What does it say?
This section of Isaiah concerns God’s Servant and the redemption of his people. The messianic theme of the coming Servant as a light to the Gentiles first appears in Isaiah 42. This section unpacks the Servant theme in greater detail. Sometimes Israel is called God’s servant, but mostly it points to that individual Servant to come. The context generally indicates which is applicable. Previously, God mentions his servant Cyrus by name as the one to bring physical deliverance to his people in Babylon. Here, God speaks of another Servant (Christ) that will bring spiritual salvation not just to Israel but also to the whole world.
Isaiah 49-50 set the Servant’s ministry of salvation, a salvation that extends to the Gentiles. The end of Isaiah 50 is striking for the prophetic references to Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection.
Chapters 51 and 52 are God’s great invitation to his people. He reminds them of their past redemption from Egypt and announces a greater exodus to come as he escorts his people to a homecoming that includes all the world’s peoples.
The scene abruptly changes from joyous salvation (Isa 52) to the suffering Servant that paid the price for it (Isa 53). The prophetic details of his suffering and crucifixion recorded here eight centuries before Jesus’ birth are astounding.
What does it mean?
The temptation in this passage is to get lost in the many profound prophecies concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the salvation that he provided. A deeper study is needed, but far beyond the scope of this devotional reading that is simply an overview chronologically of the Bible.
To say that this passage is in many ways one of the great climactic moments of what we call the Old Testament is no exaggeration. With all the twists and turns, victories and failures along the way, this passage enables us to see that God never abandoned his mission to bless the families of the earth in Abraham (Gen 12:1-3). See the Servant as God’s light to the Gentiles both earlier in 42:6 and here in 49:6.
Notice that God does not divorce his people (50:1). This is the “living parable” of Hosea, contemporary with Isaiah’s ministry. Hosea paid the price of his wife’s sin, redeemed her from slavery and brought her home.
How will I respond?
Today I will reread this section with the purpose of identifying those passages beginning with Isaiah 49:6 that speak of God’s salvation extending to all the peoples of the world. Finally, I will renew my commitment to be God’s servant in this mission.