Ebed Yahweh, Ish Makoboth — Servant of the Lord, Man of Sorrows

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2021 23 Nov

After God led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, he did not treat them as slaves but as his own people, his sons and daughters. Though slavery was practiced in Israel, the Law forbade the forcible enslavement of freeborn individuals. To kidnap or sell such a person was to incur the death penalty. However, people could sell themselves in order to pay off their debts. Even so, Hebrew slaves were to be released after a certain number of years because no child of God was meant to live in perpetual bondage.

Though the Israelites were not considered God’s slaves, they were considered his servants, freely putting his interests before their own, confident of his care and protection. Prophets, judges, and kings were called servants of God in the Bible. Scripture speaks of Moses, Joshua, Hannah, David, Isaiah, Mary the mother of Jesus, and many others as God’s servants because they lived a life of faithful obedience.

The Servant Songs in Isaiah (42:1–4; 49:1–7; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12) all speak of a mysterious Servant who would bring justice to the nations. Through his suffering this Man of Sorrows (ISH makuh-BOTH) would redeem many. The Jews may have understood this as a reference to Israel while early Christians understood these passages as messianic prophecies pointing to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By becoming one of us, Jesus suffered both with and for us. He was the Servant (E-bed) par excellence.

In ancient times, a servant’s status was directly related to the status of his master. To be a servant of the King of Kings, then, is the greatest of privileges. It is no surprise to discover that the word “minister,” derived from a Latin word, and the word “deacon, derived from a Greek word, both mean “servant.”

Praying to Ebed Yahweh and Ish Makoboth

We hear a lot about deadly viruses these days. But something far more deadly is making the rounds right now. It’s a vicious disease that has taken root across much of America without anyone seeming to notice. Worse yet, the rate of infection is alarmingly high among professing Christians. Here’s how one headline describes the threat: Most Christians Infected with Prosperity Gospel.

Sam Storms, a pastor from Oklahoma, characterizes the health and prosperity gospel as a "corrosive and disintegrative pox" and as "a disease far more infectious and ultimately fatal to the soul than the worst bubonic plague."[1]

Storms believes that most of us value pleasure and comfort far more than we do spiritual conformity to Christ. We look to Jesus not as the model of who we are to become, but as someone who has done the hard things so we don’t have to. But as Storms points out, conformity to Christ is often achieved through the very thing we hope to avoid--trials and hardship.

What if Jesus had pursued a life of pleasure and comfort? No doubt he may have lived to a ripe old age. But we wouldn’t know, because history would have forgotten him. Who cares about a person who only lives for himself? That’s not the God we worship, not the Lord we follow.

Storms cites Jonathan Edwards to make the point that our problem is not that we focus on pleasure but that we settle for inferior kinds of pleasure rather than the durable delights God offers us in communion with himself.

Jesus is the Man of Sorrows, who has served us in the most profound way possible, allowing himself to be nailed to a cross so that we might have life and have it to the full.

[1] Lillian Kwon, Christian Post Reporter, posted on https://www.christianpost.com/news/theologian-most-christians-infected-with-prosperity-gospel.html. Accessed September 23, 2021.