Isaiah’s Servant Songs: The Servant’s Love

The prophecy of Isaiah contains many delightful portraits of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Sovereign King, sitting in majesty and glory (ch6). He is the eternal Son, given by the Father to be the Savior, Redeemer, and ultimate Restorer of all things (ch9). He is the tender Shepherd, feeding, gathering, and gently leading His own (ch40). And He is the perfect Servant of Jehovah (chs42,49,50,53).

Isaiah focuses on the perfect Servant’s love (ch42), His lips and language (ch49), His loyalty (ch50), and His life and legacy (ch53). Jehovah’s love for His Servant can be seen in these verses:

“Behold 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. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law” (Isa 42:1-4).[1]

The two overriding truths about the Servant that emerge from these few verses are that the Lord Jesus was greatly loved and that He loved greatly. He lived out the love He received. The one flowed from the other. This is the reality of living out of identity. Jehovah’s Servant knew who He was and what He was about.

The Servant Who Was Greatly Loved

Notice the expressions that the Lord used to describe His Servant. He is “my servant” – not just anyone’s servant, but my servant. The words “my servant, whom I uphold” tell of His total dependence upon the strength of His God. He is “my chosen” servant, the one who was divinely elected and selected for the task of redemption. Then, He is “my servant … in whom my soul delights.” This beloved Servant brought joy and satisfaction to His Master’s heart. The conclusion from all these beautiful expressions is that the Servant was greatly valued and deeply loved by His God.

The Gospel of Mark has been called the Servant Gospel. In the first chapter, Mark records the words of the Father, spoken over the Son before He had performed any miracles or great works: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mar 1:11). This has also been translated, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (NLT). The Father’s love was the Son’s point of reference. This was the position from which His service flowed. His whole life was lived out of this significant reality: He was greatly loved.

What about us and our identity in Christ as servants of the Lord? Each believer in Christ can claim the identity of servant of the Lord and can know the wondrous joy of being deeply loved by God. One among many servants of God mentioned in the New Testament is Tychicus: “He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord” (Col 4:7). He was beloved by the apostle and most surely loved by his God and Master.

The Servant Who Loved Greatly

It was from the solid foundation of being loved that the beloved Servant served in the power of the Holy Spirit. His whole life was a demonstration of this reality. Isaiah said, “He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street” (42:2), reminding us that He was not interested in popularity, place, power or promotion. His true interest was found in touching and changing the lives of those wounded by sin: the hopeless, the discouraged, the weak and the failing ones in need of His love.

The reed mentioned in verse three is a long, flat, hollow plant that is top heavy, growing in shallow water, and is very easily broken. A reed that is bruised is bent over and, naturally speaking, unusable and irrecoverable. It represents the person who has been damaged and wounded by life. One such person was the leper in Mark 1, who was discarded by society and considered to be worthless, but that was not the Servant’s estimation of him. He was loved and healed by the Lord’s gentle touch and tender words.

The flax is the wick of a candle or lamp. The smoking flax is almost completely burned out. No bright flame remains, only a wisp of smoke rising from what once had been on fire. This represents the person who may at one time have had a heart on fire for God, whose testimony burned brightly, but for one reason or another now his or her heart is cold, distant and unresponsive. John Mark, the writer of the Servant Gospel, was that faintly burning flax that God fanned into flame by caring believers, and later used for His glory.

What we often forget is that these broken reeds and smoking wicks are all around us. They are in our cities, places of employment, in our local churches, and even in our very homes. We need to be asking ourselves, Do we know who they are? Do we know what they look like? Are we searching them out like our Lord Jesus did?

Loving Like the Servant

I would like to close by suggesting a few ways in which we can love like Jehovah’s Servant. We love like Him when we place value upon the needy. That’s what He did every day of His life. We love like Him when we are willing to associate with the broken. He sat with publicans and sinners. We love like Him when we sacrifice for the sake of the discouraged. This was the nature of His earthly existence. The theme text of Mark’s Gospel reveals this: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mar 10:45). And finally, we love like the Servant when we choose not to give up on others. Isaiah said, “He will not grow faint or be discouraged” (42:4). While this text has future, millennial significance, it was true of our Savior for every person He came in contact with. He loved as He had been loved. May we do the same!

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.