Devotional Commentary on Isaiah 49


Isaiah in this chapter, describes God’s dream with the remnant of all generations. There is much of the repetition of the Messianic program outlined by Christ in Luke 4:18-19 but Christ did not use this chapter, He was using similar ideas in Isaiah 61 combined and extrapolated from Isaiah 29:18 and  Isaiah 58:6. Does Jesus take eschatology and applied it to Himself at the first Advent? No. Does Jesus ignore the Hebrew of the consonantal text of the Masoretic tradition and substitute it for the socalled LXX or Septuagint? No. Does Jesus proclaim ‘realized eschatology’ (C. Dodd)? No. The use of the Old Testament in the New Testament is very unique. It is sometimes by memory, sometimes exactly literal, it is sometimes paraphrase but not for one moment is their citation in conflict with the meaning of the Old Testament.


Christ is supreme and the Perfect One whereas the remnant of the generations past and even now, remains short of that perfection.


Isaiah is showing the winding path of Christ and His remnant here.


A similar meaning was also found by M. L. Andreasen in 1928 in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah page 22. He said about the term “servant” in this chapter: “The term "the servant" is often mentioned. This refers to Christ, but in some cases it has a double application and refers also to God's people. However, there need be no confusion on this point, as the references are clear.


The preterist Delitzsch Vol. II 1890 page 236 expressed a similar view: “When the expression is applied in the fullest extent of its meaning, ‘the Servant of Jehovah’ signifies all Israel; when it is confined to its inner and narrower sense, it signifies the true people of Jehovah who are included within the entire nation, like the kernel within the husk (see the definition of this in li. 7, lxv, 10; Ps. xxiv. 6, lxxiii. 15); here, however, the idea is restricted to its central thought, and the expression becomes the ideal representation of an individual.” Also: The servant of Jehovah is the kernel of the kernel of Israel, Israel's inmost centre, Israel's highest head [Christ].


J. Mortyer in 1993 page 384 said: “Certainly the Servant is a prophetic, covenant figure, but he is also much, much more than any prophet ever was or claimed to be.”


On the sideline, we need to say that suspicion scholars whined about expressions in this chapter that they claim could not have come from Isaiah: “Lift up your eyes and look around” (v. 18a) because it is not found earlier in Isaiah! We can only smile. “To break out” [into singing] (v. 13b); “Israel’s Redeemer” (v. 7a); a shade foreign to earlier Isaiah chapters apparently “isles or coasts” (v. 1); “in whom I will show My glory” (v. 3b). Modern poets and writers did the same as Isaiah and were not called ‘separated cloned writers’.


Isaiah begins by saying that islands and people not of the land of Israel should pay attention that [spiritual] Israel was called from the womb (v. 3a) “you are My servant Israel” and v. 1c where the Lord has called Israel from the womb. From the inception of spiritual Israel, from the time of the sin of Adam and Eve, the Lord has called His remnant.


The mouth of the remnant and its chosen spokesmen and women, the prophets, He made “My mouth like a sharp sword” (v. 2a linked also to Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is that two-edge sword.


M. L. Andreasen understood vv. 1-3 to refer to Christ. “Isles, literally, countries; people, literally, peoples. The whole world is called upon to hear the announcement, for it concerns the whole world. The Lord hath called Me. Luke 1:31-33. Mention of My name. Matt. 1:21. Sharp sword. Heb. 4:12. A polished shaft, or arrow, even sharper than a sword. The description of the servant is that of Christ.


Ellen White also understood vv. 2-6 as applying to the people of God and not to Christ, contrary to Andreasen in 1928 in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah page 23, she said: “Testimonies, Vol. 7, pages 191, 192, quoting Isaiah 49:2-6, applies it to the people of God. Hence we accept these references as having a double application, first to Christ, then to Israel, old and new. Andreasen gave more specific knowledge of Ellen White’s idea of the “servant” from Desire of Ages: “‘The Desire of Ages, pages 678, 679, quoting Isaiah 49:4, 5, 7-10, applies the scripture to Christ. So what is the result of Ellen White’s use of “servant” in this passage? Verse 2 = people of God; verse 3 = people of God; verse 4 = Christ; verse 5 = Christ; verse 6 = people of God; verse 7-10 = Christ.


Delitzsch in Vol. II 1890 page 235 understood verse 1 = individual although it sound collectively; verse 2 the same; verse 3 = collectively but actually individual; verse 5 = individual; verse 8 = invididual. Is it the prophet? Delitzsch says it is impossible since verse 1 is too superhumanly glorious (page 236).


The remnant was instrumental to bring about in human language the revelation of God. God purposed to show glory through His remnant (v. 3b). The remnant worked with toil and felt that sometimes it was in vain and for nothing with no results (v. 4a-b).


Christ worked and felt it was in vain. M. L. Andreasen cited Ellen White about verse 4 in 1928 in his Sabbath School Quarterly page 23: As the world's Redeemer, Christ was constantly confronted with apparent failure. He, the messenger of mercy to our world, seemed to do little of the work He longed to do in uplifting and saving. Satanic influences were constantly working to oppose His way. But He would not be discouraged. Through the prophecy of Isaiah He declares, have labored in vain, I have spent My strength for naught, and in vain: yet surely My judgment is with the Lord, and My work with My God.‘ ” Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 678.


However, the wheat in the remnant or believing remnant is confident in the justice of God and that His reward is with Him [at the Second Coming] (v. 4c). This reward is coming from Christ.


The faithful remnant is the Servant of God, formed from the womb with a purpose (v. 5a). The role of the faithful remnant is “to bring Jacob back to Him in order that [the weeds or wayward of spiritual] Israel might not be gathered” (v. 5b-c). Christ was formed from the womb and some of the faithful remnant as well and both Christ mission and the mission of the spiritual Israel is to bring wayward spiritual Israel back to the truth about God. Christ wanted to gather them but like a hen her chicks but they did not want to. He was formed in the womb by the Spirit of God and Paul also claimed that situation for himself in Galatians.


M. L. Andreasen said about verse 5 in 1928 in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah that it refers definitely to Christ here: “This verse seems to have definite reference to Christ. He was called to bring Jacob back to God, and also, as the American Revised Version has it, that Israel be gathered unto Him. Christ was glorious, or honorable, in the sight of God. Yet He did not take glory to Himself. He said, I can of Mine own self do nothing. John 5: 30. Ellen White also said that it refers to Christ.


The negative gathering here is probably the weeds that will be gathered first to separate them from the good at the Second Coming.


God then said about the remnant that it is too light that the remnant should be a servant for Him (v. 6a). That the remnant should raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved ones of Israel (v. 6b) but the Lord will make the remnant a light unto the tribes of Jacob (v. 6d).


The purpose is that “My salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (v. 6e). Again the Elijah message template for the remnant appears here. It seems as if this servant role of the remnant in Isaiah 49 is built into Maleachi 3:23-24 with the role of Elijah.


Ellen White applied in Desire of Ages verse 6 to Christ: This prophecy was generally understood as spoken of the Messiah, and when Jesus said, am the light of the world,' the people could not fail to recognize His claim to be the Promised One. Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 465. This is cited by M. L. Andreasen in his 1928 Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah page 23-24.


Delitzsch Vol. II 1890 page 240 is in agreement with Ellen White here, that it refers to Christ. He said: But inasmuch as the servant of Jehovah is the light of the world, and by this very fact also the salvation of the world, both of these come through Jehovah, whose salvation, accomplished in accordance with His counsel, attains historical realization and actual manifestation in the servant.


M. L. Andreasen, 1928 page 24, presenting Ellen White’s views here, wanted to enlarge the scope to include the people of God, not only Christ: “’Prophets and Kings, pages 688, 689, says that it was generally understood that the coming of the Messiah was referred to in the prophecy of Isaiah 49:6. This prophecy, however, also has an application to the people of God. After quoting Isaiah 49:6, Testimonies, Vol. 7, page 192, says: This is the word of the Lord to all who are in any way connected with His appointed institutions. They are favored of God, for they are brought into channels where the light shines. They are in His special service, and they should not esteem this a light thing. A paraphrase of Isaiah 49:6 would read: It is too small a work for you to labor only among those who already know the truth. I will send you for a light to the heathen, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth. This is an excellent foreign-missionary text. God's ministers are not constantly to hover over the churches. The call is to send the message to the ends of the earth. Nor must the people demand that their tithes and offerings be spent in ministering to themselves, thus consuming their own gifts.


God then speaks to [spiritual] Israel which is the despised soul; the abhorred nation (goy not am); to the servant of rulers (v. 7b). God promised better days for this suffering remnant “kings shall see and princes shall rise” and “shall bow down” (v. 7c). This restoration shall happen because of who God is (v. 7d).


On this verse 7, M. L. Andreasen 1928 page 24 was convinced that it is referring to Christ: This verse refers definitely to Christ. It is to Christ that the promise is given, says The Desire of Ages, page 678, quoting Isaiah 49:7-10. He was despised of men. Isa. 53:3. It is not the Jews only who cry, Away with Him.John 19:15. A servant of rulers, taunted and scourged by such rulers as Herod and Pontius. Pilate. Luke 23:11; John 19:1, 16. Nevertheless the time will come when kings and rulers shall see and arise. Wonderful change!


Delitzsch felt that it applies also to His faithful people, in Vol. II 1890 page 241.


The remnant cannot take the role of Christ and therefore there is a blending of Christ’s role in history and the historical purpose of the remnant in vv. 8-13. Paul cites from this passage to say that spiritual Israel of his time has this task to fulfill in these verses (2 Corinthians 6:2).


Two images are blend here namely the Warrior Messiah in His strength and the Shepherd Messiah in the life and work of Christ. As Shepherd Messiah Christ came and released people from the bondage of illnesses and death (v. 9a-b). God promised that “in a favorable time I will answer You” and “in a day of salvation, I will help You” (v. 8b-c).


The day of salvation is the role of the Messiah and what the Messiah did is for the benefit of the remnant and their salvation. The Messiah is the One who keep them (v. 8c) and Christ gave them to the covenant people (v. 8d). God gave Himself to the world and the remnant to those all over the globe that He wants to save (everybody) with a covenant of requirements and promises available for everyone.


M. L. Andreasen 1928 page 24 understood this in the role of Christ in salvation-history: Christ is here again spoken of as the covenant. (Compare chapter 42:6.) He has become the mediator of a new covenant (Heb. 8:6), and hence may be spoken of in the terms of our text. Establish the earth, rather, raise up the earth, that is, lift it out of its present degraded, sin-cursed condition. Christ came to seek and to save that which is lost, and this includes the earth.


Delitzsch in Vol. II of 1890 page 235 also understood it to be Christ’s meditorial role.


The role of Christ is seen in the work of the remnant that they help “restore the land and make them inherit the desolate heritages” (a work Christ promised to do ‘I will go and prepare a place for you’) (v. 8e).


Christ sets the prisoners free (v. 9). M. L. Andreasen 1928 page 24 cited Isaiah 61:1 here which is the programmic statement of Christ in Luke 4:1-3.


The remnant will be on the road for evangelism but they will be fed and in the mountains, like the Waldensians, they will pasture (v. 9c-d). The remnant will not hunger or thirst in their tribulation or persecution time (v. 10a) for their Navigator is their Shepherd Christ who “has compassion on them will lead them” (v. 10c) and like Psalm 23 said, “guide them to springs of water” (v. 10d). God makes the roads for them easy (v. 11).


The saved ones come from everywhere (v. 12).

M. L. Andreasen 1928 page 24 made the comment that Sinim [or in Akkadian si-ni-mu], may have reference to China? Converts are going to come from the east, because the north and west are mentioned. Why is the south not included? Maybe the prophet is coming from the south with the saved remnant behind him? The back-up for Andreasen’s view that Sinim is China is Delitzsch Vol. II 1890 pages 243-245 where all the sources are suggested but Delitzsch own view is that we do not really know where it was. J. Mortyer 1993 page 392 is skeptical: “The older identification of Sinim with China lacks confirmation.”


God has comforted His people the remnant (v. 13). His remnant is called the “afflicted” remnant (v. 13d). Isaiah then changed the panel to focus on the grumbling weed in the remnant: “And Zion said: ‘The Lord has forsaken me’” (v. 14).


In vv. 15-16 God compares His love to them as a mother her child and they are written in His palms, the marks of the cross nails (v. 16). They are suffering in the Time of Trouble to come but God promised that destroyers and devastators “will depart from you” (v. 17b-c).


M. L. Andreasen 1928 page 24 in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah wants us to take note of a very interesting concept here in verse 17: it is not the church that is going out of Babylon but it is the devastators and destroyers of the church that is going out of the church in the End-Time. While God's people are to go out of Babylon, when it comes to the church, it is not the church that leaves and goes out, but the destroyers, the wasters. It is not those that ‘go forth’ that constitute the church. The church remains.


At the Second Coming the destroyers will run away and the Resurrection will take place and then Isaiah described in the next few verses the joy of Resurrection. “Lift up your eyes and look around” [at the Second Coming] (v. 18) “all of them gather together, they come to you” [the Resurrected Ones to the Living Remnant] (v. 18b).


M. L. Andreasen 1928 page 24 on verse 18 sees it as applied to the streaming-in of faithful ones when the destroyers leave.

Delitzsch Vol. II in 1890 page 247 says on verses 18-19 that Zion is to raise her eyes that have hitherto been cast down, and to look around; for on all sides those whom she deemed lost are coming in dense crowds.


J. Mortyer  1993 page 394 said of the same passage in verse 18a-b: “More come back, however, than ever went, so that the city is too cramped for the new population, and Zion cannot make out where they have come from or who superintended their growth.”


They will join the “bride” [of Christ] (v. 18d). The resurrected crowd will be so big that there will hardly be space and the destroyers “will be far away” (v. 19c). Parents and their children will be reunited (v. 20-21). “Behold I was left alone, from where did these come?” (v. 21f).


The Resurrection scene of Isaiah is not completed yet. Christ will lift His hand to the nations and set up His standard to the peoples and after the Resurrection took place, angels will “bring your sons in bosom” (v. 22d) and “your daughters will be carried on shoulders” [of the angels] (v. 22e). At the Resurrection all are equal and kings will be guardians and princesses nurses, they will bow down and lick the dust of some of the remnant’s feet, an image of thankfulness that they are also saved by them and not lost (v. 23d).


The remnant will then know that “I am the Lord”. “Those who hopefully wait for Me [to come at the Second Coming] will not be put to shame” (v. 23e-f).


M. L. Andreasen 1928 page 24 thought that verses 21-23 refers to the time when the Gentiles came into Christianity but he leaves open a further fulfillment in future. He calls it first and second fulfillments.


Delitzsch Vol. II 1890 pages 249-250 ran away here on verse 23 with the meaning that the Church will be supreme and that the state will be serviceable to the church in the distant future. He talks about kissing the ground on which the church operates which reminds us of the role of the Catholic Church.


J. Mortyer the preterist, 1993 page 395 who wants to think of the Babylonian captivity return scenario, threw up his hands in the air and exclaimed: “Other as yet unexplained factors are involved.”


The panel is changed again by Isaiah to focus on the Warrior Messiah: “can the prey be taken from the mighty man?” (v. 24a). God is saying that remnant captives can be rescued by Him from a tyrant and that will take place at the Second Coming no matter what. Surely the captives will be rescued from tyrants and Christ will save the children of the remnant that day (v. 25e).


The evil will not be in a good situation that day (v. 26) and for the remnant Christ says “I the Lord am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (v. 26e).


Dear God

What a wonderful Resurrection hope Isaiah is painting for us here. Mothers and fathers will receive their babies from the arms of angels and from their shoulders. We also do not want to miss this event. May nothing stand between us and our Savior. Amen.