Isaiah 52-53

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Thesis: The temporal consequences of the Servant’s vicarious sufferings bring eternal rewards to those who trust in Him.
It is my desire over the next several weeks to delve into the Scriptures and learn more about the person and work of the Servant of Jehovah as found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. I am certain that probably most of you here are even somewhat casually familiar with the passage. How much, though, do we really know? Did you know that some Jew prior to Christ’s advent believed that the Messiah would be a leper? Why would they think such a thought? Did you know that their surmizings came from this passage? Has it ever struck you the magnanimous sufferings of our Savior? What do the consequences of the Servant’s sufferings impart to us who believe? Have you ever considered the pattern the Servant sets forth for us concerning service to God? These are questions I hope that you will ask as we consider the following: the temporal consequences of the Servant’s vicarious sufferings bring eternal rewards to those who trust in Him as we understand it from the Fourth Servant Song.
The Servant’s prosperity involves His own physical suffering and eventual exaltation, which will put others in awe.
The Servant is prudent and effective in His actions and has a glorious future.
Though many have conjectured about the identity of the Servant, He is none other than Jesus, the Messiah.
The NT writers apply the passage to the Christ.
Matthew directly quotes Isaiah and applies to Christ with reference to the healing of Peter’s mother in law in Matthew 8:17.
This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES." Matthew 8:17
In Acts 8:28-35, Philip encounters the Ethiopian Eunuch who is reading Isaiah 53 and Philip makes application to Christ from the passage.
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. Acts 8:35
Prior to Christ’s first advent, the Jews interpreted the passage to refer to the Christ.
The Chaldee Pariphrast translates v. 13 as, “Behold My Servant the Messiah shall prosper. . .”
The Medrasch Tanchuma OT commentary states concerning v. 13, “This is the King Messiah. . .”
Isaiah characterizes the Servant as One Who “will prosper”.
The word translated “will prosper” has means to “act wisely”.
The Servant has the ability, and does so, to use the best means to obtain the highest ends.
The Servant has a glorious future ahead of Him.
The Servant’s exaltation refers to His esteemed position over all of creation that will one day be in subjection to Him. (Phil. 2:9-11)
The choice of words used to describe the Servant’s glorious future are ones that refer to deity.
This further emphasizes for us the God-nature of the Servant, Who is both man and God.
The presentation of the Servant’s exaltation first has been suggested by one commentator to stress the innocence of the Servant in His unjust suffering. (NICOT)
Before the Servant will be greatly exalted, He will be greatly abased in His High Priestly Work, which will astonish many in the process.
The work of the Servant produces astonishment from those who rejected Him.
The idea of being astonished references a disconcertment brought about by a disturbing and paralyzing astonishment.
The appearance and form of the Servant produced this astonishment.
The Servant was physically disfigured more than any man.
The word for “marred” comes from the root of a word which means “to ruin”.
The word for more indicates that the physical suffering maimed His body so much that He was considered outside the class of normal men in appearance.
One commentator has also pointed out a chiastic arrangement of the last line and the two words for man.
The Servant was “More disfigured than “ish” (better class of man) and [His] form more than the sons of men (ordinary).
This emphasizes the degrading aspect of the Servant’s sufferings, that He in suffering had His visage altered to the degree that He was considered lower than even the ordinary men.
The purpose for the Servant’s injury comes from the High Priestly work He must do on behalf of many.
The Servant through His unwarranted abuses performs a High Priestly work in behalf of “many nations”.
The phrase “He will sprinkle” is a purifying rite performed to cleanse.
The word denotes a technical term found in the Mosaic Law for sprinkling oil, water, or blood as a cleansing or purifying rite.
The purpose of the sprinkling was to obtain ritual purity.
The rite also mandates that the one who does the sprinkling must be pure and innocent.
This further underscores the necessity of the Servant’s blameless nature to perform His atoning work.
Kings react to this with “shut mouths”.
When under the influence of powerful emotion and easterners shut their mouths they compress their lips by drawing back the corners of their mouths so as to show their astonishment and that the situation has taken them unawares.
This idea also references a reverent silence.
These first few verses act as an overview of the next portion of Scripture and provide us with a framework within which we can view the passage. It also makes us aware of the Servant’s work and consequences of those actions, both temporal and eternal in nature. We see the Servant perform a work which He is not only able to perform but He is effective at performing. This work involves His humiliation in being physically abused to the point where He is no longer recognizable as a man. This work also provides more than ritualistic cleansing that the phrase highlights but true cleansing of the whole person. We also know that the Servant will be set to the highest position that anyone could reach, of which He is completely deserving. It reminds us of the lowest times of our Savior’s existence, which He suffered on our behalf, and freshens our conception of His highest moment when He will gloriously be exalted at the Father’s right hand.
The Servant’s humble beginnings prefaced His sufferings.
The prophet begins with questioning the people concerning their perception of the Servant.
Some commentators understand the message-bearer to Isaiah speaking.
Isaiah speaks as representative of the people, speaking and expressing dismay that so few believe.
The plural used indicates the representative capacity the prophet assumes.
This is the position that I take.
There are however, several different constructions that one could use to translate the verse.
It could either be active or passive.
Passive: “That which we have heard. . .”
Active: “That which we have published in the hearing of others. . .”
Alexander makes two arguments for the active construction.
The active construction agrees well with the NT application that Paul makes in Romans 10:16.
If constructed actively it is consistent with the strict sense of the Hebrew words, though not sustained by an definite usage.
The perception involved of the Servant concerned the demonstration of His power, or in this case the lack thereof, according to how the people perceived Him.
The phrase “The Arm of the Lord” refers to the Lord’s strength.
Liberal commentator, George Knight, understands the phrase as the Lord’s power to put forth in action.
Joseph Alexander understands the phrase as the seat of active strength often put for strength itself and especially the power of Jehovah.
The NICOT commentator understands the power mentioned here refers to the Lord’s active manifestation of power, upon which men’s salvation hinges upon.
The Servant grew humbly in appearance and in background.
The Servant lived His life in God’s presence and under the watch care of God.
NICOT emphasizes that the Servant in living the entire course of His life in God’s presence that God kept His life by His power as the Servant lived before Him.
Knight also emphasizes that the Servant lived His life under God’s watch care in conformity with the will and purpose of God.
Isaiah describes the Servant’s growth in botanical terms demonstrating His relative obscurity and insignificance in the eyes of men.
The prophet refers to that Servant as growing up as a “tender shoot” emphasizing the disregard that men held for His life.
The word used refers to a suckling plant or a shoot from a plant that sucks strength from the main plant.
Steveson in his commentary on Isaiah derives the application that the Servant is viewed as something small and minor.
NICOT also mentions the fact that men would cut such shoots off of trees because these types of shoots take life from trees.
The prophet also refers to the Servant’s growth “like a root out of parched ground” emphasizing the lowly state into which He was born, and possibly the spiritual deficiency of the country in which He grew up and even accounting for His low physical appearance.
NICOT makes the point that this refers to the lowly condition and background into which the Servant was to be born.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary makes a direct correlation to the spiritual condition of the area into which the Servant was born; that it was spiritually arid.
Alexander points out a physical correlation, that the Servant had a feeble, sickly growth which would account for His humble appearance that none should regard Him as the King He truly is.
The Servant possessed no impressive physical appearance that would inspire men to think any more of Him.
The word “form” refers to being beautiful or handsome.
The phrase “He had no” refers to the fact that He was wanting in beauty or attractiveness.
According to Alexander this denotes the whole state of the Servant’s humiliation.
The Servant was rejected and forsaken by men as one who suffers from a hideous disease.
Men despised the Servant.
This word means: to account one as vile or worthless.
Men counted the Servant as vile and worthless.
Men rejected the Servant.
This word is an adjective which refers to a ceasing or lacking.
The Servant was One Who fails of men or lacking of men.
The term denotes isolation, which in this case results from ostracizing.
Steveson understands it as ceasing from acceptance.
He puts the NEB translation in the margin: “He shrank from the sight of men.”
The term for men denotes the better quality of men, so that the passage implies that the Servant was not rejected by just the ordinary men but by the best of male society.
The Servant was a man full of sorrows, or as Alexander understands it, He was One Whose afflictions are His chief characteristic.
The Servant was One Who was well-acquainted with grief.
The word “grief” can also be translated “sickness”.
In other words the Servant was made to know sickness.
NICOT makes the distinction though that this is not physical sickness, but the sickness of sin.
We do know that God made Christ, the Servant, to be sin for us according to II Cor. 5:21, so indeed Christ did become acquainted with sin on our behalf.
The Servant is compared to one whom men hide their faces from because out of disgust for something such as a disease.
The terms used are such as used in description of lepers ostracized because of their revolting state.
In comparing the Servant’s state of being ostracized to that of the ostracism a leper feels because of his disease the prophet deepens the image of men’s rejection of Him.
The prophet emphasizes the detestations of the Servant by repeating the word “despise” but then introduces the term “esteem” in the negative sense.
NICOT makes the application of the word to the sense that men equated Him with unbelief.
Men so despised the Servant that they discounted His Words in unbelief.
The prophet paints a vivid picture of the shame and humiliation of the Servant that we ultimately know He suffered on our behalf willingly so that He would provide for believers restoration in fellowship with God. The amazing thing about this section is that we have just scratched the surface of His sufferings, because we have discussed only His social suffering as the consequences of His work and have not delved into the consequences of His physical suffering as it relates to His work. It would be wise for us to contemplate for a moment the sacrifices the Servant made on our behalf to provide us who trust Him for salvation with fellowship with our God. When I think of this I think of Francis Havergal’s Hymn “I Gave My Life for Thee” whose chorus ends with “What hast thou given for me?” My mind conjures up the image of our Savior relating His social ostracism on my behalf and asking me point blank, “What have you done for Me?” Let us stand fast in the faith and work those works which please our Savior boldly in the grace of our God.
The Servant vicariously suffered for our iniquitous rebellion.
The Servant bore our sin that we thought He was guilty of.
Isaiah describes the Servant as bearing our grief.
The pictured painted for us here describes one who is bearing a burden.
The Servant bears in our behalf an unjust burden.
The term for “grief” can also mean “sickness”.
This verse anticipates the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.
Matthew in Matthew 8:17 makes direct application of this verse as it pertains to Christ’s healing of Peter’s mother-in-law.
Isaiah also describes the Servant as carrying away our sorrows.
The Servant yet again bears for us an unfair load.
Alexander makes the observation that these terms are drawn from the Mosaic Law of sacrifice.
In this case the former, the Servant, bears (or carries) the sins of the latter, rebellious men.
Alexander also points out that the fruit of sin is sorrow, hence justly used in description of Christ.
Isaiah also comments on the estimation that men held of the Servant because of His burdened position: He was esteemed Stricken, Smitten of God, and Afflicted.
The term “stricken” has negative health connotations regarding leprosy.
The men around Him viewed Him negatively as if He was receiving just punishment through disease for His own iniquities.
This connotation led to the rise of the belief that the Messiah would physically be afflicted with leprosy.
The phrase “smitten of God” suggests that men regarded the Servant as one severely punished by God.
The term “afflicted” can also mean “be humbled” and suggests the not only humbling but also oppression.
Through the Servant’s punishment for us we receive pardon for our sins.
This passage suggests the Servant underwent penal substitution for us.
Isaiah uses vivid words to describe the suffering the Servant experienced because of our sin.
The Servant was pierced through and crushed for our sins.
The term “pierce” suggests a violent death resulting from our rebelliousness.
The construction used for “crush” suggests complete destruction of person involved.
The Servant not only suffered a violent death but also faced complete destruction in our place because of our sin.
The Servant procured the peace necessary for us to be at peace with God by receiving the disciplinary actions that we should’ve born.
The idea presented is that this sort of correction brings peace.
It also implies that at one time we were not at peace with God and that only the Servant can procure the peace necessary to be at peace with God.
Since the Servant is injured we come off safe and uninjured.
The floggings the Servant received on our behalf bring healing to us or are accounted to us for healing.
The word for “stripe” is a singular word denoting a tumor raised by scourging.
The Servant suffered welts on His back from scouring on account of us.
The “welts” bring healing to us.
Alexander renders the phrase as, “it was healed, with respect to us.”
We received healing as a result of the welts that the Servant suffered so unjustly for us.
The Lord caused the iniquities from our rebellion to “fall” on Him.
We in sheep manner, have influenced others to follow after their own innate sinful desires and rebel.
Knight comments on this passage saying, “Man’s common guilt is revealed as the innate desire in the individual human heart for each to turn along his own way and thus to be wholly selfish and live a self-contained life.”
Gaebelein in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary suggests that the actions of “the sheep” is willful yet purposeless waywardness of sin.
Alexander understands the image to be one of wandering sheep which denotes alienation from God and misery, which is alienation’s necessary consequence.
The Lord Jehovah actively caused our sin to meet the Servant.
The verb used to describe this act means to hit or strike violently.
The verb also connotes some degree of violent collision.
Our sins met the Servant in that Yahweh caused them to collide with the Servant.
The Servant suffered unjustly to provide us the peace necessary for our restoration to our God, in spite of our rebelliousness. The terms used in this passage denote a violent death that caused the Servant to suffer tremendous physical pain. The irony of the passage is that the Servant suffered in the place of those who caused His suffering and who condemningly thought Him worthy of His suffering, though He was suffering in their place. Not only does this cause me to contemplate what the Lord has done in my place to provide me restoration but also the pattern He has set for service. He so willingly sacrificed His physical body in service to God which has consequences for those who trust Him. We in turn should be willing to sacrifice our physical bodies for the One Who sacrifices His physical body to restore us to God.
The Servant humbly and innocently submitted to the unjust judgment of men.
The Servant humbly submitted to the oppression of His captors as a sheep submits to either its shearers or to be slaughtered.
The Servant suffered His injustice with endurance and patience.
Gaebelein points out that because of the misuse of authority that the Servant’s oppressors use, oppressed is the correct term to use.
Steveson states that the words in their original form connote the idea of sever physical or emotional abuse.
The word for “afflicted” also has behind it the idea of voluntary affliction, that is, the Servant voluntarily allowed Himself to be afflicted.
The Servant endurance in His affliction is an image of a quiet, submissive sheep in shearing, or killed for sacrificial purposes. (TBKC)
The Servant’s unjust treatment was regarded by none.
The oppression of judgment of men prematurely took the life of the Servant.
The term “judgment” refers to a “restraint” which some commentators understand as a physical prison.
NICOT suggests that it may mean arrest without confinement.
NICOT also suggests that the Servant was taken away by death from the unjust trial.
Some commentators understand the phrase concerning the Servant’s generation to refer to relatively short lifespan of the Servant in that He died before He could have any offspring.
The phrase, though, can also be rendered, “and who of His generation considered.”
This would infer that even those contemporary to Him did not regard His death.
We must understand, though, that the Servant’s judgment is not just the product of unjust men but also the just judgment of God that men may receive pardon for sin.
In the Servant’s death, no one took notice.
As mentioned above, the phrase concerning His generation can be rendered such that not one of His contemporaries regarded His death.
The NASB renders the translation as such.
We know that from the NT only a few regarded His death, but those considered the “better class” of men did not.
The Servant, the Greatest Man Who gave himself for the world, was overlooked in His death, because the best men did not properly understand Who He was.
The Servant’s innocence demonstrated itself even in spite of His unjust death.
Even in the grave, men tried to disgrace the Servant.
The verb translated regarding the Servant’s burial can either translated with the Servant as the understood subject or rendered by the English passive.
NICOT prefers the latter because the former would introduce a double subject.
The translation reads then, “was made or assigned.”
Because the Servant died the death of a criminal, men expected Him to be buried like one.
Some ancient customs went as far as to do such mistreatments to the body as leaving it exposed to the elements or disgrace it by an unconsidered interment in an unclean place. (Alexander)
Steveson asserts that the Jews planned to disgrace the Servant by burying Him with wicked persons.
In spite of men’s desires concerning the Servant in His burial, the Servant had a fitting burial.
Alexander asserts that the Servant had an exemption from this posthumous dishonor that was occasioned by a special providential interference.
In recognizing the Servant’s innocence, the Lord God providentially gave Him an honorable burial.
The Servant in being buried with the rich fulfilled this by being buried in a rich man’s tomb, namely Joseph of Arimathea. (Matthew 27:57-60)
In this passage we see the best of the Servant and the worst of men. We see just how far the misperception of mankind can go in effectively destroying a man. Though this man was publicly and physically humiliated because of a grave miscarriage of justice, Jehovah honored Him, even in the placement of His body in a borrowed tomb prepared for and by a rich man. Even in burial the Servant’s innocence is recognized but the Creator of it all. We must also contemplate the fact that the Savior suffered this significant injustice on our behalf because of our rebellion, and even for those contemporaneously carried out the injustice against Him. To think of sin is so destructive in its power that it would unjustly destroy a man and seek out His ruin even in the grave. Yet this is the price that our Savior willingly paid for those who trust in Him. May we seek to be eternally grateful to Him Who spared no expense to provide our salvation.
The period after the Servant’s humiliation and oppression is one of victorious exaltation in which He rewards the faith of those who trust in Him.
The Servant’s punishment pleased the Lord Yahweh Who “crushed” Him.
We understand now, that providentially, the Lord God was pleased to crush and put to grief the Servant.
Jehovah actively caused the Servant’s death.
This does not absolve those men who unjustly sentenced the Servant to death.
The passage renders Jehovah’s actions as making the Servant to be sick.
The Servant subsequently offered Himself as a guilt offering to the Lord God.
The term “offering” refers to an offense or trespass.
This was patterned after the guilt offering in the Mosaic Law, whose purpose was to atone for sin.
The Servant would not be confined to the tomb but would conquer death to see the results of his vicarious atonement.
The Servant in seeing His seed, refers to those whom He by His expiatory sacrifice has redeemed from the guilt and the power of their rebelliousness.
With the term “see” we presented the idea that the Servant will live once more, and we see this fulfilled the God’s raising of the Servant from the dead.
In prolonging His days or to live long years, the Servant will live eternally, which refers to God’s promise He gave to David and his seed.
The Servant would mediate the results of the Lord’s pleasure in that sinners would be justified. (As mentioned in verse 11)
The Servant’s anguish satisfied Yahweh and brings justification to those who place their trust in Him.
The Servant’s deep seated anguish satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness.
The term satisfied refers to being filled or abundantly supplied.
Because of suffering have satisfaction in abundance.
Steveson understands that the text has a temporal sense in that the anguish, or travail as he renders it, is temporal.
The Servant brings justification through His knowledge to others.
The passage can be rendered subjectively or objectively.
Subjectively: The Servant performs His work of justification through His own knowledge.
Objectively: The practical knowledge of the Servant upon the past of others, approximates faith.
In any case, the Servant appears as Savior and justifies by bearing iniquities.
Gaebelein understands the passage bolsters the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith in the work of Christ on the cross.
The victorious Servant will be exalted, collect on His prize, and intercede on behalf of those He suffered in place of.
Just as triumphant men find success in their missions that they set forth to do, so the Servant will be successful in His work which I set out to do.
The language used harkens back to a military leader in victory collecting the spoils of war.
In Hic collecting, He distributes those spoils (justification).
The resulting triumph came from the Servant’s self-abnegation.
The Servant exposed His soul to death.
The Servant voluntarily laid down His life.
The Servant bore the sin of many.
The Servant interceded before the Father His wounds on behalf of sinners.
In our study of the Servant we have seen a varied spectrum of attitudes and responses to the Servant. We have also seen a spectrum of capacities the Servant has filled. Nowhere more than here have we seen the Servant in the truest form. He is exalted as He so justly deserves because of the work which He vicariously undertook for men. Let us take heed to our personal relationship with Christ. If we do not know Him, let us remedy that now to partake of the spoils of the war with which our Savior has made against our sin. And the irony of the situation is that He suffered in our place because of our rebellion that we might be forgiven of our rebellion and be positionally justified before our God. Let us also count His example. In His sacrifice He demonstrates that a life sacrificed to God is really not sacrificed, for in the end the Lord rewards those who count Him more worthy of their life than on consuming it upon themselves.
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