We have been considering aspects of the Lord Jesus as Jehovah’s perfect Servant in Isaiah 49 and, in verse 1, we noted the Servant’s vocation; how He was called to His service from the moment of His coming into this world. There is a consistent principle in Scripture, that the servant of God requires a time of preparation; a period of private dealing with God. Moses was 40 years in the backside of the desert before, at the burning bush, he was called to lead the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. David had his solitary experiences as a shepherd before he was taken from the sheepfolds to be anointed as king of Israel. John the Baptist was alone in the desert before he commenced his ministry to announce the coming of Messiah. The apostle Paul, having been commissioned to apostolic service by the risen Christ, immediately sought the solitude of Arabia for three years (Gal 1.17-18), to prepare himself for the great work God had for him to do, and it proved to be a time when he received several tremendous revelations from the Lord. There are about 13 years between Saul’s conversion and the commencement of his first missionary journey, when the Holy Spirit said “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13.2).
Verse 2: The Servant’s Preparation
This verse speaks beautifully of the perfect Servant’s period of preparation for service: “And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me”. Notice how this time of preparation was a period of concealment from the glare of public gaze; twice the Servant says “hath he hid me”. It is remarkable that the eternal Son of God came down into this scene of time, lived in this world for 30 years, yet the only specific events recorded in Scripture of that period were the occasions in the temple when He was an infant of 40 days (Lk 2.22-39), and again at 12 years of age (vv 42-50). But Luke 2 gives two general comments on these relatively hidden years; the first, relative to His childhood, is that “the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (v 40). The second, relative to His teenage years and early adult life, is that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (v 52). There is some degree of mystery to these verses, but they indicate that there was both a physical and spiritual period of maturing, when the Servant was being prepared for His subsequent time of public service.
The Lord Jesus had 30 years in private, a time of concealment and almost complete obscurity, before He commenced His three years of public service for God. He was not doing any mighty works or miracles, neither was He preaching or giving any authoritative teaching during those years in Nazareth. To those around Him, He was “the carpenter’s son” (Mt 13.55), seemingly part of an ordinary human family, unknown, unrecognised, and even unnoticed. But, all that time, He was enjoying perfect communion with His God, dwelling ever in the bosom of the Father, and being prepared and equipped for the greatest service ever rendered to God. His Father alone appreciated those years of preparation, for they ended with His declaration of delight in His Son: “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Lk 3.22). The Father had been enjoying intimate communion with His Son throughout those years of His concealment from the eyes of men. In quiet seclusion, God was preparing His Servant for the work He would give Him to do.
We should notice the imagery of the language in verse 2: “And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me”. In those years of concealment, hidden in the shadow of God’s hand, the Servant’s mouth was being made “like a sharp sword”. So, there was preparation for speaking; He was being prepared to speak with power and authority the words that the Father would give Him. He would speak, and His words would pierce right to the heart, and cut through all the hypocrisy of men. Many times the Pharisees experienced that, when they tried to catch Him in His words, but a few piercing words from the Lord Jesus left them silent, unable to answer Him. His mouth was “like a sharp sword”, able to discern “the thoughts and intents of the heart” of man (Heb 4.12).
The Servant also says “and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me”. In those years of concealment, when He was hidden in God’s quiver, the Servant was made a perfectly crafted arrow. If the “sharp sword” symbolises His words, the “polished shaft” speaks of His movements, and there was preparation for movement in His service for God. The bowman knows that his arrows need to be perfectly smooth for, if there is any unevenness or roughness, they will not fly straight, and they will miss the mark. The years of preparation for the perfect Servant produced a perfectly smooth, polished arrow which, when it left the bow, flew straight, and never deviated for a moment. In His movements, the Lord Jesus never deviated from the path laid before Him, but rather flew like a polished arrow, all the way to Calvary; the place of sacrifice.
We can trace His movements in the Gospel of Luke, as He moved steadfastly to Jerusalem. On the mount of transfiguration He spake of “his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk 9.31). Again, we read that “he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (v 51), and the Samaritans “did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem” (v 53). He said of His death “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (12.50). We read that “he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem” (13.22), and “as he went to Jerusalem … he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee” (17.11). He told His disciples “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished” (18.31). As He came near to the city, “ascending up to Jerusalem” (19.28), He entered into the temple. There was, in all His journeying, no deviation, no turning aside from the Father’s will. He had that holy devotion and determination and, as the “polished shaft”, He flew like a straight arrow to the mark, for there had already been preparation as to how He would move in service for God.
Furthermore, in relation to the Servant’s preparation, we read “in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me”. The picture now is of the soldier, with sword in sheath, and hand resting on the hilt, ready to be drawn at any moment. Likewise, “in his quiver hath he hid me”: the arrow is ready to be pulled at any moment of need. Throughout His hidden years in Nazareth, the Lord Jesus was like that sword resting in its sheath; He was like the arrow resting in the quiver. So, when “Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age” (Lk 3.23), the day had come for Him to begin His public service, and He was ready: the sword was removed, the polished arrow was taken out, and He was entirely at the disposal of His God.
We learn that, if we are to serve God in public service, we need a significant time of diligent preparation in private. We ought not to precipitously rush out into the glare of public service for the Lord but, rather, wait until we have had that appropriate preparation time. Service for God must have behind it a hidden period of concealment when we have been alone with God, and experienced a time of personal training by the Spirit of God. Perhaps we might have plans to serve the Lord some time in later life, but we must make the necessary sacrifices now, in order to be prepared to serve Him. No believer is ever too young to begin their preparation for divine service. If we waste earlier years on things of no eternal value, it may be that we will never be prepared to serve the Lord, and He simply will not be able to use us in His service. How good to be entirely at the disposal of our God, and be ready and available for His use at the moment He would graciously determine.
(To be continued …)