SERVANT, SERVANT OF GOD, MAN OF SORROWS
EBED PAIS TOU THEOU
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.
The Bible reveals many fascinating names and titles for God and Jesus that can yield rich insights for Bible study. My prayer is that as you encounter the names Servant, Servant of God, and Man of Sorrows within the Bible, you will be led into a deeper experience of his goodness and love.
Significance of the Name
Like most of us, Jesus’ disciples were sometimes caught up with a sense of their own self-importance, even arguing with each other about which of them was greatest. Jesus startled them by reversing the natural order in which it is the weak who serve the strong. He assured them, instead, that he came not to control and dominate but to serve.
Though prophets, judges, and kings were called servants of God in the Bible, Jesus is the greatest of all God’s servants, the Man of Sorrows who laid down his life in obedience to his Father. He is the Servant who through his suffering has saved us. When you pray to Jesus as Servant or as the Man of Sorrows, you are praying to the Lord who loved you in the most passionate way possible, allowing himself to be nailed to a cross in order that you might have life and have it to the full.
Understanding the Name
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. To be God’s servant involved living with an attitude of dependence and obedience. 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 ma-ko-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, the Servant of God (PICE tou the-OU), who not only obeyed God but obeyed to the point of death.
The Power of the Name
As his people, we are to follow his example, remembering his words that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Jesus’ words make particular sense in light of the fact that 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.”
ABOUT THIS STUDY
How would you like it if you were named after your primary character trait? Would you be called Joy? Or Faith? How about Complainer? Perfectionist? In the ancient world, names did more than distinguish one person from another; they conveyed the essential nature and character of a person. This is especially true when it comes to the names of God. By exploring his names and titles we discover who God is and how he loves us.
Ann Spangler was drawn to her career in Christian publishing by a good book – The Chronicles of Narnia. In her own writing, she loves to surprise her readers by revealing a God who is far bigger and better than we might imagine. In 2013 she was named Logos Author of the Year, an award given to an author “whose works exemplify the power of books to change lives forever.” Although she is single, she became the mother to two beautiful daughters, Katie and Luci, who were both born in mainland China.