In chapters 46 -53, the prophet Isaiah introduces four “Servant” songs. The fourth, the Suffering Servant begun in chapter 52:13-15, continues here in chapter 53. It is considered one of the most important prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament. Twelve verses that foretell the most important event in mankind’s history! The people are expecting that the Messiah as king will lead them to military and political greatness – possibly becoming a great world power. Isaiah says that when he arrives, they won’t even get it. The “Arm of the Lord” in verse one refers to God’s power in action. This verse is referred to in John 12:37-38, and John goes on in 39-41 to quote Isaiah 6:10, elaborating on their blindness, and the hardness of their hearts. Verses 2-3 show that he will be an outwardly unimpressive man from humble beginnings, rather than a majestically handsome ruler from the elite. The “dry ground” of verse two refers to the fallen kingdom of David.
The heart of the song is verses 4-6, as he bore the sins of the world though he was himself innocent – pierced for our transgressions (also see Matthew 8:17). The event of the crucifixion of Jesus could not be better summed up by these verses. Notice the words “pierced, crushed, chastisement, wounds.” Isaiah stresses how much God punished the rejected servant for the sins of all. Verses 7-8, led like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep that before its shearers is silent – innocent, yet submissive.
The prophecy of verse 9 (“And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth”) is fulfilled in Matthew 27:57-60. Verses 10-12 make it plain that it was the will of God to crush Him; and the result is not regret, but a sense of triumph and accomplishment. The crux of verse 10 – “he shall see his offspring” (the new Israel); “he shall prolong his days” (the resurrection); “the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (God’s plans are carried out).
Isaiah points ahead to the greatest act of love ever done for man!
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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