Work and Sufferings of the Messiah.
B. C. 706.
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. 5 The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. 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. 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. 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. 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.
Our Lord Jesus, having proved himself able to save, here shows himself as willing as he is able to save, here shows himself as willing as he is able. We suppose the prophet Isaiah to say something of himself in these verses, engaging and encouraging himself to go on in his work as a prophet, notwithstanding the many hardships he met with, not doubting but that God would stand by him and strengthen him; but, like David, he speaks of himself as a type of Christ, who is here prophesied of and promised to be the Saviour.
I. As an acceptable preacher. Isaiah, a a prophet, was qualified for the work to which he was called, so were the rest of God’s prophets, and others whom he employed as his messengers; but Christ was anointed with the Spirit above his fellows. To make the man of God perfect, he has,
1. The tongue of the learned, to know how to give instruction, how to speak a word in season to him that is weary, v. 4. God, who made man’s mouth, gave Moses the tongue of the learned, to speak for the terror and conviction of Pharaoh, Exod. 4:11, 12. He gave to Christ the tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season for the comfort of those that are weary and heavily laden under the burden of sin, Matt. 11:28. Grace was poured into his lips, and they are said to drop sweet-smelling myrrh. See what is the best learning of a minister, to know how to comfort troubled consciences, and to speak pertinently, properly, and plainly, to the various cases of poor souls. An ability to do this is God’s gift, and it is one of the best gifts, which we should covet earnestly. Let us repose ourselves in the many comfortable words which Christ has spoken to the weary.
2. The ear of the learned, to receive instruction. Prophets have as much need of this as of the tongue of the learned; for they must deliver what they are taught and no other, must hear the word from God’s mouth diligently and attentively, that they may speak it exactly, Ezek. 3:17. Christ himself received that he might give. None must undertake to be teachers who have not first been learners. Christ’s apostles were first disciples, scribes instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 13:52. Nor is it enough to hear, but we must hear as the learned, hear and understand, hear and remember, hear as those that would learn by what we hear. Those that would hear as the learned must be awake, and wakeful; for we are naturally drowsy and sleepy, and unapt to hear at all, or we hear by the halves, hear and do not heed. Our ears need to be wakened; we need to have something said to rouse us, to awaken us out of our spiritual slumbers, that we may hear as for our lives. We need to be awakened morning by morning, as duly as the day returns, to be awakened to do the work of the day in its day. Our case calls for continual fresh supplies of divine grace, to free us from the dulness we contract daily. The morning, when our spirits are most lively, is a proper time for communion with God; then we are in the best frame both to speak to him (my voice shalt thou hear in the morning) and to hear from him. The people came early in the morning to hear Christ in the temple (Luke 21:38), for, it seems, his were morning lectures. And it is God that wakens us morning by morning. If we do any thing to purpose in his service, it is he who, as our Master, calls us up; and we should doze perpetually if he did not waken us morning by morning.
II. As a patient sufferer, v. 5, 6. One would think that he who was commissioned and qualified to speak comfort to the weary should meet with no difficulty in his work, but universal acceptance. It is however quite otherwise; he has both hard work to do and hard usage to undergo; and here he tells us with what undaunted constancy he went through with it. We have no reason to question but that the prophet Isaiah went on resolutely in the work to which God had called him, though we read not of his undergoing any such hardships as are here supposed; but we are sure that the prediction was abundantly verified in Jesus Christ: and here we have,
1. His patient obedience in his doing work. “The Lord God has not only wakened my ear to hear what he says, but has opened my ear to receive it, and comply with it” (Ps. 40:6, 7, My ear hast thou opened; then said I, Lo, I come); for when he adds, I was not rebellious, neither turned away back, more is implied than expressed–that he was willing, that though he foresaw a great deal of difficulty and discouragement, though he was to take pains and give constant attendance as a servant, though he was to empty himself of that which was very great and humble himself to that which was very mean, yet he did not fly off, did not fail, nor was discouraged. He continued very free and forward to his work even when he came to the hardest part of it. Note, As a good understanding in the truths of God, so a good will to the work and service of God, is from the grace of God.
2. His obedient patience in his suffering work. I call it obedient patience because he was patient with an eye to his Father’s will, thus pleading with himself, This commandment have I received of my Father, and thus submitting to God, Not as I will, but as thou wilt. In this submission he resigned himself,
(1.) To be scourged: I gave my back to the smiters; and that not only by submitting to the indignity when he was smitten, but by permitting it (or admitting it rather) among the other instances of pain and shame which he would voluntarily undergo for us.
(2.) To be buffeted: I gave my cheeks to those that not only smote them, but plucked off the hair of the beard, which was a greater degree both of pain and of ignominy.
(3.) To be spit upon: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. He could have hidden his face from it, could have avoided it, but he would not, because he was made a reproach of men, and thus he would answer to the type of Job, that man of sorrows, of whom it is said that they smote him on the cheek reproachfully (Job 16:10), which was an expression not only of contempt, but of abhorrence and indignation. All this Christ underwent for us, and voluntarily, to convince us of his willingness to save us.
III. As a courageous champion, v. 7-9. The Redeemer is as famous for his boldness as for his humility and patience, and, though he yields, yet he is more than a conqueror. Observe,
1. The dependence he has upon God. What was the prophet Isaiah’s support was the support of Christ himself (v. 7): The Lord God will help me; and again, v. 9. Those whom God employs he will assist, and will take care they want not any help that they or their work call for. God, having laid help upon his Son for us, gave help to him, and his hand was all along with the man of his right hand. Nor will he only assist him in his work, but accept of him (v. 8): He is near that justifieth. Isaiah, no doubt, was falsely accused and loaded with reproach and calumny, as other prophets were; but he despised the reproach, knowing that God would roll it away and bring forth his righteousness as the light, perhaps in this world (Ps. 37:6), at furthest in the great day, when there will be a resurrection of names as well as bodies, and the righteous shall shine forth as the morning sun. And so it was verified in Christ; by his resurrection he was proved to be not the man that he was represented, not a blasphemer, not a deceiver, not an enemy to Cæsar. The judge that condemned him owned he found no fault in him; the centurion, or sheriff, that had charge of his execution, declared him a righteous man: so near was he that justified him. But it was true of him in a further and more peculiar sense: the Father justified him when he accepted the satisfaction he made for the sin of man, and constituted him the Lord our righteousness, who was made sin for us. He was justified in the Spirit, 1 Tim. iii. 16. He was near who did it; for his resurrection, by which he was justified, soon followed his condemnation and crucifixion. He was straightway glorified, John 13:32.
2. The confidence he thereupon has of success in his undertaking: “If God will help me, if he will justify me, will stand by me and bear me out, I shall not be confounded, as those are that come short of the end they aimed at and the satisfaction they promised themselves: I know that I shall not be ashamed.” Though his enemies did all they could to put him to shame, yet he kept his ground, he kept his countenance, and was not ashamed of the work he had undertaken. Note, Work for God is work that we should not be ashamed of; and hope in God is hope that we shall not be ashamed of. Those that trust in God for help shall not be disappointed; they know whom they have trusted, and therefore know they shall not be ashamed.
3. The defiance which in this confidence he bids to all opposers and opposition: “God will help me, and therefore have I set my face like a flint.” The prophet did so; he was bold in reproving sin, in warning sinners (Ezek. 3:8, 9), and in asserting the truth of his predictions. Christ did so; he went on in his work, as Mediator, with unshaken constancy and undaunted resolution; he did not fail nor was discouraged; and here he challenges all his opposers,
(1.) To enter the lists with him: Who will contend with me, either in law or by the sword? Let us stand together as combatants, or as the plaintiff and defendant. Who is my adversary? Who is the master of my cause? so the word is, “Who will pretend to enter an action against me? Let him appear, and come near to me, for I will not abscond.” Many offered to dispute with Christ, but he put them to silence. The prophet speaks this in the name of all faithful ministers; those who keep close to the pure word of God, in delivering their message, need not fear contradiction; the scriptures will bear them out, whoever contends with them. Great is the truth and will prevail. Christ speaks this in the name of all believers, speaks it as their champion. Who dares be an enemy to those whom he is a friend to, or contend with those for whom he is an advocate? Thus St. Paul applies it (Rom. 8:33): Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?
(2.) He challenges them to prove any crime upon him (v. 9): Who is he that shall condemn me? The prophet perhaps was condemned to die; Christ we are sure was; and yet both could say, Who is he that shall condemn? For there is no condemnation to those whom God justifies. There were those that did condemn them, but what became of them? They all shall wax old as a garment. The righteous cause of Christ and his prophets shall outlive all opposition. The moth shall eat them up silently and insensibly; a little thing will serve to destroy them. But the roaring lion himself shall not prevail against God’s witnesses. All believers are enabled to make this challenge, Who is he that shall condemn? It is Christ that died.
– Matthew Henry Commentary