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Surprising Descriptions of Jesus the Messiah

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Isaiah 49; 50; 51; 52:1–12

While Jesus is much more than a good example—He is God, Lord, and Savior—Isaiah reminds us He is also our example, our perfect example of true servanthood. He is focused on the needs of people, He is compassionate and loving, and He is submissive and obedient to God the Father.


Surprising Descriptions of Jesus the Messiah

Isaiah 49:1–52:12


Someone once said, “The world is full of people who want to serve in an advisory capacity.”[1]

That’s true, isn’t it? We have far too many celebrities and not enough servants.

Well, beginning here in Isaiah 49, the prophet reveals how the Messiah becomes a Servant. He is going to humble Himself in such a way that the terminal disease of sin can be given an antidote—a cure that will last forever.

This chapter begins the second of four Servant Songs here in the book of Isaiah. These are songs that describe the life and ministry of the Messiah. This song begins in verse 1: “Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar.” This message is not just for Israel; it is for every nation that needs to hear the gospel.

The Messiah speaks here in verse 2, saying, “He [God] made my mouth like a sharp sword . . . he made me a polished arrow.” In other words, his message is a matter of life and death, and it never misses the bull’s-eye of our heart.

The Servant is addressed here in verse 3 as “Israel.” We understand that He will come from a Jewish lineage; but more than that, the Messiah will be the “embodiment of what the nation [of Israel] failed to be, that is, the one ‘in whom [God] will be glorified.’”[2]

In verse 4 we have one of the most personal moments ever recorded between the Messiah Jesus and God the Father. Frankly, we are not used to hearing how Jesus felt while serving here on earth. But remember, while Jesus is fully God, He is also fully man. He was touched with the same feelings we have (Hebrews 4:15), yet unlike us, He never allowed His feelings to draw Him into sin.

But in verse 4 Isaiah reveals how He felt at times, as he quotes the Messiah saying, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing.” As a man, Jesus had moments when He struggled over the rejection of His earthly ministry. His hometown folks tried to push Him off a cliff after He preached His first sermon there (Luke 4:28-29)! I have preached sermons some people did not like, but they didn’t try to push me off a cliff afterward!

The Lord’s half-brothers and sisters did not believe His claims, and at one point they came to take Him away, thinking He had lost His mind (Mark 3:21). Maybe your family thinks you are out of your mind for following the Lord.

Now you might think none of this hurt the Lord’s feelings at all, that He just sailed through it. My friend, you would be absolutely wrong. Listen, let’s not try to protect the Lord’s deity to the point of diminishing His humanity.

Can you imagine how encouraging it was for Jesus to hear at His baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Well, He also heard this from His Father, who is speaking here in Isaiah 49:6: “I will make you [Jesus] as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

In chapter 50, we have the third Servant Song, and four times here the Servant-Messiah refers to God the Father as “Lord God”—Adonai Yahweh—which means, “Sovereign Lord.” And that is because this song features the submission of the Messiah to the will of His Father.

Now I have had people over the years tell me that Jesus cannot be deity because He obeyed God the Father; after all, didn’t Jesus talk about doing the will of His Father? Well, Philippians 2:6 tells us that Jesus is equal with God the Father, yet He did not grasp, or cling, to that equality. In other words, when He entered this world, He temporarily set aside His divine right to live like God in order to become subordinate to the Father in His role as the God-man. So, Jesus was equal in essence with His Father but subordinate in function, just like your children are equally human, but subordinate to you—or at least you hope they are at bedtime. Equal in essence; subordinate in function.

Another aspect of Jesus’ humanity here is that He’s going to learn the Word of God. He speaks here in verse 4:

The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

If you have ever wondered what Jesus was doing during those thirty years before He began His ministry, it was not just working as a carpenter—He was studying and learning the Word of God. As one author has said, “If [Jesus] needed to study the Word of God, what about you? What about me?”[3]

We are also told of the Lord’s willingness to suffer. Listen to the amazing precision of this prophecy in verse 6:

I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

Does that sound familiar? That is exactly what happened to Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 26:67. (see also Luke 22:63).

But note this: Jesus depended on His relationship with His Father to make it through, just as we must do today. The Lord says that here in verse 7:

The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

All of chapter 51 and the first twelve verses of chapter 52 form another section of Isaiah’s prophecy. Here the focus is on the Jewish people who will suffer defeat and exile in Babylon.   

In this section, the prophet is urging them to remember where they came from. He writes this:

“Listen to me . . . you who seek the Lord; look to the rock from which you were hewn . . . Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him.” (Isaiah 51:1-2)

The point is clear: what the Lord began with Abraham, He is going to finish. By the way, this is the same promise given to you and me today in the book of Philippians: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

God is not finished with you, until He takes you home. @end

I read some time ago about Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist whose many achievements included the development of vaccines for several diseases. During his day, thousands of people died from rabies. So, Pasteur worked diligently to find a cure. At one point he was so convinced he had successfully formulated the vaccine for rabies that he was going to experiment on himself. But before he could, a young boy in his region, Joseph Meister, was bitten by a rabid dog, and his mother pleaded with Pasteur to try out his vaccine on her son. It was his only chance for survival.

Over a number of days, Pasteur gave injections to young Joseph, and the boy survived. He was completely cured of rabies. Many years later, as Louis Pasteur was preparing for his own death, he was asked what epitaph he would want carved on his tombstone. Keep in mind that Louis Pasteur had accumulated a lifetime of accomplishments and been given numerous awards. But Louis Pasteur thought for a moment or two and then responded that he wanted only three words carved into his headstone. Those three words were, “Joseph Meister Lived.”

This, to an infinitely greater degree, is the legacy of our wonderful, humble, sacrificial Servant-Messiah whose work has cured us from the disease of sin. Because of Jesus Christ, we live—in fact, we will live forever.

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted (Victor Books, 1992), 121.

[2] The ESV Study Bible (Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1330.

[3] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Volume III (Thomas Nelson, 1982), 305.

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