The Servant (Isaiah 52:13)

Behold, My servant will prosper,
He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.

Isaiah 52:13

I have heard verses like this (and this one, itself) before, but this caught my attention this morning. The thing that gave me pause was the question of what the verbs used in this verse might mean. I know that the verse was written in Hebrew and that English and Hebrew do not always correlate directly, so I went to the concordance and had a look through the verbs.

Prosper is one of several meanings that verb can take in the form used. It can mean that God’s Servant will prosper or have success. The King James renders the verb as shall deal prudently, and that jives, too. It could also mean that He will teach or cause people to stop and think or that He will consider things on His own. The verb, it seems, is rich in potential meaning. That He will be high in terms of station seems to be the one of two verbs can really be understood when conjugated as it is, so I smile and accept that one. That he will be lifted up is rendered extolled in the King James. What is fascinating to me is that it could also mean risen up, borne or carried, or taken away. And greatly exalted works as-is.

So why is this so fascinating to me? Because God’s servant is a reference to Jesus Christ — the Messiah, if you prefer — and the alternative meanings create a fuller and richer picture of what might have been said or meant. That Jesus is successful in His mission to redeem people is a given. But that He deals prudently is often overlooked. In the psalms (I think), one of the writers says that God shows Himself shrewd with the twisty folk. God is more shrewd and a better business person than the best we have to offer. He is better at working with Law than any lawyer ever to walk the Earth. That He deals prudently is important, because I need to remember that He will deal prudently with me. God’s servant being lifted up could be a double meaning as Jesus is both exalted and was lifted up when He was crucified. In point of fact, Jesus said that He would draw men to Himself is He was “lifted up” and that was in reference to His crucifixion. Before this paragraph becomes a Wall of Text, let me just re-render the verse in one of the alternate ways of understanding the verbs contained within it.

Behold, My Servant will teach and give insight,
He will be lifted up from the earth in crucifixion, risen up from the grave, and praised.

It is food for thought.

Jesus is, for me as a believer, the template; the pattern I am to follow. This means that I should be giving insight when I have it to share and that I should be living prudently, not just doing things willy-nilly. It means that I will, whether I like it or not, be held up as an example — whether good or bad is determined by my life. It means that I am carried by God, because I cannot live the life God calls me to without God carrying me through. And any praise I receive will come from God — I hope to hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” and find myself in the august company of The Servant Whose Name is applied to my faith.

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