The Pathway of Perfection
The earlier part of Isaiah’s great prophecy presents Jehovah pleading with His people Israel, with regard to their idolatry.
The latter part foretells the coming and rejection of the long promised Messiah, then of His subsequent kingdom and glory.
“The sufferings of Christ and the glory (the glories) that should follow,” are before as in a most marked manner in some of the sections of this part of the prophecy.
In the forty-ninth chapter Messiah Himself is heard. He is taking the place of Servant—the place that Israel had been called to occupy and in which they had failed so grievously. For Israel had claimed the place, as having been called of, and established by the Lord in the office of witness for Himself.
Now Messiah has appeared in their midst, and is seen prophetically as having been rejected, and His work as being a failure apparently. Thus we hear Him 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 confidence is unshaken. He commits His cause to Him who judges righteously. He knows that His reward shall not be withheld.
At once the answer of Jehovah is given and Messiah is seen as to be honoured in fullest measure.
“And now, saith the Lord that formed Me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob again to Him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.”
And He said, “It is a light thing that Thou shouldst 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” (Isa. 49:4-7).
Through the Despised and Abhorred One blessing shall flow not alone to Israel, but to the Gentiles, and to the very end of the earth.
At the present time Israel is “a nation scattered and peeled, a people, terrible from their beginning hitherto” (Isa 18:2). But woe is the ultimate portion of those who deal iniquitously towards that nation. “All flesh shall yet know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer the Mighty One of Jacob” (v. 26). Thus the Lord hath spoken and He will make it good.
The fiftieth chapter brings before us prominently the glorious, gracious PERSON, the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is seen as scorned and despised, but He is the Mighty God, He is the Lowly Man in one glorious person.
“Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? When I called was there none to answer?” He demands of Israel.
As we read these prophetic words our thoughts turn to the first chapter of the Gospel of John. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” Into the world which was made by Him, into His own creation, He came; and His own people privileged as no other nation, would have none of Him. With all competency to bless He was, “set at nought” and finally cast out.
Yet His hand was not shortened at all. It had been stretched forth of old for the redemption of Israel from Egypt’s bondage. He still had power to deliver. At His rebuke He had dried up the Red Sea that His people might escape the hosts of Pharaoh. He had made the River Jordan but a passage way, that dry-shod they might enter the promised land. And not alone the sea, and rivers were under His control, the heavens also were subjected to Him and He adds, “I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.” All nature is declared as being at His command.
Surely we may rejoice in knowing His Almightiness, and that He is on our part today.
In verse 4 the same glorious person, the Mighty God, is seen as the Lowly Man. As we read again in John’s Gospel, He who was eternally God, “The Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us.”
Seen as in the place He has taken, “being found in fashion as a Man,” He now speaks: “The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned, (or taught ones), that I should know how to speak a word in season to Him that is weary.”
He was here in human circumstances, knowing weariness Himself, so that He might aid the weary by a word. Having been tried He is able to succour the tried. Having suffered here, He is able to sympathise with and to comfort those who suffer now. As High Priest, He is “able to save,” unto the very last step of their homeward way, all who believe upon Him and have come to God, through Him (Heb. 2:18; 4:15; 7:25).
It is thus we hear Him say, “Come unto Me all ye that labour (that are weary) 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 souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
And surely each one of us has known His succouring sympathizing, saving ministry, from on high, in our times of trial and difficulty. And He will see us through every step of our homeward journeying.
“He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned, (as the taught ones). The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.”
The ear, the organ of hearing, speaks of subjection, and of obedience. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 11:7). The ear has been formed that we may hear and carry out the directions of our God and Father. In the case of our Lord’s pathway we find references to the ear in these connections:
1. The ear formed.
2. The ear wakened.
3. The ear bored.
1. The ear formed. “Mine ear hast Thou digged” (Ps. 40:6). A body hast Thou prepared Me” (Heb. 10:5). “That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke l:35). Thus the Lord of glory came unto the world.
2. The ear wakened. “Morning by morning.” In constant dependence and in perfect obedience His whole path was trodden. (It would seem that when Martha and Mary sent to Him the message that Lazarus was sick, He awaited the knowledge of His Father’s will. “He abode two days where He was.”)
3. The ear bored. Exodus 21 gives us (under the picture of the Hebrew servant) a beautiful unfolding of the devotedness of Christ to His Father and to us. There we read, “If the servant shall plainly say, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him unto the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post: and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl and he shall serve him forever” (vv. 5-6).
What servant ever put his love to his master before his love to his wife and children? The reference is to our Lord. He could say, coming into manhood, “Lo I am come to do Thy will, O my God.” And at the close of His path, hear Him saying, “I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” In view of the cross He had declared, “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” And He wended His way to Calvary, in submission and devotedness.
“I love my wife,” the Hebrew servant’s sentence finds its answer in “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” “I love my children,” may find its fulfilment in “Christ hath loved us, and given Himself for us,” or in, “The Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Eph. 5:2, 25; Gal. 2:20) or Israel, “Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me” (Isa 8:18; Heb. 2, Ed.). We see Him perfect in every relationship thus calling for our praise and adoration.
“The Lord God hath opened mine ear.” Hearing His Father’s will, He would carry it out at all costs. “I was not rebellious”—(no antagonism was ever found in His spirit). “Neither turned away back.” (He never was deflected from His pathway of fullest devotedness).
In our case, even if we turn not back outwardly, there may be a rebellious will within. But in our Lord all perfection was found. He could say, “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me.”
If it were the Father’s will for His back to be smitten, He would give His back to the smiters.
If it were the Father’s will that the hair should be plucked from His face, He would give His cheeks to those who carried out this brutality.
If it were the Father’s will that He should be spat upon, He would say, “I hid not My face from shame and spitting.”
“Faithful amidst unfaithfulness,
Midst darkness only light;
Thou didst Thy Father’s Name
Confess. And in His will delight.”
In Him the beating small of the incense brought forth its fragrance more fully. In Him every part of the meat offering broken small, was anointed with oil. “He through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.” All was in the power of the Holy Ghost. He never had to retract a word. “Without spot or blemish” He, the Lamb of God, suffered according to the will of God His Father.
In confidence in God, comely in all His goings He set His face as a flint, knowing that He would “not be confounded.” In fullest trust He committed His cause to Him that judgeth righteously, saying, “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.”
The outcome of our Lord’s obedience, obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, we know. He is highly exalted and a Name given Him above every name.
Fruit of His atoning work His words of perfect reliance are quoted, in the spirit of them, for ourselves. So we read, “It is God that justifieth. Who is He that condemneth?” We stand with Christ in resurrection and with triumph can cry, “If God, be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31, 33). What rich grace is this that links us up with our Risen Lord.
Thus, in this wonderful passage, we trace our Lord, in His goings forth from everlasting. We see Him as the Creator and Upholder of all things in Godhead glory. We see Him as the Messiah rejected and disowned. We see Him in His lowly grace as the Learner and as the Instructor. We see Him in His perfect obedience, in His perfect confidence in God. We know Him now justified in His resurrection and glorified at the right hand of God. Viewing it all, we may say with adoring hearts:
“We wonder at Thy lowly mind,
And fain would like Thee be;
And all our rest and pleasure find,
In learning Lord of Thee.”
For our encouragement the exhortation is added, as we view the outcome of His faithfulness:
“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.”
May it be ours to confide in Him fully as we wait for His return.