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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.


7. Thus saith Jehovah. Isaiah pursues the same subject, that the people, when they were afflicted by that terrible calamity, might cherish the hope of a better condition; and, in order to confirm it the more, he calls God, who promised these things, the Redeemer and the Holy One of Israel It will be objected that these statements are contradictory, that is, that God is called the “redeemer” of that people which he permitted to be oppressed; for where is this redemption, and where is this sanctification, if the people could reply that they were miserable and ruined? I reply, the record of ancient history is here exhibited as the ground of confidence and hope; for when the Jews were on the point of despair, the Prophet comes forward and reminds them that God, who had formerly redeemed their fathers, is still as powerful as ever; and therefore, although for a time, in order to exercise the faith of the godly, he concealed their salvation, believers are commanded to stand firm, because in his hand their redemption is certain. Yet it was proper that they should form conceptions of that which lay far beyond human senses. This is a remarkable passage, from which we learn how firmly we ought to believe God when he speaks, though he does not immediately perform what he has promised, but permits us to languish, and to be afflicted for a long time.

To the contemptible in the soul. בזה (bezo) is rendered by some commentators “contempt,” and by others “contemptible,” which I prefer. 33     בזה (bezo) has been variously explained as an infinitive, a passive participle, and an adjective in the construct state, which last is adopted by Gessenius and most later writers.” — Alexander. It heightens the wretchedness of that nation, that “in the soul,” that is, in their own estimation, they are “contemptible.” Many are despised by others, though they either deserve honor on account of their good qualities, or do not cease to swell with pride, and to tread down the arrogance of others by still greater arrogance. But of this people the Prophet says, that they despise themselves as much as others despise them. He therefore describes deep disgrace and a very unhappy condition, and, at the same time, prostration of mind, that they may know that God’s time for rendering assistance will be fully come, when they shall be altogether humbled.

To the abhorred nation. 44     “‘Whom the nation abhorreth, who abhorreth the nation, who excites the abhorrence of the nation, the nation which excites abhorrence,’ — all these are passable translations of the Hebrew words, among which interpreters choose according to their different views respecting the whole passage. In any case it is descriptive of deep debasement and general contempt, to be exchanged hereafter for an opposite condition.” — Alexander. I see no reason why the plural “Nations,” is here employed by some interpreters; seeing that the singular גוי, (goi,) “nation,” is used by the Prophet, and it is certain that the discourse is specially directed to the posterity of Abraham.

To the servant of rulers. This is added, as if he had said that they are oppressed by strong tyrants; for he gives the appellation משלים (moshelim) to those whose strength and power are so great that it is not easy to escape out of their hands.

When he says that kings shall see, he speaks in lofty terms of the deliverance of his nation; but yet he permits them to be put to the test in the fumace, that he may make trial of their faith and patience; for otherwise there would be no trial of their faith, if he immediately performed what he promised, as we have already said. The word princes contains a repetition which is customary among the Hebrews. We would express it thus: “Kings and princes shall see; they shall rise up: and adore.” By the word adore, he explains what he had said, “They shall rise up;“ for we “rise up” for the purpose of shewing respect. The general meaning is, that the most exalted princes of the world shall be aroused to perceive that the restoration of the nation is an illustrious work of God, and worthy of reverence.

For faithful is the Holy One of Israel. This is the reason of the great admiration and honor which the princes shall render to God. It is because they shall perceive the “faithfulness” and constancy of the Lord in his promises. Now, the Lord wishes to be acknowledged to be true, not by a bare and naked imagination, but by actual experience, that is, by preserving the people whom he has adopted. Let us therefore learn from it, that we ougtlt not to judge of the promises of God from our condition, but from his truth; so that, when we shall see nothing before us but destruction and death, we may remember this sentiment, by which the Lord calls to himself the contemptible and abominable.

Hence also it ought to be observed, how splendid and astonishing a work of God is the deliverance of the Church, which compels kings, though proud, and deeming hardly anything so valuable as to be worthy of their notice, to behold, admire, and be amazed, and even in spite of themselves to reverence the Lord. This strange and extraordinary work, therefore, is highly commended to us. How great and how excellent it is, we may learn from ourselves; for to say nothing about ancient histories, in what manner have we been redeemed from the wretched tyranny of Antichrist? Truly we shall consider it to be “a dream,” as the Psalmist says, (Psalm 126:1,) if we ponder it carefully for a short time; so strange and incredible is the work which God hath performed in us who have possessed the name of Christ.

And who hath chosen thee. He now repeats what he had formerly glanced at, that this nation has been set apart to God. But in election we perceive the beginning of sanctification; for it was in consequence of God having deigned to elect them out of his mere good pleasure, that this nation became his peculiar inheritance. Isaiah therefore points out the secret will of God, from which sanctification proceeds; that Israel might not think that he had been selected on account of his own merits. As if he had said, “The Lord, who hath chosen thee, gives actual proof of his election, and shows it by the effect.” In the same manner, therefore, as the truth of God ought to be acknowledged in our salvation, so salvation ought to be ascribed exclusively to his election, which is of free grace. Yet they who wish to become partakers of so great a benefit, must be a part of Israel, that is, of the Church, out of which there can be neither salvation nor truth.

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