In the previous paragraph, God has explained to his people how they can know that they are not forgotten or forsaken by him. God used imagery of a nursing child, a lack of divorce papers, and their names engraved on his hands to illustrate how impossible it is for God to forsake or forget his people. But the ultimate proof that God loves his people, has not forgotten his people, and will not forsake his people is his Servant, Jesus the Christ. God described the coming of the Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13. Now God returns to describing the coming of the Servant. We notice that the language just like what we read in Isaiah 49:1-6. The Servant again speaks and in his speech we see three pictures of who he is and what he will do.
Skilled In God’s Word (50:4)
The first picture of the Servant is that he is skilled in God’s word. The Servant declares that he has a trained tongue and trained ear. The Servant possesses the words of wisdom because he is taught and instructed by the Lord. His words reflect the message of the Lord. This means that when the Servant speaks that his words will help the weary. The words of this Servant will comfort and sustain those who are broken and tired by sin. Further, the Servant is pictured as the ideal disciple for he listens to the Lord. Every morning he is listening to God. This is a beautiful picture of what a disciple of the Lord is to do. Support for God’s weary people comes by his words. Therefore we must listen to the words of God every day.
Submissive To God’s Will (50:5-6)
The second picture of the Servant is found in verses 5-6. The Servant declares that he is listening to the will of the Lord. He was not rebellious to God’s will and did not turn his back on God’s plan. The Servant does what he is asked to do. Notice what he volunteers to do in verse 6. “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard.” The Servant did not rebel but submissively suffers. I want to emphasize that the Servant voluntarily did this because the text says, “I gave.” He was not forced or made to give his back. He chose to take the beating he would receive. He would not hide his face from the disgrace, the shame, and the spitting that would happen to him. The scriptures record this sorrowful prophecy was fulfilled many times during Jesus’ final hours.
What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” (Matthew 26:66–68 ESV)
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. (Matthew 27:27–31 ESV)
God sends the Servant to reconcile the world to God and prove that God does not forget or forsake his people. The response of the people will be to strike his back, pull out his beard, and spit in his face. The path of suffering would be the path for the Servant.
Secure In God’s Help (50:7-9)
The third picture we see of the Servant is that the Lord will be with the Servant despite the despicable treatment of the people. The Lord helps the Servant and will vindicate the Servant. The picture is not that the Lord forsakes the Servant. Rather, the Lord helps the Servant. The predicted suffering of the Servant does not mean God withdraws his support. The Servant is not a disgrace in God’s eyes. Therefore, in spite of the suffering, the Servant perseveres in the mission (50:7; cf. Luke 9:51). Throughout his time, no one is able to declare the Servant guilty. This was the amazing part of the trials of Jesus. No one could bring up a charge against him. The Sanhedrin trials, Herod’s examination, and Pilate’s examination all yield that this Servant was not guilty of any wrongdoing and was not deserving of death. Can you imagine a prophecy of a person who would come in the future who would not be guilty of violating any of God’s laws? Yet this is what Isaiah has done. The Servant will be amazing when he comes, and Isaiah was speaking of the Christ. All who oppose the Servant will fall apart like a garment. To oppose the Servant will only end in one’s own demise.
The Call To The People (50:10-11)
Now that we have seen three more pictures concerning the coming of the Servant, Isaiah now has a call to make to the people. First, a question is made. “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant?” We immediately notice that the Servant is equated to the Lord. To fear the Lord is to obey the voice of the Servant. This is a shocking declaration for the Servant is described with the same authority as the Almighty God. Therefore, no one would should have been surprised with Jesus spoke with the authority of God. By listening to the Servant, a person is showing reverence for the Lord. Therefore, here is what is required.
First, we must recognize that we are walking in darkness and have no light. Until a person grasps their condition before God and their condition without God, then a person will never seek the Lord and never find salvation. This is the problem people have today. People do not know they are in the darkness and do not know that they need the Lord. They think they are in the light. This is why Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that it was the poor in spirit who were blessed. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 ESV) We have to know that we are nothing and without strength before we can be granted the grace to belong to God’s kingdom. Jesus had to expose this problem throughout his whole ministry.
Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:39–41 ESV)
We are at a great risk to being blind to our condition, just as Israel was blind to its condition. We must never forget that Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). The light does not begin with us nor does it come from within us. Any goodness or righteousness we practice comes only because we are looking at the light of Christ.
Second, trust and rely on the Lord. Consider how this parallels the work of the Servant in this text. The Servant is rejected by the people, disgraced, and mocked. However, God helps him and he is not disgraced before him. The Lord later vindicates the Servant. Through all of these things, the Servant maintains his trust in the Lord. He was not rebellious and did not turn his back (50:5). The picture is for us to follow the Servant with the trust that he has exhibited in the Lord. What we must see is faith offsets the darkness. We need faith because we are in the dark. Trusting the Lord is the only way to be in the light. Trusting in ourselves always leads to disaster.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 16:25 ESV)
This is the point made in verse 11. Those who continue in their own way, trying to deal with their darkness with some sort of self-reliance are doomed. We consumed by our own efforts. Notice the picture in verse 11. They are trying to equip themselves with burning torches and walk by the light of their fire. But doing so brings judgment from the hand of God that those who do such will lie down in torment.
So what will it be for us? Christ has become our leader and trailblazer showing us the result of trusting in the Lord. We are able to see the vindication of the Servant. We are able to see the victory given to Christ. Who among us will fear the Lord and obey the voice of the Servant? Then trust in the Lord even when we do not understand and even when we go through suffering and difficulty. Lighting our own path and trusting in our own wisdom and paths will only cause our own doom. It is from the hand of God to experience the consequences for failing to walk in the light of Christ.