What does it mean to set your face like flint in Isaiah 50:7?

In Isaiah 50:7 the prophet writes, "But the LORD God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame." Flint is a hard rock. To "set one's face like flint" is a figure of speech implying resolute determination. The NLT renders the verse this way: "Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame."

Isaiah's statement is part of one of the "Servant Songs," words that prophetically point to the Messiah (or "Servant of the Lord"). At the beginning of Isaiah 50, God questions Israel and affirms His power. The servant replies that God has given him "the tongue of those who are taught" so he can "sustain with a word him who is weary" (Isaiah 50:4). He is wakened in the morning to hear from God and does not turn away from God's teaching (Isaiah 50:4–5). He willingly endures persecution or disgrace (Isaiah 50:6). It is God who helps him in this, and thus he is not disgraced. Because of that, he is resolute in his mission. He has "set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame" (Isaiah 50:7).

The servant further explains that God is his vindicator and He is near. He invites his adversaries to contend with him. He challenges, "Behold, the Lord GOD helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up" (Isaiah 50:9). The servant then goes on to call those who fear the Lord to trust in Him and rely on Him (Isaiah 50:10). Those who trust in their own ways can walk in them, but they will ultimately reside in torment (Isaiah 50:11).

It is easy to see how Jesus "set [His] face like a flint." He knew His mission on earth and determinedly carried it out. When Jesus responded to Mary at the wedding at Cana He said, in part, "My hour has not yet come" (John 2:4). Early in His ministry when Simon Peter told Him "Everyone is looking for you" (Mark 1:37), Jesus replied, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out" (Mark 1:38). Jesus was intentional in His healing and His teaching. He was intentional in silencing demons about sharing His identity (Mark 1:23–28). He was intentional in His travel (John 4; John 11:5–6). He was intentional in His interactions with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He told Zaccheus that "the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). In describing Jesus washing the disciples' feet at the Last Supper, John explains, "when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end … Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist" (John 13:1, 3–4). Jesus' ministry had a clear purpose from which He did not deviate. He knew His purpose and walked according to God's will. In John 17:4 Jesus prayed to the Father, "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do."

Perhaps most strikingly, Luke 9:51 says, "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem." Jesus' face was set like flint during His entire earthly ministry, and particularly as related to going to the cross. He prepared His disciples for what would happen (Mark 8:31–33; 9:30–32; 10:32–34). When Peter rebuked Him, Jesus responded, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man" (Mark 8:33). Jesus would not be deterred. Lest there be any confusion, Jesus also told His followers, "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father" (John 10:17–18).

Interestingly, Isaiah 50:7 also applies to Isaiah, who was faithful to speak God's words to the people of Judah and Israel, even when the people were unreceptive. We, too, can "set our faces like flint" in following God. We, too, are instructed by His Word (2 Timothy 3:16–17) and called to obey Him (John 15:1–17; Philippians 2:12–13; James 1:22). We, too, will face hardship (John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12–13). And we, too, are not ultimately disgraced because the Lord is our helper (Hebrews 13:5–8; 1 Peter 4:16–19). Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, all who put their trust in Him are vindicated before the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:3–14; Romans 8:1–39). We can stand resolute in Christ, knowing our security is in Him (John 10:28–30). And thus we can live in the midst of this fallen world with our hearts at rest and our faces set firmly toward Him and His will.

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