Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"Chosen and Upheld"

Isaiah 42:1-9

2 Corinthians 4:7-12

      The 42nd chapter of this prophecy speaks of a servant; one who is chosen and upheld by the

Lord, and in whom God delights.  Commentators are in broad agreement that this is a prophecy

pointing toward the promised Messiah; the one who would speak for God; the one who would

give up life and liberty for the sake of the world on God’s behalf.  In our era and frame of refe-

rence, we recognize that Jesus – who came some five hundred years after this prophecy was

declared – best fits the bill as the One who was uniquely able to speak God’s word, and who

would indeed sacrifice life and liberty for the life and liberty of the people from whom and to

whom He was called.

      Along with most commentators, I agree that this foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus is a

faithful interpretation of the passage.  Yet at the same time, if we interpret the prophet’s words

only to call the ministry of Jesus to mind, we may be missing an important element of this pro-

phecy.  What if – on another level – the prophet is speaking to us about our roles as God’s

servants?  What if the words of this passage are to apply to our lives and actions, and not only to

those of Jesus as the anointed of God?  This is not an effort to put ourselves in Jesus’ place.  Nor

is it an attempt to deny that the prophet had the promised and chosen One of God in mind when

inspired to write these words.  I believe he did.  What I want us to consider this morning is where

our responsibilities lie, and what our call to servanthood in Christ Jesus is all about. 

      Let’s hear again, then, these words as though we were the servants of whom God speaks

through the prophecy:  “Here is 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.” 

Might these words speak both of the One who was uniquely chosen – Jesus – and of those who say

yes to Jesus’ invitation to follow in His way, His truth, His life?  That is, you and me; we, the church.

Let’s break it down.

      First of all, we learn from the Isaiah prophecy that those called to God’s service, God will up-

hold, which implies support, strength, guidance.  God’s righteous will is present to uphold us so

we are not set out on this path of servant hood left to our own devices.  Think of this in terms of

when we have gone through a rough patch in our life’s journey, and what it meant to have

others who were supportive of us during that time; those who held us up.  How important was

that sympathetic ear; that comforting and sometimes guiding voice; that understanding heart;

those strong shoulders?  Upon such things can no tag of value be hung, for they were invaluable;

indispensible even.  I remember as if it was yesterday when my mom took sick after a fairly

routine surgery, and within a week had passed away.  During that same period, I was recovering

from foot surgery which had me temporarily disabled.  Were it not for the uphold I received from

my wife, my children, my friends, this church family, I’m not sure how I would have gotten

through it.

      This support – this uphold – is vitally important.  But the uphold we get from God as we seek

to serve God’s purposes goes even further.  Not only does God empathize with us and offer us

moral support, God also grants us the strength, the courage, and the ability to be about respon-

ding to God’s will in the best way we’re able.  God says “Here is my servant, whom I uphold.” 

Jesus?  Yes.  But might we hear within that acclamation:  Here are you, my servants – my church –

whom I uphold.  The extent of God’s supportive power is endless, and the ability that God gives

all those called to serve knows no bounds. 

            The reason God grants such backing to our efforts comes to light in the next few words of

Isaiah’s prophecy:  “my chosen, in whom my soul delights.”  No wonder God invests so fully in

us, even as He invested so fully in His beloved Son.  God is telling us here that we ourselves are

beloved and precious.  Not only are we called to do certain tasks in life in response to our

servant hood role; we are chosen, handpicked on the basis of what God has built into each and

every one of us; our unique personalities, talents, skills, and abilities. 

       In the church and other organizations, when we are getting a committee together around a

certain work, we seek to choose the best people we can for the job to be done.  Hopefully, that is

always our aim.  But when workers are few, and volunteers are in short supply, we sometimes

feel pressured into just filling slots. This is not the way God does things.  God tells us that we are

specially chosen, and that God is delighted in the choices made.  For God is delighted with us

Consider how different this message is from what the world tells us.  Too often, the world’s mes-

sage is that we’re not good enough, so we need to do this, that or the other to make ourselves

good enough; worthy enough.  Too often, the world communicates messages of doom and

failure, stoking in us a fear of dreaming our dreams and fulfilling our calls. 

      Here in these few opening words from the prophet, God tells us we are worthy enough; we

are good enough, because God has declared us so.  We are valued by virtue of the fact that we

have been chosen.  Moreover, we can’t be failures because God has chosen us for success, and

God is happy with the choices God has made.  God is happy with God’s choice of us.  It reminds

me of the refrained words from the first creation story from Genesis:  “And God saw that it was


      In these words of empowerment, let’s not forget that God declares us chosen, worthy

servants for a purpose.  The passage goes on to tell us that we are chosen to receive God’s very

Spirit so that we “will bring forth justice.”  Jesus is foreshadowed as the One who will “bring

forth justice to the nations.  We as followers of Jesus are chosen and called to “bring forth jus-

tice” wherever we’re situated – in our homes and families; in our workplaces and schools; in our

neighborhoods and communities.  This is a tall order -- for Jesus, and for we who undertake Jesus’

work in our time and place.  But now, just as at the beginning, it’s all “good” because we find

that we’re not doing it alone, but rather are upheld by the Creator of the universe who

“delights” in us.  In the very next chapter of Isaiah, we hear reaffirmation as it is written:  “I

have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you….”  God’s Spirit is upon us that we might

do justice, seek righteousness, and walk humbly with God.  It is the same Spirit who called Jesus

to do these things, even as it is the one same Spirit who calls us to do these things.  

      The final assurance comes upon these words:  “He will not faint or be crushed until he has

established justice in the earth; and the coast lands wait for his teaching.”  Again, these words

foreshadow the coming ministry of Jesus, as well as the ministries to which we are called as

Jesus’ disciples.  As we read earlier, the Apostle Paul -- in concert with his predecessor Isaiah –

described such discipleship, such servant hood, which applies to us even as it applied to Jesus:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;

persecuted, but not forsaken; stuck down, but not destroyed.” 

      Chosen and upheld.  That, in my estimation, is the key to this passage.  Jesus – to whom

     Isaiah was pointing --was chosen and sent forth as God’s clearest image; of divinity in human vestige. 

Jesus was filled and upheld by the Spirit of God which provided Him the strength, courage, and wisdom to

perfectly carry forth God’s plan to establish justice; so much so that we profess Jesus the very Son of God. 

We, too, who bear the image of God in and through Jesus Christ are chosen and upheld.  We, the church,

as the very body of Christ, are chosen and upheld. In following Jesus, we can be assured that God’s Spirit

will provide us the strength, courage, and wisdom to help in the establishment of God’s justice and righteousness.

 Think what a privilege it is to be a part of the work of God’s servants, in whom God delights.  And how awesome

that we, too, are a part of God’s plan and purpose; that we, too, are a part of the ancient prophecy.  Of us

are written these words, upon which we’ll close:  “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,

I have taken you by the hand and kept you….”

Almighty God, You have spoken to us through Your prophets, and call us forth to Your service.

In partnership with Christ, who precedes us, inspires us, and perfects our every work, may we

be faithful in our response, zealous in our efforts, and thankful in our roles as a servant people,

after Jesus example, and to His glory.  Amen.