One of the exciting things about Advent in our home is the toy nativity set we pull out of storage each year. Our four boys will play with the pieces, connecting palm trees to the side of the stable, in-between grazing hills and watering holes, but one spot always gets the most attention. A somewhat translucent baby Jesus sits in the center of the stable where a light glows through him as a song plays. To our children, it’s more than exciting. It’s worth experiencing at a relentless frequency.
As this year’s time to pull out the nativity set drew near, there was just one problem. Baby Jesus was missing! We searched high and low, but he was nowhere to be found. In the meantime, our children tested out many substitutes in his place. They put Mary on the special peg, followed by the donkey, the shepherd, and even the angel. No other piece was the perfect glowing fit.
Remember the Servant Who Redeems
In Isaiah 42, Israel is responding to their trials in a similar fashion. In the absence of a clear Messiah, coming in their desired way and time, they tested out other things in His place. Maybe a different king would be sufficient? Maybe sophisticated idols from other nations would do the job? Maybe the law itself, lived out more perfectly, would be enough? While they unsuccessfully attempted to force various people, objects, and ideas in His place, God reminded them that there were no other Saviors (Isaiah 43:11). There was only one Savior: God’s Chosen Servant, Jesus. God Himself.
In Israel’s case, Jesus wasn’t hiding behind a big couch (which is where we eventually found our plastic, glowing baby Jesus). He was waiting until the set time for His birth, so He could redeem His people! This joyful promise should have caused the Israelites to sing a new song, but instead, they were blind and deaf to the truth. As partakers in the new covenant, we have the opportunity to respond differently, remembering the many wonderful truths about God’s Chosen Servant spoken through Isaiah.
God’s Servant is His Delightful Choice
“This is My Servant; I strengthen Him, this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him.” (Isaiah 42:1a)
God’s plan for our salvation was not an afterthought, a begrudging action, or an imperfect solution. From the beginning, He planned for the seed of Eve to crush the serpent’s head, and He delighted to do it. This gives us assurance of God’s relentless and loving pursuit of our souls, even when we were still sinners.
God’s Servant is the Perfect Substitute
“I, Yahweh, have called You for a righteous purpose, and I will hold You by Your hand. I will keep You and appoint You to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6)
God’s Chosen Servant is wholly unlike us, who are unable to keep the law in heart and deed, even on our best days. Because of His righteousness, He is able to fully free those held captive under the law.
God’s Servant Will Bring Complete Justice
“I have put My Spirit on Him; He will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1b)
The Israelites hoped for the fulfillment of all God’s promises to them as a chosen people. But what they failed to see was the beauty of those promises coming true in a Servant representative. Jesus came, lived, died, and was raised from the dead, to bring justice for God’s people, and we will see final justice accomplished when He returns again.
Respond to the Servant With Praise
“Sing a new song to the Lord; sing His praise from the ends of the earth,” (Isaiah 42:10a)
During this time of the year, we will all be tempted to forget these truths in different ways. For some, grief or despair will drive more attention onto circumstances and away from the one who wipes away all tears. For others, the desire to make the holidays perfect through traditions, presents, and decorations will overshadow the perfect substitute for sin. And for me, the temptation will be to let the sheer busyness of day-to-day life prevent the soul-rest that comes from the yoke of Jesus. But just like our boys unsuccessfully attempted to substitute something or someone else for Jesus, we too must not place other people or ideas in His place. We must sing praises, speak of the cross, and continue to set the Chosen Servant in the center of it all.