In this section the promise that the Servant would be a “light to the Gentiles” is elaborated and given  substance. The One despised would become the object of worship of kings and princes because of Yahweh’s  faithfulness. In the day of his need, the Servant’s prayer would be heard and he would be “saved” out of death  (Heb 5:7). Redemption would as a consequence be made available to all men and the picture is of Gentiles,  once the prisoners of death, converging on Zion from all points of the compass. It is a glorious picture and  an immense privilege to be called to belong to that throng that has heard the joyful sound!

Isaiah 49

49:7–12 Faithful Yahweh will hear and deliver His  afflicted servant, the earth will be established and  men from all nations will come to Zion.

Verse 7 “Thus saith Yahweh, the Redeemer of  Israel, and his Holy One,

[1] to him whom man despiseth,

[2] to him whom the nation [Israel] abhorreth,

[3] to a servant of rulers,

Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall  worship, because of Yahweh that is faithful, and  the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.”  It is important to analyse this verse in order to  understand its message, and hopefully the way it  has been set out will assist to this end. Basically  there are four parts, as follows.

  1. The speaker, Yahweh, is introduced.
  2. The One to whom He addresses His words is described but not named; clearly “the Servant” is referred to, the one despised and  abhorred (Isa 53).
  3. Then we are told the words spoken by Yahweh to the Servant.
  4. The last lines explain why the one despised could yet be revered by kings and princes – because of the faithfulness of Yahweh!

Let us consider in more detail these four  points.

“Thus saith Yahweh” We are told that Yahweh is  going to make an important statement, but are not told what it is until further aspects of the Speaker  are given to us, and also a description of the one addressed.

“The Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One”  “Israel” here refers to the Servant, as in verse 3.  Yahweh is also “his” Holy One, that is the Servant’s Holy One. As Redeemer (Heb goel), Yahweh takes  on the responsibilities of next of kin: He is the  guardian of the Servant’s interests (v8), and guarantor  of his needs. He will redeem him from death.

As “his Holy One” He is separate, true, and will  honour His Word.

“to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the  nation [Israel] abhorreth, to a servant of rulers”  This description of the Servant is significant for  it bears upon how he would be treated and the  sufferings his mission would entail. The description  of the sufferings is brought to a climax in chapter  53, where there is linkage to this verse, “he was  despised, and we esteemed him not”. His work  amongst “his own” generated opposition and this is  consistent with the sentiments expressed by him in  verse 4, “Then I said, I have laboured in vain…”

“Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall  worship” This is what Yahweh actually tells the  Servant. It is a conundrum. How could one despised  and abhorred be so respected? What a contrast this  is, one despised and rejected being the subject of  adulation and reverence?

We are not told what they actually see, but must  await the “see” of 52:13 before we shall discover it  (JA Motyer). In his mastery of suspense, the Spirit  in Isaiah leaves it all like that!

So there is a dramatic transformation: kings  now rise up to greet a superior and also bow down  in acknowledgement of his exalted status. The  contrasting actions of rising and prostrating express  absolute subservience.

“because of Yahweh that is faithful [Amen], and  the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee”  This explains why the despised Servant becomes  the acknowledged Servant. His subservience to His  Father’s will in being “obedient unto the death of  the cross” met with His approval. The grave could  not hold him. Though despised of men he was loved  by God, who faithfully did what He said He would  do: He chose him, raised and exalted him to His  right hand. There he remains until the day comes  when his enemies shall be made his footstool, when  kings shall fall down before him and the whole  world shall acknowledge that he is King of Kings  and Lord of Lords.

Verse 8 “Thus saith Yahweh, In an acceptable  time have I heard [rv ‘answered’] thee, and in  a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will  preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the  people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit  the desolate heritages.”

These are remarkable words. They are the answer  to the Servant’s prayer to be delivered from death:  “But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Yahweh, in  an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy  mercy hear me, in the truth [emeth] of thy salvation.  Deliver me out of the mire… let me be delivered  from them that hate me…” (Psa 69:13–14).

“The acceptable time” or “time of favour”  (rsv) was after he was crucified and had done his  Father’s will; that is, the time of his resurrection  when “God raised him from the dead” (Acts 2:24).  Then his prayer was answered for he had fulfilled  all righteousness. The faithfulness of God was seen  in that He “did not leave his soul [body] in hell”  (sheol, the grave, Psa 16:10).

“in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I  will preserve thee and give thee for a covenant…”  In these words there is the guarantee of help and  preservation coupled with the idea of him being  “given for a covenant”. A covenant was confirmed  by the death and the shedding of blood (Exod 24:8;  Heb 9:16-20). Jesus understood this, as his words  during the “last supper” indicate (Matt 26:28).

“to establish [mg ‘raise up’, cp v6] the earth,  to cause to inherit the desolate heritages” The  last words of this verse explain the far-reaching  consequences of Christ’s sacrifice: all nations  would be blessed (v1, 6). God’s purpose hinged  upon it. Once accomplished in harmony with His  good pleasure, it could proceed to its ultimate  conclusion, or as expressed here, to the establishing  of the earth.

Verse 9 “That thou mayest say to the prisoners  [of sin and death 42:7; 61:1], Go forth; to them  that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall  feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in  all high places.” (rsv ‘on all bare heights shall be  their pastures.’)

Instead of being destined to the prison of the grave,  or hiding in the shadows because of the shame of  sin, sinners both Jews and Gentiles are invited to  come out into the light and be set free in Christ.

Great blessings await those who accept the  invitation. As Israel of old were delivered from  Egyptian bondage and experienced God’s care on their pilgrimage to the promised land, so does  spiritual Israel under the Good Shepherd (John  10:11).

  • There will be provision“They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places” They will feed or pasture as the Lord’s  flock beside the roads, for pasturage will be ready  to hand, and even the hills once barren will be  transformed to supply their need.

Verse 10 “They shall not hunger nor thirst;  neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he  that hath mercy [racham] on them shall lead them  [cp 40:11], even by the springs of water shall he  guide them.”

Notice that these words are cited of the Saviour’s  work (John 6:35; Rev 7:17). In every way the  progress of saints to Zion shall be made easy and  every hindrance removed.

  • There will be protection – from every inner failure of physical strength (hunger and thirst), and from every outward threat (heat and sun).
  • There will be guardianship“he that hath mercy on them shall lead them… he shall guide them” To lead is to guide and the idea is doubled  to stress total leadership. But it is of a special kind,  “he that hath mercy on them…”

“Mercy” (‘compassion’ niv, ‘pity’ rsv) is the  Hebrew word ‘racham’ (also in verse 15 translated  “compassion”), and is the love that is emotionally  moved, either maternal (v15; 1 Kings 3:26), or paternal  (Psa 103:13).

Verse 11 “And I will make all my mountains a  way, and my highways shall be exalted” [rsv  ‘raised up’].

“And I will make” There is a return to first person  singular (cp v8), which emphasizes the element  of care.

As sovereign Yahweh controls everything, for  even the lofty mountains which might seem  insurmountable will serve His purpose. After all,  they are “my mountains”, not an alien barrier  but part of His Creation, there to do His bidding  not to obstruct. Even the man-made bits are His  (“my highways”) and will be made plain to see  (“be exalted”) so that saints may not go astray (cp  35:8–10). Neither obstacle nor uncertainty will  prevent their homecoming.

Verse 12 “Behold, these shall come from far: and  lo, these from the north and from the west; and  these from the land of Sinim.”

In accordance with the opening call to the “isles”,  and “people from afar” there has been the great  response in Gentile lands. From all points of the  compass believers converge upon Zion.

The words of this verse echo the words spoken  to Jacob as he fled from his brother Esau. The God  of Bethel said: “And thy seed shall be as the dust  of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad [mg  ‘break forth’] to the west, and to the east and to the  north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed  shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Through  Jesus Christ, his seed, the blessings would flow to  all nations. Isaiah 49 explains and elaborates upon  these words.

Jesus Christ, the Gentiles, and Isaiah 49 (Matthew  8, Luke 13, Revelation 7)

On three occasions our Lord alludes to Isaiah  49:10–12 when he forecasts the inclusion of  Gentiles in the hope of Israel.

1. Healing the centurion’s servant (Matt 8:11–12)

The Lord was impressed by the centurion because  he believed that he could heal his servant with  his words at a distance. Contrasting his faith  with Israel’s he said, “I have not found so great  faith, no not in Israel.” Further, reflecting on  the significance of this Gentile’s great faith,  he reaches back to the words we have been  considering.

“And I say unto you, That many shall come  from the east and west [Isa 49:12], and shall sit  down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the  kingdom of heaven. But the children [rsv sons, Isa  49:20, ie Israel] of the kingdom shall be cast into  outer darkness [cp Isa 49:9]”.

2. When answering the questions, “Are there few that shall be saved?” (Luke 13:22–30)

In his solemn warning Jesus points out that many  who considered themselves worthy would in fact be refused entry to his marriage feast. Many of  his own people would be excluded, yet numerous  strangers would take their place, their attitude to  him determining their fate:

“There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,  when ye shall see Abraham… in the kingdom of  God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall  come from the east, and from the west, and from  the north and from the south, and shall sit down  in the kingdom of God [Isa 49:12]. And… there  are last which shall be first, and there are first [ie  Israel] which shall be last”. This is the essence of  Isaiah 49:20.

3. The 144,000 – the number of the sealed (Rev 7:13–17)

Revelation 7 deals with the sealing of the 144,000  drawn not from natural Israel but “of all nations and  kindreds, and people, and tongues” (v9). They are  spiritual Israel, having espoused the hope of Israel  through the blood of the Lamb (v14). Two questions  are asked in verse 13:

  1. What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and,
  2. Whence came they?

The last is answered first. “These are they which  came out of great tribulation…”

“What are these?” or “Who are these?” (rsv)  is explained in the words that follow. They have  “washed their robes and made them white in the  blood of the Lamb.” They are the Redeemed and  “are before the throne of God and serve him day  and night.” There are two points that are wonderful  and interesting.

  1. The question “Who are these?” (rsv) is essentially that asked by mother Zion in the vision of Isaiah 49. She is surrounded  by children she cannot recognize, strangers  once but now gathering to her side from all  countries. In her perplexity she asks, “Who  hath begotten me these… and who hath  brought up these? Behold, I was left alone;  these, where had they been?” It is a glorious  picture of saints of all nations at her side,  the redeemed of Yahweh (35:9–10).
  2. The confirmation that this interpretation is valid can be seen from the citation that follows, for the redeemed “shall hunger no  more, neither thirst any more; neither shall  the sun light on them, nor any heat” (v16; Isa  49:10). Revelation 7:17 interprets the latter  half of Isaiah 49:10, and instead of reading  “for he that hath mercy on them shall lead  them…” it says, “For the Lamb which is  in the midst of the throne shall feed them,  and shall lead them unto living fountains of  waters…”

So Isaiah 49 is clearly in focus in Revelation  7, and each helps us to understand more fully the  other.

“and these from the land of Sinim” What is  referred to by the “land of Sinim?” The word  occurs only once in the Bible and various  suggestions have been made. Seeing the north and  west have been mentioned it must refer to the east  or the south. Translations vary. Some have Sinim  (eg av and Rotherham, which has a marginal note:  ‘Prob. China is intended’ – Davies’ HL). The rsv  and mlb have Syrene, that is, Pelusium, a city of  Egypt; the niv “Aswan”, in Egypt, which is south.  Gesenius supposes it refers to the Chinese: “This  very ancient and celebrated people was known  to the Arabians and Syrians by the name of Sin,  Tein, Tschin.” A missionary to China, Peter Barker,  remarked that “the Chinese have been known from  time immemorial by the name of Tschin. Tschin  means a Chinaman” (Refer to Barnes on Isaiah,  page 265). Perhaps we have here a prediction of  the conversion of the most populous nation on  earth. It is significant that in these last days a small  but growing remnant of Chinese have embraced  the hope of Israel.

Verse 13 is a call for universal rejoicing in view  of the comfort (40:1) and mercy shown by Yahweh  to His afflicted people, both Jew and Gentile, but  particularly the latter as depicted in verses 9–11.  This and Zion’s reaction will be the basis of the  next article, if God wills.