In this section of Isaiah we have several servant songs (Isaiah 42, 49, 50 and Is. 52:13 -Is 53:12). The nation Israel was called to be the servant of LORD (Isaiah 44:1,2). In the servant songs of Isaiah, however, the focus seems to be on an individual. The Christian Church has tended to interpret these songs as prophesying of Jesus Christ. There has been good reason for this kind of interpretation. In Mathew 12:18-21, we have a direct quote from the first servant song (Isaiah 42:1-4) which is used to interpret and make sense of Jesus’ ministry.
In the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth is portrayed as the representative Israelite, the King of the Jews (John 19:19). He is the long-expected Messiah who secures, through His life, death and resurrection, the salvation of Jews and Gentiles. In other words, Jesus fulfills Israel’s vocation in the world. In the latter part of the first servant song in Isaiah 42 we read these words: “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (verses 6&7). Ultimately, it was Jesus who vicariously accomplished Israel’s great calling of bringing God’s righteousness and salvation to the ends of the world.
In the second servant song, which appears in Isaiah 49, we read these words:”It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (verse6). In Isaiah 49:8, God again purposes to make the Servant a covenant for the people in order to bring restoration. One cannot help but think of Jesus Christ who on the night he was betrayed said: “This is the new covenant in my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins ” (Mt. 26:28).
The vicarious and redemptive sufferings of Christ continue to be evidenced in the 3rd and 4th servants songs of Isaiah 50 and 52:13-53:12 respectively. What we see in these prophetic songs is God’s provision for the salvation of the world. The nation Israel could not bring salvation to the world, so God Himself came as the ideal Israelite, and as the 2nd Adam to do what we could not do for ourselves. The Son of God was incarnated as Jesus of Nazareth to accomplish God’s purposes of redemption. It is by grace we are saved – and it is not from ourselves; it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8,9). Jesus is our salvation. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. Pastor John