Messiah.

This failure to recognize two servants in the text of Isaiah 42 has led to a further error in identifying the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 as the nation of Israel. Many commentators on the text of Isaiah 42 and 53 believe that both are depicting the suffering which the nation of Israel has undergone for the past 2,000 years.

This is the result of an incorrect exegesis and hermeneutical interpretation of the text.[1] Simply reading through each verse, and allowing the context to speak to us without a premise or bias towards any particular interpretation, leaves the reader with a clear conclusion that the two servants are distinct from each other by marked contrasts in the language of the text.

In the following verses of Isaiah 1-17 and 18-20, I believe that you can see, by my descriptions before these verses, the difference between the two servants.

The Servant, as the Messiah, is called My Elect One.

The attributes of the Messiah described:

He has the Spirit of God to bring salvation to the Gentiles. He is gentle in character and gentle with those He comes to save. He arrives to establish justice by putting away sins through His sacrifice.

Verses 1-4 Prophecy 204, Prophecy 202, Prophecy 203, Prophecy 204

Isaiah 42:1-4 “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. 2 He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. 4 He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law.”

The Servant as the Messiah who created the heavens…

Isaiah 42:5 Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it.

The Servant as the Messiah who will bring a new covenant: to bring light, to open blind eyes, to release those held in the bondage of their sin.

Verse 6 Prophecy 205

Isaiah 42:6-8 “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, 7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house. 8 I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.”

The LORD describing the New kingdom of the Messiah, as a New Song. (from where the term Servant Songs originated).

Isaiah 42:9-12 “Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” 10 Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise from the ends of the earth, You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, You coastlands and you inhabitants of them! 11 Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, The villages that Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing, Let them shout from the top of the mountains. 12 Let them give glory to the LORD, And declare His praise in the coastlands.

The Messiah’s wrath or the wrath of the Lamb described, speaking of the seven-year Tribulation in which the Messiah will finally cease in holding His peace.

As Jesus described the Tribulation–like a woman in labor, Isaiah repeats this description here in his portrayal of the Messiah’s wrath in the Tribulation period.

Isaiah 42:13-15 The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies. 14 “I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once. 15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills, And dry up all their vegetation; I will make the rivers coastlands, And I will dry up the pools.

The ministry and mission of the Messiah: to open the eyes of the blind, to lead the lost to salvation, and make the crooked places straight.

It is interesting that these are the same words that are used by the prophet Malachi, in speaking of the forerunner, who was John the Baptist.

Verse 16 Prophecy 206

Isaiah 42:16-17 I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them. 17 They shall be turned back, They shall be greatly ashamed, Who trust in carved images, Who say to the molded images, “You are our gods.”

Changing now from a description of the faithful Servant, the Messiah, to the unfaithful servant, Israel, notice the change of language in verses 18-20.

As Jesus repeatedly tried to open the eyes of the scribes and the Pharisees to His true identity, they would not see nor understand that He was the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning the Messiah.

Isaiah 42:18-20 “Hear, you deaf; And look, you blind, that you may see. 19 Who is blind but My servant, Or deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is blind as he who is perfect, And blind as the LORD’S servant? 20 Seeing many things, but you do not observe; Opening the ears, but he does not hear.

By careful observation of the above text, we understand that Isaiah is describing two different servants: the faithful Messiah and the unfaithful nation of Israel.

Those who are diligent students of the Bible may have noticed that there are certain verses which speak of the Messiah that could have been included in 365 Prophecies. Verse 13-15, speaking of the wrath of the Messiah in the Tribulation Period, are fulfilled by Jesus in the Book of Revelation. These specific prophecies were not delineated separately in my list of 365 Prophecies, though they could have been included. As you study the Old Testament, you will find many more than 365 Prophecies which I placed in this book. I included those prophecies which I considered the most prominent and descriptive for identifying the Messiah.


NOTES:
[1] Hermeneutics is the method of study that is concerned with how we interpret the Bible. Exegesis is the actual interpretation of the Bible by drawing the meaning out of the Biblical text.