In Isaiah 41:8 God speaks of “Israel, my servant,” (NRSV) and in 42:1 he introduces “my servant.” Who is this servant?
Is it Israel/Jacob, the ancestor of the Israelites? The nation of Israel? The Messiah/Christ, identified in the New Testament as Jesus?
There are two kinds of references to servants of God woven through Isaiah 41-53. One servant is named “Israel” or “Jacob,” as in Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 44.1-2, Isaiah 44:21; Isa: 45:4; Isa: 48:20. Because God addresses Israel/Jacob in the present, it is clear he, Jacob, represents the nation descended from him. This is confirmed by the fact that redemption for the Lord’s “servant Jacob” is accomplished at the time when he is to go out from Babylon (Isa: 48:20).
In other instances, such as Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 50:10, Isaiah 52:13, Isaiah 53:11, God’s servant is not named. When he is first mentioned in Isaiah 42:1, his identity is not immediately apparent. However, as Isaiah develops his profile in later passages, it becomes clear that he is an individual who restores the tribes of Jacob (Israel) to God ( Isaiah 49.5-6) and dies sacrificially on behalf of sinners (Isa: 52:13-53:12; see also Isaiah 49.5-6). Therefore he cannot be the same as the nation. So, it is clear that Isaiah speaks of two servants of God. One is corporate (the nation) and the other is individual.
What is the role of the servant nation? Isa: 41:8-20.
God assures Israel that the nation is still the servant of the Lord: “I have chosen you and not cast you off” ( Isaiah 41.9-10, NRSV). Here and in the following verses one of the basic roles of Israel is to trust the true God to save them (as King Ahaz did not) rather than to trust in other gods and their images as other nations do (Isa: 41:7, Isaiah 41:21-24, Isaiah 41.28-29).
|Notice how in Isaiah 41:14 the Lord calls the nation a worm. What point was He making? Look at the whole text to get a better answer. What should this teach us, as well, about our need to depend totally upon the Lord?|