The Messiah is spoken of in the Old Testament many times as the Servant of the Lord. This may seem a strange name to give to a Man of such high honor. We believe that He was Divine. How, then, could He be the Servant of God? Is there not a contradiction in terms here? A servant fills a lowly and a subordinate place. He is one who obeys the will of someone else. He does not belong to himself. He cannot make and carry out his own plans. He represents another person, and he comes and goes at their call. He receives directions; and he must obey them without question, and without liberty of choice. How, then, could the Son of God be the Servant of the Lord?
We only need to turn to the New Testament to find that Jesus gladly accepted the name and the place of “servant.” He was the Servant of the Lord in His submission of His life to His Father’s will and His Father’s plan. His first recorded words were, “Don’t you know that I must be about My Father’s business?” At the end, He declared that He had accomplished all that the Father had given Him to do. He never did His own will, but always God’s will.
Then, too, in His relation to men, He was also a Servant. At the Last Supper, when His disciples contended among themselves as to who was greatest, Jesus told them that the world’s standard was not to be the standard among them. “But he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he who is chief, as he who does serve.” Then He added, “I am in the midst of you as he who serves.” Rising from supper, and girding Himself as a servant, He then washed His disciples’ feet – thus doing the work of the lowest and most menial servant.
There is no contradiction, therefore, between the truth of the Divine Sonship and the fact that He was also the Servant of the Lord. Service is not lowly – it is actually Divine! God Himself serves! Those who are highest in rank in this world are those who serve the most cheerfully, and the most self-forgetfully. “I serve” is the motto of the Prince of Wales. The origin of the motto dates back more than 550 years. It was originally the motto of John of Luxemburg, King of Bohemia, who was killed at the battle of Crecy in 1346. Edward found the King dead on the field, with the royal flag over his heart; and on his crest were the words, “Ich dien” – that is, “I serve.” Edward gave it to his son; and now, for more than 550 years, it has been an adopted sign – a heritage of voluntary service. There could be no more royal motto for a leader or ruler to wear. A true ruler is the nation’s first servant. The noblest and most manly man in any community is he who serves his fellow human beings most devotedly, most unselfishly, and with the most sincere love and interest.
If we would only get this law of service into all our home-life, it would make us sweetly thoughtful of everyone; and it would lead us to countless attentions and services which would change our homes into places of heaven-like love. If we would only learn to serve as Christ did, it would make us think of others around us – not as those from whom we may get some gain, or receive some attention or promotion; but as those to whom we may impart some good, or render some service.
In one passage in Isaiah, there is a wonderful picture of this Servant of the Lord. He works quietly. “He will not cry out, nor lift up His voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street.” That was not true in those times of the great men of the world, who sought to make an impression on everyone who saw them. They gathered armies and made the earth tremble with their tread. Men were thought to be powerful according to the display they made. But of the Messiah, it was said, “He will not cry out!” Jesus worked quietly. He went about among the people, but He moved quietly. He never called attention to Himself. He knew that there was no real power in noisy cries. He knew that the power is in the words that are spoken, and not in the scream or shriek with which they are uttered.
Jesus said one day to the people gathered around Him, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It was a quiet word that was quietly spoken, but it had tremendous power – power which has been going out over the world ever since, like the very breath of God Himself, falling into human hearts and attracting weary ones to Christ. Yet that was only one of Christ’s countless quiet words. He did not cry out, nor did He scream or shout; yet the world has never heard such words as He spoke. “You can paint fire,” said one writer; “but you cannot paint heat.” Yet it is the heat, and not the flame, which warms a room. It is not loud noise or fine oratory that touches people’s hearts and changes their lives; it is the truth which the speaker’s voice gives out.
The Messiah is also described as being very gentle. “A bruised reed will He not break, and a dimly burning wick will He not quench.” He does not pass by a bruised reed as being either worthless or hopeless. He says that it can be restored, and that it is worthwhile to mend it and make it whole again. Of course, we understand that it is not mere reeds which the Prophet had in mind. No doubt, Jesus was gentle even to broken and bruised plants, for His heart is wonderfully loving and kind. We cannot even imagine Him needlessly bruising the tiniest flower. But what the Prophet means when he refers to “bruised reeds” is lives which have been bruised or hurt by sin or sorrow… No soul is ever without hope if only it is committed to the love and care of the Servant of the Lord.
One writer has given us a beautiful suggestion about the bruised reed. He says it is a common custom in Syria to cut a reed and use it for a staff to lean on when walking. However, as one climbs a hill and bears more of his weight upon this staff, it sometimes gives way, and the reed becomes cracked and bruised. All a man can do then with this shattered staff is to break it entirely and throw it away as a worthless thing. These poor reeds are symbols, the writer suggests, of people upon whom we have leaned, but they have failed us. We trusted them and helped them in some time of need in their lives, and they did not prove loyal and true. We showed them kindness when they were in trouble and turned to us for help, but they forgot the kindness. The staff became a bruised reed.
Now what should we do? Should we deal harshly with them? Should we cherish vindictiveness towards them? Should we cast them off and say we will have nothing more to do with them? What would Jesus do? “A bruised reed will He not break.” We need the gentleness of Christ in dealing with those who have failed us or proved ungrateful for our kindness.
Someone has said, “It is more God-like to love one little child purely and unselfishly, than to have a heart filled with a thousand vast, vague aspirations after things which we cannot understand.” It is more Christ-like to keep on loving and being patient and kind with one person who has failed us and treated us ungratefully, than to go about for a whole year doing kind things for those who are always nice to us. Anybody can be kind to those who are kind to him! By the grace of God, the Christian should be kind to those who fail him and hurt him and wrong him!
This wonderful picture of Christ’s gentleness and kindness to people in need suggests to us that we should always live kindly and helpfully toward others. People around us need nothing so much as simple kindness. Hundreds are dying for it – for just the kind of little common kindness that you could show, if only you would!
How can you imitate the Lord Jesus today and be a servant in your own home? What little act of “common kindness” can you show towards a member of your own family?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for the King’s glory,
photo by Kieran Metcalfe Photography | Lightstock.com
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on our website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.