Servent Song #3 – Isaiah 50:1-11

 

220px-Isaiah I would like to talk about trust. Specifically, where we place our trust. I would argue that we believe that WE think we know what is best, and therefore place our trust fully in ourselves. To help introduce this argument, I discovered a list by Readers Digest entitled: Great Ideas That Went Horribly Wrong.[1] The 1st great idea that went wrong showed how native birds were being reintroduced in Scotland. It seemed like a good Idea when conservationists reintroduced white-tailed sea eagles to East Scotland, where they have not lived for 200 years. But, Readers Digest says that these protected birds now have free rein to attack livestock and civilians alike. Apparently its an activity they seem to enjoy, and are quite good at. The 2nd great idea Readers Digest listed comes from the English prison system. In an effort to help rehabilitate inmates, a prison in England offers adult education classes to its convicts. Good idea, right? Well, one prisoner used his class time in an IT computer course to hack the prisons computer system. The prison authorities had forgotten why this man had been imprisoned in the 1st place. He had been sent to prison for hacking into computers. The last great idea I want to share could be argued as being a very bad idea. The article states that a woman was locked out of her home. Her solution was to seek help from the authorities. Good idea, right? Well, the details of her idea started w/ her setting her house on fire. She then called 911, expecting the fire department to put out the fire and unlock her doors. As planned, the fire department responded, but so did the police, who charged her with reckless endangerment. These are examples of good ideas, gone bad. I think they highlight the idea that we think we know what is best. We might not be engaged in bad plans like those in this Readers Digest article. But in subtle and major ways, we place our trust in ourselves, more often than not.

We are currently in the season of Pentecost on the church calendar. This is a season when we celebrate new beginnings. We celebrate the unleashing of the HS and its empowerment of the church to share the gospel. We celebrate the renewing of all creation. One of the key themes for Pentecost is Gods Faithfulness. We are reminded that we have ample reason to place our trust in God, and His provision.

 

Text

To help us consider the concept of trust, I want us to look at Isaiah 50:1-11. So grab a Bible and turn Isaiah 50. These verses contain the 3rd of 4 Servant Songs in Isaiah. These, so called, servant songs are rich w/ messianic imagery and insight into the messiah. Last time, we looked at Isaiah 49 and Gods call on the servant. This week, the song focuses on the obedience and trust that the Servant has in God. It serves as a great contrast to the failure of Israel to respond to Gods call.[2] So the question we are asking Isaiah 50 is: How does the Servant (v. 4-9) contrast Israel (v. 1-3), and us? I would outline this passage in 3 parts: The Condition (Isaiah 50:1-3), The Answer (Isaiah 50:4-9), and The Charge (Isaiah 10-11). Isaiah 50:4-11:

This is what the Lord says: Where is your mothers certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. 2 When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst. 3 I clothe the heavens with darkness and make sackcloth its covering.

4 The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. 5 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. 6 I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. 7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. 8 He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! 9 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up. 10 Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God. 11 But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.

So the question we are asking Isaiah 50 is: How does the Servant (v. 4-11) contrast Israel (v. 1-3), and us? This brings us to the 1st section of the song: The Condition, found in v. 1-3. In these verses we see God Speaking to the people. The people have been separated from God and are wondering why. Isaiah is pointing ahead to the exile and captivity of Israel, and the people are feeling rejected. So God speaks to the people. vs. 1-3 in the NLT says: Was your mother sent away because I divorced her? Did I sell you as slaves to my creditors? No, you were sold because of your sins. And your mother, too, was taken because of your sins. In other words God is saying to Israel, I did not reject you, but you rejected me. Trouble has come your way b/c of your own poor choices. And now you are going to have to sleep in the bed you have made. In vs. 2-3, God explains that He extended his hand to the people, but no one was there to answer Gods call, or more likely they were ignoring the call even though God had the power to bring about the change they desired. That is the condition of Israel, and us, and all of humanity. The problem is that we believe WE know what is best.

This reminds me of the story Paul Bacon tells in his book, entitled: Bad Cop: New Yorks Least Likely Police Officer Tells All. [3] Paul was a cop in NYC. One night he was pulling second shift when he had a perfectly good idea: He would stretch out in the back seat of his police car and take a little nap during his break. He fell right asleep, and slept well until he woke up and realized what it meant to be in the back seat of a police car. The funny thing about the back seats of police cars is that the doors do not open from the inside. So you can imagine how things happened for this police officer trapped in the back seat of his own police car. We think we know what is best for our situations.

In Isaiah 50:1-3, we see the condition of humanity. In verses 4-9, we see Gods Answer to the Condition. In these verses the Servant Speaks. In v. 4, we see that God gives the servant words of wisdom to comfort the weary. It says He has been given the tongue of a disciple, meaning He is a disciple of God and credits God for the wisdom He shares. A disciples role was to learn from His master and pass on the message of His master. In contrast to Israel, the servant has done this, and is capable of passing on Gods word. The Servant perfectly fulfills the role God had assigned to Israel. And that servant is the one they have been waiting for to bring about salvation[4] In vs. 5-6, we see that the servant has heard the call. Unlike Israel in v. 2, it says the servant has listened to God and has not turned away. The servant obey the call, even when it meant abuse. In v. 6 we see a foreshadowing of the treatment given to the messiah. The NLT says, I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting. The servant was faithful to His mission, which is highlighted in v. 7. b/c the servant puts His hope in the Lords help, He is determined to live out His call. And the servant expresses His trust in Gods plan in vs. 8-9. He says, b/c God is near, no one can bring charges against me. The answer to humanitys condition of unfaithfulness, is Gods faithfulness seen in the servant. Where Israel failed, the servant would succeed.

w/ the condition of humanity answered, the Servant then gives humanity a Charge. He says in v. 10, to those who fear God, your charge is to trust and rely on Him. Isaiah calls us to obey the servant. Since the Servant has been taught the proper way to live and please God (seen in v. 4), His words should be trusted and obeyed.[5] This is easy we one realizes who the servant is. The servant is the one who has been tasked to give comfort to the weary, to set captives free, and to restore relationships. That is the charge to those who fear God. To those who dont trust in God, v. 11 is given as a warning. Similar to those in v.1, those who lack trust in God will fall. In so many words the charge is the same for these people: to trust and obey.

So, how does the Servant (v. 4-11) contrast Israel (v. 1-3), and us? The condition of humanity given is one of self-trust, and faithlessness to God. The answer God gives is the faithfulness of the servant. And the charge is to therefore trust in the servant. The hope given to Israel is personified in the servant, that hope realized is seen in the lived-out mission of the servant. The Good News of Isaiah 50 is that the servant is faithful when we are not. In response to disobedience, the servant obeys. Surrounded by unfaithfulness, the servant is faithful to His mission; He comforts and is empowered.

 

Today

So the question for us now is: What do we do w/ this knowledge? The trouble is we think we know what is best and we trust in ourselves. And yet, we are called to place our trust in the servant. There are 2 ways we could look at this application. In this passage we are confronted w/ our inability to hear Gods call. We see that, unlike us, the servant was able to listen and live out Gods mission. So as a result we could say: JC trusted God, so I should trust in God. At the surface this is great, but theres a subtle problem. In this approach, there is a bit of moralism happening, saying JC was able to trust, so I should be able to trust It is subtle, but in this approach we are putting our trust in ourselves to be able to live out Gods calling. It says, the moral of the story is that JC trusted so we should too. That’s the 1st way of application. The 2nd way is to see that we are unable to trust and live out our calling. Thats our condition. We see that the servant, JC, was able to succeed where we failed. And rather than our own efforts of trust being the answer to the condition, we instead see the servant Himself as the answer to our inability. We are unable to listen and live out our call. So JC the Servant came and answered the call of God, offering His back to beatings, His body as a sacrifice. b/c of the fulfilled mission of the servant, our condition is addressed and answered – not b/c we trusted, but b/c of His faithfulness. For while we were still sinners JC died for us. And so the charge to trust and obey is not a call of moralism, and self discipline. The charge to trust and obey, is a call to look to the servant as the answer to our inadequacies. This does not let us off the hook, but places our effort fully in efforts of JC. The Good News of Isaiah 50 is that the servant is faithful when we are not. And the difference this makes is that we are not condemned b/c of our sin. Rather we are welcomed into Gods presence b/c JC is faithful.

To conclude I want you to remember the account of JC on night of His betrayal, in the Garden. Here we see that the servant obeys, even while He is surrounded by disobedience. Luke 22:39-46 says:

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, Pray that you will not fall into temptation. [He calls His friends to pray, but what does He do?] 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. [He has called His friends to pray, while He Himself prays earnestly. But what does He find them doing?] 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 Why are you sleeping? He asked them. Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.

Like the cop who fell asleep in the back of his own police car, the disciples did not live up to what was asked of them. That is our condition too. And yet surrounded by failed intentions, we find JC faithful. And that is good news. When we mess up, our God is faithful to us. We are not measured by our failure, but by His faithfulness. And that is good news.

So what shall we do? Here we see the call to trust. So let us trust in the faithful one, not in our own abilities. b/c He has a proven Himself worthy of our trust. Surrounded by failed good intentions, we find the servant ever faithful. And for that we worship and praise Him.

 

Amen.

 

[1] http://www.rd.com/funny-stuff/great-ideas-that-went-horribly-wrong/

[2] Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 50:4–10). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/306/seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time

[4] Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 50:4–10). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[5] Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 50:4–10). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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