Today we begin with the second Servant Song (49:1-6). The Servant, Who is Christ, calls the whole earth to listen (49:1) similar to YHWH calling together the world to judge between Him and Israel (41:1) and His calling for praise (42:10-12). That God called Him as Servant from the womb is a reference to Him as the true Israel (see 44:1-2 and below). The sharp sword of verse 2 is the Word of God that Christ speaks (see Rev 1:16) and uses to judge (see Rev 19:15). God says to the Servant: “You are My Servant Israel in Whom I will be glorified” (v. 3). This identifies Christ as the true Israel. This (combined with verse 6) is also in view in the prophecy of Simeon in the Temple at Jesus’s dedication (Luke 2:32).
In verse 4 we see that the Servant (Who is the Word of God) has labored in vain up until now. This is a reference to the apostacy of Israel and Judah despite receiving God’s Word (see Rom 3:1-2). Yet His reward will yet be with His God, that is, the salvation that was promised by God and the prophets will still yet come to pass. In verse 5, note why the Servant was formed in the womb (remember all that forming talk spoke of the spiritual people of God back in 44:1-5): He was formed to initiate in the power of God the restoration God has promised His people. God then says to Him that He is His Servant to raise up and restore a remnant (v. 6). But note that He will be made a light to all the nations, that this salvation will reach to the end of earth!
This is attributed directly to Christ in Luke 2:32 (see above). It is also attributed to Him by Paul in Acts 26:23. However, Paul also attributes this to himself in Acts 13:47. What we see here is that what Christ began (the preaching of the Gospel to call the remnant), we are called to finish. It also speaks to our union with Christ, which makes us what He is. He is the Temple, and we are the Temple. He is the true Israel, we are the true Israel. He is the Servant, we are the servant. In verse 7, we see that God says to the Servant that He will be deeply despised and abhorred, but yet kings and princes will eventually bow themselves before Him. This goes for the people of God because of our union with Him. We will be despised (Matt 10:22), and yet we will reign with Christ (Dan 7:27, 2 Tim 2:12, Rev 5:10).
The rest of the chapter speaks of the restoration that will be achieved by the Servant. That salvation will be a covenant made in the Servant (v. 8). The prisoners will be set free and provided for abundantly (v. 9) and protected (v. 10). This is the New Exodus. Those in darkness are those who have seen the great light (9:2). Verse 11 speaks of the Way of Holiness (35:8) on which the righteous will walk (26:7). We will come from the ends of the earth (v. 12) on that path to the mountain of God (see 2:2-5). In verse 13, we see that this is how God will comfort His people (40:1). God has not forgotten His people (vv. 14-15). The destroyers in verse 17 are sin and death. In verse 18, those that gather together with God’s returning exiles (the spiritual people of God) are adorned by her as a bride is adorned by jewelry (see Rev 21:2, Eph 5:25-32). In verse 20, the physical land would not be large enough for all of God’s true people to dwell in!
In verse 22, the signal to the peoples is Christ (see 11:10-12). That the nations are carrying the sons and daughters of the returning remnant show that this is not speaking of the physical Babylonian captivity (see again 11:11). In verse 24 God asks if the captives of a mighty tyrant can be rescued. In verse 25 He answers. The mighty and the tyrant are again sin and death, but also Satan (see Matt 12:29). Those who are saved receive the promise made to Abraham (“I will contend…and I will save your children” echoes Gen 12:3 and 22:17). Verse 26 speaks of the final judgment and restoration.
In chapter 50, Israel (who should have been God’s servant) is contrasted with He Who is God’s Servant. God has divorced Israel (50:1). He has sold Israel because of their sin. When He called on them, they would not answer (v. 2). And it isn’t that God can’t redeem them. He has redeemed them before, like through the Red Sea, though now God compared Israel to Egypt, because it is their fish who stink and they who thirst which was the first plague in Egypt (see Ex 7:20-21). God also puts Israel into darkness like He did to Egypt, which was the ninth plague (v. 3 – see Ex 10:21-22). By implication, the tenth plague is coming for Israel: death.
In verse 4, we have the contrast of the Servant in the third Servant Song. He speaks righteously and listens to God (v. 4). He has not rebelled or turned backwards (v. 5). Yet, He willingly surrendered Himself to suffering and disgrace (v. 6). But God will vindicate Him (through His resurrection), so the Servant will do what He has been called to do (vv. 7-8). Those Who declare the righteous One guilty will be destroyed (v. 9). Who will hear and obey the Servant (v. 10)? Those that rely on God for the true light (see John 1:4-5, 9-10). Those who make their own light (do not come to God through the Servant) will be judged (v. 11 – see John 1:11).
In chapter 51, God calls us to look back to the source of our calling (51:1). God has multiplied us from Abraham and Sarah (v. 2 – see Gal 3:29), through Christ (see Gal 3:16). God again speaks of the comfort of His people (v. 3 – see 40:1). He comforts “Zion” which is the place where God dwells on earth, which is among His people. God then speaks of the restoration of the wasteland, only now He speaks of restoring it to Edenic glory. This is our end, God literally living among us as He did in Eden, which is what made it paradise.
In verse 4, God’s people are called His nation. This is not the nation of Israel, but the elect of all time (1 Pet 2:9). The law that will go out from God is Christ. He will bring true justice to all the nations (to which He is the light – see 49:6). Verse 5 speaks again of that justice and righteousness stretching to the whole world. Even at the final judgment, those who have been made righteous (saved) will never need to fear (v. 6). In verse 7, those who know righteousness are the elect. We are those in whose hearts God has placed His law (see Jer 32:33, Heb 10:15-17). We need not fear man (see Matt 10:24-28) nor their revilings (John 15:20). They will be destroyed, but God’s salvation is forever (v. 8).
In verse 9, the arm of the Lord represents His power. Here (and in verse 5) this power is manifested in Christ. Isaiah is calling on the Lord to once again use this power as in days of old at the Exodus. It was Christ Who cut Rahab (which is Egypt – see 30:7) into pieces at the Passover and pierced the dragon, which is the Satanic power attributed to Egypt (see 27:1, Psalm 74:13-14, Ezek 29:3, Rev 12:9). It was He Who parted the Red Sea for Israel to pass through (v. 10). He will be through Whom God’s power works a new Exodus (v. 11).
God again assures that comfort (v. 12). He encourages us to fear Him rather than man (see v. 7). Man has no real power (v. 13). Though we may suffer in this life, we will be saved and God will provide what we need (v. 14). God has all the power (v. 15), and He has called us as His people (v. 16). As sure as He created the heavens and the earth (see Gen 1:1), so will He preserve His people.
Verse 17 is God’s call to the nations to come to the Gospel. Jerusalem is the same as Zion: the place of God’s dwelling; His people (see Heb 12:22-24). Until Christ’s coming, we were under judgment (vv. 18-20). Who will comfort us (v. 19)? The wrath of YHWH is compared with the rebuke of “your God” (v. 20). This can also be translated “your god(s)” (as in Ex 32:4 or 1 Kings 18:24). This may refer to God leaving the nations to the oppression of the gods (see Deut 32:8) until the coming of Christ (see Rev 20:3). These may be the tormentors that are judged at the final judgment (v. 23 – see Rev 20:10 and Isa 49:25-26) when we will receive salvation (v. 22).