This is another passage from the Book of Isaiah where the prophet is addressing a generation he’ll never know, the generation that would one day get to return to the Promised Land. But this time, instead of speaking directly to His audience, the Lord has the prophet record a private conversation between Himself and His Son. In this conversation, the Father is making promises to the Son that will have a direct bearing on Jesus’ future ministry as Messiah. But why would God let us in on such a private moment? He does this to show us that the promises He makes in public are the same He makes in private.
How many times have we heard politicians make promises to their constituents only to have those promises evaporate like an early morning mist once they get into office? Bold proclamations fizzle away in back room deals and crumble to the pressure special interest groups. We know better than to trust such things. But when God makes a promise, it’s the same whether He is speaking to us, or to His Son. With God there is not even the shadow of turning (James 1:17). What we have in Him is a God Who not only knows the future, He establishes what it will be (Isaiah 44:7).
He says to His Son, “I have called thee in righteousness,” meaning “to a righteous cause.” It is affirmation of God’s approval of His Son’s ministry. Jesus became our Savior willingly. He did not need to be called, but He came to us with His Father’s calling upon Him anyway.
In addition to His blessing on His Son’s ministry, the Father promises not just to send the Son into the world, but to be with Him, saying He “will hold [His] hand.” This is more than just a promise of the Father’s presence. It is also a promise of strength and protection.
God gives His Son His blessing and the promise of His presence so that His Son can fulfill His purpose: “[I] give thee for a covenant of the people.” This carries with it several meanings. As the covenant of the people, Jesus would be Sacrifice, He would be Savior and He would be Mediator between God and man. Then God adds that Jesus will be “a light of the Gentiles.” The word translated “Gentiles” is technically “nations,” but the meaning is commonly understood to mean all non-Jews. It is an important statement. For Jewish readers, hearing God speak of Messiah as a covenant of the people would cause them to naturally understand that to mean the Jews. But God adds that Messiah will be a light not to the Gentiles, but for the Gentiles. It would have been an understanding lost on the Jews. We know this because even the disciples had to have this concept spelled out for them. (See Acts 10, Peter’s vision.) By declaring His Son as a light for the Gentiles, God was putting them on equal footing with His chosen people. The same Messiah Who would be the Jews’ salvation would also be the salvation of the Gentiles. How do we know this? Because we heard God talking about it to His Son!