Summary: Faithful preachers are sent to restore the earth, so that the meek may inherit it.
THE RESTORATION OF GOD’S PEOPLE
In Isaiah 49:3 the Servant is named as Israel, yet the New Testament identifies the Servant as Jesus (Matthew 12:14-21; Acts 8:32-35): our Lord is the ideal which Israel typologically represented. Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 49:6 teaches us that the ministry of Jesus is continued by the church (Acts 13:46-47). Isaiah 49:7 may represent the rejection of Jesus (cf. Isaiah 53:3), and no doubt is inclusive of it, but the singular pronoun can also be used collectively for Israel (cf. Isaiah 41:8-9), or even for the church.
Viewed another way, what God’s people go through, both before and after Christ, is but a shadowing fore and aft of His sufferings. Men will still despise the Gospel, and its messengers, but the promise of Isaiah 49:7 remains: Kings and princes do rise and worship when they see the faithfulness of Israel’s covenant God. This is true whether they be wise men from the east prostrating themselves at the holy babe’s feet, or world rulers who submit themselves to the claims of the Gospel which comes to them by the mouths of His faithful servants.
The second half of the second Song (Isaiah 49:8-13), then, belongs to all of God’s people. Paul certainly thought so when he quoted Isaiah 49:8 (2 Corinthians 6:2). In an accepted time, a season of grace, a day of salvation, Jesus is given as a covenant to the people of Israel; and faithful preachers are sent from Israel to restore the earth, so that the meek may inherit it.
As a deposit on this promise, meantime, the Israelite captives would be set free from Babylon. Those already free cry to those still in darkness to come out, and to show themselves (Isaiah 49:9): the darkness motif, and the call to separation, are echoed by Paul in the passage quoted above (2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17). Furthermore they are promised provision for the journey, protection from the sun (cf. Psalm 121:6), and a clear highway; and the Lord Himself leads His little flock by springs of water (Isaiah 49:9-11).
Reminiscent of the beginning of the Song which was addressed to those who come from afar (Isaiah 49:1), it becomes evident that the return from exile is only a small part of the fulfilment to come. There are people flocking to Christ from the furthest reaches of the earth (Isaiah 49:12). No wonder the heavens and the earth are exhorted to give a shout of praise (Isaiah 49:13).
Yet there is a sour note to bring discord to the song of this happy throng. Zion sees herself languishing, laying in ruins, forsaken and forgotten by God (Isaiah 49:14). The church of our Lord Jesus Christ longs for heaven, but is impatient of ever getting there.
Sometimes we feel deserted by God, destitute, orphaned. Yet God has a ready answer: even if a mother can forget her sucking child, yet God cannot forget His own precious children (Isaiah 49:15). He has our names engraved upon the palms of His hands, all of us collectively, and each one of individually who are His (Isaiah 49:16).