Today’s readings are: Isaiah 50:5-10, Psalm 70 and John 13:21-32.
The Lord’s Obedient Servant
The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom,
so that I know how to comfort the weary.
Morning by morning he wakens me
and opens my understanding to his will.
5 The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened.
I have not rebelled or turned away.
6 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.
7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.
Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will.
And I know that I will not be put to shame.
8 He who gives me justice is near.
Who will dare to bring charges against me now?
Where are my accusers?
Let them appear!
9 See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side!
Who will declare me guilty?
All my enemies will be destroyed like old clothes that have been eaten by moths!
10 Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant?
If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light,
trust in the Lord and rely on your God.
As we come to the close of Lent and turn our thoughts towards the last few days in the life of Jesus, we are reminded of this prophecy in Isaiah, entitled the Lord’s obedient servant.
We start this passage with the uplifting words that the Sovereign Lord gives his servant words of wisdom and understanding. We know from reading the Gospel stories that Jesus often disappeared off on his own to spend time with God in prayer and it was through this close relationship that God entrusted Jesus with wisdom and understanding. But there is one small caveat, which we find in verse 5 – the prophet says “I have listened!”
So often, we seek God for wisdom in an advisory capacity. You know what I mean – asking God for his input, only to add it to the mix of our own thoughts or even other people’s opinions as to what is best. Then we decide what to do. The outcome is never as good as if we had just obeyed in the first place. Perhaps it is that we are a product of our culture, or just our own pride, that many of us are not overly keen on being told what to do. However, here we gain an important insight into why Jesus was so successful in his ministry. He listened to God and obeyed what God told him to do. As a man, Jesus would have faced all the same temptations we do. But every time, he brought his own will under the authority of God and chose obedience. Indeed, this is underlined again in verse 7, where the servant declares: “I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will”.
This determination prevails in verse 6 as the servant describes exactly what would happen to Jesus, the ultimate servant when he was handed over to his captors.
Interestingly, the servant offers his own back. It is not that he passively accepts the assaults – but rather he chooses to go out to meet his attackers. We see this in our New Testament reading today, Jesus decides when the time is right to send Judas off to betray him (John 13:28) and in that moment he sets the chain of events that leads up to his trial and crucifixion.
It was the servant’s obedience to speaking out the words God gave him, that led to him being attacked and so it was with Jesus – speaking truth to power was what led the Jewish leaders to finally decide to kill him.
Despite this, we see the servant’s amazing confidence. He knows that he will be not be ashamed and that God, the ultimate Judge is near. In verse 8, the servant almost taunts his accusers – “where are you?” This reminds me of when David said to Goliath and the Philistines: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Samuel 17:45) And we know how that ended. So too, with the enemies of the Lord. Verse 9 tells us that they will be destroyed.
This small passage has given us a great snapshot of Jesus – God spoke to Jesus. He listened and obeyed. He trusted in the Sovereign Lord and despite everything that happened to him, God ultimately vindicated him. We can take heart from this message, especially the final verse, where the prophet encourages us: “if we fear the lord and obey his servant”, even if we are “walking in darkness, without a ray of light, we can trust in the Lord and rely on God”.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, as our thoughts turn toward Easter, once again, we are becoming more aware of the amazing sacrifice you made on our behalf. Thank you for showing us how to live. Help us to listen as you did and to choose to be obedient in both the seemingly small things and the large challenges we face. Show us where we don’t trust you, so that we can hand over our mistrust and learn to trust you more. Amen
Tomorrow’s readings are: Exodus12:1-14, Psalm 116:1, 10-end and John 13:1-17, 31b -35