The Perfection of the Servant's Mission

Rob Green December 5, 2009 Isaiah 49:1-13

Isn’t it great when all the pieces come together?

  • Christmas is upon us and I am in the stage of life where some of my children like toys that have a little saying in 2 point font on the box “Adult assembly required.”  What it really should say is “You will be up all night on Christmas putting this toy together  – We hope you make it before your kids get up!”
  • If your family is like ours that you know that your kids will be excited come Christmas Eve. 
  • Our family Christmas Eve is very simple.  Come to the candlelight service at 6:00.  Spend time reading the Christmas story in the Scriptures.  Allowing our kids to exchange their gifts to each other.  Sometime watch a movie like “Polar Express” by our fireplace while we eat junk food and drink hot chocolate.
  • You finally usher your kids to bed having had an evening of fun with a strong emphasis on the message of Jesus.
  • It is time to get to work…you gather your tools, set out the presents, grab a beverage – preferably one loaded with caffeine.
  • You get “done” and there are 4 pieces left and it is now midnight.  So you take it apart, actually read the directions this time, and by 1 am you finally have it together.
  • There is a sigh of relief coupled with a sense of pride that you are the man!  You actually put together a toy that a bon a fide 3 year old will play with and it only took you 3 hours!
  • Or maybe you are sports fan and your team has everything working.  All the players are playing well together and your team is just dominating the others.  The Colts are 11-0, West Lafayette won the state football championship, and the Purdue basketball team looks like it has all the players necessary to make a run at the NCAAs. 
  • That is an awesome feeling.  You want to watch your team. 
  • You want to watch them put the smack down on all their opponents and then you want to gloat that “your team” is awesome.

It is really great when all the pieces come together.  With that in mind please turn in your Bibles to two passages; the first is Acts 8:26, that is on page 99 in the back section of the Bible in the chair in front of you and Isaiah 49:1 which is on page 522 in the front section of the Bible.  Read Acts 8:26-35.

  • The eunuch was reading Isaiah, in fact, he was reading one of the servant songs – a passage that Pastor Viars will use for the Christmas Eve services.  The servant song was initially confusing.  He had a few pieces to the puzzle but there were things that did not quite make sense.
  • He knew it had to be talking about a person, but he didn’t know who.  Is it Isaiah himself, is he the servant?  Or is this talking about someone else? 
  • So Phillip began there, in Isaiah, filling in the details.  Phillip put the puzzle together and demonstrated that the servant in the servant songs of Isaiah was none other than Jesus the Messiah.
  • With the rest of puzzle filled in, the eunuch believed.

When you read some passages of the Bible, they are hard to understand.  But thankfully God has given us the “rest of the story.”  Phillip put the pieces together for the Eunuch that day.  Our Sunday morning services during Christmas are devoted to studying the servant songs of Isaiah with the overall theme of “Finding Hope in God’s Servant at Christmas.”  Last week, we saw the perfection of the Servant’s purpose.  Today, we are going to consider the perfection of the Servant’s Mission.

Please turn now to Isaiah 49.  Read Isaiah 49:1-13. Sounds a bit confusing, huh. 

  • In fact, if we were reading this at home on our couch we might be thinking, “What in the world is this about?”.  Hopefully, over the next few minutes we can uncover and understand the rest of the story. 
  • Before we get to the details let’s get a big picture.

All of the Isaianic servant songs are ultimately about Jesus.  Israel, by this point [700 BC with the northern tribes in exile and the Southern tribes 100 years before their own exile] has failed in her mission of bring a witness to the nations. She has failed to be a testimony and a light for God to pagan nations. Jeremiah 13:11 says, “as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,' declares the LORD, 'that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.'  This is epitomized in the ministry of Jonah.  Despite the fact that God wanted to be the God of the nations Israel’s own prophets looked at the nations with disdain and hatred.  So much, in Jonah’s case that he cared more for a plant than the people and wished he would die rather than see blessing fall on Ninevah. 

 

They failed according to live out Exod 19:6 and be a nation of priests.  So the servant songs provide a portrait of one who was to come, the ideal “Israel” who would accomplish the mission of taking God’s salvation to every tribe and tongue.  Isaiah 49 gives us the picture of this servant’s mission. 

  • In v. 1 we find the servant himself calls to the nations. 
  • In v. 6, the salvation of Israel alone was much too small a task for this servant – his mission was going to include all the nations. 
  • In v. 13 we see the appropriate emotion one is to have toward the mission and ministry of the servant.

 

So this servant, the servant of Isaiah 49 was going to be and do what Israel did not – “bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”  This was a mission that required the call of God.

With the big picture in mind, I would like us to consider 5 truths that help us (1) find hope in the perfect mission of our perfect Savior, and (2) understand our role in his mission today.

Truth #1:  God’s Servant Jesus was an effective servant and we should be also

A. A look at Isaiah 49:  An Effective Servant

In v. 2 the servant is described using two metaphors. 

  • The first metaphor is that of a sharp sword concealed for the proper moment. 
  • The second metaphor is an arrow hidden in the quiver. 

At first glance there is a temptation of seeing these as elements of war.  The servant will make war.  But Isaiah 49 and all the servant songs describe a ministry of the servant in much calmer tones.  Thus, the focus of the metaphors is someplace different.

Notice again v.2.  he has made my mouth as a sword.  This places focus not on the wealding of weapons but on the message of the servant. 

  • God’s servant was called by God as a messenger not a warrior. 
  • This servant would be a spokesperson for God.  He would deliver the message of God. 
  • The images of the concealed sword or the arrow in the quiver refer to his effectiveness in proclaiming the message that God has given him at the time at which God appointed.

B. Fast forward to the “rest of the story.” 

When I look at the ministry of Jesus – much like Phillip did with the Eunuch – we see that no prophet was more prolific at delivering God’s message at the right time to the right people.  Consider the following:

  1. Jesus’ ministry occurs at just the right time

Romans 5:6 says “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  It does not get any clearer than this.  In the soverign plan of God the sword needed used and the arrow needed nocked during the days of 4 BC through 33 AD.  That was the time for the messenger to deliver God message -  a message that ultimately took him to the cross.

 

Truly Jesus was the servant was at the ready and used at the proper time.

  1. Jesus speaks only that which the Father has given him to speak

Israel was supposed to share the truths God had given them with the nations.  Instead they adopted the mindset of the nations and worshiped other gods. 

 

But Jesus says in John 12:49"For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.

 

The teaching of Jesus was one of the indications that he was no ordinary man.  Those who heard him said, “he speaks with authority, not like the scribes and elders.”

 

  1. Jesus completed the work that the Father had given him to do

John 5:36"But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish-- the very works that I do-- testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

 

John 18:11So Jesus said to Peter, "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?"

 

Jesus did not come to make war he came to accomplish the mission given to him by his father; nothing more and nothing less.

 

  1. Jesus’ work began the most significant “movement” known to man

I don’t have time to trace this historically but suffice it to say that the Bible has been read more than any other book known to man.  The followers of Jesus, while small in number at the beginning, have multiplied to millions and maybe billions.

How much more effective could he have possibly been?  All of the failures of national Israel to be the proclaiming light, to be the effective servant of God, have now been covered by the perfect servant – Jesus – who accomplished all that God had given him to do.  Truly Jesus was the concealed sword and the quivered arrow.

C. A challenge for us:  Be an Effective Servant

Now the issue before us is who we are going to model. 

  • Will we model the ideal servant, Jesus, and be an effective servant in the hand of God?
  • Or will we model the servant Israel who failed in her mission to be an effective servant for God and lost, for a time, that opportunity?

Many of you filled out the stewardship commitment cards last month.  You marked what you were going to do and what changes you believe God wanted you to make.  But here we are, a couple weeks after, and it is easy to lose sight of being a good and effective servant.

Being an effective servant of the Lord’s is not just saying you are or that you will be one.

It comes down to the 10,000 little moments of each and every week. 

  • When you tempted to be angry about someone violating your little world and your little kingdom – God needs to live there.
  • When you are tempted to lust – God needs to live there.
  • When you are tempted to speak harshly with one of your family members – God needs to live there.
  • When you are tempted to overspend on your gift list – God needs to live there.
  • When you are talking to your neighbor – God needs to live there
  • Being an effective servant is choosing in the 10,000 moments of each week that God will live there.  You simply cannot be an effective servant of King Jesus if you are trying to be king yourself.

In Isaiah 49 we not only see the effectiveness of the servant but we also see.

Truth #2:  God’s Servant Jesus reflected God’s glory and we should as well

A. A look at Isaiah 49:  A Servant that Glorifies God

In v. 3 God speaks to his servant.  It appears clearly in v. 3 that Israel is the servant.  However, as we read this whole section there are a number of challenges to identifying Israel, the nation, as the servant. 

  • First, historically ½ of them are in exile and the others are heading in that direction. 
  • Second, in v. 6 how can the servant Israel restore national Israel (Jacob / Israel) is the servant Israel is national Israel? 
  • In Acts, when the Eunuch was reading Isaiah 53 his question was “Does this text refer to Isaiah himself or to another person?”  Israel, as a nation made no sense, to him. 

 

On what basis than can we say that Jesus is the servant when the servant is called Israel? 

  • Outside the reality that all the servant songs provide a perfect picture of the person and work of Jesus there are two other factors. 
  • First, this servant was going to accomplish all that the Israel herself was supposed to accomplish but could not. 
  • Second, in Matthew after Jesus goes to Egypt Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1 which says, “out of Egypt I have called my son.”  In Matthew the reference has to be Jesus.  But in Hosea, the “son” is none other than the nation of Israel herself.  At times, Jesus is called Israel.

 

Thus, “Israel” is more of a comparison to “servant” in this passage than it is an identificaition of the servant.  Jesus, the Ideal Israel will show God’s glory.

 

B.Fast forward to the “rest of the Story”

Once again the portrait painted in the text of Isaiah 49 is perfectly done by Jesus Christ.  Consider just the following:

 

  1. Jesus glorified the Father in his life

In John 17:4Jesus prayed "I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

 

At the baptism of Jesus, God the Father says “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”  Jesus was the example of what it meant to glorify God in his life.  Even Nicodemus, who ultimately believed, and the other priests and Pharisees acknowledged that Jesus did what he did because he was enabled by God to do those things.  They could see the works and they acknowledge the source – even in their unbelief.

 

  1. Jesus glorified the Father in his death

The process of death is not a very pleasant thought.  One of the temptations is to say Lord, when it is my time to die could you do it really fast.  We understand that kind of thinking because it is hard to suffer.  But listen to the words of Jesus.

 

John 12:23And Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. And John 17:5 "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.  These words were spoken just prior to the cross. 

 

Jesus knew the suffering would be difficult and painful.  But he also wanted to glorify God in the midst of it.  Glorify God is exactly what Jesus did.

 

C. A challenge for us:  Be a Servant that brings Glory to God

 National Israel was supposed to demonstrate the glory of God to the nations around.  Instead, they became just like them. It is important for us in the church to remember however that we suffer from some of the same problems.

 

Ephesians 4:17-24 explains that believers sometimes continue to live like unbelievers.  In other words, we do not shine God’s glory instead we make God out to look like all the other “gods” in the universe.  Instead we are to growing and changing regularly.  Putting off behavior and thinking that dishonor God and putting on behavior that honors Him.

 

1 Cor 10:6-11 is written to the church explaining that we need to learn the lessons from Israel because they (1) were idolatrous (2) were immoral (3) were complainers and (4) put God to the test.  Then v. 12 says “Be careful lest you fall!”

 

Jesus said in John 15:8"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

 

So a fair question to ask ourselves is this:  In my attitude and in my actions does God get glory or does the God of heaven and earth look no more attractive to the unbelieving world than the gods of materialism, fame, pleasure, and wealth?

  • On a scale of 1-10 rate how well you glorify God in my body.  Do you use the members of your body for righteous activity or for unrighteous.
  • On a scale of 1-10 rate how well your work ethic brings glory to God.
  • On a scale of 1-10 rate how well your handling of your finances brings glory to God
  • On a scale of 1-10 rate how well your marriage and communication brings glory to God.

 

Understanding that your purpose in life is to glorify God 1 Cor 10:31 “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it to the glory of God” really helps you prioritize life.  Instead of making it harder it makes it much easier.

 

Not only was the servant in Isaiah 49 an effective servant and a servant that brought God glory but we also see…

Truth #3:  God’s Servant Jesus was rewarded for suffering and God promises rewards to all who suffer patiently

A. A look at Isaiah 49:  Suffering Servant and Exalted Servant

In v. 4 and 7 we find two additional truths about God’s servant. 

  • In v. 4 we see that the mission that God’s servant was not an easy one.  It was a mission that would be filled with trouble, sorrow, and difficulty.  The servant of Isaiah 49 does not ride on chariots with the vanquished following behind, the servant of Isaiah 49 does not lead a powerful army, and the servant of Isaiah 49 does not enjoy the “finest” things in life.
  • Instead, he “toils” seemingly in vain, and his strength was spent. 
  • God would bring his salvation to the world not by meeting the world’s arrogance with arrogance but instead with humility, weakness, and powerlessness

 

But v. 7 makes it clear that the suffering was not the end. 

  • Humility was not the completion of his ministry because after humility came exaltation and after suffering came glorification.
  • According to v. 7 it is the rulers, the kings and the princes that ultimately will bow down before the servant.

B. Fast forward to the “rest of the story”

It does not take much to see in Jesus both the suffering and the exalted servant.  Consider the following:

 

  1. Jesus was born in home for animals and slept in a feeding trough

The picture of the stable that is often shown on Christmas decorations seems much like a western idea rather than a historical look.  It probably was much more like a cave in a small town just outside Jerusalem. 

 

Rather than doctors and nurses surrounding Mary it was more like farm animals would keep her company.  It is in this scene that the angels proclaim that Jesus, the Messiah, is born.  His bed was nothing more than a place for animals to eat.  Hardly the picture of a kingly birth.

 

  1. Jesus was mocked in life and abandoned

As if the birth was not challenging enough, we learn that his life would be marked by constant conflict.  He journeys to Egypt to escape Herod’s men while the few males remaining in Bethlehem were slaughtered.

 

In his ministry there was constant conflict with the Pharisees, his “disciples” abandoned him leaving just a few that wished to genuinely follow Christ, there was the betrayal from one of his own, Judas, and then the ultimate abandonment when Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

 

  1. Jesus took his place on high 

When the mocking was over, when the cross work of Christ was finished and his body was laid in the tomb – that was not the end.  Instead there was resurrection, victory, and exaltation.  That is why Philippians 2:5-11 records these words:

 

Philippians 2:5-11   Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,  6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,  10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

C.A challenge for us:  Patient Endurance and Opportunity

We are living in a day, and in a country where overt Christian persecution is fairly minor.  Our values may come into occasional conflict with the values of the ones we work for, they come into conflict with some of decisions our government makes but there is little “because you are Christian” you cannot ___________ (vote, have a job, etc).

 

But there are some appropriate responses:

 

First, we can pray as Paul did to know the Lord better:

 

Philippians 3:8-11  8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,  9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,  10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;  11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

 

Second, we can use this season of light persecution in order to take advantage of the opportunities put before us. 

  • Tonight we will discuss more about the Purdue property.  The fact that we can consider such a purchase is an opportunity from the Lord. 
  • The Christmas ministries like CFE (hard to believe that the Red Cross was willing to partner with area churches to get that done for the last 7-8 years)
  • The opportunity to rent the Long Center
  • The openness of our community to accept the Scriptures, the gospel of Jesus Christ as a legitimate option for people whose worlds are falling apart.

 

The point is this….on the days when suffering comes to be the servant Jesus and endure patiently knowing that exaltation will happen at the proper time.  But if the Lord continues to allow opportunities as he has to take full advantage of them.

 

Truth #4:  God’s Servant Jesus extended salvation and a new covenant to all who believe – a message God commands us to repeat.

A. A look at Isaiah 49:  Servant is Salvation to all who believe

Here is the crux of the passage.  According to vv. 5-6 God’s servant has a very important job.  In v. 5 the job is to restore Israel.  However, in v. 6 that job is expanded.  After all, rescuing Israel is much too small a task for this servant. 

  • I don’t have time to trace this theme through the latter part of Isaiah however it is interesting to note that in Is 45 Cyrus (who has not been born yet) will also be a servant of God.  He will release Israel from her captivity.
  • This servant’s task is much bigger and better that Cyrus’ task.  This servant will not only restore Israel but he will bring salvation to the nations.

 

It is not my custom to bring original language work to the pulpit but I cannot resist in Is 49:6.  The KJV and ASV put a focus on the text that NIV, ESV, NIV, NAS leave for a footnote.  The LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible agrees with KJV on this point.  The text reads not that the servant will “bring” salvation but that he will be salvation!  [I will also give you for a light to the nations to be my salvation to the ends of the earth].

This servant is not only responsible for the restoration of the nation of Israel but is equally responsible to be salvation of all who believe regardless of ethnicity.

 

As we consider v. 8 we see another point worthy of mention.  This servant will be the initiator of a new covenant.  A better covenant and one based on the finished work of Jesus.

 

Thus, this servant’s mission is to accomplish what the nation of Israel never could.  Reach every last person possible!

B. Fast forward for the rest of the story

When it comes to the salvation of the nation, only one servant could have possibly accomplished that feat.  Consider the following:

 

  1. Jesus is the only means by which anyone can be saved

Acts 4:12 says “Neither is there salvation in any other for there is no other name given among whereby we must be saved.”  The gospel message is the core of Christianity.  The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the means by which anyone and everyone is saved.  There simply is no other way.

 

[give the gospel]

 

  1. Jesus inaugurated a new covenant

Every church family night we celebrate what the Lord initiated – communion.  Not simply as a good idea, not simply as if you feel like it, but as one of the ordinances of the church [church family night tonight].  According to the text it is the “blood of the new covenant”. 

  • A covenant made not with the blood of bulls and goats but with the cleansing blood of our Lord Jesus Christ who entered the holy of holies in heaven and sprinkled his own blood as an atoning sacrifice. 
  • It is a new covenant where the Spirit is given to live inside me that I might not sin – but that I might bring praise, honor, and glory to God.

C.A challenge for us:  Spreading the Message of the Gospel

I think it is helpful if we all recognize that without this mission of Jesus we would not be here today.  We are Gentiles, we are the ones who history rests in paganism rather than worship of the creator and redeemer.  Yet, God has called us anyway. 

 

You and I are ambassadors for Christ.  That is why Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:20-21  20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

 

As ambassadors for Christ we are expected to live out and share the gospel of Christ.  Living for Christ is being fired up enough about what Jesus has done for you that (1) you don’t demand your way (2) that you don’t yell, argue, fuss, and whine about your boss your spouse or your children (3) that you serve joyfully rather than make people beg before you will do anything (4) that your unbelieving neighbors and coworkers will see that you are really excited about your faith (5) that you will do all you can to take advantage of this Christmas season to spread the wonderful message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your sins!

 

Truth #5:  God’s Servant Jesus will bring to final completion all that God has given him to do so rejoice this Christmas season

The final truth this morning relates to vv. 8-13 and the completion of the mission. 

  • The picture given in vv. 8-13 is a picture of what will be true when Jesus returns.  When “all Israel” is saved and when all things have been made right.  Thus, the challenge for us is pretty simple… rejoice. 
  • Rejoice this Christmas season that Jesus is coming and that he will make all things right.    

Summary

Reading Isaiah 49 on its own is not easy.  In fact, we can relate to that Eunuch in Acts who read the Scripture but didn’t really get it.  But in due course God revealed the rest of the story.  And when the additional pieces are added it makes perfect sense.

Jesus, God’s perfect servant in the servant songs, had a perfect mission – a mission that was fortold in the dark days of Israel.  That mission was to extend God’s salvation in Jesus Christ (his servant) to the ends of the earth.  Many of us in this room today have been the recipient of that salvation.  We have been called by God.  We have also been commissioned by God

  • To be an effective servant like Jesus
  • To be a servant to shows the glory of God just like Jesus
  • To suffer with trust just as Jesus did
  • To spread the message of the gospel our world
  • To hope and rejoice that the mission’s end will be even better

Col 1:18 says, “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead so that He Himself will com e to have first place in everything.”  Hebrews expands that theme over 13 chapters to explain the supremacy of Jesus. 

  • Friends, Jesus lives in the 10,000 little moments of your life where you decisions are made or he does not live in your life at all.

May we be focused and faithful to task of displaying God’s glory, His gospel, and His Word in everything we do. 

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.