Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Role of the Suffering Servant

Isaiah 53

1Who would have believed what we heard?

Who saw the LORD’S power in this?

2He grew up like a small plant before the LORD,

like a root growing in a dry land.

He had no special beauty or form to make us notice him;

there was nothing in his appearance to make us desire him.

3He was hated and rejected by people.

He had much pain and suffering.

People would not even look at him.

He was hated, and we didn’t even notice him.

4But he took our suffering on him

and felt our pain for us.

We saw his suffering

and thought God was punishing him.

5But he was wounded for the wrong we did;

he was crushed for the evil we did.

The punishment, which made us well, was given to him,

and we are healed because of his wounds.

6We all have wandered away like sheep;

each of us has gone his own way.

But the LORD has put on him the punishment

for all the evil we have done.

7He was beaten down and punished,

but he didn’t say a word.

He was like a lamb being led to be killed.

He was quiet, as a sheep is quiet while its wool is being cut;

he never opened his mouth.

8Men took him away roughly and unfairly.

He died without children to continue his family.

He was put to death;

he was punished for the sins of my people.

9He was buried with wicked men,

and he died with the rich.

He had done nothing wrong,

and he had never lied.

10But it was the LORD who decided

to crush him and make him suffer.

The LORD made his life a penalty offering,

but he will still see his descendants and live a long life.

He will complete the things the LORD wants him to do.

11“After his soul suffers many things,

he will see life and be satisfied.

My good servant will make many people right with God;

he will carry away their sins.

12For this reason I will make him a great man among people,

and he will share in all things with those who are strong.

He willingly gave his life

and was treated like a criminal.

But he carried away the sins of many people

and asked forgiveness for those who sinned.”

The Holy Bible, New Century Version

53: 1-12 The prophet brings us on a personal level to the Messiah, the Son of God, who alone can atone for sin. His message is rejected; His person is refused; and His message is misunderstood. Nevertheless, His vicarious suffering provides atonement for our sins; and though He suffers death and burial, He will ultimately be exalted. No other Scripture better describes the humble appearance of Jesus as a common rabbi from the city of Nazareth.

53:3-5 Note the parallels to the suffering of Christ in the New Testament: the agony in the garden, His battered face, the severe scourging, and the torture of the crucifixion itself. The New Testament teaches the substitutionary atonement of Christ in similar language: “He hath borne our griefs (Hebr. “spiritual sickness”) corresponds to the statement that He “bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2: 24). The phrase “with his stripes [wounds] we are healed [Hebr. Rapa, to mend or cure]” refers to our spiritual condition being made whole. In Isaiah the term is always used of spiritual healing and forgiveness (see 19:22; 57:18).

53: 8-9 He was taken from prison and from judgment. This refers to the illegitimate trials to which Jesus was subjected. The reference to the Servant making “his grave with the wicked” anticipates Christ’s crucifixion between two thieves (see Matt. 27:38). Also the additional phrase “and with the rich in his death” predicts Jesus’ burial in the tomb of the wealthy Joseph of Arimathaea (Matt. 27:57).

53:10 It pleased the Lord to bruise [Hebr. Daka, “to utterly crush”] him. This refers to the same condition in verse 5. That He was “an offering for sin” (Hebr. Asham, “guilt offering”) involves the trespass offering described in Numbers 5: 5-10. The phrase “he shall prolong his days” suggests that the Servant’s ministry will not end with His violent death. The life of the Suffering Servant will, like Hezekiah’s in chapter 38, be supernaturally extended. This we now know refers to Christ’s resurrection.

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