In 1990, Chris McCandless, a recent college graduate from an affluent suburban family set out on a journey of self-discovery.  He was like many middle class young people in our culture; he was looking for freedom and the experience of adventure. 

So, he set out from Atlanta in his beat up Datsun on an adventure into the unknown.  His car eventually bit the dust in the hot Arizona sun.  In this situation, most would have turned back to the comforts of the suburban lifestyle.  But the more his security was stripped way, the more Chris felt in his element.  He buried his possessions in the sand and burned the last bit of money to his name.  For him this meant the true journey had begun. 

Chris wandered across the western landscape, hiking in national parks, canoeing the Colorado River all the way to Mexico and working odd jobs when he needed a little cash to survive.  His travels also brought him great hardship, living off plain rice for days at a time and he was exposed to the elements continually.  But through it all Chris kept moving on. 

In time, Alaska began to call his name.  To Chris McCandless Alaska was the ultimate destination for the true wanderer.  In a letter to a friend, he wrote, “It might be a very long time before I return south.  If this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again, I want you to know you’re a great man.  I now walk into the wild.”  And this is exactly what he did.  He hitchhiked through the Yukon Territory and found himself at the foothills of Mt. McKinley.  And one April morning with snow still on the ground this young man walked off the edge of the world into the wild!

You can’t help when you hear this story to sense the restlessness that was calling Chris McCandless.  Something was calling him away from the comforts of this life.  Something was calling him beyond himself.  He found the answer to this call in a place, Alaska.  But as followers of Jesus, we have heard a call to something greater than ourselves and beyond ourselves and have found the true answer not in a place, but in a person, Jesus Christ, the son of God.   

A Calling to Walk in His Justice

In Isaiah 42:1-4 Jesus is calling us to walk in his justice. The word “justice” is mentioned in V.1, 3, and 4.  It is the key word of this section.             

In order to understand what it means to walk in the justice of Jesus Christ, we need to know what “justice” means in this particular context of Isaiah.  First of all, Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Israel around 740 BC.  He was a preacher to the nation of Israel.  You see, God had chosen the people of Israel from all the nations of the earth to be his own special people.  They were to be the ones through whom the world would know about God.  They were to be the ones through whom salvation from sin would come to the world.  The Creator God rescued them from slavery in Egypt through his servant Moses.  Then Moses led them into the wilderness, where they met the LORD at Mt. Sinai.  It was at this mountain that the LORD entered into a “covenant” with Israel.  By his mercy and grace he took this people and entered into a binding relationship with them.  Moses then went up onto the mountain to receive this covenant.  This is what the book of Deuteronomy is in the Bible. 

So, Isaiah and all the other prophets were preachers of the covenant.  Israel had agreed to follow the LORD with all their hearts and to obey his word, but they had forsaken his ways and Isaiah was proclaiming they had broken the covenant with God.  This is the heart of Isaiah’s message the covenant is broken.

As Isaiah and the other prophets sought to apply the covenant to their life situation and they found new and condensed ways of doing this.  Sometimes this would be a single sentence or phrase or word.  Even, the Ten Commandments upon which the entire covenant is based are condensed version of the whole.  Isaiah therefore, uses different word pairs or phrases to describe this covenant. 

One the word pairs that Isaiah uses to refer to the “covenant” or Ten Commandments or the whole book of Deuteronomy is “righteousness and justice.”  So, “righteousness and justice” is Isaiah’s slang for the “covenant.”  It’s his way of saying “social justice.”  It’s a condensed version.  This can be clearly seen in Isaiah’s portrait of the Messiah throughout the book.  The Messiah would be someone who would truly embody the covenant.  The Messiah would truly reflect the character and glory of God by keeping his law. I am relying heavily here on Dr. Peter Gentry, who has written about this in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology

Look at Isaiah 9:6, 7, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” 

You may know this passage it is frequently used during Christmas time to refer to the birth of Jesus.  In fact, it is a reference to Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  So, the Messiah was going to be a king who would truly live out the law of God, the covenant of God.  Isaiah is using this word pair “righteousness and justice” as an expression for social justice and also as summary of the law of God. 

When we come to Isaiah 42, we see Isaiah’s second presentation of the Messiah.  This time instead of being presented as a king, the Messiah is presented as a servant.  This servant is indeed Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 42:1-4 is quoted in Matthew 12, speaking about Jesus Christ.  But here in Isaiah 42, the Servant’s agenda is the same; it is to bring about “social justice” in the earth.  Except now, Isaiah has further shortened the Ten Commandments and Deuteronomy down to one word “justice.”  Look at Isaiah 42:1, 3, and 4.  The servant of God, Jesus Christ is going to be the one to do what Israel failed to do, to show the nations what it truly looks like to be human.  Jesus Christ’s mission and calling was to show the world a true reflection of God by keeping the covenant of God.    

Is this not what Jesus did with his life?  Did he not display true justice in the way he lived?  Did he not show us how to truly live?  Did he not demonstrate for us social justice? 

Jesus loved others even those whom the world would write off as outcasts.  Matthew 9:10- 13 says, “And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

Jesus loved those who society had forgotten about.  Maybe, you think that you’re so far gone that Jesus would never want anything to with you.  Well, this is what Jesus’ specializes in.  There is no sin that he cannot forgive.  There is no life he cannot change.  Even in Isaiah 42:3, Isaiah says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  The idea here is of a reed that is useless and a wick that is almost burnt up.  These types of people Jesus will not break.  There is no life that he cannot salvage.  He will bring justice to them.  He will bring God’s covenant love to them.  He lived for the poor and hurting. 

In June, I went on mission trip to Brazil.  We were working in an invasion, which is basically an area where people have taken over the land and are living in extremely poor situations.  Among the many things we did there that week was to put on a clinic for two days.  We had three doctors and three nurses.  So, for two days, all day long people came to see these doctors.  These people don’t have any medical insurance or way to see the doctor.  We saw around two hundred people and then we paid for all their prescriptions.  This is just one small way were trying to live out the justice of Jesus Christ in Brazil.  There was also a lady we met who had four young boys and was pregnant with the fifth.  They had no place to cook or hardly any space.  So, we paid for them to have a small house built. 

Jesus is calling us to live out his justice.  Not just when we’re on mission trips, but everyday.  This means Jesus is calling us to live out his justice in our relationships with one another.  He’s calling us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  He’s calling us to serve others and to put others before ourselves. This affects how we relate to our family and in dating relationships.  These relationships should be characterized by justice and holiness.  If not then we’re not treating people in a truly just way.  This affects the way we think about every situation in life.  Jesus is calling us to live out his justice on the earth.