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."
The Servant’s rejection is depicted in 53:1-3. First, not many Jews will believe the message even when God’s power or His “arm” is revealed (verse 1). This is so true that even Jesus applies the verse to the unbelieving Jews of His days (Jn. 12:38). He too will be of such humble and trivial origin and being a poor sage coming from a small town. None will be attracted by His form or appearance (verse 2). It matches with Jesus’ background for He grew up in Nazareth (Jn. 1:46), a small unknown village in Galilee, a backward region of Israel (Matt 13:55-57, Jn 1:45-46, 7:52, Luke 4:16-30).
As in verse 3, He will be despised by men and indeed Jesus was scorned both by people (Matt. 26:67; Matt. 27:39) and the leaders (Luke. 9:22). Also as predicted, He was forsaken or deserted, even by His disciples (Mk. 14:50) and Peter also denied or hid his association with Him. He is also described in verse 3 as a man of sorrows and grief but this leads on to verses 4-6 that His sufferings are to atone for our sins.
The New Testament narratives:
• Jn 12:37-38 Even after Jesus had performed so many 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?”
• Matt 13:55-57 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”
• Jn 1:45-46 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
• Lu 9:58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
• Lu 4:16-30 And He came to Nazareth... And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him ... in order to throw Him down the cliff.
• Lu 23:18-25 But they cried out all together, saying, “Away with this man [Jesus], and release for us Barabbas!” (He was one who had been thrown into prison for ... murder.) ... they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. ... he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will.
• Lu 9:22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
• Matt 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him
• Matt 27:39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads
• Mk 14:50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.
Verse 4 says he took up our pain and bore our sufferings. This cannot be more relevant for He was there for our salvation. Verse 5 and 6 emphatically and so clearly states that He is pierced for our transgressions and that we all have gone astray and turned to our own ways. God causes all our iniquities including His chastening for us to fall on Him, which is the very essence of atonement (Acts 2:23). Yet verse 4 correctly states that this noble work of being smitten for our sins will go unrecognized by many (Lu 23:35) but He is merely stricken by God. Jesus, in concept, died in a way that provided substitutionary atonement for the wicked. This is what brings the healing for us. The focus is on spiritual healing because contextually the sickness is spiritual (1Peter 2:24,3:18).
The New Testament narratives:
• Jn 11:35 Jesus wept.
• Jn 19 and 20 Jesus suffered and was crucified
• Acts 2:23: this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross
• Lu 23:35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
• 1Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
• 1Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
Verses 7-9 prophecies the unfair treatment of the Servant. It is real for Jesus especially v7, when He endures it without protest (Lu. 23:8-9). Jesus remained silent when confronted and sentenced by Pilate and the chief priests (Mt 27:12-14; Mark 14:60-61; 15:4-5; John 19:8-9) as well as Herod (Luke 23:8-9). Jesus also turned himself over without a fight the night he was arrested. Verse 8 repeats this act of atonement was “He was punished for the transgression of my people”. And oddly verse 9 assigns Him to die with wicked men, but will be as a rich man in death. Indeed He was to be buried as a criminal but was put in a rich man’s tomb by Joseph of Arimathea (Jn. 19:38).
The New Testament narratives:
• Lu 23:8-9 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.
• Matt 27:12-14 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
• Jn 19:8-9 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.
• Jn 19:38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.
Lastly verses 10-12 is on the success of the Servant. The “though” in verse10 shows that He must first be willing to be the guilt offering. It is done and so He will prosper, seeing offspring (verse 10) and justifying many (verse 11). This is the Church and even Christ interceding for transgressors is enforced in Rm 8:34. The servant is referred to an unblemished lamb. In Hebrew, blemishes represented uncleanliness and sin, and by contrast, being unblemished signified cleanliness and being free of sin. (Jn 1:29, 36; Ex 5:6, Ps 44:22, Rev 5:6).
The servant reportedly “... had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” (verse 9). Such humility and honesty are characteristic of one innocent and sinless, and indeed calls to mind the “unblemished” requirement. In verse10, “... see His off springs” means to see his spiritual progeny grow (Acts 1:1-9). The Servant is designated as righteous in verse 11. Who else deserves just description? Finally in verse 12 “... he bore the sin of many, and made intercession of the transgressors” could be referring to no other than the Savior Jesus Christ. (Rom 8:34)
The New Testament Narratives:
Rom 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Gal 3:8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[a]
Hebrews 11:25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Rom 8:34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
To sum up: The suffering, glory and final victory of Jesus the Messiah are depicted so vividly in these paragraphs of Isaiah 52 and 53, (also depicted in Isaiah 42:4, 49:1-7, and 50:4-8.):
1. Raised, lifted up and highly exalted. (52:13),
2. Yet marred. (52:14).
2. But sprinkle onto many nations (52:15) – salvation by death.
3. Yet even Kings will shut their mouth. Kings not hearing of His name will see and understand with global preaching. (Paul quotes this in Rom. 15:21).
1. Few will believe the servant in the beginning. 53:1.
2. The Humble beginnings and no grand appearance for such a great King. 53:2.
3. He is despised and forsaken. 53:3.
4. Man of sorrows and grief, yet it is to bear our sorrows and grief. 53:4
5. No one then know He is smitten for us. 53:5-6.
6. It has the clearest words on atonement. 53:5-6.
7. He never protest the enduring injustice but remains quiet. 53:7.
8. His generation never really cares. 53:8.
9. Criminal burial yet in a rich man’s grave. 53:9
10. To prosper and prolong His days after being cut referring to the resurrection. 53:10.
11. Producing seeds 53:10 (offspring in Hebrew is zera - seed) and justify many – the church. 53:11.
12. Intercession for transgressors. 53:12.
Predicting these sufferings with such accuracy for a great figure in history is incredible. Anybody that is seeking the truth with wholeheartedly and without prejudice will see that the passage must be referring to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Like hand in glove, Jesus fulfills it in all minute details that no one else can.
I believe the greatest Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament is in Isaiah 52 and 53. This prophecy was inspired by God some 700 years before Jesus Christ's first coming. In fact, this portion of the scripture was removed out of the Jewish Prayer Book many years ago for fear that the Jewish people might believe it is referring to Christ.
The book of Isaiah has roughly100 Messianic Prophecies in it. Christ fulfilled every one of them regarding His first coming, something in the order of “Mission Impossible”. A number of prophecies are also in the book of Isaiah regarding Christ's second coming, if one could read carefully into the text of this and other parts of the Bible he would certainly be amazed by the details.
It is not difficult for us to contend that the theme of humiliation and exaltation applies to the nation of Israel. I do, for Israel in the history of time is exactly the humiliated (exiled) people who by the purposeful and powerful intervention of God is about to become exalted (restored). Nonetheless in Chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah there is definitely much more than this, overflowing with all the details that is pointing to the messiah that was to come.
This is more than ‘exiled’ and ‘restored’. This is about the humiliation that was brought forth by the crucifixion and the exaltation and glorification that was eventually the resurrection.
Read Isaiah 53 again and be amazed how God is willing to suffer to be our atonement. If you have not given your life to Him, surely you must do it now.
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