Genesis 3:15 is the first instance of God revealing His remedy for solving the problem of sin, and that solution is His Son – the ultimate Servant who would die on our behalf. Isaiah records four Servant psalms, describing this One who would sacrifice Himself. In Acts 8, Philip intercepts a eunuch from Ethiopia who is reading Isaiah 53 – one of the Servant songs. Others include Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 49:3, Isaiah 50:4-11, and Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 53. In these, we see Jesus and His crucifixion, but the eunuch is confused by these and entreats Philip for help.
The Servant of Isaiah 42 is clearly and individual, but chapter 49 calls Him by the name of a nation. Isaiah 50:4 records Isaiah speaking in first person as the Servant. The writers of the New Testament make reference to these Servant passages at least fourteen times in their writings, and they consistently apply these prophecies to Jesus. This I, this Israel, this elect Servant is identified as our Savior.
The Elect Servant
The latter parts of Isaiah 42:1 coupled with Psalm 2 are recognizable from the record of Jesus’ baptism by John. In Isaiah 41-42, God is admonishing His people for their idolatry and their reliance on self. He calls on them to defend their worship of idols, and He concludes that none can answer Him for their actions. The Servant is introduced as God’s answer, as the One He upholds. This Servant will bring justice to the nations. He will be gentle and peaceful. He will establish God’s word throughout the world.
Isaiah 49 further outlines the Servant’s mission. His mouth is described as a sword, and His strength is in God. He is named Israel, a reminder of what the nation of Israel was supposed to be. He is a continuation of God’s promises and a reminder of faithfulness to the descendants of Jacob. Where God’s goal was to bless the nations through Abraham’s line, the nation of Israel wanted to keep God to themselves at the time. Likewise, we cannot forget our roles in blessing the nations through faithfulness to Him. This Servant represents holiness and light. He is salvation and redemption. He loves though He is hated.
Isaiah 50:4 describes the Servant as a dutiful messenger who carries forth God’s word and will. The verses are reminiscent to Deuteronomy 18:18 describing a messenger in whose mouth would reside God’s word. This word comforts the weary, and this messenger submits Himself to the persecutions of standing up for what is right. His ears are open to God’s will, and He calls to those who would obey Jehovah and walk in light. People respond to Him by either trusting in Jehovah or trusting in themselves.
Isaiah 52:13 calls on us to behold His successful Servant, whom none expected to succeed. He will silence the wise and the powerful. He will be exulted in humility, and chapter 53 then describes the humiliation of this Servant. He is one who will live in sorrow, unrecognized by those who should honor Him. He would suffer atrocities and die. All of this is done in our place and for our sake. He intercedes for us and gives us righteousness. He provides spiritual freedom.
This is the Servant of whom the eunuch is learning in Acts 8. Beginning from that single passage, Philip preaches Jesus to him. Jesus was the answer then. He is the answer today. Our confidence cannot be in our selves, our abilities, our possessions, our nation, our leaders, our economy. Our confidence should be in that Servant who came for us, and our lives should be in His footsteps.
lesson by Tim Smelser