How Will Justice Come?
i.e. How is equitable justice for the whole world to come if we are not to quench a dying wick?
Isaiah ben Amoz was not a particularly religious man. He describes himself as “a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5). He was no born firebrand.
Isaiah 42:1-14 (YGB) Lo, My servant, I take hold on him, My chosen one - My soul hath accepted, I have put My Spirit upon him, Judgment to nations he bringeth forth. 2. He doth not cry, nor lift up, Nor cause his voice to be heard, in the street. 3. A bruised reed he breaketh not, And dim flax he quencheth not, To truth he bringeth forth judgment. 4. He doth not become weak nor bruised, Till he setteth judgment in the earth, And for his law isles wait with hope. 5. Thus said God, Yahweh, preparing The heavens, and stretching them out, Spreading out the earth and its productions, Giving breath to the people on it, And spirit to those walking in it. 6. I, Yahweh, did call thee in righteousness, And I lay hold on thy hand, and keep thee, And I give thee for a covenant of a people, And a light of nations. 7. To open the eyes of the blind, To bring forth from prison the bound one, From the house of restraint those sitting in darkness.
The greatest prophet of the future, at least in the literary sense, was Isaiah ben Amoz. Isaiah lived about 700 years before Jesus in Judea, which is now Israel. The Judea of that day was in similar circumstances as Israel today, surrounded by enemies, disdained by the world and isolated by its unique religious practices. In 20 / 20 hind site we know that Judea was captured and its people taken into captivity by the Assyrians during Isaiah’s lifetime.
Isaiah ben Amoz was not a particularly religious man. He describes himself as “a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5). He was no born firebrand. Nevertheless, Yahweh perceived in him fearlessness and chose him from among the people to be his mouthpiece for over 300 years, revealing the events of the next three thousand years. (“How did Isaiah prophesy for 300 years?” That’s a riddle that you can answer with a little study.)
Isaiah had a vision of the spiritual dimension, the throne room of Yahweh. Then he heard heavenly voices crying out, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” It was Isaiah who replied in the words that we so often remember in song: “Here am I, send me.”
To his agreement to go forth, Yahweh replied personally,
Isaiah 6:9,10 “Go, and say to this people, `Listen and listen, but never understand! Look and look, but never perceive!’ Make this people's heart coarse, make their ears dull, shut their eyes tight, or they will use their eyes to see, use their ears to hear, use their heart to understand, and change their ways and be healed."
In other words, if people had heeded Isaiah down through the centuries, natural disasters might have been averted, great wars might have been bypassed, history might have been favorable instead of terror-filled. But peoples’ perception is indeed dull. We learn little from history. We make the same mistakes over and over again. But this needn’t be, says Yahweh.
Isaiah prophesied the rise and fall of many nations including Israel and the United States; he predicted the coming of Jesus and described his life and mission in beautiful detail hundreds of years in advance, and he offers us a great deal of information about our time and the times which are soon to come. Jesus quoted Isaiah liberally, referred to him and admonished us to study his writings to learn of our destiny.
Today we look at a short section of Isaiah’s prophecies. You may follow the words with me in your Bible or bulletin.
Isaiah 42:1. 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.
These are the words of Yahweh spoken through the prophet and written down for posterity. Prophecies may refer to one person, event or incident or to many. Prophecies may be applied to several situations, for history seems to repeat itself. At least four different identities of this servant come to my mind. The prophecy is correct in regards to all four.
First, Israel is the primary identity of this chosen servant.
The Israelites, still scattered the world over, are the chosen people. You and I may be Israelites for all we know; ten tribes were dispersed all over the earth, and we may come from these tribes. The names “Levins” and “Covan” among others here have strong Hebrew roots and refer directly to the priests of ancient Israel, for instance. Many of our names are Hebrews derivatives, like Jackson, Joseph, Roy, Hazel and, of course, Gabriel Thomas Henderson. Israel is the chosen servant, and Israel is us.
Second, the chosen servant is great King named Hezekiah who through prayer and obedience brought Judah back to Yahweh’s law and held off the Assyrian invaders long enough for revival.
Thirdly, the chosen servant certainly refers to the Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, who we declare to be the suffering servant who ame to save all humanity.
Fourthly, the chosen servant is you.
You didn’t choose Jesus until he first chose you. And he chose you because Father Yahweh loves you. That’s why you’re sitting in this building listening to me today. If you are the chosen servant, you are pleasing to G-d and you are prophesied to help bring equitable justice to the whole world. And you are doing just that.
Now what exactly is justice? Justice means “equitable principles of moral rightness.” By definition, justice means
“rendering to every one that which is his due. … While justice means merely the doing what positive law demands, equity means the doing of what is fair and right in every separate case.”
True and free justice with equity is a rare commodity in this world.
A large Washington law firm sent one of its top attorneys to assist in an important case in New Jersey. Finally, the long awaited phone call came back to the home office: “Justice has triumphed! What should I do now?” asked the great attorney. The answer from the top dog at the law firm was simple: “Appeal at once!”
For us to be justice-bearers we must uphold fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards or law despite our personal feelings. Equitable justice must triumph without appeal. How the chosen servants, Israel, Jesus and you, are to bring about justice is described in the next two verses.
2. (The chosen servant) will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3. a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
We will not bring forth justice by hiring high-powered lawyers or by rousing sweeping political changes; justice will not come about by the election of conservatives over liberals, or liberals over conservatives, or by vast political, religious or nationalistic movements. A resurgence of nationalism like we’re seeing these days tends to pervert justice rather than establish it. No, the great muster of chosen servants will not even blow out a dying candle. It’s beyond our ability to comprehend how the world might be set aright without some kind of great mass movement. But Isaiah prophesies that it doesn’t happen through politics or revivals. Nevertheless,
4. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.
It has taken a mighty long time for the Kingdom to be established on earth as in Heaven. It hasn’t happened yet, except in small enclaves, like here, within the walls of this church. Wholesale justice has certainly taken its time a comin’. But it won’t fail to arise, because the chosen servant can’t fail. He doesn’t even get discouraged, he’s so sure of his mission of justice. In this passage, we may be the chosen servant; we may also be the coastlands. O, how we as a people pine for his law to be established in this nation where our laws are so twisted and bent by the same kind of sly attorneys that Jesus called whitewashed tombs. Here as in Babylon, justice is bought and sold like any other commodity, but never on the bargain counter – everybody always pays for justice and the more you pay the more you get. Here, Yahweh's law has no authority; even our federal laws have no more power that the whitewashed tomb sitting on the judgment bench.
How is justice to be served and yet a bruised reed not broken? There’s only one way, that is for us to accept the role of the chosen service for real, for us to love mercy, to do righteousness, to live faithfully, to sell out everything we have for a principle and a promise if need be, to actually become the principles that we espouse in theory, to enflesh the gospel, to learn and teach within this nation the good news of the Kingdom and then become the Kingdom within this nation. For
5. Thus says Yahweh G-d, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6. "I am Yahweh, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations…
While we are looking into the sky wondering when Jesus is coming back or when we’ll fly away in rapture, Yahweh has already chosen his servants to make his righteousness, justice and law a reality now, whether it’s acknowledged by the nations of the world as yet or not. Through Isaiah, Yahweh affirms his identity and ultimate power as the creator of the earth and the author of life. He affirms that he is the giver of the Spirit and that he has called us now to acting out what we believe no matter what the consequences, for he has been trustworthy in the past and shall be forevermore.
He has taken our hand through all life’s turmoil. He has purposefully and intentionally protected us throughout all our lives. And even if we, or our loved ones, have died, it is the Spirit that grants us hope of their ultimate salvation. He is our all-in-all. Why? So that we could be a gift from our g-d to the nations who haven’t known his name. So that we could be the light by which the entire world might see its way clear to the throne room. So our earth might be saved from the wretched upheaval to come, which even heathens are now beginning discern clearly. You are a gift to the world. You are a chosen servant. You are a model of justice. You may be the only Jesus that your world ever sees.
Once we consecrate ourselves to this grand ideal, how do we practice justice, model the covenant and light the world? The next verse reveals what we are to do.
7. (to) open the eyes that are blind, (to) bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
The only way to open eyes or release prisoners is to bring in the light. That’s why we light candles before our services. The only way we can bring light is to begin right where we are, in this little community of faith and bind our hearts to a common god, law and purpose. We must present a universal, united front. No chosen servant may be left out, whether one feels chosen or not. No chosen servant may publicly criticize another, whether the criticism is warranted or not. As a covenant community, we must exert a serious effort to subordinate our personal wants, desires and goals to the justice of Yahweh for our community and our world.
This is why Jesus went to the Jordan to be baptized.
Do you think he had to receive remission for his sins? Hardly. He was without sin; that is, he had never broken the Law. Yet he humbled himself by going into the water and submitting. Why do you suppose he gave in? He certainly never gave in on any other ritual. He went under the authority of John because he wanted to show public solidarity with the righteous plan of Yahweh and with the people who he believed were on the right track.
Jesus wasn’t baptized in a private ceremony with only Mary at his side. He went into the water with the multitudes, just one of many, to make a statement of solidarity with the righteous movement of John the Baptist. And this is the reason why we join a church. We perceive what the Spirit is doing in the world and want to make a public announcement that we are one with Him, one with his just ways, and one with his chosen servants. If you think that you don’t want to join a church because you can’t make another commitment, then you certainly shouldn’t join a church. But if you want to show your oneness with the righteous, just purposes of Yahweh in this troubled culture, then you need to join church and support what it does in the name of the Almighty. You need to step into the water just like Jesus did, ankle deep, knee deep, shoulder deep.
I don’t know what you think, but I’m going to believe that this church is playing a major role in the Kingdom of Yahweh now. Is that a foolish idea? Well, our church will certainly never extinguish a dimly burning wick or break a bruised reed. Who cares that we are here? Yet we are exactly what our Lord needs! Maybe the prophet is referring to a church like ours when he echoes the voice of our god in describing the chosen servant.
Look! He proclaims in verse 8. I am Yahweh, that is my name.
Friend, what is the name of our god? There are many gods with many names. Our god is ONE and he only has ONE NAME: we have only ONE NAME as his people. Yahweh agrees:
My glory I give to no other, nor my praise to graven images. 9. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them."
This is how he proves he is the Creator and that his name is Yahweh, which means I AM. He gives his prophets like Isaiah advance warning of all that will come to pass in the realm of the world’s salvation history.
On other nights of the week, some of us gather to discuss the predictive passages from the Bible that have come to fulfillment, sometimes thousands of years after they were recorded. If you were here for our concert December 14 or our Service of Nine Readings December 23, then you learned how the Bible predicted the advent of Jesus of Nazareth as our Savior. If you have attended the Thursday night home meetings for the last six months, you would know how prophecy has been fulfilled in our lifetimes.
Certainly a few of the most public fulfillments of Yahweh’s word in our lifetimes include:
Each of these events of the last 50 years is specifically mentioned in the Bible; some are actually named. There are many more fulfillments. They are proofs of Yahweh’s power, the prophet’s anointing and our salvation. “Behold, other events have already passed, new things are on the horizon; before they happen will I tell you about them,” says Yahweh. What more proof do we need? Are our hearts coarse, ears dull, eyes shut? Shouldn’t we get on board with what he is doing right here, in our midst? Of course, we should!
Since we have seen such prophecies come to pass in our lifetimes, shouldn’t we be extremely interested and sensitive to what Yahweh says lies just ahead? That’s what the rest of this passage is all about – what is going to soon take place. Listen:
10. Sing to Yahweh a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. 11. Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. 12. Let them give glory to Yahweh, and declare his praise in the coastlands. 13. Yahweh goes forth like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his fury; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes.
How is equitable justice for the whole world to come is we are not to quench a dying wick? Here is the answer. The world is set aright through direct, divine intervention. This description of our g-d’s behavior is a far cry from the behind-the-scenes tippy-toeing of the chosen servants. Soon “the cat will be out of the bag,” and the name and might of our god Yahweh will become common knowledge to the entire world when he goes forth like a man of war, showing himself mighty against his foes.
This is how our King will move when the time is right, like a calf breaks through the fence, like a tornado that appears from nowhere. The Lord forewarns us,
14. For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in travail, I will gasp and pant.
Our Lord will suddenly and unexpectedly give birth to a new world; a world where equity and justice reigns, not as humans measure equity and justice, but as his divine law measures them. All the prophetic words of the Bible leading up to his birthing have come to pass gloriously. There is nothing left to fulfill. Soon justice’s gavel will fall, and its resonance will shake the entire universe.
Who will go for us? Here I am, Lord. Send Me.Jackson Snyder, January 11, 2002