Isaiah 50. Servant Poem #3. The Servant As Student.
Key Notes: Was Israel divorced from God? The tongue of the taught. Emotional darkness.
Servant poems 1 and 4 are spoken in the third person. Poems 2 and 3 are in the first person. These interior poems show us aspects of Christ that convey some of His inner thought processes, and are therefore precious treasures.
50:1–3 The chapter starts abruptly with a confrontation: "Where is your mother's (Israel's) divorce decree?" Where is the bill of sale for her children, the slaves? They were sold for their sins, because when God called, no one was there; no on answered. It is not that God is weak: He rescued Israel from Egypt by a plague of darkness, and by drying up the Red Sea.
50:4–9 Although Israel did not answer God's call, there is One who did. He has a tongue of the student, the taught. The Teacher is a student. He can give a word to the weary as Jesus did. (Matt.11:28). He has the listening ear.
What He was taught was not entirely pleasant to His hearers. He was not to rebel but to submit to enemies when instructed, to give his back to the whip, to give his face to those who tore out the beard and spat at him. He could endure such torment because of the Lord God's help.
God would see that He was not defeated. He would set His face like a hard stone so that no adversary would succeed. God vindicated Him because anyone who is punished is assumed to be guilty. He was not guilty and no one could declare Him so. His accusers would all wither away.
50:10–11. Some of those listening to this would feel that they were in the dark (about themselves or about the Servant?), although they feared the Lord and obeyed His Servant. Others would create their own light (ignoring the message?) and suffer the consequences.
Isa.50:1–3 is another reference to Passover, God's great saving act in the OT. We are reminded that Passover (Pasche) is the time of Easter, when Christ was crucified. The Cross and the Resurrection is God's great saving act in the NT. It fulfils the images found in Passover.
The Passover contains a great parable.
*It describes a people captive and enslaved by The World. (Egypt)
*A liberating leader, a shepherd, wise in all the ways of the World, and a member of the enslaved people, brings them out. (Moses)
*A lamb is sacrificed; its blood is sprinkled on the doorposts, protecting those who apply it to their houses.
*The Angel of Death spares those who have sprinkled the blood. The judgment "passes over" them.
*Judgment falls on those who do not make the sacrifice, who are the citizens of The World. The saved ones escape from slavery by baptism in the Sea, to freedom in a desert of discipline and then into the Promised Land of rest.
Was Israel divorced from God? The translations convey the confusion of the interpreters; some say yes; others say no, it would be impossible because the covenant never changes. The answer is given in Jer.3:8 ..."I had sent her (Israel) away with a decree of divorce...." The everlasting covenant was broken. Isa.24:5
The meaning of that break is given in Hos.1:9: "You are not my people and I am not your God."
The theme of Hosea is that Hosea was to go after his erring wife and take her back. That is a parable of the way God would go after His erring wife Israel and bring her back. It is instructive that Deut.24:1, the only OT reference to divorce (for "uncleanness") says that the wife cannot have her husband back if she in the meantime marries another. Hosea's wife did not marry another, although she was promiscuous. Israel went astray to idols but never lost contact with God. In time, a new covenant / testament will be written (Jer.31:31–34) in which the Law of God is written on the heart and the relationship becomes permanent. (Heb.10:14–18). That is salvation as we know it.
The Servant is not named in 50:4–9 but " Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His Servant" (50:10) is suggestive. Whereas the Servant is frustrated in Isa.49:1–4, and Isa.50:4–9. Here He is thoughtful, attentive and disciplined. He appears almost totally passive. He listens to God even when waking from sleep. What He learns will be taught to those who need encouragement. He appears totally passive in another respect. When attacked, he does not retaliate but accepts a terrible beating. He is not passive at all, however; He is offering Himself to the attackers, ("I gave my back"), having been prepared so that His face, although wounded, is like a rock. His morale does not suffer: He is not confounded, not put to shame, not guilty. The Servant was prepared for martyrdom of a unique type. It is a striking picture of Christ's ministry and suffering. How would we respond if called to be martyrs?
Having the tongue of the taught is a word from one who is in constant submission to God. It is a word that revives the disheartened and exhausted. Jesus spoke such a word after prayer for His disciples:
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt.11:28–30).
Some of us have received and responded to such a word and can offer it. Others need it badly.
Fearing the Lord and walking in darkness sounds paradoxical.
"I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (Jn.8:12)
"If we walk in the Light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin."(IJn.1:9).
But "Thou hast put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep...."(Psa.88:6).
And "...light rises in the darkness for the upright". (Psa.112:4)
We understand the difference between emotional / spiritual, temporary darkness and a permanent spiritual darkness. Jesus Himself was in a state of emotional darkness in Gethsemane. The saints, ancient and modern, knew times of great darkness. (The Dark Night; St. John of the Cross; d.1605).
One saint admonishes us "Never doubt in the dark what God showed you in the light." (V.R.Edman). That implies that we can walk in the light we have known even when we cannot perceive light around us at the moment. During severe depression, we may know God's love and presence by faith even though our feelings deny it, just as we know that the sun is shining although we think it is not for us.