Sermon on Isaiah 42:1-7
Text: “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. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
5 This is what God the LORD says — the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 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, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”
Today we observe the baptism of Jesus. It marked a very special occasion in Jesus’ life, as he began his public ministry. Jesus’ baptism also gives us the opportunity to think about our baptism. Baptism is more than just some sort of religious symbolism. We learn from the Scriptures that it is a powerful sacrament that Jesus instituted for his Church. This morning, as we study this section from the book of Isaiah, we are going to see that OUR BAPTISM CONNECTS US WITH THE SERVANT OF THE LORD. 1. Through It, We Receive Justice and 2. Through It, We Receive Light And Freedom.
This servant of the Lord is introduced to us in verse 1, “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.” When we hear this verses, we might ask ourselves who is being introduced here? We know that he is special, because the Lord points him out to us by saying, “Here is my servant.” We get a clue as to whom it is, when we read “I will put my Spirit on him.” Compare this to what we read in Matthew 3:16, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” We read that this servant is “My chosen one in whom I delight.” Look at Matthew 3:17, where the Father says of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” When we look at the evidence, it quickly becomes clear that this is a prophecy concerning what Jesus would do.
The servant’s mission is found in verse 1, “He will bring justice to the nations.” When we hear the word “justice,” our minds might automatically think of judgement or even retribution. That thought is definitely in the Scriptures. For example, we find in Romans 2:5, “Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” We know that God does not look the other way when it comes to sin. He does not minimize it. We, also, must confess that we have sinned against our God and deserve to experience “the day of God’s wrath” because of our stubborn refusal to do what God says. We know that, at the end of time, Jesus will return to judge all people and he will pronounce judgement and send people to hell. This is what we may think of when we hear that the Lord’s servant will “bring justice to the nations.”
However, in this instance, we see that what the servant comes to bring is not divine retribution. It does not bring the terror of punishment. Rather, we see in verse 2, “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.” We, also, read in verse 4, “In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” There is no hope connected with punishment. There is only fear and trembling. Justice is not just punishment for the wrong doer. Justice is an appropriate legal verdict or the content of a judicial pronouncement. In other words, the servant of the Lord would bring to all people the verdict from God that would come about because of his work. Jesus came to the earth to fulfill all of his Father’s will. This fact is alluded to in verse 3, “In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.” In order to bring this justice, the servant would be faithful to his duty. This duty began with his perfect life. We heard the Father’s approval of his work, when he said of him, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” The only thing that pleases God is perfection, so we are assured that Jesus lived a perfect life. This life was lived for you and for me. Furthermore, he faithfully went to the cross where he was punished for our sins. On the cross, justice was carried out. Sins were paid for. Then, since our sins have been paid for, our just God can declare that you and I are not guilty. This is the legal verdict that the servant of the Lord would not only come to the earth to proclaim, but also to fulfill.
When we were baptized, we received the benefits of Jesus’ work. We received justice. In Acts 2:38, Peter said to the crowd, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Baptism does not just symbolize the washing away of sins. Rather, through that application of water together with the Word of God, our sins are actually washed away. This is all done in connection with Jesus. Through the faith that was created in baptism, I know that Jesus loves me and earnestly desired my salvation. This is especially comforting, because I know that there will still be times when I slip and fall into sin. I know that there will be times when my faith isn’t as strong as it could be. I hear the comforting words found in verse 3, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” Jesus lovingly comes to me, time and again with the assurance of his love and forgiveness. Through our baptism, we are connected with the servant of the Lord and, as such, we receive the justice that he brought about through his life and death and resurrection.
In addition, we receive other benefits through our connection with the servant of the Lord in baptism. In verses 6&7, we are told of other things that he would do: “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 and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” First of all, we note that the servant would come to be a light and that he would open the eyes of those that are blind. This describes you and me, by nature. Jesus came to the earth and won forgiveness of sins and so many other blessings. However, we would never have known about them, if he had come to us through baptism and opened our eyes to see them. We read in 2 Corinthians 4:4&6, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” It is as if we were standing in a completely dark room filled with treasures of every kind. We would not know they were there, if someone didn’t turn the light on for us. In the same way, when we were brought to faith, the light was turned on and we see blessings such as forgiveness, hope, peace, and joy.
Furthermore, since we are connected with the servant of the Lord, we have light. Jesus pierced the darkness of our souls with his light. Because of our connection with him, we have his light to follow throughout all of the twists and turns of this life. We also follow this light to our eternal home. Jesus said of himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Because of our connection with the servant of the Lord, we have received light.
God also uses these pictures to describe what his servant would do. He says that the servant would come to “free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Verse 7) What is this captivity that we have been set free from? There are many places in the Scriptures that speak of us being slaves. For example, we read in Galatians 4:8, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.” By nature, we are slaves of sin and slaves of the devil. We could not help but do what they told us to do. We were powerless to refuse. However, since we have been baptized, we are connected with the servant of the Lord. He gives us the motivation to say “no” to sin. When we see what he has done for us, we want to thank him, and one of the ways that we can thank him is to live a life that honors him. Our connection with the servant of the Lord also gives us the power to say “no” to temptation. We find in Titus 2:11-13, “The grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” We are able to serve our God here on this earth until we have the opportunity to serve him perfectly in heaven. Because of our connection with the servant of the Lord, we have received freedom.
It is so easy for us to think of our baptisms as something that happened so long ago. Many of us don’t even remember it. For that reason, we may be tempted to dismiss baptism as being irrelevant to our lives today. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was through baptism that we became connected with Christ. In baptism, faith was created in our hearts. Through the faith, through this connection with Jesus, our sins were forgiven. Through this connection with him, we were led out of the darkness of sin into the light of salvation. It was also through our baptism that we received the new man, who is no longer under the slavery of the devil. Rather, we are now free to serve our God out of thanksgiving for all that he has done for us. Today, as we pause and meditate on the baptism of Jesus, we also have the opportunity to thank God for our baptisms. Through this blessed sacrament, we are eternally connected with him. Amen.
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