The Servant's Ministry is Justice

Isaiah 42:1, 3, 4

The servant's ministry is justice (Isa 42:1, 3, 4).
  • It is justice to the nations (1): worldwide justice.
  • It is in faithfulness (3): genuine justice.
  • It is justice on earth (4).
Authoritative pronouncement and decision. We naturally think of justice as implying a fair, unbiased, pure and just society, with no prejudice or favoritism. The Hebrew word מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat) does cater to this -- but only derivatively. The parallel in Isa 42:4 between "justice" and "law" provides a clue that in this passage Isaiah is using the word to express one aspect of divinely revealed truth. "Law" means "teaching" (Isa 1:10). Mishpat occurs (421 times in the OT) nearly 30 times in Psalm 119 (Ps 119:7, 13, 20, etc) and nearly 20 times in Deuteronomy (Dt 4:1; 5:1; etc) as one aspect of what we would call "the word of God." The verb behind the noun means "to give judgment," the authoritative pronouncement of king or judge. Just as the Lord's law is his teaching, so his justice (judgment) is what he has pronounced to be true, the decision he has reached.

Worldwide revelation. The Servant comes, then, as the bearer to the nations of what they have hitherto lacked: a veritable word from God, the answer to their needs as exposed in Isa 41:24, 28-29. The Servant's task is to be the Agent of worldwide revelation, corresponding to the worldwide role of Abraham and his "seed" (Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4).

Justice is to proclaim and declare that God alone is sovereign. It is nothing less than to put God's plans for his people into full effect, and to make the truth about the Lord, Israel's God, known everywhere, especially the fact that he alone is the sovereign creator and Lord of history.

The only hope for a truly just world. Biblical justice creates the perfect human society (Dt 10:18; Isa 1:17; 16:5; 32:1–2; 61:8; Zech 7:9). The messianic servant is the only hope for a truly just world. This Messiah will bring not only individual spiritual forgiveness and health (Isa 1:18) but also the establishment of perfect justice throughout all earthly governments.