Isaiah 49

1 Listen, islands, to me. Listen, you peoples, from afar: the LORD has called me from the womb; from the inside of my mother he has mentioned my name. 2 He has made my mouth like a sharp sword. He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand. He has made me a polished shaft. He has kept me close in his quiver. 3 He said to me, “You are my servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” 4 But I said, “I have labored in vain. I have spent my strength in vain for nothing; yet surely the justice due to me is with the LORD, and my reward with my God.” 5 Now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and to gather Israel to him, for I am honorable in the LORD’s eyes, and my God has become my strength. 6 Indeed, he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel? I will also give you as a light to the nations, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.” 7 the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, says to him whom man despises, to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and rise up; princes, and they shall worship; because of the LORD who is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” 8 the LORD says, “In an acceptable time I have answered you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. I will preserve you, and give you for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritage: 9 saying to those who are bound, ‘Come out!’; to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves!’ “They shall feed along the paths, and their pasture shall be on all treeless heights. 10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun strike them: for he who has mercy on them will lead them. He will guide them by springs of water. 11 I will make all my mountains a road, and my highways shall be exalted. 12 Behold, these shall come from afar; and behold, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.” 13 Sing, heavens; and be joyful, earth; and break out into singing, mountains: for the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted. 14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, these may forget, yet I will not forget you! 16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Your walls are continually before me. 17 Your children hurry. Your destroyers and those who devastated you will leave you. 18 Lift up your eyes all around, and see: all these gather themselves together, and come to you. As I live,” says the LORD, “you shall surely clothe yourself with them all as with an ornament, and dress yourself with them, like a bride. 19 “For, as for your waste and your desolate places, and your land that has been destroyed, surely now that land will be too small for the inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away. 20 The children of your bereavement will say in your ears, ‘This place is too small for me. Give me a place to live in.’ 21 Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who has conceived these for me, since I have been bereaved of my children, and am solitary, an exile, and wandering back and forth? Who has brought these up? Behold, I was left alone. Where were these?’” 22 Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and lift up my banner to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders. 23 Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick the dust of your feet; then you will know that I am the LORD; and those who wait for me shall not be disappointed.” 24 Shall the plunder be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captives be delivered? 25 But the LORD says, “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the plunder retrieved from the fierce; for I will contend with him who contends with you, and I will save your children. 26 I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh; and they will be drunk on their own blood, as with sweet wine. Then all flesh shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1-6

The great Author of redemption shows the authority for his work. The sword of his word slays the lusts of his people, and all at enmity with them. His sharp arrows wound the conscience; but all these wounds will be healed, when the sinner prays to him for mercy. But even the Redeemer, who spake as never man spake in his personal ministry, often seemed to labour in vain. And if Jacob will not be brought back to God, and Israel will not be gathered, still Christ will be glorious. This promise is in part fulfilled in the calling of the Gentiles. Men perish in darkness. But Christ enlightens men, and so makes them holy and happy.

Verses 7-12

The Father is the Lord, the Redeemer, and Holy One of Israel, as sending the Son to be the Redeemer. Man, whom he came to save, put contempt upon him. To this he submitted for our salvation. He is a pledge for all the blessings of the covenant; in him God was reconciling the world to himself. Pardoning mercy is a release from the curse of the law; renewing grace is a release from the dominion of sin: both are from Christ. He saith to those in darkness, Show yourselves. Not only see, but be seen, to the glory of God, and your own comforts. Though there are difficulties in the way to heaven, yet the grace of God will carry us over them, and make even the mountains a way. This denotes the free invitations and the encouraging promises of the gospel, and the outpouring of the Spirit.

Verses 13-17

Let there be universal joy, for God will have mercy upon the afflicted, because of his compassion; upon his afflicted, because of his covenant. We have no more reason to question his promise and grace, than we have to question his providence and justice. Be assured that God has a tender affection for his church and people; he would not have them to be discouraged. Some mothers do neglect their children; but God’s compassions to his people, infinitely exceed those of the tenderest parents toward their children. His setting them as a mark on his hand, or a seal upon his arm, denotes his being ever mindful of them. As far as we have scriptural evidence that we belong to his ransomed flock, we may be sure that he will never forsake us. Let us then give diligence to make our calling and election sure, and rejoice in the hope and glory of God.

Verses 18-23

Zion is addressed as an afflicted widow, bereaved of her children. Numbers flock to her, and she is assured that they come to be a comfort to her. There are times when the church is desolate and few in number; yet its desolations shall not last for ever, and God will repair them. God can raise up friends for returning Israelites, even among Gentiles. They shall bring their children, and make them thy children. Let all deal tenderly and carefully with young converts and beginners in religion. Princes shall protect the church. It shall appear that God is the sovereign Lord of all. And those who in the exercise of faith, hope, and patience, wait on God for the fulfilment of his promises, shall never be confounded.

Verses 24-26

We were lawful captives to the justice of God, yet delivered by a price of unspeakable value. Here is an express promise: Even the prey of the terrible shall be delivered. We may here view Satan deprived of his prey, bound and cast into the pit; and all the powers that have combined to enslave, persecute, or corrupt the church, are destroyed; that all the earth may know that our Saviour and Redeemer is Jehovah, the mighty One of Jacob. And every effort we make to rescue our fellow-sinners from the bondage of Satan, is, in some degree, helping forward that great change.

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