The 52nd and 53rd chapters of Isaiah bring to a climax the teaching about God’s Servant. You may possibly remember that when we got to Isaiah 42—that was back in April—we began the second section of Isaiah’s prophecy. It opens with a series of poems—four the be exact—that we call Servant Songs. Our text for this evening begins the forth and last of these “songs”. It begins in Isaiah 52:13 and concludes with Isaiah 53:12. These Servant poems reach a climax in the last poem. It tells of the suffering of the servant; how despite his innocence the servant was oppressed “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,” but his suffering is surrogate like a scapegoat. Isaiah sees Him wounded, bruised, chastised, pierced, plagued and cursed for our sins. The passage is certainly one of the richest and most unmistakable Messianic prophecies in the Bible. The description of God’s Servant has sent Bible students scurrying to discover exactly who the prophet had in mind. Scholars over the centuries, have nominated at least a dozen different biblical candidates as to the identity of God’s servant. The question has been asked at least from the time of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (acts 8:31-34).
“Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” [Isa. 53:7-8] The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:30–35, NIV84)
Philip seems to have little doubt as to the identity of the Servant—it is Jesus. Conservative scholars have seen Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as one of the most explicit prophecies of the coming of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.
This forth song contains five stanzas:
- Stanza 1: The destiny of the suffering servant: 52:13-15.
- Stanza 2: The career of the suffering servant: 53:1-3.
- Stanza 3: The agony of the suffering servant: 4-6.
- Stanza 4: The submission of the suffering servant: 53:7-9.
- Stanza 5: The suffering servant's reward. 10-12.
Tonight we’re going to look at the first of these five.
I. STANZA 1: THE DESTINY OF THE SUFFERING SERVANT vv. 13-15
- our passage teaches us of a violent grace
- the Servant and His mission appear to utterly fail, yet the man will attain matchless elevation
- all of us here tonight are aware that grace is free—or it would not be grace
- but it was not purchased cheaply
- there are many passages in the Old Testament that depicts the suffering of the coming Anointed One
- listen to the 22nd Psalm ...
- “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1, NIV84)
- “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.” (Psalm 22:14, NIV84)
- “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” (Psalm 22:16–18, NIV84)
- rather than ushering in the kingdom as he proclaimed he would, the disciples watched Jesus die
- and it was not just any death—but the death of a criminal: Crucifixion
- it was an absolutely horrible way to die
- on Friday and Saturday, no one is thinking resurrection, ascension and exultation
- His exaltation will be so exalting that Kings shall shut their mouths because of him
A. WE SEE HIS EXALTATION
- “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” (Isaiah 52:13, ESV)
- it is God himself who introduces and identifies the servant—Behold, my servant ... declares Jehovah
- Behold is one of Isaiah’s favorite words
- it calls us to pay attention to the One who’s going to be described
- if what this passage says about this man’s capacity to take away sin is true, then by all means we should fix every bit of our attention upon him
- this servant will establish a new covenant with his people in will be, the light of the world
- Isaiah’s Servant is a servant of the Lord
- He is not just a servant, but it is God’s servant
- in 42:1–4 Isaiah had already presented The Servant as one with a mission to perform who would successfully complete that mission
- in 49:1–7 Isaiah pictures great difficulties in the execution of The Servant’s work
- in 50:4–9 The Servant himself speaks, mentioning the suffering that he was to face
- all of his ministry is in the context of being a servant of the Lord
- Isaiah’s Servant is a wise and successful servant
- the phrase “shall act wisely” has a double meaning—to be wise, and to be successful in one’s endeavor
- he shall act wisely by doing what the Lord wants him to do
- he will act with such wisdom and obedience that his efforts will be successful
- Jesus was so thoroughly familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures that it would have been impossible for him not to be successful in his mission
- “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8, NIV84)
- jumping ahead to the life of Christ, we see that Jesus always did what his father wanted him to do
- “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”” (John 8:29, NIV84)
- three unique verbs describe the exultation of Isaiah’s servant
- he will be raised up—the word can mean to place in a high position, to have strength and victory, or to be praised and exalted as God is
- all of these ideas have their ultimate fulfillment in the cross of Christ
- Jesus was literally lifted up into a high place on the cross just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness for the healing of all who looked upon it
- Jesus was victorious over sin
- at the end we hear the voice of the Centurion saying surely this must have been the son of God
- he will be lifted up—the word means to be carried, to be raised on high, to be elevated in a high position
- again the verb finds ultimate meaning in the cross of Calvary
- though Jesus willingly went to the cross, it was the conspiracy of the Jewish leaders, and complicity of the Roman government, and the sins of the world that placed Jesus on the cross
- he will be exalted—means to be as high and exalted as God is
- “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,” (Philippians 2:9, NIV84)
- "He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:15, ESV)
B. WE SEE HIS HUMILIATION
- “As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—” (Isaiah 52:14, ESV)
- In striking contrast to his final glory is the terrible disfigurement of this servant as depicted in verse 14
- In the language of unimaginable trauma the prophet begins to reveal the deliverance of the church
- God had dealt with his Old Testament people severely but they were not forgotten or forsaken
- they still remained his covenant people
- verse 14 expresses a mixture of surprise, contempt, and a version
- ILLUS. In Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion there is the scene where Christ is brought out to the public after he is been severely whipped, beaten, and scourged. And in that scene you see many people turn their faces away from Jesus because he is been so brutalized. Others wince at his trauma. As bloody and as violent as was that picture, the Christian world owes a debt of gratitude to Gibson for helping us to understand what the event must have been like.
- in speaking of the suffering of our Savior, Isaiah declares that when people see him, they will beast startled because he was marred more than any man
- the prophet implies that the disfigurement will be so great that he no longer appears as a man
- “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:23–24, NIV84)
C. AND THEN, WE SEE HIS GLORIFICATION
- “so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.” (Isaiah 52:15, ESV)
- although men and even nations were appalled at His appearance and His form, He will succeed in His mission
- he will have startling accomplishment after undeserved suffering and apparent failure
- the ultimate world wide accomplishment by the One whose life in the eyes of the world held so little worth and wisdom will be staggeringly overwhelming
- ILLUS. Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself... While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.
- unfortunately, most people will not believe
- but in the end, all will come to understand: for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand