As I stated earlier, Isaiah 49 is a continuation of Isaiah 48. But because of the great amount of content, I have split the two chapters into two sections.
In Isaiah 48, covenant was made. In Isaiah 49, the covenant is broken and now a court is convened to hear the two sides. Isaiah 49 will contain four steps of this court hearing: the summons, the plaintiff’s charge, the defendants plea and the judge’s indictment.
The Summons (v 1-6)
The Servant Song
Ludlow points out that these “six verses comprise on of the four recognized ‘servant songs’ of Isaiah (along with 42:1-4; 50:5-9 and 52:13-53:12)”
This servant has the following attributes:
1. He is “called from the womb” foreordained (v 1)
2. He is “in the shadow of his [the Lord] hand” (v 2)
3. He is like a “polished shaft” (v 2)
4. He seemingly labors in vain (v 4)
5. He is involved in the gathering of Israel (v 5-6)
Ludlow lists several people who fit this description. Israel, Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith all fit these descriptions in one way or another. He also cites Ephraim, who is a recipient of Jacob’s birthright, as another possible person who fits the description.
The Plaintiff’s Charge (v 7-13)
In the charge, the Lord reminds Israel that he has “fulfilled his obligations” in that he will gather her from all parts of the earth.
Isaiah 49:9 refers to the liberation of the people from darkness and a life of sin. This seems to refer to our day when we have the fullness of the restoration of the Gospel. This could also allude to the liberation of those who sat in the prison world before Christ organized the preaching of the gospel to those souls (see D&C 138).
Isaiah 49:12 refers to the gathering of Israel from all quarters of the earth. Ludlow points out that some Bible scholars believe that the land of Sinim may be China. Others believe it may be a place in Egypt.
The Defendant’s Plea (v 14, 21, 24)
Israel responds to the Lord’s charge. In Isaiah 49:14 she claims the Lord has forsaken and forgotten her.
In Isaiah 49:21 she claims she is left childless, alone without friends and held captive.
And in Isaiah 49:24 she “fears she has been robbed of her heritage” (Ludlow 412).
The Judge’s Indictment (v 15-20, 22-23, 25-26)
The Lord Will Not Forget
In verse 14, Israel has lost faith in the Lord’s capacity to deliver her. But the Lord cannot forget his chosen people. A woman may (although unlikely) forget her baby and focus on her pregnancy, the Lord will never forget his chosen people.
A mark of the laborer is his hands. He will have worn and bruised hands if he has labored hard. The Lord’s work also can be seen by looking at his hands. He says to Israel and to us, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).
When I read those words, I almost instantly think of that wonderful, soul-penetrating hymn “Reverently and Meekly Now” (Hymn #185)
Think of me, thou ransomed one;
Think what I for thee have done.
With my blood that dripped like rain,
Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree
I have ransomed even thee. . . .
Oh, remember what was done
That the sinner might be won.
On the cross of Calvary
I have suffered death for thee.
Nursing Fathers and Mothers
Israel complains to the Lord that her numbers are too few. The Lord assures her that she will have plenty of help. “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and they daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
“And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens they nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isaiah 49:22-23)
Anyone who has read or is familiar with the history of the nation of Israel will know that this scripture has been fulfilled. Wikipedia does a good job summarizing the history of Israel as a nation (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel).
I am not going to copy it in full here, but Ludlow does an amazing job summarizing the prophecies pertaining to the return of Judah that have either been partially or fully fulfilled.
Included in this list are:
1. Elijah the Prophet to return to the earth
2. Descendants of Judah to gather
3. Gold and silver from the nations to revive the land
4. The land of Jerusalem to be made productive
5. The descendants of Judah to be attacked and delivered
6. Jerusalem will come under the control of Israel
7. The Jewish people will begin to believe in Jesus Christ
He also lists many prophesies about the Jews that have not been fulfilled.
1. A new temple will be built in Jerusalem
2. A leader named David … will lead Israel
3. The nations … will gather … and Judah will be smitten
4. Two prophets are to be raised up to the Jewish nation
5. The Savior to appear to the descendants of Judah
6. The Messiah to lead Israel to victory and rule as King of Kings
7. Two great world capitals are to be established, Zion and Jerusalem
Ludlow notes scriptures and other references for each point, along with some brief information regarding the point. These lists can be found in the book on pages 415-416).