Isaiah’s Third Servant Speech: Introduction
Most commentators accept Isaiah 50:4-9 (ESV) as Isaiah’s third servant speech (see Septuagint translation here). This should have people jumping up and down. Christians everywhere know Jesus Christ God’s Son to be God’s Servant (John 5:30; 4:34; 6:38; 7:18; Matthew 26:39). To hear the preincarnate Christ speaking in the Old Testament is amazing. Don’t you find it so? God gave us the inestimable gift in Scripture of hearing two of the three persons of God in close proximity, interacting with one another. God does not hide himself. He reveals himself in countless ways. Everyone and anyone who wants to know God and his Christ need only approach him and honestly ask.
Isaiah’s Third Servant Speech: Verses 4 and 5
Here are the words of God’s Servant in Isaiah’s third servant speech, Isaiah 50:4-5 Septuagint (LXE).
4 The Lord even God gives me the tongue of instruction, to know when it is fit to speak a word: he has appointed for me early, he has given me an ear to hear: 5 and the instruction of the Lord, even the Lord, opens my ears, and I do not disobey, nor dispute. [See Isaiah 50:4-5 LXX.]
Isaiah 50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. (ESV)
Everyone familiar with the Gospels will recognize that Isaiah’s third servant speech aptly characterizes Jesus of Nazareth and his ministry. Some remember Jesus for his miracles, yet as much as he did do miracles, he also taught everyone, those who wanted to listen and those who did not.
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)
Matthew 5:2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: (ESV) [See also Matthew 13:54; Mark 1:22; 10:1; Luke 4:15; 5:3; John 6:59; 8:2; 18:20.]
Just as Isaiah prophesied, Christ–God’s Servant–claimed that he learned what to say and teach from God.
John 8:28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. (ESV)
Mark 1:35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (ESV)
As God’s singular Servant Israel, Christ gave what God’s people Jacob failed to give–his wholehearted obedience.
5 and the instruction of the Lord, even the Lord, opens my ears, and I do not disobey, nor dispute. Septuagint (LXE) 5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. (ESV) [Emphasis added.]
Isaiah 48:1 Hear these words, ye house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and have come forth out of Juda, who swear by the name of the Lord God of Israel, making mention of it, but not with truth, nor with righteousness;… 8 You have neither known, nor understood, neither from the beginning have I opened your ears: for I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and would be called a transgressor even from the womb. Septuagint (LXE)
8 You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel. (ESV) [Emphasis added.]
Isaiah’s Third Servant Speech: Verses 6 through 9
Christians everywhere know that Christ suffered and was crucified. They often read Isaiah 53 aloud to describe his sufferings. But here in Isaiah 50:6, the Servant himself prophetically describes in first person some of the things he will suffer. He uses the prophetic perfect tense (past tense) throughout. Then, in verses 7-9, the Servant describes how he trusts in God.
6 I gave my back to scourges [μάστιγας mas-tee-gas], and my cheeks to blows; and I turned not away my face from the shame of spitting: Septuagint (LXE)
Matthew 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, (ESV)
Matthew 27:30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. (ESV)
John 19:1 So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged [ἐμαστίγωσεν ay-mas-tee-go-sen] Him. (NKJ)
The Servant Trusts in God
Isaiah 50:7 but the Lord God became my helper; therefore I was not ashamed, but I set my face as a solid rock; and I know that I shall never be ashamed, 8 for he that has justified me draws near; Septuagint (LXE)
God’s Servant died and was buried (Matthew 27:50, 59-60; Mark 15:37, 46; Luke 23:46, 53; John 19:33-42). On the third day, God his Helper drew near and resurrected him from the dead. Jesus was not ashamed; rather, God glorified him and sat him on a throne right next to himself (Matthew 19:28; 25:31; Revelation 5:13).
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I [Paul] delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (ESV)
The Outcome of Those Who Hurt God’s Servant
For those who hurt God’s Servant and never repented, it will not go so well.
8… who is he that pleads with me? let him stand up against me at the same time: yea, who is he that pleads with me? let him draw nigh to me. 9 Behold, the Lord, the Lord, will help me; who will hurt me? behold, all ye shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you. Septuagint (LXE)
These verses do not prophesy directly the Servant’s death and resurrection. Isaiah 53 will do that. The Servant does, however, challenge his opponents and prophesy their death, “Behold, all ye shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you” (verse 9). The Masoretic text states it this way, “Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up” (ESV).
The Voice of the Prophet Breaks Through
In verse 10, the voice of Isaiah the prophet breaks through to comment upon the preceding revelations. That will be a topic for the next post.