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Isaiah’s Servant Songs

There are 4 passages that are known as the Servant Songs:

  1. Isaiah 42:1-9 – The Presentation of the Servant
  2. Isaiah 49:1-13 – The Preparation of the Servant
  3. Isaiah 50:4-11 – The Principles of the Servant
  4. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – The Passion of the Servant

It is important as we look at these Songs to identify who is speaking at each point, and this is accomplished primarily by looking at the personal pronouns that are used.

I. The Presentation of the Servant, Isaiah 42:1-13

Note that all through this passage, it is God Himself who is speaking, first to the nation, then to the Servant, then to the whole world.

A. The LORD Presents His Servant, vv. 1-4

  • His election, v. 1
  • His conduct, vv. 2-3
    • He is not an attention seeker, not a self-promoter
    • He is meek and gentle, not pugnacious and looking for a fight
  • His accomplishment, v. 4
    • Though He would face opposition, He would not fail or be discouraged
    • He would accomplish His God-ordained mission of establishing justice in the earth

B. The LORD Encourages His Servant, vv. 5-7

  • Based on God’s character, v. 5
    • He reminds the Servant of His creative power
  • Based on God’s call, v. 6a
    • He reminds the Servant of His calling and election
  • Based on God’s commission, vv. 6b-7
    • He outlines the mission He is given
      • To be a covenant to Israel
      • To be a light to the Gentiles
      • To bring spiritual deliverance

C. The LORD Obtains Glory Through His Servant, vv. 8-13

  • God’s uniqueness, vv. 8-9
    • His unique name
    • His unique glory
    • His unique ability
  • God’s praise, vv. 10-13
    • A call to praise the LORD, vv. 10-12
    • His praise is based on His victory over His enemies, v. 13

II. The Preparation of the Servant, Isaiah 49:1-13

In verses 1-6, the Servant speaks; in verses 7-12, the LORD speaks; and in verse 13, the prophet speaks.

A. The Servant Speaks of His Mission, vv. 1-6

  • His cry, v. 1a
  • His preparation, vv. 1b-3
    • His destiny: called to be a prophet
    • His humanity: from the womb
    • His obscurity: hidden
    • His weaponry: His Word (cp. 61:1-2)
    • His identity: “You are My Servant, O Israel”
  • His struggle, v. 4
    • His concern: failure?
    • His confidence: reward!
  • His task, vv. 5-6
    • The restoration of Israel
    • The salvation of the Gentiles

B. The LORD Assures Him of Victory, vv. 7-12

  • The LORD’s description, v. 7
    • He describes Himself
    • He describes His Servant
  • The LORD’s promises, vv. 8-12
    • His promises to the Servant
    • His promises to the people

C. The Prophet Calls Creation to Praise, v. 13

  • Shout! Rejoice! Sing!
  • For the LORD has comforted His people (cp. 40:1)

III. The Principles of the Servant, Isaiah 50:4-11

In verses, 4-9, the Servant speaks; in verses 10-11, the prophet speaks as the LORD’s spokesman.

A. The Servant’s Conduct, vv. 4-6

  • His commitment to serve, v. 4
    • His dependence upon the LORD
    • His service for the LORD
    • His communion with the LORD
  • His commitment to obey, v. 5
    • The Sovereign Lord has opened my ear
  • His commitment tested, v. 6
    • Through scourging
    • Through humiliation

B. The Servant’s Confidence, vv. 7-9

  • The Lord GOD will help me
    • I will not be disgraced
    • I will not be ashamed
  • Who will contend with Me?
    • My justifier is near
  • Who is My adversary?
    • The Lord GOD will help Me
  • Who will condemn Me?
    • They are as insignificant as a moth-eaten garment

C. The Prophet’s Challenge, vv. 10-11

  • Fear the LORD!
  • Obey His Servant!
  • Trust the LORD and rely upon God!
  • If you trust the light of your own fire, it will consume you—
    • You will lie down in torment

IV. The Passion of the Servant, Isaiah 52:13-53:12

This song is composed of 5 stanzas, each 3 verses long.

  • In 52:13-15, the LORD is speaking
  • In 53:1-10, the prophet Isaiah is speaking as a representative of Israel
  • In 53:11-12, the LORD is once more speaking

A. The Servant’s Success Predicted, 52:13-15

  • The LORD’s confidence in His Servant, v. 13
  • He shall act wisely and be successful
  • He shall be exalted, extolled, and be very high
  • The Gentile’s astonishment at the Servant, v. 14
    • People were astonished at Jerusalem’s destruction (see 52:1-5)
    • So people will be astonished at the Servant’s disfigurement
  • The Servant’s ministry to the Gentiles, v. 15
    • He shall sprinkle many nations
    • He will silence kings: “They will silenced in awe and veneration (Job 29:9-10; Micah 7:16)”
    • They will finally recognise Him for who He really is (cp. Romans 15:21)

B. The Servant’s Sorrows, 53:1-3

  • The prophet’s amazement, v. 1
    • Very few have responded to the gospel (cp. John 12:38; Romans 10:16)
    • Very few have understood the deliverance God has effected in salvation (cp. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25)
  • The nation’s unbelief, v. 2
    • Although God viewed the Lord Jesus in all His holy perfection as a tender plant and a root out of dry ground
    • The nation saw nothing of worth or merit in Him and did not desire Him (cp. Haggai 2:7, “the Desire of the Nations”)
  • The Servant’s rejection, v. 3
    • Despised and rejected by men
    • A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (cp. John 11:33-38)
    • They refused to look on Him or to give Him His rightful honour (cp. John 5:23)

C. The Servant’s Suffering, 53:4-6

  • Israel’s ignorance, v. 4
  • The Servant was suffering for them
  • They thought He was being punished by God
  • The Servant’s sin-bearing, v. 5
  • It was vicarious
  • It was violent
  • It was victorious
  • Israel’s confession, v. 6
    • Of their sin
    • Of the Saviour

D. The Servant’s Submission, 53:7-9

  • His silence in the face of affliction, v. 7
    • In the face of His sufferings, He didn’t open His mouth
    • In the face of His trials, He didn’t defend Himself (cp. 1 Peter 2:23-24)
  • His sacrifice on behalf of Israel, v. 8
    • While there has been much to say about His sufferings, this is the first indication that He actually is killed
    • But it was not for His sins, but for the sins of Israel
  • His vindication at His burial, v. 9
    • They intended to bury Him as a criminal
    • But tender hands took Him and gave Him a rich man’s grave

E. The Servant’s Success Rewarded, 53:10-12

  • The LORD’s purpose, v. 10
    • The LORD was pleased to bruise Him
    • The Servant made His soul a trespass offering (cp. Lev. 5)
    • The Servant shall be raised from the dead and bring many sons to glory (cp. Heb. 2:10)
    • The LORD’s purpose is fully accomplished
  • The Servant’s work, v. 11
    • The basis for propitiation
      • The labour of His soul
    • The basis for justification
      • Knowledge of Him
    • The basis for expiation
      • Bear their iniquities
  • The Servant’s reward, v. 12
    • The nature of His reward
      • A portion with the great
      • The spoil with the strong
    • The reason for His reward
      • He poured out His soul unto death
      • He was numbered with the transgressors
      • He bore the sin of many
      • He made intercession for the transgressors
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