Isaiah 49: The Suffering Servant & Beloved Israel

This chapter contains two main themes that bring to light several nuances of both Jesus’ life and the abiding love God has for His chosen people.

Verses 1-13:

In these verses we have the second song of the Suffering Servant (the first was in Isaiah 42:1-13). God is unmistakably pleased with the coming of His Son and what He will accomplish. The themes and deeper meanings in verses 1 and 2 describe Christ:

– Virgin birth

– Sharp sword protruding from His mouth (describes the truth of His speech)

– Hidden plan in a quiver; the ultimate thwart to sin

Verses 1 and 2 decidedly concern Jesus, while verses 3 and 4 mention Israel by name. But a case can be made that the description in verses 3 & 4 still applies to Jesus; Jesus being referred to as Israel may be interpreted as Israel being the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan to redeem His people. Because Jesus would be born through the faithful remnant of Israel and would ultimately save all mankind, the moniker “Israel” is used here to assign meaning to God’s plan to save all mankind. Verse 4 imparts the idea that Jesus “labored in vain,” which is a prophecy of how the nation of Israel will reject Him, but that in the end, Jesus will know that “my just reward is with the LORD, And my work with my God.” Jesus could say this because He would finally realize that His efforts on earth to save mankind from sin were what God wanted and would introduce the way for every person to be saved, not just the Israelites.

Also notable in verses 1-4 is the fact that the words are spoken in the first person, as if by Christ. The personification made by God through Isaiah is wonderful to behold.

Christ’s glory is such to God that to save the remnant of Israel is insufficient; He will also save the gentiles. Verses 5-13 begin to reveal some facts about Christ’s life:

– God shall provide Christ’s strength

– Christ’s glory and holiness is such that it is not enough that His sacrifice only save Israel; He will save the gentiles as well

– Man will despise and the nation of Israel will abhor Him

– Christ will be protected and given (sacrificed) for the people in order to redeem them

– Even though the nation of Israel will reject Him, He will garner the respect of kings and princes alike – an indication of God’s favor

This passage continues on to explain those that wandered the earth in spiritual desolation without guidance from God will now be led to safety and abundance from all over the ends of the earth. Israel is encouraged by Isaiah to leave Babylon and come out of hiding because Christ will be the Shepherd to lead their descendants to spiritual food. As God creates salvation through Christ, all people, Israelites and gentiles alike will rejoice and be led from confusion and fear to grace and salvation.

Verses 14-26:

Put simply, this passage is a love letter to Israel. The faithful remnant believes that God has forgotten them, but this is far from true.

Would it be possible for a nursing mother to forget her child? Most would say that it is impossible. God says that even if a mother did forget their nursing child, He could never forget Israel. God assures the nation of Israel that He will protect and deliver them.

His blessing and assurance is such to them that God continuously reminds Himself of them (vs. 16) and He makes an oath unto Himself that He will bring these things to pass for them (vs. 18). The land will be too small for them because they will grow in number. God proclaims in His oath to the nations that kings and queens will be their foster parents and will bow down to them.

God’s message is His followers will be proud and the He will ultimately prevail. Israel is the “prey” in the final verses of this chapter and God is claiming Israel as His and His alone. He may have allowed other nations to enslave and abuse Israel for a time, but now God is reclaiming captive Israel and will punish the other nations:

“But thus says the LORD: “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, And the prey of the terrible be delivered; For I will contend with him who contends with you, And I will save your children. I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh, And they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine. All flesh shall know That I, the LORD, am your Savior, And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”” Isaiah 49:25-26

God’s grace is wonderful and saves man from sin, but His wrath is a terrible thing that strikes fear into our hearts and should compel us to learn and obey.

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