Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye peoples, from far: Jehovah hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name: and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me: and he hath made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he kept me close: and he said unto me,
Thou art my servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified. But I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with Jehovah, and my recompense with my God.
And now saith Jehovah that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered unto him (for I am honorable in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God is become my strength); yea, he saith,
It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel:
I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.Isaiah 49:1-6 ASV
According to chapter 1:1 the Prophet Isaiah (Meaning, Jehovah is Salvation) was the son of the Amoz, who according to an old Jewish tradition was the brother of King Amaziah.
In any case Isaiah had a fairly free entry to the King’s court in Jerusalem (Is. 7:3; 38:1; 39:3).
Isaiah was married and had two sons by the names of Shear-jashub (Hebr. “A remnant shall return”, Is. 7:3) and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Hebr. “Swift for spoil, hasty for prey”, Is. 8:3).
The book of Isaiah is mentioned around 60 times in the NT, which is more than all other prophets together.
28 references only originate from the chapters 40 to 66 whereby Isaiah’s name is mentioned explicitly 11 times (Math. 3:3; 8:17; 12:17; Luke 3:4; Luke 4:17; John 1:23; John 12:38; Acts 8:28-33; Romans 10:16; Romans 10:20-21).
The most remarkable reference in this connection is John 12:38-41. Isaiah chap. 53 and chap. 6 are referred to there whereby Isaiah’s name is mentioned three times!
The Word of God herewith confirms the unity of the book itself.
Such a scroll is mentioned in Luke 4:17-20 (compare Acts 8:28-35).
The Ideal Servant
These marvelous prophecies of that “Ideal Servant” reveal that Christ alone offers salvation to men.
The ancient idolaters who bowed down to images made by men fed their soul upon ashes and wasted themselves in degrading and worthless activities.
And the equally great truth that neither the ancient idolaters nor our modern unbelievers can answer the all-important question:
“How can I be saved”?
Isaiah 49:5 speaks of the mission of the Servant to bring Jacob back to the Lord and to restore Israel; but in Isaiah 49:6, it is revealed that God considered such an achievement on the part of Messiah “too light a thing,” that is a work not sufficiently great to be the full task of Messiah, and that his complete work would involve also his bringing light to the heathen nations of the Gentiles.
It would have been an insufficient reward for the `Ideal Servant’ to have received only the conversion of Jews as a result of his labors; therefore, God gave him for his recompense the gathering in of the Gentles also, and made him the means of salvation even to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Isaiah 49:6 reveals that Messiah’s mission to the Jewish nation did not include the restoration of all of the rebellious nation, but “the restoring of the preserved of Israel, thus being a reference to the “righteous remnant” only.
The recognition on the part of the Apostles themselves appeared, not at first, but eventually, that there was “no distinction” between Jews and Gentiles, nor even between Jews and barbarians.
The Great Commission was “to all creation,” and “to every creature,” and “all nations.”
Regarding Isaiah Chapter 49
I. The Messiah himself is introduced as speaking in Isaiah 49:1-6, stating the purpose of his coming, his rejection by the Jewish nation, and the fact of his enlightening the Gentiles.
In Isaiah 49:1, he calls the nations of the whole world to hear his voice.
He announces his call to be the Messiah, and gives his qualifications for his mission (Isaiah 49:1-3).
He identifies himself as “Israel” (Isaiah 49:3). For the meaning of this word see “The Meaning of Israel” below.
He was named even while he was in the womb of his mother (Isaiah 49:1).
He was the chosen instrument through whom God chose to be glorified (Isaiah 49:3); his earthly work would appear to fail (Isaiah 49:4); his future success, however, would be glorious (Isaiah 49:5,6).
He would gather in the righteous remnant of the old physical nation of the Jews; but he would also become a light to the heathen of all nations, bringing salvation to the ends of the earth.
II. Jehovah directly promises the ultimate success of Messiah’s work (Isaiah 49:7-12).
Men would indeed despise and reject him (Isaiah 49:7).
No matter what the Old Israel did, Jehovah would make Jesus Christ the basis of a New Covenant for all men, the basis of mankind’s renewal of their lost fellowship with God (Isaiah 49:8).
He would free the prisoners (from their sins) and provide light for the peoples walking in darkness (Isaiah 49:9).
He would remove all obstacles from the way of the peoples who would desire to serve him (Isaiah 49:10-12).
III. A song of praise in view of the Saviour’s marvelous work (Isaiah 49:13).
IV. Zion is comforted with assurances of the Father’s love, and with the promise that God will never forget or forsake her (Isaiah 49:13-21).
V. God will extend salvation, with all of its blessings, to the Gentiles. Kings and Queens would bring their wealth into the kingdom of Heaven (Revelation 21:24); and all of the enemies of God’s Messiah and his Cause shall be destroyed.
MEANINGS OF THE WORD “ISRAEL”
The proper interpretation of the Word of God must always take into account the Biblical pattern of using the same word for multiple meanings.
Similarly, there are no less than eight legitimate meanings of the word Israel in the holy Bible.
(1) This was the name (Israel) given by the angel to Jacob on the occasion when he wrestled with him till daylight (Genesis 32:28).
(2) This was the name that came to be applied to the posterity of Jacob through the twelve patriarchs.
(3) This was the name that Ephraim and the ten tribes who seceded from the House of David usurped and claimed for themselves only (Hosea 8:14).
(4) This was the name that applied to the kingdom of Judah, after the captivity and loss of the Ten Tribes with Ephraim in the fall of Samaria (722 B.C.).
(5) This was the “covenant name” of the righteous remnant as distinguished from the hypocritical, rebellious majority, who made up the principal mass of those deported into captivity in Babylon.
(6) In the times of the personal ministry of Messiah, the name “Israel” was reserved for a tiny handful of the fleshly nation of the Jews who were called “Israelites Indeed” by Jesus Christ (John 1:47), categorically distinguishing between them and the “sons of the devil” who at the same time they plotted the death of Christ were calling themselves “Israelites,” and “sons of Abraham.”
Nathaniel, Zacchaeus, Anna, Simeon, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, the holy apostles, and that little handful of 120 people who attended that meeting in Acts 1:15 made up the total number of Israelites indeed.
(7) The name “Israel” in our own times, and reaching back to the ministry of Jesus Christ, rightfully belongs to the true followers of Jesus Christ, his church.
Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches refers to them in Galatians 6:16 as “The Israel of God.”
The apostles are reigning over the “twelve tribes of Israel,” a name applied to the church of Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:28); and the 144,000 of Revelation 7 are none other than the kingdom or church of the Messiah.
(8) The name “Israel” in this very Isaiah 49:3 refers exclusively to Jesus Christ the Messiah.
This corresponds with the fact that Christ is the “head of the church which is his spiritual body,” the whole body (all the church) itself being also “The Israel of God.”
The significance of this meaning of Israel in this passage is very great.
Without this information, commentators are simply puzzled and checkmated as regards the discovery of what the passage means.
The elusiveness of the servant’s identity is nowhere more apparent than here (Isaiah 49:3) …
He is unequivocally identified as Israel…One way out of the impasse would be to delete the word Israel, but the ancient versions will not support such a deletion.
There is no easy solution to the problem of the servant’s identity.
All such confusion and lack of understanding disappears instantly when it is understood that “Israel” in this passage is a God-given title of Messiah himself.
After all that Isaiah had already revealed about the blindness and deafness of the fleshly nation (Israel), and of their judicial hardening, and of their being no longer the noble vine God had planted, but a “degenerate vine,” it is a foolish mistake indeed to try to identify that blind, deaf, hardened, hypocrite of the fleshly nation with the “Servant” who would heal that very nation.
(1) God is not unmindful of the welfare of his people, and all of their humiliation and suffering shall be made up to them (if they are faithful) a thousand-fold.
(2) Nothing can thwart the eternal purpose of God. Satan indeed may win victories over any given generation, but God is forever winning the Great War against evil!
(3) The walls that have been destroyed will be rebuilt.
(4) Those who have hated God’s people will return, along with their seed, to adore and honor them.
(5) God’s judgment against the wicked will take place dramatically before the eyes of the whole world.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:14 RSV