TODAY’S READING: Isaiah 49–53
Abraham was referred to as God’s servant. Israel as a nation was referred to as God’s servant for the specific task of being a light to the Gentiles and God’s salvation to the uttermost peoples of earth (Isaiah 41:8, 49:6). Jesus Himself was understood to be the Servant prophesied in these chapters (Isa. 42:1–4; Matt.12:18–21), the One who will bring salvation to the whole earth, both Jew and Gentile. It is impossible to not see the missions anthem to which these servant songs give full voice (49:1, 13, 23). The servant songs in today’s chapters bring three central biblical realities together, for over and again the Bible emphasizes that abiding, apostling, and abandoning are the means toward God’s ends.
Abide. The servant songs are full of God’s promises of restoration for His people. Isaiah prophesied in a time of decline, backsliding, exile, and sorrow. The compassionate heart of the Father came through prophetic tears, declaring a remnant will survive, promising restoration, extending hope that light will dawn on darkness. Everything started with intimacy with God, and everything failed when that covenant relationship was broken. The prophetic call is always first to repentance, reunion, renewal, and loving relationship with God. It is impossible to read Isaiah without marveling at the tender heart God has for His people, being reminded in wonder that His great goal is to bring us into eternal, intimate union with Himself. Jesus wants to abide with us much more than we want to abide with Him.
Apostle. Intimacy with Jesus has an immediate and inclusive commission—the invitation to others. It is a wicked perversion of heart that ignores the grand heart of God for all peoples. Abraham was blessed so all nations could be blessed. Israel was chosen so all people could be chosen. We are brought into intimacy with Jesus so that all nations might be brought into intimacy with Jesus. Missionary participation is the direct consequence of being intimate with Jesus. If our hearts do not burn for all nations to know Him, we have not truly known Him ourselves.
Abandon. There is no intimacy with Jesus in this life without suffering. If missionary participation is indivisible from intimacy with our master, then suffering for the gospel is indivisible from missions. The servant songs are suffering songs—free salvation costs everything. “Like the Servant, Jesus did not alter His message, and like the Servant, He paid for it with His life.” It is terrifying to consider, but what if the turning of Isaiah 53:6 is an ethnocentric selfishness, a desire to monopolize Jesus and a reluctance to pay the price of salvation going to all peoples? What if the “iniquity of us all” laid on Jesus was our recalcitrance to join Him in His death that all people groups might join us in eternal life? What if a dedication to the mission of God means more suffering at the hands of the selfish church than from the hands of the beloved lost? God have mercy. Missions always costs us—just don’t be surprised from where that cost comes.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 891.