19 April 2011

Isaiah 49:1-7

"Thus says the Lord: the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, 'Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.'" (v. 7)


In this part of our Holy Week journey, we read the second Servant Song in Isaiah. These are songs that give hope to a broken and exiled nation, offering them the promise of a Messiah. From the pause and breathing space offered in chapter 42, the preceding chapters of Isaiah to this point demonstrate the ways in which Israel are unfit to receive the promised Messiah.

The Messiah would be one who would fulfil all that the nation of Israel was called to inhabit: a place of hope and blessing, healing and worship. The Servant of the Lord would embody these, in turn displaying the splendour, beauty, holiness and glory of God.

Yet this servant is still hidden from view. This is a prophetic vision of God's promised; one who is hidden in the shadow of God's hand ... concealed in God's quiver (verse 2). This song offers hope to a nation, rather than specific answers.

In the midst of this Servant of the Lord, kings stand up in recognition of the Messiah's authority. Princes will bow down in supplication to the servant who humbles them.

Yet this servant, to whom Christians foresee as Jesus, will also be known because they are shunned and persecuted by the very people to whom he is sent. Kings will stand up to him and challenge his authority. Princes will bow and cower to them in mockery and pride. The servant, sent to serve and demonstrate God's glory, will also be taunted and rejected. Isaiah even says "abhorred" by God's chosen people.

God's salvation, brought into existence by this Messiah, is for all people. We read again the immortal words "to the end of the earth" (verse 6). This is not the challenge of a notorious or rebellious leader. This is not the promise of a politician. This is not even the galvanising of a nation in revolution. This is God, sending God's light into the whole world. This is a light that will shine in the most dark and broken of places, and let all paying attention see God's splendour for themselves.

To Ponder

In verse 4, Isaiah talks about 'labouring in vain'. When have you laboured in vain? What assurance does this passage offer?

What does God's splendour look like for you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling (1)

Joanne Cox-Darling is a Methodist presbyter currently serving in the Wolverhampton Circuit, where most recently she participated in a harvest festival in a farmyard, surrounded by a 'small' dairy herd of nearly 200 cattle. Joanne is the chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency (www.christianity.org.uk) - described by the Archbishop of York as the "possibly the easiest form of evangelism you will ever do".