Isaiah 42:1-9 The Lord’s Chosen Servant


The “servant of God” theme is one of the richest strands of Isaiah’s thought, and it lies right at the heart of his message as it moves to its climax in this second half of the book. The announcement at the beginning of the chapter, “Here is my servant…” suggests that a new and significant stage has now been reached in the development of this theme. Clearly, God Himself is the one who makes the announcement in verse 1. But who is the Servant He is referring to, and to whom is He speaking? The announcement is made to God’s people themselves. The Servant it refers to is not just a ideal they should aspire to but (as we shall see in due course) a real person who is God’s answer to their weakness and failure.

There are three parts to this first song. Verses 1-4 are addressed to Israel with the Servant as the subject. Verses 5-7 are addressed to the Servant Himself, with Israel overhearing what is said. Finally, in verses 8-9 Israel is once more addressed directly. The main topic of all three parts is the mission that the Servant is to carry out.

The key term in verses 1-4 is justice. The Servant will bring justice to the nations (v. 1); He will faithfully bring forth justice (v. 3), and He will establish justice on earth (v. 4). But we have to be careful here, for in the book of Isaiah the Hebrew word for justice is a rather bigger thing than we normally think of as justice. In 40:14 it has to do with the order God has given to the whole universe by His creative acts. In 40:27 it refers to the maintenance of Israel’s position in the world as a nation in a special relationship with God, and in 41:1 it has to do with the false claims of the nations and their gods being silenced, and the truth about the Lord’s total sovereignty over history being established. Viewed against this background, the mission of the Servant is a gigantic one. It is nothing less than to put God’s plans for His people into full effect, and to make the truth about the Lord, Israel’s God, known everywhere, especially the fact that He alone is the sovereign Creator and Lord of history.

The same breathtaking mission is explained in verses 5-7 in terms of the Servant being a covenant and a light (v. 6b). As Creator, God is the one who gives breath to all people (v. 5b). Moreover, the God who made the world is committed to its welfare; there is a “covenant” between God and the human race implicit in the act of creation itself. And the Servant, as a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, is to be the very embodiment of that covenant. It is through Him that God’s purposes for His world will be realized, by the opening of blind eyes, and freeing of captives, and the release of those who sit in darkness (v. 7). In short, the Servant will undo all the horrendous and degrading effects that sin has had on the human race and restore to people their true freedom and dignity as sons and daughters of God.

Finally, in verses 8-9, the mission of the Servant is spoken of in terms of former things and new things. The work of the Servant would open a new chapter in God’s relationship with His people and with the world, in which His glory would be displayed in a new way, far surpassing anything that had happened previously. In fact, it would lead eventually to new heavens and a new earth.

The real wonder of the Servant’s mission, however, lies not so much in its breathtaking scope as in the manner in which it will be accomplished. He will not be a military conqueror like Cyrus. The source of His strength will be the Spirit of God (v. 1). The instrument of His rule will be the Word of God (v. 4b). His manner will be gentile rather than overbearing (vv. 2, 3a), and there is more than a hint in the opening line in verse 4 that His mission will involve Him in personal suffering.

This contrast between Cyrus and the Servant brings us back at last to the people in view in this message. They were going to need two kinds of deliverance. They would need release from physical captivity, and God would use Cyrus to achieve that. But they would also need release from bitterness, blindness and spiritual darkness (v. 7). Their deepest need would be for someone who could heal their broken relationship with God. And here God points them to the One who will accomplish that for them. The message of comfort with which chapter 40 opened has its deepest roots here, in the work of the Servant. This first Servant Song is good news for all people, but it was good news for Israel first of all. God’s healing; saving work would bring with them, and then overflow to a waiting world.

Isaiah 42:1-9 Reflection Questions:

Where in the New Testament Gospels do verses 1-4 appear in reference to Christ?

Where do you see yourself in this study?

How are you reflecting God’s glory daily?

Hebrews 7:11-25 The Sufficiency of Melchizedek


With these verses the writer took his argument one step further. Not only is Melchizedek greater than Aaron, but Melchizedek has replaced Aaron. It is no longer “the order of Aaron” or “the order of Levi.” It is forever “the order of Melchizedek.” Why would God effect such a radical change?

Because both the priesthood and the Law were imperfect (vv. 11-14): The words translated “perfect” and “perfection” are key words in this epistle. They essentially mean “completed, fulfilled.” The Old Testament priests could not by their ministry complete the work of God in the heart of a worshiper. The animal sacrifices could not give any worshiper a perfect standing before God. The Mosaic system of divine Law was not a permanent system. It was “added” to serve as a “schoolmaster” to prepare the way for the coming of Christ (Gal. 3:19-4:7). The new arrangement does not suggest that a Christian has the right to be lawless. “Free from the Law” does not mean “free to sin.” Rather it means that we are free to do the will of God. We obey, not because of outward compulsion, but because of inward constraint. The indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the “righteousness of the Law” as we yield to Him (Rom. 8:1-4).

Because, being imperfect, the priesthood and the Law could not continue forever (vv. 15-19): The word “another” in verse 15 means “another of a different kind.” The Levitical priests were made priests by the authority of a temporary and imperfect Law. Jesus Christ was made Priest by a declaration of God. Because the Law was “weak and useless (v. 18), it could not continue forever. But because Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, He lives by “the power of an endless life” (v. 16). What a contrast between the profitless Law and an endless life. The writer kept in mind the temptation his readers were facing to go back into the old temple system. This is why he reminded them (v. 19) that Jesus Christ has accomplished what the Law could never accomplish: He brought in a better hope, and He enables us to draw near to God. To go back to Judaism would mean losing the enjoyment of their fellowship with God through Christ. The only hope Judaism had was the coming to Christ, and that blessing these believers already had.

Because God’s oath cannot be broken (vv. 20-22): No priest in the order of Aaron was ever ordained and established on the basis of God’s personal oath. The important thing was that a priest belonged to the right tribe and met the right physical and ceremonial requirements (Lev. 21:16-24). Jesus Christ’s heavenly priesthood was established on the basis of His work on the cross, His character, and the oath of God (v. 21). Note the introduction of the statement: “The Lord swore and will not repent [change His mind].” The matter is finally settled and it cannot be changed. The writer has given these three reasons why God changed the order of the priesthood from that of Aaron to that of Melchizedek. Then the writer of this letter to the Hebrews closed this section with a fourth.

Because, being men, the priests died (vv. 23-25): Not only was the priesthood imperfect, but it was also interrupted by death. There many high priests because no one priest could live forever. In contrast, the church has one High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, who lives forever. An unchanging priest means an unchanging priesthood, and this means security and confidence for God’s people. The fact that the unchanging Christ continues as High Priest means, logically, that there is an “unchangeable priesthood” (v. 24). The Greek word translated “unchangeable” carries the idea of “valid and unalterable.” The word was used at the end of legal contracts. Our Lord’s priesthood in heaven is “valid and unalterable.” Because it is, we can have confidence in the midst of this shaking, changing world. The conclusion of the matter is in verse 25. The fact is that Christ saves completely, forever, for all who put their faith in Him. Because He is our High Priest forever, He can save forever.

Hebrews 7:11-25 Reflection Questions:

How do you yield to Jesus through the Holy Spirit?

Are you fellowshipping with God daily?

Hebrews 7:1-10 The Mystery of Melchizedek


When I was much younger (which was a long time ago) I used to love watching the old Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I would always try to solve the mystery before the end of the movie (which I wasn’t very successful at). The one thing I did learn is to never overlook any character in the story, even the most incidental. If you were asked to name the most important people in the Old Testament, I doubt that Melchizedek’s name would be on your list. He appeared once in Genesis 14:17-24; and he was referred to once more in Psalm 110:4. You could hardly call this “top billing.” But the Holy Spirit reached back into the Old Testament and used those two passages to present a most important truth: the priesthood of Jesus Christ is superior to that of Aaron because “the order of Melchizedek” is superior to “the order of Levi.”

The record of the event of Melchizedek and Abraham is in Genesis 14:17-24, so take the time to read it. The writer of Hebrews wanted us to note several facts about this mysterious man: He was both king and priest (v. 1), Aaron never had that privilege. It’s important to note that Melchizedek was not a “counterfeit” priest: he was the “priest of the Most High God” (Gen. 14:18 & 22). His ministry was legitimate.

His name is significant (v. 2b).In the Bible, names and their meanings are often important. The name of Melchizedek is “king of peace” as well as “king of righteousness.” “Righteousness” and “peace” are often found together in Scripture. True peace can be experienced only on the basis of righteousness. If we want to enjoy “peace with God” we must be “justified [declared righteous] by faith” (Rom. 5:1). Man cannot produce righteousness by keeping the Old Testament Law (Gal. 2:21). It’s only through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross that righteousness and peace could have “kissed each other.”

He received tithes from Abraham (v. 2a). This important fact is explained in verses 4-10. The word “tithe” means one tenth.” Under Jewish Law, the Jews were commanded to give God one tenth of their crops, herds, and flocks (Lev. 27:30-32). Tithing, however, did not originate with Moses. Abraham practiced tithing long before the Law was given. In fact, archeologists have discovered that other nations also tithed in that day.

His family history is different (v. 3). Melchizedek was a man, so he had to of had parents. But there is no record of his genealogy in the Old Testament; and this is significant because most great persons in the Old Testament have their ancestry identified. It was especially important that the priests be able to prove their ancestry. Melchizedek was not an angel or a superhuman creature; nor was he an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. He was a real man, a real king, and a real priest in a real city. But as far as the record is concerned, he was not born, nor did he die. In this way, he is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. Though Jesus Christ did die, Calvary was not the end; He arose from the dead and today lives in “the power of an endless life (v. 16). The application is clear: neither Aaron nor any of his descendants could claim to be “without genealogy” (v. 3). They could not claim to have and endless ministry or claim to be both kings and priests like Jesus Christ.

He had authority to receive tithes and to bless Abraham (vv. 4-10). The greatness of Melchizedek is seen in the fact that Abraham gave tithes from the loot of a miniwar. Abraham acknowledged the authority of Melchizedek. Furthermore, Melchizedek blessed Abraham in a special way; and “the less is blessed by the better” (v. 7). In giving Melchizedek tithes and in receiving his blessing, Abraham affirmed the greatness of this king-priest. But how does this relate to Aaron? In an interesting way: Aaron and the tribe of Levi were “in the loins” of Abraham, yet unborn. So, when their father, Abraham acknowledged the greatness of Melchizedek, the tribe of Levi was also involved. The paying of the tithes involved not just the patriarch Abraham, but also the unborn generations in his loins. Since Jesus Christ came “of the seed of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16), does this mean that He too was a part of this experience? No, because Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. His identification with Abraham was for “the days of His flesh” (Heb. 5:7). Since Christ existed before Abraham (John 8:58), He could not have been “in Abraham” as were Aaron and his family.

Hebrews 7:1-10 Reflection Question:

What are some O. T. and N.T. examples of using “peace and righteousness” together?

Isaiah 41:1-29 God, His people, and the Nations


The fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC tested Israel’s faith more profoundly than any other single event in the entire Old Testament period. But Isaiah, who clearly saw it would happen (39:5-7), never regarded it as calling God’s sovereignty into question. Babylon like Assyria, had a part to play in the drama of history, but it was the Lord, not they, who wrote the script. After they had made their exit God would press other nations, too, into His service. Isaiah sets out to convince Israel of two things. First, events beginning to take shape about them are the Lord’s doing. Secondly, they themselves, as the surviving remnant of Israel, are God’s servant; He has chosen them and will not abandon them.  Therefore they are to see the fear which has gripped them as the irrational baseless thing it is, and not give into it. So how could Isaiah convince Israel that all that was happening to them was the powerful purposeful hand of God?

Isaiah invites them to imagine God summoning the nations before Him to prove, if they can, that they are the ones who shape History (v. 1). But before the bar of God’s judgment throne they have nothing to say. The rapid advance of Cyrus has made them afraid (vv. 2b-3), and it is clear that their idols are powerless to save them, despite their pathetic attempts to pretend that it is otherwise (vv. 5-7). But is it Cyrus himself then, who is the master of the world? “No” says the Lord, “he is merely my instrument. I am the one who has stirred him up” (v. 2a). Verses 1-7 leave us in suspense with the crucial question of evidence that God did orchestrate the events. But in verses 21-29 the Lord takes up this dispute with the proof that He and He alone is Lord of the historical process is that He announces beforehand what will happen, and then brings it to pass, as He has done in the present case, something that no human man-made idol can do. The rise and progress of Cyrus were no accident; they were foretold through Isaiah, and what the nations saw in due course was God putting His powerful Word into effect. More importantly, the exiles from Judah were in a position to see for themselves the correspondence between Isaiah’s inspired predictions and the events unfolding before them, and to know for certain that their God, the God of Israel, was in total command of their world.

But where did this leave them, and what was their response to be in the present circumstances? First, they were to remember who they were. They were collectively God’s servant, just as their ancestors had been before Him (vv. 8-9). As descendants of Abraham, they still shared in his calling to be a blessing to the whole earth. They might feel themselves to be worms (v. 14), to be poor and needy (v. 17), and utterly insignificant (v. 14), and so in a sense they were. Their significance did not reside in themselves however, or in their circumstances, but in the fact that God had chosen them to serve Him (v. 8).

The form that their service would take is indicated by a startling metaphor with verse 15. It is such a contrast to their present weakness that it is laughable. But two things must be kept in mind. First, a threshing-sledge was an instrument in the farmer’s hands. Its effectiveness depended in the last analysis on the power and skill of the one who wielded it. This is much more a statement about what God will make them and what He will do with them than about what they themselves will achieve. Secondly, a threshing-sledge was an instrument for separating the corn from the chaff, for distinguishing between what was to be gathered into the granary and what was to be burned. “Threshing” is a metaphor for judgment.

The surviving remnant of Israel is still the touchstone by which the nations will be judged. In this sense they will fulfill their calling by simply being there, in the world, as the people of God. They are to remember who they are and not give into fear (vv. 10, 14). They had plenty of enemies, and God would deal with these in due course (vv. 11-12). Far more dangerous, however, was the enemy within. That could undermine their whole relationship with God, for it was a denial of everything God had called them to be. So where in their present situation, did they have for trust? Two very good ones. They had God’s promise to strengthen, help and uphold them (v. 10b). They also had the memory of how God had done just that for their ancestors. Verses 17-20 are full of allusions to the exodus from Egypt, when God sustained His people in the wilderness. The implication, of course, is that God’s promises are not idle ones. What He has done before He will do again. The Lord, who was Israel’s Redeemer from Egypt, will also be her Redeemer from Babylon (v. 14).

Isaiah 41:1-29 Reflection Questions:

Are you totally convinced that God is in total control of your personal world?

What are some of your past experiences that confirm God’s sovereignty? Journal on it.

Why is it important to always re-read about and remember God’s control? What is your part to play?

Why is it important to be praying for Israel in today’s world?

Do you see what God has called you to be as a Christian from this study?

Isaiah 40:12-31 The Majesty of God


The theme of these passages is a grand one, the majesty of God. The reason the gospel is so powerful is that it is no mere human invention; it emanates from the very throne of God. It is powerful because it is God’s gospel, and what a God He is! Amen? Isaiah paints a breathtaking picture of Him in verses 12-26. He created the universe as effortlessly as a skilled craftsman constructing a model on his workbench (v. 12). He is infinitely wise (vv. 13-14), totally sovereign (vv. 15, 17), worthy of more worship than we could ever give Him (v. 16), incomparable (vv. 18-20), and enthroned above the circle of the earth (vv. 22-24).

Lift up your eyes, says Isaiah, and see who it is who has given you His Word. There was plenty on the horizontal plane to discourage Isaiah and his contemporaries, and still more their successors who suffered the humiliation of defeat and deportation. But how could they give in to despair with a God like this? The danger, of course, was not that God would prove inadequate to their need, but that they would forget what God was like. That the God of Israel was the creator and Lord of the whole earth was not a novel idea; it was one of the most fundamental elements of their religious heritage. Their ancestors had seen the proof of it at the Red Sea, and for generations they had affirmed it in public worship. But such truth is not easy to believe when our world is in ruins. In the midst of suffering we can become almost too numb to grasp it. Isaiah therefore clothes the age-old truth in vivid language so that it will penetrate the dullness of those who are almost past hope, take a fresh hold of them, and lift them up.

No sooner has the truth of God’s power begun to take effect however, than an insidious doubt about His goodness begins to assert itself. “In view of all that has happened, can we really believe that God still cares for us? Isn’t the message that He will move heaven and earth to save us rather too superficial? Isn’t the truth rather that we are too small to be of more than passing interest to Him, and if that He ever really cared about us, surely He has long since ceased to do so?”  (v. 27)

Isaiah knew that feeling all too well. He himself had been troubled by it many times in his own long pilgrimage of faith. But he had also learned enough about God to know that it was a lie. The glory of God is not just His power, but His servanthood; the fact is that no-one and nothing is too small to be important to God or worthy of His attention and care. God is not only strong Himself (v. 28), but He gives strength to the weary (v. 29). And therefore those who hope in Him will never do so in vain: They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (vv. 30-31).

Isaiah 40:12-31 Reflection Questions:

If you are going through troubled times; how do you view God?

What are some of your favorite Scriptures you turn to when you need encouraging?

How much do you know about God?  Are you studying Him daily?