Isaiah 49


‘Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendour.” But I said, “I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” Isaiah 49:1-4

The Servant Of The LORD

This chapter speaks of God’s servant of salvation, He speaks and reproves the despondence of Zion.

In these verses, God’s servant will restore Israel to God. What is said of this servant is unique and can apply only to Christ, Luke 2:31-32, Jesus is the seed of Genesis 3:15 / Galatians 4:4.

1. Out of His mouth issues the words of life, John 6:68 / John 12:48 / Hebrews 4:12-13.

2. It is in Jesus that God was and is glorified, John 17:4 / Hebrews 1:13 / John 15:1-8.

3. The whole world is called upon to hear what the Messiah has to say about His mission and destiny, John 14:6.

Though His mission seems to bear no fruit, God will make sure of His reward. God kept his Servant close in His quiver, He was kept close until it was His time for ministry.

De Hoff, in his commentary, says the following.

‘It will be noted that in his prophecies Isaiah makes mention of himself as God’s spokesman, of Cyrus who was raised up to bless God’s people and of the Messiah coming to usher in the last great age of the world. All of these things must be kept in mind as we read his prophecy.’

The servant meets the words of the divine calling with a complaint which immediately silences itself. This would be understood in a prophetic sense that after all his earthly labours, one of the closest disciples betrayed Him and the others scattered.

Pledge, in his commentary, says the following.

‘After his resurrection, they even spent part of the time fishing, and later they watched him ascend to heaven with a wrong conception of the kingdom still in their hearts.’

The main thrust of this is that it has failed to draw the nation of Israel back to God.

‘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 honoured in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength—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 my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:5-6

The mission God has given this servant isn’t restricted to Israel but is worldwide, the Gentiles, Luke 2:32. All of Israel would not be gathered, therefore, Jesus didn’t fail in His mission but was glorified by God because he accomplished his work, John 17:4-5 / Philippians 2:9.

‘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 stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” Isaiah 49:7

God replies and indicates the nature of the mission of Jesus.

1. His mission isn’t to be served but to be a servant, Matthew 20:25-28 / Isaiah 53.

2. Christ was despised and rejected by His own people when He came to them. He was executed as a common criminal, Luke 23:18-23.

3. But God is faithful to keep His promises and has chosen this very Servant and through Him provided salvation, Acts 4:12.

Jesus was despised and rejected, but upon His resurrection, He was manifested to be for millions the King of kings and Lord of lords, 1 Timothy 6:15.

Restoration Of Israel

‘This is what the LORD says: “In the time of my favour I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar—some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan.” Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.’ Isaiah 49:8-13

Here we read of the glory of the vocation of this servant is seen. Here, pardon is promised through the travail of the soul of the Servant whom God prepared as a Mediator for His people.

The Messiah now begins to fall into the background and the return of the redeemed is about to be described.

Pledge, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The imagery of the lands is to the Jew in captivity but is in such close connection with Jesus that it must be understood in that connection.’

The Messiah has brought all, Jew and Gentile, to God. No matter how far His people were scattered throughout the world, they will be restored to God in their land.

Heaven and earth respond with praise because he has saved its people and the joy of Israel becomes the joy of all the earth.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘A song of praise in view of the glorious results of the work of Messiah. The appearance of this outburst of praise in the midst of a long list of prophecies is similar to the appearance of the proleptic songs interspersed throughout the prophecy of Revelation, thus exhibiting the same characteristic found in other authentic portions of God’s Word.’

‘But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you. Lift up your eyes and look around; all your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live,” declares the LORD, “you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride. Though you were ruined and made desolate and your land laid waste, now you will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away. The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’ Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these—where have they come from?’” Isaiah 49:14-21

Israel in her captivity now complains that God has forgotten her suffering but God says, it would be as easy for a woman to refuse compassion toward her infant son as it was for God to forget Israel. In other words, the thought of Israel was constantly upon God’s mind. Jerusalem’s walls are engraved on the palm of His hands.

Because God will not forget her, Israel can look forward to renewed glorification among the nations. The population Zion recovered will be to her as a woman’s ornaments. Zion will once again shine forth with a multitude of people so that she would need to enlarge her borders.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The New Testament applies such promises not to ‘the present Jerusalem’, but to ‘the Jerusalem which is above’, Galatians 4:25-27 / Isaiah 54:1, i.e., to the universal church in heaven and on earth. The ruins of the city, the literal Jerusalem, were indeed rebuilt in the 6th and 5th centuries, but these prophecies transcend the modest scale of those events.’

The national restoration would produce such an amount of population that Zion would marvel in disbelief as she remembered her desolation in captivity.

‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:22-23

The prophecy now looks backwards a step from the future of verse 21 and describes the way the people are restored.

Those who held them captive will be their nursing fathers and mothers as they allow them to return to the land. God, through Cyrus, provided the material means for their return. These verses indicate the extent of material help given to Israel, and all of this served to enlarge their faith in God.

The fact that they returned would be evidence that God was true to His people, and so, the true God among all the nations of the world.

‘Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives be rescued from the fierce? But this is what the LORD says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine. Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” Isaiah 49:24-26

A question now arises from Israel’s weak faith while they are in captivity. They are so weak and Babylon is so strong that deliverance looks impossible.

Isaiah describes the condition of his day, but he continually keeps before the people the promise that the blessed Messiah will come and provide deliverance for all mankind.

The prophecy closes with God’s answer that He would ‘curse those who had cursed her’, Genesis 12:3, in such a manner that all flesh, Jew and Gentile, would know that He was God. This is both a stern rebuke and a strong promise to Israel.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘These last two verses contain a glorious promise of deliverance to the persecuted Church of Christ from the ‘terrible one,’ Satan, and all his representatives and vicegerents, and persecuting anti-Christian rulers. They shall, at last, cease from persecuting the Church of God, and destroy one another.’

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