Isaiah 49-55: The Servant who Bore Our Sorrows

For nearly all of us, 2O2O has been the type of year we did not expect. For most of us, it has brought uncertainty, worry, financial stress, sickness, or even the death of loved ones. Remembering that Christians have faced plagues throughout the history of the church can help give perspective in the midst of this uncertainty. It can also be helpful to remember that Christianity even flourished by handling the plagues that swept through the Roman Empire differently than their pagan neighbors. Knowing these truths helps, but it’s not enough. How did our older brothers and sisters in Christ cope differently?

As Christians, we have something that our unbelieving family members and neighbors don’t have. We have God’s perspective in Scripture, and by looking at His perspective on life, we can find strength, comfort, and guidance when dealing with the regular — and even daily— challenges we face in a world that is always uncertain.

Scripture provides us with a foundation for a truly Christian worldview. As we look this month at Isaiah 49-55 and as we think about the people of Israel in exile, we see a window into our situation. Ever since the Lord banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the entire human race has been in exile. Whether we are able to voice it or not, our longing is to live in the city “whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). As the Word of the Lord came to the exiles bringing comfort, His Word comes to His people today bringing comfort (Isaiah 40:1, Luke 3:3-5).

We saw last month that the servant of the Lord would be instrumental in bringing his people home. We see clearly this month who that servant is. First, we see that the servant is not Israel (some Jews thought that the servant was symbolic of the nation of Israel). Isaiah 49:5-6 teaches that the servant will bring both Israel and the whole world to God. The servant will thus be a light to the nations. We then see in chapter 50 that the servant will give strength through his word (50:4-6). Third, we see that, after the glorious promises for Zion, the servant is the very arm of the Lord (52:10, 53:1). (At this point, therefore, I need to start capitalizing Servant.) Who is the agent of the Lord’s strength? It is the Servant who suffers and dies for the sins of God’s people (52:13-53:12).

This final song of the Servant is perhaps the most explicit prophecy of Jesus in the entire Old Testament. See Acts 8:26-40 and 1 Peter 2:19-25 for how important the passage was in the early church. This majestic section of Isaiah ends with the promise of a restored eternal city and a call for the hungry and thirsty to take what God is offering (Isaiah 54-55).

Putting these lessons together as we think about life in 2020, we see that until we see God face to face, we are exiles. We pray for God’s healing, but we fully expect disease in a fallen world. Second, God brings comfort to His people. He has promised to bring us home, and we always have hope. Third, the way He brings His wandering sheep home is by sending His Servant — His Son — to be “crushed for our iniquities,” carry our griefs, and bear our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4-6). Fourth, we have a brighter future than we can fathom waiting for us because of the Servant. Fifth, this call is for all who repent (Isaiah 55:6-7).

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