The Servant's Toil and Reward-Isaiah 49

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 9.2016ServanthoodOutlineTheme: God can never forget his people.

But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God(Isa 49:4). “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me" (Isa 49:15-16).

"But to deviate from the truth for the sake of some prospect of hope of our own can never be wise, however slight that deviation may be. It is not our judgement of the situation which can show us what is wise, but only the truth of the Word of God. Here alone lies the promise of God's faithfulness and help. It will always be true that the wisest course for the disciple is always to abide solely by the Word of God in all simplicity." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

"As long as we let the Word of God be our only armor, we can look confidently into the future." Bonhoeffer.

"It is the task of youth not to reshape the church, but rather to listen to the word of God." Bonhoeffer.

Notice recent gospel imperatives, explicit and implicit:

  • "I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me,for I have redeemed you" (Isa 44:22).
  • "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other" (Isa 45:22).
  • "If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea" (Isa 48:17).

These verses teach us the fascinating synergy (working together) of salvation:

  • We are helpless.

  • God must come to us.

  • But when he comes, we have to leave our sins and go out to meet him.

 The Four Servant Songs in Isaiah [Key word(s)/sentiment]:

  1. The Servant's Gentleness (Isa 42): How the servant serves. [justice, gentleness]
  2. The Servant's Toil and Reward (Isaiah 49): How the servant is equipped. [word, discouragement]
  3. The Servant's Resolve (Isaiah 50): How the servant feels. [determination, obedience]
  4. The Servant's Wounds (Isaiah 53): How the servant dies. [despised, rejected]

The first servant song is in Isaiah 42: How A Servant Serves. His mission is to proclaim justice to the nations (Isa 42:1). Isa 42:2 expresses his patience and gentleness by stating what he will NOT do: "He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets." Isaiah 49 is the second Servant Song:

  1. The Call (1-3): Chosen before birth (Jer 1:5) and equipped as a prophet (Isa 49:2). "He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrowand concealed me in his quiver" (Isa 49:2). "He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked" (Isa 11:4, NLT). The world works by the power of the sword (like Cyrus), but God works through his Word.
  2. The Mission (4-7): Restore Israel and the world to a relationship with God (Isa 49:6). After exhausting and toiling with all his strength to serve God seemingly for nothing (Mt 17:17; 23:37; 27:46), the Servant--in his discrougagement and depression (Isa 53:3)--sought God's reward (Heb 12:2), entrusting the results to God (Isa 49:4).
  3. The Confirmation (8-13): Bless the world through Israel (Isa 49:8-9a).
  4. Three Negative Responses (14-26):
    1. God has forgotten me (Isa 49:14): God is our mother who is mindful (Isa 49:15-16).
    2. God can't deliver me (Isa 49:24): God is our conqueror who is powerful (Isa 49:25).
    3. God has divorced me and sold me (Isa 50:1a): God is our husband who is faithful (Isa 50:2).

Concluding question: In our exile because of our sins, what is our response to the Servant? To his words which are like a sharpened sword and a polished arrow (Isa 49:2)?

"On the surface, the statement 'You are my servant, Israel' (Isa 49:3), explicitly identifies Yahweh's Servant as the nation Israel. But if that were the case, an apparent contradiction would arise in Isa 49:5-6, in which the Servant's task is to bring Israel back to Yahweh and to the land … the view that 'Israel' is a title of the individual messianic Servant harmonizes most satisfactorily with the passage and context." (Lindsey)

"Israel has light but needs restoration, while the Gentiles need both light and salvation." (Grogan)

"There is no exception in that great, but little word, 'all' (Isa 49:11). There is nothing in life - no obstacle, no loneliness, no trial, no sorrow - which may not be a way into God's richest blessing. There is no situation of entanglement, nothing that you can possibly conceive, but this can be part of God's way to make His mountain a way of deliverance." (Redpath)

"[When you make] the commitment of your life to Jesus Christ without reservation, then you can go to meet your mountains and meet obstacles in Jesus - not to meet them outside Him, but in Christ. If you do that, then the mountain between you and God's land of blessing becomes the way into it." (Redpath)

"The pictures of eating their own flesh and drinking their own blood (Isa 49:26) draw on the horrors of siege conditions. The reality is that those who oppose the Lord and his people experience the self destructiveness of sin - a recurring feature of the wars of the Lord." (Motyer)

Questions:

  1. (49:1–7 is the second servant song) 42:1–9 is the first. Does this servant receive benefits? What is his function? Compare 49:2 with 11:4. How is he different from Cyrus (41:2-3; 45:1)? Who is this servant?
  2. What will be the apparent outcome of the servant’s work (4a, 7a; Mt 17:17; 23:37; 27:46)? The servant’s response (4b, 7b)?
  3. (49:8–13) What will the servant do–for whom? Who is this servant (9, cf. 61:1)? Compare 49:13 to 42:10–12 and 44:23–how are they similar? Why should what precedes in each case produce this kind of response?
  4. (49:14–50:3) What is Zion’s response to Yahweh’s previous promises (14; cf 40:27 - notice the subtle difference between the two)? What is Zion’s concern here? Is it for deliverance or for something else?
  5. In 49:15–26, there is one prevailing concern of Judah’s that God is addressing. What is it, and why would it have been a concern? [In 49:22 the Hebrew word “nes” (ensign, banner, standard, etc.) occurs again. It is used in the same way as here in 11:10, 12.]
  6. What thoughts do you find that we have encountered elsewhere in this study and others (49:23c, d, 26c, d)? What is God saying to the exiles? What is the significance of such statements for us?
  7. [50:1 suggests that the exiles were accusing Yahweh of having “divorced” Judah, or to change the metaphor, of having sold his “children” to clear his own debts, as though their situation were somehow his fault. 50:2a–b could be interpreted in a couple of different ways: it could refer to the situation before exile when there was no one to answer God’s call to repent, nor to intercede for a sinful nation. It might also refer to the fact that there is no one else who can redeem us except God. 2c seems to support the latter alternative.] According to 50:2, whose fault is it if we are judged?
  8. Notice the occurrence of “hand” in 50:2, and be alert for its appearance in following passages.

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