In the third Servant Song, Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah as both a scholar and as a willing sufferer in complete submission to the Father’s will, as the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Perfect Faith

The Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
    he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
    Let us stand in court together.
Who are my adversaries?
    Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
    who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
    the moth will eat them up.

Isaiah 50:7-9 (NRSV)

God verified the innocence of the Servant; no one could bring an accusation against Him.

The apostle Paul quoted this passage from Isaiah and applied it to all believers, for we are in Christ, and the Spirit of Christ is in us.

If God is for us, who is against us?

He who did not withhold his own Son but gave him up for all of us, how will he not with him also give us everything else?

Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?

It is God who justifies.

Who is to condemn?

It is Christ who died, or rather, who was raised, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 

Romans 8:31-34 (NRSV, italics mine)

In all his letters, Paul sought to explain that all who have received Jesus by faith receive all things from God. We are to God what Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith, is to God because every believer is a part of the Body of Christ.

Just as Jesus knew there was no condemnation for Him, we know that there is no condemnation for any person who has put their faith in the Lord. This perspective enables you and me to really believe we can face any trouble in life. We know God will vindicate us at the right time.

Christ before Pilate, “What is Truth?” | By Nikolai GePublic Domain

Humble Faith

First century Christians sung a hymn describing the breathtaking plunge God the Son took in order to achieve communion between humankind and God.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he existed in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NRSV)

Jesus emptied Himself to live out His life as a human, completely dependent as a human being on God, God’s Holy Spirit and God’s power. God the Son did not consider His equality in deity and glory with the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit as something to keep in His tight grip. Instead, He knew that the Lord God would help Him, that willing submission to God is always a winning move for a human being, and is God the Son’s own will and energy in full trinitarian union.

You and I who have received Jesus’s life within us now also can know this. We can know how to answer God when God calls. You and I can have Jesus’s courage to obey God and Jesus’s confidence to count on God’s help.

The Servant’s opponents, who seemed so powerful at the time, were not any more durable than a piece of cloth that is getting quietly eaten away by moths. Ever picked up a sweater that that has happened to? It just falls apart in the hands, does it not?

I think of the people and situations that might be opposing us right now. The spiritual perspective understands that God is powerful enough, and trustworthy enough, and loves us enough to help us face our opponents in power and confidence.

By Paolo Veneziano – Church of San Pantalon Venice, Public Domain

Discerning Faith

The victories and defeats in this life are not always what they seem. God vindicated what looked like the disaster of the cross with the completely unexpected (though it should not have been) literal, physical resurrection of Jesus into a glorified, perfect, immortal body.

That is quite enormous!

The spiritual perspective is willing to trust God with this and quietly wait for God’s usually unexpected and always perfect solution.

At this point God asks, in this passage, who will you and I now be like? 

Will we fear the Lord?

Who among you fears the Lord
    and obeys the voice of his servant,
who walks in darkness
    and has no light,
yet trusts in the name of the Lord
    and relies upon his God?

Isaiah 50:10 (NRSV, emphasis mine)

Or will we decide to take care of ourselves, and light our way with our own fire?

But all of you are kindlers of fire,
    lighters of firebrands.
Walk in the flame of your fire
    and among the brands that you have kindled!
This is what you shall have from my hand:
    you shall lie down in torment.

Isaiah 11 (NRSV, italics mine)

Part of our answer has to come down to how well you and I know God.

How can we trust in and rely on God, without really knowing Who God is and what God is like? 

This is why God says, Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of God’s Servant? Serious Bible study becomes essential for a life of real, authentic faith. It is not the only essential, of course. Studying the Bible in the absence of attunement with God’s Spirit through prayer and living by faith becomes a mere intellectual exercise.

But knowing both the published words (the Bible) of God as illumined by the Holy Spirit (God’s “fire” rather than our own), and remaining attuned to the guidance of the Spirit so that we may walk in step with the Spirit of God defines a life of real, authentic faith.

Every day that you and I set aside time and quiet to listen to the Lord through scripture, meditating on what we read, praying and seeking God’s guidance, we are following in the Servant’s footsteps, the life of Messiah Jesus.

This may be the first act of sacrifice and suffering, to reorder our daily lives so this can become more of a reality.

Jesus among the temple scholars | By Matthias StomPublic Domain

Obedient Faith

I have used the word “obedience” a number of times in reading through Isaiah 50, and I recognize it is a word that has fallen out of favor in some circles, it has fallen out of style. Perhaps some of that is good. The word itself can be construed as outward only, simply doing what has been asked or commanded, whatever I may think or feel. Outward obedience may look good, and keeping it up may make the “obeyer” feel  satisfied in ways that do not reflect spiritual maturity.

So let us think instead about the nature of faith itself. Faith is a belief that is borne out in action. I believe so deeply that air is good for me – vital, even – that I breathe it constantly without question. I make sure wherever I go, there will be air for me to breathe. It is a nonnegotiable.

So it is with those who have put their faith in the Lord.

Those who fear the Lord obey the Servant’s voice

People who try to eliminate the darkness on their own, as the Lord said through Isaiah, will end up in torment. When you and I find ourselves in darkness, we do not panic. Instead, we trust in God, and rely on God.

But to trust God, you and I have to know God, and to obey God’s word, you and I have to set aside time to learn God’s word. So let us encourage each other to keep reading, keep meditating, keep sharing what the Lord reveals to us, and keep living by the wisdom God imparts.

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