2. Twelve Days to Christmas
Isaiah 49:1 – 13
49:1 Listen, islands, to me; and listen, you peoples, from far: Yahweh has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has he made mention of my name: 49:2 and he has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand, he has hidden me: and he has made me a polished shaft; in his quiver has he kept me close: 49:3 and he said to me, “You are my servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” 49:4 But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with Yahweh, and my reward with my God.”
49:5 Now says Yahweh who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered to him (for I am honorable in the eyes of Yahweh, and my God has become my strength); 49:6 yes, he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give you for a light to the nations, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.”
49:7 Thus says Yahweh, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despises, to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall worship; because of Yahweh who is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
49:8 Thus says Yahweh, “In an acceptable time have I answered you, and in a day of salvation have I helped you; and I will preserve you, and give you for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritage: 49:9 saying to those who are bound, ‘Come out!’; to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves!’
“They shall feed in the ways, and on all bare heights shall be their pasture. 49:10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun strike them: for he who has mercy on them will lead them, even by springs of water he will guide them. 49:11 I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. 49:12 Behold, these shall come from far; and behold, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.”
49:13 Sing, heavens; and be joyful, earth; and break forth into singing, mountains: for Yahweh has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted.
This is the second Servant song, and here the Servant Himself is speaking! We have no idea of his actual name but He does have a name (Isaiah 49:1)! In the first Servant song, with the dispensing of justice as part of His identity, the Servant is a King! But not just a King, something more as well! In this song, the Servant appears as if He is a prophet by the things He is saying. He was called Isaiah 49v1) just as Jeremiah was. The words he speak are as if a double-edged sword (Isaiah 49v2). Despite the opposition (Isaiah 49v4), He perseveres to gain the reward and to glorify God (Isaiah 49v3). And while we find His name is Israel! Not the nation of Israel itself, but as a person who embodies all that Israel was meant to be and do. This Servant would glorify God in all His ways. This servant is a Prophet who is also a King. This Servant is a perfect incarnation of God’s light, covenant and salvation.
The Servants Mission!
In verse 5, the Servants mission is clear. Firstly the Servant will be a light to the nation of Israel and then to be a light to the nations. Isaiah 49:4 & 7 intimates the Servant will suffer for being who He is – despised and abhorred in slavish servitude. This Servant will be despised by the very people He has been sent to. But He will eventually be worshipped and honoured by rulers and kings. The Servant is on a mission to bring all people back into relationship with God who is “the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One“. The exiled people will be restored to the land (Isaiah 49v8). People are described as being freed from captivity and have all manner of needs met (Isaiah 49v9-10)! The Servant will gather people back to God just as a Shepherd gathers his flock of sheep. And it wont just be a restored Israel, but all peoples from all lands and nations, hence Isaiah 49:12 “Behold, these shall come from far; and behold, these from the north and from the west;” This Servant King and Servant Prophet will shepherd people back into relationship with God and dispense God’s justice throughout the whole world. That is all part of the Messiah’s mission – to bring comfort to people and compassion on the afflicted (Isaiah 49:13).
Then as if bursting from the seams with praise, we read “Sing, heavens; and be joyful, earth; and break forth into singing, mountains: for Yahweh has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted.”
Jesus as the Servant
Paul quotes Isaiah 49:8 in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Paul is saying to the Corinthians to grasp hold of God’s offer of salvation, right now! Right now, because it is a time acceptable to God! But who is Paul talking about? Paul is talking about Jesus Christ “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
Jesus Christ said of himself that he was the Good Shepherd (John 10) and the Light of the World rescuing those in darkness (John 8:12) – all images portrayed in this Servant Song of Isaiah 49v1-13.. Jesus came to save the lost (John 12:47) and to gather all people from all places back into relationship with God. Jesus Christ, the man who was despised, abhorred and rejected by his own people just as the Servant of Isaiah 49 was to be. Jesus Christ, who is honoured and worshipped, just as Isaiah 49 tells us the Servant would be. Jesus Christ, the Servant King and Prophet, who had as His mission statement Mark 10v45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”