Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 49

This next chapter in the book of Isaiah is the first in a long line of chapters that has a strong Messianic tone. When looking at the life of Jesus, I find it amazing how His life was contradictory to the human expectations placed before Him. The Pharisees thought that their Messiah would be a conquering king that would lead the people of Israel away from Roman rule. They clashed with Jesus when He did not do this immediately. He contradicted their expectations because Jesus knew He had a more important mission. He was also contradictory because His own disciples tried to constantly raise him up to an exalted place, yet Jesus was the ultimate servant. This shocked them because they knew Him to be the Son of God. One example of this was when He washed Peter's feet at the Last Supper. In that time period, to wash someone's feet was the ultimate supplication to that person. When Jesus did this, he blew the minds of everyone in the room because, to them, it was beneath the Son of God to perform in such a lowly, subservient role.

Christ, however, was the ultimate servant. If we study the Scriptures, specifically this passage in Isaiah 49, we see that this servanthood was foretold long before He came to earth in human form. I love that Jesus is a man of paradoxes. If you read His words throughout the four gospels, He often preaches that if you want something, you must do the opposite of that. If you want to be rich, you should give your money away. If you want to be exalted, you must serve. If you want eternal life, you must give your life in service to Him. Chapter 49 here deals with being the servant of the Lord, and how Jesus, as that servant, will restore the nation of Israel.

3 He said to me, "You are my servant,
       Israel, in whom I will display my splendor."

 4 But I said, "I have labored to no purpose;
       I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.
       Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand,
       and my reward is with my God."

 5 And now the LORD says—
       he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
       to bring Jacob back to him
       and gather Israel to himself,
       for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD
       and my God has been my strength-

 6 he says:
       "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
       to restore the tribes of Jacob
       and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
       I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
       that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

 7 This is what the LORD says—
       the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—
       to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation,
       to the servant of rulers:
       "Kings will see you and rise up,
       princes will see and bow down,
       because of the LORD, who is faithful,
       the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you." – Isaiah 49:3-7

These words are beautiful prophesy because it tells how Jesus, who is certainly the Holy One of Israel, will be hated by His own nation, yet He is raised up. Since Jesus was both fully God and fully man, He had the ability to do whatever he wanted. He did not have to submit Himself to the whims and laws of man, but He chose to. He did this out of His desire to serve man as the bridge over the chasm of sin. Even in these verses, Israel is more than a nation in the Middle East. It is a metaphor for the nation of believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile. In verse six, Isaiah specifically says that He is also the light for the Gentiles, which is a concept that many in Isaiah's time struggled to understand. In that light, you could say that Isaiah's words mean even more now because they are easier to understand in the entire context of the Bible. This is further proof that it is indeed the living Word of God.


  1. In what other ways did Jesus serve?
  2. Can this passage be interpreted in other ways?
  3. Why would Israel struggle to understand this?

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