The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 49:1-7 and is the second of the four Servant Songs of Isaiah. This is also the beginning of a distinct new section of the book which includes chapters 49-55. The previous section included the First Servant Song (42) but it is quite different from the three Servant Songs of this new segment. In regards to the First Servant Song (see last week’s blog), initially, Israel is identified as the servant, but fails in the role. Thus, Christ is the One who fulfills what Israel has failed. Now, in this Second Servant Song of our pericope, the Servant is identified as the One through whom the LORD will restore Israel. This Servant cannot be Israel, but instead is a direct reference to the Messiah. To quote R. Lessing from his commentary on Isaiah 40-55 in the Concordia Commentary Series:

“With vivid accuracy Isaiah 41-48 foretells the end of captivity in Babylon and Cyrus’ redemption of Israel. Now, beginning with chapter 49, Isaiah’s prophecies become more concerned with Israel’s spiritual captivity to sin and the solution through Yahweh’s Suffering Servant… The answer is: The Servant, ideal Israel, will give Himself to be for and in Israel what Israel could never be in itself. He is the perfect Israel and gives Himself as a substitute for the nation of Israel, indeed for all people. This paradox is demonstrated when the Servant is called “Israel” (49:3), yet through Him “Israel” is regathered to God (49:5)” (p. 476).

Finally, in verses 5 and 6 we note the “restoration” language. Most translations tend to translate this as “bring back” but the theme of restoration is much more powerful. For the Israelites the language of restoration cannot be separated from the language of resurrection. Being restored to the land of Judah and being restored to the proper relationship with God are both understood as a type of bodily resurrection, when the faithful are raised and restored to their place in the courts of Heaven. For more on this I recommend Jon Levenson’s book, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel.

49:1 אִיִּים (i-Yim) “distant lands; coastlands; distant islands”

וְהַקְשִׁיבוּ (ve-hak-Shi-vu) root: קשׁב (kaw-shab) Hiphil: “to listen attentively; to give heed; to give attention”

מִבֶּטֶן (mib-Be-ten) “womb”

הִזְכִּיר (hiz-Kir) root: זכר (zaw-kar) Hiphil: “to invoke; to call”

49:2 וַיָּשֶׂם: (vai-Ya-sem) root: שׂים (soom) Qal: “to make”

חַדָּה; (chad-Dah) “sharp”

בְּצֵל (be-Tzel) from: צלe (tsale) “protection; shadow”

הֶחְבִּיאָנִי, (hech-bi-A-ni) root: חבא (khaw-baw) Hiphil: “to hide”

בָּרוּר (ba-Rur) root: ברר (baw-rar) Qal, passive, participle: “to sharpen; to polish”

בְּאַשְׁפָּתוֹ (be-ash-pa-To) from: אשׁפּה; (ash-paw) “quiver”

הִסְתִּירָנִי (his-ti-Ra-ni) root: סתר (saw-thar) Hiphil: “to hide (something)”

49:3 אֶתְפָּאָר, (et-pa-Ar) root: פאר (paw-ar) Hithpael: “to show one’s glory; to display one’s glory; to be glorified” Literally: I will be glorified.

49:4 לְרִיק. (le-Rik) “nothing; futile; vain; emptiness”

יָגַעְתִּי (ya-Ga-ti) root: יגע (yaw-gah) Qal: “to labor; to struggle”

וְהֶבֶל> (ve-He-vel) “vanity”

וּפְעֻלָּתִי (u-fe-ul-l-Ti) “reward; recompense; work”

49:5 יוֹצְרִי (yo-tze-Ri) Qal: “to form; to fashion; to create”

לְשׁוֹבֵב . (le-sho-Vev) root: שׁוב (shoob) Polel, infinitive construct: “to turn; to return” Literally: “to make restored”

וְאֶכָּבֵד > (ve-ek-ka-Ved) root: כבד (kaw-bad) Niphal: “to be honored; to be glorified”

עֻזִּיu (uz-Zi) “refuge; protection; strength”

49:6 נָקֵל (na-Kel) root: קלל (kaw-lal) Niphal, participle: “to be trivial; to be a small thing; to be a light thing”

לְהָקִים (le-ha-Kim) root: קום (koom) Hiphil, infinitive construct: “to raise up; to resurrect”

לְהָשִׁיב (le-ha-Shiv) root: שׁוב (shoob) Hiphil, infinitive construct: “to restore; to cause to return”

וּנְצוּרֵי (u-ne-tzu-Rei) root: נצר (naw-tsere) Qal: “to keep watch; to watch over; to preserve”

קְצֵה. (ke-Tzeh) “edge; end”

49:7 גֹּאֵלo (go-El) Qal, participle: “to redeem” Here we see its use as a divine title: “Redeemer”

קְדוֹשׁוֹ. (ke-do-Sho) Another divine title: “Holy One”

לִבְזֹה (liv-zoh) root: בזה (baw-zo) Qal, infinitive construct: “to despise”

לִמְתָעֵב (lim-Ta-ev) root: תעב (taw-ab) Piel, participle: “to abhor; to treat as an abomination”

מֹשְׁלִים (mo-she-Lim) root: משׁל (maw-shal) Qal: “to rule”

נֶאֱמָן (ne-e-Man) root: אמן (aw-man) Niphal, participle: “to be faithful; to be worthy of trust; to be reliable”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 49:1-7

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 49:1-7