Isaiah 50 verses 4 through 7 provide an interesting picture of the inter-relationship between God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ. In this passage we find, as it were, God’s self-revelation to Jesus day after day, followed by Jesus’ affirmation of perfect obedience. The passage is written in the first person, as if Jesus narrated it Himself—His “personal testimony” if you will.
The 19th Century commentator Franz Delitzsch wrote of this passage:
- “The servant of Jehovah affords us deep insight here into His hidden life.”
Following a portion in which God speaks and opens the ear of the Messiah, we have an affirmation of obedience. In this portion, the obedience of Jesus is exemplified by a rhetorical extreme, that being Jesus giving His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that pluck out the hair. This passage provides a very graphic and extreme example of obedience to the max.
Let’s look at this interesting passage as written by Isaiah:
- Isa 50:4-7 (ESV), “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
- “The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward.
- “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.
- “But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.”
Herein, Jesus is testifying, off the pen of Isaiah, about His relationship with God the Father. It is an interesting look into the Trinity to say the least. It also gives us a glimpse into Christian salvation, as God must speak into our ears for us to consider issues of eternal salvation
In this amazing passage we find three ways in which Jesus exemplified a relentless pursuit of God: (1) The relentless pursuit of God begins with a listening ear; (2) The relentless pursuit of God requires an obedient heart; and (3) The relentless pursuit of God demands immovable conviction.
The relentless pursuit of God begins with God Himself. In this case, it did not begin with Jesus, nor does it begin with us. God must intervene into human affairs and individually speak to our consciences before we can respond by relentlessly pursuing Him.
- “For this reason, the relentless pursuit of God must begin with a listening ear!”
Jesus, as narrated by Isaiah, testified of God’s work in His own life using three verbs: “give,” “awaken,” and “open.” God gave Jesus tongue of one who is taught. God awakened the ear of Jesus morning-by-morning. Then God opened His ear to hear as One who is taught.
Interestingly, these verbs give us an idea of the process of God’s self-revelation to His own Son on earth—an unusual concept to get our minds around to be sure. But even more importantly, Jesus went through this process so that He could be “in every way just as we are, yet without sin.”
For the Christian, a relationship with God begins when someone shares the gospel with us. We receive the words of someone who is taught. Through this gospel, our ear is awakened to hear. We receive “a hearing of faith” (Gal 3:3). This awakening becomes completed action when our ears are opened (Acts 16:14). These words provide a very interesting progression that requires quiet pondering!
Jesus, then, after He had received the gift of learning, the awakening of inspiration, and the opening of the ear, responded with obedience.
- “The relentless pursuit of God requires an obedient heart!”
In this section of His testimony, Jesus used four verbs to describe His obedience, three negative and one positive: “not rebellious,” “turned not backward,” “gave,” and “hid not.”
Perhaps this use of negative verbs displays those pitfalls into which the sons of Adam are prone to fall: rebellion, turning aside, and hiding in shame. A perusal of the biblical accounts provides many examples of all three of these problematic behaviors. Likewise, there seems to be a progression from the most obvious and open transgressions to the least obvious and hidden sins.
It is in this section that the absolute obedience of Jesus stands out. Even while Jesus is being hit in the face and spat upon, in the biblical record, Peter, as analogous of man’s own best efforts, is in the background denying Christ. Meanwhile, the back of Jesus is struck by smiters, and his beard is being plucked out by those who will soon crucify Him. Does not Isaiah 50:6 provides an incredibly lucid picture of the events immediately preceding the crucifixion event?
- “Lastly, the relentless pursuit of God demands immovable conviction!”
For Jesus to stay the course through the unsurpassed experience of the crucifixion, and all the events surrounding it, He needed immovable conviction. And Isaiah communicated this conviction through the testimony of Jesus, “I have set my face like a flint!”
Jesus had made a decision of the will that nothing, no experience, no suffering, no abandonment, nothing would move Him from accomplishing God’s will. The political powers were against Him. The religious leaders incited the mob against Him. The soldiers were doing their duty. His own disciples either fled or denied Him. Even God the Father abandoned Jesus when He was on the cross. Nevertheless, Jesus remained resolute until the end.
For the Christian Jesus provides an example of resolution to obey God and His word no matter what the cost. For the Christian, the promises of God ring in our ears, giving us hope no matter what kind of shame may be inflicted upon us by mankind. Almost with a sense of foreshadowing, Jesus told His disciples:
- “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5)
Let’s follow the example of Jesus by relentlessly pursuing God in all we do!