Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away. Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.
The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back…(Isaiah 50:1-4)
The first three verses of Isaiah 50 set the context for the third Servant Song, that of the Lord’s faithful disciple. It is a word from God to Israel, in the time of exile.
Young points out that by addressing the exiles as children; as though distinct from Israel, their mother, they might be able to objectively ponder the reasons for their own sad condition. Why are we here? Does this mean God lacks the power or compassion to deliver us?
Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away
The implied answer to the question, has God divorced Israel, or sold her to His creditors for an unpaid bill , is ‘No’. God has not given Israel a bill of divorcement, nor does He have creditors. God is Israel’s husband, and still loves her. But when God came to her, She didn’t receive Him,
Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer?
The New Testament echoes this in the prologue of the gospel of John,
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.He came unto his own, and his own received him not.(John 1:10-11)
But in the Servant, Israel offers up the response to God that is fitting, for He is the ideal disciple, fully embodying the piety and service Israel was called to live out. He speaks out to Israel and to us, from Isaiah’s prophecy;
Each of the four verses begin with the phrase, ‘the Lord God’, Adonai YHWH’, the Sovereign,personal infinite,self existant God, is the one who is the Servant’s focus, and empowerment.
The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.
The Servant is personally taught by God, he awakens each morning to hear what ‘the LORD GOD will speak to Him, for his ears are attuned to the Holy One.
The phrase ‘morning by morning’, speaks of His ongoing dependence upon God. All is not laid out at once, the Servant must rely on the ‘daily bread’ set before Him by the Father.
He is ever attentive for he has prepared his life for total obedience to that voice.
The Servant takes the Words he hears, and speaks them in season, at the God appointed time and place, to those who are weary and heavy laden. His is a ministry of the Word to those bent under the heavy load of sin and guilt.
The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back…
It is the LORD GOD, ‘Adonai YWHW’ who speaks to the Servant. He has his full attention, morning by morning. There is not a hint of hesitation in him, he is listening and ready to comply. He doesn’t draw back, there is no apostasy in his soul, he is not rebellious.
One thinks of similar scriptures, such as Psalm 40:6-8;
Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart…
We can’t help but remember the Messiah’s description of himself as a “Father pleaser” in the gospel of John,
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.(John 4:34)
And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.(John 8:29)
Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.(John 5:19-20)
Finally, a man who will truly put God first! Finally true piety, real devotion to God! On Israel’s behalf, this one will render the true worship, and complete service that is due the Father! At last, a human being a representative for all of us, who really does,“Love the Lord His God, with all of his heart, soul ,mind and strength!”
A life of utter dependence upon God, and of daily hearkening to His voice, is the Servant’s education. His calling is to bring the Word to the weary ones, burdened by sin, and left hungry and thirsty of soul, by the emptiness of life without God. These are the “bruised reeds” and “dimly burning flax” of the first Servant Song. To them He will bring a Word from the infinite, personal, covenant keeping Creator/Redeemer.
But the prophet predicts that the Servant’s task will be personally costly, in this world which is so hostile to ‘the LORD God’. His love of God, and faithfulness to the appointed task will expose him to humiliating and deadly abuse. The world which rejects God, but is unable to lash out at Him directly, will be given the opportunity to express its hatred and contempt of God in the person of the Servant.
I gave My back to those who struck Me,
And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard;
I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
Notice however, that the Servant is not passive in this suffering, he speaks as though he is allowing these outrages to occur to His person. He “gives” his back to the smiter, his “cheek” to the painful and degrading plucking out of his beard. He doesn’t hide his face from the reproach, but faces it resolutely.
But the Servant doesn’t answer back, nor does he run away, or seek to avoid the bitter cost of discipleship to ‘the LORD God’. Centuries later, Peter the Apostle would recall, as an eyewitness to these things, the response of Jesus,
Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:(I Peter 2:21-23)
When the Saviour was mistreated and abused in the service of God, He looked to his God , the one who knows all, takes everything into account and who “judges righteously”. In all of his trials,the Servant throws himself entirely on his God.
Confident in the Divine help given in his trials, the Servant knows that He will not ultimately be disgraced. He can “set his face like flint”, fixing his heart on the eventual vindication given to him by the LORD God. His justifier is with Him. The phrase begins with an emphatic word, “Near is the one who justifies me!”.
In fact the Servant goes further, He challenges his legal detractors to find fault with Him. The song takes the perspective of one who has been wrongly condemned, but who is confident of Divine vindication. Man condemns him, but God himself overturns the verdict.
He is near who justifies Me;
Who will contend with Me?
Let us stand together.
Who is My adversary?
Let him come near Me.
The Word “Adversary” is a legal term, which is literally “Master of Judgment”. The Servant cries out, Who is my prosecutor?
The Servant’s enemies are real, they seek to harm him, and bring a charge against him. They seek to destroy him physically, legally, reputationally, they would obliterate Him they would have him in infamy. But God over turns their verdict, vindicating his own servant.
But what becomes of his enemies? Eventual disintegration and decay is their lot. Like a worn out ,moth-eaten piece of clothing, the enemies of the Servant will fade away, their arguments against him also, will be shown to be full of holes, their importance and credibility will collapse like a rotted structure.
The Servant sets himself as an example to all who would follow Him.Like Him, the servant’s followers also fear the LORD, they listen to the Servant’s voice, as He listened to the LORD God’s voice, morning by morning.
For his sake, they also will suffer the same false accusation, degrading treatment, abuse and hatred that he endured. In their own passage through the darkness of this world’s hostility to God, and the Servant, they will have to imitate His trust in God.
“Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys the voice of His Servant?
Who walks in darkness
And has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord
And rely upon his God.
But there are others who refuse the Light brought by the Servant. To them the Servant warns,
Look, all you who kindle a fire,
Who encircle yourselves with sparks:
Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled—
This you shall have from My hand:
You shall lie down in torment
The whole world lies in darkness. The Servant shows his followers a path through the darkness of this world, but to those who disregard the Servant, they are forced to light their own fires. “Walk in your own light and see where it leaves you in the end!”, but as a dreadful consequence, the end is decreed as a direct punishment from His own hand, “You shall lie down in torment!”.