Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.(Isaiah 42:1-7)
The Servant of the Lord, is a theme that develops throughout the prophecies of Isaiah. God’s chosen servant is his faithful one, loyal to Him in a world of unfaithfulness. He is God’s disciple, under God’s own tutelage called to carry out God’s purpose on the earth. In the service of God, the servant suffers reproach, but patiently bears up, looking to God for vindication.
Who is this Servant of the Lord? The immediate answer is that the nation of Israel is God’s servant. She is the one chosen to bear witness to God’s name to the very “ends of the earth”.
But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.(Isaiah 41:8-10)
She is God’s chosen witness, called to know God, and to declare his excellencies to the blind and deaf among the nations.
Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.(Isaiah 43:10-11)
But the nation of Israel as a whole had herself become blinded by her sins in Isaiah’s day. She is still God’s witness but the identity of the Servant becomes narrowed, The Servant of the LORD is the faithful remnant of Jahweh. That is those who keep faith with the LORD, the disciples of Isaiah, the remnant of faithful Israel, these are the servant of the LORD.
Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:2Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:(Isaiah 44:1-3)
They are the “children” spoken of in Isaiah 8 “Behold I and the children God has given me…for signs in Israel”. They are the remnant of Isaiah 1:9 “Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”
But the Servant theme narrows yet further as the prophecy progresses, for it comes to speak of an individual; one man upon whose shoulders is laid the heavy burden of the whole purpose of God. The Servant has a mission, He is to reveal the glory and salvation of God to the very “ends of the earth”. His dedication to God must be total and unwavering, for the mission involves the pouring out of his life.
There are prophecies in Isaiah ascribing to himself, Eliakim, Hezekiah and even the Persian King Cyrus(200 years before he was born) the title of “My Servant”, but they are only preliminary types of the ultimate Servant of God, partial fulfilment of his task.
The ultimate and final Servant of God is Jesus the Messiah, sent from heaven to become a man and to do God’s will..
There are four ‘Servant Song’ prophecies in Isaiah that describe the calling and task of the Messiah. We would do well to look into as we approach Holy Week. They are found in Isaiah 42:1-7, 49:1-6, Isaiah 50:4-9, and finally Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
From Isaiah 53 on the singular word ‘servant’ never appears, only the plural, for God obtains a host of Servants in the character of the Messiah, as a result of the work of the Servant. Enjoy.