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Questions of the LORD
This chapter deals with two facts: Israel’s responsibility for his rejection and the steadfastness and faithfulness of the Servant of the LORD. In Isa 50:1 the LORD asks two questions as a protest. They contain the reproach of the thought that what has happened to the people is the result of an arbitrary act of the LORD. But it is not like that. Their condition is due to their own transgressions.
The first question is a denial of the LORD that He has broken the relationship in which He stands with Zion, the mother of Israel. This is the LORD’s answer to Zion’s complaint: “The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me” (Isa 49:14). He has bound Himself to Zion and she cannot show a certificate of divorce that He has sent her away. If that would have been the case, He would also have taken away the opportunity to take her back to Zion in case she had married someone else (Deu 24:1-4). She went herself, she left Him (cf. Jer 31:31-32).
The second question is so far true that the LORD has sold His people to strangers. But that is not because He owes those strangers anything. He knows no creditors. Again it is because of their own iniquities. The LORD is not to blame for their condition. Certainly, He has rejected and sold, but it is because His people have obliged Him to do so. Therefore the mother, Zion, suffers because of the depravity of her children. The LORD did give a certificate of divorce to the ten tribes, who had been carried away by the Assyrians long before, and are scattered until now (Jer 3:8).
There are more questions to ask (Isa 50:2). In the beginning God already has come to man with a question when he has fallen into sin (Gen 3:8-9). Later the LORD came to His people in the prophets to make them return to Him (Jer 7:25b-26). But has anyone received them or listened to them?
The questions asked have a prophetic meaning especially in view of the first coming of the Lord Jesus. Here it is foretold that He will not be received by anyone and that no one will answer His call to repentance. This is the attitude of the people as a whole when He comes to them (Jn 1:11). The rejection of the Messiah, not paying attention to Him, filled the measure of their iniquities mentioned in Isa 50:1.
Their confession is that they are waiting for the Messiah. But when He comes, it turns out that they don’t want Him. They want Him to free them from the yoke of the Romans, but they are not aware of the yoke of their sins from which they must be set free. He calls to gather them to Himself, but at the end of His service He must say, “and you were unwilling” (Mt 23:37).
Only a few disciples follow Him. Is it because, although God offers salvation, He is incapable of working it out and bringing it about? No, because God, and He alone, has the power to save. His hand is really not too short, i.e. without power, to redeem (Isa 59:1)!
Didn’t He formerly bring His people out of Egypt by His power? Did not He by His punishment, that is, by the power of His word, make the Red Sea dry, so that His people could pass through it? Did He not make the rivers a wasteland in Egypt, so that the fish stank in them and died? Did He not also make it dark in Egypt (Isa 50:3)? It is clear that the sea, the rivers and the heavens are all under His command and that He acts with them as He sees fit, also for the benefit of His people.
The Obedient Servant
Here we come to the third of the four prophecies about the Servant of the LORD (Isa 50:4-9). In the first prophecy (Isaiah 42) we have seen Him as the Chosen One and in the second as the Rejected One (Isaiah 49). In the third we see Him as the dependent Servant, Who is obedient to death, yes, to death on the cross (Phil 2:7-8). This is in contrast to the people where no one is obedient, where no one is listening (Isa 50:2). Now the people are called to follow the example of this perfect Servant and listen to Him.
In this section the names “Lord GOD” (Adonai Yahweh) are mentioned four times (Isa 50:4; 5; 7; 9). These names are pronounced by the Servant of the LORD. Each time Adonai comes first. The name Adonai refers to exalted authority and ownership. This name is only used when utter respect must be expressed. Here we see how the Lord of glory takes the place of the perfect Servant and calls the LORD Adonai, My Lord and Master.
In Isa 50:4, the words of Christ Himself describe His testimony as the Sent One. The “Me” in this verse is no other Person than the “Me” in the previous verses. It is Christ Who is one with God and has become Man. No one from the people answered when God called, as it says in Isa 50:2, until He comes. Then there is Someone Who listens when God calls. He speaks about His obedience to Him Who sent Him, of His suffering, and of His justification.
God speaks to the prophets through special and temporal revelations, through visions and dreams. This is different with the Servant of the LORD. Here He unfolds the secret of His inner life in the days of His stay on earth and the secret source of His service and ways. What He says here breathes the joyful humbleness and humiliation of the true Disciple.
He “kept increasing in wisdom” (Lk 2:52). In the days of the fulfillment of this prophecy He says:
“My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (Jn 7:16) and:
“I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (Jn 8:28) and:
“I speak the things which I have seen with [My] Father” (Jn 8:38) and:
“The Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment [as to] what to say and what to speak” (Jn 12:49; Jn 14:10; 24).
We read in the Gospels how He sustained the weary one with a word. His words are “gracious words” (Lk 4:22). We hear them both in His public service (Mt 11:28) and in the comfort He gives to a widow, to a sick person, to a desperate one and to one threatened by the wind and waves. In the morning, His Father teaches Him about this.
The Lord Jesus always listens to the voice of His Father. He begins the day with that (Mk 1:35) and that is His attitude all day long, He is ”prayer” (Psa 109:4b). He is an example to us in this. It is His joy to be able to say: “He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (Jn 8:29).
Only if we pay attention to His voice day by day we can fulfill His will and be able to say with the apostle that “we also have as our ambition … to be pleasing to Him” (2Cor 5:9). This is the key to all service to the Lord. First follow, then be sent.
Isa 50:5 indicates His perfect obedience. He not only listens, but He also obeys. When the Savior’s ears are spoken of, it has to do with the perfect devotion to the will of the Father. The Lord Jesus knows all the suffering that will come upon Him, and yet He goes His way to the cross with unwavering steadfastness, without rebellion.
We read of Him that He says to the LORD: “My ears You have opened” (Psa 40:6; cf. Heb 10:5). This indicates that He became Man in order to be able to obey and to die. Here (Isa 50:5) we read that the LORD says: “He awakens My ear.” This refers to His life on earth that is also characterized by obedience. Finally, there is also talk of piercing the ear of the Lord Jesus in the picture of the Hebrew slave (Exo 21:5-6). This can be seen at the end of His service and life on earth, which is also characterized by obedience. It also indicates that He will be eternal slave (Lk 12:37).
Isa 50:6 refers to what people will do with Him (Mt 26:67; Mt 27:30; Mk 15:19; Lk 22:63). The prophet describes in striking detail what the Lord Jesus endured as a Servant, especially at the end of His service on earth. He endured it without wavering (Lk 9:51), because He knows that God will help Him and that He will not be ashamed (Isa 50:7). Just as God helped Israel (Isa 43:2; 5; Isa 44:2) and Cyrus (Isa 45:1; 5), so He will also help His unique Servant. Therefore, the Servant has set His “face like flint” which speaks of His perfect perseverance in dependence. He knows that He will not be ashamed, for He surrenders everything to Him Who judges righteously.
His example is an exhortation for us to imitate when we are called to endure heavy opposition, so that we may steadfastly fulfill the task entrusted to us by the Lord. We can never suffer like Him, but our lives and testimony can bear the features that have also been with Him in His life on earth.
“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). But suffering for His sake makes everything glorious and joyful (1Pet 4:13-14). He looked to the future with joy (Heb 12:2) and so may we. The Father’s intention is to give us such confidence in Him and the assurance of His help, that we will be free from any tendency to despair under the weight of difficulties. If we walk the path of obedience, we can always be sure of help in this moment and of deliverance and victory in His time and manner.
The Lord Jesus knows that despite all the accusations of men and spiritual enemies, He will triumphantly be acquitted of every accusation (Isa 50:8). He does not say “He will justify Me”, but “He … is near” Who will. This explains His awareness of the presence of the Father, so as when He stands before Caiaphas and his gang and before Pilate and his soldiers. His vindication takes place in His resurrection (Rom 1:4; 1Tim 3:16).
Then He says for the second time: “The Lord GOD helps Me” (Isa 50:9; Isa 50:7). In contrast to that, all accusations and accusers will wear out like a garment on which a moth has done slowly but thoroughly its destructive work. This fate afflicts all fools and wicked people who see in Him nothing more than a Man Who assumes to be something that He would not be. Only He can say: “Which one of you convicts Me of sin?” (Jn 8:46). This concludes the Self testimony of the Messiah.
Paul, guided in this by the Holy Spirit, applies the words “Who is he who condemns Me” to the believers of our time (Rom 8:33-34). One who is justified in faith is seen as ‘in Christ’. Since no accusation against Him can stand, every believer in Christ is outside of any accusation or condemnation (Rom 8:1).
Encouragement for the Faithful Believer
The chapter begins with a declaration of the LORD and ends with that as well. In these closing words He first addresses Himself to the believer “that fears the LORD” and “that obeys the voice of His servant” (Isa 50:10). These two, fearing God and obeying His Word, belong together.
A believer can walk in dark circumstances and have no light and therefore be tempted to become desperate. Sometimes a situation seems hopeless. He can be overwhelmed by a variety of trials. Here then is an enlightening and encouraging message: “Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God”, as the Servant has done. No one has suffered like Him and see how God has finally made it well with Him because the Servant has entrusted His way to Him.
In the same way God will do with everyone who trusts in and relies on Him. True faith is tried and tested faith. It proves its reality in passing a test. God has been greatly found to be a help in distress. Faith not only accepts this as a fact, but learns to rely on God Himself and to experience the power and love of God’s almighty arm. Then darkness turns into light. The heart rejoices in the light of His presence.
Threat to the Unbeliever
The words of this verse are addressed to unbelievers and their presumptuous self-confidence. They kindle a fire and walk proudly in the light of the flame they have kindled. This is what we see today – and it has been so since the cross – all around us. It will also happen in the future when the antichrist comes. They will want to walk in the light of his fire. After all, he claims to be God. And not only that, but their fire is kindled against the LORD and His Christ.
Divine retribution is the inevitable consequence. They must suffer the consequences of the fire they themselves caused. This suffering comes from the hand of the LORD, the hand which He extended to them in the Messiah in order to save them, but which was swept away by them. Their activities with all their wickedness and heartlessness are brought to a terrible end and they lie down in torment. What a contrast with the joyful peace of the believer who rests in his God.
In the age in which we live, man has kindled a huge bonfire of which the sparks go in all directions. It is a fire of which ‘science’ is the fuel. The sparks of human wisdom are seen everywhere, but how quickly they extinguish. Around us, the crowds are intoxicated and poisoned by the innumerable sparks shooting up from the fire of human inventions, which they believe gives light and warmth, while the sparks extinguish a second later.
It is a great privilege for us, as for the faithful of old, to walk in the wonderful light of the gospel. In doing so, we may be filled with confidence in God that is perfectly revealed in the Lord Jesus.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 50". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13