"But thou, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen... Thou art my servant." Isaiah 12:8,9.
"Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth judgment to the nations." Isaiah 42:1.
"Who is blind as my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I send? Who is blind as he that is made perfect, and blind as the Lord's servant." Isaiah 42:19.
"Behold my servant..." Isaiah 52:13.
A closer reading of the context of the above passages will make clear that they do not all refer to one and the same "servant." Two servants are mentioned, one in chapter 12, the other in chapter 42 and 52. The one a disappointment and heartbreak; the other the Lord's delight. The one a failure and a reproach; the other a triumph and glory. With chapter 40 a new prospect opens up; blessings and promises and hopes are made known, but these are all secured in and by this latter Servant. The nations are to reap the benefit and their "desirable things" are to come and judgment is to be established for them, but only through this Servant in whom the Lord has His delight. The first servant has failed, and his failure is contained in one comprehensive word - "idolatry." It is indeed a comprehensive word. The Old Testament sense is still the only idea which the majority have of idolatry; that is, the worship of heathen gods in the form of images, etc. But in the New Testament it is clearly revealed to be a matter of the spirit or heart, and therefore is of far wider dimensions and far more inclusive. For instance, covetousness is said to be idolatry.
The Cause of Failure is Idolatry; What is Idolatry?
Idolatry is a divided heart. If in any particular the heart is divided, and the Lord does not have the full and final place, that is idolatry. A reservation, another consideration and influence from another direction, an affection, ambition, possession, pursuit, indulgence, which stands in the way of the utter will of God and His Glory is idolatry. Upon that thing, and because of that divided heart the heavenly purpose will crash, the vocation will break down, the servant be a disappointment, and the blessing to the world be hindered. That servant will be set aside.
Worldliness is Idolatry?
But worldliness is not necessarily going out with the world in its pursuits, pleasures, passions, interests. Worldliness is world-likeness, and world-likeness is to be actuated by the spirit of the world. What is that? In a word, it is personal interest. This can be just as strong in the things of the Kingdom of God as in other things. Ambition, reputation, prestige, influence, power, opportunity, advantage, recognition, appreciation, success, following, acceptance, favour, place, etc., this is the world-spirit. They all contain - recognised or unrecognised - pride, jealousy, envy, covetousness, prejudice, unbelief, bitterness, and many other things which come out when such considerations are thwarted or checked.
"The Lord looketh on the heart." "The heart is deceitful above all things." This deceitfulness is found in the fact that so many who started well, making great sacrifices, paying a great price, suffering much for their stand, and being greatly used of God, have eventually come to a place of self-importance, importance to God, importance to God's work, and this quite imperceptibly, so that they still regarded themselves as the truest and humblest of men, but not recognising that their real spiritual ministry and message had gone, and an "ability" which is of man has taken the place of that ability which is of God through utter dependence and brokenness upon Him. This deceitfulness works so slowly, so minutely, so adorned, as to defeat any detection but that of the eye which is "as a flame of fire," but at length, however great may be the seeming gain, for all the deepest spiritual purposes of God that servant is a disappointment, a heartbreak, and is set aside.
Loud and strong as may have been his denunciations of worldliness; clever and able as may have been his exposures and analyses; the horror of this thing has not haunted his secret chamber of prayer. The very extensiveness and ponderousness of his programme has been the occasion which this thing has silently and subtly taken to insinuate its sinister presence.
All this only suggests the direction in which there stands
The Servant in whom the Lord Delights.
The 19th verse is the key to the character and life of such. Here, of course, is the Lord Jesus, the model servant of Jehovah. As such we are regarding Him here. His atoning work as in chapter 53 stands by itself. We do not share that service, and in that matter we cannot be like Him. But in the principles of His life we are called to be one with Him, and as they truly govern us, so we also may approximate to the place in Christ where the Lord's delight may be in us. Two things, then, are said to characterise Him; blindness and deafness.
Israel, the failing servant, was said to be both of these; but Israel was blinded and deafened by idolatry. The Lord Jesus was
Blinded and Deafened by Devotion.
While there is a blindness and deafness which is a tragedy, there is that which is a glory.
Satan found in Him no ears or eyes for any of his voices and visions when in the wilderness he sought to suggest that necessity has no law; love has no law, and success has no law. Even when these suggestions are wrapped up in scripture the true Servant of the Lord will not listen or look. Starvation, long delay and rejection, and the bitterness of Calvary are chosen rather than self-preservation, self-advancement, and self-realisation if these mean a hair's breadth deviation from the will of God. God's end can never be assured if God's method is not honoured. No crowd can rush this one into a mock kingdom which will complicate the spiritual issue of His mission. No kindly solicitude for His safety and comfort expressed through the sentiment of an intimate friend can divert Him from the accepted way, and make Him insensible to the fact that it is still the adversary - the serpent - twisting and fawning. No bribe in the nature of a promised belief in Him and a following, even when things have reached the point of the most unspeakable suffering can bring Him from the Cross. This Servant is
A Whole Burnt Offering.
He is here in recognition of God's rights and is out to secure them for Him. The rights are all gathered up in one phrase, "Thy Will," and that will requires the uttermost abandonment with not a suggestion of "My Will." Such an abandonment will ever make the servant of the Lord to be "not of this world" in mind and spirit. It will mean many a saying of "Nay." It will bring much misunderstanding: and the opportunists will get all the advancements in a realm of a certain kind of success. Satan will make such the object of his untiring attention. But spiritual value can never be weighed and measured in the judgments of sense, and life must never be measured by the wine drunk but by the wine poured forth.
There are eyes and ears which depend upon blindness and deafness for their sight and hearing. In this representative and model Servant of Jehovah the very fact of His utter blindness and deafness in one realm secured and maintained for Him a vision and a voice in another. Hear Him: "Nothing of Himself... but what He seeth the Father doing, that doeth He." "As I hear I speak." He lives in full view of the heavenly activities of the Father, and within the Oracle of His spirit the voice is never silent. Only for one terrible moment while our sins were all upon Him laid, as the Brazen Altar engulfed Him was that vision withdrawn and that voice hushed. But we need never share that, it relates to atonement for sin, and He has by one offering forever perfected the comers thereunto. He has been found faithful.
May we also present our bodies a living sacrifice, and on no consideration turn from that Cross which means the Will of God fully done. It is not worth it to have our request and leanness of soul as the price. It is no gain to have gratification of the outer eyes and ears and a lost inner vision and voice.