God calls the servant, Israel, to a new task: to be a light to the nations.
This is the second of the traditional servant songs in Second IsaiahSecond Isaiah refers chapters 40-55 of the book of Isaiah. This work was likely written during Israel's exile in Babylon (597-538 B.C.E.). Second Isaiah includes poetic passages of hope as well as descriptions of the Suffering Servant. More. Here the servant is identified as Israel, and the text follows the pattern of a typical prophetic call: the call (vv. 1-2), the objection (v. 4), and the renewal of the call (vv. 5-6). This pattern, the similarity to the call of JeremiahProphet who condemned Judah's infidelity to God, warned of Babylonian conquest, and promised a new covenant More (Jeremiah 1:5), and the reference to the “mouth” as key to the servant’s task suggest that the text represents the call to someone in a prophetic role to proclaim God’s word of salvationSalvation can mean saved from something (deliverance) or for something (redemption). Paul preached that salvation comes through the death of Christ on the cross which redeemed sinners from death and for a grace-filled life. More to all.
Who is meant in this text? The servant? Israel? The prophet himself? As in many of the passages of Second IsaiahIsaiah, son of Amoz, who prophesied in Jerusalem, is included among the prophets of the eighth century B.C.E. (along with Amos, Hosea, and Micah)--preachers who boldly proclaimed God's word of judgment against the economic, social, and religious disorders of their time. More, the identity is not clear. All of these figures come together to announce the new thing God is doing.
The first call, to bring back JacobThe son of Isaac and Rebekah, renamed Israel, became the father of the twelve tribal families More and gather Israel, has apparently not worked well. “I have labored in vain,” says the servant. But now God gives an even more difficult task: to serve as a light to the nations. The word of God must now extend beyond Israel to all peoples. The servant will be the one chosen to proclaim that message.
It may be the voice of the servant that we hear somewhat earlier in 48:16b: “And now the Lord GOD has sent me and his spirit.” God had sent CyrusPersian leader who allowed Jewish exiles to return home. More to conquer Babylon and return the exiles (48:14-16a); but now God sends “me” (the servant) as a light to the nations. Cyrus does not appear again after this point in the book.