A World Waiting To Be Won Duncan Heaster email the author


3. “Witnesses unto me”

3-1 “Witnesses unto me” || 3-2 Witnessing For Christ || 3-3 Paul Preaching Christ || 3-4 Boldness In Witness || 3-5 The Servant Songs || 3-6 The Proof Of The Resurrection Is The Church || 3-7 Preaching As Christ Did

3-5 The Servant Songs In Isaiah

It is significant that Paul takes a passage from one of Isaiah’s servant songs and applies it to us. The servant who suffered and witnessed to the world was evidently the Lord Jesus. And yet Isaiah is also explicit that the servant is the whole seed of Abraham, “Jacob”, the slowly-developing people of God (Is. 41:8; 44:1)(1). There are many connections within Isaiah between the servant songs, and the descriptions of the people of Israel into which the songs are interspersed. The Saviour-servant was to bring out the prisoners from the dungeons (Is. 42:7), so was every Israelite “to let the oppressed go free...loose the bonds”, and to “undo the bands of the [heavy] yoke” (Is. 58:6) as Christ did (Mt. 11:28,29); His work of deliverance is to be replicated by each of us in our witness. Whoever is in Him will by this very fact follow Him in this work. In Isaiah’s first context, the suffering servant was King Hezekiah. Yet all Israel were to see themselves as ‘in’ him, as spiritual Israel are to see themselves as in Christ. “He was oppressed”, as Israel at that time were being “oppressed” by Assyria. As they were covered in wounds and spiritual sickness (Is. 1:5,6), so the suffering servant bore their diseases and rose again in salvation victory. Significantly, Isaiah 40-53 speak of the one servant, whereas Isaiah 54-66 speak of the “servants” who fulfil in principle the work of the singular servant.

Other parts of the servant songs are quoted concerning us. Paul’s description of the warrior of the Gospel in Ephesians 6 composites together various descriptions of Messiah’s clothing in the servant songs (Is. 11:5 = “loins girded with truth”; 49:2 “mouth like a sharp sword”; 52:7 “bring good tidings / publish salvation” = “the preparation of the Gospel of peace”; 59:17 “breastplate of righteousness”; 59:17 “helmet of salvation”). The songs of the suffering Servant are applied to us in Rom. 8:31, where Paul exalts that "if God be for us, who is against us?"- alluding to Is. 50:8 "The Lord God is helping me- who is he that would convict me?".

Our theme is brought together in Is. 44:26:

That confirmeth

And performeth

The word

The counsel

Of his servant [singular]

Of his messengers.

The singular servant is equated with His “messengers”, whose “counsel” to others is the word which is Jesus, the true servant. This theme of declaring the word occurs repeatedly in this part of Isaiah. Because “I have declared…and I have shewed…therefore ye are my witnesses” (Is. 43:12). We are to witness / declare . shew, just as the Father has done. Our unity with the Father and Son is thus reflected in our witnessing in the way they witness; and thus their witness is through us. The unity between the preacher and his Lord is therefore wonderful. Truly He is with us in our life of witness, in our obedience to His command to preach world-wide, unto the end of the age.

Proclaiming Liberty

The Lord Himself quoted Is. 61:1 about Himself (2): He proclaimed liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. But this passage is evidently behind Peter’s assertion that after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus preached to the spirits in prison (1 Pet. 3:18,19). His resurrection was the basis of His command to go into all the world and preach the word; and thereby His preachers went out to do and continue the work which He personally had done. The Lord’s servant being called from the womb (Is. 49:1) was applied by Paul to himself (Gal. 1:15), as it was likewise true of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5). Or take Is. 49:8,9: “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee [quoted about us in 2 Cor. 6:2 in the context of us being preachers, labouring with God]: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages; saying to them that are bound, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves” (RV). This is the language of the Lord’s preaching, which freed men from the prison house (Is. 61:1,2). Yet because we are in Him, we too have His ministry; our words too can make men inherit the Kingdom, and free men from their bondage. “We are witnesses [through being] in him” (Acts 5:32 RVmg.). As the Lord in Isaiah’s servant songs was the suffering, saving, atoning servant, lifted up to give salvation world-wide- so are we. For we are in Him. Paul explained his life of devotion to world-wide witness by saying that the fact his Lord was a saving witness to all men was de facto a command  to him, as one in Christ, to do likewise (Acts 13:47). This is why the concept of the Name of Christ is sometimes put for ‘the work of preaching His Gospel’, so definite is the connection between baptism into His Name and the work of witness which this naturally entails (Mt. 19:29; Acts 9:16; 15:26; 3 Jn. 7).

Is. 9:6 states that the Lord Jesus personally is "called" or "proclaimed" as peace. This is the same Hebrew word as in Dt. 20:10- Israel were to "proclaim peace" to cities they attacked, demanding either their submission or destruction. And yet we are the ones who "proclaim [the] peace" of Christ to men (Is. 52:7). Insofar as we represent Him in our witness, our hearers are faced with a radical choice- to submit to Him or eternally perish. It's easy to forget that this is how God sees it, as we witness to people. We're so used to the rejection of our message that we perhaps fail to see the eternal importance of the choice we lay before people; and this should impart a verve and urgency of appeal to our preaching, rather than an indifferent inviting of people to meetings, discussion, etc.


(1)  The Is. 42 passage concerning Jesus as preaching to the Gentiles is quoted in the Gospels from the LXX. But this reads: “Jacob is my servant, I will help him: Israel, is my chosen, my soul has accepted him...he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up his voice...but...He shall shine out, and not be discouraged” (Is. 42:1-4 LXX). The passages primarily exhorts Israel at the time of their living in Babylon to live up to their role as a missionary nation; they didn’t need to cry or lift up the voice in preaching, because their own example and being would be the witness. They would “shine out” as the light of the Gentile world in which they had to live. But they failed in this; and yet the prophecy came true in the Lord Jesus, the true servant of Yahweh. But the prophecy still has to be fulfilled in us, the servants of the Lord, as those in Christ, as we live through our Babylon years.

(2)  It is also noteworthy that the parable of Mk. 12:6 has Jesus describing Himself as both a servant- the last servant- and the only beloved son of the vineyard owner.