For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them (1 Corinthians 9:19).
Paul speaks of relating to people as their servant… from a position of humility. He was intentional about this. He made an effort to relate to people on their own terms – not from a position of superiority or piety (9:19-22).
I believe this was the Spirit’s work in Paul’s life – shaping him to be more like Christ. For Christ came into the world so that He could identify with the world. He came to save, not to judge. He came in humility, and associated with “sinners.” He came as a servant.
Which brings me to Isaiah. Isaiah’s “servant” was a mysterious figure. Jewish scholars of Jesus’ day (for the most part) had not connected the “servant” with the Messiah. It seems so obvious to us that the Servant in Isaiah has to be the Messiah. But the concept of a great conquering Messiah also being the “servant” was a new paradigm and a concept that even Jesus’ disciples didn’t fully grasp until after Jesus’ ascension.
But fortunately, we have the hindsight to see. We read two of the four Servant Songs (42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-9 & 52:13-53:12) in today’s reading. The voice in these “songs” is the Messiah himself. He was the one to rescue the remnant from the hands of captivity and restore his people in the land! And he is the one who rescues our souls from the clutches of death – and restores us to new life!
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Isaiah 49:6).
But consider the way in which the Servant saves… It is not through power and strength – but through righteous suffering. This was a new paradigm…
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 (Isaiah 50:5-6).
Who would have thought that victory could be won through submitting to the strong? This is the way of the Kingdom. This is the way of our God!!
Behold, the Lord God helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
Behold, all of [my adversaries] will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up. -The Servant, Isaiah 50:9