Songs of the Servant
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Isaiah, chapter 49. We want to begin a consideration of the section of the book of Isaiah which begins with chapter 49 and continues through chapter 53. The book of Isaiah is divided into two distinct sections with half of the book dealing with the truth concerning the Messiah in a veiled way and the other half of the book dealing with the Messiah fully and completely.

We suggested to you that the book of Isaiah might be remembered, as far as divisions are concerned, just as your Bible is remembered. Your Bible is divided into the Old and the New Testaments, and you will keep in mind that there are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament.

You will remember, as well, in connection with the book of Isaiah, that there are 39 chapters in the first section and 27 chapters in the last section. We told you that the last section of the book of Isaiah, beginning with chapter 40 and concluding with chapter 66, was divided into three sections of 9 chapters each. We did not make this division. We believe the Holy Spirit placed the divisions exactly where they are because the phrase that indicates this threefold division of the second section of the book of Isaiah is found in chapter 48, verse 22:

Isaiah 48

22There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.

This phrase, or one very much like it, indicates the second division of the last half of the book, so now we come to this second section in the last half of the book.

I ask you a question to provoke your thinking: Do you remember the central theme of the first section of this last half that we have been considering? Do you recall the central theme of chapters 40-48? I am sure that some of you will. It was God's controversy with idols, and He was constantly proving that He was better and greater than idols which were made with men's hands.

One of the exclusive proofs that He gave that He was God and there was none else beside Him was the mentioning of a servant of His, a man by the name of Cyrus. He prophesied the birth of Cyrus, you will recall, 200 years before it ever occurred. He not only prophesied the birth of Cyrus, He called Cyrus by name. This proved that God's foreknowledge, His ability to predict events before they occurred, put Him in a class separate and apart from idols.

As we look at this particular section, beginning with chapter 49, we are going to have our attention drawn to a servant. It is not going to be the servant Cyrus; it is going to be the Servant Jesus. In this particular section there is presented to us what is referred to in the Scripture as the Servant Songs, the songs of the Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are very familiar with the book of Isaiah, you know that nineteen or twenty times, depending on the way you interpret the word servant , the word servant is mentioned in the book of Isaiah. We mentioned to you that one time the servant is referred to as Cyrus . Other times it refers to the nation of Israel, and other times it refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes it refers to them both in one word.

You may wonder how that could be. The liberalists wonder about it. That's the reason they chopped the book of Isaiah up into deutero Isaiah , and tritero Isaiah , and lately I have read that there is a fifth man by the name of Isaiah that had a little part in this book. Everything that they can't understand normally they say was due to the fact that there was more than one Isaiah. God recognizes only one.

They say, “How would one man be able to talk about the servant and talk about the nation and the nation's Savior in the same breath?” In the very same way that the Lord Jesus Christ met Paul on the road to Damascus, and said, “Saul, Saul, why persecuteth thou Me?” In the very beginning paragraph of that same chapter, Paul tells us that he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the saints of God. He had letters with their names on them.

Somebody might say, “How can he be persecuting the saints and the Savior at the same time?” The answer is the same. The Lord Jesus Christ is identified inseparably with His people and the Messiah of Israel is identified inseparably with the nation of Israel, so that you will find the word servant —I repeat so that it will be clear in your minds—sometimes referring to the nation of Israel, sometimes referring to the Messiah, and sometimes referring the same word to the Messiah and the nation.

By way of introduction to the entire discussion that we will be following for the next several lessons, I thought it might be good for us to notice the Songs of the Servant , which are presented to us in this section of the book of Isaiah without going into detail about each one of them. I feel that if you know where they are, you can be meditating in them. You can be asking God to open some of these truths to your heart. Then when we consider them in the next few lessons, you will have even a deeper blessing than you would have otherwise.

The Gentle Jesus

The first servant song was found in chapter 42. We looked at it when we were in that section, but we retrace our steps to chapter 42 that you might have a complete picture. I'm sure that you have all seen panel pictures—one large frame with several panels in it. Some of us, when our children were very young, would have such a picture made with four different poses. They were of the same child, but the poses were so cute we couldn't make up our mind. Of course the photographer, out for business, very wisely would suggest, “Why don't you have them all made? We will put them in one frame.” You couldn't resist it, so you did. Four poses of one child, yet they were different enough that you could enjoy them each time that you looked at them. That is the idea in these stories at which we are going to glance—four poses of the same person.

Let's read Isaiah, chapter 42, and listen as God says:

Isaiah 42

1Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
2He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
3A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
4He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.

We looked at this in detail when we were at this particular chapter, so we just mention this whole paragraph. This is the picture of the gentle Jesus—gentle Jesus, meek and mild. Look at the verses again:

Isaiah 42

2He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.

This particular picture is a prophecy of the quiet manner in which the Lord Jesus Christ would go about His ministry, shunning the attention of the crowds and not being interested in the fanfare of men. Do you recall how many times when the Lord Jesus Christ performed a miracle on the earth, He said a rather strange thing to the individual for whom He performed the miracle? He didn't say, “Go tell everybody what I have done and bring them and I will do the same thing for them.” He said, “Go, but don't tell anybody what I have done. Keep it a secret. Don't talk about it.” Why? Because a certain phase of His ministry must be carried on in the quiet, meek manner that would identify Him as the meekest of men.

The Mighty Warrior

By way of contrast, turn to chapter 49. We are not going to study this in detail, but glance at it enough so that you will be able to recognize another pose of the same person about whom we are speaking—the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice chapter 49, verse 1:

Isaiah 49

1Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.
2And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;
3And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
4Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God.
5And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength.
6And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

This discussion continues through verse 13. We don't have time to read it all, but we have read just enough to make a distinction in the two pictures. The first panel in the picture was gentle Jesus, meek and mild. This panel is different because we read in verse 2:

Isaiah 49

2And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;

If you recall the words of the book of Revelation, chapter 19, you will discover these are the very words that are used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns, not as a meek and a mild person, but as the mighty warrior. He describes Himself as a sword and as a polished shaft. Notice the accuracy of the Scripture. God hid the sword in His hand and the polished shaft in His quiver until such a time as He thought it wise to reveal it.

If you read the stories of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospels, then read the prophetic picture of Him in the Old Testament along with those pictures in the New Testament such as you will find in I Thessalonians, chapter 2, Revelation, chapter 19, and Revelation, chapter 16, you wouldn't think you were talking about the same person at all because one is gentle, meek and mild and the other is a man of war, ready to take vengeance upon all those who obey not God and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, you will notice in Isaiah, chapter 42, His message was to the nation of Israel and to the nation of Israel alone, but here in chapter 49, we read that when He came unto His own, His own rejected Him. In verse 4, He was so disappointed that He said, “There isn't much point in My having come at all.” Then down in verse 6, God said, “It is too light a thing for Thee to raise up the tribes of Jacob only. I'm going to let you do something more than that. I'm going to give Thee as a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the ends of the earth.”

We are reminded of what John says in his Gospel. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” That is when the Lord Jesus Christ said:

Isaiah 49

4…I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God.

But, we read in John, chapter 1, verses 11-12:

John 1

11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12[Notice] But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God…

The Surrendered Jesus

Turn with me to chapter 50 of the book of Isaiah and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 4 that you might look at the third pose in the picture noticing a distinct difference, although there are certainly similarities:

Isaiah 50

4The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.
5The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
6I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

We will stop our reading there for that presents a sufficient picture, though the final strokes of the artist are through verse 11. If we were going to use one word to describe this particular panel of the picture, we would use the word surrender . In the first panel, there was the meek Jesus. In the second panel, there was the mighty Jesus, and in this panel, there is the surrendered Jesus.

He said, “The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear…” Do you know what He was talking about? He was using a picture that was very familiar to every Jew, and described in the book of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy concerning the bond slave. Every year of Jubilee, the servants were set free. Yes, if I were a Jew and you were a Jew, and I didn't have any money, I might ask you to loan me some. When the time came to repay it, I wouldn't have it to pay, so you would say, “You will have to be my slave, then, until it is worked out because you owe me the money. If I can't get the money, I want your labor.”

So, I would go to work for you, but the year of Jubilee would come around—the seventh year—and then you would have to set me free. You would have no choice about it. Maybe I had just started to work for you in the sixth year, but the seventh year you would have to set me free and the debt was paid. That was what God said.

Maybe in the process of time that I was in your household, I became very attached to you and I would have a difficult time if I were not in your household, so I would say to you, “I know that I have a right to my freedom and I know that I can go off free, but I don't want to. I want to stay here, and I want to be your servant forever. I want to work for you from now on.”

You might say to me, “Are you absolutely sure of that?” I would say, “Positively.” You would say, “All right,” and I would know what was going to come next, so I would walk over to the doorjamb. You would reach in your tool chest and get out an awl, a little instrument that could bore a hole. You would take the lobe of my ear and put it against the doorjamb. Then you would take the awl and put a hole through my ear. That hole would be an everlasting memorial to the fact that I no longer belonged to myself; I belonged to somebody else. That is the picture that is right here. “He opened my ear,” Jesus said, concerning the Father, “I was not rebellious unto Him.”

You know, it is one thing to surrender when you know that the pathway will be bright. It is one thing to surrender to the Lord when you know that everything will be just as you would love to have it; but it is another thing to surrender to the Lord when things aren't going to be as pleasant as you would like for them to be. The path of surrender upon which the Lord Jesus embarked was a pathway of suffering.

In verse 6, He said, “I gave My back to the smiters.” Oh, how proud they were. They thought that surely they had complete control of the situation when they brought the whip down upon His back. They didn't know that He was letting them do it. He didn't have to. He gave His back to the smiters, and you will notice in this same verse of Scripture, He said, “…and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair.” Did you ever have a wild hair? Did you ever try to pull a wild whisker out of your face? It is not the worst thing that could happen to you, but it is not exactly a pleasant thing. You multiply that by every whisker in your beard, and recognize that when they tortured the Lord Jesus Christ, they plucked His beard out by hand. That is the exact meaning of this text. You notice He said, “I gave them My cheek. They couldn't have done it, but I surrendered and when I surrendered, I would not turn away back.” So you have another picture of the servant.

The Suffering Servant

The third picture of the servant that I would like for you to notice in this particular section, begins with chapter 52, verse 13, and goes through chapter 53, verse 12:

Isaiah 52

13Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
14As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
15So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

Isaiah 53

1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

We will stop right there. The rest of the chapter is telling the same story, painting the picture that is in the fourth panel of our frame. Keep in mind that in each one of these pictures, there are phases that are mentioned in all the others, just as there would be if you had this four-panel picture of your own child. You would see the characteristics are the same, but the expressions would be different. Just as certainly as that is true, there are different expressions in each one of these panels. The expression that we would suggest for this panel is suffering . We use the phrase, the suffering servant .

In the first panel there is the meek and mild Christ . In the second panel, there is the mighty Messiah . In the third panel there is the surrendered Christ , and in this panel there is the suffering Christ . You need all four of these servant songs or servant poems, as they are described by Bible scholars, to have the complete picture of the Savior.

The thing that thrills my soul is that we are not reading from the New Testament; we are reading from the Old Testament. You could expect to find a picture like this in the New Testament, but this is the Old Testament, yet it is the Old Testament that speaks of the Savior.

Our Personal Confession

We are going to stop right here, but as we do, I would like to suggest that you do something with me that I often do when I read a portion of chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah. Let the Spirit of God speak to your heart through this passage. The pronouns in this passage are all plural, and rightly so, because this represents the prayer that the nation of Israel will pray when she recognizes that she has crucified her Messiah. She comes to the place where she realizes her iniquity and she will make this confession.

I would like for us to read this passage of Scripture changing the appropriate pronouns from the plural to the singular, and let this be your personal confession.

I never read this as a personal confession without having my own heart blessed, for it brings me into a new and a conscious realization that the Lord Jesus Christ is my Savior.

May I suggest that if you are a believer, you read it and emphasize the personal pronoun. If you have been out of fellowship with the Lord, if you have let sin mount up between you and Him, that sin can melt away as you read this chapter.

If perchance you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior—you are an unbeliever—if you will read this passage of Scripture from your heart, Christ can become your own.

Notice with me, beginning with the last part of verse 2, making the changes to make this our personal confession:

Isaiah 53

2…he hath no form nor comeliness; and when [I] shall see him, there is no beauty that [I] should desire him.
3He is despised and rejected of men [especially me] ; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and [I] hid as it were [my] face from him; he was despised, and [I] esteemed him not [I couldn't have cared less] .
4Surely he hath borne [my] griefs, and carried [my] sorrows: yet [I] did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for [my] transgressions, he was bruised for [my] iniquities: the chastisement of [my] peace was upon him; and with his stripes [I was] healed.
6[I, like all] sheep have gone astray; [I] have turned every one to [my] own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for [my] transgression was he stricken.
9And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed [of which I am a part] , he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11He shall see of the travail of his soul [especially me] , and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities [as he has borne mine] .
12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many [but especially my sin] , and made intercession for the transgressors [and especially for me] .


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