When Isaiah speaks of God’s “servant” in whom God will delight and place His Spirit (Isaiah 42:1), remember that Isaiah’s original audience would have understood this servant to refer to Israel. Isaiah 42:6-7 makes plain who God is addressing immediately when it says: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” Israel is God’s servant, the light to the nations.
Hundreds of years later, however, the early apostles started seeing the servant mentioned several times in Isaiah 40-54 as Jesus Himself. When Isaiah wrote, the audience wouldn’t have thought this servant would be the messiah per se, for much that is said of the servant will include great suffering prior to vindication. Yet it is precisely because of Israel’s failure to be the light to the gentiles that when Jesus came as “light of the world” (John 8:12) to “set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18), his disciples began to understand Isaiah’s words about God’s servant to refer ultimately to Jesus.
Consider this for your Christmas Eve reflection: one of the most profound descriptions of Jesus in the Old Testament is that of the servant found in Isaiah. Your King came as a baby to serve you (Philippians 2:5-7). With that in mind, I give you a hearty Merry Christmas Eve!