He Heals the Brokenhearted
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, May 25, 2003
Copyright © 2003, P. G. Mathew
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."
This is what God the LORD says--he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:
"I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you."
In the second part of the prophecy of Isaiah, which begins in Isaiah 40, we discover that God wants to comfort his afflicted people. There we read that the everlasting God and Creator of the ends of the earth enables the weary to exchange their weakness for his strength: "They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:28). How does God do this? Through the One called "my Servant." There are four passages, called Servant Songs, in this latter part of Isaiah which speak about this Servant: Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12. In this study we want to examine how the competent, commissioned and compassionate Servant of God accomplishes the task of comforting God's brokenhearted people.
Behold My Servant
In Isaiah 42:1-4 we find the first reference to this Servant of God. In Hebrew, the first word in verse 1 is hen, which means "Behold!" or "See!" We find it used also in Isaiah 41:24 and 29 to describe pagans looking to their worthless idols: "See, they are all false! Their deeds amount to nothing; their images are but wind and confusion," Isaiah declares in verse 29. Looking to idols can result only in confusion, for idols can do nothing to help us. But God is declaring, "Behold my servant!" He is exhorting his afflicted people to look to his Servant that they may be saved.
In this first Servant Song, Isaiah simply introduces the Servant without identifying him. In the fullness of revelation, we know that he is the son of the virgin, Immanuel, the child who is born, the son who is given, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He is the Son of David whose kingdom is forever, the shoot coming from the stump of Jesse, the One on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests, as we read in Isaiah 11. He is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who saves his people from their sins. We are to look to him for our salvation. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith," the writer to the Hebrews exhorts us.
What is the mission of this Servant? To bring about God's justice and order in the world. Thus, Isaiah uses the word "justice" three times in the first four verses of this passage. Unlike Adam and all other servants of the Lord, this Servant will surely succeed in fulfilling the task God has given him. By obeying God and his law perfectly, he will save his people and judge all who oppose him.
The Competent Servant
First, then, let us look at the identity and characteristics of this competent servant.
He is Jesus Christ, as revealed in Matthew 12:18-21, where this Servant Song is cited in reference to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is possessed by God himself. God says, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold." Because the Lord grasps his hand, he never falters or fails.
He is God's Chosen One.
He is the One in whom God delights, of whom God said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
He is the Anointed One. In the Hebrew we find the phrase natatti ruachi, meaning "I will put my Spirit upon him." When Jesus Christ came up from the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit came upon him in unlimited measure. Later Jesus himself declared, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to heal the brokenhearted."
He is the faithful Servant. In verse 3 we read, "In faithfulness he will bring forth justice." God planned our salvation and his Servant brings it about. In Isaiah 52:13-53:12 we read, "The will of the Lord will prosper in his hand" (v. 10). The law of God is within the heart of this Servant; thus, he said, "My food is to do the will of God and to finish it."
He is the one who comes in humility. In verse 2 we read, "He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets." This Servant does not come to dominate or seek glory for himself; rather, he focuses completely upon doing the will of God, his Master. Jesus declared, "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." When he entered Jerusalem, he came, not as a conqueror on a horse, but in humility, riding on a donkey.
He is the Savior of the world. In verse 1 of Isaiah 42 the Lord declares, "I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations," and in the latter part of verse 4 he says, "In his law the islands will put their hope." This quintessential Servant was sent for the salvation of Jews as well as Gentiles.
The Commissioned Servant
Second, this Servant is commissioned to bring about comfort for the afflicted people of the world by executing their redemption.
This commission is given by God himself. So in Isaiah 42:5 we read, "This is what God the Lord says-he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it. . . ." In the Hebrew Isaiah uses the phrase hí¢'íªl yhwh to refer to the personal, self-existing, immutable, infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, transcendent God from whom all physical and spiritual life comes, and who maintains, controls, and directs everything to his desired eschatological purposes. And if we still have any doubt who called and commissioned him, we read in verse 8, "I am the Lord; that is my name. I will not give my glory to another." The all-glorious, only God commissions his Servant to bring salvation to his people. Only he can do this, for everyone else is a created, dependent being. He is the One of whom the seraphs cried, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty! The whole earth is full of his glory." So in verse 6 we read, "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you. . . ." This Servant is completely secure, knowing that God will keep him until it is time for him to die and bring salvation to his people.
In chapter 42, verse 9, we find out more about the nature of this Servant's commission. There God says, "See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare." The "former things" here refers to the rise of Cyrus and the return of God's exiles from Babylon, which came to pass in 538 B.C. But the "new thing" is to bring the people of God back, not from physical captivity in Babylon, but from the spiritual captivity of sin. It refers to the work Jesus Christ came to do of saving people from their sin, which we read about in Isaiah 42:6-7:
I will keep you and make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open the eyes that are blind, to free the captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
The Compassionate Servant
Third, this Servant is compassionate.
In verse 3 we read, "A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." God commissioned his Servant to establish God's order by bringing forth justice in the world. Through him we pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," because he is the one who ushers in the kingdom of God and rules in righteousness, as we read in Isaiah 11:3-4.
How does he bring about justice? First, by saving the poor and needy ones who trust in him. He is just in doing so because he suffered the punishment we deserved. Salvation was the emphasis of his ministry in his first coming; thus, when Jesus began his earthly ministry, he declared, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand," and "The kingdom of God is in your midst." The kingdom of God is the justice, rule, and order of God, which is found in the person and work of the Messiah. But he is also going to mete out judgment to all who oppose him. This will take place at his second coming.
The Compassionate Ministry: A Covenant for the People
What, then, is the compassionate ministry of the Servant of God? First, in Isaiah 42:6 we read, "I will keep you and make you to be a covenant for the people," referring to the people of Israel, "and a light for the Gentiles, to open the eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness."
"[T]o be a covenant for the people" means that because God's Servant kept the covenant, God's blessings will flow to his people through his ministry. What are these blessings? Curse will be replaced by blessing; death will be replaced by life; wrath will be replaced by mercy; the desert shall blossom, the lame shall leap for joy, the blind shall see, the deaf shall hear, and the lost shall be found. All of these are a result of the Servant being a covenant for us.
The Compassionate Ministry: Bringing Light to the Gentiles
Not only that, this Servant will also bring the light of the gospel to the Gentiles. Pagans are by nature blind to the reality of God; that is why they worship idols. In Romans 1 Paul tells us the Gentiles exchanged truth for a lie, and in 2 Corinthians 4 Paul writes, "The god of this age has blinded their minds so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God."
Only through this Servant can the light of truth shine on the Gentiles. That is why Jesus declared later, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have light of life," and "I am the way, the truth, and the life." So in John 3, beginning with verse 19, we read, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."
The Servant came to open eyes that are blind to the truth, to free captives from the prison of sin, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in the darkness of spiritual death and hopelessness. This happened to us. Though we were blind, the Spirit of God said, "Let there be light," and God's light entered our deepest being. As our eyes were opened, we began to understand reality and worship the true God.
In Acts 26:17-18 Paul spoke of this effect of the gospel. When he was commissioned to preach, God told him, "I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Only the Servant of the Lord can do these things.
The Compassionate Ministry: Seeking and Saving the Lost
This Servant came also to seek and to save that which is lost. Thus, in verse 3 we read, "A bruised reed he will not break." A reed, which grows in marshy places, is useless because it is so weak; thus, a bruised reed is less than useless. This term is used also in Isaiah 36:6 to refer to Egypt, in whom Israel was trusting instead of God. There God said, "Egypt is a bruised reed that no one can lean upon. It is useless, worthless!" Thus, a broken, bruised reed is a metaphor for a sinner who is dead in trespasses and sins. Ungodly and without strength, he is an enemy of God, upon whom the wrath of God still rests. Yet here we read that the Servant does not cut down such bruised reeds and throw them out.
Here, then, we learn what the Servant will not do to the bruised reeds, but it does not say what he will do. We have to learn that from the rest of the Scriptures. If you asked God what he was going to do with a weak, useless, bruised, bent-over reed, he would say that his mission is to heal, restore, and transform it into an oak of righteousness. (PGM) Thus, the bruised reed becomes useful through the compassionate ministry of the Servant of God. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to save them.
Additionally, this Servant will not put out a flickering wick. A lamp with a flickering wick produces smoke, not light; thus, it is useless. The dying wick is a metaphor for a weak, doubting, and doubleminded believer-one who sins seven times a day, who brings dishonor to God, who denies Jesus Christ, as Peter did because he was ashamed of him. Yet the compassionate Servant does not cast such a person away; rather, he restores him. He trims his wick and sets him in the oil of the Holy Spirit that he will shine ever more brightly, "like stars in the universe."
In Psalm 147:3 we read, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds," and in Isaiah 61:1 we read, "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted." Isaiah 40:29 tells us, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak," and in Isaiah 30:26 we read, "The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted." This is the compassionate ministry of God's Servant.
Jesus Heals the Brokenhearted
How does this Servant repair and restore the bruised and the brokenhearted? The answer is found in the fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), where we learn that this Servant was bruised and crushed on our behalf. His heart was broken, not only spiritually, but physically, as the soldier thrust his spear into it.
Why did God's faithful Servant have to suffer so much? He suffered so that our wounds might be bound up and that we might be restored and transformed. Isaiah says, "he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).
What is the result of the Servant's suffering? In Isaiah 35:5-6 we read, "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy." Because God's Servant suffered, the brokenhearted people of God, whether Jew or Gentile, are healed, restored and transformed. No longer broken reeds and smoldering wicks, they stand erect in the house of God as oaks of righteousness and shine as stars in the universe.
The Servant says to all who are bruised and brokenhearted, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. . . . Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." The Servant invites us, saying, "Come unto me, all who are weary and heavy-laden; I will give you rest." All other religions and all idols only serve to crush those who are weary and bruised. Only the Servant of the Lord can save us.
The writer to the Hebrews says we have a sympathizing high priest who never casts away those who look to him for help. This Servant is a friend to sinners, but he has no use for the self-righteous "reeds" who are not bruised. So if you are a weak, bruised, brokenhearted sinner, I have good news for you: Jesus welcomes you.
Examples of the Servant's Work
We find illustrations of this restoring work of God throughout the Bible. In Luke 18 we read about the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple. The Pharisee, being righteous in his own eyes, thought he did not need a Savior. But the publican was truly a bruised reed and a smoking wick. He stood at a distance, ashamed to look up, and beat his breast, crying out, "Have mercy upon me, a sinner!" Jesus tells us it was the publican, not the Pharisee, whose prayer God heard and who went home justified.
In Luke 13 we read about a woman who was bent over like a broken reed for eighteen long years. Her disability was due to a demon spirit in her. But as she went to worship one Sabbath, she met Jesus, who called her, touched her, and set her free. All of a sudden she straightened up.
There was another woman who suffered with bleeding for twelve years. Though she spent all her money on doctors, she was not healed, so she became an outcast. But when she heard about Jesus, she said to herself, "If only I could touch the hem of his garment, I would be healed." Timidly, fearfully, tremblingly, she came, she touched, and she was healed. Jesus told her, "Go in peace; your faith has saved you." When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, he told her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
Then there was the man who was possessed by a legion of demons. No one could control him so he lived as a naked, crazy outcast among the tombs. But Jesus went to him and said, "Come out!" The demons left him and he was restored to a sound mind.
Then there was blind Bartimaeus. No one cared for him, but somehow he heard there was a man named Jesus who did many wonderful things. One day, upon hearing the noise of a great crowd, he asked, "What is happening?" People told him, "Jesus is coming this way," so he began to cry out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me!" The people told him, "Don't disturb this Jesus. He is on a mission to Jerusalem. He has no time for a bruised reed like you." But Bartimaeus kept on shouting at the top of his lungs until Jesus stopped and called him. When Bartimaeus came, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied, and he was healed.
What About You?
Let me ask you: Have you looked to this Servant of the Lord? He will heal you, save you, and open your eyes. He is the covenant from whom blessings will flow. He will give you life in place of death, health in place of sickness, prosperity in place of failure, and fellowship in place of loneliness. Man may cast you away, but Jesus will never reject you. He says to us, "Come!"
In John 19 Pilate told us to "Behold the man"-the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; the man who will help all other men; the man who was crucified; the faithful Servant who finished his Master's work. It is to him that we must look today that we may be healed, restored and transformed.
Pilate also said, "Behold your king!" He came on a donkey then, but there is coming a day when he will come on a white horse as King to judge. Don't wait for that day. This is the day when God is repairing, restoring, and transforming people; when he comes again, he will come to judge.
Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. Would you, therefore, look to him this day for your salvation, wisdom, hope, and peace? He is the Savior of Israel and of the world. The gospel "is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile" (Romans 1:16). That word "power of God" can also be translated as "God's prescription"; it is God's prescription for us! I pray that all who are brokenhearted may put their trust in Jesus Christ today, that they may be saved, transformed and made useful. Amen.
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Copyright © 2003, P. G. Mathew
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