Today: [Isaiah 49] God Brings Glory from Failure. In this chapter we find Isaiah facing the failure of his perceived destiny. He though that he would be used to restore the glory of ancient Israel. He now sees clearly that this will not take place. In the midst of this God speaks to him a word about not just ministering to Israel but seeing all the kingdoms of the earth brought to God through his prophesying. We may face failure and frustration but God works from a perspective much broader than we can ever measure to fulfill his promises and make good on His word in our lives even when it seems all hope is lost.
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[Isa 49:1-26 KJV] 1 Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. 2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; 3 And said unto me, Thou [art] my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. 4 Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: [yet] surely my judgment [is] with the LORD, and my work with my God. 5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb [to be] his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. 6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. 7 Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, [and] his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, [and] the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. 8 Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; 9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that [are] in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures [shall be] in all high places. 10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. 11 And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. 12 Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.
In this chapter Isaiah see the futility of his calling and laments that what he perceived to be his destiny will not come to pass. He understood that God called him from his mother’s womb to reunited a divided Israel and see the nation restored to the glory it enjoyed from the days of David and Solomon. After many years of faithfully prophesying and declaring he sees that what he thought would be accomplished is not going to come to pass. He not only sees this based on circumstances and the condition of the nation but rather he sees it be divine insight. It really isn’t going to take place. He has seen the destruction of the Assyrians. He has seen the coming captivity to Babylon and ultimate deliverance by Cyrus who is to come. Now he sees down to the time of first century church and first pays heed to the plight of the Jews who actually reject their Messiah and he is deeply frustrated.
Isaiah considers the preparation of his calling and compares it to how arrows are made “as a polished shaft…” He has been prepared, he has been placed in the quiver of the Lord but does not feel he has been fired at the target. He looks to God and the Father says to him that he is the servant of the Most High and that God will get glory for Himself through Isaiah’s faithfulness. Isaiah’s response is to question the vanity of his labors and that he has spent his strength for nothing. We have to learn to trust God for the outcomes of our lives. Isaiah feels his life has been spent in vanity. In fact eventually he will be martyred by the very king that he serves. Notice however the answer of the Lord to this frustrated prophet:
6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
Even though it seems all is lost God promises Isaiah that the great fulfillment that he though would be brought about in his life was a very small thing compared to what will actually brought to pass. Now – fast forward many centuries to the life and times of the apostle Paul. Paul has been preaching to the Jews without effect and he looks back at this very passage in Isaiah. He sees the prophet calling out to a people afar off and realizes that HE is the light set to bring the gospel to the Gentiles and to fulfill Isaiah’s ultimate calling:
[Act 13:47 KJV] 47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying], I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
Paul takes the seemingly failed calling of Isaiah to be the personal mandate of his own life at a time when he likewise had failed to reach the Jews. In this we understand that when plan A fails plan B can be exponentially greater is we will walk in obedience and have the insight to believe what God has said to us even if it was long ago in instruction to someone long dead.
13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. 14 But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. 15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. 16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of [my] hands; thy walls [are] continually before me. 17 Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee. 18 Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, [and] come to thee. [As] I live, saith the LORD, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them [on thee], as a bride [doeth]. 19 For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away. 20 The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place [is] too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell. 21 Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where [had] they [been]? 22 Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in [their] arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon [their] shoulders. 23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with [their] face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I [am] the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me. 24 Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? 25 But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. 26 And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD [am] thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.
People who read the words of Isaiah who believed in the message he spoke were no doubt very despondent. Did it mean the Jews would be rejected. No the scripture says that they and we ourselves have our names graven upon the palms of His hands. Yet in v. 22 we see the Gentile included in the plan of God – that God will life up His hand (or make a covenant – in Christ) with the Gentiles and they will advocate for the Jewish people in time to come and see the nation restored (which actually takes place in 1948). At a time when the might of Nazi Germany was working to annihilate the Jews they were delivered and ultimately restored into their own land and those that were taken as a prey were not ashamed because they waited upon Him. This is true in our own life and the lesson for us is that it may seem that all is lost but God is always working to bring about His inclusive and glorious promises in Christ Jesus.
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