THE SERVANT OF RULERS

"And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and My God is My strength), He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make you a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.' Thus says the LORD, the redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, to the despised One, to the One abhorred by the nation, to the Servant of rulers, 'Kings will see and arise, princes will also bow down, because of the LORD who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.' -Isaiah 49:5-7

I love all the prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament because I know that Jesus fulfills every one of them! The prophecy quoted above is among my favorites. Isaiah's prophecies precede Jesus' birth by almost 700 years and yet they perfectly portray Him and His impact on the world. No other religious leader, prophet or philosopher was preceded by prophecy like Jesus was (except, of course, John the Baptist, who was prophesied to be the Messiah's forerunner to prepare the people for His coming).

There are many wonderful things to consider in this prophecy. The Messiah will not only turn the Jewish people back to God but also all the other nations of the world so that everyone might be saved from their sins and have eternal life. You may recall that Jesus, after His resurrection and before His ascension into heaven, sent forth His disciples to "make disciples of all the nations". This has been going on since that day to this and will, before Christ's second coming in glory, result in the conversion of most people of every ethnic group on earth.

Notice that He is called "the despised One, the one abhorred by the nation." Later, in chapter 53Isaiah says that the Messiah will be abhorred and rejected by His own people (verses 2-3) and would be "cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due…" (verse 8) Jesus died for the Jews and for the people of every nation, to take away their sins and provide for them the gift of the Holy Spirit, if they will repent and believe the good news!

But notice especially what He is called: "the Servant of rulers". What does that mean? You will recall that Jesus was not born of the wealthy or powerful. True, He was, as the Old Testament foretold, a descendent of king David, but David's family had long since lost power and were reduced to relative poverty and obscurity, just as the prophets also foretold. Isaiah 11:1 says that the Messiah will come from the "stem" or "stump" of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David and so David's dynasty was named after Jesse. In Isaiah's day David's family was still in power and very wealthy but Isaiah says that the Messiah will be born of the family of David when it has become a mere stump to the tree it once was.

Though Jesus was God incarnate, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and thus was "Lord of lords and King of kings", he lived as one who serves. Herod the Great tried to kill Him in the cradle. Later, Herod's descendent, Herod Antipas, ordered Jesus to perform a miracle in his presence and when He declined, sent Jesus back to Pilate, the Roman Governor, to be tried. In all this, Jesus submitted to their authority, eventually to the point of being stripped, scourged, mocked, beaten and crucified as a common criminal between two thieves. He was, indeed, the "Servant of Rulers." But there is more to this.

What do rulers generally want, besides taxes and public respect? They want the people to live in harmony together, obey the laws and take care of each other, so as to be less of a burden on the state. Whether despots or democratically elected, rulers prefer that people live good, moral lives. It makes governing so much easier! It is true that following Jesus has often put people at odds with human governments, but once the governing authorities are divested of their prejudices, they respect and appreciate the self-government of believers who do not need human laws and the threat of worldly punishment to do the right thing.

Jesus, thus, serves human government by establishing His own government in the hearts of human beings. The more people follow Christ, and the better they follow Him, the less work government has to do! Don't be mistaken, however, in thinking that Jesus is just a patsy for the powers that be! He challenges human government at its core, revealing the selfishness that so often spoils its legitimate exercise. But once purged by Jesus of their pride and arrogance, "Kings will see and arise, princes will also bow down" to Jesus and acknowledge Him as the true source of public order and blessing.

One more thing: who are the "kings" and "princes" in a democratic society? You may say, "government officials, from the President on down" but that would not be accurate. We, the people are our nation's kings and princes! No one is in office without our common consent, through the ballot box. No one has authority in our nation apart from the will of the people. Even bureaucrats can be eliminated through executive, legislative or judicial decree. Never criticize politicians, as such. They are the mere creatures of the public. We, as American citizens, place them into positions of responsibility. So, if we are the kings and princes, do we honor Jesus and bow to Him in our daily lives? Moreover, do we seek to fulfill His will in the conduct of our nation's policies? He is King of kings and Lord of lords so let us submit every aspect of our lives to His control, including our civic responsibilities. We may differ, at times, as to what means to adopt, but our goal as Christian citizens should be that public policy reflect the priorities and follow the principles of Jesus, within government's God-given sphere of responsibility.