Isaiah 42:1-4
He Will Not Break The Damaged Reed

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. "Behold my servant, the one I am supporting. The one I choose, the one I welcome joyously," (verse one). Today, the Lord is pointing out to us to take notice of a particular character. His name is not written in the text. It only has "my servant." A servant is one who serves another. He was chosen to serve. What specific things does he do as he serves his Lord? In verse one the text reads that "he will lead the judgment of many nations." This is his mission. In verse three the text says, " In leading the judgment he will make things sure." If you ask how long will he keep this up, it will be "until he brings his judgment upon this earth." Today, I would like for us to take notice of this servant of the Lord and the way in which he serves.

The Servant Of The Lord Shows God's Plan To The World

2. So, what does to "lead the judgment of many nations" possibly mean? The Japanese word "judgment" as heard in the church does not have a very positive ring to it. Whenever said "That person just judges others," it is not very flattering. When many people hear "the judgment of God" they only feel dread. But, the word translated here in this text as "judgment" was not a word that had a negative connotation to it in its original sense. The Bible Society has it translated as "He will show the way to many peoples." With "way" it doesn't have a negative ring to it. In Isaiah, this word is believed to have the meaning of the plans that God has decided. Thus, it would include in it "judgment," too. It would include the justice of God permeating through it. It would also include having "the way" of God established in it. It would be God's will and plans. Thus, some have translated this as simply "decisions," and others have translated this as "plans." This servant will serve the Lord while manifesting the plans of God, the decisions of God.

3. So, how wide does the scope of the work of this servant go? In verse one it says, "nations." In the Bible Society version, it had "to many peoples." The object of his labor was not the Israelites alone. It was many different people groups, that is, the whole world. Because of that, in verse four it says, "The islands await his teaching." The islands of the Mediterranean had the meaning back in the common awareness back then of "the ends of the world." His work would extend unto the ends of the world.

4. The reason his work extends to the ends of the world is that God's plans take the whole world as its scope. God's plans do not just concern themselves with the people of God. They haven't just been for Israel. They aren't just for the church. God's plans extend to the entire world. In verse four the text reads, "until he brings his judgment upon this earth." But, the word "this" is not in the original text. It only says "on earth." That means "upon the earth." The meaning it has is "the entire earth." God is establishing his rule upon the whole earth. As the will of God is in heaven, it will also be on earth. For this reason, he will manifest God's plans on the whole earth and he will serve in accordance with God's will in order to fulfill the plans that God has decided.

He Will Not Break The Damaged Reed

5. What a magnificent plan this servant was chosen under! What a magnificent work this servant was called to! Yet we encounter a truly unexpected phrase regarding the work of this servant, which is written as follows: "He will not shout, call or let his voice resound in the harbor. He will not break the damaged reed, nor put out the wick when it grows dark, but in leading the judgment he will make things sure," (verses two and three).

6. Behind the scenes to this prophetic message is a time of upheaval when the world had been changing so much. The man who had played the leading role in that period of time was the Persian king named Cyrus. Persia, under his command, pushed their forces on in from the east; they conquered Media, they conquered Lydia and at last upon completing a bloodless entry into the strongholds of Babylon, they conquered the Babylonian empire. Thus, he had effected a re-write of the entire map of the powers-that-be in the Orient.

7. Clearly familiar to us is this world where "Might is right." Those with the might move the world. Big spectacular things happen through the big powers in this world. But, the Lord has something to say through his prophet in regard to Cyrus, which is, "Who is the one who roused up the right one from the east, beckoned him under foot, handed the nations to him, and had the rulers follow him? The sword of this man scattered them like dust, and his bow scattered them like straw. He pursued the enemy, and proceeded on the way in safety, and nothing stopped his foot. Who caused this, who accomplished this? It was I the Lord. From the beginning I have been calling out to the generations, as it has been since the beginning, I will be with the generations to come," (41:2-4). In addition, going up to chapter forty-five, it says, "Thus says the Lord in regard to Cyrus, a man whom the Lord has anointed with oil. I will hold his right hand tight, and let him subdue the nations, and he will undo the armies of the [many] rulers. The doors are opened before him and no fortress gate is shut to him," (45:1). God is behind the big things done by human hands and the big kind of things that move and shake the world. For his own plans God uses even the great changes made by national powers. Cyrus was certainly used. He was used in God's plan.

8. But, we must be careful. Our vision is often obscured by only the big things done by the big guns. We tend to think that only big results as seen openly by any eye and major visible changes are important to the fulfillment of God's plans. We end up thinking only what Cyrus does has any weight.

9. In light of how we are, the Lord would direct our attention through the prophet to still another character. It is the unnamed servant of the Lord. And the picture of what he does is [drawn in] extremely humble and unpretentious [lines]. What a bold contrast the picture of Cyrus gives!

10. [The servant of the Lord] doesn't break "the damaged reed." What might this damaged reed signify? In another passage the same word is translated as "the cane of the damaged reed," (Second Kings 18:21). Some think that it is not a cane but a support for a candlestick. Either way, whether a cane or a prop-up for a candle, if it is damaged it isn't much use. Since it's dangerous like that, people break them and pitch them. But yet, the servant of the Lord puts his eye on this no-good worthless clink. He doesn't break it. He doesn't pitch it.

11. Also, he doesn't put out "the wick when it grows dark." What might this wick growing dark mean? It is a flame that sputters out and smokes. Since it can't be used for anything any more, is it still any good? A wick that has gone out and is just there [smoking up] is a nuisance now. Something like that is put out for good. However, the servant of the Lord turns his attention onto such an annoying thing taking up space. He doesn't blow it out. He waits for it to flicker brightly again.

12. Having a commitment to a damaged reed or a dimming candle is more trouble than it is worth. You don't make much progress going the extra mile fussing over things like that. Most people would agree with that. Isn't it more important [to spend time on] bigger and more powerful things, on more eye-popping sensational things? That's the voice that has been heard. People turned their attention onto Cyrus. They looked at what was going on there. But, the Lord said, "Look here at my servant who I support. The one I choose. The one I welcome joyfully," (verse one). He said that this very servant of his will manifest God's plans for the entire world and will serve in order to usher in the fulfillment of those plans. God is establishing his rule through this servant. It will be the world over, unto the ends of the world!

Christ The Servant And His Body

13. Well, in The Gospel According To Matthew, we find these words again from Isaiah chapter forty-two. "Knowing that, Jesus departed there. A great multitude followed. Jesus healed all of their illnesses and commanded them not to spread what he did all around. That was to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah," (Matthew 12:15-17). Then after that the words might be a bit different, but words from Isaiah chapter forty-two, verses one to four, are quoted. That's how the Gospel of Matthew announces that this one named Jesus himself is none other than the servant of the Lord who has been written about in Isaiah.

14. When we read the phrase "a great multitude followed," we might think that Jesus might have initiated a huge movement in the world back then, that anybody might notice. But, Jesus had no such intentions. Often times the Lord commanded his disciples or those whom he had healed of disease not to make what he did publicly known.

15. And it seems that many people do not always have an interest in Jesus of Nazareth. Aside from the documents of the church like the Gospels there are hardly any records at all pertaining to Jesus. In other words, society in general has taken very little notice of this figure who has healed people, walked and talked the kingdom of God, and was murdered on the cross. As seen from main stream society, the things that happened in Jesus are like the little insignificant details buried in the various happenings in the Roman empire. Not breaking the damaged reed or blowing out the dimming candle, but walking patiently with his good for nothing disciples and caring more than anyone else even would for people held as no counts by society, the Lord truly lived and died. The cross was erected way out in the middle of nowhere as far as society goes.

16. So, God says as he points to Christ to "Behold my servant, the one I support. The one I choose. The one I welcome joyously." He cares for this world and for us, not breaking the damaged reed or the dimming candle even now. Whether we are dimming out or even damaged, he cares for us with great patience. When we read the words of Isaiah as a picture of Christ, the way we are to live also becomes a settled issue. For, the reason we feel the call and follow him is that he is indeed the very Christ. Our becoming the church means that we become the body of Christ [hardly a damaged reed or a dimming candle at that].

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