The “Afflicted Servant” of the LORD - STUDY SIX
Updated: Sep 14, 2021
Teaching from Dr Deane Woods
From the series Messiah in Isaiah
There are four “Servant Songs” in the Book of Isaiah. The One True God, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, the LORD God of Israel, declared in the strongest terms that readers (and hearers) must: “Behold My Servant”! (Isaiah 52:13). The One referred to in this injunction is the “Suffering Servant of the LORD” – Messiah Jesus!
This present series of studies seeks to heed God’s words and focus entirely on “Him”, "[Messiah Jesus who] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rom. 4:25).
The images in this article are presented with the writer’s prayer that the reader (as well as the previous two articles and the final one to conclude the series in the next issue) might gain a clearer understanding of these “Servant Songs” as they are found in
their several contexts in the Holy Bible and then applied, personally.
The four “Servant Songs” are found in the second section of Isaiah’s prophecy. He has delivered his God-given messages of “condemnation” in the first section (chs. 1-35, followed by a brief “historical interlude” re King Hezekiah – see chart). The concluding section outlined “comfort, consolation and restoration” for Israel (chs. 40-66). Unlike one of his contemporary eighth century B.C. “prophetic” colleagues, Amos from Tekoa, who testified of himself “I was no prophet, nor a son of a prophet, but … a sheep-breeder and a tender of sycamore frui”t (Amos 7:14), Isaiah was from the “upper echalons” of Judah’s society. He had access to royalty – enough so that he gave advice concerning the foreign affairs of the nation. This “son of Amoz” (Is. 1:1-2) was directed by the Holy Spirit to write concerning the “Suffering Servant of the LORD” – a messianic portrayal of Messiah Jesus.
Isaiah’s “First Servant Song” revealed a “pictorial” prophecy of the Messiah as “The Humble Servant” (Is. 42:1-7). This was followed by a “conversational” depiction of “The Rejected Servant” (Is. 49:1-7). The third of his “Four Messianic Songs” recorded an “autobiographical” presentation of the prophesied Messiah as “The Afflicted Servant”. The “Fourth Song” proceeds to give an “editorial” record of “The Suffering/Slain Servant” (Is. 52:13-53:12).
The “Four Servant Songs” may be illustrated in these suggested images:
The text of Isaiah 50:4-11 prophetically revealed “The Afflicted Servant” of the LORD:
4 “The Lord God has given Me The tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak A word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear To hear as the learned. 5 The Lord God has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away. 6 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.
7 “For the Lord God will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed. 8 He is near who justifies Me; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand together. Who is My adversary? Let him come near Me. 9 Surely the Lord God will help Me; Who is he who will condemn Me? Indeed they will all grow old like a garment; The moth will eat them up.
10 “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. 11 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 immediate context of these “autobiographical” words of the “Afflicted Servant” mentioned in the first three verses of Isaiah 50 stated the cause of Israel’s coming woes in exile. God’s people would be in Babylon because of their sinful disobedience against the One True God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The consequences of the breaching of their covenant responsibilities with Him would make them conclude that God had abandoned His people. In fact, the contrary was true! He was keeping his covenant promises, actually (cf. Dt. 28:15-68 and especially verses 64-68). Their exile would not be a matter of “divorce” but for “discipline” (vss. 1-3)!
Yes, Israel knew that she was Yahweh’s “servant” (cf. 41:8-10; 44:1-2; 49:3), but she had failed to be as verses 4-9 will go on to describe. This messianic “Servant” would show all the hallmarks of willing discipline and uncompromising obedience!
Enter the “Afflicted Servant” of the LORD!
I. The Servant’s “Education” Manifested His Readiness to Learn! (vss. 4-5)
Messiah Jesus is God Incarnate, the “Word that became flesh and tabernacled amongst us” (Jn. 1:1,14). He laid aside His eternal glory, humbled Himself and became man (Phil. 2:5-9). As “God-Man”, He was “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45-49) and even though He was omniscient, in being born as a human baby, He had to learn to feed, to speak, to write, to interact and “live life” as it unfolded. Significantly, he had to learn “obedience” and that was through “suffering” (Heb 5:8). In fact, He was “made perfect” through “suffering” (Heb. 2:10). In that context of Hebrews 2:5-18, in His humanity, the “Heir of all things” (God’s King-Son), Messiah Jesus, has become fully suited to the needs of His fellow heirs – born again believers!
He made it his habit to listen to his Father’s voice to set the direction for every moment and everyday of His life. He never rebelled against those given instructions, nor did He ever “turn away” from expediting them. He always “pleased Him” (Jn. 8:29) and did His will (Heb. 10:7,9). Having listened to the Father, He used His tongue to communicate His “word” in ministry “at the right time”, thereby encouraging the “weary” hearer.
II. The Servant’s “Determination” Evidenced His Resolve to Suffer! (vss. 6-7)
Since He always “listened” to His Father, Messiah Jesus always did what he was told. He “lived by the Book”, as the twelve quotations in Matthew’s Gospel citing “that (the Scripture) might be fulfilled”, reveal. What Israel failed to be as God’s “servant”, Messiah Jesus, His “Afflicted Servant”, was!
Indeed, The Lord Jesus did “set (His) face like flint” (vs. 7; cf. Lk. 9:51) to go to Jerusalem, to be mocked, rejected, and ultimately crucified. The prophetic prediction of this was revealed in verse 6. Is it any wonder his disciples were amazed and afraid (Mark 10:32) as he walked so resolutely to the Holy City and to His death. It was no “cake walk”! Recall the events in the Garden of Gethsemane: Loud cries and tears (Heb 5:7); He revealing prayer of the agonising burden of being willing to “do the Father’s will” no matter what the cost. That burden was that of man’s “sin” which He later took “upon the tree” (1 Pt. 2:24) and “was made sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). Hallelujah! This faithful “Suffering Servant” resolved to do this because this was what He and His Heavenly Father had ordained from “before time began” (1 Pt. 1:18-20; Tit. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:4-5).
III. The Servant’s “Vindication” Proved His Prior Reckoning that This Would be So! (vss. 8-9)
Paradoxically, after the “disgrace” of verse 6, the “Afflicted Servant” testified that He had “not been disgraced”! One can only assume that this could have referred to His soul being “abandoned in Hades” (cf. Ps. 16:9-11; Acts 2:25-31). Messiah Jesus was able to go through the ignominy and desolation of Calvary’s Cross because he knew from “before time began” that He would be vindicated (vs. 8).
To be “vindicated” means that after one has been wrongly accused, it is then shown that the accusation was wrong. So ‘vindication’ of the wrongly-accused must include the unmasking of those who have initiated the wrong accusations. That is the way that the sovereign LORD will “help” Messiah Jesus (vs. 9). He will cause those who accuse Him to “wear out”, just like moth-eaten clothes are only good for the rubbish bin!
Recall the similar point Jesus made during his trial prior to His crucifixion. Read the account in (Mk. 14:53-65 and especially vs.62). Moreover, Peter tells us that “He committed Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Pt. 2:22). The resurrection happened and God’s redemptive plans were consummated (cf. Phil. 2:9-11) as He was made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). The “Afflicted Servant” came “to serve” and in that role, demonstrated that He was “the greatest” (cf. Mk. 10:45).
IV. The Servant’s Disciples’ “Consolation”: The Recompense of Trusting God! (vs. 10)
Verses 10 and 11 gave Isaiah’s application of this messianic passage about the “Afflicted Servant”. In verse 10, the first of two ways of walking were described, viz., “walking in the dark, “trusting” God”. Thus, the disciples of the “Afflicted Servant” were invited to “trust God” even in “dark times”.
In verse 10, He described those who “obey the voice of the Servant” (i.e., His disciples or servants) who were walking in darkness, just as He himself did in vs. 6, and as Israel would do in the exile. The way may be “dark” but “disciples” are called to do that, trusting in the name of the Lord, relying on Him their sovereign LORD, in all things!
This is the big theme of Isaiah’s message to his people – believe in Me (the LORD) or you will never “be established” (Is. 7:9) They are to “look unto (Him) and be saved” (Is. 44:22). So, it is for us: Trust God in everything because He is committed to His people, no matter what their circumstances. His promises will prove true, and by His grace, they will stand!
V. The Servant’s Enemies’ “Destination”: The Reward of a “Faith-less” Life! (vs. 11)
The second of Isaiah’s applications concludes this third messianic “Servant Song”. The “son of Amoz” described the second way of “walking in the dark, “seeing”, but not by faith”. This is the alternative group of people he addressed. They are not spared the “darkness”, either. Notice, however, their “self efforts” to illumine the “darkness”. They make for themselves “flaming torches”, designed to assist “seeing” as they walk about. How did they fare? How did their “best efforts” get on? The “sparks of self-effort” flew, but …!!!
Note the stark contrasts here in verse 11 and the people described in verse10. They “serve” the Servant and “walk with Him”. They may not “see” where they are going, but they continue to trust their Servant Guide. Where do they end up? In whatever place and circumstance He has chosen for them. The people of referred to in verse 11 end up “(lying) down in torment”. Apparently, they can “see” where they’re going (as the sparks fly), but the corollary is that they cannot stop themselves from ending up in a very bad place. “Torment” in this context of “fire and darkness” connotes a place described elsewhere in Scripture as “Hell” (Gehenna, prepared for the devil and his angels – Mt. 25:41; cf. Rev. 21:16). Even Isaiah himself in his prophecy which is acknowledged as “the most evangelistic of all the Prophets”, ends his God inspired account with the “most horrendous description of ‘Hell’ in all Scripture” in chapter 66, verse 24. It stated:
24 “And they shall go forth and look Upon the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.
Dear reader, Jewish or Gentile friend, this present writer respectfully invites you to consider “The ‘Afflicted Servant’” of Isaiah 50:4-11, in faith turn to Him and receive Him into your heart as you personal Saviour and “walk in His light”, trusting Him in everything, wherever He may lead!
Dr Deane Woods
Dr Deane Woods served as Ministry Representatives with The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry in Sydney, NSW. If you would like to contact Deane, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org