The Book of Isaiah Bible Study Chapter 49 Part 1

Isaiah

This week ends with Isaiah 49:1-6

Within Isaiah’s prophecy there is a great debate – who is the servant of the L-rd? There are only two possible answers for this question: 

1. Sometimes Isaiah is speaking about Messiah (Messiah)

2. But sometimes he is clearing referencing the Jewish people – those whom G-d is going to use, from the descendants of Jacob, to bring about the conclusion of this world and establish His Kingdom.

What we can glean from this is that there is a unique and intimate relationship between Israel and Messiah. For example: Hosea 11:1 speaks of G-d calling Israel out of Egypt (the exodus), however, in the New Testament (Matt 2:15), this verse is also tied to Messiah. In one sense the context is the Jewish people, but in the New Testament it’s clearly a reference to Messiah – whose parents took him to Egypt to save Him from King Herod who was hunting Him. In the New covenant and in the Old covenant the servant of the L-rd relates to both Israel and the Messiah. We need to bear this in mind throughout this next chapter. 

v1: Hear: Many Bibles translate this word as ‘listen’ but it is a word that means more than to just listen. It is a word that demands a response.

  • Coastlands: Islands. Those who are far away, those whom the world has forgotten. G-d has not forgotten them. He knows them, loves them and wants to redeem them.
  • Me: Within the context of this chapter, we are going to find out who this ‘me’ is that we are called to hear, that we are called to pay attention to. 
  • Matrix of my mother: (literally: Intestines). Another word that relates to womb.

v2: He: G-d

  • Polished: Straight, accurate.
  • He has hidden me: Who the ‘me’ is is still a mystery to us in this verse. These verses are creating an anticipation within the reader for the revelation of G-d. Who is G-d speaking about? Who do we need to listen to and hear? Who has G-d set apart? Who has G-d hidden?

v3: He said to me: Whoever this one is, G-d spoke to Him.

  • You are My servant, O Israel: This makes it pretty clear that, up to this point, G-d is speaking about Israel. Paul points out in Romans 3:1-2 that the Jewish people were the ones who were given the very oracles (Word – specifically the prophetic message, His revelation) of G-d. As such, we are supposed to pay attention to or hear the Word that ‘Israel’ penned down (under the direction of the Holy Spirit – 2 Tim 3:16). G-d used Israel as His servants by giving them His revelation so that they could share it with the world. 
  • In whom I will be glorified: G-d has a plan, and part of that plan is to be glorified through Israel. Israel is indeed going to be a servant of the L-rd, bringing glory unto Him. 

v4: Vain: Futile

  • I have laboured In vain: G-d has done some mighty things through Israel, but when they look at things from their own perspective they do not see the change that G-d has brought about through them. 
  • Vain… nothing (emptiness)…vain: Nothing that G-d has done through Israel is empty or futile (from His perspective). It may seem like it is, from our human perspective, but this is going to be shown to not be the case, that is not the reality. 
  • Judgment: This is not the word for ‘reward’ but is the literal word for judgment. The thinking behind the judgment of the saints is that we are judged for reward, but the word ‘reward’ is implied and, to portray this verse accurately and honestly, the word ‘reward’ should not be used here.  
  • Work: Activity or action
  • My work with my G-d: This one is doing that which is going to bring about G-d’s purpose – G-d’s judgment. Judgment is related to the authority of G-d – G-d’s authority to work something out to the conclusion that He desires. Israel is going to play a role in this. 

v5: Formed me from the womb: Israel (Isaiah 49:1). 

  • To bring Jacob back to Him: We now have a ‘problem’. Isaiah 49:3 clearly identified the ‘servant of the L-rd’ as Israel…but…
  • To bring Jacob back…so that Israel is gathered to Him: This is the task and purpose of the servant of the L-rd, but this is clearly a task that Israel itself cannot fulfil. Israel cannot restore Israel to itself. In the introduction we spoke of Israel and the Messiah being tied together. Here we see another classic example of this. This, now, is a clear reference to Messiah as the servant of the L-rd. This leads us to conclude that in the last days the servant is going to be both Messiah and (the remnant of) Israel. The two are going to function together. It is going to be Messiah’s work that causes the remnant of Israel to, at the end, behave faithfully to do G-d’s will.
  • I shall be glorious in the eyes of the L-rd, and my G-d shall be my strength: It is not clear if this is speaking about Israel or about the Messiah. It seems now to be clearly a Messianic prophecy – having to do with Messiah’s work to Israel, but we saw earlier that it’s clearly Israel. We do not need to see conflict in this. G-d, in His Sovereignty, has chosen Israel to be His servant, but G-d has also chosen Messiah to be His Servant. This is the key: In the end, Messiah and Israel will have a mutual task – to behave in a way that relates to the Kingdom of G-d and to bring glory to G-d. 

v6: Too small: Too easy, too insignificant.

  • To raise up…to restore: This is the purpose/work for this servant – to raise up and to restore/establish the tribes of Israel. This One (this Servant) is ministering to, blessing, restoring and having an effect on Israel. It is not speaking of Israel affecting Israel but must be seen as Messiah affecting Israel. To simply raise up and restore Israel is not enough. G-d promised Abraham (Gen 12:3) that his descendants would be a blessing to all the families of the world (the Gentiles). Therefore, the Jewish people must be raised up, restored and also fulfil G-d’s promise of being the blessing that G-d promised Abraham they would be. G-d’s promises and Kingdom do not only include the remnant of Israel, but it includes the remnant of the Gentiles as well. 
  • I will give you as a light: We see a doubling up. It is going to be Messiah that does the work and impacts both Israel and the nations, but it is the restoration of Israel (Israel doing what G-d has called them to do, Israel doing their work) that is going to be a light (a testimony) to the nations. 

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