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A new section of Isaiah’s prophecy begins with chapter 49. It details the ministry of God’s Servant.
The only way to interpret the Servant of the Lord is to see the Servant as a person, who is best identified with the life and ministry of Jesus.
In a lesser way, the Servant can be understood as a servant with a lower case “s.” This servant refers to God’s people who join his service to the world.
The Servant’s Call
Isaiah prophesied the Servant’s call to service 700 years before Jesus appeared in Galilee.
Listen to me, O coastlands,
pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born,
while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” (Isaiah 49.1-3)
God had a specific mission for his Servant that included four distinctive expressions of God’s care for humans.
(1) The Servant’s ministry will reach the coastlands. The “coastlands” were a symbol of the ends of the earth. “Peoples far away” intensifies the idea that the Servant’s mission was for everyone on planet earth.
Jesus made it clear that his servants were to extend God’s message of love and salvation to the ends of the earth.
Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matthew 28.19).
(2) The nations ruled in prideful power. God’s Servant will extend the kingdom of God through the power of his word.
Rufus Moseley aptly said, “You must become a bigger devil than the devil to win with the devil’s tools.”
Instead of grinding power, God’s Servant will conquer with self-giving love. As we learn more about the Servant of the Lord in the next chapters, Isaiah’s prophesy will reveal God’s gracious plan of redemption through Jesus.
Paul wrote of the power of the Servant’s self-giving love: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1.18).
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) outlines the behavior of Jesus’ fellow servants. Self-giving love is the most prominent behavior that is expected of his servants.
(3) As a hidden “arrow,” the true nature of the Servant’s ministry was hidden. The power of the cross was not readily understood. Only the revelation of the Holy Spirit made it possible for people to respond to what Jesus’ death accomplished for us.
Paul taught, “But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
“None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2.7-8).
As fellow servants with Jesus, the cross-life is the way God’s wisdom is brought to a needy world.
(4) The Servant glorified the Father. He explained the nature of God through his life and teaching.
The Gospel of John made this fact known about the Servant of the Lord.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
“No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1.14, 18).
Jesus is the supreme example of making known God’s nature. As partners with Jesus, our joyful task is to reveal the Father through our attitudes and actions.
A Worldwide Impact
The impact of the Servant of the Lord is worldwide.
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49.6)
Jesus proclaimed his nature to be light. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8.12).
His worldwide mission is to bring light to the nations. His deep desire is for persons to follow him and to experience the “light of life.”
Jesus has called his followers to be light. He said, “You are the light of the world.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.14, 16).
Both the Servant and servants of the Lord reveal God’s character by our good works and the words we speak.
This is God’s plan, plain and simple. Jesus fulfilled his role perfectly. It is up to people like us to do our part and live as God’s servants.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video of these blog articles on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is Jewish, a Christian, and an excellent Bible student. The videos present insights from a dialogue with the two of us.
I am indebted to Dr. John Oswalt, who has written an excellent two-volume commentary on Isaiah for insights into the Book of Isaiah.
Please email your prayer requests to me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.