Nov 30, 2023
The Servant of the LORD experienced discouragement as He carried out the agenda assigned to Him. He, at times, looked over His work and concluded, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing...” In these places of discouragement, the LORD spoke to the Servant and His words provided comfort and encouragement that resulted in resolve.
The LORD Expanded the Servant's Vision and Glory.
The LORD Said,
6...“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6 ESV)
In other words, God said to His Servant, “I know it is hard and that you seem to not be making any progress, but I have a great plan. My plan far surpasses the salvation of the Jews. I will save through You, not only Israel but also, the nations. All of them!”
Yes, the Servant had been rejected by the Israelites, but this hostility toward Him by Abraham’s descendants came about by the LORD’s design. The apparent defeat and hopelessness is a part of the design, a link in the chain, a stretch of road on the path to glory. Saving Israel was not too difficult a task for the LORD. The Servant must not conclude that somehow He and the LORD met an objective they could not complete. Instead, they together sought something bigger and better, something of greater value and worth than the salvation of Israel only.
The LORD Reassured the Servant of Success
Just as all who know discouragement, the Servant wondered if His labor would produce the desired outcome. “Will my hand know success?” the Servant wondered. “Or, will I see nothing come from my labor?”
Like a father who responds to a child discouraged in the tasks of homework encourages her by lifting her eyes to the future, a future of A’s on the report card, high scores on the SAT, admittance into her preferred college, and success in her field of passion - like this father, so the Servant’s Father lifts His eyes off the present barren lands and up to the future glory of success. He reassures the Servant,
7 ...“Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; ” (Isaiah 49:7 ESV)
The rejection of the Servant was real. The nation “abhorred” and “deeply despised” Him. But, this would not be the end. The difficulty He knew was not evidence of His failure but a step in the Divine plan. God would use the rejection of His Servant at the hands of the Jews to save the nations, and this glorious work would not, and could, not fail.
How do we know? How would the Servant know?
7 ...Because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” (Isaiah 49:7)
The faithful LORD would see to it that the highest of men from among the nations would see and bow down at the presence of the Servant. God’s glory would go forth through the Son to bring the powerful to their knees! What assurance the Servant received in His discouragement. The present hardship would serve as the wise design of God to save the Gentiles. The Servant could stand assured that HIs labor would not be wasted, for the Holy One is faithful to use His chosen Servant in the salvation of all peoples.
The LORD Promised to Remain with the Servant.
The assurance that the LORD would accomplish His glorious purpose through the Servant was accompanied with one last helpful reminder.
8 Thus says the Lord: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, 9 saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear’... (Isaiah 49:8-9a ESV)
The fact that the Servant would know success did not negate the difficulty and the suffering that He would endure along the way. But, God encouraged Him one last time, by reminding Him that He, the Servant, would not walk the trail of suffering all alone. The LORD would stay near to Him. The LORD would minister to Him. The LORD would keep Him and help Him. The Servant’s labor would know great intensity and agonizing, but the LORD would remain by His side, holding his hand, and refusing to abandon Him.
God answered and helped the Servant, Jesus, endure the rejection by Israel, and now the nations are being saved.
In the most intense moments of hostility and hatred dumped upon the head of Jesus by the people He came to rescue, Jesus stood alone in the Garden of Gethsemane crying out to His father. The gospel account of Luke gives us this detail.
43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. (Luke 22:43 ESV)
The writer of the book of Hebrews summarizes Jesus’ prayer and the Father’s response in this way,
7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews 5:7 ESV)
There, in the moments of greatest pain and difficulty, God the LORD fulfilled His promise to the Servant. He answered Jesus. He kept Jesus. He Helped Jesus.
He did not help by removing Jesus from the suffering. Instead, He encouraged Him and strengthened Him for enduring obedience, so that the greater glory would arrive.
The greater work indeed came as Jesus’ death swung open the door of salvation to Jews and Gentiles alike. Because of Jesus’ death, Paul the apostle later stood before kings and princes in order that He might proclaim to them the good news of Christ! The Jews stood amazed and perplexed as town after town reported that God’s promised Spirit descended not only on the Jews, but also on the outsiders. The LORD - the faithful one - He performed exactly what He said He would in and through Christ.
Be encouraged, and press on.
Have you grown weary in well doing? Have you struggled to stir up the energy to keep moving forward? Has your Spirit grown tired? Do you feel like the Servant did at times - that you have labored for the LORD in vain?
Be reassured that God is faithful. Your apparent failure is not the end. Indeed, God the LORD is right now using your season of difficulty to bring about something far greater than that thing you had wished to accomplish by now. Know that He remains by your side. His promise to “never leave nor forsake you” still stands. He will keep you. He will help you. He will answer you at the right time.
So then, keep pressing forward. Endure with faithfulness. Walk in truth and obedience even when no immediate progress or success from your labor can be detected. Your labor is not in vain. When you work for the LORD, your strength is not spent for nothing. The harvest might be delayed, but when it does come, you will wonder, "How did God produce so much from the so little I sowed?”