In many Bibles, the words of Jesus are printed in red. But did you know that in the Old Testament, Christ speaks? And they are some of the most beautiful, tender, comforting words! These words could be embossed in gold, they are so precious.
We hear a conversation between God the Father and His only Son. This is the “heavenly council.” God the Father speaks to His Son lovingly and Christ before His incarnation speaks to His Father, all in the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is shown to us because it concerns you! It concerns your salvation and the great love God has for you.
READ: Isaiah 42:1-7 & Isaiah 61:1-3
At the beginning of Isaiah 42, who is speaking? God the Father. About whom is He speaking? His only-begotten Son, whom we know to be Jesus Christ.
The first word, “Behold!” is spoken to God’s people. Someone is being pointed to whom we should look upon – just as John the Baptizer would later say: “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
The next words are: “My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!” Martin Luther echoes these words in a hymn we love to sing: “But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected” (ELH 250:2). This is a preview of the words God the Father spoke at Jesus’ baptism and at the transfiguration: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
God the Father declares many great things about what this “Servant” would do: He will be “a light to the Gentiles” (v. 6) and will “bring justice” – righteousness and justification – “to the Gentiles” (v. 1). He says, “He will not fail” (v. 4). He says, “I have put My Spirit upon Him.” That is to say, the Holy Spirit is in perfect harmony with what is being said and is working with Christ. Then He says: “He will not cry out, nor raise His voice…” He would not cry out in complaint for what He was commissioned to suffer.
All of this is a grand declaration that God the Father makes. His Son is listening, and it is as if there is a look of concern upon His face when in verse 6 the Father turns to speak directly to His Son – and lets us listen in!
He says: “I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You…” Earlier, the Father said His Son is “My Servant whom I uphold.” The Father tells His Son that He will hold His hand, hold Him up, and preserve Him when He would drink the cup of woe.
The Father knows “the wrath and stripes are hard to bear” (ELH #331:2) and conveys this loving concern for His Son. He encourages Him by making promises about what Christ will do. He will “open blind eyes, bring out prisoners from the prison,” etc. These are promises that Christ would free people from the prison of the Law.
What did Christ have to say? When does He speak? In Isaiah 61:1-3. Hearing all that God the Father said, knowing the Holy Spirit has been placed upon Him, what does the Son of God have to say? “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,” He says. “The Lord has anointed Me” – Messiah’ed Him – “to preach good tidings to the poor…heal the brokenhearted…comfort all who mourn…give the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness…”
He speaks the Gospel, Jesus’ proper work. For troubled sinners, He has only tender words of love, just as the Father had only tender words of love for Him. Here Christ is not only speaking to us. He is answering the Father’s words in chapter 42 and speaking in the presence of the Holy Spirit, declaring their unity of purpose.
This is why the Lord wants us to hear these conversations. It is to give you confidence. It is to help you answer the accusations of the devil. It is to give you a good conscience. We lean and depend upon what the Triune God has decreed from eternity in His secret council, carried out in the work of Jesus and brought to us by the Holy Spirit in the Divine Service, where Christ is still the Servant, serving us with His salvation.
You cannot receive this from an emphasis on Jesus’ Lordship over your life. You can only receive this from hearing that He is the Servant. He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for all – for you. He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:7)…for you.
He serves that I a lord may be;
A great exchange indeed!
Could Jesus’ love do more for me
To help me in my need?
(Nikolaus Herman; ELH 148:7)
Reverend Jerry Gernander
Bethany Lutheran Church