Israel is Not Forgotten Part 3

Sep 07, 2010 1 Comment by

By Ron Ross,

“Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.” (Isaiah 44:21

Part 3: “Israel, My Servant.”

Both Jews and Christians have a common guilt. We have failed to respond to the love of God with singular devotion, obedience and worship.

Isaiah exposes idolatry as a serious sin and he warns that Israel has been infected by it. This is heartbreaking to read. “You have not brought to Me the sheep of your burnt offerings, nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, nor wearied you with incense.” (Isaiah 43:23)

Often we are so absorbed with our own feelings, we ignore how the Lord weeps when we fail to trust in Him. He wept over Jerusalem. I have no doubt He cries out for the Jewish and Christian worlds as we also fail to worship Him in Spirit and Truth.

His warning to Israel continues. “Your first forefather sinned, and your spokesmen have transgressed against Me. So I will pollute the princes of the sanctuary, and I will consign Jacob to the ban and Israel to revilement.” (Isaiah 43:27, 28)

These are painful words but d espite Israel rebelling against the Lord and their embrace of idols, His divine nature clings just will not turn against them. He responds with love, grace and mercy.

Many Christians choose to reject the Jews and simply replace them with the Church. I am not convinced that is the nature of their Redeemer. It is an attitude known as ‘replacement theology’ and I am convinced it is the result of humanistic legalism. It has nothing to do with the divine loving character of the heavenly Abba.

Isaiah reveals His response. “But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you,
‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants; And they will spring up among the grass like poplars by streams of water.’
“This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’S’; And that one will call on the name of Jacob; And another will write on his hand, ‘Belonging to the LORD,’ and will name Israel’s name with honor.” (Isaiah 44: 1-5)

It often seems like so many are a long way from naming Israel ‘with honor’ although this is the promised plan of the Lord. The fallen world is quick to respond with anti-Semitism rather than honor.

My Servant

Despite the sins of the people, the divinely gracious Father calls them “My Servant.’

The word translated ‘servant’ in Isaiah 44: 21 is ‘abad’ which has the prime root meaning of ‘to work/serve.’

n a long list of possible translations there are words and phrases like ‘do the work’, ‘perform’, ‘slave’ or ‘slaves’ even ‘workers’ and ‘worshipers’. (NASB Dictionaries).

The Hebrew ‘ebed, appears 799 times in the Old Testament. Although the English translation of ‘ebed’ will use words like ‘slave’ or ‘servant’, it is essential we embrace it with the original meaning.

In the biblical context servant was an acceptable position to have.
Being a slave meant security. It gave status accompanied by rights and even a position of trust.

There were conditions. An Israelite could not be held indefinitely, as a slave by a fellow countryman. The period of bondage was limited to six years (Exodus 21: 2). The master was liable to punishment if there was physical abuse against the servant or slave (Exodus 21:14). Punishment also applied if the slave died (Exodus 21: 20-21).

It is helpful to consider how the word was applied. All who functioned in the service of a king were said to be his servants (Genesis 40:20)

The Lord frequently referred to His servants. “Go and say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in?” (2 Sam. 7: 5)

“‘Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of My servant David whom I chose, who observed My commandments and My statutes.” (1 Kings 11:34)

“‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and will manifest My holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they will live in their land which I gave to My servant Jacob.” (Ezekiel 28:25)

Jesus said it very clearly. “He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy.” (Luke 1:54) This choice of words by the Lord is extremely important.

He refers to ‘Israel His servant.” The phrase ‘He has given help to Israel” means He strengthened them. The connection of Israel and servant refers directly to phrases used by Isaiah and indicates His plan to restore their fortunes and emphasises the special relationship they have with Him.

Israel was set apart for divine purposes and it is unwise to think such a loving Father would change His mind on His chosen people, rather than use His power and might to achieve His goals in the most loving way.

God Prevails

People frequently referred to themselves as ‘your servant’ (Gen.33:5) Specifically in prayer, it was considered a polite address. (Exodus 4:10, Psalm 19:12)

In the Isaiah 44:21 context ‘you are My servant’ clearly embraces the patriarch Jacob and the people of Israel. Look at the election of Israel in Isaiah 41: 8 “But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend.”

Isaiah specifically uses the names Israel, Jacob and Abraham to mean one and the same people of Israel. They are Isaiah’s people.

The servant function God intended for them is announced in the name Israel meaning ‘God prevails.’ The name infers ‘God strives’ meaning He strives with them and for them. The name also suggests He is the mighty one, powerful and strong.

Israel’s ultimate victory comes because it is designated by the divine intervention of God and not necessarily because of the righteous obedience of the people.

That He will prevail on their behalf has been established by covenant (Genesis 12 1-3; Exodus 19: 3-6; Jeremiah 31: 31-34; 2 Sam 7:12-13).

He sustains Israel because God has a plan and it behooves all who seek to obey and worship Him to be as one with His divine order.

Some suggest Israel is so tiny it cannot survive against the mounting momentum of animosity she faces. But Israel is comforted and sustained by God Himself.

“Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the LORD, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41: 14)

The phrase ‘you worm Jacob’ identifies how small Israel is, but their ‘Redeemer’ makes the overwhelming difference. This is precisely how they will be His servants and an obvious witness for His Power and Presence.

“They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” (Malachi 3:17)

“For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession.” (Psalm 135: 4)

Isaiah 44: 28 provides a clue to the diligence of the Lord as He cares for His servant nation.

“It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’” (Isaiah 44:28)

How awesome is the Bible? In this verse, the prophet Isaiah identifies the Persian King Cyrus more than 150 years before he ruled. Cyrus facilitated the return from exile for the Israelis.

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!’” (2 Chronicles 36:23)

According to “The Greek historian Herodotus, in Volume 1 of his histories, records the wonderful story of how Cyrus miraculously escaped death at the time of his birth and how he was brought up by a shepherd who wasn’t even his father. Thus, fulfilling God’s spoken word to the prophet Isaiah.”

The circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus are very similar.

Through Cyrus the Israelites were free to return to Jerusalem. It is a redemption story with its ultimate culmination to come through the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Expect the Lord to continue with His covenant promises to Israel. Watch world events and be impressed by the God of Abaham, Isaac and Jacob as He continues to triumph.

Bible Blog

About the author

Ron Ross worked as the first Sports Editor at WINTV. In Wollongong. He ran The Hamburger Hut an outreach and discipleship program for youth. He served with Youth With a Mission in Hawaii, Philippines and Australia. He was senior pastor of the Noosa Baptist Church, Queensland for 9 years. He reported news from Jerusalem for five years and is now the Middle East correspondent for United Christian Broadcasters and travels regularly preaching and teaching.

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