Advent Devotional Day 19: Isaiah 49
O Come O Come, True Prophet of the Lord
Listen to Me O islands, and pay attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called Me from the womb; from the body of My mother He named Me. He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel, in Whom I will show My glory.” (Isaiah 49.1-3)
Since the days of the reformation, there has been a common confession among evangelical protestants that the Lord Jesus discharges three offices: Prophet, Priest, and King. The functions of each office are certainly interrelated, but also distinct from one another. As a the Great Prophet of Yahweh, Christ reveals the Father fully, finally, and perfectly to His people. As a priest, Christ intercedes for His people through His offering of Himself and His continual presence at the right hand of the Father as the One who secured the salvation of those who are His and pleads for them without stopping. As King, He reigns at the right hand of His Father over all things and in a special way over those who acknowledge His Lordship, and one day this reign will be brought to consummate perfection in the whole earth. These three offices of Christ are integral to understanding who He is and what He has done for us. However, these offices find their origin long before the opening of the New Testament era. There are pictures of all of these offices throughout the storyline of redemptive history. The text above has to do with prophetic office of Christ.
Isaiah 49 is a deep, wide, and rich prophecy. I think we could spend our whole lives in this prophecy alone and never exhaust all of its treasures. I want to hold forth just one of the jewels of the Gospel found in this Servant Song in this devotional. This jewel of the Gospel is the perfect way in which Christ reveals the glory of God to us. This Servant Song (identified through verse 5) opens up with words of command. Specifically crying out the command for attention: “Listen to Me!” (v. 1) The Subject of the action in this passage is the Servant of the Lord. The faithful One, the Messiah who was promised through the Davidic Kingship in the earlier chapters of this book. (Isaiah 9/11) The object whom the Servant is making His appeal to is “the islands.” This is drawing a picture of the remotest parts of the earth. All the earth, down to the smallest nooks and crannies are under His gaze and the authority of His voice. So, this Servant of the Lord, the faithful Servant in contrast to Israel’s unfaithfulness, has a prophetic ministry that overflows the borders of the nation of Israel and infiltrates the remotest parts of the earth. This is a revelation of God’s very nature to not just His people Israel, but to the whole world.
One of the most amazing aspects of this Servant Song is that is depicts a Divine dialogue between Yahweh and His Servant. This is seen in verse 3 above: “You are My Servant, Israel, in whom I will show My glory.” The essential elements of this verse are communication, commission, and manifestation. Communication shows us that Yahweh and His Servant are two distinct Persons. Earlier texts in Isaiah show us however that in the coming Davidic King (who is also this Servant) the coming Messiah will be called “Mighty God.” (Is. 9.6) This is a title given only to Yahweh Himself. The Servant Songs build off of the Messianic hope set forth in the Immanuel prophecies of Isaiah 7-11 in which we see that the coming Messiah is actually Yahweh Himself. So this coming Servant will both be Yahweh and also be sent by Yahweh at the same time. This is a mystery that Isaiah himself must have found to be greatly perplexing. How can the coming Messiah who is both the Davidic King (therefore God) and the Servant be both God and sent by God at the same time?
We also see the Servant’s commission repeated throughout these verses. Verse 1 says “Yahweh called me from the womb; from the body of My mother He named Me.” Verse 2 says “in the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me,” and “He has hidden Me in his quiver.” The picture being presented here is One who is coming who is set apart by Yahweh and commissioned by Him for a certain task. This is a task which no one else has been given except Him, and His task is unique which is displayed through the imagery of Yahweh “hiding” Him away.
Lastly, we see that this Servant is a manifestation of the immense glory of Yahweh to all the ends of the earth. This Servant serves Yahweh by revealing Yahweh so thoroughly and completely that this revelation of God’s nature through the Servant explodes beyond the borders of Israel and swallows the nations whole. The mission of the Servant is one of revelation. The beautiful thing about the mission of this Servant is that God does not only redeem through Him. It is at least hypothetically possible that God could redeem us without revealing Himself to us at all. However, God has chosen to not only redeem and save His people but to actually give Himself to them and manifest His glory to them through this coming Servant of the Lord. He is the One who will show the glory of the Lord to the remotest parts of the earth and bring them to the mountain of the Lord to worship Him.
All of these aspects of the Servant’s ministry find their home in the Lord Jesus Christ. In His coming, He reveals the Father perfectly to us as the One who is Himself the Word of God. (John 1.1) The prophetic ministry of the Christ, the Word, who is the Servant of the Lord, is built upon the fact that not only was He “with God” but in the beginning He “was God.” This is the resolution of that Divine speech that we see in the dialogue between Yahweh and His Servant. Yahweh and His Servant share the same Divine nature. This is also why the coming Davidic King is clearly Yahweh Himself and yet the Servant Song speak of One who is sent by Yahweh. The beautiful truth is that the Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ, is both sent by Yahweh and He is Yahweh Himself! He is communicated with and commissioned through this Divine speech as the One who will manifest God’s glory to the remotest parts of the earth. This hope, this longing for the glory of God Himself to be known is brought to its climactic fulfillment in Jesus Christ: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1.14) The prophetic office of Christ, the office by which He reveals the Father to fallen men, is discharged faithfully through His being Himself the incarnate Word of God! In His person and subsequently in all of His actions in life He carries out this ministry of revelation!
The beautiful thing about Advent is that God has not kept us at arm’s length. Rather, He has revealed Himself to us by giving Himself to us. He Himself came to us in the most gloriously humiliating condescension. Christmas is about God Himself lying in a manger to show Himself to us, and all of the nations will bow before Him for it.