Isaiah 49-53
(The Suffering Servant)
July 29th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

- Isaiah 53:8 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

These chapters contain a set of prophetic poems regarding a Servant of the LORD, which is generally interpreted as a reference to the coming of Jesus Christ. This section consists of three “Songs of the Servant.”

The first song begins in chapter 49. In this song the LORD explains how he saved his servant for the right moment and tells the servant that he has a big assignment for him:

The LORD describes how the servant will free the captives and those in darkness. In addition, the people will no longer be hungry or thirsty. The LORD reminds the people of Israel that he has never forgotten them, even during the times they felt alone: “ 'See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.' (Isa 49:16 - NIV)”

The second “Song of the Servant” begins in chapter 50. In this one the Servant appears to be speaking about his role and the suffering he will endure for the ones he came to save.

The third of these three songs begins near the end of chapter 52 and ends in chapter 53. It describes additional details of the suffering that the servant will experience and tells the reader about his reward and future role:

The end of the chapter points out that it was God’s will that allowed the servant to suffer so that he can justify others and serve as an intercessor for the transgressors.

Reflection and Application

The last of the three songs is referred to by one commentator as the “climax of the prophet’s inspired symphony”(1) because it accurately describes the suffering that Jesus would endure for our sake. The Old Testament lays the foundation for the New Testament and is consistent. God revealed his plan to the prophets and fulfilled it in the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The book of Isaiah is quoted many times in the New Testament. For instance, the 53rd chapter of Isaiah that we read today is referenced in the book of Acts, which records the history of the early church after the resurrection of Jesus. This reference to Isaiah is set up when the Spirit told Phillip to take the road to Gaza. On the way he heard someone reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah and ran up to him to talk. Just like us, this man was trying to understand exactly what was meant by these passages:

Our calling is to be open to the LORD’s instructions, take the path he tells us to take, run to opportunities to witness and be open to the idea that the Old Testament can be an excellent evangelical tool.

It’s tempting for us to think the LORD has forgotten about us during times when we are hungry, thirsty, and lost; but the truth is that he is always there. We may not be immediately relieved of our physical needs but he will meet our spiritual needs if we call on him. We may forget about God from time to time, but he never forgets about us.

God knew the plan he had for Jesus to serve and suffer. While the arrest and crucifixion of Christ came as a surprise to the disciples it was all part of God’s plan. Sometimes we jokingly make a similar claim when our mistakes lead to a success. For example, when we miss a shot on goal but it bounces off a player, goes in for a score, and we say, “That’s just how I planned it!” God does not depend on these types of random events, but instead knows the outcome of the Big Game. So when we endure trials we must trust that he can use it for good.

The quote in verse 50:4 is a good one for us to use to start our day – we would be well served to allow our ear to be wakened each morning to listen to God as if we are being taught. When we wake up tomorrow, let’s try to remember this passage and start the day by asking God to help us listen to him in the morning, noon, and night; and then do it all over again.

Jesus became our intercessor as predicted in Isaiah 53. We don’t have to depend on priests to make sacrifices for us, as was done in the Old Testament. Jesus is the sacrifice and also serves as our advocate in heaven. This was his intended role and he embodies it! Let’s take advantage of it while we can. Call on him as our friend and Savior.

After about two weeks of study we are nearing the end of Isaiah. How do you picture him in your mind? Take a moment to try to imagine him and then take a look how he was imagined by two great Renaissance artists:

How did these compare to the image in your mind? In case you were wondering, as far as we know, the other well-known Renaissance artists Leonardo DaVinci and Donatello did not produce paintings of Isaiah. However, DaVinci did create paintings of John the Baptist and the Last Supper, and Donatello created a sculpture of the prophet Jeremiah and produced other religious works of art.

These artists' depictions are no more accurate than ours, but they do represent the use of their special skills to help evangelize this story, and provide a good example for us. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo did not close up their talents inside a shell like a turtle, but instead put their talent to use with all their passion - like religious ninjas with paintbrushes. May we be as passionate in using our talents to share the word with others.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions
  1. What is the first few things you do when you wake up on the morning?
  2. What could you do to help you listen for God in the quiet of your early morning?
  3. How would you explain these chapters of Isaiah to someone else?

Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, we know you love the world so much that you sent your son to sacrifice himself for all of us. Help us to recognize your call to us.

Suggested Prayer Concerns


(1) Robinson, George C, The Book of Isaiah, in Fifteen Studies, Revised Edition, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1958, p145

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Isaiah 54-57 (Thy Word Is Food for My Soul)

Comments and Questions
If you have comments or questions, please add them to our Comments page, email to the author at, or share your comments or questions via the Listening for God Twitter account