The Wonder of His NameServant of the Lord
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says, when you’re in disagreement with someone, it’s an opportunity to be like your Savior.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You get into a dispute, and voices get raised because you want to prove you’re right and the other person is wrong, and the pitch gets higher and higher. Jesus doesn’t do it that way. That’s not how He wins.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, April 14, 2014.
We've been able to get to know Jesus in a deeper, more intimate way over these last few weeks. Nancy Leigh DeMoss is continuing in the series "The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus."
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you were to ask a whole group of people, “Would you rather be a king or a servant?” What do you think most would say? Now, think about that. Kings have power. They have influence and control. Kings are important and wealthy . . . and servants? Well, servants are on the other side of the scale on all those counts, right?
So, given the choice, I think most people would rather be a king than a servant. We think a king is more glamorous. Who wants to be a servant? Throughout salvation’s history, through all of Scripture, we see that God is indeed a king. He is the King of all creation. So it follows that throughout the Old Testament, we would see people serving Him.
He is the King; they are the servants. So we have Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses . . . These were all identified as chosen servants of the Lord. He’s the King; they’re the servants. Now, these men and others who served the Lord considered it an both an obligation to serve God—but also a great, amazing privilege.
Imagine, you get to be a servant of the Lord, and He is the King, after all. So, our service is due to Him. He is worthy of our service. He is definitely the King. We saw that in our last session—Jesus is the King.
Now, against that backdrop, it’s amazing to me that the King and Sovereign Lord of this universe—God, Jehovah Almighty—ordained before the foundation of the world that He would save His subjects by stooping down, condescending, and sending His Son to earth as a servant, as a slave—a bondservant.
Think about that. That’s the problem with some of us who have been in the church a long, long, long time. We’ve heard all these things, and we get this glazed look. We lose the wonder! The Sovereign God and King of the universe ordained, before He even created the human race, that one day He would send His Son to this earth to be a servant, to save His subjects.
In the last session, we looked at some Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah—that He would be a king. The Scripture also has many prophecies in the Old Testament that tell us that He would be a servant—Messiah would be a servant. In fact, when you come to the book of Isaiah, this theme is particularly emphasized.
Let me encourage you, as I’m setting this up, to turn to Isaiah 42. In Isaiah, beginning in chapter 42, between there and chapter 53, we have four "Servant Songs" (some would say there are five). There are at least four "Servant Songs." These are poems that are found in the latter part of the book of Isaiah.
In fact, twenty times, beginning in chapter 40 through chapter 53, you see this phrase: “the servant of the Lord,” or “the servant of Jehovah.” Sometimes you see, “my servant,” or “his servant.” This is a prominent theme in the second half of Isaiah. And many of these are Messianic prophecies about Jesus.
Sometimes when you see “the servant of the Lord,” or “my servant,” it refers to the nation of Israel. For example, Isaiah 41:8 says, “You, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend.” It’s talking about the nation of Israel that was ordained to be the servant of the Lord.
You see, God chose the nation Israel out from all the peoples of the earth to be His servant, to be His messenger, to take His light and His law to the nations of the world. They were to do that by their words; they were to do that by their example. The Jews were intended to be a servant of God, a channel of blessing to the world.
But Israel failed to fulfill her calling as the servant of the Lord. So in other places, particularly in the book of Isaiah, we see that this servant is not a nation, it’s not Israel. This servant is an individual. The pronouns become singular—“he.” This individual is a faithful, righteous servant who perfectly carries out God’s purposes—purposes that Israel failed to fulfill as the servant of the Lord.
You say, “I’m a little confused.” That’s exactly the way these Old Testament Jews felt, because they were just seeing this thing dimly; they were just being given glimpses of this in the book of Isaiah and other Old Testament prophecies. There’s the servant that is Israel—what’s that all about? Then there’s a servant who is a person, this faithful, righteous servant. It only becomes clear as you move into the New Testament. It’s kind of foggy in the Old Testament, but the fog dissipates as we get into the New Testament.
I want to start in the Old Testament, Isaiah 42, where this ideal, righteous faithful servant is first introduced. This is the first "Servant Song" in the book of Isaiah. In the first four verses of this chapter, God speaks about this servant. Then in verses 5–9, He speaks to His servant. In verses 1–4 He talks about this servant. He talks about his identity, his mission, and the way in which he will go about fulfilling that mission.
Let me read verses 1–4:
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.
Now, you’re scratching your head. “What is that all about?” That’s what those Old Testament Jews were doing. But you get to the New Testament and Matthew 12 tells us explicitly that this passage in Isaiah 42 . . . It quotes this passage and says that this is a Messianic prophecy that was fulfilled in Jesus. This passage is talking about Jesus. We don’t know that clearly until we get to the New Testament.
So this passage talks about His identity. “My servant,” God says, “whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him.” Does that remind you of something you read about in the New Testament? Remember the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3?
Jesus is baptized by John. He comes up out of the water. The heavens are opened. The Spirit descends upon Him . . . comes to rest on Him like a dove (“I have put my Spirit upon Him”), and a voice from Heaven says, what? “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (vv. 16–17).
God says, “This is My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I’ve put my Spirit upon him.” This description of Messiah also describes what Israel, the servant of the Lord, was intended to be. They were intended—not to have this cold, formal relationship with God—but to have a warm, honored position and calling as the servant of the Lord.
They had been chosen for this purpose out of all the other nations of earth—not because they were special, but just because God loved them. And when Israel failed to fulfill her calling, to be the servant of the Lord, God sent another Servant. He sent Jesus to fulfill what Israel had failed to fulfill—the Servant of the Lord.
The Servant’s mission, we see in this passage: “He will bring forth justice to the nations . . . he will faithfully bring forth justice . . . he will [establish] justice in the earth” (Isa. 42:3–4). Now, this justice is not just in a limited, legal sense, but it involves proclaiming God’s holy standard and bringing the world into alignment with all of God’s eternal purposes and truth.
This justice is making everything right, and what is right? It’s the standard of God’s holiness. It’s bringing the whole world back into alignment with God and His holiness. How will this Servant of the Lord fulfill His mission? Isaiah 42 tells us that it’s not as the Jews expected the Messiah would act. They thought when He came (by the time you get to the New Testament Roman era) He would act by forceful words and actions.
But this Servant doesn’t come, according to Isaiah 42, with military might or power. Instead, verse 2 tells us this Servant of the Lord, “will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street.” He won’t strong-arm others in order to push His agenda. He won’t try to out-yell His opponents.
Does that ever happen sometimes in your family? You get into a dispute, and voices get raised because you want to prove you’re right and the other person is wrong, and the pitch gets higher and higher. Jesus doesn’t do it that way. That’s not how He wins.
You watch some news programs today, and you see just the just the opposite of what’s described here. You see these talk shows. People are yelling; they’re all talking at the same time; they’re arguing and trying to prove their point, debating. Not so the Servant of the Lord. Scripture tells us He will have a gentle, meek, quiet spirit, which 1 Peter tells us, in God’s sight is very precious.
Listen ladies, when we’re called to have a gentle and quiet spirit, we’re called to be like this Servant of the Lord . . . to be like Jesus. “He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street.” He’s not going to force His way. Verse 3, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.”
A bruised reed, that’s a fragile plant that’s been hurt. And the Servant of the Lord, Messiah, he won’t break (that word is “to crush, to smash”) these bruised and damaged lives. He’ll deal gently with them. These bruised reeds, these people whose lives have been bruised and damaged—they may seem useless to others. They may seem beyond repair, but this servant of the Lord, this Messiah, He can repair and strengthen those lives—those bruised reeds—and make them useful again.
That’s what the Servant of the Lord will do. “A faintly burning wick he will not quench.” One translation calls that “a smoldering wick.” You know in an oil lamp when there is hardly any oil left and the flame is about to go out, the wick just starts to smoke. There’s no light there. It’s a smoldering wick, a faintly burning wick. This wick is almost burned out. When it’s burned out, it’s not good for anything is it? It can’t shine a light.
So this Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, will come and He’ll find these faintly burning wicks, but He won’t put them out. He won’t quench them. He doesn’t write them off; He doesn’t discard them. He sees worth in them, and He supplies the oil of the Spirit that those faintly burning wicks lack. With that new oil, He fans them into flame and makes them to once again show forth light—He makes them useful.
This is the redeeming Servant of the Lord. You see this fulfilled in the Gospels as you watch Jesus noticing the “least of these,” caring for and gently dealing with those who were considered useless, those who were considered beyond repair. Who does Jesus care for? It’s the blind, the deaf, the lame, the lepers, the marginalized, the demonized, the sexually promiscuous, those whose lives are broken, bruised, faintly burning.
He picks them up and breathes new life into them—the life of His Spirit. He restores their flame. Hallelujah, what a Savior! That’s what the Servant of the Lord does. Do we have any bruised reeds here? Some faintly burning wicks? That’s what He wants to do with your life.
Maybe there are bruised reeds in your life, some faintly burning wicks in your family or your sphere of influence. We as His servants—the Servant of the Lord—are to have that same kind of ministry in those lives. Verse 4, “He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth.” Now, this is interesting. You have to look up the original translation in Hebrew here.
“He will not grow faint,” that’s the same word used in the previous verse for “faintly burning wick.” He will not grow faint—that word means "to be weak, or despondent, or disheartened." He won’t give up. He won’t give up on others. He won’t give up until God’s purposes have been accomplished. He will not grow faint or be "discouraged." That word is the same word that you see in the previous verse as “bruised,” a bruised reed.
He will not be discouraged. He’ll help discouraged people, He’ll help despondent people, broken people, bruised people, faintly burning people, but He will not give up, He will not grow weary. That flame of the Holy Spirit within Him will keep burning, and He will keep going, even when it’s hard—even when He has to go to the cross and lay down His life as the Servant of the Lord. He will not grow faint or be discouraged until all of God’s purposes have been established, by the Servant of the Lord.
This Servant’s mission will be to bring about God’s kingdom purposes throughout the world. In so doing, He will suffer great injustice, but He will do so quietly and willingly. He will not cry out. He will not raise His voice in His own defense. He will seek justice for others, but He will never demand it for Himself. Regardless of what He suffers, He will not allow anything to deter Him from doing what the Father has sent Him to this earth to do.
He’s the ideal Servant. He’s the Faithful Servant. He’s the Righteous Servant. He’s the Servant who came to fulfill in Israel’s place and as their substitute what Israel was intended to do in the earth, as the servant of the Lord. Now, in Isaiah 42:5–9, God speaks to His Servant. He says in verse 6,
I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon.
Messiah will be the Servant of the Lord, to give light in darkness, to release prisoners who are bound. Of course, we know this was fulfilled in the life and ministry, in the death and the resurrection of Christ.
Remember, Israel was supposed to be the servant of the Lord, the messenger of the Lord? Israel was intended to be a light to the nations, to bring liberty to the peoples of the world. But they failed to do that. And, in fact, look down at verse 19. They themselves, the ones who were supposed to be the servant of the Lord, they are blind. They are in bondage:
Who is blind but my servant [Israel], or deaf as my messenger whom I send? . . . He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear . . . this is a people plundered and looted; they are all of them trapped in holes and hidden in prisons; they have become plunder with none to rescue. (vv. 19–22).
Do you get the picture? Because God’s chosen people—supposed to be the servant of the Lord—because they would not serve the Lord, they became servants of their enemies. They became slaves. So God sent His Son Jesus, the ideal Servant, the Messenger of the Lord, who came to this earth to rescue and deliver the ones who were supposed to be His servants in the first place.
Messiah came to bring light. He came to bring deliverance from bondage. God’s people, His chosen people, instead of walking in the light, they were in darkness; they were blind; they were deaf. Instead of proclaiming liberty to the nations as intended, they were themselves walking in bondage. So God sent His Servant, the Messiah Jesus Christ, to earth to shine the light in their darkness, to set them free from their bondage, so they could once again be the servant of the Lord, to send light and liberty to the rest of the world.
See how amazing this Servant of the Lord is? The King became a slave, a servant, in order to save His subjects. Philippians 2 says it this way,
Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant (vv. 6–7).
Jesus said of Himself in Mark 10:45:
The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
We love that verse, and we think, “Oh, how precious, how wonderful is that.” If you put yourself in the mind of first century Jews, this was unthinkable! This was scandalous that a rabbi, a king, would take the place of a servant!
Actually, that’s what Peter thought in the Upper Room. We read in John 13 after Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover feast. Jesus took off His outer garments and tied a towel around His waist. He poured water into a basin, and He began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was around His waist.
Peter says, “Jesus! No way! This is crazy! We should be doing this!” And that’s exactly the point—we’re supposed to be the servants. But because we weren’t, because we aren’t, because we don’t serve, because we haven’t fulfilled God’s purposes for us as servants, God sent His Son Jesus, the Ideal Servant.
By the way, this is a powerful distinction between Christianity and other world religions. In other religions, salvation is gained from offering sacrifice to the gods. But in Christianity, salvation is gained when God stoops down and serves those He has created. Amazing grace!
So God says to the Jews in Isaiah’s day, and He says to us today, “Behold my Servant.” Israel was called, chosen to be God’s servant, to be a blessing, to bring God’s blessing to the world, and Jesus came to do what Israel failed to do. We, too, have been chosen to be servants of the Lord—to carry out His purposes in your home, in your church, in your community, in this world.
Would you agree with me that we have failed to be the servants that we ought to have been? We’re too busy being concerned about being served, about getting our needs met? We want others to serve us. If you’re in the Christian world, yes, you’re supposed to be a servant. We want to serve. We want to be a servant until somebody treats us like a servant, right? And then it’s like, “Do you know who I am? I’m the mother!” . . . or whatever.
We want to be served—we don’t want to serve. We don’t want to lay down our lives; not when it’s inconvenient, not when it’s costly. We failed, but Jesus is God’s ideal Servant—the substitute for the failed servant. He succeeded where we have failed. He comes to us not just as a good example. (“Oh, be like Jesus. He’s a good example.”) It’s through His death, obedient to death on the cross, that He restored us.
Now, He has placed within us His Spirit. Remember we read in Isaiah 42, “I have put Spirit upon him.” We see at the baptism of Jesus, the Spirit came and rested upon Him. Now, He has put that same Spirit—the Spirit of God—in us. It’s that Spirit who enables us:
- to serve Jehovah
- to be a light to the nations
- to be His messengers
- to be channels of blessing
- to speak His Word
- to live His Word
- to minister gently and in a redemptive way to broken, damaged lives
The Servant of the Lord will be exalted. Isaiah 52:13 tells us, “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; [he shall prosper] he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” He stooped down. He obeyed the Father. He came to this earth to serve fallen creatures who should have been the servants. The King did that—He became the servant. He stepped off His throne. He laid aside His crown and His royal robes and came to this earth as a slave, a servant.
He ascended to Heaven. He’s sitting at the right hand of God, and one day He will be fully exalted. He is exalted today, but one day for all the world to see that He is the Servant King. Then we see in that final "Servant Song" in Isaiah 53. This Servant, the one who took the place as the Servant of the Lord, will justify God’s chosen ones: “By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many." Literally, “he will cause many to become righteous.”
We had no hope of becoming righteous, ever, if the Righteous One had not become the Righteous Servant. "For He shall bear their iniquities" (v. 11). We’ll take a longer look at the Suffering Servant in the next session, but let’s just close in prayer here.
Oh, Lord, our hearts are convicted as we think of the fact that we’re the ones who should be the servants. You are the King. We rightly should be serving You, but since we didn’t, since we wouldn’t, since we failed in that calling, since we set out to serve ourselves rather than you and others, You said, “Okay, I’ll serve.”
You sent your Son to this earth—your Righteous Servant—who stooped down and washed the feet of the ones who should have been the servants. So we thank You; we worship You. We worship You, Lord Jesus, because You’re the King, but also because You’re the Faithful, Righteous, Ideal Servant.
Now I pray that the Spirit of the Living God, the Spirit of Jehovah that came upon and blessed and filled and enabled Jesus to be the righteous servant of the Lord—I pray that that same Spirit might rest upon you and every woman in this room. That He might fill you and that you might become the servants of the Lord, for His glory, for the justification of many. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping you get to know Jesus as the Servant of the Lord. She writes about Jesus as a servant in the book, The Wonder of His Name. When you read the thirty-two devotional entries in this book, you’ll see Jesus from thirty-two different angles and get to know him better. I think you’ll fall in love with Him all over again as you explore these names.
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