Please turn your Bibles to Isaiah 50:4-11.
We are blessed to hear once again our Savior speak to us through the prophet Isaiah. Our passage today is the third of four Servant Songs in Isaiah.
The Servant Songs focus on the ministry of Jesus as God’s Servant who brings salvation to the ends of the earth. This Servant Song, verses 4-9, speaks about the relationship between the Servant and the Lord God.
The Servant Song has four sections; each section contains the phrase, Lord God, which we may also read as Sovereign God.
The Servant listens to the Lord God
The Servant of the Lord tells us how the Lord God equips Him for ministry. Jesus says, “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning; He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. (Isaiah 50:4)”
The Messiah, wakes every morning to the voice of God. The Lord speaks to Jesus morning by morning. Daily.
The Lord speaks to Jesus beginning at a very young age. The Gospel of Luke tells us that when Jesus less than a year old, His parent’s bring Him to Jerusalem and make an offering to God in thanksgiving for their child. From that young age, Luke says Jesus “continued increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:40).
Morning after morning, God awakens Jesus and speaks in His ear and Jesus continues to grow in wisdom. At the age of twelve, His parents find Him at the center stage of Jewish religion, sitting in the midst of learned men who are listening to Him in amazement at His understanding (Luke 2:46-47).
The learning has a purpose. The outcome of listening to God is that Jesus has the tongue of a disciple. When words come off the lips of Jesus, it is evident to all that He is a disciple of the Lord God.
The weary hear His words and they are sustained. His words give comfort to those who mourn. The anxious hear words of peace. The lost hear words of guidance. The dead hear words giving life. Jesus gives the right word at the right moment because the truth of Scripture saturates Him.
His ministry is effective because He listens to the words of God. Jesus shuts out all the other voices. He doesn’t listen to the voice of the culture. He doesn’t listen to the merchants in the marketplace or the philosophers of academia. He doesn’t listen to the coliseum athletes getting ready for the games. Jesus listens to one voice, the voice of His Father.
As Christians, we want to be like Jesus. We must follow His example and become saturated with God’s word. There is only one way for us to be effective in ministry (husbands, fathers, workers, all life is ministry) and that is to listen to God’s voice.
We need to shut out the noise. We live in an age of too many voices. There is the voice of Hollywood entertainment. Journalists and talking heads speak in a 24 hour news cycle seeking to sway our ideology. Schools speak to our children. Celebrities and sports figures spill out their opinions. Neighbors scream. Wall Street and Madison Avenue whisper seductive product enticements. Every day we are bombarded with voices.
Some Christians think they don’t need to hear God’s voice daily. They listen to God’s voice a few times in the week. If Jesus needs to hear the voice of God morning by morning, then we need to hear His voice morning by morning.
The only way we may be of any value to this world is that we become saturated with the truth of Scripture (not just read, but study). When we don’t grow in wisdom by hearing God’s word, we are no different than any other person in this world. If all we have is worldly wisdom, we are part of the noise.
Be like Jesus, listen to the Lord God so you may sustain the weary one with a word. Listen to the voice of the Lord and have a disciple’s tongue to encourage the weary who is sick or is mourning the death of a loved one. Be a disciple bringing to those afflicted in this world words of love, grace, forgiveness, peace, comfort, and mercy.
The Servant obeys the Lord God
The Servant doesn’t just listen to the voice of the Lord God, but He obeys the voice of His Master.
Jesus says, “The Lord God has opened My ear, and I was not disobedient nor did I turn back. I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. (Isaiah 50:5-6)”
This text is remarkable. Jesus speaks through the prophet Isaiah 700 years before His birth to tell us the cost of His obedience to the voice of God. Jesus’ obedience costs Him everything. He has no home or wealth. His obedience has His family believe He is gone mad. His obedience leads all of Jerusalem calling for Him to be crucified. His obedience costs all but one of His friends to abandon Him (only John is present at His death). His obedience leads to Peter denying that he even knows Jesus.
In obedience to God, Jesus offers His back to the Roman soldier's whip. He offers His cheeks so wicked men may pluck out His beard. He does not turn away when godless men spit in His face. As Paul writes to the Philippians, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
To obey God’s voice requires first hearing His voice. We cannot obey when we don’t know what God says. One of Paul’s prayers is that we have the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and understanding.
God calls us to obey in ways that are not easy. Forgiving people is not easy. Serving others is not always easy. Responding to anger with love is not easy. Holding our tongue from saying mean things to those who hurt us is not easy. Obedience means that we are willing to allow someone to slap us on the cheek, and turn so they may slap the other cheek (Matthew 5:39).
When someone calls us a name, do our hands become fists? While the rest of the world seeks revenge, we are called to take the difficult road of being a peacemaker.
If someone in the church offends us, how will we respond? Will we respond with humility, or will we quietly slip away and find another church (where we will likely be offended all over again)?
We are called to an obedience which has us love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). All too often, we talk about our enemies as we try to get a mob of people on our side. Are there people in government that we don’t like? Instead of getting our friends together to talk about how dumb they are, let’s gather our friends so we may pray for them.
Every day the world speaks temptations into our life. The voices in this world say it is okay to live immorally and that it is fashionable to dress seductively. Will we listen to the world, or will we obediently seek to live holy lives knowing our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? When the voices of this world say that the measure of success is the amount of wealth, will we seek to accumulate possessions, or will we obey the voice of the Lord who says it is better to give than to receive?
When we are obedient to God, like Jesus, we will face opposition. We are called to obey even though we may be ridiculed or face pain. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus endures hostility by sinners, and we are to look to Him as our example so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.
Then he says, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin …” (Hebrews 12:3-4)
Are we willing to have no reputation and obediently share the gospel? After all, let’s be honest and ask ourselves why we don’t share the gospel. The primary reasons are that it is inconvenient and we are afraid of how people will respond (me too).
Christianity is counter-culture. When we share the gospel and seek to live holy lives, we will face opposition. The Bible promises, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (1 Timothy 3:12). Jesus says, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
The Lord God Helps the Servant
Because Jesus is obedient to the Lord God, the Lord God helps the Servant.
Jesus says, “For the Lord God helps Me, therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set My face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.” (Isaiah 50:7)
Jesus does not look to the world for approval. Jesus seeks only one opinion. The only thing that matters to Jesus is that He is pleasing to the Lord God. The world may disgrace Him and try to make Jesus be ashamed, but they cannot. Jesus doesn’t look to the world for His affirmation or a pat on the back. Jesus does not give a hoot if the world judges Him as a loser. Jesus doesn’t walk away with His tail between His legs because His friends abandon Him. Jesus walks with dignity and He sets His face like flint to do the work God calls Him to do.
To set your face like flint is to keep moving forward even though there surely will be opposition. It is to move forward undeterred from those who try to stop you.
We need to persevere in our obedience and set our face like flint moving forward. When Jesus says that we need to pick up our cross daily, that is our clue that being a Christian is a daily battle.
We need to choose obedience even when we face sure opposition. We have no reason for shame or disgrace when we sincerely are being obedient to the voice of God.
Part of our obedience is to maintain a godly attitude and perspective. We need to have a heart of thankfulness when hardships come along. To obey requires not complaining and grumbling in difficulty.
Obedience means that when somebody offends us, we don’t break fellowship with the body of Christ. Obedience means staying committed to one another even when the going gets tough.
The Lord God Vindicates the Servant
Jesus ends His speaking about the relationship with the Lord God with these words, “He who vindicates Me is near; who will contend with Me? 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 who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them.” (Isaiah 50:8-9)
Jesus calls to those who condemn Him. “All you who call for Me to be crucified, make your case before the throne of God. High Priest, Pharisees, Herod, and Pilate present your evidence before the Judge of the Universe. I am not guilty because I obey God’s commands. He judges good and evil. In one thousand years, I will still be standing. But, My accusers will wear away like a moth-eaten garment.”
Jesus trusts the Lord God to help Him and vindicate His name. Jesus is a disciple of God’s Word and knows that those who obey God’s word have God as their defender.
As we obey God, we will have people accuse us and come against us. The world judges us as guilty for not adopting their way of life. When we speak against immorality, the world accuses us as being unloving. When we share the gospel in illegal places, we will be thrown in jail as enemies of the state. Ultimately, there is only one throne of judgment. We don’t fear the judges of this earth. The worst they may do is kill our bodies. We need to fear the Judge who may cast our soul into hell.
We have an advocate who stands before the judge of the universe. He stands there on our behalf, and His name is Jesus. At the end of the age, we know that He is our helper. This world only offers ultimate death. Jesus offers us eternal life.
Will You Obey the Voice of the Servant?
When Jesus finishes speaking, the prophet Isaiah presents a question to his listeners. He asks, “ Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light? (Isaiah 50:10)”
To understand this question, we need to forget for a moment what the New Testament says about walking in darkness as being evil. This passage is not about walking according to darkness, but walking in a place of darkness. Think of it as walking in a dark cave.
Another way to phrase Isaiah’s question is to ask, “Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks by faith and not by sight?”
The only way to get out of the dark cave of this world is to obey the voice of the Servant. Jesus gives us instruction on where to place our feet. When we walk by faith and not by sight, we close our eyes to the world and listen to the voice of God who gives us direction.
With this in mind, let’s read the passage. “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. (Isaiah 50:10)”
In contrast to those who obey the voice of the Servant are those who rely on their ingenuity to get through life’s difficulties. Isaiah says, “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with firebrands (torches), walk in the light of your fire and among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have from My hand: you will lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:11)”
The outcome is clear for those who do not fear God and listen to the voice of Jesus. They will lie down in torment. Their fate is eternal damnation.
We need to walk by faith, and not by sight.
Obey the Servant’s Voice
We are called to fear the Lord and obey the voice of His Servant. In this passage, we find four ways to apply this truth in our lives.
1) Fear the Lord
Isaiah asks, “Who is among you that fears the Lord?” To fear the Lord is to see God as the Almighty, all-knowing, Sovereign Judge of the Universe. Those who fear God have a reverence before Him. They do not speak flippantly about Him nor do they stand idly by while others blaspheme His name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). When we fear the Lord, we fear we may offend Him. We fear His judgment knowing He can cast our soul into hell.
Fearing God is to find value and worth in God’s opinion and not caring about the verdict and acceptance of people. Those who fear God are God-pleasers and not people-pleasers. We are to hang the sign over our door which says, “as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
2) Hear His voice
God commands that we listen to the words of Jesus. At the transfiguration, a voice comes from heaven and those standing nearby hear these words, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35)
Jesus repeatedly tells us to listen to Him. He tells a crowd of people, "Listen to Me, all of you, and understand” (Mark 7:14). Throughout the gospels, Jesus repeats, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (e.g., Matthew 11:15; 13:9; 13:16; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8; 14:35). On the day of His crucifixion, Jesus tells Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37)
Either we walk through life listening to the voice of Jesus, or we walk through life ignoring Jesus while listening to the other voices of this world. There is not a third choice.
3) Obey His voice
Listening to the voice of Jesus requires obedience. It does no good to listen, and not obey. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
Jesus gives a parable about listening and acting on His words. He says that everyone who hears His words and acts on them is compared to a wise man who builds his house on the rock. All those who hear His words, and does not act on them, is like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand (Matthew 7:24, 26).
Obeying is not easy, but it is necessary. If we desire to be wise, we need to obey Christ.
4) Trust the Lord God
Fearing the Lord and obeying the voice of His Servant is a pursuit of complete trust. There is no middle ground. Many Christians try to live by walking with a torch in one hand while they hold a Bible in the other. They listen to the voice of Jesus and listen to the voices in the world. After listening to both, they decide which voice will best suit their fancy.
Walking with a bible in one hand and a torch from this world in the other is not a picture of trust in God. It is a picture of trusting yourselves. When we hold both, we think we have the wisdom to choose between the voices and decide what is best for their life. We cannot pick what situations we will follow Jesus. If He is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all.
There is only one choice, and that choice is to listen only to the voice of Jesus and act on His words.
We live in a scary world filled with terror, evil, corruption, sickness, and death. Living in this world is like living in a dark, terrifying cave. Our church is facing many difficult challenges. We have relationship challenges, health challenges, temptations, and many other challenges trying to separate us from God. Each challenge is a test of our faith. Will cancer draw us closer to God’s voice or further away? Will the death of a baby draw us closer or further from God? Will marriage troubles and relationship difficulties bring us closer or further from God’s voice?
There is only one way we may survive in this dark cave called life, and that is to listen to the voice of Jesus. Fear the Lord. Listen to Jesus’ voice. Obey His voice. And, trust God to bring you to His kingdom of eternal light.