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Who is the Servant of the Lord?

editor - 18 October 2018

In several chapters, the prophet Isaiah speaks about the ‘Servant of the Lord’. Who is he? I already hear you saying the answer: this Servant is the coming Messiah, the Prince of Peace for Israel and the whole world.

As Isaiah says: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit in him, and he will bring justice to the nations. (…) I will keep you and will make you a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind” (Isaiah 42:1, 6). In chapter 49 Isaiahsays: “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 my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth”. How impressive! We often do not read this text thoroughly, and we do not observe an important detail. Isaiah emphasises here that the coming servant is not only a light for the Gentiles, but He will also be instructed to bring back the people of Israel to their land.

Look at the word ‘also’. We mostly apply the work of the Messiah solely to our salvation. But He has more to do. Specifically in relation to His own Jewish brothers and sisters. It is amazing to see that not only the coming Messiah is called the Servant of the Lord: “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham, my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant” (Isaiah 41:8).

So also Israel, the Jewish people, is called by the Lord, His servant. There is a special connection between Israel and the Messiah. The Lord spoke about both of them: “Out of Egypt I called my son”. Isn’t that very special?

When we look upon the suffering of the Messiah Jesus, and when we look upon the ages of suffering of the Jewish people, there is an inevitable similarity between both: Messiah Jesus as the first-born or first-fruit of His own people. I am even more amazed when I read Acts 13:47 where Paul and Barnabas support their commitment to bring the gospel to the Gentiles by quoting Isaiah 49: “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth”.

When Isaiah spoke about the light for the nations, he referred to the coming Messiah. But Paul as a Jewish expert in the Scriptures also applies this light for the nations to the Jewish people. Both Paul and Barnabas were Jewish believers who went out from Israel into the world to spread the gospel. How deeply connected are the Jewish people and their Messiah, both being called the ‘Servant of the Lord’.

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