“Listen to me, all you in distant lands! Pay attention, you who are far away! The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name. He made my words of judgment as sharp as a sword. He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand. I am like a sharp arrow in his quiver.
He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.’ I replied, ‘But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.’ And now the Lord speaks—the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.
The Lord has honored me, and my God has given me strength. He says, ‘You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.’ The Lord, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel, says to the one who is despised and rejected by the nations, to the one who is the servant of rulers: ‘Kings will stand at attention when you pass by. Princes will also bow low because of the Lord, the faithful one, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.'” Isaiah 49:1-7, NLT
Note from the Africa Study Bible
This passage described the time when the Jewish exiles were in a hopeless situation in Babylon. Their future seemed very dark with no hope of returning to their homeland. Isaiah prophesied that God would intervene in much the same way he did when he brought them out of Egypt. Once again they would return to their own land. Isaiah described a Servant through whom God would fulfil his promises to Israel (Isaiah 49:5). What is most striking in Isaiah’s prophecy is this Servant—Jesus—would not only restore Israel, but also the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6). This was in fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham that “all the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3).
In Christ, we see the love of God for all peoples and his plan to save people from all nations. Christ tells his followers to fulfil his plan by making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18). All Christians—not only missionaries or pastors or deacons—are part of bringing salvation to the nations.
God’s Servant gives freedom to the prisoners, brings light to people in darkness, restores all of God’s people, and restores all of God’s creation. We are called to be part of that effort. The world may seem hopeless, but the fact that Christians are in this broken world means that God is still at work. Let us regularly join with other Christians to pray for people of other nations who need physical and spiritual salvation.