Lecture 13: Servant Passages
Course: Old Testament Theology
Lecture: Servant Passages
We’re talking about the development of the promise. You had really seen the foundations and, and the offering of the promise yesterday in the law of the former prophets. Most of your reading for yesterday and today have been in the prophets and writings, if not all of it, but certainly a good bit of it. And, so we’re getting closer to what you actually read. You had two readings in the flowering of the Old Testament theology.
The one being from Walt Keiser who addresses promise in, uh, his theology. And you learned about his book on, uh, messianic prophecy and his approach to Old Testament theology being one of promise and fulfillment. Which is in that old salvation history school.
You also read Ronald Clemmets who’s attempting to show that promise is an aspect of law and the prophets. It’s not that again, that the law somehow gets its weight on our back until we can get to the prophets and they can get us some promise. But the law particularly through its blessings emphasis is also promissory. And then of course he comes to the prophets he, he does talk about the promises there in more detail.
We’re drawing a portrait really of the Messiah, and we’re having to pull several, uh, threads as we go. But Isaiah 11 is about as hopeful and soaring as was Isaiah 9. And it is again a Davidic text, but let’s look at this passage. It’s most famous for the lion and lamb imagery that occurs here. That, uh, many of you would recognize.
Verse 1 sets forth the Davidic aspect right away. “A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse.” Jesse is… Who, who’s Jesse? Sure. David’s father. So it is Davidic from the first line. “And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”
Here are the aspects. “The spirit of the Lord will rest on him.” And though I cannot say that something like Jesus’ baptism, when the Holy Spirit descends from Heaven is a fulfillment of this sort of scripture it certainly reminds one of it, if not.
“The spirit of the Lord will rest on him. This will be a spirit of wisdom and understanding.” We’ve already talked about wisdom and the potential Christology of Proverbs 8, but certainly the New Testament indicates that Jesus is the wisdom of God.
You will have a spirit of wisdom and understanding of council and strength. The same individual then who has been called wonderful councilor in Chapter 9 here is going to have council and strength. The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. A complete wisdom person.
So if you read the book of Proverbs, wouldn’t that just about be the complete person? Wisdom, understanding, council, strength, knowledge, fear of the Lord. And, so this spirit of the Lord will rest on this individual, and these will be the characteristics.
“He will delight in the Lord, will not judge by his eyes see nor make a decision by what his ears hear. But with righteousness will judge the poor and will decide with fairness for the afflicted of the Earth.“
Sounds rather just, wise and good. You might say a bit passive at that point, if you will. But might be a fair comment if you think it’s too passive. Second half of Verse 4 — “And he will strike the Earth with the rod of his mouth. And with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.”
If all he must do to slay the wicked is open his mouth and speak or breathe — that’s power! Not unlike Genesis 1, but certainly in line with what the ancient near-eastern kings were able to do. With just a word, cause life or death
“And righteousness will be the belt about his loins. And faithfulness the belt about his waist.” So this is quite the character trait. It is a king who’s really an ideal wise man. So, in effect, it’s not only that God’s greater son. And greater — as Jesus would say, “Greater than David is here.”
But all this wisdom talk might remind you of what king? Sure. So on the one hand you say, “Is this talking about Solomon?”
Well, if you’re a Canonical reader you know that 1st Kings 3 through 11 depict the life of Solomon. He’s not fully wise, is he? Why not? How do we know?
He asked for wisdom and got it, but does he always exercise it? Notably when he doesn’t? Idolatry by Chapter 11 of 1st Kings.
And, so understand that this text would say, “Okay. Someone who is greater than Solomon.” All these characteristics… So if you wanna talk about the savior it would be nice to talk about Jesus being, having the spirit of the Lord resting on him. Having wisdom, understanding, council, strength, knowledge, fear, delight in the fear of the Lord, fair judgment, not judging the-by the way human beings judge. By simply what your eyes see, what your ears hear.
“He will judge with righteousness the poor. Stand for the afflicted on Earth.” This is quite a list. And yet have the power to strike the Earth with the rod of his mouth. That he has the power to speak and have judgment become…
And then an ideal scene that has repeated in other texts that are clearly at the end of time when — such as Isaiah 65 and Isaiah 25. “If death has been removed we are passed things on this Earth.”
And in Isaiah 25 we have similar imagery. “The wolf will dwell with the lamb. Leopard will lie down with the young goat. The calf, the young lion and the fat lean together. And a little boy will lead them.”
And send a first grader out to lead the lion to his meal. Also, “The bear will graze.” It’s like one of these digitally created movies. We’re gonna put the bear and the cow… We’re gonna put the lion eating straw like an ox. Nursing child. Playing by the home of the cobra. Things that just make you, your eyes bug out, your hands go stiff. Things that you say, “No. we must stop this.”
See, there’s no threat. The reason you worry is you don’t want a kid playing with a snake is because there’s a real threat here. So in this way creation has moved from creation through sin to recreation, right? There’s no evidence that creation was at odds with one another until sin entered.
Verse 9 we will talk about human beings and animals [phonetic] I suppose together. They will not destroy and all by holy mountain for the Earth will have the knowledge of the Lord as the waters covered the sea. Beautiful image there.
So the knowledge of the Lord, relationship with him, delight and fear of the Lord and these sort of things will be common place. Not rare. And that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse. Who will stand as a signal for the peoples and his resting place will be glorious.
Now, here we bring together promises that will be made both to David and Abraham, right? This is an indication that all nations are blessed through the root of Jesse who is a descendant of Abraham. Stand as a signal or as a standard for the people. And he will give a resting place to the nations as well as to the people of Israel.
Isaiah has an extensive interest in nations outside of Israel. For instance, if I turn over to Isaiah 19, Verse 23 which is one of the most startling passages along these lines in the Bible. There are others in Isaiah, but Isaiah 19:23…
Talking about long-term, future events and this context starts up higher even in Verse 19. Isaiah 19:19, and I’ll start Verse 23. “And that day there will be a highway to Egypt to Assyria. And the Assyrians will come into Egypt. And the Assyrians into Assyria. And the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.”
That text has already shown us the Lord is making himself known to Egypt in Verse 21, “The Egyptians will know the Lord.” So by 24, when the Assyrians are worshipping with the Egyptians they’re worshiping the Lord together.
In that day, Verse 24, “Israel will be a third party with Egypt and Assyria. A blessing in the midst of the Earth whom the Lord of Moses blessed. Blessed is Egypt, my people. And Assyria the work of my hands. And Israel my inheritance.”
Well, if we know anything about Egyptian religion and the way they treated Israel, if we know anything about Assyria and their activities during Isaiah’s era — this is a startling passage. That there is salvation and grace to such an extent. For these nations in the future.
But really they’re just a third, Israel’s a third, they’re a third, et cetera. So part of the long term aspect of the Messiah’s work is blessings for all nations and this is indicative. Not just that David’s going to be able, or his descendants are going to be able to carry out a military campaign and defeat somebody and have them under their control, but that this individual will bless these people.
Now this passage presses way beyond what any normal expectation, any statement in the scriptures about an Earthly king. When you read Deuteronomy 17: 14-20, we noted that one yesterday. And those are the standards for kings in Israel.
And Deuteronomy 17:14-20… There’s the expectation that this king needs the word of God nearby to keep him straight. That the temptation for this individual be to use the office to, you know, line their pockets. Help themselves. To seize more power.
But in this text there’s no such temptation. This king is going to be flawless, righteous, wise, good and just, et cetera, et cetera. This must be a messianic image, an ideal image because after all, again… This is not what God thinks human is capable of.
This is quite a portrait, and if you are a first century person expecting these things to happen when the Messiah comes on Earth the first time… Again, you would be disappointed if you thought these things were going to happen not at the end of time but in the midst of time. This would be a problem.
I guess what I would argue is Isaiah 11, its imagery and the imagery that’s like it in Isaiah 25 is pretty clearly eschatological, in the end of time. But the question then would be — what’s the Messiah going to do — These are things done at the end of time. What will the Messiah do in time? During normal human events.
And that was a question that even some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, whatever all their origins are. It was interesting that at least one of the Dead Sea Scrolls indicates that the Messiah will come and be killed by the gentiles. That was their reading of the scripture. Maybe it was just there, maybe their discouragement on a specific day.
But remember these are the three… We’ve gone over Isaiah 7, Isaiah 9 and Isaiah 11. Are three fairly substantial messianic texts. I’m not saying we’ve exhausted the first part of Isaiah’s.
Comments on this, but we would go onto some other passages. Questions or comments? Or, um complementary. With an E, not with an I… Filling out this passage…
Some background discussion from a woman is inaudible]
Dr. Paul House: Uh-huh. Isaiah 19, 19 to 25 would be the, the larger context.
Some background discussion from a woman is inaudible]
Dr. Paul House: Oh. I think so. And remember 11:10 it says the nations. The peoples. That’s just the broadest possible statement. Isaiah 19 is a specific example of a broader principle in Isaiah 11, and yeah. Then look at Isaiah 11:11, “Then it will happen on that day again. The Lord will again recover the second time with his hand the remnant of his people who remain from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath…”
Now that’s from, for the… “He will lift up a standard for the nation a symbol to banish ones of Israel.” So some would argue this statement of all these nations is really just to get the remnant back. But that isn’t what 11:10 indicates. 11:10 seems to be a general statement. Then you get specific ones. In 11:11 and also in Isaiah 19.
Yeah, I think though it, it — what you said is a sound principle. It’s almost like this. If the Lord has a place for Assyria and Egypt, alongside Israel… That’s Israel’s most ancient friend slash foe. And its most recent friend slash foe. But with Assyria, I mean it just covers their entire history.
And then as you develop your Biblical theology you’re going to see that God is not only the judge of all these nations, but he is the one reaching out to all the nations. For instance, Isaiah 13-23. All those chapters are judgment oracles. On the nations.
Same thing in Jeremiah 46-51. You have judgment oracles. So God is interested and will judge these other nations. But they’re also passages — this one, Zephaniah 3:8-9 which the Lord purifies a remnant from all the nations.
So remember even as you go down in Biblical history and then on into, near the first century… If you’ve heard it said that the Jews just hates all gentiles and they didn’t care ‘em and… It is simply not true. Now, it is simply not true to say that there were no Jewish people like that. Because my guess is there is some evidence of that, plus they’re human being.
Exclusivistic traits and racist traits, I don’t think, are exclusive to any era. It’s a human problem. But remember Daniel had a witness in the, uh, Babylonian court. Jeremiah had a witness in Egypt. Jonah had a witness in Nineveh. And then, remember, by the first century, there were Jewish missionaries going about, trying to proselytize gentiles.
Remember what Jesus said? He did not doubt, nor criticize their effort. He said, “You go over land and sea to make one convert. You make them twice as much [phonetic] the son of yourself.” But he’s indicating that at that point in time there were people that were making extreme effort.
Plus, in every synagogue where Paul went, with home did he have the most success? What’s the category of people? — And who were the God fearers? Gentiles who had already attached themselves to a synagogue, either through what we would call evangelism or through their interest in knowing about God, as the Jews worshipped him.
So I’ve often wondered why, in the New Testament — not that Paul never — wondered why Paul made use of the text that he does. About God’s universal concern. I’ve often wondered why he didn’t make more of ‘em. Why he didn’t incite more of ‘em.
My expectation is that Paul was engaged in missionary activity that was not holy unusual in the ancient world. They would not have been shocked that he was there talking to gentiles. They would have been the God fearers. They just simply disagreed with his reading of who Jesus was. Which just simply caused rocks to bounce off of him, some jail time and that sort of thing.
So, the Bible itself has an international interest and a mission interest. And the first century Jewish, there were elements of that, that did too. They were not all exclusivists.
But if you’re gonna talk about exclusivists, they were most of them houses in Jerusalem. And where did most of the Gospels? Good h-healthy portion of them take place in Jerusalem and in Byron. So we’re going to see the universal aspect even more in the next set of texts.
Yes, sir, go ahead!
Dr. Paul House: I would think that it starts with salvation and is true of Biblical faith at any era. It starts with the relationship with God. That’s the first blessing, and all other blessings flow from that one.
In other words, if any nation, Israel or others, would have a relationship with God — personally or socially — and live out the standards that are in the scriptures, their whole land will be blessed. Be blessed with justice, be blessed with fairness, be blessed with integrity, be blessed in their law courts, be blessed in their homes, be blessed — In other words, the blessing starts with salvation and flows there from the words of God, the teachings of God.
And, so that’s the progressive blessing. It’s the same as progressive blessing for Israel or any other nation that knows the Lord. The, the blessing begins with knowing the Lord, but is extended through the actual putting into practice of the standards of God.
And, so that’s what I think the blessings are for any person or for any nation. So I don’t know if that answered your question.
But where there is salvation — this is what I think the Bible teaches. Where there is salvation — and let me be honest — and knowledge of God’s ways. Because it’s possible to say that someone can be evangelized but not know anything but Jesus saves and you know, the basics of the Gospel and not know the standards of scripture. You know, we’ve talked about that.
But where there is salvation an knowledge of God there will be discipleship. If there is discipleship there will be blessing to the individual. And then the more individuals are living out the standards of discipleship is the extent to which that country will be blessed by God in the ways that he promised it’d be blessed.
Oh, no. I don’t think there’s an inevitable progression of blessing across generations. This promises to you and your children is great promise, but it is also a great responsibility. The indication is the failure to appropriate these blessings could be by either you or your children.
Every parent — and I think you said you had four children? And “beginning their [laughs] slide into adolescence” I think you said. Every parent would like to guarantee their ongoing blessings of God. At least in your own family and everybody else. We’d like to believe — I’m not saying that’s the genesis of his question, I’m just using an example.
My father used to say, he had the following prayer. He was really frustrated one day because he had six children. And I suppose with the exception of one child with through a genetic deficiency, not to any choice of her own, caused enough difficulty for us all. Hardship. Struggle. I have a mentally handicapped sister. But other than that, you’re talking about extraordinarily easy growing up.
They had six children. And to my knowledge they had one of ‘em break a bone, have a major surgery. Very idealic really when you talk about it. He started — he began to experience the real world. As he got older and he was frustrated.
And he said, “You know, I always prayed that the Lord would not allow any of my children to suffer for any of my mistakes.” I said, “That’s not a prayer God can answer.”
I said, “And let me speak on behalf of only myself, but at least one of your six children know. Not only that but you suffered for my sins.”
“You are not a sinlessly perfect father and I was not a sinlessly perfect son.”
So, as you know, you’ve heard it said, each generation has to. But you’re exactly right. If a nation takes for granted, whether it’s United States, England, Kenya, Israel, whatever. If that nation takes for granted the notion that because the last generation was faithful, the next three will be fine, and that the progression will always go upward… It’s just simply not Biblical.
There’s a sense that we wish we could do that for the next generation, but we can’t. Not only that. We would like to think that a small group of Christians could cause major blessings to come to a city, to a country or whatever.
This too is not the case. It is only really, only when a certain number of people are applying the principles of God, that a community is altered. Anyone who's ever lived in the frustration of, say being the only Christian within a home whether it's in a marriage or a child or somebody. You can't turn around in a substitive way... Necessarilly that whole marriage, that whole family, that whole clan, that whole community. There has to be a critical mass of people serving the Lord. The Lord will bless that individual, but there's not necessarily so.
If you've noted that — here's a country that was once great for God and is no longer or at least is in serious decline... It is often true that the next generation, basically, it was like the book of Judges, "There are rows of generations who did not know the Lord." I've often heard it taught, "Well, that means their parents must've failed to teach them."
I've lived long enough to understand their parents might have spent day and night trying to teach them. I don't say it bitterly. I got a good, my kid serving the Lord right now and I praise God for that! But I've also seen people raised in the same household, under a lot of the same principles. I mean, I know two individuals like that.
One of 'em served the Lord and one of 'em not. You hand around long enough you can see it in identical twins. So there is always that factor. It is not inevitable, but where people do serve the Lord and come under his kingship, and under his principles, and under his standards. He will not only empower them as we've talked about before. To do his will. He will bless them. And always the individual and then as a group.
So in a way if you ask me, "What is the awesome responsibility of a church beyond evangelism, beyond everything else?" Truly, communities can only be blessed, finally with righteousness and fairness, and justice and love. And kindness and all these other things. In the home, in the community, in the schools and everywhere else. To the extent that the church is faithful and living out the principles it believes and expounding them to their families and to the community. Then the results are up to the Lord.
That's the factor I can't say, I can’t — I've heard some say, "If you'll do X then you will have result Y." That belongs to God and his timing. This I don't understand, but I just know it.
So if you say to me, "If I will have" say "revival planning. If we will do such and such planning we will be guaranteed such and such results." No. I can always guarantee some good things that will happen from preparation, but I can't guarantee. And I would break with affinity at that point.
Some will say, "Well, what about the Graham crusade?" What I'm going to say to that is "Yes. If people got as gifted in those way, in those extraordinary ways with such preparation and they get the cooperation of the whole community, I can say, 'Yeah. That guarantees results.'"
And that's a good thing, and it will happen to you in your ministry as well, but I could also guarantee that there is no guarantee on that. I don't think the progression — I'm not an evolutionist in historical theory. I don't believe it's absolutely going to get better and better for any kind of Christians. Nor am I a defeatist. I don't think it's "You guys can go out there and ministry if you want."
You're going to "WHAM!" take it to the head. I guarantee you. It's not going to do any good. I'm not one of those either. So, those things are in God's hand, but the faithfulness is an aspect of human responsibility. I can't guarantee the blessings that I want because I don't even know what's good for me. That's my problem. Or what's best for me.
But this king does... And remember, in Second Samuel 7, we had emphasis on king and son and servant, right? So in Isaiah 42 and following you have four passages known as the Servant Song. And the New Testament takes these messianic.
Many commentators have said that in the original context, they weren’t. Because a lot of commentators agree with first-century interpreters that would say, “No text can be messianic if it asks the savior to be a servant and a sufferer because kings aren’t servants and sufferers.”
I heard that when I went to seminary and first heard these texts [30:30] expounded and thought about it. But I have to tell you, I don’t think the premise is correct. David was certainly a king who suffered. And at his best was a servant, and is called “the Servant of the Lord.”
Hezekiah, though not the Messiah, not the – he is a Davidic descendant. Read Second Kings 18. The text starts with the fact that he’s a good and righteous ruler. He loved the Lord, got rid of the idols, had religious reform. And the next thing you read: for his faithfulness, because of his faithfulness, the Assyrians came and laid siege to Jerusalem.
So that, whatever it was that Paul first penned, “All those that live godly in Jesus Christ will suffer persecution.” Hezekiah said, “Oh. Yes.” This is true. He suffered. And yes, he was not a flawless person. There was pride, as we read in Isaiah 39.
But he suffered illness, he suffered persecution, he was a king who suffered. So the premise that kings don’t suffer, or that ideal kings wouldn’t suffer – I don’t think holds water historically and Biblically. In fact, you have to wonder, what sort of king would not suffer with his people.
Now I admit, Solomon wasn’t known for his extensive pain tolerance. Josiah, my goodness, we just don’t have righteous kings who have an easy life in the Old Testament any more than we have righteous prophets who have an easy life. Or righteous individuals in general.
So I want to start with a premise that maybe the opposite is true. I don’t want to overstate it, but maybe the opposite is true. To have a Davidic king, how could they not suffer? Because righteous kings are called upon to suffer the way righteous prophets, righteous priests, righteous – if you want to use this term – lay people, whatever. They’re called upon, to suffer for the Lord.
A second issue is always been the identity of the servant. Because if you look at 41:8, “Because of you Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen.” Another encouragement passage. Israel is explicitly called “God’s servant”.
So the argument has been, by some, in Isaiah 43-55, the servant is Israel. And the New Testament appropriates those passages that really are about Israel. And they apply them to Jesus. That’s one of the arguments.
The identity of the servant is really Israel. And the New Testament appropriates this passage to Jesus. I have seen non-conservative scholars make that argument and say, you know, it’s ultimately fulfilled in Jesus as a corporate representative of Israel.
I’ve heard conservative scholars say, “Yes. It’s about Israel, but frankly, it’s ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.” So they kind of agree.
There are scholars who say that the servant starts as Israel, and then develops and revolves into, from a bad servant to a good servant. Who is an individual, who is the Messiah.
The option I will take goes a little bit differently than that. In the text, we start with Israel as a servant, and Israel is a blind and deaf servant. A servant who is marred, a servant who is discouraged, in Chapter 41. We’ve already dealt with the discouragement factor in Isaiah 40.
And, so God calls Jacob his servant. Verse 9 of Chapter 41, “You whom I have taken from the ends of the Earth and called from the remotest parts. I’ve chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear for I am with you.” See, it’s another comfort passage. You’re my servant, but… Says Verse 14, it’s – this is not language that is comforting today, but it was then – “Do not fear you worm, Jacob.”
I would assume a worm has cause to be afraid. But not here. So remember, at this point Israel has been identified as a servant. But then Chapter 42, Verse 1. Without identifying the servant, the text doesn’t speak of a group of people but as an individual. “Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one and who my soul delights. I put my spirit upon you.” Where have we read that idea before? My spirit being upon him? Isaiah 11, sure.
So within the context of Isaiah, we heard that phrase before in a clear messianic text. I don’t know anybody who thinks Isaiah 11’s not a messianic text. So you hear that imagery, already.
And one of the arguments that Walter Keizer and J.A. Meter are gonna make, that the same characteristics that you have in Chapters 7, 9 and 11, a lot of these phrases are applied to the servant passages that we’re gonna look at.
“I’ll put my spirit upon him. He will bring forth justice to the nations.” See, again, we got an international concern here for justice for the nations. “He will not cry out or raise his voice, nor make his voice heard in the street. A bruise reed he will not break. A burning wick he will not extinguish.” In other words, he will encourage people, he’s not gonna snuff out what little light’s left.
“He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until he has established justice on the Earth. The coastline’s waiting expectantly for his law.” And then you have creation theology. “And God has called him in righteousness.”
And Verse 6, “I am the Lord who called you in righteousness. I will hold you and watch over you. I will appoint you as a covenant to the people.” That’s an interesting phrase. “A covenant to the people, a light to the nation to open blind eyes to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from prisons. I am the Lord. That is my name. I will not give glory to another, nor my praise to graven images. Behold. The former things have come and past. Now I declare new things. Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”
In other words, that’s the phraseology that’s used throughout Isaiah 40-48 to speak about the future and new things.
Note the emphasis on the term servant, on God’s spirit, on justice, on the nations, on righteousness, on helping the weak and on creation theology. And go back, when you have enough time, and compare Isaiah 42:1-9, what is said about this servant with Isaiah 11:1-10. What is said about the shoot of Jesse there. And you will find many, many correspondences.
So who is the servant? If the servant has all of these messianic qualities it seems we have an individual. So we have Israel as God’s servant, we have an individual Messiah as God’s servant.
If you go to Chapter 42, Verse 18. How is the Israel servant doing? “Hear you deaf and look you blind that you may see, who is blind but my servant or so deaf and my messenger whom I send. Who is blind and is at peace he’s blind for he is a servant of the lord.” For he has seen many things, but you don’t observe them. Your ears are open, but you don’t hear. We know how that goes. [laughs] But…
So, Israel as a servant is not so effective, is it? There are some within Israel who are attempting to help them be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, that sort of thing. But it’s universal.
Chapter 49, Verses 1-7. The second so called “Servant Song.” 42:1-9 being the first. Who is a servant? 49, Verse 1, “Listen to me a while and pay attention, you people from afar. The Lord called me from the womb.” How many different people can you name from the Bible, that God was dealing with them from the womb or called them from the womb? Name a couple.
Jeremiah is the one that comes to mind, as he came to your mind. John the Baptist. Any other Old Testament imagery from…I don’t think think Moses is mentioned from the womb. Samson is. Jacob, the father of them all, is.
Samuel’s a child of promise. So this’s a very typical way of saying that from the very beginning I’ve been called. “From the body of my mother he named me. He’s made my mouth like a sharp sword [phonetic] who is a speaker. In the shadow of his hand he has concealed me. Made me a select arrow. He has hidden me in his quiver. He has said to me, ‘You’re my servant, Israel, in whom I will show my glory.’ But I said,” Israel’s speaking, “‘But I’ve toiled in vain. I’ve spent my strength for nothing, in vanity.’ Yet surely the just is due and my reward is with my God.”
So God has called Israel from the womb, from the very beginning. And, yet Israel, his servant, has been discouraged, believing that God has not give them their justice. Remember Chapter 40, same swords of complaint. Now Verse 5. I find these Verses to be crucial.
“And now the Lord, who formed me from the womb to be his servant,” you think he’s still talking about Israel, right? If you’re just reading along, but now read the next phrases. “To bring Jacob back to him, so that Israel might be gathered to him.” Wait a minute! We now have a servant, formed from the womb to be a servant, that is not Israel who also was formed in the womb to be God’s servant. But someone trying to bring Israel back.
“For I am [phonetic] honored to decide and the Lord, my God is my strength.” He says, “It is too small a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob?” So let me stop here and make sure you understand.
You got a servant ministering to the servant. You have a servant ministering to the servant to bring, servant Israel back to God. And isn’t this the Biblical movement. To the Jew first and also to the gentile. That God’s trying to work with Israel, first.
But it’s too small a thing. Back to large question about basically universality of gospels. “It’s too small a thing to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved one of Israel. I’ll also make you a light to the nations. So that my salvation may reach to the ends of the Earth.”
Right. It’s speaking to the second servant in this passage, the one ministering to the first servant. It’s too small a thing that you should raise up the first servant. I’m going to make you a light to the gentiles.
So if someone asks, “What’s the identity of the servant? You have servant Israel, you seem to have this individual.” I say, “Right… right…” And that’s in keeping with what happens in the scriptures.
The servant of the Lord, who is Jesus, ministered to the servant of the Lord, who is Israel. Trying to raise him up, and did raise up some of them, right? The disciples, the apostles were Jewish.
The first Christians were Jewish. It doesn’t mean there weren’t any gentiles, but “I’ll make you a light to the nations. So that my salvation may reach to the end of the Earth, thus says the Lord, the redeemer of Israel and its holy one. To the despised one, to the one abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers. Kings will see and arise. Princes will bow down. Because of the Lord who is faithful, the holy one of Israel who has chosen you. Rulers will bow down to this one who is abhorred by the nation.”
So the servant will minister to Israel, but we’re also beginning to sense that this is not going to be easy if this one is going to be abhorred by the nation. So we have this servant who has the same characteristics as the king in Chapter 11. Has some of the same characteristics of the king, who’s now ministering to Israel to bring them back to God. And if that’s not enough, he’s going to be a light to the gentiles.
All the nations are going to be blessed, back to Abraham problems, back to where the Abraham and David covenants come together. Chapter 50 and Verses 4 through 11, and the next servant’s song. By the way these servant songs were first identified and set apart by Bernard Duhm, D-U-H-M, one of the early form critics.
Chapter 50 and Verses 4 through 11, the suffering aspect enters in prominently now. “The Lord God has given me the tongue of disciples and I may know how to sustain the weary with the word. He awakens me morning by morning, he awakens my error [phonetic] to listlessness and disciple. The Lord has opened my ear and I was not disobedient, nor did I turn back. I gave my back to those who strike. And my cheeks to those who pluck out the beard. I did not cover my face from humiliation and spitting. For the Lord helps me therefore I am not disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like a flint and I know I will not be ashamed.” Sounds like Job, there doesn’t it?
“He who vindicates me is near. Who contend to me with let us stand up to each other. Who has a case against me let him draw near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me. Who is he that condemns me. Behold, they will all wear out like a garment. The moth will eat them. Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of his servant. That walks in darkness, and has no light. Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”
So one of two things is going on here. Either this is there servant because it defines as who’s listening to the servant. And this servant is giving his back to those who strike him, his cheeks to those that pluck out the beard. Willing to be suffered, humiliation and spitting. Or one who testifies to the servant, but either way this suffering’s entering in.
I used to have a beard. I want to get a different picture on this book jacket cuz I don’t ever intend to have a beard again, but I gotta tell ya every time I’d read that and consider what it’d be like just to have somebody yank the — [laughs] Pain, disgrace. This is what the servant is willing to endure to be the disciple of the Lord, to be the follower of the Lord.
And you recall, you know, later messianic passage Zekeriah 13 where they strike the shepherd and the sheep are scattered. I don’t want to do Isaiah 52 and 3 quickly, so if we need to we’ll go to a break early, but remember that suffering is not something that the kings can avoid.
And that Isaiah 50 and 49. In 49, the [phonetic] servant is abhorred by the nation. In Isaiah 50, that person endures suffering. So they’re not universally appreciated for their ministry to the servant Israel. The servant Messiah is not universally appreciated by the servant Israel unless we say, “He is appreciated fully by the remnant.” The people who love the Lord appreciate.
We’re already beginning to ask a question that-that is a new covenant question. How we going to define Israel then? Who is Israel anyway? Paul’s still asking that question by, uh, Romans 2, isn’t he? Who is a Jew?
None the less, the servant suffers and as you know, in Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12 you have the most famous Servant Song. Where the suffering servant is set forth, and the aspects of the Servant Song, and the personality traits — not only the servant song, but of the king passages, all come to fruition here. We will look at that after the break.
But Isaiah 53 is absolutely one of the most cited passages in the New Testament, and so I think pages 292 and 293, where I give just, at least a brief report of how the New Testament writers cite these texts we’ve been looking at. We’ll look at those as well.
You’re going to see that there’s a heavy concentration. Pages 292 and 293, there’s a heavy concentration of New Testament writers citing these texts we’ve just been looking at. And it seems that Jesus saw these texts as a pattern for his own ministry. And we will, uh, look at that, uh, momentarily.
But the New Testament writers seem to say, pretty clearly, that the first few passages we looked at in Isaiah, express what the Messiah will do long term. And the passages we’ve been looking at, 42, 49, and 50, express. And also Isaiah 61, as far as that goes, express what the savior was going to do, what the Messiah was going to do short term, during his lifetime.
So that seems to me to be the way the New Testament works with these issues. And they seem to expect that this will be an acceptable pattern. And, so I’ve often heard it overstated I think, in sermons and theology and in New Testament classes I’ve had. That exonerates all your teachers.
I can’t exonerate all your [phonetic] dean. Cause I was one of his students, but I can exonerate your New Testament teachers from saying something like, “The only reason the Jews didn’t accept Jesus was because they expected a king.” I’ve mentioned that one.
The Pharisees also thought Jesus came from the wrong place, did the wrong things, hung out with the wrong people. Lest we be too critical. Some of the people Jesus hung out with — gotta be careful, we’re only hypocrisy. We blast the Pharisees for saying Jesus shouldn’t have hung out with some of those people, and they’re some of the people we tell our kids to stay away from!
So, but there are a lot of reasons why. And the [phonetic] Sagisees, since they didn’t believe in the resurrection anyway, they didn’t believe in the final judgment anyway. They believed that everything was wrapped up in this life and the power we gain. They aren’t going to like Jesus for all the same reasons they didn’t like the Pharisees. To them, Jesus was just some kind of odd, dangerous, messianic Pharisee.
If you had said to a Sagisee, “Do you think Jesus is the Messiah?” You know what most of them woulda said? “I don’t care. What if he is?”
If you don’t believe in judgment or resurrection, what difference what it make? And, so really, what was their response to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? “He keeps this up we’re going to lose our temple and everything.”
So there are a lot of reasons why reject — but let’s say, for instance. When Paul went to [phonetic] Beria and he preached that Jesus was the Christ, the noble people searched the scriptures to see if these things were so. And the New Testament seems to say, if you’ll search the scriptures it’s a fair reading to say that some of these passages have to do with eschatological implications, and some of them have to do with life and the Messiah while he was on Earth.
We can disagree with that, but I think the New Testament writers at least had a plausible reading at that point and they didn’t need special pleading for it.