NOTES ON ISAIAH 50:4-11
Summary of the passage
This is the fourth passage about God’s Perfect Servant in Isaiah’s prophecy. We do not learn it is about Him until verse 10. The passage is in three sections, with verses 4 and 5 emphasising the doctrine of the Servant; verses 6-9 the confidence of the Servant in His God, despite the hostile reactions of men; and verses 10 and 11 give exhortations to others to obey the voice of the servant.
In Isaiah 42:1-9 we learn of the delight the Servant brought to God. In verses 19-21 His determination to not be tempted, and stray from the path of obedience. In 49:1-12 the diligence of the Servant is to the fore. In 52:13-53:12 it is His destiny that is in view. In the passage before us now it is His doctrine.
Structure of the passage
||Verses 4 and 5
||Christ and His call to teach
||Christ and the callousness of men
||Christ and His confidence
||Verses 8 and 9
||Christ and His conflict
||Verses 10 and 11
||Christ’s disciples and their confusion
(a) Verses 4 and 5 Christ and His call to teach
50:4 The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned.
It is important to notice the great difference between the manner of speaking of the Old Testament prophets, and the manner of speaking of the Son of God. Hebrews 1:1,2 puts it concisely, “God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds;” In Old Testament times God’s servants the prophets were scattered both in time and in place, and their ministry was diverse. Now it is different, for all is concentrated in Him who is the Son of God, and who therefore shares the nature and attributes of God, and consequently is able to communicate the mind of God to men.
There difference is highlighted by the fact that the prophets often prefaced their announcements with the words “Thus saith the Lord”, making it clear from the outset of their speaking that they were acting for God. The Lord Jesus, however, began His discourses by saying “I say unto you”, or “Verily, verily I say unto you”, making it equally clear that they were His words. But all the time He spoke to them “from the Father”.
The same is true with regard to His miracles. They were works given Him to do, but He could speak of quickening “whom He will”, John 5:21. No miracle-worker of Old Time, such as Moses or Elijah, could say this. They worked miracles by commandment, not of their own will. So whether it be words or works, the Lord Jesus is unique, for He does both in the exercise of His Deity, yet all the time in harmony with His Father.
The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned- the Servant speaks, and declares that He has been given the tongue of the learned. When we read of the Lord Jesus being given things, it always involves the fact that He has come into manhood. His Father gave Him every resource to enable Him to carry out the purposes for which He was sent into the world. God’s promise to Him was, “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”, Hebrews 1:5. The Father gives the support, the Son responds as a true Son should.
Some of the things He was given are as follows:
1. “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand”, John 3:35. See also John 13:3. As God’s Firstborn Son, (as well as His Only Begotten), the Lord Jesus has the task of administering the Father’s affairs. These have all been committed to Him, with nothing left for another to do. The Father knows that “the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand”, Isaiah 53:10.
2. “For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself”, John 5:26. Not only does the Son have life in Himself just as the Father does because He is equal with the Father, but in addition it is given to Him as one who has come into manhood to have this life in Himself for others.
3. “And hath given Him authority to execute judgement also, because He is the Son of man”, John 5:27. As God, He is the Judge of all, but this is given special significance by the fact that the one who will sit on the great white throne of God is a man.
In verse 22 the right to judge men is vested in Christ’s Deity, for one of the results of that judgement will be that He is recognised as equal with God. Here His right to judge is vested in His manhood, for He is Son of man. As a real man amongst men, Christ has given them the opportunity to react to Him, for He has been on earth to make Himself available, and the record of His life and teaching is available also, now that He is no longer on earth. When He was here, He lived a blameless life, and this condemned the lives of other men, and should have made them abhor themselves, and want to be like Him. As Son of man, Christ is relevant to all men, and has universal rights over them.
4. “The works which My Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father hath sent Me”, John 5:36. The miracles the Lord Jesus performed were given Him to do so that they might bear witness as to His person. At the end of His ministry He could say, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do”, John 17:4.
5. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me”, John 6:37. All that are prepared to be taught of God are His love-gift to His Son, and they are sure to come to Him if they have learned of the Father. He will not direct them to go anywhere than to His Son. See also John 10:39.
6. “He gave Me a commandment, what I should say and what I should speak”, John 12:49. The Son was under an obligation to pass on what His Father’s word to men was at any particular moment. This was because He had come into a place of subjection by becoming man. “The head of Christ is God”, 1 Corinthians 11:3.
7. “Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him”, John 17:3. Christ has authority to bestow eternal life on any who come in repentance and faith.
All these are statements found in John’s gospel, which specially emphasises His Deity, yet we are reminded of His true manhood in that the Father gives Him these things. Here He is given the tongue of the learned to fit Him to teach. When He was anointed at the beginning of His public ministry, He was anointed to preach, Luke 4:18. When He did this, men “marvelled at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth”, verse 22. Others said, “Never man spake like this man”, John 7:46. And we read that “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes”, Matthew 7:29.
The secret of this excellence is given to us here, for He was given the tongue of the learned. Note that it is not the tongue of the ignorant, but of the learned. Nor is it the tongue of the instructed ones, as the margin of some Bibles suggests, for that would mean that He moved from ignorance to knowledge, and this is not the point of the passage. We shall learn at the end of the verse that He heard as the learned hear, and not as the ignorant hear. The ignorant hear to become learned, the learned hear because they are already learned. Of course it is true that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man”, Luke 2:52, but that is a reference to His growth as a person who is developing normally into manhood, and is not the subject here.
There are several passages in John’s gospel where the matter of the doctrine of the Lord Jesus was discussed. This is to be expected, for John writes of Christ as the one who has declared the Father, John 1:18.
1. “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, ‘How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?’ Jesus answered them, and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but He that seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him'”, John 7:14-18.
Key thought: “Doctrine…of God”
The feast mentioned in verse 14 is the Feast of Tabernacles, and it was one of the features of this feast that God required that every seven years during this feast the whole Law should be read, Deuteronomy 31:10-13. So the matter of God’s word was uppermost in their minds at this feast, even if it did not happen to be the actual seventh year when the reading was done. The feast was called “The Feast of the joy of the law”.
The Jews were astonished that one who had not been enrolled in the schools of the Rabbis should be able to teach doctrine so elevated and learned. They implied that He had thought of these things by Himself. The Lord Jesus gave them the answer; He was not teaching something that He knew independently, but what He knew from the Father directly. Nor was He teaching what men had taught Him, but what He knew in common with His Father.
If they wished to know that this was so, and had a will ready to obey what they learned, then they would find that what He taught was self-authenticating, and would convince them. They could also apply the test as to whether, by His teaching, He sought glory for Himself, or whether He glorified God. The rabbis would fail this test, but He does not.
2. “Then said they unto Him, ‘Who art Thou’? And Jesus saith unto them, ‘Even the same that I said unto you at the beginning. I have many things to say and to judge of you: but He that sent Me is true: and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of Him’. They understood not that He spake to them of the Father”, John 8:25-27.
Key thought: “heard of Him”
Their question as to who He is may be a trap, so that He makes a direct claim to be the Son of God, and their plans to arrest Him can be furthered. The Lord Jesus will not fall into that trap, nor will He bow to their demand. It is too late in His ministry to offer them fresh revelation as to Himself. They have had three years of abundant proof that He is the Son of God, what more can He offer? As God said about Israel, the vineyard He had so carefully tended, “What could have been done more in My vineyard that I have not done unto it?” Isaiah 5:4.
By pointing them to what He said from the beginning, He is no doubt directing them to the first public discourse He made in John’s gospel, which was on the subject of His Deity in chapter five. He had on that occasion made belief in His word, (that is, the word or theme of His Deity), the test, for He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life”, John 5:24. To believe the word concerning His Deity, is to pass from death to life, whereas to not believe is to be condemned.
There is more to this than simple statements of doctrine, however, for He is what He said, and that from the beginning until the moment He spoke to them. He was the full expression of everything He taught; there was never a discrepancy between word and practice. He is the Word, John 1:1. Luke writes of those things “Jesus began to do and teach”, Acts 1:1, so His doing was matched by His teaching. They should have believed when He told them of His Deity at the beginning, but now that He has lived and taught amongst them they are totally without excuse, and should not, at this late stage, be asking who He is.
He had many things to say to them if they were prepared to respond to His doctrine. He had many things by which to judge them if they refused His doctrine. He knew how to apply the word because as He states in verse “as My Father hath taught me, I speak these things”. It is not “what My Father hath taught Me”, but “as My Father hath taught Me”. In otherwise, it is not the content that is taught Him, as if He needed to learn in that sense, but the timing and context of the speaking was done in full communion with the Father. So whether the speaking was for blessing or for condemnation, it was done in harmony with the Father, for He could say, “And He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him”, John 8:29. So the Father and the Son are in full agreement, and the Father never needed to distance Himself from what He said);
3. “I speak that which I have seen with My Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father”, John 8:38.
Key thought: “seen with My Father”
The Lord Jesus is claiming here that His teaching was the result of His deep insight into the mind of God. The Jews, on the other hand, were working out the purpose of their father the devil. There could not be a greater contrast, for the devil instilled lies into the mind of Eve and Adam, and all since, whereas the Lord Jesus instils truth into the minds of those who respond to His word.
4. “He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak, therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak”, John 12:48-50.
Key thought: “the Father…gave Me commandment”
These are the final words of Christ to the nation before He turned from them because of their national unbelief. They take the form of a warning, for those who reject the words of Christ in this time of opportunity, will find that they will condemn them when the last opportunity is gone.
The reason why rejecting His words will receive such a drastic response is that He had not spoken in isolation and independence, but was faithfully transmitting what had been commanded Him to say. These words were spoken lest any should misunderstand the words, “I judge Him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world”, of verse 47. There are consequences for unbelief, but the carrying of them out awaits the day of judgement. Note that the one who judges is the word He spoke. So what Christ said and what He is are one, as John 8:25 had already indicated. The word spoken when Christ was here on earth will still have validity in the judgement day, some three thousand years later. The words of God are not options, but words of authority, and we rebel against them at our peril.
We return now to the words of Isaiah 50:4.
That I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary- notice it is “how to speak”, not “what to speak”, as we have noted from John 8:26. In close communion with His Father, the Servant-Son knew how to deal with each situation as it arose. He was never taken by surprise or left speechless and baffled. The words of Christ were always appropriate for the occasion, and were never out of place. He could comfort, rebuke, challenge, encourage, foretell, contend, and all in the fitting season.
It is those who are weary who are given a word in season. During His ministry the Lord Jesus said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”, Matthew 11:28. This is a call to those who found the labour of law-keeping more than they could endure. And added to this, there were the extra burdens imposed on the people by the rulers in Israel. As the Lord said, “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers”, Matthew 23:2-4. No wonder men were weary! But God’s Servant came to relieve them of their burdens. He can deliver them not only from the bondage of law-keeping, but also from the burdens imposed on them by religious men, but also bring into the enjoyment of the grace of God. He would do this righteously at Calvary, by accepting, as God’s Perfect Servant, the burden of the law-breaking of men, and paying the penalty Himself.
He went on to say in Matthew 11:29,30, “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”. So those who are relieved from the burden of religion, the vain pursuit of salvation by works, find that they have work to do of another sort. But it is not burdensome, for they have learnt to imitate the attitude of Christ who was meek and lowly, and who accepted His Father’s will in all things. They will find that His yoke is easy.
The Lord Jesus was a carpenter by trade, and no doubt He often made yokes for oxen. We may be sure that these were of the best workmanship, and fitted easily and comfortably on the shoulders of the animal. So it is with His disciples. Those who followed the teaching of a particular rabbi were said to be yoked to him, and so it is with the disciples of the greatest Teacher of all. His yoke is easy, and does not chafe or cause discomfort, and as a result, His burden is light, and the work is easily done. When the ox saw his owner coming towards him with a yoke, he knew that a day’s labour was ahead of him. Paradoxically, those who accept the yoke of Christ find rest to their souls.
He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned- it seems strange to think that the Lord God wakes up, but this is clearly what is called the language of accommodation, where that which cannot be understood is explained in language we can understand. Of course the Lord God neither slumbers nor sleeps, for the psalmist has told us that in Psalm 121:4. But figuratively, He can be said to do that which corresponds with us to waking. So in the Son’s waking moments, His God was at hand, so that they could commune with one another at the very start of the day, and speak of what was ahead for the servant during His hours of service that day. Of course the Hebrew day begins at 6pm in the evening, but in the night, no man can work, John 9:4. It is at the beginning of the working day that the Servant communes with His God.
Jeremiah several times wrote of God “rising up early and sending” the prophets, (see Jeremiah 25:4 for example), so the language is not unique to Isaiah. If God did this for prophets, how much more would He do it for His Son, who is much more than a prophet.
50:5 The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
The Lord God hath opened Mine ear- such was the attractiveness of the voice of the Lord God to the Servant, that His ear was open to hear. What a contrast this is to the reaction of Adam and his wife to the voice of the Lord God. Because they had hearkened to the voice of the serpent, the attractiveness of the word of God had gone, as far as they were concerned. Adam had to confess, “I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid”, Genesis 3:10. The last Adam is so different, however, and loves the voice of His God.
And I was not rebellious, neither turned away back- the response of this servant was instant. Having communed with His Father as His equal, He would obey as His servant, and do His Father’s will. He could say, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work”, John 4:34. And He was confident that He did always those things that pleased His Father, John 8:29. He never rebelled against God’s will, nor did He begin and not finish. He Himself spoke of two sons, whose father said to one, “Son, go work today in my vineyard”. He refused, although it is true that later on he changed his mind. He was rebellious. The other son said he would go, but in the event did not- he turned back from his initial agreement to go, Matthew 21:28-30.
This is in complete contrast to God’s Son. When we think of the task that lay ahead for the Lord Jesus as He served God, even the death of the cross, we are amazed at His willingness. In fact, it is said of the disciples as they went up to Jerusalem with Christ that He went before them, striding ahead, so to speak, and they were amazed, for they had heard Him prophesy what would happen to Him there, Mark 10:32; 9:31. He who had taken the form of a servant was obedient, even to the extent of death on a cross, Philippians 2:8. He would neither refuse to go, or turn back after having started to go.
(b) Verse 6 Christ and the callousness of men
50:6 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.
I gave My back to the smiters- His refusal to turn back when sent to do His Father’s will cost Him much. Apart from what He suffered penally and vicariously as He dealt with sin on the cross, there was the wicked treatment that men gave Him. He who was noted for “meekness and gentleness”, 2 Corinthians 10:1, was met with vicious cruelty from men. They hated the truth He taught, and vented their fury on Him in no uncertain way.
The initial charge the Jews brought against Christ was that He claimed to be the Son of God. They knew, however, that if they brought this as their main accusation to Pilate, he would not be interested. He was only concerned with matters involving the peace of the province. Theological matters did not come into his remit, unless they led to unrest. So the charge was altered, and they said to Pilate, “We found this man perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a king”, Luke 23:2. There are three parts to their charge, and each one is a lie. When Pilate would not proceed on the basis of this charge, they rephrased it, and said, “He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place”, verse 5. Thus it was that the final form of their accusation was to do with His teaching, whether it be in Galilee, Judea, or “this place”, meaning Jerusalem and the temple. Pilate was convinced of the innocence of the prisoner, but when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, he said to them, “Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and behold, I, having examined Him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse Him…I will therefore chastise Him, and release Him”, verses 13,14,16. This did not satisfy them, however, and Pilate gave in to them, and chastised or scourged the Lord Jesus, even though He had three times declared Him to be not guilty.
Notice the point at which He was scourged. It was as one who by His teaching perverted the people, they said. That truth He taught, that could have set them on the paths of righteousness, is branded perversion. This is a clear case of putting light for darkness and darkness for light, Isaiah 5:20.. So Isaiah’s description of the Teacher-Servant is fulfilled, and He gives His back to the smiters, that is, those who actually scourged Him, Pilate who ordered it to be done, and the nation which allowed it to be done.
And My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair- Christ’s determination to speak and act for God had its consequences, for man does not like to be confronted with truth. He could say, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin”, John 15:22. Just as Adam found that his self-made covering of fig leaves was not a covering for his sin, so those of Christ’s day had nothing to hide their sinfulness, for the words of Christ had fully exposed their wickedness. The reason they had sin when He spoke, and not when the prophets spoke, was because he told plainly of His Deity, and this was the test for men now.
It is written that when He was in Caiaphas’ house, He was questioned about His disciples, and His doctrine, John 18:19-24. At one point, we read that “the men that held Jesus mocked Him, and smote Him. And when they had blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face, and asked Him, saying, ‘Prophesy. who is it that smote Thee?'” Luke 22:63,64. The word Luke uses for “smote” is to thrash, or flay, so it is a severe action. The word for “struck” has the idea of repeated blows with a cudgel. In this way the ancient prophecy of Jacob is fulfilled, for he foretold that the tribe of Levi, (from whom came the priesthood), would take counsel, would assemble, and instruments of cruelty would be in their habitations. Also, in their anger they would slay a man. This came to pass as Levi’s descendants cruelly treated the Son of God in Caiaphas’ own house. And all this because of His doctrine, the doctrine of the one with the tongue of the learned.
I hid not My face from shame and spitting- to spit on someone is the ultimate expression of contempt and hatred, and the Lord Jesus did not seek to avoid this expression of the wickedness of men. He endured the cross, for His Father ordained that for Him, but He despised the shame, that which men gratuitously heaped upon Him. Even if a person is guilty, justice does not require that he be insulted. In fact, Jewish law required the utmost respect for a prisoner, and extreme deference was to be shown to him. After all, until condemned, he was to be reckoned innocent.
The Lord Jesus warned His disciples of this with the words, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on, and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again”, Luke 18:31-33. And so it came to pass, for we read, “And the soldiers led Him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. And they clothed Him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about His head, and began to salute Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they smote Him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon Him, and bowing their knees worshipped Him”, Mark 15:16-19. Clearly they are mocking His claim to be King. The robe of imperial purple, the crown, (albeit of thorns), the feeble reed for a sceptre, (but used to smite Him, as if they were the ones with the power), and then the anointing as king- but with their vile spittle. This is humiliation indeed, but through it all there is no murmur of complaint, for “when He was reviled, He reviled not again”, 1 Peter 2:23.
What the Lord did not tell His disciples was that their rulers would spit on Him also. It was one thing for uncouth Gentile soldiers to do this, but it was entirely another thing for members of the Sanhedrin to do so. They were so contemptuous of Him that they allowed themselves to do it, for we read that in the High Priest’s palace with the council present, when the Lord affirmed that He was indeed the Christ, “some began to spit on Him”, Mark 14:65, and Matthew tells us “they spit in His face”, Matthew 26:67. They no doubt felt justified in doing this, for had He not claimed to be the Son of God, and therefore was an apostate and a blasphemer? They had refused the testimony of His forerunner John, of His Father as He spoke from heaven, and His works, see John 5:32-38. It is gratifying to notice that Mark says that “some began to spit on Him”, Mark 14:65, thus allowing us to believe that Joseph of Arimathea did not stoop so low. So the Gentiles spit on Him in mock anointing, but Jews spit in His face in contempt.
(c) Verse 7 Christ and His confidence
50:7 For the Lord God will help Me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set My face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
For the Lord God will help Me- the Servant was enabled to bear the insults and the injuries, because He knew the Lord’s help in it all. He is the supreme Man of faith, the author and finisher of the life of faith, and His trust was wholly in His God, as Hebrews 2:13 notes. It was clear that He could derive no help from His disciples, for they forsook Him and fled, leaving Him to face the enemy alone. He told them they would do this, but He could also say, “and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me”, John 16:32 . When He spoke to Mary Magdalene about His impending ascension to heaven, He said, “I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God and your God”, John 20:17. Thus despite their failure to stand by Him at His arrest, He nonetheless assures them by means of a message through Mary Magdalene, (who had been loyal and had stood by the cross), that all the love He had received from His Father, and all the help He had received from His God, is assured to His people also during the time of His absence.
Therefore shall I not be confounded- nothing they accused Him of caused Him embarrassment. There was no hidden sin lurking in His record that might be brought to light at any moment to His shame. Nor were any of His claims far-fetched or fraudulent, with the danger that they might be found to be bogus. We might well seek to imitate Him in this, as the apostle Paul did, for he said, “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men”, Acts 24:16.
Therefore have I set My face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed- there is a contrast here between a face battered and disfigured physically, and a face set and adamant morally, resolute when confronted with the evils of men, determined to do His Father’s will throughout it all. When Peter sought to prevent His arrest, He said to him, “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?”, John 18:11. That cup of extreme suffering He had spoken of in the Garden of Gethsemane, the prospect of which caused Him to sweat as it were great drops of blood, He was determined to drink to the bitter dregs, so as to leave nothing for His people to drink. We read of Paul that he said, “I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knoweth the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me”, Acts 20:22-24. So even though he knew only that he would be imprisoned, the apostle was determined to fulfil his ministry. But the Lord Jesus knew all things that awaited, and bonds and imprisonment were the least of the trials that were in store for him, yet nonetheless He pressed on with determination. So He was not confounded as He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself, nor was He ashamed at the end of it all, as if He had not served well.
(d) Verses 8 and 9 Christ and His conflict
50:8 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.
He is near that justifieth Me- whilst it is true that He was forsaken representatively in the three hours of darkness, He was not deserted by His Father personally. We see this illustrated in the Tabernacle system. All the vessels of the tabernacle had two components. For instance, the altar was the support of the sacrifices. Yet when the sin-offering was burnt, this happened on the ground outside the camp in the place of the outcast. It was killed before the Lord in the court of the tabernacle, where the altar was, but was consumed outside the camp. Now the altar represents Christ personally, as one who is able to sustain the work of sacrifice, and the heat of the flame, but in His sin-offering work He was made sin, and was treated by God as if He were not the person He really was, but as the representative of sinners. Yet for all that, the fatty parts of the sin-offering were placed upon the altar and became the food of the other offerings, the fat causing the other sacrifices to burn, and their sweet savour to ascend to God, see Leviticus 4:35 and 3:11. Thus we are reminded that even though forsaken of His God because of our sin, yet He remained to His Father wholly acceptable.
Of course, the Servant does not need to be justified in the sense that we did, namely to be reckoned no longer as a sinner, but as a righteous person. He needed no such change. The word ‘justified’ has its secondary sense here, that of being vindicated in the face of accusations. We could think of Him as He is brought as a babe to the temple to be presented to the Lord as Mary’s firstborn son, as the Law required. She offers a sin offering as Leviticus 12:6-8 specified. At once the Holy Spirit intervenes, and Simeon, full of the Holy Spirit, announces that that, among other things, that the child is “the glory of Thy people Israel”, Luke 2:32. Far from needing a sin offering as if Mary has brought a sinner into the world, He is in fact the very glory of God in a world of shame.
It is the same at His baptism. He has lived for nearly thirty years in Nazareth. Has He been contaminated? Or is He taking His place amongst those who are being baptised with the baptism of repentance because He needs to repent? Not at all, for the Spirit descends in bodily shape like a dove, (a clean bird that could be used for sacrifice), and alights and remains on Him. Thus showing that He is in full harmony with heaven still. And so it was after His trial and execution. As Peter triumphantly but challengingly said to the men of Judah on the Day of Pentecost, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up”, Acts 2:23,24. And again, “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead”, 3:14,15. And again, “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead”, 4:10. And yet again, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree”, 5:30. Thus it was that time and again the dreadful crime of crucifying the Son of God is set against the resurrection, and is Peter’s main argument as he confronts the nation of Israel with the truth about Jesus of Nazareth.. They said He was a deceiver, but His prophecy that He would rise from the dead in three days came true, and He was vindicated.
Who will contend with Me? let us stand together- notice the courage of the Servant as He challenges any man to stand with Him, and contest matters. We see this courage when He went forth to meet the arrest party in the garden, John 18:4. He is unafraid of them, despite their far superior numbers and their weapons. And it is the same before His accusers. He takes the initiative when it is appropriate for Him to speak, and He refuses to speak when that is fitting, also. A reading of the evangelists’ accounts of the trial of Jesus Christ will make that clear.
Who is Mine adversary? let him come near to Me- if the previous phrase is a challenge to men, is this a challenge to Satan, the great adversary? We remember the way Goliath challenged the armies of Israel. “Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me”, 1 Samuel 17:8. Goliath challenged for forty days, but for forty centuries Satan had been challenging God to choose a man. But there was none on earth able to rise to the challenge. So it was that He sent His Son down to meet the foe.
There is a word in the Hebrew Old Testament which is translated ‘adversary’, and it is the word satan. But this is not the word Isaiah uses here. This word means, translated literally, “master of the verdict”. In other words, one who claims to be able to judge and give a verdict in legal proceedings. Now of course Caiaphas and Pilate were both, in a sense, the master of the verdict when it came to the trial of the Lord Jesus. But there is surely something more sinister here. The challenge of Satan, as he claims to be the master of the verdict on Christ, must be met.
He had come to the newly-baptised Christ, and tempted Him in the wilderness for forty days. He was utterly defeated, for not one of the temptations was able to get Him to move from the path of subjection and obedience to His Father. At the end we read “he departed from Him for a season”, Luke 4:13. How ominous those words are, for they indicate that although the enemy had been routed in his initial encounter with Christ, he intended to return when he thought an appropriate moment had arrived. The Lord Jesus knew when that moment was, for He said, just a few hours before He died, “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me”, John 14:20. He was confident of the outcome of the conflict with the enemy, for Satan would find nothing in Him to fasten onto to make the basis of an accusation. He had already signalled that when He was lifted up on the cross, not only would it be the judgement of this world, but as a result, the prince of this world would be cast out, John 12:31.
The Lord was fully aware of the implications of His arrest in the garden. It would not only be the start of His trial and execution, but also lead to a confrontation with the enemy of God himself. He said, “this is your hour, and the power of darkness”, Luke 22:53. In the hours of darkness upon the cross, many things were happening. He was forsaken of His God; He was bearing sins; He was giving to God the answer and satisfaction for every sin; He was taking away the sin of the world. But He was also confronting Satan himself. Just as David met Goliath clad only in his shepherd’s tunic, and with only the sling and the stone, so the Lord Jesus was crucified through weakness, 2 Corinthians 13:4. This was the moment the Devil has been waiting for; it was the “season” Luke 4:13 speaks of.
But what is the nature of the conflict? We should remember that ‘Devil’ and ‘Satan’ are law-court names. They speak of one who accuses and opposes. The words of the apostle Paul will help us here. He warned the believers at Corinth that “we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into subjection every thought to the obedience of Christ”, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. The conflict is not in the natural sphere, but the spiritual. It is the age-old conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, righteousness and unrighteousness. It has raged ever since Lucifer rebelled against God and “abode not in the truth”, John 8:44. Having apostatised, and repudiated the truth of God, he has sought ever since to defeat God and His truth. This battle therefore is a battle of ideas, of thoughts, of reasonings. This is why the Lord Jesus prayed on the cross, “save Me from the lion’s mouth”, Psalm 22:21, for the Devil came to Him with arguments and wicked suggestions that needed to be settled once and for all. And all this was fought out in the darkness, the very atmosphere in which the Enemy flourishes.
Could it be that the three hours of darkness the Saviour endured whilst on the cross were brought on by the prince of darkness himself? We are not exactly told that God made it happen, simply that there was, or there came, darkness over all the earth. It was not darkness as a result of the blotting out of the sun. The sun was darkened it is true, but it was the darkness over all the earth that darkened the sun, not the darkening of the sun that darkened the earth. It would be entirely appropriate if Satan should be allowed to bring on darkness, his native sphere, so that he could be defeated where he thought himself most strong. He loves to blot out the light of the truth and glory of God, but Christ met him on his own ground, and soundly routed him.
During His ministry, the Lord Jesus was accused of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub, another name for Satan. Part of His response was to say, “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils”, Luke 11:21,22. By this He indicated that Satan might be strong, and might successfully defend his interests, but one day a stronger one would come, and utterly defeat him. And so it came to pass at Calvary. Christ mastered the one who claimed to be the master of the verdict.
We forget how critical those hours of darkness were, for if Satan had been successful, God would have been unseated from His throne, and Satan would have claimed it, and the Son of God would have been utterly vanquished.
Could it be that just as there were forty days of temptation before the three that formed the climax, so the temptation period as a whole was the preliminary to what happened at the cross? Are Matthew and Luke hinting to us the way the temptation on the cross was conducted. And could we go further and say that the three temptations that Matthew and Luke highlight, give us some idea of what the Devil thought of as his strong points, and to which he would return at Calvary? Could this be why there were three hours of darkness, especially as the Lord said, “this is your hour, and the power of darkness”, thus linking the words ‘hour’ and ‘darkness’? So if we note what the general trend of the three temptations was, we may gain some insight into what the battle ground was at Calvary.
The first temptation we are told of relates to turning stones into bread. The Lord Jesus has been without food for forty days, and the temptation comes to turn the stones that littered the desert floor, into bread. If He was the Son of God, this surely would be well within His capabilities. In one sense it was, but Christ was not only Creator of stones and bread, but a dependant man, and He relied on His Father at all times. If His Father had not seen fit to supply Him with food in the desert, or, if His Father had not given Him leave to turn stones into bread, then so be it, the Lord was content. The Devil, being wholly evil, has no appreciation of subjection and humility, as seen to perfection in Christ. In any case, as He said in rebuff to the Devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”, Matthew 4:4. Any suggestion that His Father’s provision was absent was strongly resisted. He had better provision that physical bread, for as He said Himself, in the context of His address about Himself as the Bread of Life, “As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me”, John 6:57.
But think how this sort of temptation could be used again, with the Lord Jesus hanging upon the cross, forsaken of His God. He seemed not only to have withheld His provision and help, but also that most precious thing of all to Christ, His presence, for He had forsaken the sin-bearer. Was not the whole idea of “living by the Father” that of communion, enjoying who the Father is? Did not the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel say, as He hung on the cross, “He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said ‘I am the Son of God'”, Matthew 27:43. They saw a connection between being the Son of God, trusting in God, and the Father “having Him”, or in other words, being pleased with Him.
This was not all. Think of the implications of this situation, for it could suggest that Christ was not God’s Son after all. And if that should be the case, He was suffering justly, for His claim to equality with the Father would amount to blasphemy, and the law of Moses demanded that such should be killed. Furthermore, if this were the case, then the sins He was being judged for were His own, and not those of anyone else.
There was a further suggestion the Devil might make. Christ had been heralded by John the Baptist as the one who “taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29. But God had instituted and accepted animal sacrifices for centuries. Was it not unreasonable and indeed unethical to expect a man to do what an animal could do? Could not God continue to say, “It shall be forgiven him”, when a man brought an animal sacrifice for his sin, as He had done for centuries. In any case, the Lord Jesus claimed the power to say “Thy sins be forgiven thee”, to a man who had not brought a sacrifice at all, Luke 5:20.
It is true that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, but He provided a substitute for him in the form of a ram, thus freeing Isaac from death. It is true that the prophets indicated that there was something better in God’s mind than animal sacrifices. David realised this when he said, “Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; mine ears hast Thou opened: Burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required. Then said I, ‘Lo, I come…I delight to do thy will O My God”, Psalm 40:5-8. Of course these words are used of Christ in Hebrews 10, but in their initial setting they speak of a man’s commitment to God’s will as being better than merely offering a sacrifice. Then again, Micah wrote, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:6-8. And yet again, the words of the prophet Samuel, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams”, 1 Samuel 15:22.
In all these instances the prophets probed deep into the mind of God, and saw that to Him, a man obeying Him and doing His will, was of more value than animal sacrifices. Why not be content with having lived a life? Why think it necessary to go so far as to die by crucifixion?. In any case, the animals were killed for sacrifice in an humane way. Crucifixion was anything but humane. Would God really require it?
The Lord Jesus had the answer to all possible suggestions of the Devil and was more than a match for his wicked reasonings. The Son of God was fully in harmony with His Father at all times, and He knew full well that sufferings and sacrifice were God’s purpose for Him, in order that he might satisfy God’s demands against sins, and vindicate God for the fact that He forgave sins in the Old Testament times, before Christ had died, Romans 3:25. In the same way the Lord Jesus was vindicated for forgiving sins during His lifetime, for He did it in anticipation of His work of sacrifice, as well as because He is God.
Not only was there a temptation about the Father’s provision, but also about the Father’s care. The Devil quoted Psalm 91:11,12, where God promised that He would charge His angels with the task of preventing the Messiah from the slightest mishap, such as knocking His foot against a stone. This temptation was strongly resisted, for it amounted to putting God to the test, to see if He would be true to His word. This the Man of faith will not do, for He had absolute trust in His God, and refused to tempt the Lord His God by flinging Himself from the pinnacle of the temple. The temptation about Divine protection was unsuccessful. But when it came to Calvary, it was not the comparatively small thing of dashing one’s foot on a stone, but the horrific death by crucifixion. Every type of injury was inflicted on Christ, and no angel was sent to prevent it happening. Think of the way the Adversary could use this situation to seek to break Christ’s resolve. After all, we read that in Gethsemane, “And He went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from Me: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt'”, Mark 14:35,36. He prayed this a second time, verse 39.
We may well imagine the enemy using this prayer to suggest that the Father may have withheld something from His Son, simply to test Him, to see how far He was prepared to go, but all the time having the escape for Him in reserve? Is that not what happened to Abraham, and when he had been tested to the limit, the escape was found.
There was not a suspicion of a thought in Christ’s mind that He should be protected from the sufferings of the cross. He knew that they were His by Divine decree, and He would not seek to overturn or escape that decree. We cannot erase those words from Holy Scripture, difficult as they are to understand, and difficult, also, to reconcile with the fact that the one who was praying them was foreordained before the foundation of the world to be the redeeming lamb. We can only bow in wonder at the sovereign counsels of God, and the mystery of the Divine will, but the equally mysterious request of God’s Son to be delivered from the horrors of Calvary. We can see however, how the Devil would seek to exploit this situation. If He prayed the prayer once, could He not pray it again? After all, He had prayed it again in Gethsemane. And so the temptations relentlessly battered Him, but God’s Servant stood firm, resolutely accepting all that His Father required Him to suffer.
The third temptation had been to avoid the cross altogether by receiving the kingdoms of the world from Satan Himself, on condition that He fall down and worship him. This suggestion was rebuked by Christ in the wilderness temptation, but suppose the suggestion came again? After all, the Devil might say, He had asked that if it be possible, the cup of suffering might pass from Him, what if this was God’s answer to that request? And when he had said, “All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it”, Luke 4:6, the Lord Jesus had not disputed this claim. He did not reject the temptation because it was based on a false assertion, but because it would have involved something He could never do. He is God, and therefore owes homage to none; He is man, and owes homage only to His Father. He will receive the kingdom as a gift from His Father, who will say, “Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession”, Psalm 2:8. This is His reward for pouring out His soul unto death, as Isaiah 53:12 indicates clearly.
And so the conflict raged on and on. The Devil coming with evil suggestions, and Christ repelling Him by the truth of the Word of God. The Devil cannot succeed against the word of God, that is why he sought to undermine what God had said verbally to Adam in the garden. Once he had managed to displace the word of God in Eve’s mind, the battle was won. But he met his match in Christ, who mastered and defeated the one who claimed to be the “master of the verdict”.
50:9 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.
Behold, the Lord God will help Me- the assembly of the wicked inclosed the Lord Jesus, as Psalm 2:16 said they would. Jew and Gentile, rulers and people, priests, kings and governors conspired together to oppose Him, accuse Him, condemn Him. And all the while the majority of His followers cowered in their homes, with the notable exception of John, and some brave women. One of His apostles had betrayed Him to the authorities, another had denied Him, they all forsook Him and fled. Arrested, bound, accused, condemned to be crucified, who was there to help Him in His loneliness? Lover and friend had been put far from Him, and His acquaintance into darkness, Psalm 88:18. But His supreme resource, as ever, was in His God. Had He not promised, “I will be His Father, and He shall be My Son”? 2 Samuel 7:14, words used originally about Solomon, but applied to the Lord Jesus in Hebrews 1:5.
So it was that, when all were arrayed against Him, when “the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ”, Acts 4:26, He was steadfast in the knowledge that His Father was at His side. As we see from the quotation above, this was a great encouragement to the early believers, and although they were opposed by the authorities, (see Acts 4:5,6), they took comfort from the fact that their Lord had endured the same. They were suffering with Him in His rejection. So also Paul when he was brought before Nero; he could say, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion”, 2 Timothy 4:16,17.
Who is he that shall condemn Me? The Lord Jesus was confident that, even though witnesses were brought to accuse Him, they would not have anything meaningful to offer against Him. So it was, for they turned out to be false witnesses, and they did not agree with one another, Mark 14:56. And these were witnesses that had been “sought”, verse 55, a procedure that was illegal under Jewish law, for they must be volunteers. Then there was the verdict of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin that He was guilty, because He claimed be the Son of God, and Israel’s Messiah. If the evidence against Him was so convincing, why did they switch charges, and take Him to Pilate and accuse Him of perverting the people, forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ a King, Luke 23:2? It was because all of these three charges would be of interest to Pilate, since his duty was to maintain the rule of Rome. But “Christ a king” is far removed from saying, “He is King of Israel”. Pilate would have scoffed at such an idea. So it was that three times over Pilate announced that he found no fault in Christ, and yet scourged Him and condemned Him to be crucified. So did men condemn Him? They did so unjustly, but as far as heaven is concerned the condemnation was not valid, and was as if null and void.
Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment- it is said of Christ that “Thou, Lord, hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands: they shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail”, Hebrews 1:10-12. So there is a contrast made here between the Son of God, and the creation that is the work of His hands. He shall stand, while all created things pass away. Men said of Him, “Away with Him”, and He at last shall say “Away” to the old creation, for John saw a vision of the heavens and earth pass away, Revelation 20:11, and Peter tells us the heavens will pass away with a great noise, 2 Peter 3:10. And sinners like the false witnesses, Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate are part of the old creation, (unless of course they truly repented before they died), and will pass away also into everlasting fire, an eternity of regret before them.
The moth shall eat them up- how powerful Christ’s enemies seemed to be! How arrogantly they treated Him, especially Caiaphas. The psalmist had likened the chief priests to the strong bulls of Bashan, Psalm 22:12. Grown fat on the tithes of the people, and their ill-gotten gains from the market stalls in the temple; inflated with pride and conceit, they strutted around as if God’s temple was theirs. One day, however, when the heavens have passed away, and they stand exposed in all their sin before the Great White Throne, they shall find, to their dismay, that the one who sits on it is the one they crucified. Then He will have no mercy for them, and they will be seen in all their weakness, like a moth-eaten garment that is ready to fall as dust to the floor. How splendid the rulers looked as they condemned Christ! The high priest Caiaphas, the Governor Pilate, the petty King Herod. How impressive and imposing they seemed in their finery. But one day their robes of office fell prey to the moth, just as one day their souls will fall prey to the judgement of the One they dared to crucify.
(e) Verses 10 and 11 Christ’s disciples and their confusion
50:10 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.
Who is among you that feareth the Lord- the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, Proverbs 1:7. Believers do not fear God as sinners, but as sons. Theirs is not the frantic fear of those who are afraid of God’s judgement, for “there is now therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”, Romans 8:1. Because God is their Father they have filial fear, the fear of true sons who have been placed into that position of sonship by their Father, Romans 8:14; Galatians 4:5-7. The apostle Peter exhorts us, “If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear”, 1 Peter 1:17. So fear of judgement for sins is gone, but fear of displeasing Him should always be present.
That obeyeth the voice of His servant- this is how the fear is expressed. The Lord gave the apostles a test in the upper room. He said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth”, John 14:15-17. The coming of the Spirit was, in one sense, (although the Lord knew the outcome, that they would keep His commandment), dependant on them obeying His commandments. And so it came to pass, for we read that on the Day of Pentecost, “they were all with one accord in one place”, and the Spirit came, Acts 2:1,2. So the apostles had set the tone for the present age, and by their obedience given us an example to follow. After all, they were only following the example of their Lord in His life of obedience. We should follow them, as they followed Christ, 1 Thessalonians 1:6.. He is God’s Servant as He obeys, He is our Lord as we obey Him.
That walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Notice that those who, in principle, fear the Lord, and who, again in principle, are obedient to Him, are said to have no light. They are not said to not be in the light, but to have none. All believers are in the light of God’s presence, but the one who walks in darkness is not a believer. John writes, “this then is the message we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, ‘That God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all’. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth”, 1 John 1:5,6. But in practice we sometimes in disobedience walk in pathways upon which the light of His presence does not and cannot shine. This is contrary to God’s mind for us. The inspired proverb says, “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day”, Proverbs 4:18. The sun, as it rises, casts its first light on the pathway of the believer, but as he appreciates the truth more and more, his pathway is lit up increasingly, until the perfect day of the coming of the Lord arrives. This is the ideal situation, but we often live at a less-than-ideal level, to our loss. Take Peter as an example. After brave words in the upper room, and the vow to go with Christ to prison and to death, he failed. He was found in the High Priest’s palace, denying his Lord three times. How dark was his pathway, and he, the first of the apostles!
Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon His God- the pathway of the just should be a pathway of trust. This was true of the Lord Jesus, for the writer to the Hebrews used the words of Isaiah about Him, and represented Him as saying, “I will put My trust in Him”, meaning God. This is why He was alert at the outset of each day, ready to commune with His Father, so that the hours of the day might be fully occupied with His Father’s business. The apostle Paul exhorts us to be like this too, for he wrote, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, for the days are evil”, Ephesians 5:15,16. It is as if we go to the market-place early each day, and sell the hours of that day to the highest bidder. That highest bidder will always be God, but we can refuse to sell to Him, even though He can redeem those hours from being used for vain things, and instead be used to serve Him.
Every godly Israelite would end the day with the words, “Into Thy hand I commit my spirit”, Psalm 31:5. The day had been used to glorify God, so with confidence the spirit could be committed to God. If death came in the night, that spirit was in safe keeping. Thus it was with the Lord Jesus, for we read, “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father into Thy hands I commend My spirit’: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost”, Luke 23:46. A comparison with the other gospel records will show that the cry with a loud voice that Luke speaks of was “It is finished”. So the work is done, and the Servant can commit His spirit to God in the conscious knowledge that He has pleased His Father, not just during the hours of the day He died, but every other day before that. He had said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day”, John 9:4, and now the day was over.
So as we begin each day, we should let the light of God’s word shine on the pathway, and say with the psalmist, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light unto my path”, Psalm 119:105. The word of God shines light close by, so if we hesitate as to which path to take, and “walk in darkness” in that sense, it will give guidance as to which way to go. Having chosen the right path, (which will always be the one that shows trust in God, the path of faith), that same word of God will give light unto our path, and the way further forward will be lightened by the truth of God’s word.
50:11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of Mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.
Behold, all ye that kindle a fire- we should be aware that as believers we can walk in the gloom of indecision and unbelief, if we reject the clear teaching of the Word of God. Peter was in this darkness when, after the arrest of Christ, he followed afar off, and found himself in the court of the high priest’s palace “to see the end”, Matthew 26:58. That indicates how low he was in spirit, thinking that all his hopes and expectations had been dashed, and to follow Christ had been a mistake. So it was that he was found warming himself at a fire of coals that the servants had kindled in the palace courtyard because it was cold, John 18:18.
That compass yourselves about with sparks- how ineffectual a spark is when it comes to lighting up the pathway. It lasts but a brief moment, and is gone. So as the servants stoke the fire of coals, the sparks no doubt did fly upward, but they only served to momentarily light up Peter’s face, and give him away as a follower of Christ. John seems to highlight this, for having told us that Peter stood and warmed himself by the fire, he then tells us about Christ being interrogated by the high priest. What a contrast between the courageous answers of Christ, and the cowardly denials of Peter! When John has told us about what happened in the palace, he returns to the palace courtyard below, and tells us about Peter with the words, “And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself”, John 18:25. In this way John brackets the words of Christ by means of the two references to Peter being beside the fire. Then comes the second denial. The light of the world’s fire has led him further astray, as it always does. No doubt John is emphasising the fire, for he will tell us later of Peter standing by another fire of coals, but this time it is one that Christ has lit. And instead of three denials, there will be three affirmations of love and loyalty, John 21:9,15-17.
Walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled- and so Peter did for three days, huddled in hiding somewhere in Jerusalem, full of despair, failing to believe those promises Christ had given that He would rise again.
This shall ye have of Mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow- no doubt Peter lay down his head on his pillow disillusioned and despondent, sorrowing not just for what had happened to the Lord he claimed to love, but sorry for himself too, and for his denials for which he had wept bitter tears. But this was all in God’s disciplining hand, to bring him to the point where he would be converted, and so be able to strengthen his brethren, Luke 22:32. And this he did, for he not only took the lead in the preaching recounted in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, but he wrote two epistles, and he says at the end of the first, “But the God of all grace…make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen”, 1 Peter 5:10,11.