During the season of Easter, we remember the story of the resurrection of Christ and the miracles that Christ did on returning to the disciples. This reinforced our understanding that Christ is indeed the Messiah and the savior of the world. With this in mind, it can be helpful to look back in the Old Testament
General Background about Isaiah.
Chapters 42-53 mark several different parts of the book of Isaiah. It is in the part known to scholars as second Isaiah. The people of Israel are living now under Persian rule. They have been caught up under waring empires acting out God’s judgment first under the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, and finally under the Persians. In these chapters, there are three primary speakers.
1. The prophet begins by speaking about the anointed one who will reestablish Israel and send the people back to Jerusalem. This person is later identified as Cyrus the Great (a Persian King).
- Later God takes up the speaking role and addresses the people directly via the prophet.
- Finally, there is the entrance of one who is termed the Servant. The servant of the Lord who is the ultimate focal point plays a prominent role in the restoration of Israel. Portrayed as a new Moses who mediates the covenant for the nation, this servant suffers on behalf of God’s people bringing them redemption. The image of the servant here is changed from earlier references. Rather than a mighty Davidic king who conquers through force the enemies of God the servant comes with the “voice of a disciple” speaking as a prophet and ultimately suffering on behalf of God’s people.
The book also emphasizes God’s sovereignty over all nations. Assyria and Babylon were raised and used as instruments to punish Israel’s rebellious people. These two were then destroyed because of their arrogance and cruelty. God also addresses the idols using a court as a legal challenge to demonstrate the God is the one true living God. The final image is of God standing as the avenger and victor for the oppressed people of Israel. Here is an interesting video to help with the context of Isaiah 40-66,
I relied very heavily on the Anchor Bible Commentary for this work. In most places, it was the guiding information source. Citations for direct quotations can be found in the footnotes. I hope that the following devotional proves helpful to you. Feel free to reach out to me or Pastor Sue with any comments or questions.
 Dockery, David S., ed. Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: B &H Publishing Group, 2010) 263.
Bible Study Devotion
This chapter is written as God speaking to the people of Israel. God proclaims direct action with the situation that the people of Israel are going through. Here also is outlined the servant figure whom the Lord has chosen to restore the people of Israel. At this point, the servant is being introduced, and the work of God’s anointed one is still occurring. The anointed one references the work of the Persian King Cyrus. God has tasked Cyrus with a specific task of sending the people of Israel back to Jerusalem. The servant, however, is someone different. The Servant has the task of saving the people and has a more direct relationship as a mediator like a second Moses between God and the people.
1 see my servant whom I hold fast, my chosen one with whom I am pleased; I set my spirit upon him; he will bring forth judgment to the nations.
“The spirit is the charismatic impulse that moves to deeds of strength, courage, and wisdom. When it falls upon the king, it empowers him to wage war and to judge wisely. It is not a prophetic charisma in prophecy like Ezekiel. Here the result of the spirit in the Servant is judgment, a word that means more than the delivery of a legal verdict it is the establishment of peace and righteousness.”
2He will not cry out nor raise his voice; he will not shout in the streets.
At the very beginning of this section we are given a glimpse of what the servant will look and sound like. Characteristics of the servant are
- The servant is chosen for a mission and the word signifies that God has decided upon him. As one of whom a mission is committed, the servant receives the spirit.
- The Servant is the mediator of the revelation of God, and this is his mission.
- The Servant will not impose his words on his listeners. Nor will he use violence and coercion. “the crushed reed” and “the fading wick” signify the poor and the helpless,
- The mission of the servant is clearly a mission to the nations; a mission to Israel is not mentioned.
6 I God have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand; I have formed you; I have made you a covenant for a people and a light of nations, 7 To open blind eyes, to release the captive from prison, and from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
“Light of nations is repeated in chapter 43 and the “covenant of the nations” is literally the “covenant of a people.” Verse 6 makes more explicit the universal scope of the mission of the Servant. These phrases really indicate more than a “mission,” but it is hard to define them more closely. The servant is called a covenant; the force of the figure means that the Servant mediates between God and peoples, that the Servant becomes a bond of union. That he is also a “light” does not refer to his revealing mission; the light is explained in the following verse as the light of joy and deliverance.”
10 Sing to God a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth!
These words should sound familiar to us. As it appears elsewhere in the bible and in parts of our worship. Psalm 96:1 has the exact same words.
14 “Long have I been silent; I have kept my peace, I have contained myself; Like a woman in travail, I have groaned and panted, I have gasped for air.
God is shown as a birthing mother to the people of Israel. In relation to other common images that are used to identify God such as father, how does the use of this image change the way that we see God as active at the moment with the people of Israel? How might this use show something different from the way that we view God’s action in our lives today?
16 I will conduct the blind on the road; I will lead them on the paths, I will turn darkness to light before them, and rough country I will level. These things I will do, and I will not leave off.”
“blindness and deafness are used to indicate a lack of insight into the meaning of history as interpreted by prophecy. Israel is one sent, a messenger, like the servant but how is Israel to declare that which it does not perceive nor understand? It was the intention of God to make his teaching “great and glorious”; God’s self-revelation was to be universally manifest and convincing. This purpose has not been achieved, because those who were to announce it are hiding or imprisoned.”
19 Who is blind if not my servant? And deaf like my messenger whom I send? Who is blind like the one whom I send, and blind like the servant of God?
This is referring to Israel as the servant, not to Isaiah or the messiah.
Much of what the Servant is called to do is similar to the role of the prophet. What are some things that the servant does that are unlike the prophet?
God of our Birth, You sent your servant to us to teach and guide us in your ways. When we are unaware of the error of our ways guide us once again onto your paths of truth. walk with us hand and hand to show us a new understanding of your word. Amen
 McKenzie, John L. Second Isaiah . first ed. Vol. 20. The Anchor Bible. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968.) 36.
 Anchor Bible 40