The Servant’s Song–a study of Isa 50
My exuberance for the scripture we studied this morning in Sunday School spilled over into a lobby conversation with a dear friend and a gentleman I regard as a true lover & student of God’s Word. Our time was brief so I promised to email him the passage and a few brief thoughts. Instead I’ll just share them here. (Don’t worry I’ll send him a link.)
The text I’m writing about is found in Isaiah 50:4-11, and is commonly known as the third of the “Servant Songs”. Let’s unpack and dig in.
The Servant Songs of Isaiah
There are four very unique passages in Isaiah and in my uneducated perspective they stand alone as the clearest expression of Jesus Christ in all of the Old Testament. While all of God’s Word and the OT prophets are pointing to Jesus these are set apart as Jesus is speaking in first person.
The 4 Servant Songs are:
- Isaiah 42:1-9
- Isaiah 49:1-13
- Isaiah 50:4-11
- Isaiah 53:1-17
Note that the final Servant Song, Isaiah 53 is essentially the pinnacle of the entire book of Isaiah. It is where prophecy becomes pure gospel evangelism. It is the ultimate prophecy – a coming Messiah.
As you review these passages you should be able to easily identify a change in speaker. It’s as if the prophet Isaiah, who is mostly used as the voice of God, suddenly becomes a conduit for Christ Jesus himself. These words are a very direct expression of Christ is the midst of a larger prophecy.
Namely: You are in bondage due to sin. I’m sending a Savior.
Brief Historical Context
Israel is in Babylonian captivity because, as God states often, their refusal to repent and be obedient. He has permitted (Isa 47:6) this time of suffering to cleanse & purify His people (Isa 48:10-11). Now King Cyrus has been prompted by God to begin a victorious offensive against the Babylonians (Isa 45:1-7). God is making a very clear point.
- I am God, why do you doubt me?
- King Cyrus is doing my will and will bring you freedom and restoration.
- Cyrus is only a picture. You are in need of an ultimate redeemer and I’m sending the Messiah.
A few quick notes on the verses leading up to the Servant’s Song
God is reminding Israel they have no cause for complaint. God did not divorce her or sell away His children. Remember that a man could divorce a woman for most anything in these days as well as sell their children to repay a debt. God challenges them by saying He had done neither.
Why, when I came, was there no man;
why, when I called, was there no one to answer?
Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem?
Or have I no power to deliver? Isa 50:2
None were found faithful or heeded the call of the Lord. Hence, His righteous judgment permitted them to be taken into captivity.
Now onto the Servant’s Song
The Servant’s song begins is verse 4, I hope you hear the change in pronouns and perspective of the speaker.
The Lord GOD has given Me
the tongue of those who are instructed
to know how to sustain the weary with a word.
He awakens [Me] each morning;
He awakens My ear to listen like those being instructed
God gave Jesus the words of wisdom so that he could not only comfort but sustain the weary. Also notice that Christ says, “He awakens me each morning; He awakens My ear to listen” Jesus Christ, who is in complete fellowship with God and is completely God speaks of daily fellowship with His father every morning.
What’s your excuse? Are you spiritually stronger than Christ? So how much more should we cherish and prioritize our time with God in the mornings. Let us seek daily fellowship so when He speaks our ears are ready to listen.
The Lord GOD has opened My ear, and I was not rebellious; I did not turn back. I gave My back to those who beat Me, and My cheeks to those who tore out My beard. I did not hide My face from scorn and spitting. The Lord GOD will help Me; therefore I have not been humiliated; therefore I have set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.
Verse 5 should be a clear reminder that Jesus Christ has free will and his willingness to obey God’s will enabled Him to be the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins. Only a blameless and willing sacrifice could bridge the gap between our sin and an Holy Father.
Isa 50:6-7 should leap off the page concerning the identity of the speaker, it can only be Jesus. This is Christ speaking of being spit upon and having his beard pulled out. This is the humiliation of the cross but Jesus says “I did not hide my face from scorn…” I bear this humiliation willingly because…. watch this.
The Lord GOD will help Me; therefore I have not been humiliated; therefore I have set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.
What the world intended for evil and humiliation of Jesus would backfire because the Lord God is His help and will use even these cruel acts to become a testimony of grace. Therefore, because God is with me and is my help Christ says that He has set his face like a flint, a stone, headed directly to honor and worship God.
Verses 8-9 are thunderous that translate essentially into, “What now? What do you have to charge me with know? I am the Messiah.
Verse 10 STOP. Slow down and digest this:
Who among you fears the LORD, listening to the voice of His servant?
Who [among you] walks in darkness, and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD; let him lean on his God.
This verse is a balanced spiritual equation. Requirements=Results
- Fear the Lord – An over-simplified understanding of Fearing the Lord is to be in awe of God’s power, divinity, and righteous judgment.
- Are you listening? – Do you know the voice of the servant? John 10:27 – In our present day this is studying God’s Word and through prayer and meditation allowing the Holy Spirit to speak the truth into our hearts
- The Results of Coming into the Light
- This is the invitation of Christ – If you are walking in darkness without the light of Jesus then come and trust the name of the Lord and lean on God.
- You get to lean on God. – How beautiful is that? Your respect and listening will lead to increased faith that leads to leaning further and further on God.
This servant song takes a dramatic turn in verse 10 and it’s almost as if Jesus is turning the the audience (us) and asking “Who among you fears the Lord?”, Do you know him? Do you know My voice? If not, you are walking in darkness with no light.
I really like verse 10 because it serves as a template for living the Christian Life:
- Fear God
- Spend Time in daily fellowship so you can hear and know His voice as expressed through the Bible and applied by the Holy Spirit
- Trust in the name of YHWH, GOD ALMIGHTY
- Lean on the God.. Lay my problems and weakness at His feet so I can lean fully on my Heavenly Father.
This would make a great verse to memorize and apply to our daily lives.
Start in Isa 42 and just read through Isa 53 – See the larger picture of God’s merciful and redeeming love.
Jesus himself issued the invitation, don’t miss the warning in Isa 50:11 of trying to live in our own light.
Who among you fears the Lord?