Have you ever heard of “fool’s gold”? Its real name is pyrite, and it actually has a number of practical uses.

  • It can make a spark, so it was used in centuries past as a fire starter.
  • It can be converted into sulfuric acid and sulfur dioxide, which is used to make paper.
  • It can be used as a crystal in old-time radios.

But there is one thing pyrite cannot be used for. Metallic pyrite appears at first glance to be a precious metal. It does look like gold. But has none of the properties of gold. In the nineteenth century, panners would sometimes end up with both gold and pyrite in their pan, and they had to figure out which was the mineral and which was really gold.  Because only a fool would try to use pyrite as gold.

Like pyrite, idols are a fool’s god. They may appear impressive, but they have none of the divine properties of God. They cannot deliver

Covenant Servant

Isaiah ended his message in the previous passage saying idols

… are all a delusion;
    their works are nothing;
    their images are empty wind.

Isaiah 41:29 (NRSV)

Idols may feel real, but they are counterfeit.

In today’s passage, Isaiah introduces authentic deity.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Isaiah 42:1 (NRSV)

This is the first of four servant songs which describe the Messiah, Jesus.

By James Tissot – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2006, 00.159.137_PS1.jpg, Public Domain

Isaiah began with Messiah’s character and work:

My Chosen

In His relationship with God, Messiah is the chosen One in whom God delights and whom the Spirit fills with God’s presence. The trinity is represented in this verse as the Father speaks of the Son in Whom is the Spirit.

Twice in Matthew’s gospel God the Father spoke from the heavens and said, “This is my Son in Whom I AM well pleased.”

Brings Forth Justice

In His work, Messiah will accomplish justice among the nations. Jesus brought the scales of justice into balance when He became sin and drank the full cup of God’s wrath on the cross. By His death, humanity was ransomed from bondage to sin. By His resurrection, death was conquered. One day, when Jesus returns, all of creation will be renewed.

Humble and Gentle

He will not cry out or lift up his voice
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.

Isaiah 42:2-3 (NRSV)

In His manner, Messiah will not draw attention to Himself. Instead, He will be gentle with the weak, hurting, and oppressed. He will faithfully accomplish His work of healing broken lives.

Seven hundred years after Isaiah’s prophecy, Matthew quoted these two verses in his gospel as fulfilled prophecy in Jesus as the Messiah

… the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah

Matthew 12:15–21 (NRSV)


He will not grow faint or be crushed
    until he has established justice in the earth,
    and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Isaiah 42:4 (NRSV)

Messiah will not fail. God was going to accomplish God’s purpose for the world through Messiah.

By James Tissot – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2006, 00.159.348_PS1.jpg, Public Domain,

Divinely Empowered

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:

Isaiah 42:5 (NRSV)

The One Who empowers Messiah is none other than the Lord God, Creator and Source of all life.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

Colossians 1:19 (NRSV)


I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people

Isaiah 42:6 (NRSV)

John often quoted Jesus saying, I do only what I see my Father doing, and say only what the Father gives me to say.

Messiah will also be the expression of God’s covenant with God’s people, the mediator of a better covenant.

Spiritual Light

    a light to the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 42:6-7 (NRSV)

John’s Gospel and Epistles often speak of Jesus’s light overcoming darkness.

Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (NRSV)

A Father’s Promises to His Son

Isaiah’s words waited seven hundred years to be spoken into the ears of a godly carpenter’s little son, sitting in his first Bible class with the rabbis. Remember that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. In His humanity He had to depend on the Father.

Can you imagine how His young heart pounded when He heard these words for the first time, and recognized them, knowing deep in His spirit, that they were meant for Him?

What a blessed rabbi he was who got to teach that little boy. Think of the blessing you and I have when we are given the privilege of speaking God’s word into the ears of our sons and daughters, watching as those words come alive for the very first time in their young lives.

God was taking responsibility for the assured success of God’s Covenant Servant. You and I are the fruit of that assurance, as Jesus fulfilled every aspect of these promises.

The Servant’s Glory

I am the Lord; that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
    nor my praise to idols.

Isaiah 42:8 (NRSV)

God does not share God’s glory with any created thing, with any being, and certainly not with idols. Up until that point, God’s glory was only visible as blinding light, and it had been centuries since God’s people had seen even that. But the new thing to come would be a man, a servant, who would be the radiance of God’s glory, the visible image of the invisible God.

The Lord Jesus is God’s Covenant Servant

See, the former things have come to pass,
    and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
    I tell you of them.

Isaiah 42:9 (NRSV)

The good news of God’s Servant leads to a hymn of joy, a new song to the new thing that God was going to do. Salvation would be made available to all people.

Sing to the Lord a new song,
    his praise from the end of the earth!
Let the sea roar and all that fills it,
    the coastlands and their inhabitants.
Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice,
    the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the inhabitants of Sela shout for joy;
    let them shout from the tops of the mountains.
Let them give glory to the Lord
    and declare his praise in the coastlands.

Isaiah 42:10-12 (NRSV)

In response, God uses two remarkable metaphors:

Jesus used both these metaphors in reference to what would be accomplished through the cross.

By James Tissot – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2008, 00.159.304_PS2.jpg, Public Domain


At the end of this passage, Isaiah describes the new experience of living free of idols.

I will turn the darkness before them into light,
    the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I will do,
    and I will not forsake them.

Isaiah 42:16 (NRSV)

It is an unknown path, but Jesus will guide those who have been blind into this new life, turning darkness into light. He will not forsake His own. Only those who refuse Him, who keep to their false gods, will be turned back.

Leave a Reply