Images of a Servant
from Isiah’s third Servant Song (Isaiah 50:4-9)
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. 5 The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. 6 I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. 7 The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. 9 It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat up; but my deliverance will be forever and my salvation to all generations. ”
My favorite image from the above text is is that of “setting my face to be like flint.” (vs 7.) Yes, flint is a rock. It is hard and grey. And if we were to take this passage at face value, it would be easy to say, “Your suggesting that a servant is supposed to be dull and grey with no passion?” I would respond, “No, quite to opposite.”
The image of a flint rock is perfect because a flint rock is so much more than what it seems to be on the surface. The American Indians took flint and fashioned it into working tools. In England flint was used for building structural walls. In ancient Egypt flint was fashioned into jewelry. And the chemical compound of flint allows it the ability to create a spark when struck with a steel object.
These same qualities are also found in servant hood. Let’s compare them with other parts of today’s text. In verse 4-5 We find that the Lord, God has given us a tongue for teacher, and ears to listen. These are tools to be used when serving the community and others. Now, please don’t let the word teacher be a distraction, for one way to understand this passage is to see a broad view and know that the communication process is being discussed. We all communicate weather that be verbally, with sign, with body language, through music… etc. My question is “What do you think it is you communicate to others around you? Even more how do you communicate to those who are suffering and our wearied by the world?
In verse 5 -6 I hear that the servant has a determined spirit. It is difficult to stand up for what one believes in while facing adversity. Having a sharp mind, like a sharp working tool made from flint, gives us the ability to stand firm in moments of hardship, confusion, and adversity. Then we can turn the other cheek and not hide from insults. Also, having a firm foundation, like the flint stone buildings in England, that comes from being rooted in scripture and the ‘hearing” we receive from “those who are taught” allowing us to stand firm in our servant work. Both a sharp mind and a firm foundation also give us the ability to advocate for others in need.
And lastly, the flint rocks ability to spark fire and create light reminds us that our servant hearts bring the light of Christ to others. Christ is our justice. Christ is our salvation. Christ is the light that brings light in the darkness of adversity and is the light that grows and glows offering hope, for eternal salvation to all generations. It is this light, the light of Christ, that we carry forward into ministry, the divine hope and promise given to all generations.
So next time someone says, “set your face like a flint stone” know that there is goodness abounding even inside something that seems cold and hard, because the love and abilities of God make a face of stone as tools and light for the world to be drawn into God’s own loving care.