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. (Isaiah 42:1-4 ESV)
When I think of Old Testament prophesies of Jesus, I usually think in terms of salvation. That is how he is most often spoken of. For example, just a couple of chapters ahead of this one he is described as one who will open the eyes of the blind and set the captive free. But here he is described as the one who brings justice. My immediate reaction to that is one of fear. I don’t want what I know I deserve! But that is not the context here. Justice is a good thing. Justice means deliverance for those who have been mistreated and abused. Justice is what makes godly society.
It is helpful to understand the kind of society that Israel was. The rich often got rich at the expense of the poor. The weak were taken advantage of. Judges were bought for bribes. The rich piled up house after house while the poor went hungry. There was no way out for the oppressed. The promise of justice is the promise of hope for the oppressed. I suppose that it is a fearful thing to the rich who have ignored the plight of the poor.
The part of this passage that gets me most, though, is the last part. “He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth;” I think how easily I grow discouraged when there is disunity and distrust sown among us, or when people ignore the preaching of the Word. It gives me great hope to see the contrast of God’s suffering servant in his faithful, patient work of renewal.