Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.(Isaiah 49:1-7)
In Isaiah’s prophecy the LORD God has called the entire world to give account of their false gods; can any of them save? Can they predict future events with perfect accuracy as the prophets of the LORD have done? Is there any reason to trust them? Bring forth your idols, and your best arguments, says the LORD.
But there is only silence. The whole world is lost, estranged from God, blinded and corrupted by its idolatrous worship, the idols are “nothings” and so also those who worship them.
Israel, God’s servant nation is lost also; having been blinded and deafened by her own defection from God. She remains God’s appointed servant but has failed in her priestly assignment.
In spite of the failure of man to give an answer to his own plight , God himself presents one, “Behold my servant whom I uphold, my elect one in whom I delight…”.
This second of the Servant Songs of Isaiah, calls for the attention of all of the world, every people and nation, to “Listen to me …”. The Servant is a prophet.
Alec Motyer in his commentary on Isaiah notes that “Listen to me…” is a phrase not used by any other prophet, other than Isaiah, and Isaiah uses it only of the LORD. He then asks the question, “How can the Servant address the world as only the LORD would address them” ? (THE PROPHECY OF ISAIAH, IVP Alec Motyer)
The theme of this second song is the preparation of the Servant from his birth. Note that as in other Messianic prophecies, it is the Messiah’s mother that is emphasized,
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.(Genesis 3:15)
But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.(Psalm 22:9-10)
The Servant proclaims that from the bowels of my mother hath he (God) made mention of my name. The phrase means to bring to people’s minds, to announce, or to bring to their attention. He also says of his preparation, that In the shadow of His hand He hid me… . The idea is that the Servant would be hidden in obscurity until the time God would choose to give Him renown.
The commission would involve a ministry of the Word, thus, “… he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;”. The Servant’s ministry of speaking God’s word to the world would be effective due to the unseen years of Divine honing and sharpening.
A sword is sharpened for close contact, an arrow is polished that it might have an accuracy over long distance. The honing, sharpening and polishing occurred under God’s direct oversight. God’s own hand was involved in the preparation of His servant.
His (the Servant’s) Words are destined to pierce the hardest hearts, laying bare the motives, thought and intent, making plain the secrets of men’s hearts. His arrows always hit their mark, they slice through all defenses of the chosen target. But until the chosen time, the servant must undergo the preparation in obscurity, hidden in God’s quiver until the fulness of time.
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.(Galatians 4:4-5)