The Profile of the Perfect Servant
'Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; Mine ears hast thou opened: Burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: In the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: Yea, thy law is uwithin my heart.' (Ps. 40:6-8, KJV)
What would you say marks an ideal servant? For those in employment, there are directives given by Paul in the New Testament: 'be submissive...in everything...be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith' (Tt 2:9–10, ESV). Paul outlines features such as submission, integrity and trustworthiness as marks of the servant.
But David's Messianic Psalm of the Servant (40) goes way beyond Paul's requirements. First, he notes what is not required. Somewhat surprisingly, David states 'Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire.' This might seem somewhat counter-intuitive; after all, the Old Testament describes a system of sacrifice-based approach to God. But David isn't comparing obedience with real sacrifice, but with a distorted human view of sacrifice. The background to this is in 1 Samuel 15, where King Saul decided to disobey God by preserving livestock he was ordered to slaughter to then offer to God. Samuel is sent to rebuke him for his disobedience. Saul had to learn the lesson that complete obedience is always better than a human standard of sacrifice. Drawing on this background, David stipulates: 'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire.'
As far as Christ is concerned, there was never a need for sacrifice or offering for He was the perfect servant. Not just perfect in His conformity to His Father, but perfect also in His humanity.
Next, he notes what is required; 'Mine ears hast thou opened.' This expression is debated, but most commentators link it with the boring through of the ear of the Hebrew Servant in Exodus 21. Here a loyal servant–who otherwise had the right to freedom–voluntarily committed himself to the household of his master, by the public ceremony of the boring through, or digging out of the ear with an awl. This marked him as linked to his master forever. Concerning Christ, the writer of the picks up the theme and quotes the Septuagint (The Greek translation of the Old Testament); 'a body hast thou prepared me' (Hebrew. 10:5, KJV). What the Psalmist states as an 'opened ear' the Hebrew writer applies as a 'prepared body.' The act that defines the obedience of Christ is His willingness to be made like us; to take a body and ultimately to give it in sacrifice; 'we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all' (Heb 10:10, KJV).
Truly it could be written of Christ by David; 'I delight to do thy will, O my God.' Only the One who went to the ultimate extreme–offering His body in sacrifice–could say 'I delight to do Thy will.' As we remember Him again today, fix in your mind the profile of the perfect servant: obedience to the point of death; 'And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross' (Php 2:8, KJV).