We have been noting aspects of the Lord Jesus as Jehovah’s perfect Servant in Isaiah 49, specifically as He speaks about His Vocation (v 1), His Preparation (v 2), His Commendation (v 3), and His Determination (v 4) to serve, in spite of being the rejected Servant here on earth.
Verse 5: The Servant’s Consolation
In verse 5, there is consolation brought to the Perfect Servant:
And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.
The context is Israel rejecting the Messiah that was sent and, as a result, that nation being scattered abroad. The statement “Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength” is a parenthesis statement by the Servant, in view of Israel’s rejection; what the Lord is saying to His Servant follows in verse 6: “And he saith …”. That parenthesis statement conveys the Servant’s feelings of consolation, in the face of being rejected by the nation of Israel. Although He was not glorious in the eyes of men (indeed He was the object of man’s derision and ridicule), He knew that He would “be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.”
Surely this was a great consolation for our blessed Saviour when He hung upon the cross, with the masses sitting down and watching Him: “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him” (Ps 22.7-8). He was the object of such disdain, shame and rude scoffing of men, seen as contemptible and ridiculed, but His consolation was the conscious knowledge that He was glorifying His Father: “yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord”.
At Calvary, the Saviour felt great physical weakness: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels” (Ps 22.14). But He also knew spiritual strengthening from the Lord: “My God shall be my strength” (Isa 49.5); “But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me” (Ps 22.19). Our Lord also experienced the mighty strength and power of God in His resurrection out from among the dead. These things are unique to the Lord and His experience at Calvary, but, as servants of the Lord, we can also know a measure of this consolation. There are times when men shake their heads, ridicule us, and laugh us to scorn, but our consolation is that we are seeking to do what God desires, what is pleasing to Him, and that which is glorious in His eyes. We say with the apostle “we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thess 2.4), we can know God as our strength, as He provides us with resources of grace, and we can “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2.1).
Verse 6: The Servant’s Ministration
Here now is what the Lord says to His Servant:
It is a light 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.
This is the Servant’s global ministry, His provision of blessing, bringing God’s salvation “unto the end of the earth”, and is surely what Simeon had in mind in Luke 2.29-32. As he was waiting for the consolation of Israel, the Spirit directed him to the Temple, where he took up in his arms the infant child, God’s salvation, and said:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
This will be the wonderful global and universal accomplishment of the ministry of Jehovah’s Servant. The latter part of Isaiah 49.6 is also quoted by Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13.47, when they are caused to leave the Jews in Antioch who are filled with envy, and they go forth with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. They were appropriately applying the part of the verse about the Gentiles to the carrying forth of the Gospel of God’s salvation to the Gentiles in this day of grace. However, the ultimate fulfilment of verse 6 will be during the millennial reign of Christ, when the universal success of the ministry of God’s perfect Servant will be displayed on earth. This will be “the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3.21), when “the tribes of Jacob” will be raised up, regathered, brought back to God, and all the Gentile nations will also be brought into millennial blessing. Only then will Christ be displayed publicly to be God’s “salvation unto the end of the earth.”
The rest of Isaiah 49 describes all that is involved: in verses 8-21 there is the regathering of Israel, and in verses 22-26 there is the response of the Gentiles. Although the restoration of Israel will be a tremendous thing, God says here in verse 6 that it will be “a light thing … to restore the preserved of Israel”. Restoring Israel is the lesser thing, compared with the enlightenment of all the Gentiles, and perhaps that is why Simeon spoke first about the Lord as “a light to lighten the Gentiles”, and then also as “the glory of thy people Israel”.
Verse 7: The Servant’s Vindication
Here is a further word from the Lord to His Servant:
Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorrheth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.
Despite all the grace and compassion that the Lord Jesus displayed, remarkably this One who was “the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One”, was also the One “whom man despiseth”, and “whom the nation abhorrheth”. What an evidence of the sinful heart of man, to despise and abhor the loving and ever compassionate Lord Jesus! He was also “a servant of rulers” in willingly being in subjection to the ruling powers in Judaea in the days of His flesh; even to men like Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate. But there will be a glorious day when this will all be reversed, and He will be fully vindicated. We are again looking ahead to His millennial reign, when “Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship”. The kings of earth will arise in reverence, to bow down in worship before Him, and confess that He is Lord. Psalm 72 speaks of the kings of earth bringing gifts to Him: “Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him” (v 11); “all nations shall call him blessed” (v 17); and “the whole earth [shall] be filled with his glory” (v 19). What a wonderful day of glory for the perfect Servant, when the potentates of earth will all be caused to bow the knee to Him, and give Him the honour and glory He was denied when He first came into the world.
There is no doubt about this coming to pass, “because of the Lord that is faithful”. A faithful God will vindicate His Son, and bring all in subjection to Him: the faithfulness and righteousness of God demand it. And further, “the Holy One of Israel … he shall choose thee”: it is divine choice that God’s perfect Servant will be vindicated, and there is none who can alter the eternal purpose of God. Ephesians 1 tells us of God’s purpose to head up everything in Christ: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (v 10). This One, whom God will vindicate before the gaze of all, is the blessed One that we serve today, and in a coming day we will share in His manifested glory. Ephesians 1.11 goes on to say “in whom also we have obtained an inheritance”. It is His desire not to have all this glory for Himself alone, but to share it with His Bride, the Church. We are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom 8.17). “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3.4). So, His glory will be our glory, and His vindication will be our vindication. What a motivation for us to seek to faithfully serve Him now!