World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
42. The Servant of the Lord
Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. 4He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
5Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth 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 the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine 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 prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. 8I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to 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 the Lord 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 the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. 12Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare his praise in the islands. 13The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. 14I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once. 15I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools. 16And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.
17They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the 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 sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the Lord’S servant? 20Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. 21The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable. 22But this is a people robbed and spoiled; 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 among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come? 24Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the Lord, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law. 25Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.
3. A bruised reed he shall not break. After having declared in general that Christ will be unlike earthly princes, he next mentions his mildness in this respect, that he will support the weak and feeble. This is what he means by the metaphor of “the bruised reed,” that he does not wish to break off and altogether crush those who are half-broken, but, on the contrary, to lift up and support them, so as to maintain and strengthen all that is good in them.
Nor will he quench the smoking flax. This metaphor is of the same import with the former, and is borrowed from the wicks of lamps, which may displease us by not burning clearly or by giving out smoke, and yet we do not extinguish but trim and brighten them. Isaiah ascribes to Christ that forbearance by which he bears with our weakness, which we find to be actually fulfilled by him; for wherever any spark of piety is seen, he strengthens and kindles it, and if he were to act towards us with the utmost rigor, we should be reduced to nothing. Although men therefore totter and stumble, although they are even shaken or out of joint, yet he does not at once cast them off as utterly useless, but bears long, till he makes them stronger and more steadfast.
God gave a manifestation of this meekness when he appointed Christ to begin the discharge of his office as ambassador; for the Holy Spirit was sent from heaven in the shape of a dove, which was a token of nothing but mildness and gentleness. (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32.) And indeed the sign perfectly agrees with the reality; for he makes no great noise, and does not render himself an object of terror, as earthly kings commonly do, and does not wish to harass or oppress his people beyond measure, but, on the contrary, to soothe and comfort them. Not only did he act in this manner when he was manifested to the world, but this is what he daily shows himself to be by the gospel. Following this example, the ministers of the gospel, who are his deputies, ought to shew themselves to be meek, and to support the weak, and gently to lead them in the way, so as not to extinguish in them the feeblest sparks of piety, but, on the contrary, to kindle them with all their might. But that we may not suppose that this meekness holds out encouragement to vices and corruptions, he adds —
He shall bring forth judgment in truth. Although Christ soothes and upholds the weak, yet he is very far from using the flatteries which encourage vices; and therefore we ought to correct vices without flattery, which is in the highest degree inconsistent with that meekness. We ought therefore to guard diligently against extremes; that is, we must neither crush the minds of the weak by excessive severity, nor encourage by our smooth language anything that is evil.
That we may better understand who those persons are towards whom, following the example of Christ, we ought to exercise this mildness, we ought to weigh carefully the Prophet’s words. He calls them “a bruised reed” and “smoking wick.” These words do not apply to those who boldly and obstinately resist, nor to those who are fierce and headstrong; for such persons do not deserve this forbearance, but rather must be broken and crushed, as by the strokes of a hammer, by the severity of the word. While he praises meekness, he at the same time shews to whom it is adapted, and at what time and in what manner it ought to be employed; for it is not suitable to hardened and rebellious persons, or to those whose rage sends forth flames, but to those who are submissive, and who cheerfully yield to the yoke of Christ.
The word smoking shews that he maintains and cherishes not darkness, but sparks, though feeble and hardly perceptible. Wherever then there is impiety and stubbornness, there we must act with the utmost severity, and exercise no forbearance; but, on the other hand, where there are vices that have not gone beyond endurance, yet by gentleness of this nature, instead of encouraging, we must correct and reform them; for we must always pay regard chiefly to truth, of which he speaks, that vices may not be concealed, and thus acquire a secret corruption, but that the weak may be gradually trained to sincerity and uprightness. These words, therefore, relate to those persons who, amidst many deficiencies, have integrity of mind, and earnestly desire to follow true religion, or, at least, in whom we see some good beginning. It is clearly shewn by many passages (Matthew 12:39; 22:18; 23:13) how severely Christ deals with despisers; for he is constrained to employ “a rod of iron” to crush those who do not submit to be governed by his shepherd’s crook. As he justly declares that “his yoke is easy, and his burden is light,” (Matthew 11:30,) to willing disciples, so with good reason does David arm him with “a scepter of iron” (Psalm 2:9) to break his enemies in pieces, and declare that he will be wet with their blood. (Psalm 110:6, 7.)