Today, when we think of the term “servant”, certain stereotypes come to mind. We may think of a butler or a maid from Downtown Abbey, or perhaps a “server” in a restaurant. However, the depth and meaning of our calling Is much deeper than that. It Is Imperative for believers today to have a biblical understanding of what Jesus has called us to in regards to servants. It is Important to define a few key elements at the outset of this study. First, the scope of this study will be limited to the Protestant Canon; that is, the Old and New Testament.
As we trace through the Canon of scripture this will gives us a wide breadth of God’s Word to gain context and development of theme through the ratings of many authors over a wide span of time. A second Important clarifying question in regards to this study revolves around terminology. We will limit our study to a few key terms, “servant of the Lord” and “servant of God”. There are hundreds of times where the term “servant” is used throughout scripture. I am limiting my focus to the more specific terms In hopes to find greater understanding and application.
The specific terms I have chosen are often used as titles. In Hebrew, we will primarily look at passages with run: (servant of Heehaw). In Greek, we will focus in on the arms aorta, booГ?Ex., and bal;Kobo for servant. I believe this will give clarity as we pursue our own desire to live the life of a servant as Jesus illustrated. The term servant Is used as a description of individuals, groups, and the nation of Israel. The patriarchs are described as servants of the Lord (Ex. 32:13, Duet. 9:27). The kings and prophets of Israel are described In this way as well (1 Kings 3, Sis 20:3).
Israel itself is described as a servant of the Lord (Sis. 41:8-9). However, there are specific instances where ‘servant of the Lord’ seems to be a more of an intentional use, something more eke a title. The actual phrase n! N’ (servant of Heehaw) appears 25 times in the Old Testament. Eighteen of these occurrences are referring to Moses (Duet. 34:5, josh. MM, 13, 15; 8:31, 33; 11:12; 12:6; 138; 14:7; 18:7; 22:2, 4, 5; kings 18:12; 2 Chronic. 1 :3; 24:6). “Servant” occurs a total of forty-two times in reference to Moses. Of these, the most common use is the ‘servant of Heehaw’ title.
Moses is naturally an important person to examine when it comes to this servant motif. Looking closer at these specific eighteen verses an Interesting pattern seems to develop that gives some insight. Many of the references of servant are followed by the verb commanded, “Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded”. Joshua uses this phrase repeatedly to remind the people and to call them to obedience. This emphasizes Moses’ role as Israel’s teacher. Similarly, Joshua 1 1 5 says that “Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did.
He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses. ” There Is a clear sequence of 1 OFFS see that the ‘servant of Heehaw’, then, is often understood as one who teaches, trains, and instructs the people in the law. Moving to the New Testament, Moses is mentioned in seventy-nine verses. One of the interesting points regarding Moses in the New Testament is that he only receives a title two times (Web. 3:5, Rev. 15:3). In both cases he is called a servant. The word used in Hebrews is Beep;Tu_ova while the phrase in Revelation is the full title, 60;Ex. 101. 3 e;q.
After the numerous uses of the full title for Moses in the Old Testament it is interesting that these are the only two times Moses is mentioned with a title. The passage in Revelation 15 refers the singing of “the song of Moses, the servant of God”. The passage is focused on God’s lorry and His blessings to the nations. While it is another picture of Moses pointing people to God, it does little to develop the manner in which Moses is a servant. The Hebrews passage is interesting and does give insight into the servant motif. The author of Hebrews makes a point of contrasting Jesus with Moses.
He writes “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. ” (3:5-AAA). There are two important points of contrast that are parallels; servant/son and the one in the house/the one over the house. It’s possible that the contrast is less about the task of the servant/son and more about the authority of the servant [son. The servant acts with minimal authority but is still indeed acting in the interest of the house. The son acts with great authority and has more of a “vested” interest.
This passage is part of a larger argument made in Hebrews. While Moses is the great prophet, mediator of the Old Covenant and leader of Israel, he is worthy of less glory than the son (v. 3). In fact, Moses points us to the son, Jesus Christ who is the ultimate fulfillment of the law and mediator of the New Covenant. This son/servant contrast gives us an additional insight; the son portrayed as the ultimate servant. This is an important aspect of the servant motif that we will address later in this paper. A second figure designated as no-v (servant of Heehaw) is David.
Specifically, the full title is only used in two places, Psalm 18 and Psalm 36. In both of these usages the term is found in the title of the Psalm. The contents of these psalms are not necessarily related to our study. However, these two superscription do tip us of to the fact that David may be someone to look at as we develop this servant motif. In fact, with a little study we see that the title “servant” is very commonly used in reference to David. Many of these references are fairly common and give us little insight in our study. However, there are a few passages that further our understanding of the servant of the Lord motif.
Psalm 78 is a recounting of the marvelous work of God from one generation to another despite Israel’s unfaithfulness. The psalm mentions David in the last three verses, 70-72. He also chose David His servant And took him from the sheepfolds; From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him To shepherd Jacob His people, And Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands. As a shepherd of his people. It echoes the insights we see from Moses and Joshua; a picture of a leader of God’s people pointing and guiding them in their relationship with the Lord.
Psalm 89 is another important passage where we see “David, My servant” used three times, verses 3, 20 and 50. Psalm 89 is a royal psalm that highlights the Advice Covenant. The use of servant is important in that David is not only a servant to the people of his day. He is portrayed as a servant to future narrations in that the Lord promises, “l have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations. ” This obviously points to Jesus Christ, the second David.
Another instance of -14* no-v (servant of Heehaw) is found in Isaiah 42:9. This use refers to a different servant, Israel. In this context Israel is seen as “blind” and “deaf” and disobedient to their calling from the Lord. This passage provides powerful insight for our study, as it is a contrast to the ultimate servant that is to come. God would raise up a servant, the Messiah. The book of Isaiah addresses issues facing Israel spanning hundreds of years. Concepts of identity, faithfulness, Judgment and restoration are all intertwined.
There are a number of themes that are at play; yet without question, the servant motif is seen through the entire book. There are a few major relevant servant categories in Isaiah. These passages mention servants from the past; David (37:35) and Jacob/lesser (41 MOM ; 4:21 ; 45:4; 48:20; 49:3) as well as present servants Isaiah (20:3) and Alike (22:20). Most importantly, for our study, Isaiah discusses a special servant of the Lord who is unique and will minister to Israel. He will be a redeemer (42:1-9, 49:1-13, 50:1-11, 52:13-53:12).
These are very significant passages and worthy of individual examination. The word “servant” in these four passages does not necessarily fit our specific criteria of the run: (servant of Heehaw) title. However, it does point to a significant someone, namely Jesus Christ, who has been sent with a particular mission and message. This first passage (42:1-9) introduces this special servant to the reader. In these verses, we mind that the Servant is appointed God’s elect. His task is to bring Justice and righteousness to the people of Israel. He acts with gentleness and mercy.
He will not quit until he accomplishes all that God wills for Him. This passage also assures the children of Israel, for the Lord confirms that redemption for God’s chosen people will be part of their future. The second passage (49:1-13) is similar to the first passage in its language and mission of the servant. However, there is an important expansion; the Servant will be a redeemer for all nations. He says, “Listen to me, O coastlands, ND give attention, you people from afar (49:1). This expanded mission is described again in verse 6. L will make you a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth”. This Servant will not Just be for the Israelites, but for all nations. The next passage we will look at is found in Isaiah 50:1-11. These verses describe the physical and emotional suffering of the Servant. The Servant is faithfully obedient to God despite heavy anguish. He does not turn back from His calling or the One who calls him. The Servant concludes this with a powerful statement. There is pop for all those who trust and fear the Lord. The Servant will be there to walk alongside them through the darkness.
The final text in Isaiah is a vivid picture of the suffering and rejection of the Servant. However, the main point was to the unique nature of this Servant is seen in all clarity. He is the only one who can take our place and carry our burden. This Servant suffers even though he is innocent. This passage is a striking depiction of the Servant suffering and dying on our behalf. In regards to the specific title, “servant of the Lord” there is but one occurrence in the New Testament. In Luke chapter 1, the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear a son, Jesus.
Mary, after gaining some clarity, responds with a beautiful statement of faith. “And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. ” And the angel departed from her. ” (1:38). Mary designates herself as a servant of the Lord and then gives some definition to what that means. A servant is submissive to the word of God. We know from the scripture to follow that Mary was a young woman who knew the scriptures. She demonstrates willingness to put the Lord’s mission and agenda over her own plans and ideas.
In so doing, she reflects the attitude and heart of the Old Testament “servants” we have looked at prior. Moving to the New Testament, we see the fruition of Isaiah prophecies in the life of Christ. This unique Servant has come in flesh. It is particularly interesting that the servant motif is carried over into the gospel accounts. At Jesus baptism a voice speaks from heaven “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. ” This reminds us of Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, y chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him”.
It seems that it is no coincidence that the servant title continues. The servant title is applied to Jesus specifically three times in Acts (3:13; Jesus, himself, uses the servant motif. He uses the master-servant relationship in His parables to teach His disciples principles about being a servant. In Matthew 18:21-35 we see the parable of the unmerciful servant. The principle that a servant is one who forgives is illustrated. Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells the parable of three servants that were given money while the master goes out of town. Two of the servants were faithful and acted wisely with the money.
The third does nothing with the money is called a “worthless servant”. The faithful servant serves the master faithfully and acts in his interest while he is away. Perhaps, one of the most powerful teachings Jesus gives us on the servant motif is found in John 13. On the night He was betrayed, with the cross in the immediate future, Jesus takes a moment to share a servant principle with His disciples. Jesus demonstrates humility and love as He washes the disciples feet. This was given as an example for the disciples of how they are to live. They are to be a servant.
The humility and love that Jesus demonstrated are to be the traits that characterize His disciples, servants of God. There are some final passages of note that are worth mentioning. The titles “servant of God” or “servant of Christ” are used throughout the New Testament. These titles are used in reference to Paul (Titus 1 :1), Peter (2 Pet. 1:1), James Gas. 1:1), Jude Dude 1), and Paraphrase (Cool. 4:12). It’s significant to note that this title becomes the very common title for God’s leaders and God’s people. Ultimately, this is the calling for believers, to live as servants.
Looking over he passages we have considered in this study it is clear that the servant motif is significant throughout the Old and New Testament. Looking at the figures that have carried the specific title “servant of the Lord” or “servant of God” is humbling. These men and women were used powerfully to accomplish the will of God. They pointed are reminded of our responsibility as a servant. We are to be faithful to our master’s interests. He has entrusted us with to be servants of His great mission. It is inspiring to know that as believers we can be used powerfully as were men and women of God throughout the scripture.