Isaiah part 38, The Greater Deliverance (chapters 49-55). (The second Servant Song, 49:1-4)

Posted: Fri. Apr, 30 2021

This section opens with the second Servant Song, of which there are only four. A Servant Song is God’s love song to you containing in its verses the gift of His love - His Son. The first Servant Song (42:1-4) was biographical whereas the second is autobiographical. In each song a spiritual need cries out for a remedy and the Servant is the Spirit-endowed agent of redemption; willing and able to reconcile the transgressors with their loving Father.

Isaiah foretells that Israel would journey home from captivity, and there they would rebuild the temple and the city. The captives will be set free. It is a pilgrimage of free people to their home and the resultant rest they would enjoy.

The one to release them was Cyrus the Great, king of Persia. The pilgrimage, not exactly an easy walk in the park, would skirt around the deadly desert along the rivers that would lead them back to Jerusalem. At least the difficult journey would be followed by the promised rest, but that rest would not be found. Enemies lurked, surrounding them. Cancerous desires for sin infested their ranks. Political, social, economic hurdles were enormous and standing in the way of a peaceful and blessed society. Was the promise not to be?

The Servant in the songs is definitely not a political figure, and so, He cannot be Cyrus. Cyrus is not the Savior, and thankfully then, neither was the pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the fourth century B.C. the ultimate one promised to end in eternal and perfect peace. As God so often does, He shows us a type; Cyrus a type of the Servant, the journey a type of the true spiritual path, and the new Temple and walls a type of the heavenly city. Types are flawed people and materials that are shadows of what is to come. We can behold the miraculous grace of God that releases His captive people and sends them home, as well as the miraculous power of God that uses a pagan king as His instrument to conquer Babylon the great, and we can marvel that this is only a pale shadow of what God is to do for His own one day; perfectly and permanently. 

The Servant’s freedom gifted to us is freedom from self, not a government, from the bondage of sin and death, from the tyranny of the way of the world order in our souls. He will set them on a pilgrimage, not of the feet, but of the heart - a journey of discovery of knowing and seeing the glory of God. And He is gracious. He gives what He has made new, and that, not to Israel alone, but to the entire world (42:6; 49:6).


ISA 49:1-6

Listen to Me, O islands,

And pay attention, you peoples from afar.

The Lord called Me from the womb;

From the body of My mother He named Me.

2 And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword;

In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me,

And He has also made Me a select arrow;

He has hidden Me in His quiver.

3 And He said to Me, "You are My Servant, Israel,

In Whom I will show My glory."

4 But I said, "I have toiled in vain,

I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity;

Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the Lord,

And My reward with My God."


5 And now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,

To bring Jacob back to Him, in order that Israel might be gathered to Him

 (For I am honored in the sight of the Lord,

And My God is My strength),

6 He says, "It is too small a thing that

You should be My Servant

To raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;

I will also make You a light of the nations

So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."


No prophet ever said, “Listen to me.” Delitzsch states, “They are to hear what He says, not merely in the words that follow … What follows is rather a vindication of His right to demand a hearing.”

The Servant claims to be Israel (vs. 3), to be the Lord’s covenant (vs. 8), and the Lord’s salvation (vs. 6) - not to be the preacher or even the effectuator of these things, but to be them in Himself. No prophet would dare say such things about himself. How beautiful, astounding, and important is this Servant to the world?

Giving the name Israel to the Servant has led to a storm of controversy. But there is no need to allegorize it. We must accept it just as it is written, “You are My Servant, Israel.” Israel was the name of a man before it was adopted as the name of the nation. When Jacob was called Israel by the Lord, the weight of the world rested on the patriarch’s shoulders. But Jacob did not live up to anything close to pure holiness and righteousness. In the climax of the last section (chapter 48) we find the failure of the people Israel, who are also named Jacob by God.


ISA 48:1

“Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel

And who came forth from the loins of Judah,

Who swear by the name of the Lord

And invoke the God of Israel,

But not in truth nor in righteousness.”


The nation Israel also had a birth, but they grew up to be treacherous and deaf to instruction.


ISA 48:8

“You have not heard, you have not known.

Even from long ago your ear has not been open,

Because I knew that you would deal very treacherously;

And you have been called a rebel from birth.”


Before we feel the need to point a judgmental finger at them, let us consider that we are all like this. All the sheep have gone astray.

If Jacob can’t live up to the name “Israel” and neither could the nation that bore the same name, then either God has to give up on the entire project or He must find someone who can live up to the name. Remember, Israel is God’s loved and called nation, the children of Abraham, through whom all the families of the world are to be blessed. Neither Jacob nor the nation he fathered possessed the divine attributes that are capable to bless every family who ever lived. So, the Lord must either acquiesce to the failure of His plans and promises, or He must find a true and worthy Israel. The Servant is the answer. He Himself will be Israel, the covenant, and the salvation, and He will bless the world and set the captives free. He alone will lead them on a pilgrimage, and that journey will be to them, to a man unworthy of it, the wonders of wonders. And He will lead them home to the city that He has built, void of enemies without and sin within, and give them eternal rest.

Blessings in Christ, 

Pastor Joe Sugrue