All About Servants
The Lord impressed upon our hearts this month to explore the concept of servanthood and servant leadership as seen in the Holy Scriptures. While the word “servant” may have a somewhat negative and undesirable image in our modern secular society, it is definitely positive and desirable from a scriptural point of view. The God of the Bible calls His faithful followers “servants.” He exhorts us in Psalm 134:1, “Behold, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD.”
The word for servant in Hebrew is EH-ved עבד .The plural, servants, is ah-vah-DEEM עבדים. Ehved appears almost 800 times in the Holy Scriptures, translated as either “slave” or “servant.” The word servant as an epithet is frequently used in the Bible to show honor and respect. It is special when God is the One calling someone His servant, saying av-DEE, “My servant.” The Lord said to Aaron and Miriam, “Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?” (Num 12:8). God said about Caleb, “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land…” (Num 14:24). The Lord also said, “…My servant David” (2 Sam 3:18), and “…My servant Job” (Job 1:8), among others.
According to the Bible, true leadership is servant leadership. David had the heart of a servant leader. Read 2 Samuel 7:18-29 and be blessed by the words of this outstanding servant of God. David’s son Solomon had the heart of a servant leader, especially at the beginning of his reign as king. Consider Solomon’s attitude as he spoke with God, “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in… Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge these great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:7, 9)
Unfortunately, a servant’s heart is not hereditary. King Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, was not a servant leader. When he assumed his father’s throne, King Rehoboam sought advice from Solomon’s elders. “And they spoke to him, saying, ‘If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever’” (1 Kings 12:7). Rehoboam rejected their godly advice, and went to his peers, who told him to put a heavier yoke on the people and chastise them with scourges. He followed the advice of his friends, becoming a tyrant rather than a servant.
The Mind of a Servant
Perhaps the most salient characteristic of a servant is a humble mind and spirit. Humility is the trademark of a servant leader. There is no greater example of this than our Messiah Yeshua, who humbled Himself to leave the glories of heaven to be born in a lowly sukkah to redeem fallen mankind. We are exhorted to follow His example of putting others before ourselves: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Messiah Yeshua, who, being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death even the death, of the cross” (Phil 2:5-8).
Yeshua’s humility sharply contrasts with the attitude of His disciples who argued about their places in the kingdom. “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He [Yeshua] said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called “benefactors,” but not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves’” (Luke 22:25-27).
Pride. The opposite of servanthood. In The Servant of Jehovah, David Baron points out that fallen man always aims at exalting himself. “The curse of man and the cause of his ruin is pride, self-will, the striving to be independent of God, and seeking to strike out a career for himself. By seeking to be free, and thinking that freedom consists in doing, not what he ought, but what he pleases, man landed himself in bondage to sin and Satan.” Abba, please deliver us from our prideful, self-will so that we can be true servants of the Living God.
Husbands That Serve
Married men who are disciples of the Messiah Yeshua are called to be servant leaders and servant lovers. Since in the kingdom of God, the way UP is down, successful husbands humble themselves to serve their wives and love them sacrificially. Husbands must follow the example of their Master who said, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28). Yeshua referred to some of the qualities that should characterize His servants in Matt 24:44-50: compassion, faithfulness, and wisdom. Husbands need all three.
Husbands, as servant lovers, put the needs of their wife before their own. This is loving sacrificially and unconditionally, the way Yeshua loves each one of us. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the church (kehillah) and gave Himself for her” (Eph 5:25). We agree with what Dennis Rainey of Family Life says in his book Staying Close: “Your unconditional acceptance of your wife is not based upon her performance, but on her worth as God’s gift to you. If you want to love your wife unconditionally, always be sure her emotional tank is full. One of the best ways to do that is to affirm her constantly. Let her know verbally that you value her, respect her, and love her.”
Actions are as important as words. Sacrificial actions, like giving up a sport event or hobby time can mean a lot to a wife. In our marriage seminars, we suggest that husbands make up a spouse profile to find out what their wife needs—and to better understand her. What makes her happy? Sad? What frustrates her? What are her spiritual and material needs? When does she feel most pressured? In this way, a husband can help reduce a wife’s worries, struggles, and pressures.
Finally, a husband has the ultimate responsibility for his household. He is the “head” (see Ephesians 5:22-33) but this does not mean male dominance, but rather, servant leadership. When a man loves his wife as Messiah loves the bride, his headship is a blessing to her, and she has no problem submitting to his leadership. Love makes the difference!
A woman longs to feel protected, cared for, valued, and respected. Her husband can satisfy this deep desire. One final word from Staying Close: “To be a leader, a lover, and a servant is to accommodate your life to the gift God has given you—your wife. Give up your life for her and, at the judgment seat of Christ, He will say, ‘Well done, thy good and faithful servant.'”
Fathers That Serve
When a husband becomes a father he takes on an additional yoke and more responsibility. It becomes even more crucial for him to adhere to Yeshua’s advice in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Our society today has a desperate need for fathers who are servant leaders. Neil and Jonathan (and Lord willing Jesse one day), are great examples of fathers who model Messiah. Neil was able to say to both our sons with total integrity, “Follow me as I follow Yeshua.” Jonathan is doing the same with his firstborn, Liam (who, by the way, is an absolute joy to Nana and PopPop!). Fathers lead their households, first of all, spiritually. Their confession should be the same as Joshua’s: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
Fathers have a great impact on how their children view God, our Heavenly Father. In our over forty years of ministry we have encountered countless believers whose spiritual lives have been stunted, interrupted, thwarted and affected adversely by having had an abusive, harsh, unloving, distant, absent, critical or unfaithful father. God, by His Spirit, helps them overcome this unfortunate misrepresentation, but it can take years for some to fully embrace the reality of God as a totally loving, forgiving, giving Father.
A godly father, like a godly husband, puts the needs of his family before his own. He loves. He makes sacrifices. He helps his family develop their God-given talents so that each one fulfills his or her potential. Mark Deterding, the creator of a Model of Servant Leadership which parallels the principles that Yeshua illustrated, learned eight characteristics of servant leadership from his father: 1) humility, 2) hard work and a commitment to excellence, 3) selflessness, 4) a commitment to core values, 5) positive recognition, 6) mutual respect and trust, 7) a smile, and 8) modeling the way. He points out a verse that is very appropriate for fathers, “Then Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19) Yes, boys need to see a good example in their fathers.
Israel, a Servant Nation
Israel, as a nation, was originally called to serve the Almighty. “O seed of Israel His servant, You children of Jacob. His chosen ones!” (1 Chr 16:13). This title of honor, given to Israel, is seen over and over in the second half of the Book of Isaiah. “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend” (Isa 41:8). “Remember these, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me!” (Isa 44:21). “You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isa 49:3).
Israel was called to be a witness to the One True God. Unfortunately, she did not serve Him faithfully but turned repeatedly to other gods, gods of wood and stone, idols. But God still has a plan for His servant Israel. He says, “Do not fear, O Jacob My servant, says the LORD. ‘For I am with you; For I will make a complete end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but I will not make a complete end of you. I will rightly correct you, for I will not leave you wholly unpunished’” (Isa. 46:28).
The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53
Since Israel is repeatedly called the Lord’s servant, especially in Isaiah, traditional Jewish theologians maintain that the nation of Israel is the “servant” spoken of in the famous Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. But this is not the case. It is Yeshua HaMashiach, the Eved Adonai (Servant of the Lord), whose suffering, death, resurrection and ultimate glory are prophetically portrayed 700 years before His birth. The prophecy begins with, “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high” (Isa 52:13).
There are a number of reasons why this prophecy is about Yeshua and not the nation of Israel. A few include: 1) The subject of the prophecy is an absolutely innocent sufferer who suffers for the sin of others (vs. 8-9). Israel is not absolutely innocent but has suffered as a consequence of sin and disobedience (Isa 1:2-9; 42:18-20). The subject suffers voluntarily, willingly (vs 12). Israel has suffered, but not voluntarily. The servant of Isaiah 53 suffers without resisting, like a lamb to the slaughter (vs 7). This does not always apply to Israel. The servant is a man (ish) of sorrows. Israel is not a man. The servant also dies (vs 9). Israel did not die. Finally, when the prophecy says, “For the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (vs 8), My people (ami, ah-ME in Hebrew) must apply to Israel. Therefore, the one who was stricken for Israel cannot also be Israel.
The glorious truth is that the prophecy of Isaiah 53 was fulfilled in the minutest detail by Yeshua of Nazareth. For this reason, this prophetic gem is sometimes called “the fifth Gospel.” We encourage you to share it with your pre-believing Jewish friends. Many have come to a saving knowledge of Messiah upon seeing Him in Isaiah 53.
A Serving Savior
When the Servant of the Lord of Isaiah 53 walked on earth, His servanthood distinguished Him from all others who claimed to be the Messiah. Yeshua said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28). “But he who is greatest among you shall be Your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:11-12). And again, calling His talmidim to sit and listen, Yeshua said, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
Yeshua demonstrated His servant leadership in a beautiful way at the last Passover with His disciples by washing their feet. In doing this, He was also setting an example for all those who would follow Him: “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13:13-14).
Saved to Serve
Just as the nation of Israel was delivered from Egyptian bondage in order to serve the God of Israel, we have been delivered from the bondage of sin in order to serve the Lord. Yeshua said, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (Jn 12:26).
The Apostle Paul, who made himself a servant to all (see 1 Cor 9:19-20), encouraged believers in Yeshua concerning servanthood when He said, “through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13). When we serve one another, we are serving our Lord. May we embrace the calling of servanthood and serve Yeshua “in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom 7:6).
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:28-29).
The term “Public Servant” was first used in 1671, and referred to a government official or employee. The concept of governmental leaders was one of servanthood, with the good of the people being their number one priority. Serving others rather than “self-serving” was the expected behavior.
The leadership philosophy of public servants was one in which the “power pyramid” was turned upside down. Instead of people working to serve the leader, the leader existed to serve the people. It is our duty to go to the polls and insist on electing public servants who have “servant hearts.”Pray that Abba raises them up. Our nation desperately needs them.
Your servants for Zion’s sake—Love,
P.S. We are going to Israel – just the two of us – at the beginning of August, and want to bring love
gifts to all our Mercy Mission ministries. Please help us fill our Love Baskets. Thank you!