Sermon: "The Servant Song" (Isaiah 50:4-11)
The Prophet Isaiah
Introduction to the Servant Song
Here we see a New Speaker (cf. “Thus says the LORD”).
In this passage the Individual proclaims what Bible scholars have labeled a “Prophetic Psalm of Confidence.” It includes the Speaker’s confession of confidence and certainty that Yahweh will surely answer his request. However, it does not include “Hear my prayer, O LORD.”
The two earlier “Servant Songs," located in Isaiah 42 and 49, introduced Someone with a universal mission Who began to face opposition.
Isaiah 50 brings in a physical dimension to that opposition, opposition that results when the Servant obediently preaches and lives God’s word. It also highlights the Servant’s patient endurance by means of His implicit trust in the One who would not only help Him, but also vindicate Him before His enemies.
OK. Let’s look at the text in some detail.
Jesus: Divinely-Gifted Preacher
The "Tongue of the Learned"
I. The Servant acknowledges that the Sovereign Lord (adonay Yahweh) has given Him the “tongue of the learned” (lit. the “tongue of the disciples” (v. 4a)
A. The LORD made the Servant a wise Spokesman for Him.
1. He enabled Him to know how to speak a word of comfort and encouragement to the weary (v. 4b)
“The Servant’s commission was to provide not merely correct ideas about God, but the moral and personal rejuvenation of those who are worn out and discouraged” Read 40:29-31.
2. He also enabled Him to know when to speak to those in need (“a word in season”) [v. 4b]
3. Application: Eccl. 3:7—“A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”
Transitional statement: (The Servant mentions a second gift that He received from the Sovereign LORD).
B. Yahweh has also given Him an “ear to hear as the learned/disciples” (vv. 4c-6).
1. He “awakened” the Servant’s “ear” (v. 4c).
Lit. “He awakens [Me] morning by morning, He awakens”—This figure of speech provides a bridge between two aspects of the Servant’s life and ministry. He has the tongue of a disciple with which to speak wisely, as well as the ear of a disciple to obey God’s word.
We must keep in mind that the Servant of the LORD, the Lord Jesus, was also a human being who “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). In His state of humiliation (according to the kenosis passage in Philippians 2), He voluntarily submitted Himself to God as a slave.
2. He also “opened” the Servant’s “ear” (v. 5a; cf. Ps. 40:6-8)
a. He “heard” Yahweh’s word.
1. The Servant strongly asserts that He was not rebellious.
2. The Servant did not “turn away.” Lit. “I did not turn Myself.” He has a will set against any self-interest; He desired to do God's will alone.
3. Application: “Be a hearing-doer” (Turn to James 1:21-27)
b. He willingly suffered in obedience to God’s word (v. 6).
1. The Servant gave His back (to the professional scourgers).
This verb hints at His control over the situation. He regards the attack as justified based on the fact that He was the sin-bearer.
Q. In what way was the beating justified?
2. The Servant “gave” His cheeks to “those who make bare.”
In that culture, tearing out someone’s beard shows that you have real contempt for him. Cf. 2 Samuel 10:4—The son of a Syrian king shaved off half of the beards of David’s servants.
3. The Servant “did not hide” His face from spitting.
4. Application: “Commit your soul to Him in doing good” (Turn to 1 Peter 4:14-19)
Transitional statement: (Not only did the Servant acknowledge that His prophetic gifts were from God, but He also demonstrated trust in the LORD’s future help in His time of need.)
Confidence in Future Help from the LORD
II. The Servant confesses confidence in the LORD’s future help and vindication (vv. 7-9). He will help Me; I will not be disgraced.
A. Assured of His help, the Servant “set His face like a flint.”
Read Luke 9:51—“Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up—a reference to the entire death/resurrection/ascension Event—that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. This action shows rock-solid determination to complete His mission
B. He knows that He will not be ashamed. [More emphatic that “I will not be disgraced.”]
C. He knows His Justifier is near, or “Near (emphatic) is My Vindicator” (v. 8a).
1. Type of courtroom environment similar to the “trial speech” recorded in verses 1-3
2. Note the legal terminology-- definite sequence followed, as in a court’s proceedings
D. Knowing his adversaries are no match for His Helper-Advocate (v. 9a), He rests assured of victory. [cf. Romans 8 rhetorical questions with the ones here]
E. He knows those who condemn Him will be “eaten up” (v. 9; “Images of gradual but inevitable destruction.”
F. Application: Recite Romans 8:1
Transitional Statement: (Having stated His future expectations, the Servant now turns to instruct two very different groups among the Judeans).
Exhortation from the Servant
III. The Servant exhorts God-fearers as well as those who disobey Him (vv. 10-11).
I prefer the following translation to the one found in the NKJV: “Who among you is a fearer of the LORD who obeys the voice of His Servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and lean on his God."
A. He identifies a first group—God-fearers (v. 10).
1. “Fearer of Yahweh”—A believing Israelite who departs from evil.
2. They obey the voice of His Servant.
3. They currently live or walk as captives in the “darkness” of Babylon.
B. He tells them to trust and have confidence in the LORD’s “name” (v. 10b).
“Name”—This word signifies the LORD’s character, as He has revealed it to His people.
We must imitate the servant who exemplifies this character trait.
C. He then identifies a second group—the disobedient unrighteous (v. 11).
1. “Those who kindle a fire”—rather than trust in the light of the LORD, they prefer to rely on themselves for “light in the dark places.”
2. They equip themselves with firebrands
a. One trusted commentator understands the word “brands” to refer to “blasphemies hurled at the Servant.”
b. Word is derived from Syrian, Aramaic, Arabic and Akkadian words that speak of something that is shot or hurled.
D. He satirically directs them to pursue their own paths (v. 11b). Cf. “Walk” in darkness of the righteous who trust
E. He warns them of future torment (v. 11c).
1. This judgment will come from “My hand” ("My hand" placed first in the text, emphasizing its importance).
2. This torment will occur after they “lie down,” and speaks of final punishment.
© 2014 glynch1