We are looking at one of the clearest, most prescient prophetic anticipations of the coming of Jesus. It is also one of the clearest most illuminating Old Testament passages on what Jesus comes to do. If you want to understand in a nutshell what Christianity is about this is a key passage for that.
In the book of Isaiah God’s people have turned from him and are suffering for those decisions, but God has promised a triumphant conqueror that will deliver them and set all things right. We have discussed the various servant passages in Isaiah and how each one brings focus to who this person is.
But in this passage the triumphant delivered does the unexpected, the unthinkable. The focus here is not that of outside enemy threats, but it is the problems which people carry inside of them, and which is actually the greatest threat. Rather than ride out to marr, punish, and smite enemies, this servant of God will take the punishment upon himself for the sins of all people.
This is a servant song. Some of the other servant songs anticipated the servant suffering disgrace and rejection (50:6), but Isaiah 53 takes it to an unthinkable place.
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you– his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind– 15 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.
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 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. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52:13-12 ESV)
God’s people stand to be crushed by the weight of their rebellion to God, but God’s servant comes to take it away and set them free.
- The Servant is Rejected
It is unthinkable. This servant who the Lord will strengthen, help and uphold will now be rejected and despised by people.
- He will be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Even more he will be marred
- and people will be astonished, appalled at him.
- Kings shut their mouths. Have nothing to say because of the surprise. It is a mystery. What just happened. This servant was to be the solution. The one full of the spirit, full of wisdom.
How did we get here? This was a big turn in short period of time.
He is going to establish justice in the world. He will “open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Isa 42:7 ESV)
The servant has come to deliver the people, and their greatest need is to have their sin atoned for.
The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). This has been the testimony of people from Adam and Eve on. God said, if you eat of it you will die. They ate. They died. It is the just penalty. God is the source of life and if you turn from him you turn from life. People today will say this is harsh, but think about your employees, your children, whom you know and you know what they should do, and you tell them, and they do the exact opposite. It angers you. And they suffer. How much more the holy God of all the earth.
1 sin = death
The root problem the people had is how can they be made right before a holy God. A God with 0 sin.
- The Servant is Rejected for You.
This servant is suffering for something someone else has done. He is not suffering for his own mistakes.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
The problems of the people are now placed on the servant.
- From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil. (Isa 1:6 ESV). Stripes
- Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. (Isa 1:4 ESV)
Sin has separated us from God. In the Old Testament God provided various sacrifices as a way to atone or make up for sins. They would have to take a perfect animal and slaughter it. Now God’s servant is the one taking away sins. He takes our place in receiving punishment.
Substitute: It’s the seventh game of the world series – the 9th inning. Two on, two out, and you are down by one run. A hit ties the game, potentially wins the game. And I step up to the plate because it is my turn in the lineup. What is the manager going to do? He is going to call a time out and say, give me a substitute batter. Keith ain’t no good. Give me the fifth grade bat boy. Keith is not competent. That person comes and takes my place. He takes my at bat.
To take away sin it requires a blameless substitute. To carry a load of dirt in a wheel barrow, the barrow must be empty. I cannot take away my sin. You cannot either. Even your best deeds are full of sin.
We need a substitute, because we are sinners. God is holy. That means he has 0 sin. To be in his presence we must be holy. We are not holy.
Justice requires a penalty for sin. If God does not pay that penalty he is not just. Imagine your house is robbed at night, they catch the guy, and you go to court to watch the trial. The judge knowing he is guilty declares him innocent and nothing happens. You have been slighted. You have been mocked. There must be a penalty where there has been a trespass.
Quantify – 365 days years, 3 sins a day, 1000 sins a year. 44,000 sins! God requires 0. It honestly doesn’t matter if it’s a 100,000 or 1 – both have missed the mark.
People who have been in jail for serious crimes. I know people who have ruined others because of their demands for perfection. Both are sinners.
We need a substitute.
Atonement: Many speak about people making atonement with one another. Uncle Ed didn’t go to Uncle joe’s funeral and now Aunt Suzie is mad. Uncle Ed realized he was in error and went and talked to Suzie to make atonement. To bring them back to one, to restore harmony.
Atonement is reparation for a wrong or injury. Making of amends for a wrong. The act of repairing something. So your kid is pulling out of the driveway and hits the neighbor’s car. You need to go and repair the problem. Full Atonement. Cut his grass for 6 months to work it off. He is paid in full and there is no longer any animosity. Justice has been served.
We need atonement with God. Our sins have injured the glory of God. Our sin is an affront to him. In elementary school a friend bet me I would not say a bad word to the teacher. I said it. I was quickly removed from class and sent to the principle’s office. It was wrong and it came with a price. It came with a big price to work myself out of that.
This servant is a substitute sacrifice for our sins. He died the death we deserved. This anticipates the coming of Jesus. This is a powerful passage about what Jesus did on the cross.
The punishment that we deserved is upon him. He takes it for us.
I remember when I first started going to church and a Bible study, and I was confused by a lot and told the pastor, so he said let’s meet. We did. We sat down one afternoon and he began asking how my relationship with God was. He should have just asked me to explain the theory of relativity because I had nothing. I just gave an answer that may have sounded like Beavis. He then asked me, “If you were to die today, would you go to heaven or hell and why do you believe that?” I was floored. I was scared of dying. I had a list of things against me that was indisputable. Guilty!
We talked and I knew I couldn’t make up for all my wrongs. They were too much. I may as well buy a Lamborghini.
There was absolutely no reason God should have anything to do with me. Why would he in all his holiness even consider.
I was blown away to hear this is why Jesus came. He came to die for my sins. He came to heal me by taking all the punishment that I deserved.
*This is the good news of the Gospel. This is what leads you to wake up in the morning and sing. It is what allows you to lay your head down at night with peace.*
We are justified. Just as if I had not sinned. Legal declaration. Our payment has been paid. We are in line with the law of God. Not because of what we have done but because of what he has done.
He took. He bore.
Traded: mine for his. He took my sins. He gave me his righteousness.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
- The Servant is Vindicated
This passage is about the suffering servant taking away our sin. It is about the crucifixion of the Savior of the world. But you can’t talk about this, you can’t talk about his suffering, you can’t talk about him being smitten, marred, disfigured, without getting a glimpse of his accomplishment. He did not suffer in vain. He did not suffer without effect. He was not a failure. His suffering accomplished our redemption.
[10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
[11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities..
He makes them righteous. Righteous is to be fully in line with God’s law. There is 0 sin. All those sins wiped away. Not just the small one. The big ones, too.
Jesus was crucified next to two thieves. They must have stolen something big to be crucified for it. He said to one “Today you will see me in paradise.” The apostle Paul was converted on the road to Damascus by a blinding light. That former persecutor and murderer of the church is forgiven. God is in the habit of redeeming the most unlikely of people. In this room today we have murderers, adulterers, thieves, liars,
The will of the Lord prospers in his hands. He will make many to be accounted righteous. God’s people brought back to him. The enemy is defeated. Death is overcome. Guilt is removed. You are reconciled to God. You are redeemed. The Suffering Servant does all that he said he would do, but he went far deeper into the heart of the problem.
You can have peace with God. Your sin and mistakes are transferred to God and God alone. We are made righteous through him. He takes our punishment. We receive his righteousness!
Gospel: Jesus Died for My Sins
Jesus Rose from the Grave.
Scandal! That is grace!
Guilt is caustic. It ruined Adam and Eve. They hid from God and ever since people have been running from their sin, hiding and covering it up, fleeing in shame and fear. You can face it now.
Jesus makes it possible to stand in the presence of a holy God.
I see people every week who are weighed down by guilt. Often the hardest person to forgive is yourself! There are some people making millions of dollars a year, but they can’t enjoy it because of the debt that weighs on them. They have no enjoyment. They cannot seem to find that peace, that atonement.
Ill 2. Damned Yankee. The guilt and shame from our sin, from our mistakes can destroy us. How do we get rid of it!? One story that reminds me the power of guilt comes from Gary Smith’s Sports Illustrated article called “Damned Yankee,” about John Malangone, had all the tools– a can’t miss athlete destined to succeed the great Yogi Bera as a catcher for the New York Yankees, but his torment over a dark family secret kept him from fulfilling his prodigious promise.
Rocket arm. Phenomenal hitter. Scatterbrained and out of control. He couldn’t write his own name. Mispelled “John” on an order of bats for fans. Drinking and drugs. Bought a motorcycle and wrecked it the next day. Always in trouble with management. He had a notorious game in the minors where he hit two doubles (a phenomenal game) but each time he got picked off at second base (catastrophic blunders) for not paying attention. People couldn’t figure him out. Some were in awe of his talent, but others just ran from him.
No one knew what was going on under the surface. And that eventually came out. When he moved up to the big leagues and people began to notice him, an old secret kept haunting him. When he was seven years old, this kid with a rocket arm grabbed an old metal umbrella and hurled it as javelin as far as he could. As it went sailing through the air, his uncle, who was about the same age and his best friend, walked out and was hit in the head. It punctured his skull. His uncle pulled it out and walked home. Several days later he died. John lived in fear that people would discover him as the murderer of his uncle.
John lived in constant fear. He couldn’t concentrate on anything. No one ever told him the wound became infected and surgery was done to relieve swelling but his uncle died of infection. It wasn’t until he was 53 years old that he worked up the courage to go to examine the death records. He feared going there to find murdered. But when they went in and on the death certificate read the examiners words: “I further certify that I have viewed said body and from partial autopsy and evidence, that the chief determining cause of death was brain abscess following perforating fracture of the scalp, skull and brain: that the contributing causes were Accidental”. John wept. His demons removed. He would return to playing baseball with peace.
But what is more important is what will be found written on God’s ledger. Before him we are all guilty. And what is amazing is our hope is not that we find accidental, but that we find
- pardoned by the blood of the lamb.
- His debt paid in full
- Iniquities have been taken away.
This is the good news of the gospel. We can be forgiven. Our Savior died for us. We are healed. Ruined sinners have been reclaimed.
- Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
- Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
- Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
- When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Prayer for Ukraine.
-fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, -I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isa 41:10 ESV)
-Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb 12:14 NIV)
-that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1Ti 2:2 NIV)
- “I’m convinced that if the church is not relevant at a time of crisis, then it is not relevant in a time of peace.”
- Stay or go. Follow Jesus.
- Government officials to have wisdom and understanding.
- Restrain evil.
- Protect life.
- Peaceful resolution.
- Pray for freedom. Keep people from being held in bondage and slavery.
- Spirit to convict those doing wrong.
- Pray for those being sent to provide medical care.
- Believers to be light in the darkness
- Peace for the rest of the world. Fragility.