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Continuing from the middle of Isaiah 50:2, God says to Israel,
2 … “Behold, I dry up the sea with My rebuke, I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink for lack of water and die of thirst. 3 I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.”
Because God is sovereign, He has the ability to do many destructive things. When taken in the context of the previous verse, His point is that He is in full control of evil events such as Israel’s divorce from God. If He can “dry up the sea,” He can also dissolve that marriage. On the other hand, being in full control means also that He has the ability to reverse it and provide the solution.
If He can “dry up the sea,” He can also fill it with water. If He can “make the rivers a wilderness,” He can also make the rivers overflow their banks. If He can “clothe the heavens with blackness,” He can also fill the heavens with light.
Hence, God asks in the first part of verse 2, “Have I no power to deliver?” The question is rhetorical, because the answer is obvious.
Isaiah 50:4, 5 begins another messianic prophecy, saying,
4 The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. 5 The Lord God has opened My ear, and I was not disobedient, nor did I turn back.
No doubt, on the surface the prophet was speaking of himself as a type of Christ. On a deeper level, however, it prophesied of Christ Himself, who is pictured as the Great Disciple. In fact, we see in this the very definition of a disciple—one who hears and obeys another. Essentially, a disciple is one who embodies the word shema, “to hear and obey.”
“The tongue of disciples” is a tongue that speaks only what he hears his master speak. This is what Jesus did perfectly and which all of His disciples were to learn to do. God often speaks “morning by morning,” and we may presume that this was Jesus’ own experience when the Father gave Him instructions for the day.
When the prophet says, “The Lord God has opened My ear,” it is a reference to the law of the voluntary servant, whose ear was “opened” by the awl (Exodus 21:5, 6). It signified that the newly-released slave loved his master and was in full agreement with him to the point that He no longer wanted to return to his own natural inheritance. He wanted to be a voluntary slave or servant in his master’s house and to receive the blessings of that household.
David too was such a “disciple,” or voluntary servant. He wrote in Psalm 40:6-8,
6 Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; my ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8 I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart.”
The voluntary slave returns to his master because he delights to do his will, not because he is forced to do so as a slave. This is also what it means to have the law written in one’s heart. The slave has had a change of heart, a change of nature. He does not disagree with the law of his master, nor does he despise it. In other words, he has not cast aside the law, nor has he considered the law to be abolished. Instead, he lives it as a revelation every moment of the day.
This, of course, describes the life and calling of Christ, as Hebrews 10:5-7 tells us,
5 Therefore, when He [Christ] comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me. 6 In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of Me) to do Your will, O God.”
Jesus, then, was the Disciple of “the Lord God,” even as we ourselves are Christ’s disciples.
The Abused Messiah
A disciple of Christ is often hated and abused, even as He was. Isaiah 50:6, 7 says,
6 I have 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. 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.
This messianic prophecy was fulfilled in Matthew 26:67,
67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him.
Again, in Matthew 27:26 and 30, we read,
26 Then he [Pilate] released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified… 30 They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.
None of the gospel accounts speak of them plucking out His beard, but this is prophesied by Isaiah himself. Hence, we know that this occurred as well. In spite of this abuse, Jesus knew that all of this was a necessary part of the divine plan. He sought approval from His heavenly Father, not from men, “therefore I am not disgraced.” He was thus determined to walk that path; “therefore, I have set My face like flint.”
Again, the gospel writers say nothing about flint, but we know from the accounts that He would not be deterred from going to Jerusalem, where He was to suffer at the hands of men. He knew that He was doing the will of His heavenly Father, who also would vindicate Him.
Isaiah 50:8, 9 says,
8 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. 9 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.
This is similar to what Paul said about us in Romans 8:31-34,
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
Hence, when we are abused and mistreated for our witness of Christ, it is God who “vindicates” and “justifies.”
True and False Fire
Isaiah 50:10, 11 concludes,
10 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.
Those who fear the Lord do NOT walk in darkness. They do have light. Their light is the truth of the gospel of Christ. However, those whose walk in darkness are those whose light is manmade. They follow the traditions of men, rather than the law of God. The fire that they kindle is not from the revelation of God but the lies of men.
In Leviticus 9:24 God accepted the sacrifice by sending fire from heaven upon the altar. The priests were responsible to keep that fire going by adding fuel to it. However, they failed to do this, so the divine fire went out. The next morning they lit their own manmade fire to offer incense to God. God called it “strange fire” (Leviticus 10:1). Those priests, Nadab and Abihu, thus died by fire (Leviticus 10:2).
This prophesied of many things, especially times of revival, when the fire of the Holy Spirit is poured out. Inevitably, the fire is extinguished, and men find it necessary to keep it going with manmade fire and human emotion. But for our purpose here, we see that when Christ was offered up as a Sacrifice for sin, God used divine fire, but the priests used manmade fire with disastrous results forty years later.
God’s fire was the “fiery law” (Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV), by which Christ paid the penalty for sin in satisfying the demand of the law. But from men’s perspective, it was their false fire, the traditions of men, which motivated them to crucify the Messiah.
Those who walked in the light of their own manmade fire were the ones who abused the Messiah and crucified Him. They used their own “fire” and “firebrands” to “set ablaze” (i.e., burn down) their own houses, metaphorically speaking. These, the prophet says, “will lie down in torment.”
The word translated “torment” is ma’atsebah, “sorrow, grief, pain, affliction.” The prophet was not prophesying that they will “go to hell,” but rather that they were to suffer the consequences of their own actions. They kindled a fire that would burn down their own house, and this was fulfilled forty years later when the Romans came and burned Jerusalem with fire (Matthew 22:7).