With the heart-consoling words “Comfort ye, Comfort ye My people”, the divine author of this prophecy given through Isaiah begins the fortieth chapter of this book of prophecy. Herewith He begins the final section of this book, a section which speaks of the salvation of God’s people and of the glory that awaits them in the New Jerusalem.
In, this section of the prophecy of Isaiah there appears this concept of the servant of Jehovah which we shall briefly consider in this essay. The concept is first mentioned inwhere we read, “But thou, Israel art My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.” The next passage which speaks directly of this servant of Jehovah is found in . In these verses we find these thoughts expressed, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench; he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law.”
These two passages show one of the characteristics of all the passages that speak of this servant of Jehovah. You will have noticed that in the first passage quoted this servant is presented as being the nation of Israel while the second makes one think immediately of Christ as this servant of Jehovah of whom Isaiah speaks. In fact Jesus Himself quotes the verses which follow immediately upon those we quoted above in chapter 42 when He was in Nazareth and told the Jews that He was, the fulfillment of this prophecy, so that there can be no doubt that in chapter 42 this servant of Jehovah is Christ. This change of viewpoint will be found throughout the various passages that speak of this servant of Jehovah. Some speak very definitely of Israel ab a nation. In others it cannot be denied that Christ is meant by this servant. Passages which speak of this servant as the nation Israel are: . Additional passages that speak plainly of Christ are: and the entire 53rd chapter which the Ethiopian eunuch was reading and which Philip explains to him as having reference to Christ.
In chapter 49 we find a very remarkable use of the expression. The first six verses in brief declare this, “. . . . the Lordhath called me . . . . and said unto me, Thou art My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. Then said I, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain: Yes surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God. And now saith the Lord that formed me . . . . to be His servant, to bring Jacob again to Him . . . .”
This passage is remarkable in that it speaks of both Israel and Christ as that servant in one breath. Note verse 3, “Thou art My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’’ Immediately following this the servant answers Jehovah and says, “I have labored in vain. I have spent my strength for nought.” Now if we read the next verse we see wherein that labor consisted. We read, “Now saith the Lord that formed me . . . . to bring Jacob again to Him . . . .” While the 6th verse has this expression “. . . . though Israel be not gathered . . . .” These passages plainly speak of Christ in His work of reconciling God’s people unto Him. Thus in the one passage we have a twofold use of this expression, “Servant of Jehovah”. Still more the expression here also applies to Isaiah as the servant of Jehovah. It is Isaiah that complains that he has labored in vain. This he does as prophet, anointed by God’s Spirit to represent Christ and lead His people to repentance. When Isaiah says this, he does so therefore as prophetic of the apparent hopelessness and unfruitfulness of Christ’s work amongst Israel.
Not only do we feel at once that the term “Servant of Jehovah” should be applied first to Christ and then to Israel because of Israel’s relation to Him, but a consideration of these passages mentioned above will lead us to the same conclusion. Consider once that frequently in these passages Israel, who is called the servant of Jehovah, is also presented as not serving Him and being guilty before Him. This is stated both directly and indirectly. Look up . Israel is accused by Jehovah of not sacrificing burnt offerings to Him, and indirectly God alludes to her failure to serve Him when He declares in verse 25, “I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions”. Transgressions surely are not service. In the passages which speak of Christ, however, He is extolled for His perfect service to Jehovah. Chapter 53 is a beautiful declaration of His obedience in humility and love to Jehovah and to His people. He is THE servant of Jehovah who has fulfilled the Law of God for us. He has served Jehovah in our stead land performed the past service we did not perform and owe unto Jehovah. He is THE servant of Jehovah, and through His service He has made Israel to become the servant of Jehovah. Listen to , “He shall see the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied, by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquity”. Note that He is called the righteous servant and it is implied in what follows that Israel was guilty and that He justified Israel by His righteousness. Unto Israel He imputed His righteousness and Israel in God’s eyes also becomes the servant of the Lord. Even as Christ is the Israel, that is the Prince of God and the nation of Israel becomes the prince of God because He stands at her head, so Christ is the Servant of Jehovah, and Israel becomes the Servant of Jehovah because He stands at her head as Christ, the Anointed of God to be Prophet, Priest and King. The Idea of the “Servant of Jehovah”, as Delitzsch suggests, figuratively speaking assumes, the form of a pyramid the base of which is Israel as a nation, the central section being Israel according to election, the true Israel, spiritual Israel, and the apex of this pyramid being Christ, the second Adam, the head of God’s covenant people who has fulfilled the covenant obligation for us in His work of serving Jehovah as our head and thereby redeeming us from the slavery of the devil. In the first place then Christ is that “Servant of Jehovah” in that He serves Jehovah perfectly as the head of God’s covenant people. In the second place Israel according to the remnant of election is that “Servant of Jehovah” because in Christ her head sail the service God demanded is performed and Jehovah’s judgment upon her because He sees heir in Christ is that she has served Him.
However these passages teach us something more than this objective holiness and righteousness which the elect have in Christ and according to which God declares them to be His servants. Israel—the true church in the Old Dispensation and in this New Dispensation—also is the “Servant of Jehovah” in deed and not merely in name and according to God’s judgment. Here are some of the things these passages mention as the service Israel performs before Jehovah: a. Contrasting with the proceeding verses and with the verses 9-20 which appear between, we see that Israel as Jehovah’s servant does not serve idols as the heathen nations about her. b. Positively we read in 43:10 and in 44:8 that she is God’s witness which according to the context means that she confesses, that Jehovah is her God and Redeemer, e. In God Himself declares that He has formed Israel to show forth His praises, d. In the work that Israel performs as the “Servant of Jehovah” is that of glorifying Him. These are not merely works which God demands of His servant but they are works which she also performs. speaks of this “Servant of Jehovah” being chosen and called by God but also that He will help, strengthen and uphold her with the right hand of His righteousness. This does not merely mean to defend her from the physical enemy but it means that He will help, strengthen and uphold her with the right hand of His righteousness—which is Christ, THE Servant of Jehovah—to perform righteousness and to serve Him. Because the grace of God, The Spirit of Christ and the life of Christ are given to Israel, she is enabled to be the “Servant of Jehovah’’ in more than name. She is the servant of Jehovah in thought, word and deed. Thus the term “Servant of Jehovah” as applied to Israel also means “Servant Jehovah has made”. The emphasis in all the passages which refer to Israel directly is upon the fact that God chose and called her. The same thing may be said in regard to those passages that speak of Christ as the “Servant of Jehovah”. They all teach us that Christ is sent by God and is not our product at all.
There are many other details in this concept which could be noted, but space does permit more than a few suggestions as to the richness of this concept, a. The covenant idea is placed emphatically before us in the very first passage that speaks of this Servant of Jehovah. served Him there. See . f. God uses the heathen nations and unbelievers for the welfare of His servant. See and compare it with . In connection with this, also teaches us that no one can stand in the way of God’s work of bringing His people to Canaan to serve Him. He called them from “the ends of the earth”—called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and Israel out of Egypt—and from “the chief men thereof”—from under Pharaoh’s cruel yoke—He brought Israel out to Canaan and through Moses He said to Pharaoh, “Let My son go that he may serve Me”, etc.speaks of this servant as being the seed of Abraham, God’s “friend”, with whom He established this covenant, b. This same passage therefore teaches us by implication and literally that Jehovah’s Servant is a friend-servant, c. The names Israel and Jacob which are repeatedly used indicate the glory of this servitude. Israel means, “Prince of God.” Jacob means, “The Supplanter”. Let no one think that this servitude us slavery and dishonorable. Let no one be ashamed to be called a servant of Jehovah. These servants are princes of God. His friends shall inherit the earth and all the future glory, for they shall supplant the wicked who now possess it. d. To this Israel which is Jehovah’s servant belongs the church of today, Gentiles as well as Jews according to . e. This service of Israel as the servant of Jehovah had a typical realization when Israel returned from captivity to return to Canaan where she again built Jerusalem, the city of God, and His temple and
Summing up all the material, we have here placed before us in this concept God’s covenant people as Servant. That “Servant of Jehovah” is the entire body of the elect with Christ at the head. Christ is the, “Servant of Jehovah” in Himself which His work of perfect obedience and love manifests. The body of the elect, consisting in both Jews and Gentiles, becomes that “Servant of Jehovah” because of Christ’s obedience and the engrafting of these elect into Him by faith. Israel as a nation is called that “Servant of Jehovah” because in the Old Dispensation God’s Covenant people were to be found exclusively among Israel with only a few exceptions.
When this body of the elect is called the “Servant of Jehovah”, God views these elect mot from the viewpoint of what they are in themselves but as they are judicially in Christ their head sand as they become ethically through the work of His Spirit in their hearts. In other words the elect are presented from the viewpoint of the completion of God’s work of salvation, that is, from the law of sin and death and the slavery of the devil, now to keep its part of the covenant obligation by serving God through His grace. Of this, Israel’s redemption: from the yoke of Pharaoh in Egypt and her return out of Babylon were types, and this latter redemption becomes the occasion here for Jehovah to teach Israel and us of that spiritual redemption which we have in His Servant, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we can and do become His Covenant children and friend-servants.