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42. The Servant of the Lord

1Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. 2He will not cry, nor lift up his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street. 3A bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench: he will bring forth justice in truth. 4He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set justice in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law. 5Thus saith God Jehovah, he that created the heavens, and stretched them forth; he that spread abroad the earth and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: 6I, Jehovah, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. 8I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images. 9Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. 10Sing unto Jehovah a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth; ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein, the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. 11Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit; let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. 12Let them give glory unto Jehovah, and declare his praise in the islands. 13Jehovah will go forth as a mighty man; he will stir up his zeal like a man of war: he will cry, yea, he will shout aloud; he will do mightily against his enemies. 14I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry out like a travailing woman; I will gasp and pant together. 15I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and will dry up the pools. 16And I will bring the blind by a way that they know not; in paths that they know not will I lead them; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things will I do, and I will not forsake them. 17They shall be turned back, they shall be utterly put to shame, that trust in graven images, that say unto molten images, Ye are our gods. 18Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. 19Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I send? who is blind as he that is at peace with me, and blind as Jehovah's servant? 20Thou seest many things, but thou observest not; his ears are open, but he heareth not. 21It pleased Jehovah, for his righteousness' sake, to magnify the law, and make it honorable. 22But this is a people robbed and plundered; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison-houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore. 23Who is there among you that will give ear to this? that will hearken and hear for the time to come? 24Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not Jehovah? he against whom we have sinned, and in whose ways they would not walk, neither were they obedient unto his law. 25Therefore he poured upon him the fierceness of his anger, and the strength of battle; and it set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.

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24. Who gave Jacob for a prey? These are the matters which Isaiah complains that the Jews did not observe; for they thought either that the sufferings which they endured happened by chance, or that they had not the same strength to resist as their fathers had, and that this was the reason why they were conquered by their enemies. In short, having their minds fully occupied with external causes, they did not at the same time observe the threatenings which had been so frequently denounced by the prophets, nor attend to the judgments of God; and therefore the Prophet drags them before the heavenly throne, by declaring that God is the author of these judgments.

Hath not Jehovah? They could not believe that the calamities which they suffered proceeded from God, as the just punishment of their sins; and we know that there is nothing which men can now be with more difficulty persuaded to believe. Everybody acknowledges that God is the author of all things, but if you ask whether or not all adverse events are God’s chastisements, they will be ashamed to confess it; for men are distracted by a variety of thoughts, and, being prejudiced by their opinion of fortune, turn their minds and hearts to this or that cause rather than to God.

Because we have sinned against him. Isaiah next points out the cause of so grievous destruction, the sins of the people, which the Lord justly punished. In like manner, Moses had also shewn,

“How would a thousand flee from the face of one? Doth not the Lord pursue you, and shut you up in the hands of the enemy?” (Deuteronomy 32:30.)

We wonder every day at many things which happen contrary to our expectation, and yet we do not acknowledge that the cause lies with ourselves. It is therefore necessary that we be hard pressed and constrained by violence to confess our fault, and consequently this doctrine must be often stated and repeated.

That men may not accuse God of cruelty, the Prophet adds, that he does it for a just cause; for he does not rush forward 160160     “Car il n’ empoigne la verge soudainement.” “For he does not seize the rod suddenly.” to inflict punishment, if he be not constrained by necessity, and he takes no pleasure in our afflictions; and, therefore, we must here observe two separate things. First, no evil happens to us, but from the Lord, so that we must not think that anything happens either by chance or by any external cause. Secondly, we suffer no evil whatever, but for a just cause, because we have sinned against God. In vain, therefore, do men accuse God of cruelty; for we ought to acknowledge his righteous judgments in the chastisements which he deservedly inflicts.

And they would not walk in his ways. Here the Prophet aggravates the guilt of the Jews, but changes the person, because he formerly included himself along with others, as being a member of that body, and confessed his guilt. Not that he resembled the great body of the people, or approved of their crimes; but because, amidst such a huge mass of vices, he could not be free from being in some degree infected by the contagion, like other parts of the body. Because he was widely different from the great body of the people, he changes the person, and adds, “They would not;” by which he declares that such deep-rooted obduracy is offensive to him, so that he cannot in any way either conceal it or express his approbation of it; for the subject now in hand is not ordinary vices, but contempt and rejection of God, manifested by fiercely and haughtily shaking off his yoke. This is the reason why Isaiah excludes himself from their number.

If these things justly befell the Jews, let us know that the same punishment hangs over us and the whole world, if we do not take warning and repent. We see how kindly the Lord invites us to himself, in how many ways he expresses his good-will towards us, how graciously he testifies that he will be reconciled, though he has been offended. Having now been so often and so kindly invited by God, and having experienced his mercy, if we refuse to listen to him, we shall undoubtedly feel that the ruin which they experienced belongs equally to all rebels.