The Lord’s servant

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‘The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down … The Lord reigns for ever’ (Psalm 146:7–10). Praise God for his kingdom of justice and peace!

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Bible passage Isaiah 49:1–7

Isaiah 49

The Servant of the LORD
 1 Listen to me, you islands;
       hear this, you distant nations:
       Before I was born the LORD called me;
       from my birth he has made mention of my name.

 2 He 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.

 3 He said to me, "You are my servant,
       Israel, in whom I will display my splendor."

 4 But I said, "I have labored to no purpose;
       I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.
       Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand,
       and my reward is with my God."

 5 And 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-

 6 he 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 you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

 7 This is what the LORD says—
       the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—
       to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation,
       to the servant of rulers:
       "Kings will see you and rise up,
       princes will see and bow down,
       because of the LORD, who is faithful,
       the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Messiah's mission
This passage is one of the famous ‘servant songs’ which portray the person and mission of the Messiah. (See also 42:1–6; 50:4–11; 52:13 – 53:12.) In poetic language it celebrates his call and preparation, and the purpose for which he has been sent.

Although Israel as a whole have failed to be effective as God’s servant due to their spiritual blindness and deafness (42:19), here is one who fully represents Israel, in whom the Lord can display his splendour (v 3).

Servant's support
After such a build-up it is surprising that verse 4 should speak of the servant’s discouragement. But he is a real man like us. He needs encouragement, and this comes in the shape of a reaffirming and enlargement of his mission.

He will not only lead Israel back to God, but will bring God’s salvation to the Gentile nations too (v 6)! In the book of Acts we see how the salvation won by God’s servant, Jesus, indeed began to reach to ‘the ends of the earth’ (v 6; see Acts 28:28).


‘I am honoured in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength’ v 5). Recognise your identity as one called and chosen in Christ, and ask for guidance as to what your role in his mission should be today.

Andrew Clark

Deeper Bible study

‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.’ (Hebrews 12:1,2)

Occasionally I meet restless people, discontented because they feel their job isn’t big enough for them or they’re getting nowhere with it. ‘The servant’ (introduced first in Isaiah 42:1–9) made just such a complaint against the Lord. Like Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:15,18; 20:7,18), he feels he’s not getting his message across and is wasting his time (v 4). It gives God the opportunity to teach the servant the reality behind it all.

Using choice imagery, the servant recognises he was chosen, equipped and protected by God (v 2) to be a showcase displaying God’s majesty in the world (v 3), but daily experience suggests that no one’s paying any attention. He’s actually ‘despised’ (v 7). God, however, says it doesn’t matter what people think of him; it’s what God himself thinks that counts (v 5). He may only be a servant, but he’s a servant of the Lord. Could he serve any greater master? Furthermore, his mission couldn’t be greater. It was a mission not only to reconcile Jacob to God (vs 5b,6a) but also to enlighten the pagan Gentiles about the Lord’s salvation (v 6b). It’s a global mission. Could any task be more comprehensive? The problem was that the servant’s judgements were short term. He presently appears to be making little progress, but kings and princes will submit to him because he’s been chosen by the faithful Lord himself (v 7). So, whatever you feel, servant, keep going.

People have puzzled over who the servant is. Was it Jeremiah, another historical figure, or Israel herself? Where do we fit in, since there seem to be lessons for us here? These explanations don’t exhaust the meaning of these verses and the best understanding is that the ‘unique things’ said here are about ‘a unique person’1, Jesus, the Christ.

Derek Tidball


1 Alec Motyer, Isaiah, TOTC, IVP, 1999, p309

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  • Rachael Hampton | Thursday, 10 August 2017

    Praying today for all who see no visible results for their years of faithful witness and caring. May you/they be able to say, 'I did it for the Lord, and He will reward me.' Joining in prayer for Di, Carol, Ruth and others in the waiting game. Thank you for your prayers Gilvin and Roger, to which I say Amen.

  • Jess Davey | Friday, 11 August 2017

    Lord I pray for a servants heart. I ask that I will serve you in a manner that is pleasing and fitting. Amen

  • Jane Cribb | Friday, 11 August 2017

    Thank you Derek Tidball for your thoughtful comments about the servant - so many layers of meaning! So thankful for God's Word.

  • Debbie L-B | Friday, 11 August 2017

    Praying for your cousin Di this morning, DAVID. That she will experience both healing, and a relationship with the Lord. God bless x.

  • Angela Munday | Friday, 11 August 2017

    Servants do the work that their 'master' sets; it is good to carry out tasks graciously so that changes come to pass......Father God, we know You are our strength and joy; may we continue in our service to others with a spirit of gratitude. We know You delight in Your family and we long for others to join it. May Di feel our prayers giving her healing and peace. Amen.

  • Sarah Creen | Friday, 11 August 2017

    Dear Lord, I pray I will serve you faithfully in my workplace & all other situations you place me today. Amen

  • Ruth Chisholm | Friday, 11 August 2017

    And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 isn't there a verse somewhere that says nothing that we do in the lord's name is ever wasted, or similar, please post if you know where that is, as I was trying to share that sentiment on Sunday in church to encourage the witness here in our village. CAROL is it results day today? May the Lord shelter you and hold you tight, and give you his peace.

  • Tim Berry | Friday, 11 August 2017

    Hi Ruth, 1Corinthians 15: 58 says, "Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, becauce you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain".

  • Roger Hall | Friday, 11 August 2017

    When a stranger came up to me at my younger Sister's funeral last year, and told me that she had made that decision for Jesus at my older Sister's funeral 40+ years ago, it came as a most delightful confirmation of two things, one, as I always expected, she will be waiting as we promised so many years ago, that whoever got there first, would be waiting to meet up again! I know that she will know the ropes by then, and speedy ways to get the crown fitted, and where to go to jump into the river of life, under the loving and eternal gaze of Jesus King. Another cause of delight was to realise that as one works to bring the Word of the Lord to others, and by personal life, that only by teaching, if only one would make up their mind, drawn not by what I say, but through some word which the Lord has illuminated to them, then some one has come to answering the Knock on the door of their heart, who may never have understood before. "Make me a channel of thy Peace." In agreement with you Ruth, but I would add that it's not enough to Do, in the Lord's name, it is enough to Be in the Lord's name, that our Lord's name is written in Golden Letters somewhere where we cannot see it! With much love and blessings, even blessings to those who are waiting for results!

  • Barbara Sabin | Friday, 11 August 2017

    ROGER what a lovely comment. I know my Son is waiting for me to join him too but I had not thought of him knowing the ropes, speedy ways and where to jump in the river of life. That is a revelation of how it has been and will be. I am fond of Michel Quoist's meditations this one is of a brick wall . The bricklayer laid a brick on a bed of cement, Then with a precise stroke of his trowel, spread another layer, And without a by-your-leave, laid on another brick, The foundations grew visibly, The building rose, tall and strong to shelter people, I thought, dear Lord, of that brick buried in the darkness at the base of the building. No-one sees it, but it accomplishes its task and the other bricks need it. Lord, what difference does it make whether I am on the roof-top or in the foundation of your building.As long as I stand faithfully at the right place. Mary said 'I am the Lord's servant , be it done unto me according to thy will' It is so good to know that we are all servants of the Lord. 'You in your small corner and I in mine' Behold the servant of the Lord! I wait thy guiding eye to feel, To hear and keep thy ev'ry word,To prove and do thy perfect will; Joyful from my own works to cease, Glad to fulfil all righteousness.

  • Rebecca Huie | Friday, 11 August 2017

    WordLive has been a source of enormous blessing to me this entire year. Your comments have illuminated me and encouraged me tremendously. I eagerly anticipate reading and praying with you daily, and I feel a strong family connection here. Please know that your lives are invaluable and that you are bearing much good fruit, although you may not always see it. Thank you for being lights on a hill, shining brightly for all to see. Love and prayers daily.

  • Ruth Lewis | Friday, 11 August 2017

    Amen REBECCA, Those are my sentiments exactly!!!

  • David Chipchase | Friday, 11 August 2017

    Thank you all for your prayer support for Di. It has really stirred up Satan to get stuck into Di. This is the second time it has happened in the last few months and, whilst I have defeated him in other scenarios (and sadly lost too many as well), I can't seem to defeat his attacks on Di. Help please.

  • David Chipchase | Friday, 11 August 2017

    TERESA, great to see a comment from you. I have missed your contributions. If I may ask, how goes the discerning of God’s plans for your family? RUTH L, if I may ask, how goes Leslie and Jordan? I trust in God's plan for Christina.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 11 August 2017

    DAVID pray labourers across Di's path because the seed has got to be sown. You perhaps become the labourer. Pray for an opportunity to share the word of God with Di. I pray that through your witness God would break the deception, hardness of heart and sins that have had effect on Di.Thank you Jesus that you want Di saved more than we do. It is not just on our shoulders we just cooperate with you Jesus because you already died for her. I pray for compassion and authority to flow through David and the Words of Scripture you give to him will have a powerful effect in Jesus name, Amen.

  • Ruth Chisholm | Friday, 11 August 2017

    Thank you TIM for the verse, and ROGER agree we are called to be.

  • Barbara Sabin | Friday, 11 August 2017

    DAVID Di has to have the desire, pray for her heart to be softened to enable the seed to take root then God will water it. Does she like music? maybe you could play some spiritual music for her. Music stirs the soul.

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