7 April 2020

Isaiah 49:1-7

I will give you as a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (v. 6)

Psalm: Psalm 71:10-14


This is the second “servant song” in Isaiah and unlike the first this begins with the servant themselves speaking. The servant speaks as Israel (verse 3) with a mission both to Israel (verse 5) and to the nations (verse 6). With echoes of language used in the psalms (Psalm 139:13), the servant has been called whilst still in their mother’s womb by a creator God who was involved in their development right from the first moments (verse 5). Not only was this a creative process, but their God-given task was determined from the outset.

Unlike the previous servant song which described a quiet approach that did not need a voice to be raised (Isaiah 42:3), the servant here is much bolder and uses images of battle, with a “mouth like a sharp sword” and describes themselves as a “polished arrow” (v. 2). This is a servant who is equipped and ready to tell it like it is and get to the heart of the matter. They will ensure that people near and far hear the message he is given to bring.

The servant recognises the difficulties they face and the need to remain faithful, despite the evidence that their work has so far been in vain (verse 4), which has left them disheartened and worn out. However, rather than reducing expectations, God’s confidence in the servant remains steadfast and the mission given to the servant is significantly expanded. Where once the task was to begin by restoring Israel following the traumatic period of exile it is now widened to being not just an example or “light to the nations”, but to reach peoples from far away and bring salvation to the whole earth (verses 5-6).

As we journey through Holy Week, walking towards the cross alongside Jesus, it can feel as if all is lost, as if the mission has failed. This may particularly be the case for those struggling at this time, trying to cope with the serious impact that the viral infection Covid-19 is having on the lives of so many around the world. And yet, even though we may feel that we have “laboured in vain” (v. 4), if we, alongside the servant, remain faithful to the task we have been given and regain our strength from God (verse 5), we can play our part in being a light to the nations.


To Ponder:

  • Think about an activity you have been involved in or know about that didn’t seem to be successful at the time. What gave you or those involved the energy to persevere?
  • Consider the impact Covid-19 is having on your family, your community, this country and the world. Pray for those who may feel that they have “spent their strength” that they might know the presence of God.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former Vice-President of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member the BMA Council and is chair of the BMA's GP committee.

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