When things go bad in our lives, our first impulse is often to look heavenward and ask, “Why?” Sometimes, God is not involved at all — it’s Satan or evil men or the result of the fall (disease, aging, etc.). But sometimes it is God; and when it is, it is the result of our sin. Today’s reading deals in part with this truth. But also with God’s redemption and Messianic Redeemer.
The tongue of disciples — 50:4-11
The tongue of a disciple says exactly what the master says. In this case the master is the Master, God. It comes from listening closely to the Teacher and recites faithfully what the Teacher has said. Isaiah is originally saying th is to emphasize the truthfulness of this message — God has said it. But it has application to all Christians, too, as spokesmen for God with the Gospel. As disciples we have no authority to make it up on our own, indeed, when we do, we cease being a disciple. “Is baptism really required for salvation?” some have manufactured their own answer, and ceased to be disciples. “Is sexual immorality really wrong?” Some teach that the times have changed the morality of God, and they cease to be disciples. “Is the church necessary; is the assembly required?” Again, some make up their own answers, and cease to be disciples.
This section is specifically speaking about the Messiah — who Himself also spoke only what the Father gave Him to speak: “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.” John 12:49, NAS95. For that He received contempt rather than obedience, which is why Isaiah’s prophecy goes on to say, “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 50:6, NAS95.
Do not fear the reproach of man — Isaiah 51:7,8,12
Most of don’t suffer physical persecution. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the temptation to give up; often our fear of the reproaches and revilings of others are sufficient. But what does the opinion of others matter, since they all pass away like the grass? Worldly men will never like what the Lord says — or His disciples (see above). They’ll be disdainful of the message; they’ll revile the messenger; and they’ll speak of how foolish, old-fashioned, and backward it all is — spoken in such a fashion as to warn every hearer that contempt awaits anyone who would pay attention. Of course, in the end, they all become believers, if you know what I mean — “For the moth will eat them like a garment, and the grub will eat them like wool” (51:8a,b). On the other hand, “But My righteousness will be forever, and My salvation to all generations” (51:8c,d).
How lovely on the mountains…
This passage is one that is familiar to many of us who have heard a sermon about our obligation to share the Gospel. It’s original context has a lot to do with the good news of Israel’s return to its homeland. To the original hearers, this would have been really good news indeed. Though they would be exiled, they would still return and do so with unimaginable help from the Gentile world — a blessing directly from Lord. It was a message that would have been delivered with enthusiastic joy!
This prophecy is another one of those double prophecies, however, and without a doubt has New Testament application. Paul uses this passage as reinforcement in praise of the endeavor of evangelism: “How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!’” Romans 10:15, NAS95. And he uses it again as he describes a part of the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:15). For those of us who appreciate what the Lord has done for us, it is still delivered with enthusiastic joy!
My Servant will prosper
This section (52:13-15) introduces the wonderful and deep “Suffering Servant” passage of Isa. 53, which we’ll examine tomorrow. This passage is so vivid in its description of what Jesus did that it sometimes becomes the nub of controversy between Jewish and Christian teachers. Jewish teachers are motivated to characterize the “Suffering Servant” as Israel herself, but this introduction makes such an interpretation not possible. Note how the servant is referred to as an individual in comparison to Israel: “Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man.” (52:14 NAS95).
And this Messiah would indeed be like Israel in that He would not be who you’d expect to save mankind. Israel, starting from a old childless husband and wife, was hardly what you’d expect for God’s grand scheme of redemption. So also Jesus: born poor, under a cloud of suspicion, a refuge for a while, growing up in a backwater portion of his homeland, starting out his mission at 30 years old, and then crucified — not your average resume for a successful world changer. Yet He would be greatly exalted, would shut the mouths of kings, and generally blow the world’s mind! No wonder the very first verse in Isaiah 53 starts off by saying, “Who has believed our message?”
See you tomorrow, Lord willing