“The Lord God has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.
The Lord God has opened My ear;
And I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.
I gave My back to those who struck Me,
And My cheeks to those
Who plucked out the beard.
I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
For the Lord God will help Me;
Therefore I will not be disgraced;
Therefore I have set My face like a flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed.”
Here, in this third Servant Song, we have the Suffering Servant acquiring, by means of His suffering and obedience, the wisdom and authority He will use to help others. Is this a mere substitutionary transaction, meant only for the Messiah to suffer? Many argue that Jesus suffers so that we won’t have to and, redemptively, as far as His atonement for our sins, this is true. But wisdom and context dictate that we interpret this deep call to an obedience suffering correctly for its application in our own lives. Are we merely saved by the Messiah, or are we called to be transformed into His Image and to exhibit and extend His character? Jesus “learned obedience through the things He suffered.” He brings many sons and daughters to glory by way of His obedient suffering. Can we bring others into a place of healing by following in His footsteps?
Couldn’t He just suffer a few hours at the end of His journey and be done with it? Transactionally this idea is as neat as a pin but definitely falls short of the intercessory depths that truly transform. How will we enter into our role as priests and intercessors unless we know what it is like to experience all that is needed to bring forth a wise word and the comfort and salvation of God in due season? How can redemptive wisdom come forth unless it is embodied in a real heart that has freely chosen to obey God no matter what?
How can I speak for God unless I know and feel the heart of God?
Wisdom comes from knowing the heart of God, not from a sharp intellect or a learned philosophy.
Wisdom grows out of obedience, and here, in this passage, it comes through the obedience of the Suffering Servant: obedience that truly cost Him everything. Thus, godly wisdom is often, or perhaps only, learned incarnationally through deep suffering. This deep travail forms, within God's people, a heavenly perspective.
Jesus had to set His face like flint to accomplish the destiny God had for Him. Refusing to suffer would have cost Him the victory of His earthly race and His ability to inherit His people—not only to purchase our salvation but the right to lead us as the righteously Suffering Servant. If Jesus had to be determinedly all-in, should I expect an easier path?
One of the purposes of wisdom is to help people who are weary and don’t know what to do.
My suffering can and should serve a redemptive purpose as I learn to maneuver through a broken world, ministering to a confused and markedly unwise world.
In the End Times, the Maskilim (those who are wise) serve an important purpose: they have studied and prepared ahead of time so they can interpret and explain what is unfolding at the end of history.
What is interesting about them is that though they are wise, they still have need of further character purging and refinement. By their interaction with duplicitous characters, their imperfections come to the surface to be perfected.
This “wisdom gaining” is not for the faint of heart. Picture the life of Jesus, His wisdom journey starting with the Lord whispering to Him morning by morning, but as He goes farther on His journey, He hears harder things and continues to obediently follow God into the depths. Consider this: He gave his back to those who struck Him, and He gave his cheeks to those who plucked out his beard. He did not hide his face from shame and spitting. He had agreed to go the whole length of the journey in obedience, and it was, indeed, through a “furnace of affliction.”
Once I commit to the path the Lord calls me to I, like the Suffering Servant, am unable to turn back. This is where I learn what it means to persevere in obedience to the point, possibly, of death. Peter says at the end of his life, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery trials but rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ.”
There is no other reliable way to truly know God, no other way to gain wisdom than through a long, unbroken obedience over rough terrain. The world is such that dark forces and human opposition will seek to destroy me if I walk on the holy highway of obedience. I will have to set my face as flint at times to hold to my appointed task. God is the One who leads me, and He leads me into the wars destined for me to engage in. I gain wisdom to win the battle and minister to the wounded, not to avoid difficulty.
Suffering, I believe, tempers my desire to self-preserve. I come to realize that I cannot keep myself. “Not by might, nor power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.” The classical devotional authors of the last century urged the people of God toward “absolute surrender.” Today we get the message that absolute surrender will somehow prohibit us from living our “best” life. I am tempted to pursue merely ecstatic feelings apart from paying the price of following the Lamb wherever He goes. Setting my face like flint to follow Him trumps any euphoric feeling that may beckon me. When He leads me into the sea to save me, I should not be surprised that all that is not of Him will be drowned. My baptism tells me that.
Our collective call is to be salt and light to a dying world. Worldly wisdom will in no way suffice in order for us to know how to speak a word in due season to him who is weary. We must have the wisdom of God—and that wisdom does not come cheaply.
The suffering born of absolute obedience strips me of my own way of thinking and of my reliance on my thinking. In doing so, it makes way for the wisdom born of heaven to come to me. No one gains a testimony worth having by sitting in the backyard eating bonbons and binge-watching reruns. True discipleship costs me everything. What God is after are men and women who understand Him, obey Him, and love Him above all things. Suffering tempers the cockiness from the soul and paradoxically replaces it with the meek but lion-like qualities of the Lamb of God. Those who are not yet sure what that last line means will understand very soon. All His devoted followers shall. Maranatha.