Not Put to Shame

Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.
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.

But the Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
    He who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
    Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
    Let him come near to me.
Behold, the Lord God helps me;
    who will declare me guilty?

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount perfectly align with Isaiah’s portrayal of him as the suffering servant in this text. It’s Jesus here who was given the tongue and the ears of those who are taught. Having humbled himself to be clothed in flesh, human in every way, he has all the same opportunities and capacities of all Israel before him. And yet while Israel, those who were taught, who were given the Law of God, the Word to sustain the weary, repeatedly fails, Jesus, the suffering servant, succeeds and is obedient even unto death.

He was not rebellious. The Lord of Hosts with power to calm the storm, cast out demons, and raise the dead to life with a word from his mouth, the God of angel armies, the divine Word made flesh that spoke creation into being, the sovereign Lord of all, did not so much as turn his face from being spit on. He gave his back to those who strike and did nothing to keep himself from disgrace.

It’s one thing to endure suffering that’s unavoidable. It’s another entirely to see the chance to stop it, and let that chance pass by. To allow yourself to be wronged, to lay down your rights, to let pass your opportunity to vindicate yourself or to even speak to your own defense. But this kind of meekness is exactly what we see of Isaiah’s suffering servant, the same one who, a few chapters later we read, was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. He was the one led like a lamb to the slaughter or a sheep before its shearer who did not open his mouth. This is example we’re given to follow in the person of Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time not yelling at Comcast customer service over the phone, and no one’s even trying to spit on me. I paid good money for my internet, so it ought to work. We think we’re entitled to what we deserve and therefore justified in fighting our cause, and yet the one who spoke creation into existence stood by and let his own creatures nail him to a tree.

Following Jesus means choosing to be vulnerable rather than to defend ourselves, to be willing to be wronged. It means not standing up for ourselves, but rather standing in the Lord God who helps us, trusting that he will not let us be put to shame. Denying ourselves, we lay down our swords and take up our cross. Letting our Father be our vindicator, we love our enemies, and loving them means not fighting back. “Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold the Lord, God helps me; who will declare me guilty?”

Reflect

1. Loving our enemies and not vindicating ourselves can sound like big, vague, and inaccessible concepts. What are small, practical ways you can deny yourself and be willing to be wronged?

2. How do you tell the difference between being willing to be wronged, and being okay with wrongdoing? (standing up for what’s right and not just standing up for ourselves)

Pray

Father, help me to walk the path of the suffering servant. Remind me that you are good and trustworthy, that you are with me, and will not let me be put to shame. Teach me to be humble and meek, to love my enemies rather than vindicate myself, that they may see and know through me the love of Jesus. Amen.

Taylor Whitson, April 8, 2020

Other Readings

[Look for how these passages connect with each other and with the larger story of the Bible about Jesus.]

Psalm 70
To the choirmaster. Of David, for the memorial offering.
Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
    O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let them be put to shame and confusion
    who seek my life!
Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
Let them turn back because of their shame
    who say, “Aha, Aha!”

May all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you!
May those who love your salvation
    say evermore, “God is great!”
But I am poor and needy;
    hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
    O Lord, do not delay!


Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.


John 13:21-32
After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus' side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.
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