Isaiah 50:4–11 contains the third Servant Song, wherein the prophet speaks of the suffering of the Messiah. In verse 7, the Servant expresses His complete confidence in God, declaring that He will not shrink back from His mission, despite severe suffering, opposition, and humiliation: “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).
Flint, a very hard, dark rock, is used figuratively in the Bible to express hardness, as in the firmness of horses’ hoofs (Isaiah 5:28), the toughness of an impossible task (Deuteronomy 8:15; Psalm 114:80), and the inflexibility of unwavering determination (Ezekiel 3:8–9).
Set your face like flint is the figure of speech the prophet uses to describe the Messiah’s unwavering determination to persevere in the excruciating task set before Him. Christ would endure humiliation on His journey to the cross to die for our sins. Nearly 800 years before it happened, Isaiah foretold the suffering of the Lord’s Servant: “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6; cf. Matthew 26:67; 27:26; Mark 15:19; Luke 22:63).
Luke echoes this resolute image of Christ set on saving His people: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, ESV). In Jerusalem Jesus would face arrest, torture, and agonizing death. With trust in God the Father to help and defend Him before His enemies, Jesus set off firmly and unflinchingly committed to finish His mission. There would be no backing out, and no enemy or accuser could deter Him from accomplishing His purpose. He had set His face like flint.
Staying on track in the Christian life requires setting our faces like flint. The apostle Paul teaches us to run the race with our eyes on the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24–27). Paul set his face like flint to finish his course: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12–14).
Nothing was more important to Paul than completing His God-given mission, no matter the cost: “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God” Acts 20:24 (NLT).
Hebrews 12:1–2 also presents an excellent picture of setting our faces like flint: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In a compelling sermon titled “The Redeemer’s Face Set Like a Flint,” Charles H. Spurgeon strongly urged believers to imitate the Lord’s steadfast determination: “My great object is to lead you to love him who so loved you that he set his face like a flint in his determination to save you. O ye redeemed ones, on whose behalf this strong resolve was made,—ye who have been bought by the precious blood of this steadfast, resolute Redeemer, come and think awhile of him, that your hearts may burn within you, and that your faces may be set like flints to live and die for him who lived and died for you!” (In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 47, p. 362. London: Passmore & Alabaster).