First of four articles by Ella Pomeroy on the Servant Songs of the Book of Isaiah.
Introduction To the Four Servant Songs
IT IS many years since scholars agreed that the Book of Isaiah was written by at least two different persons. The mood and teaching of the book changes at the beginning of the 40th chapter, leaving behind the overwhelming denunciations of the earlier chapters, and launching more definitely into the idea of a saving grace that is to come into the world and do a perfect work. This saving grace or “savior” is hinted at in the previous chapters, as in the 9th, where the “Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” is promised. But with the opening words of the 40th chapter we note the change of vision, the sense of peace, the appreciation of beauty in creation, and an overwhelming feeling of love for the Creator combined with a conviction of the Creator’s love for men.
Tucked away in the succeeding chapters are certain passages that are known as the Servant Poems, concerning the subject matter of which wide differences of opinion still exist. One school of thought proclaims that the “servant” is the people of Israel, the physical group of human beings known by that name. The other group declares that the servant foreshadows Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all mankind. Some maintain that even if it is a group that is described as “my servant,” it must be an ideal group, for no human group could ever attain such heights of service.
The Unity student remains outside such discussions, for to him the Bible is allegorical at all points. He is ready to acknowledge the historicity of the personalities and incidents, but he continues to hold to his way of understanding the passages that he is reading; and he always seeks to derive such an interpretation as will serve man as a whole and himself as an individual. Therefore when he reads the word “servant” in certain connections, he understands that to be the Great Servant of all men, the Christ that forever resides in the hearts of men and whose body consists of those who express Him in their daily lives.
The particular passages in Isaiah that are called the Servant Poems are to be found in the 42d chapter, verses 1 through 4; chapter 49, verses 1 through 6; chapter 50, verses 4 through 9, and chapter 52, verse 13, to end of chapter 53. Read these carefully and repeatedly and you will feel the glow of the writer’s passion for divinity, the fervor with which he believed in the possibility of redemption, the faith with which he looked forward to the coming of the Saviour. Whether the writer had in mind the hope that Israel as a group of tribes would be the saving grace of the world, or whether he believed that “a son is given,” an individual who would lead Israel to earthly triumph, we Unity students read these poems as referring to the Christ power in our own heart; and as we study these verses we are also fired with the conviction that Christ within our own heart is doing His perfect work here and now.
Each of the poems has a distinctive tone. The first one calls to us, “Behold, my servant.” The second says, “Thou art my servant.” The third recognizes and acknowledges the relation of the servant to Jehovah: “The Lord Jehovah will help me.” The fourth brings the assurance that righteousness is established, for the servant wins his title: “My righteous servant.”
Through all of them runs the call for “justice”: first “justice in truth”; then divine justice for the individual who will be preserved from eternal harm, and is kept in “his quiver.” More than that, our poet cries, “He is near that justifieth me,” and resting in that assurance, is ready to face any number of adversaries. The height of self-sacrifice, the ultimate expression of the love of God is shown us in the last poem. “He bare the sins of many,” we are told; and as we learn how to cast our burden upon His willing heart and go free from sin and sickness, we also learn a great love for the marvelous Christ who is always at hand and always ready to serve us by saying to us: “Thy sins are forgiven.” “Go ... sin no more.”
The First Servant Song (Isaiah 42:1-4)
Beginning with “Behold, my servant,” the first of the Servant Poems runs as follows:
— American Standard Version Bible
my chosen, in whom my soul delights:
I have put my Spirit on him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
nor raise his voice,
nor cause it to be heard in the street.
He won’t quench a dimly burning wick.
He will faithfully bring justice.
until he has set justice in the earth,
and the islands wait for his law.”
— World English Bible
RIGHT THINKING IN TRUTH BRINGS FORTH DIVINE JUSTICE TO ONE MAN, TO MANY MEN, OR TO NATIONS OF MEN.
Isaiah 42:1. From among those who passed before Him or crowded around Him as He walked about the earth at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus chose certain men to be close to Him; and later He told them—as He constantly tells all mankind—”Ye did not choose me, but I chose you”; and we know that from the beginning, through the Christ within us, our Father has chosen each one of His children to do honor to Him and render His glory manifest in the outer world. The first lines of our poem are perhaps the very words in the ancient Scriptures on which Jesus based His statement: a statement that we now understand to refer to all men and not only to those to whom the words were addressed. Try to keep in mind that the Jews were a much-buffeted people, in exile at the time this poem was written, and no doubt maintaining their courage by thinking of the glorious kingdom that would eventually arise out of their distresses. That is exactly what we do too. We find ourselves in pain, or want, or loneliness, and we tell ourselves that “good times are coming.” But this writer cries, “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold”; and he does not postpone his glory for a single minute, for he continues, “I have put my Spirit upon him [, now!].”
So we, when we turn our thought inward instead of letting it roam without direction in the outer world. We find that the Spirit has been put into us once and for all time, and that our chief business is to realize the willingness of Spirit to become immediately active in our affairs. This recognition it is that brings “forth justice to the Gentiles,” for under the divine law of justice all men, all thoughts, all conditions are “saved.” “Israelite” being to the Unity student the highest type of thought of which he is capable, “Gentile” is the thought that is less than noble, perfect, loving, and serene; and every thought must be brought under the Israelitish control, must be saved from final ruin and brought into right relation to its source.
It is by so training our thought that we arrive at the meaning of the marvelous summons “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth.” Thus we come to realize that each of us this minute, right now, is the chosen one who has acknowledged his indebtedness to the Father and so become a tool of salvation: one who may “bring forth justice to the Gentiles” and so establish Christ control of all thinking, all living.
Isaiah 42:2. A characteristic of the person that is becoming Christ conscious is his unwillingness to talk of his troubles, his eager desire to keep the darker aspects of his life in the cave of his heart—”He will not cry, nor lift up his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street”—for he is on the way to dominion and is training himself to know’ that there is truly naught to “cry” about. It is an interesting point that according to one interpretation the name Job means “He who will not cry.” And as we understand Job to be a type of the developing Christ mind, we see that the “servant” whom we are to behold, who is to bring forth justice, never can attain his ends, never can reach the high point of development he desires, if he spends his time crying instead of advancing.
Isaiah 42:3. But we note also, with deep gratitude, that this servant who will not cry, who will not intrude himself, who is free from grief in his own soul, and is giving of himself in a thousand ways, is filled with utmost mercy for those who are less strong than himself: “A bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench.” The apparently broken will, the dazed and uncertain mind, the flickering light of reason or hope, the obscured light unto my path”—for these he is most pitiful and tender, and in his divine love for men will “bring forth justice in truth.”
To do this in the individual life is precisely the work of the “servant,” the Great Servant, the Christ. The bringing forth of divine justice begins definitely to take place when we can say, “Behold, my servant,’ the power within me that alters all my life and brings justice into expression in all my affairs, is now at my service, now eager to prove that the law of perfect justice is my defense, my strength and my supply. Justice is brought forth in Truth, and the reality of the kingdom of heaven is made manifest.”
Isaiah 42:4. The Great Servant “will not fail nor be discouraged,” for he knows the eternal quality of Truth. He knows that whatever truly is cannot cease to be. He cannot fail, for He thinks only in terms of perfection and completeness, having no interest in thoughts that deal with failure, weakness, or incompletion. He knows, as we seek to know with Him, that what the Father has planned and executed is accurate in detail and finished in manifestation. And since God pronounced His own work “good,” the One who is bringing forth justice in Truth understands that His work consists in realizing what the Father has done, not in trying to do that work. So there is nothing about which to be discouraged! All is done. All is done perfectly. All is complete; and your work, and mine, is to know this, to ponder on these words, to get their full import, to think upon them until we know, with “my servant,” that we can “set justice in the earth”; that is, we can bring about the expression of the divine law in our formed world.
“The isles shall wait for his law” conveys to us that if we have—as we certainly have!—been thinking of our life as scattered, of our experiences as isolated, or our health as uncertain, or of our affairs as scrappy and disjointed, we change all that from the minute we say, “Behold, my servant,” and realize that the Great Servant within us is the recognized, beloved Son of God, forever eager to work out our salvation for us. Then there are no separated events in our life, we understand that everything we experience has grown out of something in the past. We know that our health springs from the very source of health itself, the Christ wholeness within us. We understand that our scattered, disorganized, and unhappy affairs are the outcome of our unsteady thinking about life, about God, about the Christ in us. We become thoroughly waked up to the necessity of giving more time to beholding the Great Servant, the chosen one of God, the prince that rules with God, not only as a historic figure, but as life in all our ways.
Conclusion. There are certain well-marked ideas that are engaging the interest of men at this time, ideas about the welfare and comfort of the people. These are Israelitish ideas, “chosen” ideas, selected paths of thought that will help all men. So we see that whether we understand “my servant” to be a group, a nation, or merely one individual, the meaning is the same: Right thinking in truth brings forth divine justice to one man, to many men, or to nations of men.
It is the beholding of the Great Servant that matters. Begin there. Know that He is forever established in your inner life and forever knocks for admission to the outer world: for His great work is bringing the outer to being like the inner, bringing the inner into expression in the outer.
Your response and mine to this great call “Behold” will govern all your future and mine. If we see only the “dimly burning wick” or the “bruised reed,” we shall become like them. Our light will be under a bushel because we shall have placed it there, and our will power will be weak and uncertain because we shall have been thinking toward that end. But take the Christ into your mind; know that He is in your heart; and make way for Him to flow forth into your daily living by calling to Him, and beholding “my servant,” and see how quickly and happily everything will change!
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