Isaiah 49:1-61NIV New International Version Translations
1Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. 2He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. 3He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.” 4But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” 5And now the LORD says- he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength- 6he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Chapters 42-53 of the book of Isaiah contain four Servant Songs. The Servant is God’s agent to do God’s work in the world (Christ). Our verses are the second song (49:1-6). They further define the Servant’s mission. The Servant is “to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel” (49:6a). Furthermore, God says, “I will also give you for a light to the nations, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth” (49:6b).
Many Israelites lived abroad, not in the lands of Israel. But here, the reference is to the foreign nations, rather than to the Israelites. Isaiah repeats the command to listen. This is to emphasize that the message is for foreigners. To be called does not mean to shout to gain attention but to be appointed to a task. Isaiah’s call came before he was even born. (See Jeremiah 1:4-5). Words like sword and arrow show that Isaiah’s message from God will have a powerful effect on people’s lives. Like a sword or an arrow, Isaiah’s words will be sharp and powerful. The Lord has prepared Isaiah ahead of time to speak the sharp words of God’s judgement. We may think that a shadow is not much protection from danger but with God, even His shadow is always sufficient (see Psalm 17:8). The shadow also reminds God’s people that He is always very close to each believer.
When God originally called Isaiah to speak for Him, He had warned Isaiah about the people’s reaction. People would not listen to Isaiah (see Isaiah 6:9-12). But Isaiah wisely realized that his own duty was to obey God anyway. What happened as a result was not Isaiah’s responsibility (see Isaiah 40:4-8). It was God’s responsibility.
The first words are similar to those in Isaiah 43:1 and 49:1. But here Isaiah adds that the Lord provides him with the necessary help. The Lord has an even greater task for Isaiah. He is to tell all nations that God can rescue every person from the result of their evil lives. God intends them to spread His ‘light’ to the whole world (see Isaiah 42:6) and to everybody in the world (see Isaiah 48:20).
Items for Discussion
- Do you think you have a calling, a calling from God? What is it?
- What in your mind constitutes failure when you do not seem to be accomplishing your calling?
- Why is it only our duty to speak on behalf of God and not feel responsible for those who refuse to hear it?
- What do you think God’s light is?
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” 35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).
The witness of John the Baptist is crucial to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. John’s witness begins with the reference to “his own testimony to priests and Levites who had been sent from Jerusalem to ask, “Who are you?” (1:19). John made it clear to them that he was not the Messiah, but was sent to “Make straight the way of the Lord” (1:23). Then, speaking of the one on whom the Spirit descended, John said, “I have seen and have testified (witnessed) that this is the Son of God” (1:34).
Then John witnesses to his own disciples, saying of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”—with the result that the two disciples stop following John and start following Jesus (1:37). At that point, having accomplished his witnessing task, John fades from the picture. We see him only once more in this Gospel, when his disciples ask him about Jesus, who has become quite popular (3:26). John tells them, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30).
Items for Discussion
- In what ways are each of us contemporary witnesses to Jesus ?
- How do we demonstrate to others who Jesus is? In other words, how does your life say, “Look, the Lamb of God?”
- We do not sacrifice lambs today – What are the appropriate sacrifices that people are making to remove guilt?
- Why do sacrifices fall short to remove sin in our world?
- What is the one characteristic of Jesus that gives you hope for this world?
- Think about how God has called you. How is it that you will help spread the “light of the world?”
- 1NIV New International Version Translations