November 19, 2020
Isaiah sings four "Songs of the Servant of the Lord," and the third begins to reveal how the Servant will serve. Despite inexplicable opposition, the Servant will put his hope in God, trusting him for vindication. Despite violence and rejection, the Servant will faithfully and gently speak God's life-sustaining words of wisdom, which can sustain even the weariest of us. #Isaiah #growgroups #Jesus #servantoftheLord #comfort #compassion
God promised through Isaiah to send his Servant, one who would come with a zeal for God’s glory and a compassion for God’s people, to restore and redeem them, to fulfill the vocation and mission of their covenant with God. But not only that, the Servant will not only illuminate ancient Israel but he will begin to be “a light for the nations, that [God’s] salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
But how will the Servant complete this work he’s been given by the LORD? How exactly will the Servant serve? That comes into clearer focus in the last two Songs of the Servant of the LORD, and today we’ll take up the third of the four, recorded in Isaiah 50:4–11:
The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.
In the opening lines, the Servant sings about the care he takes for God’s people. He acknowledges that his power is from God alone and that it comes from God’s own personal instruction, the wisdom gained morning by morning as God awakens his Servant to understand how life is to be lived well in God’s world. And while such insight might make many of us intoxicated with our superiority (though that would ignore the wisdom of humility that the Servant has been taught), instead the Servant gently and graciously speaks this wisdom to those who need to hear it. He knows “how to sustain with a word him who is weary” (v. 4). And in 2020, I am hard-pressed to express a more beautiful thought: that God’s Words to us can sustain us, persevere us, strengthen us, focus us, protect us. His very words keep us alive. And each day, he awakens us, morning by morning, so that we, too, can hear his word and live. Don’t overlook that privilege. Take time—as you are now—to turn your attention to the words of Jesus that can give you life (Deuteronomy 8:3; Psalms 119:25; John 6:63, 68). Let him sustain you in whatever wearies these days you are in. But lest we think all in sweetness and light, the Servant sings further of the mission he is given by the Lord. He doesn’t rebel or turn away from what he is told (v.5) despite the fact that his obedience to the Lord will result in oppression and violence against him (v. 6). Seven hundred years before the incarnation of Christ, Isaiah records that the Servant’s obedience will result in accepting beatings, being spit upon, having his beard yanked out, suffering every shame that can be heaped upon a human. And while I can often be tempted to think the Lord is inactive when I face challenges, the Servant doesn’t doubt God’s help even in the midst of these affronts (v. 7). He accepts their disgrace with resolve because he hopes in the Lord, and his hope won’t put him to shame. God will help him, God will affirm him, God will vindicate him and make him outlast all his enemies who reject him and put him to shame, who close their ears to his gentle words (vv. 8–9). But after the Servant concludes his song, we hear something different—a word from the Lord who sent his Servant. It is both an invitation and a warning. It invites all those who want to rightly honor God to express that reverence through obedience to the voice of the Servant (v. 10). Their own deficiencies are no impediment. Even though on their own they have only darkness, they can trust and rely on God and he will provide light to them (cf. Isaiah 42:6; 49:6, 9). He will gladly and generously give all they lack. But a warning follows on the heels of this offer, and its severity only intensifies the graciousness of what the Servant provides (v. 11). People won’t just sit still in darkness; they’ll try to find light somehow. But some will reject the light and sight offered by the Servant and choose instead to strike out on their own, following the unreliable torchlight of their own efforts and understandings. But God warns: to reject his light is to ask to receive torment instead. There’s no need—he’s offered all the light needed, he’s speaking his word that can sustain the weary—but there is no help for those who won’t trust anything they can’t grasp and control with their own two hands. But for those who do trust, God gently gives every grace we need and provides confidence that we can trust him to bring us through whatever suffering we face on the road home. He continues to speak his word that wisely sustains the weary. And we know this because of the ultimate price paid by the Servant himself, hinted at here but detailed in full in the final Servant Song in Isa 52 and 53. That’s what we’ll turn our attention to in our Grow Groups this Sunday. On Zoom or in the room, we’ll see you there.