Isaiah’s Servant Songs: The Servant’s Lips

Last time, we looked at Isaiah 42 and reflected on the Servant’s love, that He was loved greatly and that He greatly loved. This time, we will consider words which came from the Servant’s lips.

To trace the words of our Lord Jesus Christ is to delve into an inexhaustible gold mine. The Gospel writers fill their pages with His words of grace, wisdom and authority; His words reveal the fulness of His nature. It was the Lord Himself who said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mat 12:34).[1] It is not surprising that His words carried the weight of One who came from God’s presence and spoke on God’s behalf.

Years before the incarnation of Christ, Isaiah makes reference to His mouth in each of the four Servant Songs in his prophecy. In chapter 42, he announces, “He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street” (v2). There was nothing of pride or pomp found in the Servant of the Lord. He did not come in great splendor, announcing His credentials and accomplishments, but rather in an unobtrusive and gracious way, He spoke the words of His God in the towns and villages of Galilee and Judea. What amazing humility He portrayed!

The Servant’s attentiveness and tenderness are seen in Isaiah’s language in chapter 50: “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught” (v4). He was fully aware of the need around Him, and because His ear was in tune with the voice of His God, He spoke into the lives of the lonely, discouraged and downcast of His day. What beautiful insight and compassion!

The language of chapter 53 is familiar yet profound, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth” (v7). In a time when most men would be raising their voices to speak out in their own defense, the perfect Servant stood in silent dignity as He faced the cruel injustices of ungodly, hateful men. It is staggering and worship-inspiring to consider this One who had the power to speak worlds into existence, yet stood as a gentle lamb, silent before His accusers. What incredible control He had in the most difficult of times!

The Servant’s Authority

In Isaiah 49:1, the Servant’s authority is established. He explains to the people near (Jews) and those afar (Gentiles) that He was divinely chosen and sent by God: “The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.” The Servant had the stamp of God’s approval upon Him with Jehovah’s call and naming. He was the Christ, the Messiah, whom God had sent, as well as Immanuel, which means “God with us,” but at His birth He was given the name Jesus. The angel told Joseph, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mat 1:21). This is the name that links Him with His service here on earth in the work of salvation.

This One who was born in such lowly, humble circumstances is the same One of whom Isaiah says, “He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away” (49:2). The imagery of the sharp sword reminds us that it is the Word of God that He spoke. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). His words were powerful and authoritative. This was acknowledged by the crowds after His famous Sermon on the Mount: “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Mat 7:28-29). The years of quiet learning and dependence in the quiver of Jehovah’s protection prepared Him to be the polished arrow that would hit its mark every time.

We, the under-servants, can learn from this text about the value of being hidden and taught in the secret place of God for future usefulness among God’s people. If our lips are going to speak for the Lord, in His authority, we must have spent time alone with Him.

The Servant’s Confidence

The language of verse four can be confusing. The Servant speaking says, “But I said, ‘I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.’” From a human standpoint and from all natural standards, His life and death would appear to be wasted and count for nothing. The reality is that things are not as they often appear. The Servant says, “Yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.” He understood that His life was lived before His God, who would evaluate justly.

This corresponds with the words of Peter, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1Pe 2:23). By human evaluation, He was very much the underdog who was getting the raw end of the stick, but the truth was that God had things fully under control and could be trusted to take care of it all. The Servant chose to trust in His God and He stated the same.

This should be a great encouragement for those who serve in difficult and discouraging circumstances. It may appear that you are losing, but we learn from the Servant that God is in control of the situation. He can and should be trusted.

The Servant’s Purpose

From verses five to seven, Isaiah writes about the success of the Servant as He performs the work for His Master. The Servant’s mission reaches beyond His first advent to a future day of glory when He will “bring Jacob back” and “Israel will be gathered to Him.” The Servant says, “I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength” (v5). It is the desire of the Servant to lift high the name of His God as His people are ultimately restored back to Him.

While the people of God were to be a light to the Gentiles (v6), the great light was going to come from the Messiah, the true Servant. He was the chosen One whose salvation would bring deliverance. His actions, life, words, attitude, death and glorious power would bring about the purposes of God to fulfillment.

There is no doubt that Jehovah’s Servant will complete this great work of restoration and oversee a peaceful kingdom reign. The language of the Lord is certain: “I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land …. They shall feed along the ways … they shall not hunger or thirst …. Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth …. For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted” (vv8-13).

The more we consider Him and pattern our lives after His character and words, the more honor will be brought to the name of our God. May it always be so!

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV.