The Devoted Servant
by Inglis Fleming
In the midst of days of Laodicean lukewarmness and of lack of devotedness to Christ, it is ever refreshing to the Spirit to give oneself to the contemplation of His own pathway in the world, as the absolutely devoted servant of God. He has left a golden track of perfection across the dark desert of human failure. The sense of our own personal shortcoming and of that which may be judged of in others around, make the study of His glorious goings increasingly attractive and tend to draw the heart nearer and nearer to Himself.
Many passages of the Word of God present His unfailing faithfulness whose every footfall was for the glory of God. For the present let us occupy ourselves with one where it is viewed prophetically, Isaiah 49-50.
The first of these introduces Messiah and opens the prophet’s plaint against Israel for rejecting Him, the previous portion of the book having dealt with Israel’s idolatry and sins in general.
In the opening of the chapter (vv. 1-3) Israel claims the place of being Jehovah’s servant in whom He was to be glorified. And it was true that that people had had a position of distinguished favour and had been called to stand as witnesses to the true God. They had failed lamentably in every period of their history, but they still held the position outwardly and took honour to themselves on account of it.
Then, as One whose ministry has been unavailing, Messiah Himself speaks (v. 4), saying, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent My strength for nought and in vain; yet surely My judgment is with the Lord, and My work with My God.” His service for God has been apparently profitless among the chosen people, and yet, confidently, He can commit it all to the Lord and leave His reward in His hands. And Jehovah’s reply is given immediately, “And now saith the Lord, that formed Me from the womb to be His servant”—(He is the true—the devoted servant of Jehovah’s interests)—“to bring Jacob again unto Him” (and this will be effected in a later day), “Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength.” And the answer continuing says, “It is a light thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth. Thus saith the Lord the Redeemer of Israel, and His holy one, to Him whom man despiseth, to Him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful and the Holy One of Israel, and He shall choose Thee.”
Blessing rich and full shall yet flow, not only to Israel but to the nations at large, through Him—and with this the rest of the chapter is occupied. For the present, however, He is despised, rejected, abhorred among men.
In the fiftieth chapter Jehovah’s indictment of His ancient peoples is continued. He had not turned from them—they had turned from Him—He had not sold them—for their iniquities they had sold themselves. Thus they have for the time lost their exalted position as head among the nations. Their refusal to listen to His voice has resulted in the condition in which they are found today. They are the people of the weary foot, scattered to the four winds and wandering homelessly over the face of the globe.
Then the following verses bring before us in beautiful detail the pathway trodden by their Messiah, who is their only hope, in the days when He was outcast and refused by them. A galaxy of His glories and graces shines out in brilliancy.
Verses 2 and 3 declare His Godhead. His creatorial and providential powers are before us. The sea, the rivers, the heavens are controlled by His almighty hand. He ruleth all things in all domains.
Verse 4 finds Him incarnate. He has stooped to manhood’s state. The tongue of the learned—the taught one, the disciple, has been given Him in order that He may know how to speak a word in season to the weary one. He is able to aid the distressed by the message of comfort—to succour the downcast and the disconsolate. He knows what the heart’s longings are and can so speak as to encourage the needy soul.
It was to such He called, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your soul. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
To minister to these He had come. To do the will of God in the blessing of His fallen creature.
And “morning by morning” His ear was wakened to hear as the learner. Divinely instructed day by day, He was ever attent—ever awaiting direction for His goings. His ear had been opened—a body had been prepared for Him in which to carry out the divine pleasure, and now He is perfect in subjection—unswervingly obedient throughout His course. Never deaf to the teaching and never deflected one hair’s-breadth from the ordered way.
And we are given ears to hear—how little we hear and answer to the communications of our Father and our God. Perfection is only with Him.
“I was not rebellious neither turned away back” (v. 5). Within and without He was perfect. There was no working of a contrary will within—there was no turning from the path without. Amid all the violent antagonism of man, subjected to wrongful punishment, to brutality, and to shame He would not go aside. “I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting.” If it were God’s holy will that He should be beaten He would yield his back for the scourge. If it were God’s holy will that the hair should be torn from His cheeks He would give them up to it. If it were God’s holy will that His face should be covered with man’s vile spittle He would not turn it away. In perfect devotedness He bowed to everything while absolute confidence in God maintained Him in the midst of it all.
“For the Lord God will help Me” (v. 7). This was His trust. “Therefore shall I not be confounded, therefore have I set my face as a flint and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” The end was in view, the dark tunnel would be passed—the brightness and sunshine of eternal day and everlasting triumph lay beyond.
God would not fail the One who did His will and glorified Him, for His delight is in the man who confides in Himself in the midst of contrary circumstances. “Oh! how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man, Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” (Ps. 19:31-32). Perfect thus in His trust He was hidden in the pavilion and pursued His journey undaunted and undismayed. His face was set like a flint. He would never turn to another way than the way chosen of God for his servant. At all costs He would carry out His good pleasure even unto death, knowing that God’s help would come in the appointed season.
What triumph rings out in the words, “I know that I shall not be ashamed!” And we know how that utterance has been vindicated. He who was in the midst of man’s Golgotha is in the midst of God’s glory—the sorrow is past and the eternal joys are known never to be clouded again in the sufferings of earthly journeying.
“He is near that justifieth Me; who will contend with Me? let us stand together: who is Mine adversary? let him come near to Me. Behold the Lord God will help Me; who is he that shall condemn Me? lo they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up” (vv. 8-9). In conscious integrity of personal faithfulness He could utter these words. Absolute rest was His in the assurance of God’s ultimate intervention. None could condemn Him. God would abundantly justify His every act and word.
These words, in the spirit of them, are quoted concerning the Christians in Romans 8. Wonder of wonders, we stand now with Himself in the circle of sunshine. He stands there because of personal perfection. We stand there because of His perfected atonement. God has justified Him, who shall condemn or lay aught to His charge. He has the highest place in the universe, who once for the glory of God and for our eternal blessing took the lowest place in death. But He brings us to stand with Himself as the outcome of the work accomplished by Him for the glory of God. God is our Justifier, who can condemn us? Who shall lay aught to our charge? We are “in Christ Jesus,” and there is no condemnation possible to those in that place of infinite and eternal blessing. And standing there it is that in peace we behold His glory.
And in verse 10 the call comes to us to follow His steps of confidence in God and absolute assurance that He will not fail those who seek Him, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon His God.” The Lord will manifest His power on the behalf of such and thoroughly maintain their cause.
What a pathway we have contemplated! What devotedness! What faithfulness! What subjection! What confidence! It began with the glory of God. It was trodden for the glory of God. It has ended in the glory of God. The perfect servant knew no halting, no hesitating throughout His course. It was the path of life throughout never marred by failure.