Holy Week Reflections – Suffering and Vindication

image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah

Isaiah 50:4-9a,

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. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. 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. 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; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Over the years, have not read too much of the OT prophets. One of the things I have found challenging at times is knowing when is God speaking and when is the prophet speaking? In this passage, since God is referred to in the third person, I figure Isaiah is speaking.

Isaiah declares that he has tried his very best to do what God wants. We know from Isaiah 6 that he knows he is a flawed man but he one who has experienced God’s forgiveness. He enters God service and suffers for his obedience. But through it, he remains confident in God for his vindication.

I was recently reading Job and I found his situation to be similar. He was recognized as a righteous man by God in Job 1. Yet he suffered. And his friends in the various speeches in Job think he has secretly sinned leading to his suffering. Job’s story is a window into the struggles of a faithful man trying to make sense of his situation. He puts into words what many have felt and do feel looking at the world where injustice appears to have the upper hand. Yet, amidst all this, Job is still wrestling with God. He won’t stop talking to him and about him. He is honestly pouring out his heart in sorrow, anger, and confusion. Underlying it all, he was seeking vindication that comes from God.

In Holy Week, Jesus was headed toward the culmination of his vocation. He is a righteous man who has suffered. One can imagine the circumstances of his birth resulted in behind the back whispering. Perhaps, some of the commentary was not so behind the back! In his ministry of teaching and healing, he runs into opposition. Some even say his good deeds are done with the power of Satan! Things come to the collision course in Jerusalem. He is betrayed by one of the disciples. His closest followers abandon him at his arrest. He is headed toward the cross.

Jesus all his life opened his ear to the Father and was not rebellious but fully obedient and dependent on the Father. He was insulted and struck down by those who call for his crucifixion and those who conduct the crucifixion. In the eyes of the world he was disgraced and put to shame with a death on a cross, the punishment for criminals. But on Easter Sunday, he was VINDICATED by RESURRECTION and the Father has exalted him!

As one who is trying to live for God, I’m wrestling each day to put off my old self and put on the new self. I cannot claim the fidelity to God like Isaiah and Job. But I can receive the work of Christ on my behalf. I can yield to the work of the Spirit to empower and guide my life. In addition to my internal struggles, there is the external world with its difficulties and its opposition that I live in. Christ’s Easter Sunday and vindication has happened. It is applied to us and to me by grace through faith. Our life experience is still on this side of our ultimate vindication. But that vindication is sure and it impacts life now and it was made possible by the free, complete, and costly work of Jesus that we remember this Holy Week.

May we have the same kind of trust and confidence as Isaiah to be able to say:

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. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. 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. 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; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

 

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