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Thursday, August 13, 2015

“I Looked for a Man …”

The Bible is filled with the stories of people who we would fairly call ‘servants of God’ — men and women who did great things at pivotal moments and who are forever enshrined in both the Old and New Testaments as examples and stalwarts.

Biblically-undocumented servants fill the annals of secular history too — people who gave their lives in the pursuit of God’s work; men like George Mueller or Jim Elliot come to mind. But there are thousands of others who bore the title ‘servant of God’ with distinction by changing the course of nations and standing for God at needful times.

Then there are those of us who are Christians today and aspire to be worthy of the grand title ‘servant of God’ in our generations.

The Servant at Centre Stage

But when Christ is prophetically ushered to centre stage in the opening four verses of Isaiah 42, God the Father refers to Him as “MY servant” and “chosen ONE” — he is not called the best example of a servant, instead he is held up as the ONLY example of true service. It is uniquely said of Christ that he is the solitary servant in whom God’s “soul delights”. All other servants fail in some measure at various times in their lives, but Christ pleased and pleases the Father in every aspect and every moment without reservation of any sort.

In those first four verses of chapter 42, Isaiah provides some measures of service by which we who strive to serve will all fall short — and all are measures by which Christ consistently excels.

Six things are uniquely true of him at all times and in every aspect:

 The Ideal Servant ALWAYS GETS THE JOB DONE

“He WILL faithfully bring forth justice to the nations,” says Isaiah. You can give any instruction you wish to your children or your employees or those who find themselves under your authority. Often you will find the job is not done and instead you are greeted with excuses — perhaps even good and believable excuses.

By contrast, the Lord Jesus never makes an excuse for not doing what the Father wants done; he always does the job.

So it is that Isaiah speaks confidently in his assessment of the perfect servant and uses the word “will”. Isaiah does not write “he will try”; he does not write “he hopes to”; Isaiah writes instead “he WILL”. Christ pleases the Father by virtue of his consistency of service.

❷ The Ideal Servant Always Does the Job WELL

Some servants (including yours truly) tend to get a job to the point of ‘good enough’ rather than the point of ‘perfectly done’. But it can fairly and fully be said of the Lord Jesus that “he does ALL THINGS well”.

So it is here in this passage in Isaiah that we’re told justice will be delivered to the coastlands. When we use the term ‘coast to coast’ we mean no part of the nation is left untouched. So too, the perfect servanthood of the Lord Jesus will ensure that justice is not 98% or even 99% delivered and then left off as ‘good enough’. Instead the very coastlands will experience that justice and rule. All that it is possible to do, the Lord Jesus will do. It’s worth noting that if he brings his justice ‘coast to coast’ — if he will never stop until his justice is universal — that must necessarily include bringing justice and rule to your heart and your life.

He does not simply save, he saves to the uttermost. He is not finished with you but he’s going to do the job fully, he’s going to do it very well, he’s going to prove himself to be both author and finisher of faith — and in so doing will please his Father. Christ pleases the Father by virtue of his quality of service.

❸ The Ideal Servant is HUMBLE

“He will not cry out,” says Isaiah — he does not make a proclamation, he does not demand you notice his efforts. Instead, the ideal servant endures the notoriety that necessarily accompanies being a servant of the Most High God — but actively seeks none of it for himself.

The Lord Jesus repeatedly refused early coronations and evaded those who would make him king. He knew all too well the fickleness of the human heart that could in one moment cry “Hosanna” and the very next cry “we will not have this man to reign over us”. So it was that he sought praise from God rather than men and always did so. John’s gospel closes this way: “... and there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”

Did Christ have reason to elevate himself and claim a place of prominence? Of course he did; his life is replete with successes that no other man could ever dream of accomplishing. The servant who could have insisted on honour and respect for his performance instead consistently humbled himself for the Father’s glory. He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Christ pleases the Father by virtue of his humility.

❹ The Ideal Servant is SYMPATHETIC

Isaiah speaks beautifully of “a bruised reed” that the ideal servant would never break.

Have you ever worked with someone who was wonderfully skilled, able to do a job at a much higher level than you could dream and who became irritated by your lack of similar skill? Such encounters typically end with a frustrated sigh and the phrase “Oh move aside and let ME do that”. The world is not filled with many patient teachers. One of the reasons the Father considers the Son so wonderful is because the Son is surrounded by a sea of others who do not serve as well as he does, but is never impatient or churlish with them.

As Christians, you and I can speak with the Supreme Servant about the work at hand and our obvious incapacity to do it — but when we do, we will never be met with disdain. Christ pleases the Father by inspiring and encouraging lesser servants in their efforts.

❺ The Ideal Servant NEVER FALTERS

“He will not be crushed,” as Isaiah puts it.

Sometimes you can be given work to do that you cannot possibly complete — there isn't sufficient ability or authority or time to complete the task at hand. Perhaps you can understand the frustration of being given a deadline that cannot be met and so — despite your intent and your desire — you are bound to take longer than you have been given. It’s worth noting God the Father is an understanding master who is mindful that we are dust; he never asks the unreasonable (though sometimes we may pretend he does!).

It’s also worth noting that Isaiah says the Supreme Servant is superior to us because he never falters and is never lacking in ability to finish the work well. Christ pleases the Father because he is not only willing but is also fully able.

❻ The Ideal Servant NEVER GETS DISCOURAGED

Perhaps this is the most telling of the true servant’s attributes and the one at which we most fall short. Many of us serve for a time, even a long time, and then we stop; we serve intermittently because we get discouraged. Others have failed to thank us as deeply and often as we desire, perhaps none come to help shoulder the burden of the work we’ve been given, perhaps results are scant or entirely absent.

Despite all of these frustrations that dispirit lesser servants, the ideal servant is not overwhelmed when circumstances seem to conspire to impede progress. The ideal servant is not cowed by a lack of visible results. The ideal servant sets his face “as a flint” and stays the course in defiance of all that may rise against him. Scofield has pointed out that in the early months of favour when Christ was lauded by men, he speaks little of joy. But in the upper room as the shadow of the cross and the tomb cast a deep darkness over the coming days, John records that Christ spoke repeatedly and in great detail of the joy that moved Him ever forward without pause.

Christ pleases the Father by virtue of his joyful service.

A Servant Without Peer

Many are those who would seek to include Christ in a group of laudable others. That was the mistake a disciple made at the Transfiguration. It is the mistake made in many modern theologies and by many modern philosophers who would stand others alongside Jesus Christ as if peers of a sort.

Isaiah reminds us that Christ is alone as the one truly perfect servant, the one flawless example we can unerringly trust to provide us with clear standards and the only one who entirely delighted (and delights) the Father.

1 comment :

  1. Stunningly good post, Bernie. Most encouraging. We can never think enough about the Lord, nor value him at His true worth, can we?

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