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, ESV
Submitting to Disgrace
So much of how we experience life depends on our expectations. Many people enter marriage expecting a fairy tale "happily ever after" life together. Paul Tripp wrote What Did You Expect? and recorded a video teaching series of the same title to help people deal with the reality of marriage after their expectations are tragically unmet. Marriage can be the most powerful way God shapes us to be more like Christ, but only if we expect a struggle and not a never-ending dream.
Israel's Messianic expectations were shaped largely by wishful thinking, based on national hopes more so than God's actual promises. They wanted national independence, economic prosperity and dominance over their neighboring nations. Thus, when they read promises of the Messiah, these were the promises they saw. The language of suffering and rejection in the Psalms and Isaiah were overlooked.
Yet God's plan for His Messiah was to grant victory only through suffering. Freedom would come only after the Messiah voluntarily submitted to humiliation and bondage. Here in Isaiah 50, the prophecy emphasizes the Messiah's willing obedience and His submission to the harsh treatment of His enemies.
Why did Jesus willingly submit to harsh treatment at the hands of Roman soldiers? He did so out of willing obedience to God the Father. The soldiers did not capture Jesus in the Garden. He willingly gave Himself into their hands. They did not force Him to submit to scourging by Roman whip. He gave them His back to beat. He did so because He sought to honor His Father and secure redemption for His people.
What Isaiah 50 foretells, Philippians 2:5-11 recalls from the other side of the cross:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)
Our Advent lesson for today is to shape our expectations by the word of God alone and not by our own wishful thinking, our own life ambitions. We must let God's word lead us in this Advent season and always!
Heavenly Father, Your ways are better than our ways. When we impose our expectations on You, we are asking for less and not more. Give us the grace to submit our life expectations to Your word alone. May Your Spirit help us understand and walk in the path of Your word. In Jesus' name, Amen.