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Isaiah 50:5-11

Isaiah 50:5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient Nor did I turn back.

The opening of the ear builds on the imagery of awakening the ear in verse 4. Coupled together with the obedience, the language of obedience and loyalty points us to the picture of servant-hood. Isaiah portrays the Messiah as the Servant. So here we have an allusion to the Messiah in the form of a servant (see Philippians 2:1-10). This picture of the servant, having his ear opened is powerfully illustrated by the servant who rejects freedom and out of love for his master, he dedicates himself to his service forever:

Deuteronomy 15:16 “It shall come about if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he fares well with you; 17 then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also you shall do likewise to your maidservant.

The opening of the ear was a sign of servant-hood forever. He vows obedience and loyalty because of his love for the master. This is the key to successful Christian living and is the difference between law and gospel. When under the law, slavery is compulsory, necessary to pay off indebtedness. Under the gospel, slavery is voluntary, responsive to the love and favor of the master.

See also Psalm 40:6; Isaiah 35:5

Isaiah 50:6 I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.

This passage reflects extreme humiliation. All three pictures speak of punishment and humiliation. First, the striking of the back. Here the picture of flogging and whipping begins the picture. This is a punishment reserved for the disobedient servant and the criminals. the Servant of Isaiah begins His suffering.

The picture continues with the imagery of the plucking of the beard. In Middle Eastern and ancient culture facial hair was a sign of power and position. Plucking the beard would be a distinctive humiliation. Here is what Adam Clarke says about Isaiah 7:20 and the shaving of hair and Middle Eastern culture:

To shave with the hired razor the head, the feet, and the beard, is an expression highly parabolical, to denote the utter devastation of the country from one end to the other; and the plundering of the people, from the highest to the lowest, by the Assyrians, whom God employed as his instrument to punish the Jews. Ahaz himself, in the first place, hired the king of Assyria to come to help him against the Syrians, by a present made to him of all the treasures of the temple, as well as his own. And God himself considered the great nations, whom he thus employed as his mercenaries; and paid them their wages. Thus he paid Nebuchadnezzar for his services against Tyre, by the conquest of Egypt, Ezekiel 29:18-20. The hairs of the head are those of the highest order in the state; those of the feet, or the lower parts, are the common people; the beard is the king, the high priest, the very supreme in dignity and majesty. The Eastern people have always held the beard in the highest veneration, and have been extremely jealous of its honour. To pluck a man’s beard is an instance of the greatest indignity that can be offered. See Isaiah 50:6. The king of the Ammonites, to show the utmost contempt of David, “cut off half the beards of his servants, and the men were greatly ashamed; and David bade them tarry at Jericho till their beards were grown,” 2 Samuel 10:4,6. Niebuhr, Arabie, p. 275, gives a modern instance of the very same kind of insult. “The Turks,” says Thevenot, “greatly esteem a man who has a fine beard; it is a very great affront to take a man by his beard, unless it be to kiss it; they swear by the beard.” Voyages, i., p. 57. D’Arvieux gives a remarkable instance of an Arab, who, having received a wound in his jaw, chose to hazard his life, rather than suffer his surgeon to take off his beard. Memoires, tom. iii., p. 214. See also Niebuhr, Arabie, p. 61.

The humiliation is completed with the universal humiliation of being spit upon. All of these so closely fit the experience of Christ that we see not simply a generic description of suffering on part of God’s servants, nor only a description of Isaiah’s suffering, but a looking ahead to the suffering of Christ.

Isaiah 50:7 For the Lord GOD helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.

Any suffering accomplished in the cause of the Lord GOD is not shameful. No matter the degree of physical humiliation, it is redeemed by the mighty hand of God. So the suffering of God’s servants is never for naught.

the New Testament perspective on suffering is framed by the suffering in Christ, seen as sharing in the suffering of Christ: 1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, and 1 Peter 4:16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

The setting of the “face like flint” refers to the hardening of the will and physical preparation for the physical blows to the face (Ezekiel 3:8).

Isaiah 50:8-9 He who vindicates Me is near; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand up to each other; Who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me. Behold, the Lord GOD helps Me; Who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them.

The comparison here is between the persecutor and God. “If God be for us, who can be against us” as Paul declares in Romans 8. In fact Romans 8:28 ff is a great passage that corresponds to this passage. Jesus says it this way: 4 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! Luke (12:4-5)

Isaiah 50:10-11 Who is among you that fears the LORD, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. 11 Behold, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with firebrands, Walk in the light of your fire And among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have from My hand: You will lie down in torment.

It seems a simply straightforward declaration of those belief vs. unbelief. Verse 10 describes the believers response. Verse 11 describes unbelief. A believer trusts God and turns to Him as the light, even when he finds himself in darkness. The unbeliever is described as attempting to light his own fire, a clear description of self-sufficiency. His light is all that he has, and as a result of his rejection of God, he receives judgment.

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