Isaiah 42 – Dissociative Identity Disorder

Isaiah 42 Bible with Chocolove Coffee Crunch in Dark Chocolate

Today’s Chocolate: Chocolove Coffee Crunch in Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageIsaiah 42

This chapter marks the first of Isaiah’s “Servant songs,” a series of poems that describe the Lord’s servant. Christians traditionally interpret these as messianic prophecies pointing to Jesus Christ, but in Jewish circles the Servant is generally viewed as a personification of Israel in aggregate. And that should come as no surprise; if they took the Servant as Jesus Christ, they’d by definition be Christians.

But it would appear the Jewish interpretation has the text on its side. The previous chapter identifies the servant clearly in the words of God himself: “But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen…” (41:8). Why should we take the servant as an individual, let alone Jesus Christ, when Isaiah has already established that the servant is Israel? And…I guess that’s what I’m writing about today.

First of all, according to both Matthew and Luke, Jesus Christ interprets himself as the Servant from Isaiah. In Luke 7:18-23, he answers John the Baptist’s question “Are You the Expected One (i.e. the Messiah)?” by performing healing miracles and saying, in essence, “The blind receive sight, the deaf hear, there’s your answer.” (Matthew reports the incident in Matthew 11:1-6.) We’ve already seen reference to healed infirmities in Isaiah 35:5-6, but we also have the verses “And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes” (42:6-7). Isaiah promises healing through the Servant, and Jesus both provides healing and points to it as authentication of his messianic identity. I don’t expect to convince any Jews of Jesus’ Messiahship with this paragraph, but my interpretation of this passage rests on the historicity of Matthew and Luke’s accounts. If you want to contend that Jesus isn’t the Servant of Isaiah’s Servant songs, you have to dispute the reliability of Matthew and Luke’s reporting here.

Which brings up the question: who am I writing this for, anyway? What am I trying to accomplish here? I kind of wanted to talk about the verses “A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish” (42:3) with reference to Jesus’ sympathy and mercy for the oppressed, or about God appointing him “to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison” (42:7), asking in what senses Jesus Christ provides liberty. But I feel like I got distracted. And then there were vv.18-25, in which the Servant is revealed to be blind and deaf himself, plundered and trapped, and his plight is seen as a punishment for sin from God himself. If you’re going to contend that Jesus Christ is the Servant, how do you deal with the complications posed by those verses? I was even thinking of getting into the idea, advanced by New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, that Jesus fulfilled the role of Israel as perfect redeemer of the entire world that Israel itself failed to fulfill. In essence, he maintains that when Israel failed to be Israel, Jesus Christ was Israel for Israel.

But what is this blog supposed to be? A simple devotional promoting personal Christian piety? A blog for skeptics anticipating objections and developing in-depth counter-arguments to questions that no one’s even posed to me? A tool for practicing the spiritual discipline of reading the Bible and articulating my thoughts on it? If Jesus Christ is the Servant of the Lord–who then am I?

 

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