The small beginnings of grace {An Emmaus look at Isaiah 42:1-9}

Settle into the book of Isaiah. Soak in the portraits of Christ that we’re going to see in the poetic prophecies of the servant songs.

Isaiah 42 is the first of the songs, appearing in the book just after God calls out idolatrous religions for their futility. His argument in Isaiah 41 concludes:

But when I look, there is no one;
among these there is no counselor
who, when I ask, gives an answer.
Behold, they are all a delusion;
their works are nothing;
their metal images are empty wind.
(Isaiah 41:28-29 ESV)

Against these delusions and works of nothingness God introduces his servant. Where the idols are abomination, the servant is delight. Where the idols are full of an empty wind, the servant comes with the Spirit’s power.

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.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
(Isaiah 42:1-9 ESV)

Compare this picture of God’s Servant to portraits of Christ painted by the gospel writers. Christ opened the eyes of the blind. He dealt justly with the people around him. He didn’t draw attention to himself with aggressive advertising campaigns and the first-century equivalent of social media buzz.

And, perhaps most impressive of all in a world impressed with power, he was gentle with the weak and patient with the questioning. John Wesley, in his Explanatory Notes, described it as “cherishing the small beginnings of grace.”

Bruised physically, emotionally or spiritually by events in your past or present? Christ will not break you. He will restore.

Faith weak and full of questions? Christ won’t abandon you. He’ll protect what you have so the flame can burn strongly again.

Discouraged when you see the way our culture treasures money and fame but rejects the poor and oppressed? Christ will bring justice.

Closed in by darkness and depression? Christ is the light.

Imprisoned by addictions? Christ offers release.

In these little moments when we seem weakest and furthest away from God, we turn to the servant to see and cherish our own small beginnings of grace.

Dead Sea-Judean Hills spring weeds in bloom

This post is part of a 31-day journey on the road to Emmaus. To begin at the beginning, click here. To see other “31 Days of …” posts from other bloggers, visit The Nester.

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