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"Behold My Servant" (Isaiah 42:1)

Daniel Barta

Nov 20, 2023

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. 

Isaiah 42:1 (ESV)

God, through the prophet Isaiah, instructed His people, the nation of Israel, “Behold my servant.” The call to “behold” is a call to look, to observe, to see, and to examine. It would be similar to a child, after opening up their prized Christmas present, calling to her siblings sitting in the living room, “Look at what I got! See how awesome it is!” More commonly in today’s world, the call to others to look comes not in the form of written words, but with uploaded images of early morning sunrises, or snow covered hills to instagram. Whether showing a new unwrapped Christmas present, or sharing the beauty of God’s creation through social media, we, like God, often call the eyes and the attention of others to those objects we find worthy of their attention.

God called the attention of Israel to a specific object, “Behold my servant!” He called their attention to an individual, one who serves Him. This servant in God’s estimation is worthy of their attention. He deserves to be looked upon and considered.

This call to “Behold his servant” comes to Israel in a particular context characterized by two realities

  • First, Israel at the time possessed little reason for hope. They had sinned so much and so long against God that even the God who is slow to anger and who is rich in mercy announced that His patience had run out. He would send a foreign king with great might to judge them. The king from the east would cut them down, destroy their cities, and deport their citizens to lands far away.

  • Second, Israel sought salvation in gods other than the LORD. They looked to treaties with the nation of Egypt. They made sacrifices to the false gods of the Canaanites. They set up altars to Baal. They, like the other nations, bowed down to metal idols and carved wooden images to worship. They, in their hopelessness, sought salvation from a long line up of potential rescuers.

To these hopeless, desperate, and searching people, God called to them, “Behold my servant!”

God directs our attention to his Servant, Jesus Christ.

As the story of the Scriptures unfold, we come to learn that the Servant set before the people in

Isaiah 42 was and is Jesus Christ, the Messiah who has come to seek and save God’s people. God so desires that Israel behold His Servant that He sent His servant to earth. This One descended from heaven, took on the form of a servant and clothed himself in human flesh (Phil 2:7).

When the time appointed by God for this Servant’s introduction to the world arrived, John the Baptist declared,

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. (Jn 1:29 ESV)

To see Jesus, God’s servant in all His glory, is the great end of all God’s work; this is the request of Jesus Himself,

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24 ESV)

God the Father works to present to Israel and to all the nations the magnificent beauty and eternal glory of Jesus Christ. As one takes care to call the attention of guests in their home to a prized painting by placing the treasured picture in a elegant frame and displaying it in a prominent and noticeable location, God has taken care to place His glory in the Son and to set Him before the nations in splendor and beauty. God desires that the nation Behold his servant Jesus Christ.

Pay Close Attention to Jesus

Like the people of Israel in the time of Isaiah, we too find ourselves with many reasons to fret and worry about the future. With sickness, death, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and hurricanes, declining economies, struggling marriages, upcoming academic tests, purposelessness, lack of moral clarity within the culture, rising costs of living - you can add anything else you wish - with all of these and more feeling anxious and gloomy is understandable. How can one be hopeful about the future in the face of what seems like a constant stream of bad news?

Also like the people of Israel, we are prone to look for help, relief, and salvation. In desperation we reach out to grab whatever presents itself as a convincing savior. Often, and to our harm, these false saviors to which we cling are nothing more that projects of our own hands - powerless figurines which cannot hear our cries for help, speak to our anxious hearts, nor lift the burdens off our backs.

To us - a anxious people prone to seek salvation in worthless idols - God says, “Behold my servant!” He will bring a bright future. He will bring salvation, for He hears and sees and will deliver.

The constant contemplation of the glory of Christ will give rest, satisfaction, and complacency unto the souls of them who are exercised therein. Our minds are apt to be filled with a multitude of perplexed thoughts;—fears, cares, dangers, distresses, passions, and lusts, do make various impressions on the minds of men, filling them with disorder, darkness, and confusion. But where the soul is fixed in its thoughts and contemplations on this glorious object, it will be brought into and kept in a holy, serene, spiritual frame.
Owen, J. (n.d.). The works of John Owen (W. H. Goold, Ed.; Vol. 1, p. 292). T&T Clark.

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