The Hebrew Servant

Exodus 21:1‑7  •  18 min. read  •  grade level: 6
I desire to consider a little the service of the saints of God. It is a blessed thing to serve God at all, for we are unable to do so naturally; if a thought of service ever enters our hearts, it is one of bondage-the service of a hard and austere master. This is one of the things which show how entirely man has departed from God. If we look at angels, those “angels who excel in strength,” they “do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His Word;” “are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” The highest angel is but in the place of a servant; yet it is a blessed thing to serve, and they bless God for it.
Every one has known how painful the thought of service is to the natural heart; and unless we see that service is connected with liberty, such will always be the thought. That which redemption shows us is that we are free, yet free to serve. This is the fruit of redemption, that we are free to be the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the saints, for His sake. If we did not know that we were free, we should only be seeking to serve ourselves. This will ever be the case until we know redemption, how God has saved us, and how Jesus is serving in heaven for us. The great thing for us to do is, to look how the Lord Jesus served.
These verses (Ex. 21:1-71Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. 2If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. 3If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. 5And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: 6Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever. 7And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. (Exodus 21:1‑7)) are not properly a part of the covenant, “Now these are the judgments that thou shalt set before them.” In Psalm 19:7-117The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 8The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7‑11), we get several distinct things mentioned—testimony, statutes, commandments, judgments; these last I apprehend, to be God’s decision on certain points. “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
The very first thing God has decided here, is a particular about service: “If thou buy an Hebrew servant.” If he were a captive, he would be in the power of his master; but this judgment is concerning one under the law, a Hebrew servant. The Gentiles were never under the law, and I do not find this judgment brought into the New Testament. The Apostle Paul only gives directions of unqualified submission to the master, whether a believing or an unbelieving one; this judgment applies to those who are under the law, and not to those who are not under the law.
The Lord Jesus Christ is presented to us as “made of a woman,” and “made under the law.” As “made under the law” He “magnified it, and made it honorable.” The law, that was “the letter which killeth” to all else, was not the letter that killeth to Him, it drew out the response from His heart, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea—Thy law is within my heart.” The application of the, law to the heart of man only works out the enmity that is there’; but there was no enmity in the Lord Jesus.
The Lord Jesus having thus been made under the law, and fulfilled it entirely, shows that it was a most suitable thing for God to give; if there had been failure it was only in those to whom it was given, and not in the law itself; it was “weak through the flesh; “before God could put it aside, He must show that He had not dispensed a bad thing. The law has been removed by Christ, and thus He has made a free passage for God’s love to come forth to us.
In another way I find the Lord Jesus presented as a faithful servant: “Behold My servant whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” (Isa. 42:11Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. (Isaiah 42:1)) And again, “Listen O isles, unto Me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; and said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” (Isa. 49:1-31Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. 2And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; 3And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. (Isaiah 49:1‑3)) He is here brought before us as the servant of Jehovah, and so He constantly speaks of Himself “I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me;” and that is just the servant’s place—the Lord Jesus Christ spoke as it were His Master’s Word.
“Being in the form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” He humbled Himself to become a servant, and blessed was it that He did so; for if He had come in His native dignity, He never could have said, “I am among you as one that serveth.” He never could have washed our feet. His native dignity, it is true, broke forth every now and then; but the mystery of redemption is, that the eternal Son of the Father has become the servant of Jehovah, and the servant of our necessities. These are the things that angels desire to look into, that the prophets have inquired and searched diligently concerning “the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow.”
He was the “Hebrew servant,” and the faithful servant who had served His time unto Him, whose servant He came to be; and He might have said, now I can “go out free;” I have served my time, and I can “go out free” (vs. 2); and indeed He did say, “Father, I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” But He might have acted on this judgment and gone out Himself.
All His service seemed in vain, as to any present result — “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for naught, and in vain; yet surely my judgment is with the Loan, and my work with my God.” (Isa. 49:44Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God. (Isaiah 49:4)) But what is the answer? “And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Load, and my God shall be my strength. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” (vss. 5-6) All His service seemed to be thrown away. “Though he did so many miracles among them, yet they believed not.” They said He was Beelzebub—the friend of publicans and sinners—and at last crucified Him.
He “came in by Himself,” and he might have “gone out by Himself” (vs. 3) He was the only one who could ever have “entered into life” by keeping the commandments (I am speaking of Him now in His mediatorial character— “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”); He had a right to enter into life. Law knew nothing about saving a person, it promised life through obedience to it; “the man that doeth these things shall live in them.” The Lord Jesus Christ alone had earned life by obedience in every jot and tittle of the law, and He might have “gone out free;” but He would not go out free for the reason here assigned. “If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out by himself And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” (vss. 4-6)
When Jesus, on His rejection by the chief priests and Pharisees (John 10-19), heard of the desire of the Greeks to see Him, He said, “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” He was the only grain of principal wheat. Had He not died He would have remained alone, precious in Himself, but He would have borne no fruit. He might have “gone out free,” but it would have been by Himself. He might have “entered into life,” but it would have been alone. He would not therefore, but He became obedient unto death, that He might “see of the travail of his soul;” that He might “bring many sons unto glory” that He might have His wife and children. This was a voluntary act-though free, He was free to serve; He is the one who has come and had His ear bored that He might serve forever.
I desire to look at this a little more. The Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Majesty on high, is there still as the servant and when coming out in glory by and bye, He will be still as the servant.
I need not tell you how that the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of Himself in a subject character, and that this is voluntary. He came not in His own name, but in the name of Him who sent. Him They would have taken Him by force, and made Him a king (John 6), but He would not be a king in their name or in His own. As Jehovah’s servant, He was His king also; and as they would not own Him as coming from God, He would not be owned at all. We receive Him not, unless we receive Him as the Christ of God.
In verse 5 we read, “If the servant shall plainly say, I love my master.” Oh, how plainly did He say it when He cried, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt!” The servant is one who does not his own will. It was the love that Jesus had to Him that sent Him, that brought Him down into death, as He says, “Therefore doth my Father love Me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father.” Beloved, we are sanctified by His having clone the will of Him that sent Him. “By the which will we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” He said, “Lo, I come to do Thy will.” I’ll do His will, cost me what it may. He was free to go to “the glory which he had with the Father before the world was; “but He would not go out free. “I love my master, my wife, and my children,” I will not go out free. It was love that actuated Jesus in His work on the cross.
I find in that aspect Jesus doing the will of Jehovah; in another place Jehovah’s sword awaking “against the man his fellow.” In one sense the death of Jesus on the cross is the “burnt-offering,” a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor; in another the “sin-offering” which was to be burnt outside the camp.
The heart of Jesus could not be satisfied unless He had His Bride and children with Him where He was, and therefore He must carry His service down into the depths of death: “If his master have given him a wife.” The bride is given to Jesus, just as God gave Adam a wife. I can never separate the love of the Father in this, the gift of the church by Him to Jesus, and the love of Jesus for the church in giving Himself for it. So it is with the sheep (John 10), they are the gift of the Father to Jesus; and Jesus, as the good Shepherd, has laid down His life for them. If He love His wife, He must serve for her. Well, Jacob served for a wife a long service; but the Lord Jesus serves forever; He is the constant minister unto the church, as He has won her, as He has died for her, so He serves her now.
And so with the children— “I love my children” — “Behold I and the children whom God hath given me.” Because He loved the Bride, because He loved the children, He serves forever.
In His personal service when here, He was the servant of everybody; He was always going about doing good, but ever so in the Father’s name. Shortly before going out of the world, we see (John 13) that “having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet.” We find Him doing the most servile act. It was the service of love, and how did His love make Him stoop!
If I were asked, Is Jesus serving now? Yes, washing His disciples’ feet. “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” The example of His own willing service to the church; a pattern indeed to us, but a specimen of what His service is now we are walking through this weary sinful world. We need to have our feet washed, and Christ does this by His priestly ministry for us. He still retains the place of ministry and service, to which He has bound Himself from love to His Master, love to His Bride, love to His children. But surely He is still our Lord and Master; we can call Him Lord, own Him as Lord, pray to Him as Lord, and thus, see that the one who “upholdeth all things by the word of his power” is the very one who daily ministers to our necessities. He has had His ear bored to the door-post; He is a servant forever. I find the Lord of glory is able to serve. He does not need to be served Himself; people always think that God needs to be served, instead of seeing the wondrous thing that He wishes to serve us.
In Luke 12 we find that still this service is carried on when the Lord Jesus Christ comes forth in glory. “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” No one will be able to deny His Sonship then, His Godhead then; but even there He is still the servant; I do not mean to explain how; I only carry forward the thought of service. It will be our blessed place to serve Him; yet still it is our security to know that He will serve us. He still delights to sustain that character into which He voluntarily came.
We get from this decision of the LORD the principle of service. In this day, when many saints are awaking to a desire of service, there is a danger of getting off the ground of grace. We are all apt to make the connection between service and glory, instead of seeing that the connection is between grace and glory. The blood is our title to glory, even as it has saved us, even as it has redeemed us. I see in the countless multitude who surround the throne, that they are there because of “the blood of the Lamb.”
The servant always hides himself, puts himself aside, that the master may appear; the great danger in any service we are able to render is, lest the servant should appear. Simon Magus gave himself out as some great one; but if we serve according to God’s judgment, it will be very unobtrusive service. Joshua was servant to Moses; he abode in the tabernacle outside the camp (Ex. 33:1111And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle. (Exodus 33:11)); but how little prominently does he appear. Joshua is hid, and Moses is the actor.
Our place of service will ever be, in God’s wisdom, the place of trial, though the place of comfort too. So was it with the Lord. He did always the things that pleased the Father, and thus proved His love; but He had to set His face like a flint. Our service is not occasional, but continuous. If we are in the place of servants, it is because we are sons. The ear is to be “opened morning by morning.” Domestic duties are to be taken up as service to the Lord; He is to be glorified in them: the service we mostly fail in is domestic piety. Many would desire more time for serving the Lord. But why not make all we do service to Him. “Ye serve the Lord Christ.”
The principle of our service is love to the Master. Paul says, “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all;” I may “go out free,” but “I love my master,” and therefore serve them. It is the service of love, and not obligation. “We are,” it is true, “not our own; we are bought with a price; therefore let us glorify God with our bodies and spirits, which are his.” But the Lord does not address us with that claim; He says, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” God loveth a cheerful giver, because He is a cheerful giver. Some persons say, Oh, I wish I could serve the Lord more! Well, let your soul enter more deeply into His love, and then you will serve Him. It is impossible to love Him and not to serve Him; but it may be a service of a kind which we do not like, because we too often serve to exalt ourselves. The Lord said, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one toward another.” “Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not that liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” The moment I come with a claim, I damp the mainspring of service; it is by love we are to serve one another. I do believe that this ought to be my feeling; I am a debtor to every saint, because the Lord by His grace has made me free—free indeed.
When the saints are in glory by and bye, it will be still to serve, to minister to the world as well as to the Lord. “His servants shall serve Him.” Just as angels serve now, so by and bye there will be the visible ministry of saints.
How blessedly has love been the servant to our necessities; how has God in His love given His Son for us; how has Jesus served us; how does He still serve us; how will He serve us by and bye! The active spring of service in the church ought to be love. May we trace in Jesus the exhibition of it! What a blessed thing it is to serve; may we serve not in self-will, but doing His will! Service in the church will never make us of any esteem among men; it did not make the perfect servant so; but still the word was, “He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” (Isa. 52:1313Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. (Isaiah 52:13)) And what a blessed thought, what a thought of grace, to hear one mourning over his unprofitableness and wretched service addressed in these words in the day of the glory, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
May the Lord grant us, beloved, deliverance from law service, and lead us to happy blessed service, according to this judgment of the Hebrew servant.