You don’t have to look too far in our world to see that people are crying out for for a saviour. We have an inherent need to be saved from the things that we perceive as a threat to our notion of freedom. We love to watch movies and TV shows about superheroes: people with some extra special ability to be the saviour. There is even such a thing as having a saviour complex which is a deep need to save others – to be the Saviour. At a national level, we hope for things like peace, fairness, justice, wealth and prosperity but as we saw last time, nations rise and fall. Look back even 100 years and the state of the world looks very different to what it is today. Ultimately I believe that all of these hopes, as good as these things are, cannot be fully fulfilled without reference to Jesus. He is the one that the Bible claims to be the real hope of the nations (Matthew 12:21).
In the last instalment of this series Into the nations we wrestled with how Israel was to be a nation for the nations. In this regard we would have to say that they failed and were instead, carried off into exile by the nations around them. Salvation did not come to God’s people through the nation of Israel! Still, God remained true to His promises and the prophets bring words of encouragement regarding the one who would ultimately be the hope of the nations. In this blog we are going to look at the one (often referred to as God’s servant), who was prophesied to bring hope, justice and light to the world. We are going to consider four aspects of the profile of this servant.
1. Profile of a Servant: Sovereign (Psalm 2)
The first aspect of the profile of this servant concerns the Sovereignty of God. Psalm 2 begins by asking why the nations conspired, plotted and rose up against the Lord and his anointed one. The story of the nation of Israel is full of accounts of how the surrounding nations tried to bring them down. They were opposed to God’s people. God’s response here in Psalm 2 gives us an indication of their true place in the world.
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. 5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6 ‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’Psalm 2:4-6
These words are quoted by Peter and John in Acts 4:25-26 and then applied to Jesus. Peter and John said that Herod, PiIate and both Jews and Gentiles conspired against God’s holy Servant Jesus who He anointed (v27). The Psalm continues with some words about about God’s Son and the impact He would have on the nations.
7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have become your father. 8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.’Psalm 2:7-9
Again these words from Psalm 2 are quoted several times in the New Testament (Hebrews 1:5 & 5:5) and they are applied directly to Jesus. The final few verses of the Psalm then call on the Kings of the earth to be wise, to serve the LORD with fear and celebrate His rule with trembling. Our response to the Sovereignty of God should be one of awe and fear and it warrants acts of service and obedience. Other Psalms make clear that ultimately God will be exalted among the nations and in the earth (46:10). One day all will come to exalt Him (47:9), worship Him (86:9) and revere His glory (102:15).
2. Profile of a Servant: Hope & Justice (Isaiah 42)
Next we jump into the second part of Isaiah which includes what is known as the servant songs. These songs focus on the servant of the LORD who is God’s chosen one – the one in whom He delights. God says that He will put His spirit on Him and that He would bring justice and hope to the nations.
1 ‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.’Isaiah 42:1-9
Once again these verses are quoted in the New Testament and Matthew says that Jesus fulfils these words spoken by Isaiah (Matthew 12:15-21). In this chapter the crowds came to Jesus to be healed and it is in this context that Matthew declares the fulfilment of Isaiah 42:1-4. These are such incredible verses and I find it so encouraging to think of how Jesus came to bring hope and justice. He does not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smouldering wick. He works without being discouraged, until justice is established and the nations have put their hope in His teaching.
3. Profile of a servant: A light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49)
The next snapshot is in Isaiah 49 and again the servant of the LORD is in view. In these verses God says that it is too small a thing for His servant to restore the nation of Israel only. No, God says that His servant would be a light for the Gentiles, so that His Salvation would reach to the ends of the earth.
3 He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendour.’ 4 But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due to me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.’ 5 And now the Lord says – he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honoured in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength – 6 he says: ‘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.’Isaiah 49:3-6
God’s people were always to be a nation for the nations but in that regard they had failed. Some of the very same nations ended up taking them into exile. Now we see that God was going to make His servant a light to all the nations and it is very interesting that Paul & Barnabas quote this verse as the premise of their own ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46-47). Jesus described Himself as the Light of the World (John 8:12 & 9:5) and His ministry reached past religious and cultural prejudices to people from all the nations. Jesus is the hope of the nations because He is good news for all nations!
4. Profile of a Servant: Suffering & Glory (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
This final quote from Isaiah must have come as something of a shock to its original readers. This servant who had been described as bringing justice, righteousness, hope and light is now pictured as one who would suffer. The servant would not only be great and powerful but He would suffer in the place of His people.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.Isaiah 53:3-7
This section of Isaiah is often quoted by the New Testament (see Matthew 8:14-17, Luke 22:35-38, 1 Peter 2:19-25 & Acts 8:26-35). If there was any doubt we can now surely be certain that Jesus is the hope of the nations, the suffering servant spoken of in all these passages. Jesus is the ultimate fulfilment of all the promises God made to Abraham and his descendants. Through Jesus and Him alone we can be saved because He has born our sin and in doing so has justified many (Isaiah 53:11-12).
Though we continually look for salvation in all sorts of places, the message of the Bible is that Jesus saves. He is the Saviour and He has already done all that is necessary for us to be saved. For our part we need only accept Him into our lives as our Saviour and LORD. I can testify that Jesus saved me and continues to do so on a daily basis. Ultimately, the narrative of God’s heart for the nations is worked out through His Servant King who came to suffer and die so that we could be made right before God. Who can you encourage with these incredible truths today?
See other posts in this series
- Blessing the Nations (Vision)
- A Chosen Nation (Love)
- The Rise and Fall of nations (Idolatry)
- Hope of the Nations (Saviour)
- Heart for the world (Disciples)
- All Nations (Eternity)