Hear me, O coastlands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
That Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him;
And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Thus says the LORD,
the redeemer and the Holy One of Israel,
To the one despised, whom the nations abhor,
the slave of rulers:
When kings see you, they shall stand up,
and princes shall prostrate themselves
Because of the LORD who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.
— Isaiah 49:1-7 (NAB)
Jesus would have known this passage well, along with the First Servant Song. The first two verses above explain, or at least give a hint to why so little is known of Jesus’ early life. But verse four, the prediction of toiling “in vain and for nothing” had to have been discouraging, even knowing it was out of love and for His Father’s glory. I wonder how many times He thought back to this passage when His disciples just didn’t seem to get what He was teaching.