The 52nd and 53rd chapters of Isaiah bring to a climax the teaching about God’s Righteous Servant. W.A. Criswell writes in his commentary on Isaiah that reading Chapter 53 is like walking into the Holly of Holies. To read it, one would think that Isaiah was standing at the foot of the cross when he records these words.
The four Servant Songs of Isaiah all focus on a character identified as God's Righteous Servant. That Righteous Servant is The Anointed One of Israel—the Messiah. Chapters 42, 49 and 50 contain the previous three Servant Songs, and all build to reach a crescendo in chapter 53. Here we find the finale of the Righteous Servant’s ministry fully revealed. Isaiah 53 is the climax of this tremendous series of Songs. This Fourth Servant Song is the single most important chapter in the Old Testament because it reveals the reasons why God’s Servant had to suffer and die.
Beginning with Isaiah 52:13 and ending with Isaiah 53:12, this section (Pericope) of Scripture illustrates mankind’s ultimate redemption from sin. The Fourth Servant Song demonstrates how the holy God of Israel has secured reconciliation for mankind from sin through His Righteous Servant. In a sense, you could say that this last Servant Song ties together a lot of ‘loose ends’ of Old Testament Messianic thought.
The three previous Servant Songs flow directly into the fourth. Some difficult to understand Scriptures found in the previous Songs are now fully explained in this Song. All the questions generated by the first three Songs, are answered by the fourth.
In Isaiah 42, the prophet speaks of two servants since it is quite clear that there are two different servants referred to in this chapter. One servant is Israel, which is described as the blinded servant living in spiritual darkness (Isaiah 42:18-20). The other Servant is The Anointed One, who is called not only a light of the Gentiles but also a covenant of the people (Isaiah 42:6). This First Song does not mention what this covenant is:
Isaiah 42:6 “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles”
In Isaiah chapter 49, the second of Isaiah’s Servant Songs, the prophet illustrates that the nation of Israel will despise and abhor God’s Righteous Servant. However, the reason is not mentioned:
Isaiah 49:7 “Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation (singular) abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.”
In Isaiah chapter 50, the third of Isaiah’s Servant Songs, the despised and rejected Servant is beaten. According to this Song, God’s Servant willingly gave his back to the whip and His cheeks to them that plucked off his beard. He did not hide His face from shame and spitting. Again, this Third Song fails to mention the reason for the suffering of God’s Righteous Servant.
Isaiah 50:5, 6 “The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. (6) I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”
With that background, let’s look at some more of this Fourth Servant Song. If you remember, I told you that the song is broken up into five stanzas. Last Sunday we examined the 1st Stanza—the Destiny of the Suffering Servant: 52:13-15. It reveals Christ’s Exaltation, His Humiliation, and His final Glorification.
This evening we will look at the 2nd Stanza—The Career of the Righteous Servant.
II. STANZA 2: THE CAREER OF THE RIGHTEOUS SERVANT: 53:1-3
- in verse one, the prophet asks a question, “Who hath believed our report?”
- the question is what report?
- the context of this section of verses is the suffering of God’s Servant and His death for sin
- this answers the why of the Righteous Servant’s coming
- the prophet is asking “Who is going to believe this?”
- this report is the antitheses of everything Israel has come to expect of her Messiah
- the report referred to in this verse is the report provided not only by Isaiah, but by all the other prophets as well
- when Isaiah writes: “Who hath believed our report,” he is not only referring to his prophecy, but to all of the writings of other Old Testament prophets
- who would believe that when the delivering arm of God is revealed to save His people that it would look like Jesus?
- if Israel had believed this prophecy concerning the Suffering Servant’s life, they might have recognized Him when He appeared
- neither the Jews or the world at large believed Him to be who He claimed to be, "the Christ, the Son of the Living God"
- the answer for why they did not “hear” or “see” what Isaiah was saying is found back in Isaiah 42
- “Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the LORD? You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing.”” (Isaiah 42:19–20, NIV84)
- now, listen to the passage from a contemporary English version of the Bible called the message—it provides a clears sense of what Isaiah is saying
- “You’re my servant, and you’re not looking! You’re my messenger, and you’re not listening! The very people I depended upon, servants of GOD, blind as a bat—willfully blind! You’ve seen a lot, but looked at nothing. You’ve heard everything, but listened to nothing.” (Isaiah 42:19–20, The Message)
- “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.”” (John 12:37–40, NIV84)
- only those whom the Father has given to the Son
- “Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”” (John 10:25–30, NIV84)
A. THE RIGHTEOUS SERVANT’S CAREER WILL BRING SALVATION
- “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1, NIV84)
- after reading Isaiah 53:1, several questions come into mind:
- First, who or what is the arm of the LORD?
- Secondly, to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
- at times, the Scriptures refer to LORD’s arm as a figurative expression for God providing redemption and salvation for His people, the children of Israel
- however, Isaiah 52:10 specifically indicates that not only will God provide salvation for His people but all the ends of the earth will see His salvation
- “The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10, NIV84)
- “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”” (Matthew 1:19–21, NIV84)
- according to Isaiah 49:6, God’s Righteous Servant is the salvation unto the ends of the earth
- “he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”” (Isaiah 49:6, NIV84)
B. THE RIGHTEOUS SERVANT’S CAREER WILL BRING DISAPPOINTMENT
- “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.” (Isaiah 53:2, NIV84)
- he was unappreciated and unattractive–like a root out of dry ground
- in this verse, the prophet begins with the pronoun, he, which refers directly back to the arm of the LORD in the previous verse
- here, the arm of the LORD is referred to as a root out of dry ground
- in Isaiah 11:10, the Messiah is also referred to as a root—the Root of Jesse
- in both these verses, the same Hebrew word, sheresh, is used for root
- “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:10, NIV84)
- ILLUS. While the text does not tell us what kind of tree this is, many students of the Scriptures believe it is the Olive Tree. If so, it is illustrative for us. It reveals that the Messiah ...
- 1st, he will be of humble origin
- tree shoots are, in the beginning, unimpressive objects and barely noticeable
- this describes the first thirty-three years of Jesus’ life
- Jesus was a carpenter
- most of us think that means an honorable profession, and it is
- however, the Greek word could also have meant simply a handyman—someone who was reduced to odd jobs around town
- Isaiah’s description of The Servant’s background reminds us of our Savior’s ignoble birth and a very low position
- 2nd, he will be of low expectation
- the Root of Jesse was the earthly son of an obscure Jewish carpenter from an obscure town called Nazareth in Galilee
- Nazareth itself was a community that did not have the best of reputations
- Galileans were regarded as unclean and uncouth hayseeds
- when Philip found Nathaniel and told him that he had found the Messiah, Nathaniel responded, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 7:52)
- as a Galilean and untrained Rabbi, the Righteous Servant would be rejected by the Jewish leaders and a large part of the Jewish people
- 3rd, his mistreatment will produce abundant fruit
- ILLLUS. In Jesus day, when it came time for the olive harvest, the harvesters would take long poles and beat the branches of the tree to make it turn loose of its fruit. Once the olives are picked, they are put into a press and crushed for their oil.
- this tender root would one day become fruitful tree, and though he would be beaten, the end result is an abundant harvest of saints
- ILLUS. When we first bought our home, the telephone company had just come through and taken out a line of Locust trees along the back side of our property. They cut them off flush with the ground. Unfortunately, that was not the end of the Locust trees. I spent years continually wacking off new shoots that kept popping up over the radius of their root system!
- Jesus certainly was seen as a nuisance by the religious authorities of his day
- he was such a nuisance that the Jewish leaders began very early to ploy his assassination
- Isaiah tells us He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him
- in His appearance He did not look like a royal person in beauty or majesty
- Christ had none of the trappings or bearing usually associated with power and royalty
- ILLUS. They remind me of the young woman who was ENGAGED TO MOZART before he rose to fame. Impressed by more handsome men, she became disenchanted with him because he was so short. So she gave him up for someone tall and attractive. When the world began to praise Mozart for his outstanding musical accomplishment she regretted her decision. "I knew nothing of the greatness of his genius," she said. “I only saw him as a little man."
- for most Jews, Jesus just never measured up to their expectations—they didn’t want a Savior, they wanted a deliverer—they wanted a warrior; they got what seemed to be a wimp
- he wouldn’t play by their rules, so they crucified him
- for many, Jesus’ crucifixion sealed their opinion that Jesus was a failed prophet and a false Messiah
C. THE RIGHTEOUS SERVANT’S CAREER WILL BRING SADNESS
- “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3, NIV84)
- Jesus was a man despised
- the Hebrew term translated despised means to consider something or someone be worthless or unworthy of attention
- people too hastily dismissed Jesus
- Jesus was a man rejected
- He was not a man’s man
- He was abandoned by men
- His claims were ridiculed
- His words of wisdom mocked
- His love was repulsed
- He drank the bitter cup of contempt—such rejection is tough
- Jesus was a man of sorrows
- there was his sorrow of a family that rejected him
- the Apostle John indicates that his own brothers and sisters were skeptics“Jesus’ brothers said to him,
- “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:3–5, NIV84)
- “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66, NIV84)
- “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34, NIV84)
He died for you. Are you willing to live for him? Every day, all around the world, men and women hear the story of The Righteous Servant for the first time – and their lives are changed forever. What about you?