Can This Be the Servant?
Abba Father, wedge my heart open and ready. May I submit to Your will and embrace it as my own.
Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Bearing shame and scoffing rude, / In my place condemned he stood; / Sealed my pardon with his blood. /Hallelujah! What a Savior” (Phillip Bliss, 1838-1876).
We have been taught to understand this very familiar passage as a prophecy fulfilled in the suffering and death of Jesus, and rightly so (e.g. Acts 8:29-35). But let’s take a step back to the context of the original message and its readers. Whether it was first heard by Judah’s people in the years following the failed siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib or by the exiles in Babylon, the message would have been bewildering.
The nation was well steeped in a theology that taught that obedience leads to blessing and disobedience leads to cursing (Deut. 28:1,2,15). Here we have descriptions of a servant suffering agony and rejection. Image builds on image, and we are disturbed at such violence and indignity. In the theological context noted above, we would be tempted to think that he must have deserved this outcome. He must have been punished by God for his sins (53:4). But no, we find that he was innocent (9). His pain and suffering were not on his own behalf but on “ours” (4-6,11). His undeserved death brought peace and healing for “us,” God’s people, who had sinned, strayed, transgressed (5,6). So, in fact, the servant’s obedience, even through suffering, did eventually lead to blessing (10-12)! He himself would be satisfied that the new life given to many made his sacrifice complete. And one day even nations and rulers would observe the exaltation of the humiliated one and understand (52:13-15).
The reality of Jesus as the exemplary suffering Servant has given comfort to many of his disciples and helped make some sense of the dilemma of undeserved suffering. In the ultimate expression of God’s upside-down values, it was only because he was willing to die for the sins of others that they could be justified before God. This truly was a wonderful and surprising salvation.
“He endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne” (Isa 53:4, GNB). How do you feel about this amazing act of grace?
Blessed Savior, Your finished work on the cross has accomplished forgiveness and deliverance from my sin, and reconciliation with the Father. All I can say is, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”