The Servant's Song, monthly Newsletter of Trinity Lutheran Church.
Four passages in Isaiah are often identified as "the Servant Songs" because they focus on the call and work of "the Lord's servant" (or "God's servant"): 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13—53:12. These songs (or poems) describe the servant as the one God chose to "bring justice to the nations" (42:1) and "to lead back the people of Israel" to God (49:5). But the servant will also be "a light" so that other nations will recognize God's "saving power" (49:6). Unlike others in the Jewish Scriptures who are called the Lord's servant (for example, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses), the servant in Isaiah suffers physical pain and humiliation (50:6; 52:14; 53:3-5,7) in the work the Lord called him to do. The last of these songs, however, recognizes that the suffering of the servant will help accomplish the work he was called to do. In other words, his own suffering will ultimately take away the sins and guilt of others (53:4,5,10,11), and the Lord will reward the servant for sacrificing his life for others (53:12).
As the early followers of Jesus read the Servant Songs, they clearly connected "the servant" with Jesus the Messiah (Christ). For example, Matthew states that the predictions of Isaiah 42:1-4 were fulfilled in the life and work of Jesus (see Matt 12:18-21). Similarly, the early church leader Philip explained to an Ethiopian official that the words of Isaiah 53:7,8 referred to Jesus (Acts 8:26-35). Jesus identifies himself as the servant who will "give his life to rescue many people" (Mark 10:45) and offers his work as a model of servanthood for his followers to imitate.