A Light of the Gentiles Is. 42:1-16 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
Not only is Jesus the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, he is also a light of the Gentiles. In the Old Testament, Gentile salvation is always in the context of the Second Advent and the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. You can see this by how the Old Testament references are quoted in the New Testament [Acts 15:15-17; Rom 15:9-12].
This passage of scripture was fulfilled at the turning point in the ministry of Jesus Christ to Israel in Matt 12:14-21. But first here is a little background.
In Is 42:1, Jesus came as the Lord’s “servant” [Phil 2:7] in order to complete salvation by dying for us [Phil 2:8]. He also came as the Lord’s “elect,” that is as King-elect (compare the way we use the term president-elect to refer to a newly elected president before his inauguration) not ready to rule until he had first suffered [Phil 2:9-11; Lk 24:26; Jn 18:36]. He also came with the Lord’s “Spirit” upon him [after all he was the Holy Spirit incarnate Lk 1:35].
In his ministry Jesus didn’t gain a following by crying or lifting up [as in riots, revolts and mob demonstrations (Is 42:2, Jn 7:3-4, 6:15)]. He wasn’t trying to get up a following to make him king [Acts 5:34-39]. Yet, though he didn’t cry at his first coming, he will definitely cry at his second coming [Is 42:13-14].
Had Israel understood these verses in Is 42, they would have reacted very differently to Jesus at his first coming. But because they didn’t believe and understand Is 42:1-16 they missed an opportunity to have their Messiah and their kingdom when Jesus first came.
Look in Matt 12:10-13. Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees reacted by trying to kill Jesus [Matt 12:14] because they thought the spirit in him was Beelzebub [Matt 12:24]. In other words, they blasphemed the spirit of God that was in him [Is 42:1]. As a demonstration that he was their Messiah and not the devil he healed all that came to him in Matt 12:15 and charged that they should not make him known [Is 42:2].
At this point, both Israel’s king and his kingdom were available to Israel at Jesus’ first coming [Matt 11:12-15; Mal 4:5]. Though Israel rejected their king and his kingdom, yet Jesus wouldn’t reject them. They would be bruised like a reed but not broken. They would be burned but not quenched [Is 42:3]. In other words, they are the bruised reed [I Ki 14:15] but he saves them before he breaks them completely. They are the smoking flax [Is 42:24-25] (flax was commonly used as a candle wick in tallow candles; when it burns down to the end it smokes a lot). But the Lord doesn’t put out their candle; he doesn’t quench them [Ex 3:2; Mal 3:6]. So, the prophecy of Is 42:2-4 is fulfilled right where Israel turns away from their Messiah in Matt 12.
In Is 42:4, we see that this set back doesn’t discourage the Lord and he will not fail. He will set judgment in the earth [Ps 82:8; 96:13] which happens at the second coming [Is 42:9-16].
In 42:5-7, the Lord turns to the Gentiles [Matt 15:24]. Ultimately Paul became the apostle of the Gentiles [Gal 2:7-9; Rom 15:9-12]. Gentile salvation was always in the plan [Lk 2:32; Zech 8:20-23]. But because of Israel’s rejection, we were afforded this salvation now rather than after Jesus is accepted as their king and Messiah [Rom 11:13-23; Eph 2:11-22].
In this passage there are a couple of other insights. Is 42:7 helps us to see why John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was the Messiah. The blind were being healed but he was not being released from prison [see Matt 12:22 and Matt 11:1-6]. In other words, if you heal the blind you should be getting me out of prison.
In Is 42:8, praise is not given to graven images because Jesus is God’s image [Heb 1:3, Col1:15]. As it turns out, because of Israel’s rejection they will be faced with worshipping a graven image in the Tribulation and threatened with death if they refuse [Rev 13:14-15]. The Lord will save them before they are broken and quenched [Matt 24:22].