One of the more amazing aspects of Isaiah is that he prophesies historical events that occurred during the Babylonian exile. Remember, Isaiah lived approximately 100 years before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. And Isaiah is looking beyond that to Babylon’s eventual defeat by Persia!!
Isaiah alludes to the rise of Persia and the fall of Babylon in 41:2, “one from the east whom victory meets at every step…” He describes the fear of the nations as Cyrus, King of Persia “trample(s) on rulers as on mortar, as the potter treads clay” (41:25). The nations look to idols to protect them (41:5-7), but God mocks their efforts (41:21-29) and assures his people to trust in Him, alone…
But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:8-10).
It is within this passage that Isaiah first refers to Israel as “my servant.” The idea of “the servant” is prevalent in this middle section of Isaiah… occurring 20 times in Chapters 41-53.
The servant’s role was special. The servant was appointed to be a light to the Gentiles by faithfully upholding the Law in righteousness. We learn in Isaiah 42:18-25 that Israel dismally failed in its role of being God’s anointed Servant… Because of Israel’s failure, God promised to send another Servant – a Servant who was able to be a light to the Gentiles – a Servant who was able to uphold the law in All righteousness.
The Servant is the Messiah.
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1).
Throughout the next 11 chapters, Isaiah sometimes refers to the “servant” as Israel and other times as the Messiah. The role of the servant applies to both Israel and the Messiah – because the Messiah was the ultimate fulfillment of all that the Servant was meant to be, and which Israel failed to be.
I’m so thankful for Jesus. He is the Servant that obeyed the law perfectly on my behalf, and because of His sacrifice, I can rest in the sure salvation of God!
For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you” (Isaiah 41:13).