Isaiah 45–50: Sovereign & Servant

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 9: Friday

“Turn to Me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.”
Isaiah 45:22 LSB

Friday’s Bible reading is Isaiah 45–50. As you read you will again see God as righteous judge, warn of His coming judgment of the wicked, yet in His mercy speak of His salvation not just to Israel, but to the ends of the earth.

In the first chapters today, you’ll read of God’s coming judgment of Babylon. In Isaiah 45–46 you’ll see God’s declaration, For I am God, and there is no other, repeated as well as similar ones as God drives home that He alone is God, sovereign over His Creation.

Isaiah continues to speak of the futility of idolatry. God explains that idolatry is a reason He has spoken through His prophets of what He will do.

“I declared the former things long ago,
And they went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to be heard.
Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
Because I know that you are stiff,
And your neck is an iron sinew
And your forehead bronze,
Therefore I declared
them to you long ago,
Before they happened I caused
them to be heard by you,
Lest you say, ‘My idol has done them,
And my graven image and my molten image have commanded them.’”
Isaiah 48:3-5 LSB

Derek Kidner titles Isaiah 49:1–55:13, The Dawn of Redemption.1 Gleason Archer calls Isaiah 40–66, the volume of comfort2, and titles its three main subdivisions: A. Purpose of peace, 40:1–48:22; B. Prince of peace, 49:1–57:21; and C. Program of peace, 58:1–66:24.3 He writes:

“It is important to note in regard to the last section, the volume of comfort, that the twenty-seven chapters, 40 through 66, show a remarkable symmetry in the three subdivisions. The end of subdivision A. The purpose of peace, is virtually identical with the end of subdivision B, the Prince of peace; that is to say, they both conclude with the formula, “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” Each of the three subdivisions sets forth in a systematic way an area of doctrinal emphasis—theology, soteriology, and eschatology. This architectonic structure points to a single author rather than to a collection of heterogeneous sources. What is said about the volume of comfort as to its systematice arrangement may be extended to the first thirty-nine chapters as well, for even the outline as here given indicates a deliberate use of balance or parallelism in structure.”4

In his sermon, “The Astonishing Servant of Jehovah,” John MacArthur states,

“In chapter 40 we read, “Comfort, O comfort My people, says your God.” And that’s the turn in the book of Isaiah from the pronunciation of judgment in the first 39 to comfort in the back half because of grace and salvation…

“There are 27 chapters…They’re divided into three sections 9 [40–48], 9 [49–57] and 9 [58–66] in terms of subject…The first section ends with this statement: “There is no peace to the wicked.” The second nine ends with this statement: “There is no peace to the wicked.” The third section ends, chapter 66 verse 24, with a similar judgment statement. Each of the three sections ends with a warning of judgment on the wicked. But all three sections promise salvation. They’re very evangelistic. They promise salvation and they end with a warning if you reject it. All three feature blessing and peace to the righteous and no peace and judgment to the wicked…

“Section one [40–48] talks about salvation from the Babylonian captivity. Section two [49–57] talks about salvation from sin. And section three [58–66], the last nine, salvation from the cursed earth. So the first has to do with the deliverance of Israel from Babylon. The middle one, as I said a lot earlier, has to do with the deliverance of sinners from sin. And the third one, the deliverance of the earth from the curse, the glorious coming Kingdom of Messiah.”5

Isaiah 42:1–9 contains the first of the four Servant songs in Isaiah. Today’s reading contains the second and third Servant song: Isaiah 49:1–13, and Isaiah 50:4–9. The fourth Servant song is Isaiah 52:13–53:12, which is in next week’s reading. The commentators I’ve read begin the first two Servant songs in Isaiah 42:1 and 49:1, but stop at different places. I’ve linked to the longest passages I’ve seen included in the first and second Servant songs.

“They will not hunger or thirst,
Nor will the scorching heat or sun strike them down;
For He who has compassion on them will guide them
And will lead them to springs of water.
I will set all My mountains as a road,
And My highways will be raised up.
Behold, these
will come from afar;
And behold, these will come from the north and from the west,
And these from the land of Sinim.”
Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth!
Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains!
For Yahweh has comforted His people
And will have compassion on His afflicted.
Isaiah 49:10–13 LSB

Walt Kaiser includes Isaiah 49:1–6 in the second Servant song and titles it, “Messiah’s Mission to the World.”6 Derek Kidner includes verses 1–13, and writes:

“The limits of this passage have been variously fixed, usually at vv. 1–6. But each of vv. 5–8 introduces part of God’s answering commission to His servant; and v. 8, which echoes 42:6, cannot be shorn of its sequel…

“8a is quoted by Paul in 2 Cor. 6:2 as a saying now fulfilled; cf. our Lord’s use of Is. 61:1, 2a in Lk. 4:18–219ff. The prisoners flocking home in vv. 8–13 are visualized as the dispersed of Israel throughout the world, not merely at Babylon (cf. v. 12 with v. 22); but the allusion to v. 10 in Rev. 7:17 shows that we may rightly see also the Gentiles leaving their darkness for their new homeland (cf. 44:5).”7

Isaiah 50:4–9 is the third Servant song. Kaiser titles this third song, “Messiah’s Gethsemane.”8 Kidner writes,

“After the display of patient gentleness in the first ‘Song’ (42:1ff.) and the acceptance of frustrating toil in the second (49:4, 7), here the Servant faces the active spite and fury of evil. It is only a step, the reader feels, to the cross. There is no hint now of even the momentary discouragement of 49:4.”9

I gave My back to those who strike Me,
And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard;
I did not hide My face from dishonor and spitting.
Isaiah 50:4 LSB

In Isaiah 50:9, the Servant declares,

Behold, Lord Yahweh helps Me;
Who is he who condemns Me?
Behold, they will all wear out like a garment;
The moth will eat them.
Isaiah 50:9 LSB

Kidner writes,

“In Rom. 8:31ff, Paul sings the Christian’s variant of this song, for whom Another’s righteousness silences the accuser, and for whom God’s help (vv. 7a, 9a) is now explicitly declared as love (Rom.8:35, 37, 39).”10

Kidner titles 50:10, 11, “An epilogue to the song,” and says,

“The two verses seize on the words of faith just uttered, to make them the pivot of life or death for the hearer.”11

Who is among you that fears Yahweh,
That listens to the voice of His Servant,
That walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of Yahweh and rely on his God.
Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
Who gird yourselves with firebrands,
Walk in the light of your fire
And among the brands you have set ablaze.
This you will have from My hand:
You will lie down in torment.
Isaiah 50:10–11 LSB

A pivot of life or death for the hearer. I am comforted as I read these words in Isaiah, Kidner’s comments, and Paul’s in Romans 8, as I think of my own life right now, facing a necessary move in uncertain and discouraging circumstances. At all times and in all occasions, even when we feel as if we walk in darkness and have no light, we can ask God in His great love to help us trust in the name of Yahweh and rely on our God.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
The Blue Marble (transparent version): NASA/Apollo 17 crew; taken by either Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans. Full disk view of the Earth taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft en route to the Moon at a distance of about 29,000 kilometres (18,000 mi). Public Domain.
1,7,9,10,11Derek Kidner, “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 616, 616, 616, 617, 617.
2,3,4Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody Press, Chicago IL: 1966, 1974) 327, 327–328, 328–329.
5John MacArthur, Copyright 2012, Grace to You. All rights reserved.  Used by permission. This Grace to You sermon, “The Astonishing Servant of Jehovah,” originally appeared here.
6,8Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI: 1995) 175, 242.
Further reading: J. Nicholas Reed, “The Servant Songs of Isaiah,” October 2019, Tabletalk. Ligonier.
Steffan Mueller, “Engraved on God’s Hands,” Isaiah 49:14–16. Originally published in Tabletalk, the daily Bible study magazine of Ligonier.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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