There is almost a two-century time lapse between Chapter Thirty-Nine and Chapter Forty in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Chapter Thirty-Nine has Isaiah, before the year 700 B.C., warning King Hezekiah that the Babylonians, a new people taking shape far east of there, would one day threaten the existence of Israel.
Chapter Forty picks up the history of the Israelites almost two centuries later. The kingdom of Babylon had risen and then fallen to the forces of Persia. In Chapter Forty of the Book of Isaiah the captive Israelites were freed to return to Jerusalem. The prophet speaking from Chapter Forty on left no name, and since his words had been carelessly bound up with those of Isaiah, we have come to call this unknown prophet Second-Isaiah.
Now, in careful study of the twenty pages of our Bibles given over to the prophesies of Second Isaiah, scholars have identified four songs imbedded in the account. They all deal with one who would be known as God’s Suffering Servant. Jewish people see the Suffering Servant as the personification of themselves, but Matthew, Mark, Luke and John told us that the songs of the Suffering Servants were all prophesies referring to Jesus.
In today’s Gospel Matthew quoted the first of the four Suffering Servant poems, saying that they referred to Jesus, who would save us not by shows of strength, but by meekly enduring, and triumphing over, all attacks on him.