What are the servant songs of Isaiah? How do they relate to Jesus’ life and ministry?
The four servant songs, Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, and 52:13—53:12, are strategically placed in Second Isaiah to offer hope and consolation to a suffering Israel during its Babylonian Exile. This is the context in which Second Isaiah composes his powerfully poetic book of hope and consolation. A significant part of that message is the portrait of God’s servant, who is called to be a source of hope and encouragement for the people. Each of the four poems emphasizes God’s choice and election of the servant. The last poem stresses the suffering and rejection of God’s servant, along with his eventual death. Isaiah is certain that God will use the servant’s innocent suffering as a way to redeem and remove the guilt and sin of others. Thus the servant becomes a source of salvation for himself and for others. Who is this servant? Many suggest that Isaiah was referring to Israel herself, as she underwent exilic suffering that would ultimately prove to be redemptive. Jesus’ followers understood Jesus’ ministry in terms of Isaiah’s suffering servant whose innocent suffering and death became the means of salvation for all.