Read Isaiah 49
The Servant of the Lord
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.
2 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.
3 He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”
4 But I said, “I have labored 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.”
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 my salvation may reach 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 stand up,
princes will see and bow down,
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Restoration of Israel
8 This is what the Lord says:
“In the time of my favor 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,
9 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.
10 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.
11 I will turn all my mountains into roads,
and my highways will be raised up.
12 See, they will come from afar—
some from the north, some from the west,
some from the region of Aswan.”
13 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.
14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “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!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.
17 Your children hasten back,
and those who laid you waste depart from you.
18 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.
19 “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.
20 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.’
21 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?’”
22 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.
23 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.”
24 Can plunder be taken from warriors,
or captives be rescued from the fierce?
25 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.
26 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 Savior,
your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Chapter 49 prophecies the coming of God’s servant, Jesus the Messiah. The way the chapter is written may remind us of the Gospels in the New Testament. His mission and purpose described in Isaiah reflect what we read about Jesus in the New Testament. We learn Jesus will be rejected by the nations (v. 7), which were the very people he came to save. Jesus came and freed us from bondage (v. 9-10), guiding us in his ways, having compassion on the afflicted (v. 13). But as Romans 11:30 says, we receive mercy despite our disobedience.
This chapter uses a lot of different terms to describe different people. Let’s quickly define them. Islands or coastlands are references to all nations, highlighting a difference in Jesus’ ministry from what religious leaders and people expected. He came for all the people and for everyone to be saved, not just the Jews. We can look at Zion and Israel with the same lens. These are two titles directly referring to the people group of the Israelites, but because of Jesus’ coming, are now encompassing terms for all who believe in Jesus.
What does this mean for us today? Through the justification of Christ dying on the cross, we have been given a new life. That doesn’t mean Jesus is no longer doing anything. He is still interceding for us every day. Just as this passage describes Him covering us in mercy, so are his mercies new every morning for us today because of His intercession. Gentle and Lowly, a book by Dane Ortlund, suggests “intercession is the moment-by-moment application of the atoning work.” Jesus is still near and with us even today. We are reminded by the gospel that we need constant renewal. Christ is daily covering us with his grace. Our sins have fully been paid for and covered by His work on the cross. We receive this mercy daily despite our disobedience. We have a Father who has not forgotten us, who has made a way for us to daily draw near to Him and be covered by Him. He has chosen us to be His people and be a light to the world. Let us rejoice in His faithfulness to Zion!
- What does this chapter tell us about God and His character? What verses directly talk about who He is?
- Reread verses 5 and 6. What does this tell us about Jesus? What does it say about his mission for us?
- Verse 23 says “those who hope in me will not be disappointed” and the ESV translation says it as “those who wait on me.” What does it look like to wait and put hope in the Lord?
Did You Know?
Verse 9 says that someday the Messiah will “say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’” David Guzik, in the Enduring Word commentary, complied this short list of instances where Jesus fulfilled this:
- Jesus set the demon possessed free from the bondage of chains and demonic torture (Mark 5:1-15).
- Jesus set the sick and diseased free from the bondage of their infirmities (Luke 13:16).
- Jesus set the righteous dead captive in Hades free from their place (Ephesians 4:8).
- Jesus sets those in bondage to sin and the law free (John 8:33-36, Galatians 3:22-23).
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