Reading through the Bible together
Even though the text says “My servant, O Israel” (v.3), the Servant in this chapter is Jesus the Messiah. In v. 6, God says to Jesus, “You should be My Servant…and…I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” This chapter is another of the Servant chapters referring to Jesus and His Messianic ministry.
The chapter starts with a complaint: “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing” (v.4). So, God assures Jesus that Israel’s salvation was not all He had in mind, but that the Messiah would be the means for the salvation of the entire world (vv.6-9). Just like Israel will one day be set free from its captives, so the world will be set free from Satan and the power of sin.
The gospel of freedom from sin and death, in the person of Jesus, would travel on mountains turn to highways, reaching those “from afar.” People will come to the liberating truth of Jesus “from the north and from the west, and…from the land of Sinim” (vv.11-12). That is, from the lands of the exiles as well as the ends of the earth (some scholars think Sinim is China, or Egypt, or Persia).
To the complaint by Israel that God has forgotten them, He responds with some of the most tender words found in all of Scripture: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget [even they may forget], yet I will not forget you…I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (vv.15-16). What amazing love is this!? The Hebrew word hesed, meaning mercy, derives from the noun translated womb. This is a mother’s love from her very depths. God exceeds even hers! In addition, God had written His covenant promises in the palms of His hands, as it were, much like young people write phone numbers in their hands, when they forget to take their phones along. Throughout eternity God’s covenant of love through Jesus, will be inscribed in the palms of His hands—the nail scars in the hands of Jesus showing His sacrifice for mankind—for “greater love has no one than…to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
This beautiful chapter ends with a powerful portrayal of the exiles coming home. Again, a tender family picture is offered: “they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders” (v.22). Kings and queens will bring them and bow down to you (v.23). These children of glory shall be snatched away from the claws of the enemy! Hallelujah! What could bring that about? The answer is as simple as it is absolutely reassuring: because God “will contend with him who contends with you” (v.25).
We are not alone, parents. We never were, and will never be, alone—ever! Jesus is the One who will fight against our children’s enemy for the sake of their salvation! Hallelujah!
Ron E M Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and Theology