Lord, reveal to all the identity of the servant in this passage.
Read ISAIAH 52:13—53:12
13 See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 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.
53 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 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 its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 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.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain; Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain” (Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090–1153).
We approach this fourth servant song with reverent awe. Sin has severely wounded Israel, as the exile demonstrated. How are her wounds to be healed? C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) observed that it is a “strange illusion that mere time cancels sin.” The exile alone isn’t an adequate answer; something deeper is needed. Ironically, the healing of Israel’s wounds comes through the servant-healer himself being wounded (53:6).
Who is this servant? Jeremiah, or Israel herself? Whoever is the immediate historical reference, the early Christians saw that only Jesus truly qualifies (e.g., Acts 8:32–35; 1 Pet. 2:21–25). The servant’s ultimate position is one of exaltation (52:13,15; 3:12), but the path is through suffering. People are puzzled by him and ultimately reject him (52:14; 53:1–3). Seeing his suffering, they assume God has cursed him. They are right but fail to grasp that is suffering has been caused by other people’s sins, not his own (53:4–6), since he’s led a blameless life (53:9). His death is simultaneously a result of his own voluntary submission (53:7) and of God’s plan to overcome sin (53:10). The Father and Son are working in harmony to secure this atonement. His voluntary, violent death is indeed an expression of God’s curse, but for our sin, not his. The first sign that something surprising would follow his death comes when he, a nonentity, is buried in a rich man’s grave. Isaiah 53 stops short of prophesying Jesus’ personal resurrection, but it affirms the Jewish belief in a general resurrection to come (53:10–12). Death is not the final word, but life.
Earlier, Isaiah said Israel was to be liberated from Babylon because “her sin has been paid for” (Isa. 40:2). Chapter 53 tells us who paid for it—and how.
Work your way slowly and prayerfully through this rich text, contemplating the gratitude you owe to Christ because your sin was borne by him.
Lord, I thank You that someone as unworthy as I am was made a
beneficiary of the death of God himself in human flesh.