Isaiah 53:1–12comment (0)
May 4, 2006
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Isaiah 53:1–12
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
RECOGNIZE GOD’S WAYS
In the wisdom of this world, power and influence are everything. Such thinking, however, is contrary to the ways of God. He works through the weak and despised to accomplish His glorious purposes (1 Cor. 2:26–28). His ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8).
Isaiah wrote a series of songs about a “Servant of the Lord” who suffers to provide redemption. This is one of those songs (52:13–53:12). Some claim the Servant is the nation of Israel, which suffers to bring the redeeming knowledge of the Lord and His law to the world; for Christians, the Servant is Jesus of Nazareth. It is not that God works through others redemptively in precisely the same way He worked for redemption through Jesus Christ but that in Jesus, God demonstrated the unexpected ways in which He works.
God May Use Unlikely People (1–3)
The Servant comes of lowly origin. He is like a useless “sucker” on a plant that threatens full harvest. He is a “root out of parched ground,” i.e. void of divine blessing as contrasted to a well-watered plant (Ps. 1:3), i.e. divinely blessed. Parched ground is a most unpromising habitat. He is also unattractive. He is no conquering hero, no overpowering warrior, no shrewd politician. He is an outcast from society, despised (the Hebrew word indicates someone worthless, insignificant or unworthy of attention), friendless, a man of “pains and sickness” (literally). “Not esteem” means “to estimate at nothing.”
Jesus was not a person of wealth or influence. Only a Palestinian peasant was He, a poor carpenter, but God did His work through Him. God often works through persons whom society rejects or thinks insignificant.
God May Use Unexpected Means (4–6)
The Servant suffers intensely. Words such as grief, sorrow, stricken, smitten, afflicted, wounded, crushed, chastening and scourging pile up to indicate terrible suffering. Like the friends of Job, observers think God is punishing him for his own sins but they are wrong. He is bearing the sins of others to reconcile them to God. That the Servant dies a substitutionary death is repeated 13 times in different ways in these verses.
Sin is universal (“all”); it separates (“gone astray”); it is self-will (“turned to his own way”); and its only cure is substitution (“the iniquity of us all [falls] on Him”). Those who mistreated Jesus meant it for evil, but God turned their actions to good. He worked even through the oppression of wicked people to achieve His purposes. It is hard to think God would use evil for His own ends but He does. Other unexpected means He uses as well.
God May Use Undeserved Suffering (7–9)
The Servant patiently endures unjust treatment without a word, without resentment or rebellion, voluntarily giving his life for the transgression of his people. There is here a statement regarding the Servant’s trial and death, mainly revolving around two strong phrases — “taken away” and “cut off” — and one about the Servant’s burial. Those responsible for his death assign him a grave with the “wicked,” but God intervenes and associates the Servant “with a rich man (one whom God had honored; Ps. 67:1–2) in his death.”
Jesus suffered patiently and without complaint for the sins of others. Often God works through undeserved suffering to accomplish His end and shape His people.
God Rewards the Faithful (10–12)
By suffering death, the Servant accomplishes several things: He will see his family (of faith); he will prolong days (perhaps implying resurrection); he will fully accomplish the purpose (“pleasure”) of God; by his work, many will “be accounted righteous” (the technical phrase for acquittal in a court of law); and, on account of his sacrifice, he will be counted by God among the greatest of earth. The figure in the first part of 53:12 is that of a general dividing the booty of battle to his strongest and best warriors.
It was for the “joy set before Him” that Jesus “endured the Cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). God appropriately rewards faithful servants through whom He works — if not in time, then in eternity.