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Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Divine Servant Took Our Place


The Divine Servant Took Our Place

Isaiah 52:13-53:12



God does not keep silent.  He finds many creative ways to speak to his children.  Scripture says: “He guides his people with his eye.” (Psalm 32:8)   Back in ancient times one of the ways God spoke to the people of Israel, was through the prophets.  The Israeli people understood this and they recorded the prophecies (or messages) that God spoke to them through their prophets.  And now those prophecies can be found in the Old Testament and are there for all of Gods’ children to read.  A prophecy is a message from God. 


A prophet was a man or woman who God chose to speak out His message (or prophecy) to the people of Israel.  God would speak to the person and tell him that he had been chosen to be a prophet and deliver God’s Word to the people.  Then God would pour His Holy Spirit out onto the prophet and give him the ability to see and hear the words and messages that God wanted given to the people.  God would often give the prophet visions and allow the prophet to see events that would be happening far off into the future. 


God gave his people many prophecies about the Messiah or Savior that He had promised to send to save them.  And most Bible scholars agree that the prophecy found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is the most sublime messianic prophecy in the Old Testament.  This passage relates to Jesus’ dying to save or redeem us and then rising from the dead.  Matthew and Peter quoted from it.  This passage in Isaiah was written eight centuries before Christ.  And Isaiah, with the Holy Spirit speaking through him, in this prophecy and others, made incredibly accurate statements concerning the facts of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Isaiah also spoke of how the Servant Savior would die for the sins of the people.  Isaiah was a major prophet in Jewish history.   


The prophecy in Isaiah 52-53 begins by introducing a “Servant” to us.  It reads: “Behold, My Servant will act wisely.  He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.  Just as there were many who were appalled at Him, his face and appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness”: (Isaiah 52:13-14) Christ’s amazing victory through humiliation is presented here.  The “disfigurement” of Jesus’ face and appearance could have come from His maltreatment at the hands of Pilate’s soldiers.  Scripture says that Jesus was beaten so badly that He fell under the weight of the cross while He was carrying it.  And Simon of Cyrene was ordered by the Roman soldiers to come along side and carry the cross part of the way for Jesus. 


 These verses in Isaiah show the “Servant” going through astonishing humiliation. But after that - an astonishing exaltation!  Jesus went through this humiliation on the cross for us.  And Jesus’ exaltation came when He was resurrected and then we will all see Him exalted when He comes again at the end time.  Scripture says that Jesus will come again in glory at the end time and He will be highly exalted and every knee will bow before Him.  Philippians 2:9-11 reads: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.  That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.  And that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”


Isaiah’s prophecy continues with: “So He will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of Him.  For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.”  (Isaiah 52:15)  The phrase “sprinkle many nations” means that the Servant’s atoning sacrifice on the cross – his blood - will cleanse many Gentile nations.  Scripture says: “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22)     


 Gentile kings would be astounded at the forgiveness offered with the gift of eternal life. That which had not been told to the kings of the Gentile nations would now be the Gospel message of salvation through the cross.  Perhaps when scripture says that the gentile kings had not been told but were now amazed and surprised with the gift of salvation, it may mean that the gentile nations did not have the law and the prophets to tell them ahead of time that God would send a Messiah or a Savior.  All of God’s Word (the Old Testament) had been given to the people of Israel before Jesus came.


Next we read: “Who has believed our report?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”  (Isaiah 53:1)  Even though the Jewish people were given the report – and many prophecies concerning the coming Servant who would suffer for them, it still defied their imagination.  “The arm of the Lord” is a phrase always used in Scripture to designate God’s intervention into human affairs.  When the Israelites were suffering terribly as slaves in Egypt, God performed miracle after miracle to free the Israelites from their Egyptian captors.  When these miracles took place in Egypt for the Jewish slaves and on their way to the promised land , Scripture stated that “the arm of the Lord” performed them.  So when Christ freed us from the slavery of sin and Isaiah states that “The arm of the Lord has been revealed” this would be God’s greatest miracle being done for humankind!  .    


The next verse of this Isaiah prophecy reads: “For He (the Servant) shall grow up before God as a tender plant.  And as a root out of dry ground, He has no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,: and when we see Him, there is nothing in his appearance that we should desire Him.  He is despised and rejected by men.  A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him: He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”  (Isaiah 53:1-3) 


“A root out of dry ground” I believe expresses the obscurity of Jesus’ origin.  Instead of being born in a king’s palace, He was born in a stable for animals.  In other words, the Servant (Jesus) would lack the earthly grandeur or the trappings of royalty that attracts the admiration of the world.  If Jesus had been born into a wealthy prestigious family and if He had known all of the important people of the day, most likely the religious leaders would not have rejected Him.  But Jesus grew up as a poor boy in the little town of Nazareth, and when He became a man He spent His time with ordinary sinners.  He was humble and the men of distinction were not his supporters.  Did God send Him into the world as a humble servant so that we would not to be attracted to Him for the wrong reasons?


We continue on with Isaiah’s Servant song.  Jesus’ work here as a Servant is to take away our sins.  Isaiah’s prophecy describes this: “Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:  Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced for our sins and He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:4-5)


Everyone’s sins were laid heavily upon Jesus. Isaiah foretold that the Servant would suffer terribly and die for our sins.  Isaiah uses the word “pierced” when he writes that Jesus will be “pierced” for our sins.  Indeed, Jesus’ hands and feet were pierced all the way through by the nails when he was so cruelly nailed to the cross.  Peter writes: “Jesus, who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree (wooden cross), that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes we are healed.  For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd (Jesus) and Overseer of your souls.  (1 peter 2:24-25)


This magnificent prophecy from antiquity continues:  “All we like sheep have gone astray:  We have turned, every one, to his own way:  And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  (Isaiah 53:6)  Each of us has preferred our own way to God’s way: this is the essence of sin or of “going astray.”  And our sins along with all the others have been laid on Jesus who took it on Himself and carried the burden and paid the price. 


Isaiah’s prophecy continues:  “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.  He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away.  And who can speak of his descendants?  For he was cut off from the land of the living: for the sins of my people he was stricken.  He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”  (Isaiah 53:7-9) 


These passages in Isaiah say that the Servant Savior will not open his mouth and argue or stand up for himself when he is being judged and sent away to be killed.  And this prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was put to death.  Jesus did not speak up in his own defense when he was brought before Herod or Pilate.  When the Isaiah prophecy foretells that his grave will be “assigned with the wicked and with the rich in his death,” this passage was looking forward to when Jesus would be murdered on a cross between two criminals (the wicked) (Matthew 27:32-56) and then after he died, his body would be placed into a rich man’s tomb. Both of those prophecies were fulfilled.


And this magnificent prophecy ends with these last thoughts:  “Yet it was God’s plan to bruise Him, God has put him(the Servant)  to grief.  When You (God) make His soul an offering for sin.  He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days.  And the will of God shall prosper in his hand.  He (the Servant) shall see the labor of his soul and be satisfied.  By his knowledge my righteous Servant shall justify many.  For He shall bear their sins.  Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great.”  (Isaiah 53:10-12) 


These last verses of Isaiah’s prophecy say that all along it was God’s plan to allow the Servant (Jesus) to suffer for the salvation of sinners and to triumph over death.  Verse 10 says: “When You, God make His soul an offering for sin.”  This is addressed to God directly, as the One who alone has the prerogative of appointing Jesus’ life to be an offering for sin.  Next Isaiah prophesies:  “He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days.  And the will of God shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the labor of his soul and be satisfied….” 


His (Jesus’) seed is believed by Bible scholars to refer to his children by faith, - born-again Christians- the Church.  And Isaiah goes on to prophecy that “He shall prolong his days.”  What does this mean?  Does this not refer to a time after his death and burial?  Only his bodily resurrection could serve to fulfill such a prediction as this! 


This prophecy from Isaiah about the suffering Servant and Savior, written back in antiquity some 2,800 years ago, was one of God’s descriptions or pictures of what our Messiah and Savior would be like or look like.  For the Jewish people and for all Christians in every age this prophecy and many others were signs along the way pointing us to Jesus as the promised Messiah..  It is just one more proof that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.  One more piece of evidence that we can rely on.  And one more confirmation that He is our Redeemer!  .      

















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