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The Servant’s Mission


Listen to me, O coastlands,

pay attention, you peoples from far away!

The L ord called me before I was born,

while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.


He made my mouth like a sharp sword,

in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

he made me a polished arrow,

in his quiver he hid me away.


And he said to me, “You are my servant,

Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”


But I said, “I have labored in vain,

I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;

yet surely my cause is with the L ord,

and my reward with my God.”



And now the L ord says,

who formed me in the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

and that Israel might be gathered to him,

for I am honored in the sight of the L ord,

and my God has become my strength—


he says,

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to restore the survivors of Israel;

I will give you as a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”



Thus says the L ord,

the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,

to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,

the slave of rulers,

“Kings shall see and stand up,

princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,

because of the L ord, who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”


Zion’s Children to Be Brought Home


Thus says the L ord:

In a time of favor I have answered you,

on a day of salvation I have helped you;

I have kept you and given you

as a covenant to the people,

to establish the land,

to apportion the desolate heritages;


saying to the prisoners, “Come out,”

to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”

They shall feed along the ways,

on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;


they shall not hunger or thirst,

neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down,

for he who has pity on them will lead them,

and by springs of water will guide them.


And I will turn all my mountains into a road,

and my highways shall be raised up.


Lo, these shall come from far away,

and lo, these from the north and from the west,

and these from the land of Syene.



Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;

break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the L ord has comforted his people,

and will have compassion on his suffering ones.



But Zion said, “The L ord has forsaken me,

my Lord has forgotten me.”


Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or show no compassion for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.


See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;

your walls are continually before me.


Your builders outdo your destroyers,

and those who laid you waste go away from you.


Lift up your eyes all around and see;

they all gather, they come to you.

As I live, says the L ord,

you shall put all of them on like an ornament,

and like a bride you shall bind them on.



Surely your waste and your desolate places

and your devastated land—

surely now you will be too crowded for your inhabitants,

and those who swallowed you up will be far away.


The children born in the time of your bereavement

will yet say in your hearing:

“The place is too crowded for me;

make room for me to settle.”


Then you will say in your heart,

“Who has borne me these?

I was bereaved and barren,

exiled and put away—

so who has reared these?

I was left all alone—

where then have these come from?”



Thus says the Lord G od:

I will soon lift up my hand to the nations,

and raise my signal to the peoples;

and they shall bring your sons in their bosom,

and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.


Kings shall be your foster fathers,

and their queens your nursing mothers.

With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,

and lick the dust of your feet.

Then you will know that I am the L ord;

those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.



Can the prey be taken from the mighty,

or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?


But thus says the L ord:

Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,

and the prey of the tyrant be rescued;

for I will contend with those who contend with you,

and I will save your children.


I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,

and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.

Then all flesh shall know

that I am the L ord your Savior,

and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.


18. Lift up thine eyes round about. He arouses the Church to survey this magnificent work, as if it were actually before her eyes, and to behold the multitudes of men who shall flock into it from every quarter. Now, as this assemblage must have encouraged godly hearts during the dispersion, so they who were eye-witnesses must have been excited to gratitude. This shews clearly that this prediction was useful at both periods, not only while the event was still concealed by hope, but when it had been actually accomplished. Though he speaks to the whole Church at large, yet this discourse relates also to individuals, that all with one accord, and each person separately, may embrace these promises.

When he bids them “lift up their eyes,” he means that the reason why we are so much cast down is, that we do not examine the Lord’s work with due attention, but have a vail placed, as it were, before our eyes, to hinder us from seeing what lies at our feet. In consequence of this, we do not cherish any confidence, but in adversity are almost overwhelmed by despair. And if these things are said to the whole Church, let every man consider in his own heart how far he is chargeable with this vice, and let him forthwith arouse and awaken himself to behold the works of the Lord, that he may rely with all his heart on his promises.

All are gathered together. When he says that the elect of the Church are “gathered together,” he means that, in order to their becoming one body under Christ, and, as it were, “one fold under one shepherd,” (John 10:16,) they must be, if we may so express it, “gathered” into one bosom. Christ reckons and treats as his followers none but those who are joined in one body by unity of faith. Whoever then shall choose to be regarded as belonging to the number of the children of God, let him be a son of the Church; for all who are separated from it will be aliens from God.

Thou shalt be clothed as with an ornament. The Prophet shews what is the true ornament of the Church, namely, to have a great number of children, who are brought to her by faith and guided by the Spirit of God. This is true splendor; this is the glory of the Church, which must be filthy and ugly, ragged and dishevelled, if she have not these ornaments. Hence we see how well the Papists understand what is the true manner in which the Church ought to be adorned; for their whole attention is given to painted tables, to statues, to fine buildings, to gold, precious stones, and costly garments; that is, they give their whole attention to puppets, like children. But the true dignity of the Church is internal, so far as it consists of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and of progressive faith and piety. Hence it follows, that she is richly provided with her ornaments, when the people, joined together by faith, are gathered into her bosom, to worship God in a proper manner.

I live, saith Jehovah. 88     חי-אני (chai ani) ‘I the Living One,’ is here, as in many other passages, the form of an oath, employed both by God and by men; and the meaning of it is: ‘as truly as I live, so certainly will I perform this or that, and this or that event shall happen.’ The particle כי (ki) here denotes the object of the oath, and is equivalent to ὅτι in Greek after the verbs εἶπον λέγω etc..” — Rosenmuller. In order that this promise may be more certain, the Lord employs an oath, which is intended to warn us against distrust, and that, when we shall consider that her end is near, we may be certain that she shall be fully restored. And if this doctrine was ever necessary, it is especially necessary at the present time; for, wherever we tum our eyes, we meet with nothing but frightful desolation.

What then must we do, but, relying on this oath of God, struggle against despair, and not be terrified by our being inconsiderable in number, which makes us despised by the world, and not doubt that there are many of the elect, now wandering and scattered, whom God will at length assemble into his Church? And therefore we ought to encourage our hearts, and to lift up our eyes by faith, that we may extend our hope not only to a single age, but to the most distant period.

19. For thy desolate places, he confirms by other words what we have already seen, that the change which he promised is in the hand of God, that the Church, which was for a long time waste and desolate, may speedily have many inhabitants; so that the place may be too narrow to contain them all. He employs the metaphor of a ruinous city, whose walls and houses are rebuilt, to which the citizens return in such vast numbers that its circumference must be enlarged, because its former extent cannot contain them all. Thus he means not only the return of the people from Babylon, but the restoration which was effected through Christ; that is, when the Church was spread far and wide, not only throughout Judea, but throughout the whole world.

And thy destroyers shall remove far away. He adds that a garrison will be provided, if any enemies shall molest her; yea, that she shall be secure against their attacks and molestation, because God will “drive them far away.” Not that the Church shall ever enjoy perfect peace, and be secured against all the attacks of enemies; but yet God, bearing with the weakness of his people, defended them from wicked men, and restrained or warded off their attacks, so that at least the kingdom of Satan might not grow out of the ruins of the Church.

20. Shall again say in thine ears. Isaiah continues the same subject, and, under a different metaphor, promises the restoration of the Church. He compares her to a widowed or rather a barren mother, in order to describe her wretched and distressful condition; for she was overwhelmed by so many distresses, that the remembrance of the nation appeared to have wholly perished. Mingled with the Babylonians,who held her captive, she had almost passed into another body. We need not wonder, therefore, if he compares her to a barren mother; for she brought forth no more children. Formerly the Jews had enjoyed high prosperity; but the kingdom was ruined, and all their strength was decayed, and, in short, their name was almost extinguished, when they were led into captivity. He therefore promises that the Church shall be purified from her filthiness, and that she who is now solitary shall regain that condition which she formerly held. And this is included in the word Again, that they may not doubt that it is in the power of God to restore what he formerly gave, though it was withdrawn for a time.

The children of thy bereavement. 99     בנים שהייתה שכולה מהם (banim shedayithah shekula methem,) ‘the children of whom thou wast bereft.’” — Jarchi.
“A city deprived of its inhabitants is compared to a mother bereft of her children.” — Rosenmuller.
By “the children of bereavement” some suppose that orphan children are meant; but I cannot agree with this, for “bereavement” and “barrenness” refer rather to the person of the Church, and accordingly it is for the sake of amplification that he describes them to be those who, contrary to expectation, had been given to her who was bereaved and barren.

Make room for me; that is, “withdraw for my benefit.” Not that it is proper for the godly to shut out their brethren or drive them from their place; but the Prophet has borrowed from familiar language a mode of expression fitted to declare that no inconvenience shall hinder many from desiring to be admitted and to have room made for them. Now, this happened, when the Lord collected innumerable persons out of the whole world; for suddenly, and contrary to the expectation of men, the Church, which had formerly been empty, was filled; its boundaries were enlarged and extended far and wide.

21. And thou shalt say in thy heart. By these words he declares that the restoration of the Church, of which he now speaks, will be wonderful; and therefore he represents her as wondering and amazed on account of having been restored in a strange and unexpected manner. And truly a description of this sort is not superfluous; for, as a new offspring grows up among men every day, by which the human race is propagated, so the children of God and of the Church are born, who, “not from flesh and blood,” (John 1:13,) but by the secret power of God, are formed again to be new creatures. By nature we have no share in the kingdom of God; 1010     “Nous n’avons aucune part au royaume de Dieu.” and therefore, if any man contemplate this new and uncommon work, and in what manner the Church is increased and maintained, he will be constrained to wonder.

Who hath begotten me these? He shews that this astonishment will not be pretended, like expressions of this kind which frequently proceed from flatterers, but that it will come from “the heart;” for there will be good ground for wondering, that the Lord has preserved the Church amidst so great dangers, and has multiplied it by a new and unexpected offspring. Who would have thought that, at the time when the Jews were held in the greatest contempt, and were overwhelmed by every kind of reproaches and distresses, there would be any of the Gentiles who of their own accord desired to be associated with them? It was also in the highest degree improbable that the dispositions of men should be so suddenly changed as to adopt a religion which they had detested. Besides, the partition-wall which had been erected between them hindered all foreigners and uncircumcised persons from entering.

For I was bereaved (or barren) and solitary. She now explains what was the chief ground of that astonishment; namely, that formerly she brought forth no children, and was altogether destitute. Doctrine, which is the seed of spiritual life, by which the children of the Church are begotten, (1 Peter 1:23,) had ceased; even the worship enjoined by the Law had been broken off; and, in short, everything that usually contributes to upholding the order of government had been taken away. Now, the Church is called bereaved or barren, not because God hath forsaken her, but because his presence is not always visible. We ourselves saw an image of that barrenness, when the Lord, in order to punish the ingratitude of men, took away his doctrine, and allowed them to wander in darkness. The Church might truly be said to be “bereaved” and “barren,” when none of her children were seen. Hence we ought to conclude how foolish the Papists are, who wish that Christ would always govern his Church so that it may never be “bereaved” or “barren;” seeing that the Lord, thougit he does not forsake the Church, yet very frequently, on account of the ingratitude of men, withdraws the tokens of his presence.

Who then hath brought up those? It is no easy matter for those who are led into captivity, and who often change their place and habitation, to “bring up” children; and when the law and the doctrine of piety no longer resounded in the temple, spiritual nourishment had almost entirely failed. But the Lord, who has no need of human aid, begets his children in an extraordinary manner, and by the astonishing power of his Spirit, and “brings them up” wherever he thinks proper; and in the fulfillment of this prediction, the Lord supplied them with nurses contrary to the expectation of all, so that it is not without reason that the Church wonders how they were reared. When we read this prophecy we are reminded that we ought not to be distressed beyond measure, if at any time we see the Church resemble a “bereaved” woman, and that we ought not to doubt that he can suddenly, or in a moment, raise up and restore her, though we perceive no means by which she can be restored.

22. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah. Isaiah confirms what he had said a little before, that the Lord would cause his Church, though for a very long time she had been “barren” and “bereaved,” to have an exceedingly numerous offspring, and to be constrained to wonder at her own fruitfulness; and he does so, in order to remove all doubt which might have found its way into their hearts.

I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles. He declares that he will give children to the Church, not only from among the Jews, as formerly, but likewise from among “the Gentiles.” And yet he indirectly asserts that this generation shall be spiritual through the grace of adoption; for the metaphor of a banner was intended to lead believers to expect a new kind of generation, and different from that which is seen in the ordinary course of nature. The Lord must therefore set up a sign, and display his secret power through the Gospel, 1111     “Par la predication de l’Evangile.” “By the preaching of the Gospel.” that, out of nations who differed so widely from each other both in customs and in language, he might bring children to the Church, who should be united in the same faith, as brethren meet in their mother’s bosom.

Those who think that, by the figurative terms Hand and Banner, nothing more than the preaching of the Gospel is meant, and who set aside the power of the Spirit, are mistaken; for both ought to be united, and the efficacy of the Spirit ought not to be separated from the preaching of the Gospel, as Paul clearly shews. (2 Corinthians 3:6.) To this “hand” of God, therefore, to this “banner” we must betake ourselves, when we see that the Church is oppressed by the tyranny of wicked men. Though every effort be made to overthrow and destroy it, the “hand” of God is higher, and in vain do men oppose him. He will at length subdue and crush their obstinacy, that the Church may obtain some repose in spite of all their exertions.

When he promises that the sons of the Church shall be brought in her arms and on her shoulders, the language is metaphorical, and means that God will find no difficulty, when he shall wish to gather the Church out of her dispersion; for all the Gentiles will assist him. Although this refers, in the first instance, to the Jews who had been banished and scattered, yet it undoubtedly ought to be extended to all the elect of God, who have become partakers of the same grace.

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