The Very Definition of a Servant: Reflections on Isaiah 42:1-9

I am again reminded of that oft-repeated line from Martin Luther King, Jr: "The arc of the universe is long, and it bends toward justice." This may be the very essence of the work of the servant of YHWH, whoever he or she may finally be identified to be. Justice will come, but you and I may not see or even at times experience its coming. Who better than MLK could appreciate that fact, suffering death in the very beginning of the search and struggle for justice himself. Of course, MLK was a very public figure, quite unlike the servant of YHWH in that regard. Yet, no one would deny that his work was for justice, not just for African-Americans, but for all those who are denied justice in life.

I find great hope in Isaiah's words. The work of justice is not only for the famous, the public, the notorious on the covers of magazines and talking on the TV. The work of justice is all of our work, however small the act, however little known the deed. Matthew 25 springs to mind: "As much as you have done it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me." Acts of justice come in all shapes and sizes, but each one is as significant as the next. "Look! The former things have passed, and new things I now declare" (Is. 42:9). The former absence of justice has now been forgiven by YHWH, but the new demands for justice have again been issued. That work of justice awaits us all.

Note: Let me remind you again, my readers, of the cruise I will lead in September around the Baltic Sea, from Copenhagen to Berlin to Tallinn to St. Petersburg to Helsinki to Stockholm and back to Copenhagen. The dates are September 3-13. Go to for full information. I would love to meet you there. I will lecture on the book of Job.

1/7/2014 5:00:00 AM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.