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Isaiah Chapter Forty-two                           


Isaiah 42

Chapter Contents

The character and coming of Christ. (1-4) The blessings of his kingdom. (5-12) The prevalence of true religion. (13-17) Unbelief and blindness reproved. (18-25)

Commentary on Isaiah 42:1-4

(Read Isaiah 42:1-4)

This prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, Matthew 12:17. Let our souls rely on him, and rejoice in him; then, for his sake, the Father will be well-pleased with us. The Holy Spirit not only came, but rested upon him, and without measure. He patiently bore the contradiction of sinners. His kingdom is spiritual; he was not to appear with earthly honours. He is tender of those oppressed with doubts and fears, as a bruised reed; those who are as smoking flax, as the wick of a lamp newly lighted, which is ready to go out again. He will not despise them, nor lay upon them more work or more suffering than they can bear. By a long course of miracles and his resurrection, he fully showed the truth of his holy religion. By the power of his gospel and grace he fixes principles in the minds of men, which tend to make them wise and just. The most distant nations wait for his law, wait for his gospel, and shall welcome it. If we would make our calling and election sure, and have the Father delight over us for good, we must behold, hear, believe in, and obey Christ.

Commentary on Isaiah 42:5-12

(Read Isaiah 42:5-12)

The work of redemption brings back man to the obedience he owes to God as his Maker. Christ is the light of the world. And by his grace he opens the understandings Satan has blinded, and sets at liberty from the bondage of sin. The Lord has supported his church. And now he makes new promises, which shall as certainly be fulfilled as the old ones were. When the Gentiles are brought into the church, he is glorified in them and by them. Let us give to God those things which are his, taking heed that we do not serve the creature more than the Creator.

Commentary on Isaiah 42:13-17

(Read Isaiah 42:13-17)

The Lord will appear in his power and glory. He shall cry, in the preaching of his word. He shall cry aloud in the gospel woes, which must be preached with gospel blessings, to awaken a sleeping world. He shall conquer by the power of his Spirit. And those that contradict and blaspheme his gospel, he shall put to silence and shame; and that which hinders its progress shall be taken out of the way. To those who by nature were blind, God will show the way to life and happiness by Jesus Christ. They are weak in knowledge, but He will make darkness light. They are weak in duty, but their way shall be plain. Those whom God brings into the right way, he will guide in it. This passage is a prophecy, and is also applicable to every believer; for the Lord will never leave nor forsake them.

Commentary on Isaiah 42:18-25

(Read Isaiah 42:18-25)

Observe the call given to this people, and the character given of them. Multitudes are ruined for want of observing that which they cannot but see; they perish, not through ignorance, but carelessness. The Lord is well-pleased in the making known his own righteousness. For their sins they were spoiled of all their possessions. This fully came to pass in the destruction of the Jewish nation. There is no resisting, nor escaping God's anger. See the mischief sin makes; it provokes God to anger. And those not humbled by lesser judgments, must expect greater. Alas! how many professed Christians are blind as the benighted heathen! While the Lord is well-pleased in saving sinners through the righteousness of Christ he will also glorify his justice, by punishing all proud despisers. Seeing God has poured out his wrath on his once-favoured people, because of their sins, let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should be found to come short of it.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Isaiah


Isaiah 42

Verse 1

[1] 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.

Behold — The prophet having given one eminent instance of God's certain fore-knowledge, in the deliverance of the Jews by Cyrus, now adds another more eminent example of it, by foretelling the coming of the Messiah. This place therefore is expressly interpreted of Christ, Matthew 12:18, etc. And to him, and to him only, all the particulars following, truly and evidently belong.

Whom — Whom I will enable to do and suffer all those things which belong to his office.

Elect — Chosen by me to this great work.

Delighteth — Both for himself and for all his people, being fully satisfied with that sacrifice, which he shall offer up to me.

Bring forth — Shall publish or shew, as this word is translated, Matthew 12:18.

Judgment — The law, and will, and counsel of God, concerning man's salvation.

Gentiles — Not only to the Jews, but to the Heathen nations.

Verse 2

[2] He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.

Cry — In a way of contention, or ostentation.

Lift — His voice.

Heard — As contentious and vain-glorious persons frequently do.

Verse 3

[3] A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.

Break — Christ will not deal rigorously with those that come to him, but he will use all gentleness, cherishing the smallest beginnings of grace, comforting and healing wounded consciences.

Quench — That wick of a candle which is almost extinct, he will not quench, but revive and kindle it again.

Judgment — The law of God, or the doctrine of the gospel, which he will bring forth, unto, with, or according to truth, that is, truly and faithfully.

Verse 4

[4] He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.

'Till — 'Till he has established his law or doctrine, among the nations of the earth.

Isles — The countries remote from Judea, shall gladly receive his doctrine.

Verse 5

[5] Thus 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:

He — This description of God's infinite power, is seasonably added, to give them assurance of the certain accomplishment of his promises.

Verse 6

[6] I 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;

Called thee — To declare my righteousness, or faithfulness.

With-hold — Will give thee counsel and strength for the work.

Give thee — To be the mediator in whom my covenant of grace is confirmed with mankind.

The people — Of all people, not only of Jews but Gentiles.

A light — To enlighten them with true and saving knowledge.

Verse 8

[8] I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

The Lord — Heb. Jehovah: who have all being in and of myself, and give being to all my creatures. The everlasting, and unchangeable, and omnipotent God, who therefore both can, and will fulfil all my promises.

Verse 9

[9] Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.

I tell you — That when they come to pass, you may know that I am God, and that this is my work.

Verse 10

[10] Sing 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.

Sing — Upon this new and great occasion, the salvation of the world by Christ.

From the end — All nations from one end of the earth to another.

Ye — You that go by sea carry these glad tidings from Judea, where Christ was born, and lived, and died, and published the gospel, unto the remotest parts of the earth.

Verse 11

[11] Let 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.

The wilderness — Those parts of the world which are now desolate and forsaken of God, and barren of all good fruits.

Kedar — The Arabians: who were an Heathen and barbarous people, and are put for all nations.

Mountains — Who are commonly more savage and ignorant than others.

Verse 12

[12] Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands.

The islands — In the remotest parts of the world, as well as in Arabia, which was near to them.

Verse 13

[13] The 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.

Go forth — To battle.

Stir up — He shall stir up his strength, and anger against the obstinate enemies of his Son and gospel.

Roar — As a lion doth upon his prey, and as soldiers do when they begin the battle.

Verse 14

[14] I 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.

Long — I have for many ages suffered the devil and his servants, to prevail in the world, but now I will bring forth and accomplish that glorious work which I have long conceived in my mind; yea, I will suddenly destroy the incorrigible enemies of my truth.

Verse 15

[15] I 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.

Hills — My most lofty and flourishing enemies.

Dry up — I will remove all impediments out of the way.

Verse 16

[16] And 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.

The blind — The Gentiles.

By a way — By the way of truth, which hitherto has been hidden from them, yea, I will take away all hindrances; I will direct then in the right way; I will enlighten their dark minds, and rectify their perverse wills and affections, until I have brought theirs to the end of their journey.

Verse 18

[18] Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.

Hear — O you, whosoever you are, who resist this clear light.

Verse 19

[19] Who 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?

My servant — The Jews, who will not receive their, Messiah.

Messenger — My messengers, the singular number being put for the plural, namely the priests and other teachers whom I have appointed to instruct my people.

The Lord's servant — As the most eminent teachers and rulers of the Jews, who were called and obliged to be the Lord's servants, in a special manner.

Verse 20

[20] Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.

Heareth not — Thou dost not seriously consider the plain word, and the wonderful works of God.

Verse 21

[21] The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.

Well pleased — Altho' God might justly destroy thee suddenly, yet he will patiently wait for thy repentance, that he may be gracious; and that not for thy sake, but for the glory of his own faithfulness, in fulfilling that covenant, which he made with thy pious progenitors.

Magnify — He will maintain the honour of his law, and therefore is not forward to destroy you, who profess the true religion, lest his law should upon that occasion be exposed to contempt.

Verse 22

[22] But 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.

But — But not withstanding this respect which God hath to his people, he hath severely scourged you for your sins.

Hid — They have been taken in snares made by their own hands, and by God's just judgment cast into dungeons and prisons.

None — None afforded them help.

Verse 25

[25] Therefore 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.

Fury — Most grievous judgments.

Yet — They were secure and stupid under God's judgments.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Isaiah


42 Chapter 42


Verse 1

Verses 1-7

Verses 1-25

Verses 1-17

Isaiah 42:1-17

Behold My Servant

Who is the “servant of Jehovah”?

The following are, in brief, the leading opinions which have been held:

(1) Hitzig’s, that the Jewish people in exile is referred to, as distinguished from the heathen;

Jehovah is, as it were, a pyramid, of which the base is the people of Israel as a whole, the central part Israel ‘according to the Spirit,’ and the summit, the person of the Mediator of salvation, who arises out of Israel.” (Prof. T. K. Cheyne, D. D.)

The Mediator is the centre

1. In the circle of the kingdom of promise--the second David.

2. In the circle of the people of salvation--the true Israel.

3. In the circle of humanity--the second Adam. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

The servant of Jehovah

In the sublimest description of the servant I am unable to resist the impression that we have a presentiment of an individual, and venture to think that our general view of the servant ought to be ruled by those passages in which the enthusiasm of the author is at its height. “Servant of Jehovah” in these passages seems equivalent to “son of Jehovah” in Psalms 2:7 (“son” and “servant” being, in fact, nearly equivalent in the Old Testament), namely, the personal instrument of Israel’s regeneration, or, as we may say in the broader sense of the word, the Messiah. (Prof. T. K. Cheyne, D. D.)

Jehovah and Jehovah’s servant

This servant is brought before us with all the urgency with which Jehovah has presented Himself, and next to Jehovah He turns out to be the most important figure of the prophecy. Does the prophet insist that God is the only source and sufficiency of His people’s salvation? It is with equal emphasis that He introduces the servant as God’s indispensable agent in the work. Cyrus is also acknowledged as an elect instrument. But neither in closeness to God, nor in effect upon the world, is Cyrus to be compared for an instant to the servant. Cyrus is subservient and incidental But the servant is a character, to delineate whose immortal beauty and example the prophet devotes as much space as he does to Jehovah Himself. As he turns again and again to speak of God’s omnipotence and faithfulness and agonising love for His own, so with equal frequency and fondness does he linger on every feature of the servant’s conduct and aspect: His gentleness, His patience, His courage, His purity, His meekness: His daily wakefulness to God’s voice, the swiftness and brilliance of His speech for others, His silence under His own torments; His resorts--among the bruised, the prisoners, the forwandered of Israel, the weary, and them that sit in darkness, the far-off heathen; His warfare with the world, His face set like a flint; His unworldly beauty, which men call ugliness; His unnoticed presence in His own generation, yet the effect of His face upon kings; His habit of woe, a man of sorrows and acquainted with sickness; His sore stripes and bruises, His judicial murder, His felon’s grave; His exaltation and eternal glory--till we may reverently say that these pictures, by their vividness and charm, have drawn our eyes away from our prophet’s visions of God, and have caused the chapters in which they occur to be oftener read among us, and learned by heart, than the chapters in which God Himself is lifted up and adored. Jehovah and Jehovah’s servant--these are the two heroes of the drama. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

The servant, first Israel as a whole, then Israel in part

Nothing could be more clear than this, that in the earlier years of the exile, the servant of Jehovah was Israel as a whole, Israel as a body politic Very soon the prophet has to make a distinction, and to sketch the servant as something less than the actual nation In modern history we have two familiar illustrations of this process of winnowing and idealising a people, in the light of their destiny. In a well-known passage in the “Areopagitica” Milton exclaims: “Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself and shaking her invincible locks; methinks I see her as an eagle renewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam while the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means.” In this passage the “nation” is no longer what Milton meant by the term in the earlier part of his treatise, where “England” stands simply for the outline of the whole English people; but the “nation” is the true genius of England realised in her enlightened and aspiring sons, and breaking away from the hindering and debasing members of the body politic. Or, recall Mazzini’s bitter experience. To no man was his Italy more really one than to this ardent son of hers, who loved every born Italian because he was an Italian, and counted none of the fragments of his unhappy country too petty or too corrupt to be included in the hope of her restoration. To Mazzini’s earliest imagination, it was the whole Italian seed who were ready for redemption, and would rise to achieve it at his summons. But when his summons came, how few responded, and after the first struggles how fewer still remained, Mazzini himself has told us with breaking heart. The real Italy was but a handful of born Italians; at times it seemed to shrink to the prophet alone. From such a core the conscience indeed spread again, till the entire people was delivered from tyranny and from schism, and now every peasant and burgher from the Alps to Sicily understands what Italy means, and is proud to be an Italian. But for a time Mazzini and his few comrades stood alone. It is a similar winnowing process through which we see our prophet’s thought pass with regard to Israel. Him, too, experience teaches, that “the many are called, but the few chosen.” Perhaps the first traces of distinction between the real servant and the whole nation are to be found in the programme of his mission (Isaiah 42:1-7). (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

The ideal servant Jehovah

That mysterious form of the ideal servant of Jehovah, which seems, as we read, to shift and change its aspect, was to Israel what the “colossal man” of the idealist is to humanity at large (E. H.Plumptre, D. D.)

The servant of the Lord

The figure, as it first appears in this half of what are called Isaiah’s prophecies, evidently represents Israel as God intended it to be, chosen for His service and for the diffusion of His Name; the conviction gradually steals over the prophet that the nation cannot discharge these functions, but that the Israel within Israel, the devout core of the people, is the Servant of the Lord; and finally, the knowledge seems to have been breathed into him that not even “that holy seed” which “is the substance thereof” is adequate to do all that the Servant of the Lord is to do; and thus finally the figure changes into a Person, who can be and do all that Israel ought to have been and done, but was not, and did not. In other words, whether the prophet discerned it or no, the role of the Servant of the Lord is only fulfilled by Jesus Christ. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Cyrus and the Servant of Jehovah

His relation to Cyrus, before whose departure from connection with Israel’s fate the Servant does not appear as a person, is most interesting. Perhaps we may best convey it in a homely figure On the ship of Israel’s fortunes--as on every ship and on every voyage--the prophet sees two personages. One is the pilot through the shallows, Cyrus, who is dropped as soon as the shallows are past; and the other is the captain of the ship, who remains always identified with it--the servant. The captain does not come to the front till the pilot is gone; but, both alongside the pilot, and after the pilot has been dropped, there is every room for his office. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

The ideal servant’s work

The chief aspects of the ideal servant’s work may be classed as follows:

1. He is to be the embodiment of a new covenant between Jehovah and His people, to restore the actual nation exiled at the time in Babylon, and to reestablish them in their own land (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:5-6; Isaiah 49:8).

2. But He has a mission not to Israel merely, but to the world: He is to teach the world true religion, and to be a “light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 24:3; Isaiah 24:6; Isaiah 49:6).

3. He is to be a prophet, patient and faithful in the discharge of His work, in spite of the contumely and opposition which He may encounter Isaiah 50:4-9).

4. Being innocent Himself, He is to suffer and die for the sins of others Isaiah 53:4-9). (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

The Trinity in unity

This is the language of the Eternal Father; but it contains a description of our blessed Lord and Saviour in His character, as the Redeemer of the world. Then the Spirit of God is represented as resting upon Christ, to qualify Him for that work of redemption; and thus in this one verse we have brought before us suggestions concerning the Father’s sovereign will, the Son’s willing obedience, and the Spirit’s fulness of grace manifested in the Person of the Son, and the setting Him apart for His real work.


1. No one can doubt that Holy Scripture teaches the unity of God.

2. Yet Scripture speaks of this one God, this one Jehovah, Israel’s Lord, as revealing Himself in three distinct characters and relations, and only three.

3. Then Scripture attributes works and qualities to each of these three Persons which could not be attributed to them justly if each of them were not truly God.

4. Then Holy Scripture teaches, notwithstanding, that these Three Divine Persons, each spoken of as God, are yet one God, and this without any difference or inequality.

II. THE PRACTICAL VIEW OF THE TRINITY WHICH THIS PASSAGE CONTAINS. We gather from it that it is the will of the Eternal Jehovah that the glory of the Trinity should be specially manifested in connection with the Person and work of Christ. Observe the description of the Second Person in the blessed Trinity.

1. He is God’s Servant. How can the Second Person in the Trinity be spoken of as the Servant of the Eternal Father? The very expression denotes the manhood of Christ. He cannot be a Servant except by creation, and His body was created in order that He might sustain the position of Servant to the Eternal God. “A body,” we are told in the Epistle to the Hebrews, quoting from the Psalms, “hast Thou prepared Me . . . Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.” Here is the Son speaking to the Father. Then the expression God’s “Servant” denotes the humiliation of our blessed Lord Philippians 2:7). As God’s servant we have to consider Him in connection with His office, as well as with His humiliation and with His manhood. The office which He had to sustain was to bring sinful men back again to God.

2. Then He is God’s beloved--“Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth.”

3. The Man Christ Jesus has the Spirit of God--“I will put My Spirit upon Him,” that is, I will put it on Him as a garment. At the conception, and at His baptism and ordination to His work, this was specially manifested. Then Jesus had the Spirit for the special work which He had to perform as Mediator. There were three objects to be accomplished, if man was to have a suitable remedy. Man was ignorant of God’s will through sin: he needed, therefore, a prophet to teach him, not only what to do, but the actual doing of it, and Jesus was anointed to be that Prophet. Then man was rebellious, and he needed, therefore, a king who should rule over his inward passions, and subdue them, as well as over his outward enemies, and quell them: and therefore Jesus was anointed, that He might sustain the office of King. And man was in a sinful condition, under the curse of the broken law, and therefore he needed a priest to sacrifice for him, and to make intercession for him, and Jesus was that Priest, anointed with the Spirit of God, in order that He might make that satisfaction, and offer that sacrifice, and present that intercession through which sinners may be brought nigh unto God. Thus qualified, the Saviour will “bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” (W. Cadman, M. A.)

The servitude of Jesus

I. IN CHRIST, SERVICE AND FREEDOM WERE PERFECTLY COMBINED. He gave the service of being, the service of work, the service of suffering, the service of worship, the service of rest each to the very highest point of which that service is capable. But when He came, knowing as He did all to which He was coming, He came with these words upon His lips, “I delight to do it.”


1. There was His own high purpose, which had armed Him for His mission, and never by a hair’s-breadth did He ever swerve from that.

2. There was the law. The law had no right over Christ, and yet how He served the law, in every requirement, moral, political, ceremonial, to the smallest tittle.

3. There was death, that fearful master with his giant hand. Step by step, inch by inch, slowly, measuredly, He put Himself under its spell, He obeyed its mandate, and He owned its power.

4. To His Heavenly Father what a true Servant He was, not only in fulfilling all the Father’s will, but as He did it, in always tracing to Him all the power, and giving back to Him all the glory.

III. THERE IS A DEPTH OF BEAUTY AND POWER, OF LIBERTY AND HUMILIATION, OF ABANDONMENT AND LOVE, IN THAT WORD “SERVANT,” which none ever know who have not considered it as one of the titles of Jesus. But there is another name of Jesus, very dear to His people, “The Master.” To understand “the Master” you must yourself have felt “the Servant.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The dignity of service

He is not a man of clear and weighty judgment who sees nothing of honour even in the word “servant.” Ill times have befallen us if we attach to that word nothing but the idea of humiliation, lowness, valuelessness. That word must be restored to its right place in human intercourse. If any man proudly rise and say he is not servant, there is a retort, not of human invention, which might overwhelm any who are not swallowed up of self-conceit and self-idolatry. We do not know what it is to rule until we know what it is to serve. (J. Parker, D. D.)

God’s programme for the world

This programme is entrusted to the servant of the Lord, who is the Christ of the New Testament.

I. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JEHOVAH AND HIS SERVANT. In all His life of ministry this Servant was assured of three things--

1. That He was chosen of God for the service to which He came.

2. That He dwelt deep in the love of God His Father.

3. That His life lay entirely within the will of God. He was chosen, beloved, approved. All this is possible to those who say, “I am the Lord’s.”

II. THE SERVANT’S DIVINE EQUIPMENT. “I have put My Spirit upon Him.”

III. THE MISSION OF THE SERVANT: ITS TEMPER AND METHOD. Christ came to reveal God, to restore all things to the pattern of the Divine mind, to make God’s judgment the standard of all life and conduct, so that the world should be governed by the principles of God’s righteousness. This is to be accomplished without noise or ostentation. This description of Christ’s character is remarkable for its omissions: it is a striking list of omissions. The Spirit works by a process of exclusion in revelation and sanctification, and in the restoration of righteousness in the world. (S. Chadwick.)

The ideal Israelite

Long before Christ appeared in the flesh, He had already appeared in the Spirit. The chapter carries us back to a time when the conception of a Saviour definitely began. Up to then there had been vague presentiments; after then there was a character prepared for the Jesus who was to come. So it is with all heroes, they are needed before they are born; they could not work their work unless they were needed and discerned; they have prophets to beget them as well as parents.

I. AN ACTUAL NAME APPLIED. The title of “God’s servant” is one that runs through all Oriental language. The Israelite people at large had failed,--the Jewish people, as reformed by Josiah, had failed,--it remained for God to justify His purpose by manifesting a “new model,” who should represent Him rightly to the Gentiles.


1. This genuine man of God must be a man of gentleness, and yet He should inherit the earth.

2. A method equally new would prevail in religion; there the true Missionary would proceed with tolerance; He would not thrust His revelation upon aliens, He would open their eyes to behold their own revelation; they also had lamps, dimly-burning, but still alight. God’s servant must not extinguish them, He must revive them.

3. But to be gentle in forwarding the right, tolerant in inculcating the true, tender in making allowance for the weak--all this belongs to consummate sympathy, and sympathy demands compensating qualities, for it has besetting defects. Converse with sensitive consciences is often enfeebling. Virtue goes out of us in the endeavour to impart strength, and the infection of fear overtakes the very physician. But our prophet has a strong intellect in view, a Helper who shall not be bruised by anything He has to bear.

4. There is about the perfect character the distinction of patience. He burns brightly in mind. He bears up bravely in heart, “until He have set judgment in the earth.” This true service has been fulfilled by the Carpenter of Nazareth--His qualities are on record; His spirit lasts. (B. H. Alford.)

Messiah and His work



III. THE WAY IN WHICH HE WAS TO EXECUTE IT. “He shall not fail,” etc. (Original Secession Magazine.)

The service of God and man

I. THE CONSCIENCE OF THE SERVICE. Before being a service of man, it is a service for God. “My servant.”

II. THE SUBSTANCE OF SERVICE. “Judgment for the nations shall He bring forth.” “According to truth shall He bring forth judgment.” He shall not flag nor break, till He set in the earth judgment.”


IV. THE POWER BEHIND SERVICE (Isaiah 42:5-6). (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

“Behold, My Servant!”

They are rare qualities which Jehovah calls us to behold in the elect Servant: a Divine modesty; a Divine humility; a Divine perseverance.

I. THE MODESTY OF THE BEST WORK. God is always at work in our world, leading the progress of suns, refreshing grass with dew, directing the flight of the morning beams. But all His work is done so quietly, so unobtrusively, with such reticence as to His personal agency, that many affirm there is no God at all. Thus was it with the work of Christ. He put His hand on the mouths of those who proclaimed His deity, or blazoned abroad His fame. This quality is God’s hall-mark upon the best work. His highest artists do not inscribe their names upon their pictures, nor introduce their portraits amongst their groups.

II. THE HUMILITY OF THE BEST WORK. He has put down the mighty from their seat, and exalted the humble and meek. And so was it with our Lord. He passed by Herod’s palace, and chose Bethlehem and its manger bed. He refused empires of the world, and took the way of the cross. He selected His apostles and disciples from the ranks of the poor. He revealed His choicest secrets to babes. He left the society of the Pharisee and Scribe, and expended Himself on bruised reeds and smoking flax, on dying thieves and fallen women, and the peasantry of Galilee.

III. DIVINE PERSEVERANCE. Though our Lord is principally concerned with the bruised and the dimly-burning wick, He is neither one nor the other (see R.V., marg.). He is neither discouraged nor does He fail. This, again, is the quality of the best work. That which emanates from the flesh is full of passion, fury, and impulse. It essays to deliver Israel by a spasm of force that lays an Egyptian dead in the sand; but it soon exhausts itself, and sinks back nerveless and spent. It is impossible too strongly to emphasise the necessity of relying in Christian work on the co-witness of the Spirit of God. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Purpose and method of the Redeemer

I. THE REDEEMER’S PURPOSE. “He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles”; “He shall bring forth judgment unto truth,” and He is to “set judgment in the earth.” The word “judgment,” as here used, has no better equivalent than righteousness, in the sense of that which is essentially right in heart and life, both toward God and man. This righteousness--rightness--in all the powers and operations of the soul, and in all its relations to God and the universe, is the master-need of mankind. The Redeemer has undertaken to meet this great need of the world. He came not to establish certain forms of theological thought and expression; not to set up certain ecclesiastical organisations and rituals--all these are of little worth, except in so far as they can be made the means to a vastly grander end. Jesus Christ came to establish essential righteousness in individual human souls, and so in the community and in the world. It is His grand purpose to enlighten the ignorance, to quicken the conscience, to energise the will, to purify the affections, and to exalt the aims of men, bringing them thus into harmony with God. He came to make every wrong right--to break the oppressor’s yoke, to banish cupidity and caste, ignorance and selfishness, and every form of sin. In the prosecution of this sublime purpose the Redeemer calls all His disciples into co-operation with Himself. In this they are to find the development of their own spiritual character, and by this the world is to be won for Christ.

II. THE REDEEMER’S METHOD. This is set before us by the prophet in a fourfold view--

1. As authorised. “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him.” Here the Redeemer is represented as acting under the appointment and authorisation of the Eternal Father. Nor is it difficult to perceive why this is necessary. God, as the Sovereign, against whom man has offended, was alone competent to determine whether any mediation could be admitted between Himself and His rebellious creatures, and, if any, what the nature of that mediation should be. It is essential to any man’s faith in redemption that he should recognise it as of God from the beginning. The interposition of Christ is first of all, and more than all, the manifestation of the Father’s impartial and everlasting love for lost men. The Redeemer is God, the equal of the Father in glory, majesty, power, divinity, and eternity; but He is God manifest in the flesh. As it was necessary that the Redeemer should be authorised, so it was necessary that the authority under which He acted should be explicitly attested. It was thus attested. “Mine elect in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him” (Luke 4:14). This aspect of His mission was clearly understood by His apostles (Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38). At intervals during His ministry there came to Him Divine attestation; at its close He “was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead”: and having ascended to the Father He was constituted “Head over all things to the Church,” principlities and powers being made subject to Him, for it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.”

2. As unostentatious (Isaiah 42:2). Messiah’s mission was to be distinguished by no secular pomp, by no military glory. The Redeemer’s appearance was to be lowly, His operations silent and unobtrusive. The Saviour of men is great in gentleness. On this point prophecy is mysteriously impressive. History answers to prophecy. In the life of Jesus Christ there is a marvellous mingling of grandeur and humility. The same principle pervades the whole of His administration. There is marvellous grandeur, but there is deep lowliness. The Gospel has mysteriously subdued the hearts of men, forming into its own spirit tempers and habits the most alien from its nature.

3. As compassionate. “A bruised reed,” etc. Advancing to the realisation of His sublime purpose the Redeemer will not overlook the smallest acquisition; and His attention will be especially directed to those who are specially needy, weak, and helpless.

4. As persevering. “He shall not fail,” etc. He was not discouraged. He ploughed His way through all opposition from Bethlehem to Golgotha. The risen and exalted Redeemer is moving steadily on to His final and complete triumph. (R. R. Meredith, D. D.)

The Servant of Jehovah

I. THE CHARACTER HE SUSTAINS. “Behold, My Servant,” etc. In this capacity God sustained and protected Him. He is also set forth as the object of His special choice and affection. “Mine elect,” etc. He delighted in Him on account--

1. Of the close relationship that existed between them. Not merely was He Jehovah’s Servant, but His only-begotten Son.

2. The resemblance He bore to Him.

3. His having engaged to execute the Divine purposes.


1. For this work He was endowed with every requisite qualification. “I have put My Spirit upon Him.”

2. The work assigned to Him was very extensive in its range. “He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.”

3. The character of His work is here intimated. He was to bring forth “judgment”; for the religion He would establish was to be pre-eminently distinguished truth and righteousness.


1. The absence of all ostentation and clamour. It is invariably found that it is not the most noisy that do the most work.

2. He was to evince great tenderness and compassion. “A bruised reed,” etc. These words were verified in His conduct towards two classes--

3. Perseverance in the face of all difficulties and discouragements. He shall not fail nor be discouraged,” etc. (Anon.)

The coming Saviour

About these chapters, as a unit, a halo of Messianic brightness gathers, like the aureole with which painters surround the brow of Christ. In these verses (1-11) the prophet taught that--

I. THE COMING SAVIOUR WAS TO SET UP A KINGDOM WHICH SHOULD BE UNIVERSAL (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 42:6). Those whom Isaiah addressed supposed that true religion was to reach the world, if at all, through the channels of Judaism; they thought the only way to heaven was through the ,portals of the Jewish Church. The prophet declares that the benefits of Christ s kingdom are to extend to Jew and Gentile alike. No distinctions of race or clime are to arrest its growth. No wonder that under the thrill of such a vision he shouts, “Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth!” It is sometimes said that the religious spirit of the Old Testament is narrow; that it makes God bestow His favours on the few, and not on the many. Can, however, a larger measure of grace be conceived than is here expressed?

II. CHRIST’S KINGDOM WAS TO BE EXTENDED BY PEACEFUL MEASURES (verses 2, 3). The prophet addressed those who thought religious conquest was to be achieved by force. Hitherto conflicts had marked the intercourse of God’s chosen people with the Gentiles. The Jews looked for their coming king to be warlike. How strangely, then, does Isaiah describe their conquering prince,--“He shall not cry,” i.e shout as He advances, “nor lift up,” i.e make demonstration of His power, “nor shall He cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth,” i.e truth shall be His victorious weapon. The element in Christianity to which our text refers makes that which is feeble among men powerful for Christ. It also makes it possible for all Christ’s servants to be efficient labourers. They become such by imbibing the spirit of the Master. Not all can publicly proclaim the Gospel, but every one can seek for the “same mind which was in Christ.”

III. CHRIST’S KINGDOM WAS TO REVEAL GOD’S SYMPATHY WITH MAN, ESPECIALLY IN HIS SUFFERING. (verse 7). The primary reference in these figures is undoubtedly to spiritual results. Eyes morally blind are to be opened, and captive souls emancipated from the prison-house of sin. It is, however, no less true that bodily and mental freedom are included in the blessings of Messiah’s reign. The Church is now the representative of the Divine sympathy for suffering; and she should not forget that, as of old, believers will be multiplied when it is seen that through her Christ now cares for bodies as well as souls.

IV. CHRIST’S KINGDOM WAS TO FILL THE EARTH WITH JOY (verses 10, 11). As lessons from our subject we learn--

1. Christians should labour in hope. Isaiah suggests one of the strongest proofs of our Lord’s divinity by affirming, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged until He have set judgment in the land.” When we learn of the Master we catch a hopeful spirit.

2. The results of serving Christ are permanent. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

Silent spread of Christianity

This prophecy accords with fact. Gibbon, in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, has the following words describing the silent but rapid spread of Christianity: “While the Roman Empire was invaded by open violence or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigour from opposition, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the Cross on the ruins of the Capitol.” (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

The coming Saviour


1. That our Lord should come as a servant (Isaiah 42:1).

2. That our Lord was Divinely chosen for His work. “Mine elect” (1 Peter 2:6-7).

3. That our Lord should be endowed with the Holy Spirit. “I have put My Spirit upon Him” (Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 4:14; Luke 4:18-19; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 1:9).

4. That our Lord would institute a religion for the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1). Such is the force of the word “judgment.”

5. That His Spirit would be most tender and gentle (Isaiah 42:2-3).

6. That His courage would be equal to His gentleness (verse 4).


1. In its authority (verses 5, 9). The authority is the highest in respect to power and principle.

2. In its purpose (verse 7).


1. All should praise God.

2. To praise God for Christ intelligently we must personally experience His saving power.


1. The study of prophecy is the imperative duty of every child of God.

2. The most inspiring portions of prophecy are those which centre in the person and work of our Lord Jesus.

3. No prophecy can be fully understood that is not interpreted in the light of Christ’s work. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

4. Christianity is a religion for the whole race (verse 4).

5. The gentleness with which its advocates should be characterised and the beneficent designs of its mission must commend it, when rightly represented, to all nations, climes, and tongues.

6. Under no circumstances will our Lord justify His disciples in an advocacy of His Gospel in a spirit antagonistic to His own.

7. Let all disciples of Christ copy His life, spirit and love, and work for the gracious ends for which He lived and died! (Homiletic Review.)

The servant of Jehovah

This chapter exhibits to our view the servant of Jehovah, i.e the Messiah and His people, as a complex person, and as the messenger or representative of God among the nations.

1. His mode of operation is described as being not violent but peaceful (Isaiah 42:1-5).

2. The effects of His influence are represented as not natural but spiritual (Isaiah 42:6-9).

3. The power of God is pledged for His success, notwithstanding all appearances of inaction or indifference on His part (Isaiah 42:10-17). (J. A. Alexander.)

Mine elect in whom My soul delighteth

Christ delighted in by the Father

Christ Jesus was the elect of God, inasmuch as from all eternity infinite wisdom had chosen Him to execute the sovereign purposes of infinite mercy. We may pronounce that the Father delighted in His elect, because--



Verse 2-3

Isaiah 42:2-3

He shall not cry

Jesus Christ not a controversialist

He is not a debater; He does not belong to the society of men who walk up and down in the open square, called the “street,” or agora, or the market-place, saying, Who will talk with Me to-day?
What shall we debate? My sword is ready, who will fence? He does not belong to the word gladiator; from that school He abstains. There were men who delighted in controversy in the open squares of the city. Such controversy took the place of modern literature, morning journals, and the means of publicity of every kind, open to modern society. Jesus Christ spoke whisperingly to hearts. Men had to incline their ear to hear Him. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Christ’s message self-evidential

What He brings is its own evidence, and needs no beating of drums. (Prof. F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

Christ’s ministry unhysterical

To be “screamy,” to be “loud,” to “advertise one’s self,”--these modern expressions for vices that were ancient as well as modern, render the exact force of the verse. Such the servant of God will not be nor do. That God is with Him, holding Him fast (Isaiah 42:6), keeps Him calm and unhysterical; that He is but God s instrument keeps Him humble and quiet; and that His heart is in His work keeps Him from advertising Himself at its expense. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

Christ unlike the prophets of Israel

This feature of the Servant’s activity can hardly have been suggested by the demeanour of the prophets of Israel; and for that reason the prophecy is all the more wonderful as a perception of the true condition of spiritual work. It reminds us of the “still small voice” in which Elijah was made to recognise the power of Jehovah. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

The greatness and the gentleness of Christ

Jesus Christ has fulfilled this passage both in the spirit and in the letter.

I. THE GRANDEUR AND CERTAINTY OF HIS WORK. It could not be expressed in stronger or more graphic words. “He shall bring forth judgment or righteousness, according to truth. He shall not fail nor be broken till He have established judgment or righteousness in the earth, and the isles, or far-off lands, shall wait for His law or instruction.” This is the Old Testament conception of the Divine work, the setting up of a kingdom of righteousness in the world. In the New Testament it is called the kingdom of heaven, of which righteousness is still the great characteristic. The essence of the aim of the Gospel of Christ may be summed up, therefore, in two words--to win men over to be right and to do right. That which separates men from God and the kingdom of heaven is some kind of wrong in the inward nature--that which arrays itself against the Divine will, which is the Divine law. The self-will which tries, but tries in vain, to trample down the Divine will, which endeavours to have its own way in defiance of all right and justice; the insatiate thirst of the passions for indulgence which must be obtained at whatever cost to honour and conscience, and the readiness to sacrifice truth and honesty and purity in order to achieve what the world calls success,--these things are the essence of all unrighteousness and sin--the cancerous disease of our spiritual nature, which Christ, the Great Physician, came to exterminate and heal. In order to do what is right we must become, first of all, personally right; for Christ traced all conduct up to character. “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,” etc. He came to build up a society of such men and women, beginning with a small band of immediate personal disciples, whose affection to Himself should make them righteous, who should receive from Him the truths, the impulses, and principles which would enable them to carry the contagion of His Spirit to Greek, and Roman, and Jew, and make the cross on which He died the symbol of all goodness and all righteousness.

II. THE SPIRIT AND METHOD OF CHRIST’S WORK. “He shall not cry,” etc.

1. This is the Divine way of speaking to men, and instructing them in Divine truth. The strong wind can speak to the seas and mountains and forests; the earthquake can speak to Sodom and Gomorrah; the fire can speak to the raving prophets of Baal; but when He speaks to His servant He whispers in that still small voice which penetrates where the thunder would fail to be heard, to the deeps of Elijah’s spirit, where the heart and conscience sit enthroned in silence. The deepest affections ever speak thus. The mother speaks to her child in the softest, most subdued accents of speech, and those accents reach farther into the child’s heart than the loudest, harshest words of command could reach. When is the orator at the height of his greatest power? Not when he is loudest; not when he thunders forth invective and appeal in high-strung passion; but when the strength of emotion has subdued him, when the rich pathos of his feelings makes his voice tremulous and low; and he just breathes out the thought which you will never forget. This was Christ’s method of instruction during His earthly ministry. The Sermon on the Mount breathes a Divine calm throughout; there is not one spasmodic sentence in it.

2. And He did not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. When the woman who had been a sinner ventured after Him into the house of Simon the Pharisee, where He sat at meat, and began to wash His feet with her tears and to wipe them with the hair of her head, He accepted the service without one thought of spurning her from His presence, because it was the service of a broken, penitent heart. But there is a positive as well as a negative aspect of this truth. He will not merely not break the bruised reed, He will heal and restore it to soundness; He will not merely not quench the smoking flax, He will replenish the exhausted lamp with fresh oil, and make it burn brightly again. This life is hastening to its close with us, and we may have a keen consciousness that our souls are bruised and broken by sin, and we dread to die. What can we do? We can be assured that there is a Saviour who sympathises with us, and who has power to lift the load from our conscience, and restore the breaking, fearful heart; a Saviour who is not willing that you should die as you are, but can even now pour the oil of hope and trust into the lamp of your life. Some of us may have been bruised and almost worn out, not so much by the reproach of our sins, as by the experience of trouble and suffering. (C. Short, M. A.)

Verse 3-4

Isaiah 42:3-4

A bruised reed shall He not break

The bruised reed

The reed, or “calamus,” is a plant with hollow stem, which grew principally by the side of lakes or rivers.
Those who have been in Palestine are familiar with it in the tangled thickets which still line the shores of the ancient Merom and Genesis nesaret, or, above all, in the dense copse fringing the banks of the Jordan. The plant might well be taken as an emblem of whatever was weak, fragile, brittle. The foot of the wild beast that made its lair in the jungle, trampled it to pieces. Its slender stalk bent or snapped under the weight of the bird that sought to make it a perch. The wind and hail-storm shivered its delicate tubes, or laid them prostrate on the ground. “A reed shaken by the wind” was the metaphor employed by One whose eyes, in haunts most loved and frequented by Him, had ofttimes gazed on this significant emblem of human weakness and instability. Once broken, it was rendered of no use. Other stems which had been bent by the hurricane might, by careful nursing and tending, be recovered; but the reed, with its heavy culm, once shattered, became worthless. In a preceding chapter (36:6) it is spoken of as an emblem of tottering, fragile Egypt. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

A bruised reed

Say some an instrument was meant, and there was a rift in it, which spoiled the music. Jesus Christ said, We must repair this; something must be done with this reed; it was meant for music, and we must look at it with that end in view. He does not take it, saying, There is a rift in the lute, and the music is impossible; rend it and throw it away. He always looks to see if a man cannot be made somewhat better. Or “a bruised reed” may mean that wild beasts in rushing through to the water, or from the flood, have crushed the growing plants, so that they are bent, they no more stand upright; but Jesus Christ comes to heal them and to restore them. (J. Parker, D. D)

The bruised reed and She smoking flax

God has His strong ones in His Church--His oaks of Bashan and cedars of Lebanon; noble forest trees, spreading far and wide their branches of faith and love and holiness; those who are deeply rooted in the truth, able to wrestle with fierce tempests of unbelief, and to grapple with temptations in their sterner forms. But He has His weaklings and His saplings also--those that require to be tenderly shielded from the blast, and who are liable, from constitutional temperament, to become the prey of doubts and fears, to which the others are strangers. Sensitive in times of trial, irresolute in times of difficulty and danger, unstable in times of severe temptation; or it may be in perpetual disquietude and alarm about their spiritual safety. To such, the loving ways and dealings of the Saviour are unfolded. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

Rudiments of religion in the heathen world

It is an interesting question whether these rudiments of religion are conceived as existing in the heathen world or in the breasts of individual Israelites. The former view is, no doubt, that to which the national interpretation of the servant most readily accommodates itself, and is also most in keeping with the scope of the passage as a whole. But in later sections a mission in and to Israel is undoubtedly assigned to the servant, and a reference to that here cannot be pronounced impossible. (Prof. J Skinner, D. D.)

The bruised reed

I. INSIGNIFICANCE ESCAPES NOT CHRIST’S ATTENTION. There is no insignificant life, nor insignificant incident of life. All is fraught with the importance of endless existence.

II. UNWORTHINESS FORFEITS NOT CHRIST’S REGARD. Nothing more worthless than a bruised reed. Yet He will not break it. As there is no trifle that escapes His notice, so there is no unworthiness that transcends His gracious regard. Where is the bruised reed that the Redeemer has ever broken? Is it the dying thief? Is it Mary Magdalene? Is it Saul of Tarsus?

III. UNPROFITABLENESS ABATES NOT CHRIST’S LOVE. Nothing more unprofitable than a bruised reed. The heart that yields no large return for all His care He loves and blesses still. The unprofitable bruised reed He will not break. (Homiletic Review.)

God’s negatives imply strong affirmations

As that negative assertion is the Hebrew way of conveying a strong affirmative, it is equivalent to saying that He will bind up the broken heart, that He will cement the splintered stem of the hanging bulrush, endowing it with new life and strength and vigour causing it to “spring up among the grass, as willows by the watercourses”; that He will pardon, pity, comfort, relieve. (J. R.Macduff, D. D.)

Fragrance from the bruised-soul

In the case of some aromatic plants, it is when bruised they give forth the sweetest fragrance. So, it is often the soul, crushed with a sense of sin, which sends forth the sweetest aroma of humility, gratitude, and love. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

Bruised reeds

It is quite a relief to come across words of such gracious import as these, and to learn that there is One having to do with us, while immeasurably above us, in whose heart pity has a place, in whose eyes are tears as they look on our woes, whose touch is soft while strong, whose voice has no harshness in it when addressing the weak and failing--for we live in a cold, callous, cruel world, still darkened by the foulest crimes, where thousands are handled roughly and are driven into out-of-the-way places to die, unattended, unhelped, and unblessed, except, perhaps, by the angels of God. Read history: it is written largely in letters of blood. Read your newspaper, that mirror of the world’s daily life, and weep over fallen human nature as you do so. Read your scientific books, and you will find vivisection preached so far as animals are concerned, and “natural selection and the survival of the fittest” so far as the race is concerned. “Let the weak perish, let the afflicted be cut off,” says a pitiless science--thus following the ancient Spartans, who killed off their sickly and deformed offspring, and Plato, who favoured infanticide. These people would deliberately and in cold blood break the bruised reed and quench the smoking flax. Into such a world as this Christ comes, comes to teach us that God is love, that the strongest Being in the universe is the gentlest, that all life is precious, that even maimed humanity is worth saving, that the man who has been smitten by a mighty misfortune is to have the tenderest attention, that the man most in the mud is to be lifted out, so that his powers may unfold themselves in winsome and undecaying blossoms by the river of life. The slender bulrush,, with its sides crushed and dinted, its head hanging by a thread, stands for that large class who have been injured by evil of any kind, and to all these Jesus deals out an unwonted, unheard of, restorative tenderness.

I. SOME ARE BRUISED BY ANCESTRAL SINS. Our scientists now accept and emphasise the great Mosaic doctrine, “The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate Me.” Many are seriously handicapped by hereditary taints. “The great men of the world are the forest kings of the social landscape; the rich are its olives, the clever are its orchids; the fashionable are its climbing roses; the merry are its purple vines; but here at the bottom, in the dirt, are the bruised reeds of humanity, the outcast, the forsaken, the ill-starred, the poverty-stricken, the weak, the wronged, the fallen.” To which did Jesus give His best, His primary attention? He won for Himself the name, “A friend of publicans and sinners.” When His disciples queried Him as to who was responsible for a man’s blindness, He refused to be drawn into a discussion of the law of heredity to satisfy their unfeeling curiosity. To Christ the blind man was something more than a scientific or theological problem--he was a brother whose blindness was an appeal for help, and He helped him by opening his eyes.

II. SOME ARE BRUISED BY PERSONAL SIN. There are many who realise that their lives are knocked out of their proper shape. How many of us have robbed, degraded, and damaged ourselves! God meant us to be temples, but we have desecrated the hallowed shrine. God meant us to be kings, but we have given our crowns away. God meant us to be priest, but we have made ourselves vile. God meant us to be His children, but we have wandered away and become Satan’s serfs. No one has injured us half as much as we have injured ourselves. What a contrast is Jesus even to the best of His followers in the treatment of self-injured men! Someone has said, “How surprising it seems that we find in Jesus no feeling of scorn for man.” Surprising? There was not a shade of a shadow of contempt in His nature, not even for the sorriest sons of Adam.

III. SOME ARE BRUISED BY THE SINS OF SOCIETY. Some are more sinned against than sinning. Society must be indicted as a great sinner. Full often it is thoughtless, careless, cruel, wicked. It has a don’t-care sort of mien. It cares nothing for others’ rights, feelings, happiness. Its maxim is, “Every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.” Thus the reeds are trodden on, and there is small wonder that they have hard thoughts of man and God. Whatever our treatment of them, our Lord metes out to them a royal generosity, a most delicate consideration. When He was under Calvary’s shadow the soldiers put a reed into His right hand--they did it in mockery, but they knew not what they did. That reed was a sceptre, the symbol of the reign of gentleness. The bruised reed may be nothing to us--but to Him who knoweth all things it suggests music, beauty,usefulness. (J. Pearce.)

The weak Christian comforted

Nothing is more common than for the inspired writers to represent spiritual and Divine things by an allusion to those which are natural. Notice--


1. He has knowledge, but it is as yet imperfect.

2. He has faith, but as yet it is comparatively powerless.

3. He has hope, but it is faint and feeble.

4. His joys are few and transient. But these characteristics of the Christian’s weakness are also the sources of his sorrow.

II. SOME OF THE PLEDGES OF THE BELIEVER’S SECURITY. “He will not break,” etc if faith be genuine, though but like the smallest grain of seed, He owns it; if hope be legitimate, though feeble, He owns it; if love be sincere, though languid, He owns it. The pledges of the believer’s security are many and great.

1. Weak believers, equally with the strong, stand in a Divine relation to God.

2. They are, equally with the strong, the purchased possession of the Redeemer.

3. The weak believer is, equally with the strong, supplied out of the inexhaustible store of Divine grace. (S. Bridge, M. A.)

The bruised reed

I. WHO ARE SET FORTH UNDER THE FIGURE OF A BRUISED REED? It is a description that well suits all believers, without exception. Some are comparatively stronger than others. How is this where all are so weak? Because they have a deeper, more deeply felt experience of weakness. They live more by faith, lean more on Jesus, are brought into deeper poverty of spirit, receive Him more fully. Those branches next the stem are always the strongest. But our text sets forth the weak believer, and one who is conscious of it. It is not only a reed, but a bruised reed. Perhaps heavy afflictions wound the believer, and temporal troubles become strong spiritual temptations. It is storm upon storm, tempest upon tempest, and the poor reed not only bends beneath it”, but is bruised beneath it. The world is unkind, friends are unkind, saints are unkind, and faith being weak, God seems unkind; and then the soul, full of suspicion, is unkind to itself, and suspects its own grace. What s bruising is this! Perhaps a deep sense of sin and inward corruption is added to this.

II. OUR LORD’S CONDUCT TO SUCH. He will not break this bruised reed.

1. His faithfulness will not permit it. These are of those whom the Father has entrusted to His love.

2. His holiness will not permit it. Here is a spark of His own kindling, a germ of His own planting, a new nature of His own creating, a child of God, one who loves Him--will He bruise such a one?

3. His tenderness will not permit it. Will a kind physician neglect his patient? Will a shepherd forget his wandering sheep? Will a mother dash her sick child to the earth?


1. Beware lest you make your feebleness an excuse. There is all fulness in Christ.

2. Beware lest you increase your feebleness. Sin enfeebles, neglects enfeeble, the world enfeebles; want of peace in the conscience enfeebles; living on anything but Christ enfeebles.

3. Admire that condescending Saviour who can stoop to this bruised reed.

4. Admire the compassion of the Saviour.

5. Still more admire Him who has supported, who has all grace to help.

6. Be contented to be ever weak in yourself. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

The compassion of Christ


1. Both these objects have a mean appearance, and are deemed of little use: and low and humble Christians are much the same. Especially if in a declining state, they bring but little honour to their profession, and often afford matter for reproach.

2. The bruised reed has some strength, and the smoking flax some fire, though both in a small degree; so the Christian, though he has but a little strength, like the church at Philadelphia, yet he is still alive, and the light of Israel is not quenched.

3. Many are ready to break the bruised reed and quench the smoking flax. Great also are the oppositions and discouragements which weak believers meet with, and yet they are still preserved.

4. The bruised reed needs to be supported, and the smoking flax to be enkindled: so does the Christian need to be strengthened, and quickened afresh by Divine grace.

II. NOTICE WHAT IS IMPLIED IN CHRIST’S NOT BREAKING THE BRUISED REED, NOR QUENCHING THE SMOKING FLAX. Much more is implied than is expressed. The Lord will not put the weak believer to those trials which are disproportioned to his strength. He will not suffer him to be tempted above what he is able to bear; but will with the temptation also make a way for his escape. The following things are also implied.

1. That as Christ will not break the bruised reed, so neither will He suffer others to do it.

2. Instead of breaking the bruised reed, He will binD it up, and strengthen it; and will cherish the smoking flax till it break forth into a flame. He who notices the smallest sins to punish them, will also notice the weakest efforts of grace to encourage and reward them.


1. Let weak Christians be encouraged from hence to commit themselves to Christ, and place an entire confidence in His faithfulness and compassion.

2. Let us imitate this part of our Lord’s conduct, and carry it towards others as He carries it towards us.

3. It becomes us to beware that we do not abuse the mercy of our Saviour, by supposing that we have weak grace, when, indeed, we have none; for it is real and not counterfeit piety to which He shows His tender regard. Nor yet by contenting ourselves with weak grace, though it is true.

4. If weak Christians shall not be neglected, much less the strong. (B. Beddome, M. A,)

The source of Christ’s perfect tenderness to sinners

The source of Christ’s perfect tenderness to sinners is none other than the Divine compassion. It was the love and pity of the Word made flesh.

1. It is plain that this gentle reception even of the greatest sinners implies that, where there is so much as a spark of life in the conscience, there is possibility of an entire conversion to God. Where there is room to hope anything, there is room to hope all things. Such is the mysterious nature of the human spirit, of its affections and will, such its energies and intensity, that it may at any time be so renewed by the Spirit of the new creation as to expel, with the most perfect rejection, all the powers, qualities, visions, and thoughts of evil.

2. Another great truth implied in our Lord’s conduct to sinners is, that the only sure way of fostering the beginning of repentance is to receive them with gentleness and compassion. On those in whom there is the faintest stirring of repentance the love of Christ falls with a soft but penetrating force. To receive sinners coldly, or with an averted eye, an estranged heart, and a hasty, unsparing tongue, will seldom fail to drive them into defiance or self-abandonment. A sinner that is out of hope is lost. Hope is the last thing left. If this be crushed the flax is extinct. Truth told without love is perilous in the measure in which it is true. There is in every sinner a great burden of misery, soreness, and alarm; but even these, instead of driving him to confession, make him shut himself up in a fevered and brooding fear. And it was in this peculiar wretchedness of sin that the gentleness of our Lord gave them courage and hope. It was a strange courage that came upon them; a boldness without trembling, yet an awe without alarm. What little motions of good were in them, what little stirrings of conscience, what faint remainder of better resolutions, what feeble gleams of all but extinguished light,--all seemed to revive, and to turn in sympathy towards some source of kindred nature, and to stretch itself out in hope to something long desired, with a dim unconscious love. It is an affinity of the spirit working in penitents with the Spirit of Christ that made them draw to Him. It was not only because of His infinite compassion as God that Christ so dealt with sinners; but because, knowing the nature of man, its strange depths and windings, its weakness and fears, He knew that this was the surest way of winning them to Himself. (H. E. Manning, D. D.)

The transforming tenderness of Jesus

He uses and loves and transfigures broken reeds. They become pens to write His truth. They become instruments of sweet music to sound forth His praise. They become pillars to support and adorn His Temple. They become swords and spears to rout His enemies; so that, as Mr. Lowell sings, “the bruised reed is amply tough to pierce the shield of error through.” And He loves and employs and fans into bright and glowing flame dimly burning wicks. They are changed into lamps that shine, into beacon-fires that warn, into torches that hand on His message to the generation following, into lighthouse rays and beams that guide storm-tossed sailors into the desired haven. (A. Sradlle, M. A.)

The long-suffering of Messiah

A passage setting forth the gentleness of the new Prince of Righteousness promised to Israel.


1. Few of nature’s forms are more lovely and symmetrical than the tall cane of the reed rising by the marsh or river edge. One of the elements of our pleasure as we look at it, is derived from our sense of its marvellous power of resisting the pressure of the wind or the dashing of the waves. It is one of the triumphs of nature’s architecture. Yet let but a rough stroke fall suddenly upon it, and all its glory is abased. Every passing wind only aggravates the injury. Of what good is it henceforth, but to be cut down and cast into the oven! Yet this, which we should esteem reasonable in the husbandman, is precisely what the Messiah does not do with respect to souls that have been similarly injured.

2. The other illustration of the prophet is from the home or the temple. The oil-lamp was one of the most common objects there. The wick fed by the oil is able to sustain a flame which, although feeble, is clear, and sufficient for the small chambers of the poor. The oil, however, is supposed to be exhausted, and the wick is sending forth a weak, smoky, disagreeable light, soon to subside into darkness. Would it not be better, one might ask, to put out such a light altogether than to endure its disagreeable stench, or, all unprepared, find ourselves plunged in darkness? These two images set before us suggestions of what would be reasonable actions on the part of man, when considering merely human ends.

These two things are--

1. Types of spiritual states.

2. Suggestions of judicial action.

II. THE ULTIMATE AIM OF HIS FORBEARANCE. “Until He bring forth judgment unto truth.” The gentleness of Christ without some such obvious explanation might appear moral indifference, or amiable eccentricity, or insane belief in the inherent goodness of men. This aim gives it an entirely new, a far nobler aspect.

1. To every man is given an opportunity of putting himself right with God. The force of circumstances will be counterbalanced so that the will and affections may work freely; inequalities, opposition, etc., will be neutralised or allowed for in so far as they affect conduct.

2. Judgment will be withheld until the career of man is complete. Good and evil alike will work themselves out. There is a tragic power of evolution latent in all sin. Righteousness, too, is as a seed.

3. The character of this judgment, therefore, will be final and absolute. (St. J. A. Frere, M. A.)

“A bruised reed” and “smoking flax”

The two metaphors are not altogether parallel. “A bruised reed” has suffered an injury which, however, is neither complete nor irreparable. “Smoking flax,” on the other hand--by which, of course, is meant flax used as a wick in an old-fashioned oil lamp--is partially lit. In the one a process has been begun which, if continued, ends in destruction; in the other a process has been begun which, if continued, ends in a bright flame. So the one metaphor may express the beginnings of evil which may still be averted, and the other the beginnings of incipient and incomplete good. If we keep that distinction in mind, the words of our text gain wonderfully in comprehensiveness. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The strong “servant of Jehovah”

It is to be noticed that in Isaiah 42:4 we have an echo of these metaphors. The word translated “fail” is the same as that rendered in the previous verse, “smoking,” or “dimly burning”; and the word “discouraged” is the same as that rendered in the previous verse, “bruised.” So then this “servant of the Lord,” Who is not to break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, is fitted for His work because He Himself has no share in the evils which He would heal, and none in the weaknesses which He would strengthen. His perfect manhood knows no flaws nor bruises; His complete goodness is capable of and needs no increase. Neither outward force nor inward weakness can hinder His power to heal and bless; therefore His work can never cease till it has attained its ultimate purpose. “He shall not fail nor be discouraged,” shall neither be broken by outward violence, nor shall the flame of His saving energy burn faint until He hath “set judgment in the earth,” and crowned His purposes with complete success. (A. Maclaren, D. D

Christ the arrester of begun evil, and the nourisher of incipient good

We have here set before us three significant representations of that Servant of the Lord, which may well commend Him to our confidence and our love.

I. AS THE RESTORER OF THE BRUISE THAT IT MAY NOT BE BROKEN. “He shall not break the bruised reed.” It is “bruised,” but the bruise is not irreparable. And so there are reeds bruised and “shaken by the wind,” but yet not broken. And the tender Christ comes with His gentle, wise, skilful surgery, to bind these up and to make them strong again. To whom does this text apply?

1. In a very solemn sense to all mankind. In all the dints and marks of sin are plainly seen. Our manhood has been crushed and battered out of its right shape, and has received awful wounds from that evil that has found entrance within us. But there emerges from the metaphor not only the solemn thought of the bruises by sin that all men bear, but the other blessed one, that there is no man so bruised as that he is broken. And Christ looks on all the tremendous bulk of a world’s sins with the confidence that He can move that mountain and cast it into the depths of the sea.

2. But then the words may be taken in a somewhat narrow sense, applying more directly to a class. “The broken and the contrite heart,” bruised and pulverised as it were by a sense of evil, may be typified for us by this bruised reed. And then there emerges the blessed hope that such a heart, wholesomely removed from its self-complacent fancy of soundness, shall certainly be healed and bound up by His tender hand. Wheresoever there is a touch of penitence there is present a restoring Christ.

3. The words may be looked at from yet another point of view, as representing the merciful dealing of the Master with the spirits which are beaten and bruised.

II. AS THE FOSTERER OF INCIPIENT AND IMPERFECT GOOD. “The dimly burning wick He shall not quench.” Who are represented by this “smoking flax”?

1. I am not contradicting what I have been saying, if I claim for this second metaphor as wide a universality as the former. There is no man out of hell but has in him something that wants but to be brought to sovereign power in his life in order to make him a light in the world. You have got consciences at the least; you have convictions, which if you followed them out would make Christians of you straight away. You have got aspirations after good, desires, some of you, after purity and nobleness of living, which only need to be raised to the height and the dominance in your lives which they ought to possess, in order to revolutionise your whole course. There is a spark in every man which, fanned and cared for, will change him from darkness into light. Fanned and cared for it can only be by a Divine power coming down upon it from without.

2. Then, in a narrower way, the words may be applied to a class. There are some of us who have a little spark, as we believe, of a Divine life, the faint beginnings of a Christian character. They say that where there is smoke there is fire. There is a deal more smoke than fire in the most of Christian people in this generation. And if it were not for such thoughts as this about that dear Christ that will not lay a hasty hand upon some little tremulous spark, and by one rash movement extinguish it for ever, there would be but little hope for a great many of us. Look at His life on earth; think how He bore with those blundering, foolish, selfish disciples of His. Remember how, when a man came to Him with a very imperfect goodness, the Evangelist tells us that Jesus, beholding him, loved him. And take out of these blessed stories this great hope, that howsoever small men “despise the day of small things,” the Greatest does not. How do you make “smoking flax” burn? You give it oil, you give it air, and you take away the charred portions. And Christ will give you, in your feebleness, the oil of His Spirit, that you may burn brightly as one of the candlesticks in His temple; and He will let air in, and take away the charred portions by the wise discipline of sorrow and trial sometimes in order that the smoking flax may become the shining light. The reason why so many Christian men’s Christian light is so fulinginous and dim is just that they keep away from Jesus Christ.

III. AS EXEMPT FROM HUMAN EVIL AND WEAKNESS, as the foundation of His restoring and fostering work. “He shall not burn dimly nor be broken till He hath set judgment in the earth.” There are no bruises in this reed. That is to say, Christ’s manhood is free from all scars and wounds of evil or of sin. There is no dimness in this light. That is to say, Christ’s character is perfect, His goodness needs no increase. There is no trace of effort in His holiness, no growth manifest in His God likeness, from the beginning to the end. There is no outward violence that can be brought to bear upon Him that shall stay Him in His purpose. There is no inward failure of strength that may lead us to fear that His work shall not be completed. And because of all these things, because of His perfect exemption from human infirmity, because in Him was no sin, He is manifested to take away our sins. (A. Maclaren, D. D)

The smoking flex shall He not quench

The smoking flax

I. A STATE OF GRACE IS SUPPOSED. The figure is that of a lamp. Such are believers (Matthew 5:15-16).

II. THE FEEBLENESS OF THAT STATE. “Smoking flax.” There is some light, yet but little, and that little seems all but ready to be extinguished. There is something of the light of God’s Word in the soul, a real spark of grace, but it seems little more than this. Some warmth of affection, but it acts feebly. Many causes conspire to produce this. Some have but the first spark. All things seem ready to put it out. Strong corruptions, fleshly passions, vanities of the world, evil companions, entire inexperience are all extinguishers. Others have little light in the school of self-knowledge--the danger of temptation, the evil of the heart, the worth of Jesus, the character of God. There is much of the smoke of vain confidence, fearlessness of consequences, tampering with things dangerous, and this very smoke obscures the light still more. Some are in great prosperity--the wick grows tall and all is dim. In some, the light is obscured by neglects with a certain degree of wilfulness in them. In some, by want of deep humbling and thorough repentance on account of sin. In some, by ceaseless engagement, that scarcely allows any real dealing with God. In some, the constant, undeviating habit of looking at themselves rather than Christ, living more by sense than faith. In short, we may dim the light by whatever grieves the Spirit.

III. THE CONDUCT OF OUR LORD WITH RESPECT TO IT. He shall not quench it. He will greatly exceed this. He will tend this smoking flax. The flax is His own, the light His own, the oil His own, all His heart is shown in all His actings here. He will dress it. True, He may cut down the wick--humble, lower, abase. He will increase the light. “He giveth more grace.” He will perfect it. Conclusion--

1. Perhaps there are some whose hopes of worldly happiness are like a dying taper, and, alas! they have little, if any other, hope. Such a beam was in the heart of poor Manasseh. Is it but the faintest, the feeblest, yet does it take thee poor and needy to the Saviour? Will He cast out? Never!

2. If the blessed Saviour does not despise, neither should we. (J. H.Evans, M. A.)

Smelting flax


1. A smoking flax represents a state in which there is a little good. The margin is “dimly burning flax.” It is burning; but it is burning very dimly. There is a spark of good within the heart.

2. You are like smoking flax, because your good is too little to be of much use to anybody. What could we do with a smoking flax if we had it here to-night, and the gas was all out?

3. Smoking flax, then, has a little fire, but it is so little that it is of small service, and, what is worse, it is so little that it is rather unpleasant.

4. Though the good of it is so little that it is of very little use to other people, and sometimes is very obnoxious, yet there is enough good in you to be dangerous in Satan’s esteem. He does not like to observe that there is yet a little fire in you, for he fears that it may become a flame.


1. Some are in that state when they are newly saved--when the flax has just been lighted.

2. Sometimes a candle smokes, not because it is newly lit, but because it is almost extinguished. I speak to some Christians who have been alight with the fire of grace for many years, and yet they feel as if they were near the dark hour of extinction. But you shall not go out. The Lord will keep you alight with grace.

3. Sometimes the wick smokes when worldliness has damped it.

4. At times a wick burns low because a very strong wind has blown upon it. Many men and women are the subjects of very fierce temptations.

III. WHAT DOES JESUS DO WITH THOSE WHO ARE IN THIS STATE? He will not quench the smoking flax. What a world of mercy lies in that word!

1. He will not quench you by pronouncing legal judgment upon you.

2. He will not quench you by setting up a high experimental standard.

3. He will not judge you by a lofty standard of knowledge. The Lord has some of His children whose heads are in a very queer state; and if He first puts their hearts right He afterwards puts their heads right.

4. The Lord will not quench you by setting up a standard by which to measure your graces. It is not, “So much faith, and you are saved. So little faith, and you are lost.” If thou hast faith as a grain of mustard-seed it will save thee. Come along, you little ones,-you trembling ones! Jesus will not quench you. He will blow upon you with the soft breath of His love till the little spark will rise into a flame. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 4

Isaiah 42:4

He shall not fail nor be discouraged

The hopefulness of Jesus Christ

Our God is the God of hope; and the Bible is the book of hope.
If we are to be true servants of God and disciples of Jesus Christ we must be partakers of this glowing hopefulness. To be discouraged is to fail. To hope is to be strong. The prayer of St. Paul for the Christians in Rome we need often offer for ourselves (
Romans 15:13). This strong hope is essential to the successful worker. The good soldier of Jesus has for his helmet the hope of salvation. The Spirit of God comes to impart this gift. Hope grows strong as it feeds upon the promises. Of every one of us this word should be true--“He shall not fail nor be discouraged.” The hope of the world is in Jesus Christ. It is well to begin a little farther back, at Isaiah 41:28. Man cannot find within himself theremedy for the ills of humanity. But when all is black and hopeless, there is another “Behold.” The rosy morning fills the sky. “Behold My servant whom I uphold,” etc. The hope of God is in Him whom He hath appointed the Saviour of the world. And our hope is in beholding Him. Here is the unfailing spring of our hope. “He shall not fail, nor be discouraged.” Let us look at this hope of our Saviour. It is broad based, and its foundation is deep. The tower of His confidence stands four-square to all the winds of heaven and all the blasts of hell.

I. IT IS THE HOPE OF ONE WHO KNOWS THE NEEDS OF HUMANITY. There is a shallow hope that thinks it can heal men’s wounds by hiding them; or that they can banish ill by giving it some scientific name which quite satisfies everybody. But let the mind go on to think of the sin about us--the thousand shapes of ill that throng and crowd each life; the hidden sins; the sins of our great cities. He knows it all as none else can ever know it--He who was the naked conscience of the world, and upon whom was laid the iniquity of us all. Yet of Him it is written: “He shall not fail nor be discouraged.”

II. THIS IS THE HOPE OF ONE WHO HAS A MOST LOFTY IDEAL. There is a shallow hope that is easily able to fulfil itself by bringing down the ideal of life until it fits the case. If you would have men what they should be, it is easily done--bring down what they should be to the level of what they are. Love may afford to be blind, but the strength of hope is in its eyes. A hope that cannot see what is, and can only see what is not, is a false hope. Hope, true hope, must take the measure of what is, and the full measure of what should be. This is the hope of Jesus Christ.

III. THIS IS THE HOPE OF ONE WHO COMES INTO CONTACT WITH THE WORST SIDE OF THE WORST PEOPLE. A policeman said to me one day, “It is a very easy thing for you to have faith in folks, sir: but it is very hard for me.” “Why so, my friend?” I asked. “Well,” said he, “you see the best of folks and you see them at their best: you see them because they are good. But I see folks because they are bad. And when you see nothing but badness it is hard to have any faith in any goodness anywhere.” I sympathised deeply with that man and with thousands who are in like evil case. But this triumphant hope of Jesus Christ is the hope of One whose life and work is in relation to sin. He knows the force of adverse circumstances.

IV. THE HOPE OF JESUS CHRIST ARISES FROM HIS ESTIMATE OF MAN’S WORTH. Jesus Christ alone has made man worth more than gain or pleasure: and Jesus Christ alone can keep man so.

V. THE HOPE OF JESUS CHRIST IS SEEN IN HIS METHOD (Isaiah 41:2-3). Gentleness is the token of assured power. Bluster is commonly the mask of weakness and fear. Coercion, compulsion, are the methods of a baffled or a bewildered authority. Patient hopefulness, gentleness, brotherliness--these are the Divine methods of uplifting men.

VI. THE HOPEFULNESS OF JESUS CHRIST IS ROOTED IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. “He shall set judgment in the earth, and the isles shall wait for His law.” There are those who have sought to remedy our social ills by pity without judgment and without law. Their gifts have pampered the transgressor and pauperised the poor. But the remedy of Jesus Christ is in “a new heart and a right spirit.” (M. G. Pearae.)

Is Christianity a failure?

We often hear it said that Christianity is a failure. As if foreseeing this state of mind, two thousand five hundred years ago the prophet sang these sweet notes, saying: “He shall not fail nor be discouraged.” The purpose of Christ is the conquest of this world, and in carrying out this great work He is not to fail or be discouraged until the system of truth which He teaches is everywhere understood; until the principles of all government shall be brought into harmony with His Word, and men everywhere shall understand and practise the great lessons of truth and holiness. The unversality of His kingdom is expressed m the phrase, “Till He hath set judgment in the earth”--in all the then known habitable globe; and, looking beyond to the unknown, or to the men but partly known, the expression is added, “And the isles shall wait for His law”--in other words, the progress of Christ’s kingdom should be continually onward until its principles should prevail over all the known kingdoms of the earth, and the undiscovered portions of it also should receive His law. The work which He proposes to do is a mighty work; and the phrase represents Him as waiting.

I. I am not surprised, however, that MEN ARE READY TO SAY THAT THIS PURPOSE MUST BE A FAILURE for--

1. The aim is so great, the project so vast, that it seems to man impossible. There have been great kingdoms set up on this earth of ours. But there was never a kingdom which reached to its utmost bounds.

2. Men think Christianity must be a failure because the agencies seem inadequate.

3. Because it has not accomplished its work.

4. They tell us that Christianity is likely to be a failure because, they say, there is a conflict between science and religion.

II. NOW LET US LOOK AT THIS SUBJECT. It is one of the favourite expressions of these men that in the order of this world there shall be the “survival of the fittest”--that the weaker shall pass away, and the stronger shall remain. How, if we contrast Christianity with other forms of religion, where shall we find its failure? We may say to-day, simply as a fact, that it still remains, and, surpassing any other system in its strength and beauty, we shall see its survival over all.

1. Compare it with Paganism in its palmiest hours--the days of the philosophy of Greece and the power of Rome, when its temples shone with splendour, when its poets sang with grace, when sculpture and architecture gathered around it their forms of beauty; when it had its legends of mythology; when it had its men of strength and power to be as pillars for it. Scepticism then existed. But all the scepticism of Greece or Rome never closed one temple, never dethroned one of their imaginary deities. In the midst of scepticism popular faith went right on, and the temples had their devotees and worshippers. Judaism taught the knowledge of the one true God, yet it made no advances against idolatry. On the other hand, idolatry brought its terrible fruits into the midst of Judaism, and the people who had heard the voice of the living God turned and served idols. But what sceptical philosophy could not do, and what Judaism could not do, Christianity has accomplished. Men without earthly power, men persecuted, men in prison, men reproached, went telling the story of a living and dying and ascended Christ, and as they told this story, the temples became deserted and the idols fell, until to-day there is not a god worshipped on earth that was worshipped in the time of the philosophy and glory of Greece and Rome. Christianity is making inroads everywhere. Paganism has gone, Brahmanism is going, and Confucianism is going down. Christianity is just raising herself.

2. But you tell me there is infidelity! And what is infidelity? A negation--a something not a belief. It is a negation of system; it has no system. Where are its temples? Where are its schools? Where are its hospitals? Where were they ever? What did it ever try to do for man anywhere, or in any land, as an organised system? There have been men, strong men, learned men, wise men, who have been infidel; but they have never embodied their creed in an organisation; they have never worked together powerfully for the elevation of the race. I was in Berlin with the Evangelical Alliance. I went to Potsdam to the old palace of Frederick. There we were shown into a room where some of us held our consultations. This was the room where Voltaire studied and wrote part of his works, where he and Frederick deemed they were about to overthrow Christianity. And yet in that very hall we came to consult about the best means of spreading Christianity over the world. Voltaire said he lived in the “twilight of Christianity,” and so he did. But it was not, as he fancied, a twilight deepening into darkness, it was a twilight opening up into the brighter day; and the Sun of Righteousness shines now in spiritual beauty over our entire world.

3. But they tell us sometimes that the discoveries which are being made are unsettling the foundations of Christianity.

4. They tell us that Christianity has not done its work in the time it has run. I admit it. But what about it? These men want time for making this earth. They say it took millions of years. Won’t you give me as much time to cure this world and turn sinners into saints as you want to turn a monkey into a man? They demand ages for the one, but are not willing to give us time for the other. The times are full of promise. Christianity is growing stronger. (Bp. M. Simpson, D. D.)

The accomplishment of Christ’s purpose




A great work and an invincible patience



Christ’s vast redemptive undertaking

Here is a servant of God, before whose eye a future golden age is not a shadowy hope or vision, but a clearly defined reality; and who Himself undertakes to bring it to pass. He will set judgment in the earth. Is He beside Himself? Is He befooled by a benevolent imagination? Is He a visionary dreamer, without knowledge of Himself or of mankind? If ever there was a sound mind, a perfect mind, in a human body, it was that of Jesus Christ--His very enemies being judges. And yet, with full purpose of soul, and with clear consciousness of the difficulty of the task, He undertakes to set judgment in the earth. How vast the undertaking is--in its breadth covering all the nations of men, in its depth penetrating to the thoughts and innermost passions of the human soul, in its height rising to the claims of the Eternal God--may be learned from the prophet who ascribes it to Him. Isaiah had formed no superficial estimate of the wrongness of the world. Men were wrong utterly in their relations to one another; wrong utterly in their relation to God; and wrong utterly in themselves. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

The progress of Christianity slow but sure

This is our answer to those who examine us concerning this matter.

1. The slowness of the progress of Christianity, even if exaggerated in the statement of it, does not stagger our faith; for we see in it God’s own manner of working.

2. The progress, or rather, no progress, of the world’s own thinking in the highest regions of thought, during the period of the existence of Christianity, proves the world to be as dependent on the light of Christianity as it was eighteen hundred years ago.

3. While Christianity is as needful as ever, happily we have evidence that it is as mighty for good as ever. Nothing has yet occurred to shake our faith in Christ; and while our faith in Him remains unshaken, we shall confide in the prophetic oracle which assures us that He shall set judgment in the earth. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

Christ’s work no failure

Previous verses at the close of chap. 41. indicate the utter failure of the hope of man from man. How often it is so in human history; man fails to find leadership and help in man! In expounding the text, I shall need to open up the whole passage. Follow me, therefore, and obey the first word of the chapter, which is, “Behold.”

1. We are commanded at all times to behold the Son of God. But specially in cloudy and dark days ought we to behold Him. When after having looked, and looked long, you see no man and no counsellor, then this precept has an emphatic force about it,” Behold My Servant, whom I uphold,” and, when all other saviours fail, look to the Saviour whom God has set up.

2. Our great comfort is that the Lord Jesus Christ is always to be beheld. Behold Him, and your fears and sorrows will fly away. The text leads us to consider what is the work which Jesus Christ has undertaken, in which He will not fail nor be discouraged. He has come to “set judgment in the earth,” and “the isles shall wait for His law.” The earth is to be delivered from misrule and sin, and men are to be submissive to His instruction and direction. Whatever He has undertaken, He will perform; whatever commission He has received, He will fulfil. “He shall not fail nor be discouraged” till all His work is done. I believe in the final perseverance of the Lord Jesus Christ.


1. It is certainly a very marvellous enterprise which our Lord Jesus Christ has under taken. The salvation of a single soul involves a miracle. The salvation of myriads upon myriads of the human race: What shall I call it but a mountain of marvels? The problem staggers us. The systems of evil are colossal. The hold of evil on the race is terrible. Man is inveterately a sinner. By the use of an accursed logic he puts darkness for light and light for darkness, and thus stultifies his conscience, and hardens his heart. If, perchance, you convince his judgment, you have not won his affection, you have not carried his will, you have not subdued his mind. Nothing but Omnipotence itself can save a single soul. What must be that mighty power which shall cause nations to run unto the Lord!

2. The task is rendered the more severe because our Lord Jesus at this present works largely by a Church, which is a poor and faulty instrument for the accomplishment of His purpose. Let this battalion and the other waver as it may, He who holds the banner in the very centre of the fight will never be moved: He will hold the field against all comers.

3. Notice who He is that hath undertaken all this. “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth.” He who is thus spoken of will not fail nor be discouraged for--

4. It may be that at times we fear that the Gospel is not prospering nor fulfilling the purpose for which God hath sent it. Possibly this may arise out of our Lord s way of working, which is so different from what our minds would choose. “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.” You are in an awful hurry, are you not? But He is never in haste. You would make a great stir and noise, but Jesus will not thus spread the Gospel. You would go out and fight all the enemies of truth, and set clamour against clamour, cry against cry; but “He shall not strive.” You would shout, and rage, and rave; but He shall not cry. You would advertise to the ends of the earth; but He shall not cause His voice to be heard in the street. When Mohammed commenced his enterprise he announced that Paradise was to be found beneath the shadow of swords, and numbers of brave men rushed to the battle; they swept everything before them, and stained continents with blood: they carried the name of Allah and Mohammed over Asia and Northern Africa, and seemed intent on conquering Europe: and yet the work done will not endure. The prophet and his caliphs did indeed strive, and cry, and cause their voices to be heard in the street: but Christ’s system is the very reverse of that. Behold His battle-axe and weapons of war! Truth Divinely strong, with no human force at the back of it but that of holiness and love; a Gospel full of gentleness and mercy to men, proclaimed not by the silver trumpets of kings, but by the plain voices of lowly men. The Kingdom comes by the Holy Spirit dropping like dew on human hearts, and fertilising them with a Divine life.

5. Note well the spirit in which He works. “A bruised reed,” etc. You cannot work in hot haste in this spirit. Gentleness makes good and sure speed, but it cannot endure rashness and heat. We know reformers who, if they had the power, would be like bulls in a china-shop; they would do a great deal in a very short time. But the world’s best Friend is not given to quench and bruise.


1. Enjoy it by recollecting that Jesus has finished the work for His people.

2. He will finish the work in His believing people.

3. He will finish His work by His people. If you have the Revised Version, the margin will give you some rather singular information. The text might be read thus: “A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: yet He shall not burn dimly nor be bruised.” Though He deals with bruised reeds and smoking flaxes, yet He Himself is not crushed, nor does His light become a mere glimmer.

4. The text has in it great comfort to those of you who are as yet outside of the Church of God. Read the sixth and seventh verses--“He shall not fail nor be discouraged,” till He has done, what?--the Divine will, and this is a part of it: “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.” Turn your sightless eyeballs this way. “Ah!” saith one, “but I am worse than that, I am shut up in prison.” Read the seventh verse again:--“To bring out the prisoners from the prison.” “Oh, but,” saith one, “in my case it is blindness and slavery united.” Listen, then! He has come to “bring them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The constancy and tenderness of Christ


1. We may advert to these obstacles as they are general, as they attach to man under all circumstances.

2. But let us advert to the obstacles which any single human being presents to Christ when He comes forth in the power of His grace to seek and to save! Let any man look into his own heart, let him advert



The setting of judgment in the earth

I. THE GREAT WORK WITH WHICH CHRIST, AS THE FATHER’S SERVANT, IS HERE DECLARED TO BE ENTRUSTED. It is the work of setting judgment in the earth, so that the isles shall wait for His law. As the Father’s Servant in the economy of redemption, Christ has been set King upon the holy hill of Zion, and constituted Head over all things for the Church which is His body.

1. What is it to set judgment in the earth? By “judgment” here and in the preceding verses, we are evidently to understand true religion--the faith of the Gospel--Christianity in its widest acceptation, as embodying the rule of Christ’s righteous administration--the grand regulating principles of all His administrative acts. And so to set judgment in the earth means to establish the Christian religion throughout the world. The term “law” in the latter clause of the text, while it has much the same meaning as judgment, may be viewed as denoting, in particular, God’s written Word, considered specially as a rule of life and duty. For this the “isles”--a poetical expression for the distant Gentile nations--“shall wait.” That is, either they shall wait with a vague unconscious longing until it come to them, they remaining in darkness and spiritual death till its blessed life-giving light dawn upon them; or, the meaning more probably is, when judgment is being set in the earth, the nations shall embrace it as the means of their enlightenment and regeneration, and shall wait on Christ as their King, to receive and submit to His law as the supreme rule of all their conduct. So in Matthew we find this clause paraphrased thus--“In His name shall the Gentiles trust.”

2. That there is most urgent need for this work of setting judgment in the earth, and bringing the isles to wait for Christ’s law being done, is what none will question who believe that God made man upright, but that he hath sought out many inventions. Men individually in their natural condition, and the nations of the earth in their national capacity, are in a state of open determined revolt against the Most High. But has nothing been done in the way of fulfilling this hope-inspiring prediction? Since these words were uttered, not a little has been effected in this direction. Most evident it is, however, that aa yet it is but the day of small things in this work.

3. And truly a stupendous task this is--a task which none but He on whose shoulder the government has been laid, and to whom it has been entrusted, could ever hope to effect--the task of setting judgment “in the earth”; not in one land or over one continent only, but in every land and among every people under heaven, whatever their condition and character.

4. Not less beneficent in its character is this work than stupendous in its nature. For it involves the present highest well-being of men as individuals, as families, as Churches, and as nations, as well as the future eternal welfare of untold myriads of precious souls. This mighty, beneficent, God-glorifying work of setting judgment in the earth includes--