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The nature of Progressive Revelation (God making His plans known over time in an increasingly detailed manner) means that God doesn’t lay all of his cards face-up on the table from day one. That should be no surprise to those who have studied God’s Word for any length of time. Think of all of the prophecies that we have seen just in the book of Isaiah. Think of the concept of mysteries – truths previously not disclosed by God in the OT but now revealed in the NT for our benefit.

In our passage for today we see the unveiling of God’s Secret Weapon.

Illustration: When I coached the girls’ soccer teams at CAA, I used to make my daughters a little uncomfortable with my stress on using your secret weapon = screening the opponent away from the ball with your rear end – watching women’s World Cup yesterday with Steve and Jenny – saw a great illustration of this – we were laughing about it

No laughing matter when it comes to God’s Secret Weapon. You didn’t know that God had a special, designated Secret Weapon that He took out of His quiver at just the right time in history.

We are in the second of 4 servant songs:

42:1-9 Servant Song #1 – Justice on Earth is Coming

49:1-13 – today’s passage



Oswalt: In subtle but nevertheless clear ways the focus has shifted from the physical captivity of the Judeans to the moral and spiritual captivity of Israel and the whole world.






A. (:1) Strength By Virtue of Divine Commissioning

“Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar.

The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me.”

Oswalt: call to hear ties this section back to chap. 48

Isaiah constantly harps on this theme of listening and paying attention – like a horse that should prick up its ears when something important around them is happening – how about that American Pharoah! There’s a horse that listens and pays attention to its jockey

Is. 1:3 “An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.”

Is. 6:8-10

Key to this section = Who is speaking here?

– Could it be Cyrus still

– Could it be the nation of Israel viewed collectively?

– Could it be the prophet Isaiah or another one of the prophets?

We know that it is the Messiah – God’s promised Servant-King — that will become clear as we go through the text – here we can at least say that it is a person somehow distinct from God the Father; it also seems to lend itself more to a person than a nation with the reference to being birthed from his mother’s womb

Beall: Already there is quite a distinction in the status of this Servant, for He commands the people to hear Him, much as God did in the previous chapter (see 48:16). In comparing the previous mention of the Servant in chap. 42, one sees that it was God who introduced the Servant in 42:1 (the Servant Himself did not speak); now, however, the Servant tells the coastlands to hear Him. Implicit in all this is the idea that the Servant is someone worthy of obeying.

Parunak: Pre-birth naming is not as common, but occurs with Ishmael, John the Baptist, and our Lord. (Jer. 1:4-5; Gal. 1:15; Eph. 1:4)

Cf. the sons of Isaiah

We all have been divinely commissioned from before we were born as well – sovereignty of God in Election

B. (:2) Strength by Virtue of Divine Empowering = God’s Secret Weapon – 2 Images

1. Sharp Sword – Hidden in the Hand — Effectiveness

“And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword;

In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me,”

Contrasted to the military power of Cyrus – Here we have the power of God’s Word – the message of truth

Hos. 6:5 “Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets [did the prophets run around with swords hacking at those who did not repent?]; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth.” — You can’t stop the light from going forth

Beall: This statement both echoes back to the messianic king passage in Isaiah, Isa 11:4 (“the rod of his mouth”), as well as the description of the Lord Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation. Rev 1:16, describing the Lord, states that “out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword” (so also Rev 2:12; compare Heb 4:12). In Rev 19:15, with reference to the Lord’s Second Coming, Isa 11:4 and 49:2 are combined: “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.” As Young states, these words indicate that “his is an office of the mouth . . . for he is a prophet par excellence, and his word is the Gospel” (3:268).

Constable: Cyrus’ calling was to liberate Israel with the sword, but this speaker’s calling was to announce words from God, piercing, incisive words that would cut like a sword (cf. 1:20; Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16; 19:15). . . Both the sword and the arrow were offensive weapons, the former used at short range and the latter at longer range. Likewise this Servant’s words would be instruments that would defeat enemies.

2. Select Arrow – Hidden in the Quiver — Accuracy

“And He has also made Me a select arrow;

He has hidden Me in His quiver.”

Parunak: Both of these images, the sword and the arrow, are of instruments of destruction. As we move into this section that focuses on the Servant’s work of redemption, it’s interesting that he is presented first as the instrument of God’s judgment. The message of salvation makes no sense unless we first of all understand that we are sinners under judgment. And the one who provides our salvation is also the one who will judge

John 12:48

Grogan: Concealment . . . suggests an eternal purpose manifest at the appropriate time (cf. 1 Peter 1:20).

Oswalt: out of sight until the right moment to be displayed

Motyer: The sharpness of a sword is its effectiveness; a polished arrow is rubbed free from roughness or unevenness which might deflect it in flight, hence its accuracy. The sword wins victories close at hand (6a); the arrow hits distant targets (6b; cf. 57:19; Eph. 2:17).

Certainly the logos of John 1 is the ultimate fulfillment of this secret weapon revealed here

We all have been divinely empowered with spiritual gifts that bear fruit for the building up of God’s kingdom – are we actively using those gifts to glorify God? Do we consider ourselves equipped and empowered by God?

C. (:3-4) Strength by Virtue of Divine Rewarding

How do you measure success? How do you know if your service for God is effective?

How do you know if what you are doing in life has any impact?

In these verses we see God Incarnate – Immanuel – the Messiah – God’s Servant-King wrestling with these questions

1. (:3) God’s Intent

“And He said to Me,”

a. The Role of the Servant

“You are My Servant, Israel,”

Martin: The Messiah is called Israel because He fulfills what Israel should have done. In His person and work He epitomizes the nation.

Oswalt: it is the function, not the identity, of Israel that is emphasized. This Servant is going to function as Israel. . . to be the means whereby the nations could come to God.

Beall: Is it the nation Israel that is meant here? This would seem to be precluded both by v. 1 (“my mother”) and by the work of the Servant in vv. 5-6 (to restore Israel: how can a nation restore itself?). Rather, the point is that the Messianic Servant is called Israel, because He will fulfill all that Israel was supposed to do and be before the Lord–namely, to be a light to the whole world (v 6). The Messianic Servant is the true Israel, much as Jesus in the NT says that He is the true vine, in contrast to Israel (John 15:1). It should also be noted that the name Israel originally referred to an individual, Jacob, and not a nation. Thus, in a sense, in the Servant-Messiah, the term has come full cycle: the nation, having come from an individual (Jacob), will find its ultimate fulfillment, identity, and purpose in an individual (the Messiah). That the Father is glorified by the work of the Servant/Messiah (specifically, His work of redemption accomplished through the cross) is indicated in various NT passages (for example, John 12:28; 13:31-32; 14:13; 17:4-5).

b. The Reward of the Servant

“In Whom I will show My glory.”

Parunak: The Hebrew verb is reflexive; we might translate, “I will glorify myself.”

2. (:4) Servant’s Expectation

“But I said,”

a. The Frustration of the Servant – Results Look Unimpressive

“I have toiled in vain,

I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity;”

b. The Faith of the Servant – Reward Comes from God — Heb. 12:2

“Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the LORD,

And My reward with My God.”

Constable: This verse clarifies that feelings of futility and faith in God need not be mutually exclusive. The Servant trusted God for the final outcome of His ministry, though as He was carrying it out, it appeared to be ineffective. The Apostle Paul took the same view of his ministry (cf. Rom. 8:31-39; 1 Cor. 4:1-5).

Key for a servant is being faithful!

1 Peter 2:21

Motyer: despondency arises through listening to ourselves and our self-assessment etc., instead of looking to God, recalling his purposes, living according to our dignity in him and rediscovering in him our source of power.”

Oswalt: Trust has ultimately to do with the final outcome, and of this the Servant is fully confident. It is God, the God who called him, equipped him, and is using him, who will make the final adjudication concerning the Servant’s work.


Transition to Jehovah speaking

A. (:5) National — Restoration of Nation Israel

“And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,

To bring Jacob back to Him, in order that Israel might be gathered to Him

(For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength),”

Remembers His divine commissioning and empowering that spoke of the strength for His mission

Now He gets more specific regarding the scope of His mission:

– To bring Jacob back to Him

– in order that Israel might be gathered to Him

Think through the amillennial approach and how it just cannot do justice to passages like this – we are in the midst of 2 verses that continue to make a huge distinction between what God will do for the nation Israel and what God will do for the rest of the nations of the world; it would make no sense to interpret Israel here as the church

God is going to come through on all of the specific covenantal promises He has made to Abraham and David and to the Jewish nation

Concludes with a reference to the rewarding that God will accomplish and the testimony once again that all of His strength for ministry derives from God the Father

B. (:6) Global – Bringing Salvation Light to the Lost World

“He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant

To raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;

I will also make You a light of the nations

So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’”

Beall: This message must surely have been hard for Israel to understand at that time. Yet, how the Lord prepared the way years ahead for the ministry of the Messiah! Shortly after the birth of Christ, the devout man Simeon, who was “waiting for the Consolation of Israel,” (Luke 2:25) praised the Lord in the words of this verse (and 42:6): “For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32). Jesus’ proclamation in John 8:12 (“I am the light of the world”) surely is the beginning of the fulfillment of this verse. After Jesus’ resurrection, Paul and Barnabas cited this verse as evidence that the Lord had told them to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47): the mission of the Servant was carried out by His disciples as well (Jesus told his disciples that they were “the light of the world” [Matt 5:14-16]). Finally, the ultimate fulfillment will be in the Millennium, when the whole world will see the Light and the salvation which He brings.

Motyer: The thought is not that the Servant is the agent in communicating salvation but that he is in his own person the salvation the world needs, and, in the same way, the world’s light.


Two sub sections each introduced by “Thus says the Lord”

A. (:7) Success Defined in Terms of Kingdom Respect

1. Only God is Worthy of All Respect

a. Unique Sovereign

“Thus says the LORD,”

b. Only Redeemer

“the Redeemer of Israel,”

c. Undefiled Holy One

“and its Holy One,”

2. Servant-King Despised at His First Coming

a. Despised

“To the despised One,”

John 1:10 – His own countrymen did not believe Him; His own family did not believe Him; religious leaders did not believe Him

Is. 53:3

1 Cor. 2:7, 14

Matt. 10:24-25 If the world sees Christ in you, here is what you can expect

b. Abhorred

“To the One abhorred by the nation,”

c. Submitting to Servant Role

“To the Servant of rulers,”

3. Servant-King Respected and Worshiped at His Second Coming

“Kings shall see and arise,

Princes shall also bow down;”

Constable: This verse distinguishes two aspects of the Servant’s ministry: the first characterized by rejection and humiliation (cf. v. 4; 52:13—53:12), and the second marked by acceptance and glorification. The first advent of Christ fulfilled the first aspect and His second advent will fulfill the second aspect. All that Israel had experienced—being despised, abhorred, and used—the Servant would experience (cf. vv. 25-26). And all that God intended Israel to be—admired, respected, and served—the Servant will become.

4. God Exalts His Servant-King According to His Promises

“Because of the LORD who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.”

B. (:8-12) Success Defined in Terms of Kingdom Blessings

“Thus says the LORD,”

1. (:8-9a) Kingdom Blessing of Deliverance – Freeing the Captives

a. Saving

“In a favorable time I have answered You,

And in a day of salvation I have helped You;”

b. Sustaining

“And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people,

To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages;”

c. Shining

“Saying to those who are bound, ‘Go forth,’

To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’”

2. (:9b-10) Kingdom Blessing of Provision — Sustaining Shepherding

a. (:9b) Nurturing Shepherding

“Along the roads they will feed,

And their pasture will be on all bare heights.”

b. (:10a) Protective Shepherding

“They will not hunger or thirst,

Neither will the scorching heat or sun strike them down;”

c. (:10b) Compassionate Shepherding

“For He who has compassion on them will lead them,

And will guide them to springs of water.”

3. (:11-12) Kingdom Blessing of Community — Road Building for Regathering

a. (:11) Removal of All Obstacles

“And I will make all My mountains a road,

And My highways will be raised up.”

Constable: God will also make His mountainous barriers as flat as a road so His people can come to His habitation. He will also build His highways so they will be thoroughfares for His people (cf. 11:16; 19:23; 36:8; 40:3-4; 42:16; 62:10).

b. (:12) Regathering from Distant Regions

“Behold, these shall come from afar;

And lo, these will come from the north and from the west,

And these from the land of Sinim.”

Constable: Sinim may refer to Aswan in southern Egypt, which marked the southern border of the civilized world in Isaiah’s day.

Oswalt: Syene, or Aswan, at the southern edge of Egypt. We know from the Elephantine Letters that a colony of Jews was well established there in the 5th century B.C., so it is possible that this fact, plus the fact that this was the southern border of Egypt (so Ezek. 29:10; 30:6), and thus of the civilized world, accounts for its use here.


“Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth!

Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains!

For the LORD has comforted His people,

And will have compassion on His afflicted.”

Constable: Isaiah concluded by calling on the whole created universe to rejoice because the Lord had comforted His people (cf. 40:1; 47:6) and had shown compassion on His formerly afflicted nation (cf. 42:10-13; 44:23; 45:8; 52:8-9; 55:12-13). This is rejoicing over deliverance from sin, not just exile. When the Servant completes His work of salvation, the whole creation, not just humankind, will experience liberation from the effects of the Fall (cf. Rom. 8:19-22).

Oswalt: The language is that of ecstatic praise. The verbs for shout and exult occur most frequently in the Psalms, but the book in which both occur next in frequency is Isaiah. This element of exultation is clearly at the heart of what the book is about. The book rings with the certainty of God’s ultimate triumph for the sake of his people, no matter who the enemy is: Assyria, Babylon, or the great enemy, sin. Isaiah knows that God will be the victor and that not only his own people but all people will be the beneficiaries.