In chapters 40-48, we learned about the fall of Babylon and the restoration of Godís people from their captivity. Starting in chapter 49 through 55, Isaiah begins talking about the appointed servant, the Messiah. Some debate on the identity of the servant described in chapter 49, but the following points could only describe Jesus.
1. God called Him from the womb.
2. He made His mouth a sharp sword.
3. God held Him in His hand.
4. God would be glorified in Him.
5. He would be a light to the Gentiles.
6. Because of Him, salvation would extend to the ends of the earth.
7. He is the redeemer of Israel.
8. He is called the Holy One.
We will see these 8 things and more as we go through chapter 49, which could only describe Jesus. Verses 1-6 describe the mission and work of this servant.
Isaiah 49:1 "Listen, O coastlands, to Me, And take heed, you peoples from afar! The LORD has called Me from the womb; From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name.† 2 And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword; In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me, And made Me a polished shaft; In His quiver He has hidden Me."
Everyone is told to listen to what is being said. Though Isaiah is writing these words, the context of the chapter will show that he is writing as a proxy for the Messiah. This servant was called from the womb and before His birth, His name would be mentioned. We learn that Mary was commanded to name her baby Jesus before He was born (Luke 1:31) and the same command was given to Joseph in a dream (Mt. 1:21).
As verse 2 states, His mouth was made like a sharp sword because the words He spoke were powerful and they cut to the heart. When Jesus spoke, no one could deny what He was saying or catch Him saying something wrong. By these same words, everyone will be judged (Jn. 12:48). God would be with Him protecting Him along the way. Jesus was kept hidden from those who wanted to kill Him starting at His birth. He was never alone while on the earth because His heavenly Father was always near.
Isaiah 49:3 "And He said to me, 'You are My servant, O Israel, In whom I will be glorified.'
This servant is called Israel, and God will be glorified through Him. Jesus was the perfect servant of the Father, and He glorified His Father while He was on the earth.
John 13:31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.
I want to share with you Mr Coffman says about the term Israel:
The proper interpretation of the Word of God must always take into account the Biblical pattern of using the same word for multiple meanings. There are no less than eight legitimate meanings of the word Israel.
1. This was the name (Israel) given by the angel to Jacob on the occasion when he wrestled with him till daylight (Genesis 32:28).
2. This was the name that came to be applied to the posterity of Jacob through the twelve patriarchs.
3. This was the name that Ephraim and the ten tribes who seceded from the House of David usurped and claimed for themselves only (Hosea 8:14).
4. This was the name that applied to the kingdom of Judah, after the captivity and loss of the Ten Tribes with Ephraim in the fall of Samaria (722 B.C.).
5. This was the "covenant name" of the righteous remnant as distinguished from the hypocritical, rebellious majority, who made up the principal mass of those deported into captivity in Babylon.
6. In the times of the personal ministry of Messiah, the name "Israel" was reserved for a tiny handful of the fleshly nation of the Jews who were called "Israelites Indeed" by Jesus Christ (John 1:47), categorically distinguishing between them and the "sons of the devil" who at the same time they plotted the death of Christ were calling themselves "Israelites," and "sons of Abraham." (See John 8:31-50).
7. The name "Israel" in our own times, and reaching back to the ministry of Jesus Christ, rightfully belongs to the true followers of Jesus Christ, i.e., his church. Paul's letter to the Galatian churches refers to them in Gal. 6:16 as "The Israel of God." The apostles are reigning over the "twelve tribes of Israel," a name applied to the church of Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:28); and the 144,000 of Rev. 7 are none other than the kingdom or church of the Messiah.
8. The name "Israel" in this very Isa. 49:3 refers exclusively to Jesus Christ the Messiah. This corresponds with the fact that Christ is the "head of the church which is his spiritual body," the whole body (all the church) itself being also "The Israel of God."
The significance of this meaning of Israel in this passage is very great. Without this information, commentators are simply puzzled and checkmated as regards the discovery of what the passage means.
All such confusion and lack of understanding disappears instantly when it is understood that "Israel" in this passage is a God-given title of Messiah himself. After all that Isaiah had already revealed about the blindness and deafness of the fleshly nation (Israel), and of their judicial hardening, and of their being no longer the noble vine God had planted, but a "degenerate vine," it is a foolish mistake indeed to try to identify that blind, deaf, hardened, hypocrite of the fleshly nation with the "Servant" who would heal that very nation.
As Coffman points out, our verse is talking about the Messiah.
Isaiah 49:4 Then I said, 'I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; Yet surely my just reward is with the LORD, And my work with my God.' "
Many times we get frustrated today when it comes to reaching the lost because it seems like we labor in vain since few will listen to us. Well, the same thing happened to Jesus. He started with His own people, but many of them would not listen. As Jesus said in:
Matthew 23:37 †" O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
When you consider that Jesus only had 120 people that were gathered at Jerusalem in Acts 1:15, it shows how unsuccessful He was at having a huge following. Of course, Jesus was not the problem, it was the stubborn rebellious Jews that were the problem. Though Jesus had limited success with His people, He knew that He did everything His Father asked Him to do and that He was pleased. Jesus knew that only few would listen and only a few will make it to heaven (Mt. 7:13-14).
We should learn from this that while it can be frustrating when trying to reach out to the lost, we can also rejoice and be thankful that we are doing exactly what God wants us to do. Whether we lead a 1000 people or no people to Christ, we must never forget that our job is to plant and water the seed and allow God to give the increase.
Isaiah 49:5 " And now the LORD says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, So that Israel is gathered to Him ( For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, And My God shall be My strength),† 6 Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.' "
While the servant's mission was to bring back Israel to Him, we can see that it was not talking about the entire nation, but the preserved ones of Israel. Just saving these few was not all that Jesus would do because He would also become a light to the Gentiles and would bring salvation to everyone who is willing to partake of it. Only Jesus can fit this description.
In our next section, verses 7-12, God exalts this servant as being the Redeemer of Israel and calls Him the Holy One.
Isaiah 49:7 Thus says the LORD, The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One, To Him whom man despises, To Him whom the nation abhors, To the Servant of rulers: "Kings shall see and arise, Princes also shall worship, Because of the LORD who is faithful, The Holy One of Israel; And He has chosen You."†
Though many despised Jesus and the work He did while on the earth, God is saying that Kings and Princes will give Him the respect He deserves. Certainly, we see prominent people being converted to follow Christ after His death (Acts 13:7-12; 18:8; Rom 16:23; Phil 1:13), and many more prominent men and women throughout history have honored Christ as well. Besides all this, we know that every King and Prince and every human will eventually give Jesus the respect He deserves as:
Philippians 2:9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,† 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,† 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Letís get back to our text:
8 Thus says the LORD: "In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;†
We learn exactly when the acceptable time was in:
2 Corinthians 6:2 †For He says: "In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
The acceptable time was in the first century. Salvation came through Jesus. God would give a new covenant that would replace His old covenant. Jesus was the one that made this new convent happen.
Hebrews 8:6 †But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. †
Now look at:
9 That You may say to the prisoners, 'Go forth,' To those who are in darkness, 'Show yourselves.' "They shall feed along the roads, And their pastures shall be on all desolate heights.† 10 They shall neither hunger nor thirst, Neither heat nor sun shall strike them; For He who has mercy on them will lead them, Even by the springs of water He will guide them.†
I believe that this is talking symbolically about those who are captives of sin and those who are blind to the truth. Jesus would be the one that would open the eyes of the spiritually blind and free all who were willing to be freed from their sins. Jesus alluded to this fact when He read from Isaiah in:
Luke 4:17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:† 18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;† 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."† 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.† 21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
In verses 9-10, Isaiah also talks about how this servant will be a Shepherd that will meet His flocksí need.
11 I will make each of My mountains a road, And My highways shall be elevated.† 12 Surely these shall come from afar; Look! Those from the north and the west, And these from the land of Sinim."†††††††
In other words, nothing will keep Godís people from Him. His message will reach out to the ends of the world. Right in the middle of all the prophecies about the coming Messiah is a song of praise about the work that Messiah will do in His day:
Isaiah 49:13 †Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted.
In verse 14-21, we will see that God has not forgotten His people.
Isaiah 49:14 †But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me."
While God is revealing this future hope for His people through the Messiah, His people would suffer under Babylonian captivity. From the perspective of being oppressed and slaves of their enemies, they would feel like God had abandoned them, but God is going to tell them that He has not abandoned them just because He would allow them to suffer because of the consequences of their sins.
†15 "Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.† 16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.† 17 Your sons shall make haste; Your destroyers and those who laid you waste Shall go away from you.† 18 Lift up your eyes, look around and see; All these gather together and come to you. As I live," says the LORD, "You shall surely clothe yourselves with them all as an ornament, And bind them on you as a bride does.† 19 "For your waste and desolate places, And the land of your destruction, Will even now be too small for the inhabitants; And those who swallowed you up will be far away.† 20 The children you will have, After you have lost the others, Will say again in your ears, 'The place is too small for me; Give me a place where I may dwell.'† 21 Then you will say in your heart, 'Who has begotten these for me, Since I have lost my children and am desolate, A captive, and wandering to and fro? And who has brought these up? There I was, left alone; But these, where were they?' "
First, God says He can no more forget them †than a mother could forget her nursing child. Second, He even says that they are inscribed on the palms of His hands. So, there is no way that He has forgotten them or abandoned them.
Sometimes people today think that God has forgotten them, but He has not. We must not mistake misfortune or punishment as being abandoned from God. Misfortune and punishment are designed to help us become stronger in the Lord and to lean on Him even more. As Paul said:
Romans 5:3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;† 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Our text in Isaiahlooks forward to the time of the church when God talks about the land not being big enough for His people because through the church, Godís people would end spreading all over the earth. One confined place and a specific race of people would no longer be the norm because all people can be Godís people under the new covenant.
Next we read:
Isaiah 49:22 Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, And set up My standard for the peoples; They shall bring your sons in their arms, And your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders;† 23 Kings shall be your foster fathers, And their queens your nursing mothers; They shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth, And lick up the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD, For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me." 24 Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, Or the captives of the righteous be delivered?† 25 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.† 26 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."
As we have seen many times in Isaiah, we have prophecies that points the future church mixed in with things that are about to happen. Many believe that verse 22 and 23 is talking about the time of the church when all nations will be brought under one standard, which is the new covenant.
Our verses also talk about how those who have captured the children of Israel would become their captives. He assures His people that those who oppose His people will be brought low. This message has not changed because God is still in control of the rise and fall of nations based on His will and His timing.
As we begin looking at chapter 50, the first 3 verses point out the true cause of why His people are suffering.
Isaiah 50:1 Thus says the LORD: "Where is the certificate of your mother's divorce, Whom I have put away? Or which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you? For your iniquities you have sold yourselves, And for your transgressions your mother has been put away.† 2 Why, when I came, was there no man? Why, when I called, was there none to answer? Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Indeed with My rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness; Their fish stink because there is no water, And die of thirst.† 3 I clothe the heavens with blackness, And I make sackcloth their covering."
This is another response to Godís people who were thinking He had cut them off. He assures them that He has not cut them off, but the reason they are in this predicament is because they did not listen to the many prophets He sent to them. They did not heed the warnings or trust in His ability to deliver them and take care of them. Instead, they did their own thing and sought their help from man, false gods, and from the stars. They chose their fate by not following God.
We certainly need to learn from this today and realize that only God has the wisdom that we need. Man and other things will fail us. but God never will.
Next, we learn more about the servant in our last chapter. In verses 4- 6, He is pictured as an example of how to trust in the Lord while suffering.
Isaiah 50:4 " The Lord GOD has given Me The tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak A word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear To hear as the learned.† 5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away.† 6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
Jesus fits this text perfectly. He had the tongue of the learned because He spoke the Word of God. His words brought great comfort to the weary. He continued day after day teaching all that would hear. Though He came to save the world, many opposed Him and His cause. In order to save the world, He freely gave Himself up to the opposing Jews and suffer great pain and humiliation. I believe these verses clearly point to Christ and His willingness to teach Godís Word and to suffer for all mankind.
Verses 7-9 talks about this servants steadfastness in His faith.
Isaiah 50:7 " For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.† 8 He is near who justifies Me; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand together. Who is My adversary? Let him come near Me.† 9 Surely the Lord GOD will help Me; Who is he who will condemn Me? Indeed they will all grow old like a garment; The moth will eat them up.
The Father was Jesusí source of strength. No matter what man threw at Him, He never sinned and was able to endure because of His steadfast faith in the Father. He challenges those who think they can contend with Him and lets them know that no matter what they try, God His Father will be there for Him. His adversaries will not be successful, and they will grow old like a garment. As Paul asked:
Romans 8:31 †Ö If God is for us, who can be against us?†
This message should encourage us as Christians because Jesus is our example and we can know that God will also strengthen us and hep us fight against our greatest adversary the devil. We should never be ashamed of God and His way no matter how much worldly people try to condemn us because we have God on our side.
In our last two verses, the servant puts forth two choices for the nation:
Isaiah 50:10† 10 " Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD And rely upon his God.† 11 Look, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled -- This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.†
These are the same two choices we have today. 1. We can choose to live for God and trust in Him, which will cause us to be pleasing to God. 2. We can choose to follow the world and try and take care of ourselves, which will lead to torment and eternal separation from God.
Godís people back then had to make a choice, and so must we because we are all servants of something as Paul said in:
Romans 6:16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
For me, the choice is easy. I want to serve a living God who loved me enough to send His Son to die on the cross and who has given me the opportunity to be freed from the power of sin and has given me the promise of eternal salvation in heaven. For me there is no other way, and I hope that everyone here tonight feels the same way because the alternative is ugly and nothing good can be said about the awful place called hell. I hope this lesson about the future servant, which I have shown to be Jesus, will encourage you to have the same qualities He has because that should be every Christianís goal. Let us never forget what a wonderful God we serve!