Look! Jehovah’s Approved Servant
“Look! My servant, . . . whom my soul has approved!”—ISA. 42:1.
1. What are Jehovah’s people encouraged to do, particularly as the Memorial approaches, and why?
AS THE time to commemorate Christ’s death approaches, God’s people do well to follow the apostle Paul’s counsel to “look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” Paul added: “Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.” (Heb. 12:2, 3) Looking closely at Christ’s course of faithfulness, which culminated in his sacrifice, will help both anointed Christians and their other sheep companions to continue serving Jehovah faithfully and to avoid ‘giving out in their souls.’—Compare Galatians 6:9.
2. What can we learn from the prophecies of Isaiah that relate to God’s Son?
2 Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah inspired a series of prophecies directly related to his Son. These prophecies will help us to “look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith,” Christ Jesus.* They shed light on his personality, his sufferings, and his exaltation as our King and Redeemer. They will enhance our understanding of the Memorial, which we will be commemorating this year on Thursday, April 9, after sundown.
The Servant Identified
3 The word “servant” occurs many times in the book of Isaiah. It occasionally designates the prophet himself. (Isa. 20:3; 44:26) Sometimes it is applied to the whole nation of Israel, or Jacob. (Isa. 41:8, 9; 44:1, 2, 21) But what of the outstanding prophecies regarding the Servant recorded in Isaiah chapters 42, 49, 50, 52, and 53? The Christian Greek Scriptures leave us in no doubt as to the identity of the Servant of Jehovah described in those chapters. Interestingly, the Ethiopian official mentioned in the book of Acts was reading one of these prophecies when Philip the evangelizer was directed by the spirit to approach him. The official, having read the Bible passage that we now find at Isaiah 53:7, 8, asked Philip: “I beg you, About whom does the prophet say this? About himself or about some other man?” Philip lost no time in explaining that Isaiah spoke about the Messiah, Jesus.—Acts 8:26-35.
4 While Jesus was yet a babe, a righteous man named Simeon declared under the power of the holy spirit that “the young child Jesus” would become “a light for removing the veil from the nations,” as foretold at Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6. (Luke 2:25-32) Furthermore, the humiliating treatment meted out to Jesus on the night of his trial was foretold in the prophecy of Isaiah 50:6-9. (Matt. 26:67; Luke 22:63) After Pentecost 33 C.E., the apostle Peter clearly identified Jesus as Jehovah’s “Servant.” (Isa. 52:13; 53:11; read Acts 3:13, 26.) What can we learn from these Messianic prophecies?
Jehovah Trains His Servant
5. What training did the Servant receive?
5 One of Isaiah’s prophecies about God’s Servant sheds light on the intimate relationship between Jehovah and his firstborn Son during the Son’s prehuman existence. (Read Isaiah 50:4-9.) The Servant himself reveals that Jehovah continually trained him, saying: “He awakens my ear to hear like the taught ones [“disciples,” ftn.].” (Isa. 50:4) During all that time, Jehovah’s Servant listened to his Father and learned from him, becoming a submissive disciple. What a unique privilege to be taught by the Creator of the universe!
6. How did the Servant indicate his perfect submission to his Father?
6 In this prophecy, the Servant speaks of his Father as “the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.” This shows that the Servant had learned the fundamental truth of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. Indicating his perfect submission to his Father, he stated: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has opened my ear, and I, for my part, was not rebellious. I did not turn in the opposite direction.” (Isa. 50:5) He “came to be beside [Jehovah] as a master worker” in the creation of the material universe and man. This “master worker” was “glad before [Jehovah] all the time, being glad at the productive land of his earth, and the things [God’s Son] was fond of were with the sons of men.”—Prov. 8:22-31.
7. What shows that the Servant had confidence in his Father’s support during his trials?
7 This training received by the Servant and his fondness for mankind stood him in good stead when he came to earth and faced severe opposition. He continued to delight to do his Father’s will, even in the face of bitter persecution. (Ps. 40:8; Matt. 26:42; John 6:38) Throughout his trials on earth, Jesus was confident of his Father’s approval and support. As was foretold in Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus was able to say: “The One declaring me righteous is near. Who can contend with me? . . . Look! The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself will help me.” (Isa. 50:8, 9) Jehovah certainly did help his faithful Servant throughout his ministry on earth, as another prophecy of Isaiah shows.
The Servant’s Ministry on Earth
8. What proves that Jesus was Jehovah’s “chosen one,” as foretold at Isaiah 42:1?
8 The Bible record tells what happened when Jesus was baptized in 29 C.E.: “The holy spirit . . . came down upon him, and a voice came out of heaven: ‘You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.’” (Luke 3:21, 22) Jehovah thus clearly identified his “chosen one,” mentioned in Isaiah’s prophecy. (Read Isaiah 42:1-7.) During his earthly ministry, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy in a remarkable way. In his Gospel account, Matthew quoted the words found at Isaiah 42:1-4 and applied them to Jesus.—Matt. 12:15-21.
9, 10. (a) How did Jesus fulfill Isaiah 42:3 during his ministry? (b) How did Christ “bring forth justice” while on earth, and when is it that he “sets justice in the earth”?
9 The common people among the Jews were despised by the Jewish religious leaders. (John 7:47-49) The people were treated roughly and could be compared to ‘crushed reeds’ or ‘flaxen wicks’ when they are at their last flicker. Jesus, however, showed compassion for the poor and afflicted. (Matt. 9:35, 36) He offered such ones a kind invitation, saying: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you.” (Matt. 11:28) Furthermore, Jesus ‘brought forth justice’ by teaching Jehovah’s standards of right and wrong. (Isa. 42:3) He further showed that God’s Law needed to be applied with reasonableness and mercy. (Matt. 23:23) Jesus also displayed justice by preaching without prejudice to both rich and poor.—Matt. 11:5; Luke 18:18-23.
10 Isaiah’s prophecy also predicts that Jehovah’s “chosen one” “sets justice in the earth.” (Isa. 42:4) This he will shortly do when as King of the Messianic Kingdom, he destroys all political kingdoms and replaces them with his own righteous rule. He will usher in a new world, where “righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Pet. 3:13; Dan. 2:44.
“A Light” and “a Covenant”
11. In what sense was Jesus “a light of the nations” in the first century, and how is he such up to the present day?
11 In fulfillment of Isaiah 42:6, Jesus did indeed prove to be “a light of the nations.” During his earthly ministry, he brought spiritual light primarily to the Jews. (Matt. 15:24; Acts 3:26) But Jesus stated: “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) He became a light both to the Jews and to the nations not only by bringing spiritual enlightenment but also by offering his perfect human life as a ransom for all mankind. (Matt. 20:28) After his resurrection, he commissioned his disciples to be witnesses of him “to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) During their ministry, Paul and Barnabas quoted the expression “light of the nations” and applied it to the preaching work they were accomplishing among non-Jews. (Acts 13:46-48; compare Isaiah 49:6.) That work is still being pursued as Jesus’ anointed brothers on earth and their companions spread spiritual light and help people to put faith in Jesus, the “light of the nations.”
12. How has Jehovah given his Servant “as a covenant of the people”?
12 In that same prophecy, Jehovah told his chosen Servant: “I shall safeguard you and give you as a covenant of the people.” (Isa. 42:6) Satan put forth persistent efforts to destroy Jesus and prevent Jesus from completing his ministry on earth, but Jehovah safeguarded him until the appointed time for him to die. (Matt. 2:13; John 7:30) Then Jehovah resurrected Jesus and gave him as “a covenant,” or pledge, to people on earth. That solemn promise provided assurance that God’s faithful Servant would continue as “a light of the nations,” liberating those in spiritual darkness.—Read Isaiah 49:8, 9.*
13. In what way did Jesus deliver “those sitting in darkness” during his earthly ministry, and how does he continue to do so?
13 In harmony with this pledge, Jehovah’s chosen Servant would “open the blind eyes,” “bring forth out of the dungeon the prisoner,” and deliver “those sitting in darkness.” (Isa. 42:7) During his earthly ministry, Jesus did this by exposing false religious traditions and preaching the good news of the Kingdom. (Matt. 15:3; Luke 8:1) He thus delivered from spiritual bondage Jews who became his disciples. (John 8:31, 32) In a similar way, Jesus has brought spiritual deliverance to millions of non-Jews. He has commissioned his followers to “go . . . and make disciples of people of all the nations,” promising that he will be with his followers “until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) From his heavenly position, Christ Jesus is overseeing the global preaching work.
Jehovah Elevated the “Servant”
14, 15. Why and how did Jehovah elevate his Servant?
14 In yet another prophecy regarding his Messianic Servant, Jehovah states: “Look! My servant will act with insight. He will be in high station and will certainly be elevated and exalted very much.” (Isa. 52:13) In view of his Son’s loyal submission to His sovereignty and his faithfulness under the most extreme test, Jehovah elevated him.
15 The apostle Peter wrote of Jesus: “He is at God’s right hand, for he went his way to heaven; and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.” (1 Pet. 3:22) Similarly, the apostle Paul wrote: “He humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake. For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Phil. 2:8-11.
16. How was Jesus “exalted very much” in 1914, and what has he accomplished since then?
16 In 1914, Jehovah elevated Jesus even further. He was “exalted very much” when Jehovah enthroned him as King of the Messianic Kingdom. (Ps. 2:6; Dan. 7:13, 14) Since then, Christ has gone forth “subduing in the midst of [his] enemies.” (Ps. 110:2) He first subdued Satan and his demons, hurling them down to the vicinity of the earth. (Rev. 12:7-12) Then, acting as the Greater Cyrus, Christ delivered the remnant of his anointed brothers on earth from the grip of “Babylon the Great.” (Rev. 18:2; Isa. 44:28) He has headed a worldwide preaching work that has resulted in the ingathering of “the remaining ones” of his spiritual brothers and then of millions of “other sheep,” the loyal companions of the “little flock.”—Rev. 12:17; John 10:16; Luke 12:32.
17. What have we learned thus far by studying Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the “servant”?
17 The study of these remarkable prophecies in the book of Isaiah has surely increased our appreciation for our King and Redeemer, Christ Jesus. His filial submission during his earthly ministry reflected the training he received at his Father’s side before coming to earth. He has proved himself to be the “light of the nations” by his own ministry and by the preaching work he has overseen up until this very day. As we shall next see, another prophecy regarding the Messianic Servant reveals that he would suffer and pour out his life for our benefit, matters we should “consider closely” as the Memorial of his death approaches.—Heb. 12:2, 3.
For a discussion of the prophecy at Isaiah 49:1-12, see Isaiah’s Prophecy—Light for All Mankind II, pages 136-145.
By Way of Review
• Who is the “servant” mentioned in Isaiah’s prophecies, and how do we know?
• What training did the Servant receive from Jehovah?
• How is Jesus “a light of the nations”?
• How was the Servant elevated?
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Philip clearly identified the “servant” mentioned by Isaiah as Jesus, the Messiah
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As Jehovah’s chosen Servant, Jesus showed compassion for the poor and afflicted
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Jesus was exalted by his Father and enthroned as King of the Messianic Kingdom