(If this day is the Fourth Sunday in Advent, please refer to that day
in the list of devotions.)
The Faithfulness of the Servant
Isaiah 50 continues the theme of the Servant of the Lord and contrasts the faithful servant with faithless Israel. The chapter begins with the Lord asking rhetorical questions: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce, with which I sent her away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you?” But it was not really the Lord who divorced or sold Israel: “Behold, for your iniquities you were sold, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away.” In other words, Israel’s divorce from her husband (the Lord) was her own doing. We cannot hope to remain in our sins and serve the Lord. He intends to save us from our sins, not in them. And even yet, the Lord still calls. The problem is that no one answers. His arm is not too short to save, and the Lord rehearses his mighty power over rivers, the seas, and the heavens to prove it.
Then enters the Servant in 50:4ff. He begins: “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.” We are reminded of what they said of Jesus when he walked among us: “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (Luke 4:22). And in John 8:28, we read where Jesus himself says, “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” So our Lord in the New Testament fulfills what Isaiah prophesied more than six hundred years before. What we see here is the marvelous work of the Triune God – the Father sending the Son who speaks the words and does the work of the Father, the Father and the Son then sending the Holy Spirit to confirm the word that the Father has spoken through the Son.
And then there is the comparison of the faithful Servant with faithless Israel: “The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward … I have set my face like a flint.” Then is the description of the Servant that so corresponds with what our Lord Jesus endured: stripes on his back, spitting in his face, even pulling out of his beard (though the latter is not recorded in the gospels). Yet, he says that it is the Lord (the Father) who sustains him, helps him, and vindicates him. Those who stand against the Servant and seek their own light without him will finally lie down in their own torment. But this need not be. The Father sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17). The divorce need not be final; the debt can be paid – and it was, by the Servant, on the cross.