Because the Sovereign LORD Helps Me,

I Will Set My Face Like a Flint

50: 1-11

   DIG: What is the LORD emphasizing with the rhetorical questions here? This is the third of four Servant Songs. How would you describe the Servant’s mission? His relationship to God? How does this differ from the nation of Isra'el (see 48:8)? What new element about the Servant, not found in the previous two songs, is added in 50:6-9? Consider the response of the people to Isaiah in 28:9-10 and 30:9-11. What might cause the Servant to be mistreated like this? What gives the Servant confidence and hope in spite of such ill-treatment? What might the prophet mean by those in the dark (see 49:14)? What are they to do? How might the example of the Servant encourage them?

   REFLECT: How would you describe your current relationship with God: (a) Not Looking? (b) Casual date? (c) Going steady? (d) Engaged? (e) Married? (f) Happily-Married? (g) Separated? (h) Divorced? (i) Restraining Order? Why? What would it mean for you to start your day by listening to ADONAI? How might you do so? Recently, has the voice of Jesus been one that sustains you when weary? Or one that cuts like a sharpened sword (49:2)? Why? When was the last time you were walking in the darkness? Did that experience strengthen your relationship with God or cause you to doubt? Who would benefit from your doubting? Who would benefit from your trust, faith, and belief in the LORD?

    The context of these verses is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Servant of the LORD, on the cross. Adonai ELOHIM has opened My ear, and I neither rebelled nor turned away. I offered My back to those who struck Me, My cheeks to those who plucked out My beard; I did not hide My face from insult and spitting. For Adonai ELOHIM will help. That is why no insult can wound Me. That is why I have set My face like a flint, knowing I will not be put to shame (50:5-7 CJB). The means by which Israel’s sin will be pardoned is by the death of the Suffering Servant (see Hl - The Cone of Isaiah). As a result, Isaiah is pointing to the final salvation and restoration of Israel.

    This chapter divides itself easily into three sections. The first section is verses 1 through 3, Israel’s sin and the Servant’s obedience. The second section is verses 4 through 9, the Servant of the LORD. And the third section is verses 10 and 11, the message to believers and unbelievers alike.

    ADONAI was ready to help His people, but they refused to repent. They have always had trouble trusting the LORD. When Pharaoh’s army had them pinned in after leaving Egypt, they complained. They didn’t believe that God had led them out of Egypt. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians?’ It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert (Exodus 14:11-12)!” They also complained during the Babylonian captivity, where they looked upon themselves as a displaced people.194 And they will also grumble at the end of the Great Tribulation when the armies of the world close in on them. They will use the same old tired line and say: ADONAI has abandoned us; Adonai has forgotten us (49:14 CJB).

    So here, God asks them some rhetorical questions that provide evidence of His faithfulness. It is as if ADONAI is asking Judah in the last days: Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? The answer is there wasn’t any. Why? Because the LORD was faithful to that generation just as He will be faithful to the last generation before He returns. In addition, He will ask: Or to which of My creditors did I sell you (50:1a)? The Jews are seen as complaining that God had arbitrarily divorced them and sold them into slavery because under the Torah if a man got himself into debt and could not pay it, he could sell his own children into slavery and buy them back in the Year of Jubilee.195 ADONAI did not sell His children into slavery and in addition, God has no creditors. The problem is not divorce or being in debt, the problem is sin. It was because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away into the Babylonian captivity (50:1b).

    But more importantly, for this last generation before He returns, it will be as if the LORD is saying, “It is because of your sins that this is happening to you. Will you never believe in Me? I was not too weak to save you from Pharaoh and from Babylon and I am not too weak to save you now! My power is overwhelming.” When I came, why was there no one else to help you? No, instead of trying to fix the blame on God, the people should be committing themselves to the power and grace of their Creator and Redeemer in 50:2-3.

    When the LORD issued a call for salvation, no one responded. Humans are incapable of gaining salvation by themselves, that was why ADONAI sent His Son the suffering Servant (John 3:16). When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was there a problem with God’s ability to save? He asks rhetorically: Was My arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you (50:2)? As the arm is an emblem of power, the shortness of the arm signifies diminished power, and length of the arm an increase. This is the third of nine occurrences of the arm of the LORD (30:30 and 32, 40:10, 51:5 and 9, 52:10, 53:1, 59:1 and 16, 62:8, 63:5). ADONAI’s power to deliver His people from their bondage of sin is expressed through the common ancient idiom of the arm. The LORD will rain blows on their ancient enemy and force them to give His people up. God’s arm is not too short, or weak, for the task. But what will His arm look like? Its appearance, just as in 9:6-7, will be surprising (52:14 through 53:3). Instead of power to smash the enemy, it will have the power to absorb the worst the enemy has to offer, and yet give back love.196 No, the LORD lacks neither the desire nor the ability to deliver His people from sin. The only issue is whether they will repent and answer Him in faith when He calls.

    The evidence that ADONAI’s arm is not to short is seen in His control over nature. The allusions to the exodus cannot be missed (50:2b-3): By a mere rebuke I dry up the Sea of Reeds (see my commentary on Exodus Ci – The Waters Were Divided and the Israelites Went Through the Sea), and I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst (see my commentary on Exodus Bk – Strike the Water of the Nile and It Will Be Turned into Blood). I clothe the sky with darkness and make sackcloth its covering (see my commentary on Exodus Bs – Darkness Covered All Egypt For Three Days). All these seem to be drawn from that experience. When all was said and done neither the strength of the sea, nor the power of the sky could resist Him. It does not matter how much water is in the ocean, or how bright the sun is in the heavens; the LORD can dry up the one and darken the other. No one should doubt His ability to save the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:10b).

    Despite God’s promises of redemption (49:1-13), Isra'el believed she was rejected (49:14 and 24). But ADONAI insists that is not the case because He can and will deliver her (49:15-50:3). In these verses the Servant speaks. He doesn’t tell us why He is suffering here, but later we learn that it was to ensure that her sin had been pardoned. This would ultimately point to the fact that the Suffering Servant of Isaiah would be Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross would forgive the sin of the people. This is the third of Isaiah’s four Servant Songs (42:1-17, 49:1-6, and 52:13 to 53:12).

    When Jesus, the Son of God, was born, there is ample biblical evidence that the man Jesus was a fully human person, not lacking any of the essential elements of humanity that are found in each of us. He was truly human in both the physical and psychological sense. Intellectually, He had remarkable knowledge, yet this knowledge was not without limits. Yeshua frequently asked questions, and the impression given by the Gospels is that He asked because He did not know. It is difficult to account for the fact that Jesus’ knowledge was extraordinary in some things, but definitely limited in others. But the point in these verses is that He had to undergo a learning process like every other man and woman. In His humanity Yeshua had to learn certain things. When He is twelve years old He was found by His parents in the Temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. The Bible tells us that they were amazed at His understanding and His answers (Luke 2:46-47). But how did He gain His knowledge? We are not told anywhere in the New Covenant how Messiah learned what He knew in His humanity. Luke simply summarizes that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). But how did He learn it? Isaiah tells us.

    Adonai ELOHIM has given Me the ability to speak as a man well taught, so that I, with My words, know how to sustain the weary. God the Son was discipled by God the Father. Early in the morning, morning by morning, He wakens My ear to listen like one being taught (50:4). The phrase like one being taught in Hebrew is not a verb, it is a noun, meaning a disciple. So what it is really saying is: He wakens My ear to listen like a disciple. Just like we need to be discipled, God the Father would arouse God the Son in His humanity, take Him out somewhere and disciple Him. And one of the things He learned was to know the word that sustains the weary; or to minister with meaningful words. This is the same mission that was spelled out in Chapter 49 of Isaiah. Later Jesus would say: Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

    But that is not all He was trained for. Next we learn that Yeshua was trained for the rebuke, but that He would endure. We are told the Servant did not react against mistreatment: ADONAI opened His ears so that when He was abused and mistreated at His trial and crucifixion He never rebelled. And I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back (50:5). There was no animosity or anger on His part. Neither did He draw back. Why not? Because morning by morning God the Father trained Messiah for the suffering task to which He was called.

    Then His suffering is described: I offered My back to those who beat Me. At no point did Jesus try to retreat, or cower away from the blows. He offered His back to the forty lashes that was given to Him before His crucifixion. Secondly, He offered His cheeks to those who pulled out His beard. This is the equivalent to what we term “pulling the hair out by the roots.” It was sometimes a self-inflicted suffering as a token of mourning (Ezra 9:3), sometimes an act of wanton persecution as shown here, and sometimes punishment, as represented in the text. It is said the ancient Athenians punished adulterers by tearing the hair from the scalp and then covering the head with hot ashes.197 To understand what is happening here we need to look at the TaNaKh concept regarding beards. They were a meaningful symbol throughout the TaNaKh. Therefore, pulling out someone’s beard was a sign of utter contempt (Ezra 9:3; Nehemiah 13:25). That is why God forbid Jews from shaving their beards.

    Thirdly, Yeshua says: I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting (50:6). As they began to spit on Christ, He never lifted up His hands, or ducked His face to protect Himself from this mocking. The fulfillment of this is found in four passages, Matthew 26:67, 27:26 and 30; Mark 14:65 and John 18:22. But while on the one hand men despised the Servant, God the Father aided Him. Messiah willingly subjected Himself to these things because He knew that ADONAI would come to His aide. And because of this, Christ set His face like a flint to the task to which He was called, specifically, the task to suffer and die for the sins of the world. And He was so sure of this, He set His face like a flint (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Gk – As the Time Approached, Jesus Resolutely Set Out for Jerusalem) to the cross because Jesus knew He would not be put to shame (50:7).

    As a result, the Servant was vindicated. He who vindicates Me is near. Who then will bring charges against Me? Let us face each other! Who is My accuser? Let him confront Me (50:8)! But there is only silence because there is no one who can take this Servant to trial. It is only the Father who will vindicate Him. This vindication comes by means of the resurrection. Regarding His Son, who as to His human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:3 and 4). Now Christ always was the Son of God, but the justification or the proof of His Sonship with God the Father came by means of the resurrection. He did not become the Son of God by the resurrection; He was proved who He claimed to be by the resurrection. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Holy Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory (First Timothy 3:16). Notice He was vindicated by the Holy Spirit, being taken up in glory, after the resurrection. In fact, the resurrection proves the deity of the Son.

    The Servant was not condemned. Once again there is recognition of God the Father’s aid. Look, if Adonai ELOHIM helps Me, who will dare condemn Me? And for those who would dare to contend with the Son, here, they are all falling apart like old, moth-eaten clothes (50:9 CJB). They will die away like an old piece of cloth. The Servant is eternal and will live forever because of the resurrection that justified His claim. But, for those who dispute His claims, they will fade away with age because they do not have the Holy Spirit to teach and guide them. It is interesting to note that the rabbis teach that the servant is Isaiah himself. But others regard him as the personification of the saintly minority or Israel, the faithful remnant.

    Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on His God (50:10b). Throughout Chapters 49 and 50, primarily the Servant, but to some extent, God the Father has been speaking. But now Isaiah speaks and asks: Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of His Servant (50:10a)? The prophet encourages his people who were wondering whether their dark situation was evidence that God had forgotten them. Isaiah’s answer is to have faith in the word of His Servant. No matter how gloomy things get, if we trust and obey, the LORD will be with us. Therefore, to trust and obey ADONAI would seem to imply being in the light. On reflection, however, that is not necessarily the case. Those who follow the Servant may indeed walk with Him into the darkness of trouble or distress. But this does not imply that we should forego our reliance on Him. Through the ages believers have equated ADONAI’s blessing with comfort and a sense of well being. But that is not the way of the Servant. So the challenge is again and again, do not lose your confidence in the LORD. Put your hope, your trust, and your belief in Him.198

    However, for those who insist on walking by their own light, they will suffer the fate of those who reject Yeshua Messiah. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. The final verse is an ominous warning: This is what you shall receive from My hand: You will lie down in torment (50:11). This is a Jewish expression meaning: You will lie down in hell. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment . . . he begged father Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house for he had five brothers. He wanted Lazarus to warn them, so that they will not come to that place of torment (Luke 16:23 and 27-28). Therefore, unbelievers who self-righteously light their torches to illumine their own paths (that will supposedly lead them to safety), will only receive judgment (see my commentary on Revelation Fp – The Lake of Fire is the Second Death).

    For believers, no matter how dark it gets, we are to rely upon ADONAI. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

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