The third servant song is in Isaiah 50:4-9. Again, as in the second servant song in Isaiah 49, the servant speaks in the first person.
4 The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. 5 The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. 6 I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. 7 Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. 8 He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! 9 It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.
Inasmuch as my purpose in these posts is to focus in particular on how various Old Testament passages help us understand how Paul could say that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” I will not be looking at every detail of this passage, but only on those aspects of the passage which help us understand the main issue. In this post, I want to examine the servant’s declaration, “I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back.”
Two major prophets were warned at the very beginning of their ministries that their prophetic tasks would be very difficult ones, tasks which might well involve physical suffering like that described in verse 6 of this servant song. The Lord told Jeremiah:
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” 6 “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” 7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 1:5-8)
As I have mentioned before, whenever anyone says, “Do not be afraid,” it is precisely because there is something to be afraid of. When someone says, “I will rescue you,” that means there is a situation to be rescued from. Jeremiah is being warned here that he will indeed be placed in situations where he will encounter great opposition and will most likely encounter some kind of physical harm. The Lord goes on to say this:
17 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land–against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 1:17-19)
This confirms that the prophet will face great opposition and perhaps physical harm. But what is particularly striking about the Lord’s word to Jeremiah is his statement that if Jeremiah allows himself to terrified by the people, presumably in such a way that he abandons his prophetic assignment, then the Lord himself would be a terror to Jeremiah.
The other prophet is Ezekiel. Here is part of the Lord’s commission to that prophet:
6 “And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 2:6-8)
Again, first, the Lord tells the prophet that he will encounter great opposition. The possibility of physical harm is implied by the characterization of the opposition as “briers,” “thorns,” and “scorpions.” Then, even though in the rest of the passage the Lord assures Ezekiel that he will be with him and help him, he also sternly warns him, “Do not rebel like that rebellious house.”
The Lord tells Jeremiah that if he fails to carry out his prophetic task, the Lord himself will be a source of terror to his prophet. The Lord sternly warns Ezekiel not to rebel. The Lord does not “mollycoddle” his prophets.
So, when the servant of the Lord declares in Isaiah 50:5 that he has not been rebellious, that he has not drawn back, we should understand that it is precisely in the context of the opposition arrayed against him, and the threat of physical harm such as that described in verse 6, that he makes this declaration. He is the Lord’s servant. He has been given a daunting task. He will not shrink from it. He will not turn back. He will not be rebellious. He will carry out the orders given him by the Lord.
In this light, then, contemplate the words of our Lord in the John 10:14-18:
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
Our Savior was the servant of the Lord. He was given a daunting task. He did not shrink from it. He did not turn back. He was not rebellious. He carried out the orders given him by his Father.
Contemplate, marvel, and worship.
April 7, 2014