It’s evident all through Isaiah’s prophecy that Someone is coming to this earth and in the 52nd and 53rd chapters the Messiah, the Servant of Jehovah, appears in full view.
It is hard to understand how anyone can read this chapter and not see Jesus in it, but since Christ appeared, the Jews hold that it does not refer to Jesus of Nazareth. They consider the nation of Israel as the "Servant of Jehovah." The primary reason for this is they expected a conquering Messiah, not a suffering Messiah. The Jews did like many of us do with Scripture -- they selected verses that appealed to them and derived a vision of a Deliverer who would come, One with military might and power, who would overcome the Roman government and set Israel free. This would fulfill the promise of God to make Israel the chief of the nations of earth. Because our Lord did not fulfill that promise at that time, they maintain that this prophecy does not apply to Jesus. Yet here in this chapter it’s clear that God's suffering Servant, the Savior of the world, is in full view.
The passage begins with verse 13 of Chapter 52. Together with chapter 53, it gives several foreviews of the work of the Messiah who was to come, and each one brings out a different aspect of His work and life.
In Chapter 52, Verse 13, we have God Himself announcing the presence of His Servant. “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14: As many were astonished at him; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 15: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.”
This describes the remarkable impact that the Messiah would make on mankind, indicating He would be successful in all that He did.
In the words, "He shall be exalted," there is a reference to the resurrection. Jesus was brought back from the dead into a condition of life that no man had ever entered before. Lazarus had been resurrected, in a sense, but he merely returned to this earthly life. Jesus, however, was exalted to a higher existence. Colossians 1:18 states He became the "firstborn from the dead,..."
Then, we read "he shall be lifted up." It’s true that He was “lifted up” on the cross to die for our sins but after His resurrection, Jesus took His disciples to the Mount of Olives and while He was speaking to them He ascended into the heavens and a cloud received Him out of sight, so He was physically and literally "lifted up."
Then, the passage says, "He shall be very high." His death and resurrection and ascension caused Him to be in the most unique and most honored place in all the world’s history.
The Apostle Paul, speaking of Jesus in the letter to the Philippians, says, "Wherefore God has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," Philippians 2:9-11.
Verse 14 implies many were "astonished" at his death: "His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men."
This describes Jesus’ face after He endured the Roman scourging, the beatings, the blows to His face with the rod the soldiers mockingly called a king's scepter, and the crown of thorns placed rudely on his head. By the time He was nailed to the cross, His head and face and back must have been a bloody mess. Our Lord's appearance was so marred that those who saw Him there were "astonished" at his visage.
Verse 15 states "So shall he sprinkle many nations;” His blood was sprinkled as an atonement for all mankind’s sins there at the cross just as the blood of the animal sacrifice in the temple was sprinkled as an atonement for sin in Old Testament times.
Our Lord has made an astonishing impact on this world. He is the Man who can’t be forgotten. Several centuries ago, a man who lived in the Near East said “I cannot look at a sheep or a sparrow, a lily or a field of grain, a loaf of bread or a fish, a vineyard or a mountain without thinking of Him.” Jesus referred to each of these in His earthly ministry.
Isaiah 53:1-3, describes the Messiah's rejection and the feelings of the nation of Israel when they do recognize Him at His return. Isaiah 53:1-3. “Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2. For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
To paraphrase verse 1; "Who has believed the report we have heard? The arm of the Lord was revealed to us, but we regarded Him lightly, we did not understand who He was." When He comes again, the Jews will recognize that the Messiah was revealed to them and it was He that fulfilled the words of Isaiah 53.
Anyone who has come to Christ can probably remember how lightly they regarded Jesus when they first heard of Him because they really didn’t realize who He was or how badly they needed Him.
Jesus grew up before Jehovah as a "tender plant." That speaks of the years of obscurity in a carpenter's shop in Nazareth. Israel was a dry ground, spiritually, and no one knew who He was except His Heavenly Father and His earthly mother. Isaiah 11:10. “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign to the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” He was that "root out of a dry ground."
Isaiah predicted that a root, or descendant of Jesse, (who was the father of David) would rise up. Joseph and Mary both descended from David, but no one recognized Christ’s right to the throne of Israel. He really was that root out of a dry ground.
Verse 2 continues, "He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him."
These words refer to our Lord's appearance as an ordinary man in His daily walk and also when He hung upon the cross naked with blood covering His face and back. His appearance was that of the average man. There was "no beauty that we should desire him."
He was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." There’s no record in Scripture that Jesus ever laughed but you can’t read how He answered the Pharisees at times without sensing a smile on His face, but He certainly was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
In His boyhood, He most likely endured some nasty remarks about His birth, inferring that He was the illegitimate son of a maiden who had broken her betrothal vows. His brothers were embarrassed by some of the things He said and did and they didn’t believe in Him until after the cross. The Pharisees accused Him of being possessed by a devil. He had no home of His own. He said, "Foxes have holes, birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head," (Luke 9:50). When His disciples went to their homes at night, He would go to the Garden of Gethsemane and spend the night beneath the olives trees.
In the weeks before His crucifixion the Pharisees offered a reward to anyone who would betray Him to them. Surely He was rejected of men! The Apostle John wrote, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."
Verses 4-6. “Surely he has borne our grief, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; 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 hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
This is the very heart of the gospel, Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice where He took our place in judgment. 1 Peter 2:24 states "He bore our sins in his own body upon the tree."
He had no sin of His own and Scripture is very careful to record the sinlessness of Jesus. He took our sins and paid the price God demanded for them. He didn’t wait for me to seek Him, He came to earth to die for me.
It seems so difficult for the natural man to obey the first commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul, and all thy strength," In our natural state, our transgressions have cut us off from God’s love that ought to be in the heart of every human. It’s only after we’ve acknowledged His suffering on our behalf and realize we are the recipients of His great love that we learn to love our Lord in return.
Sin has afflicted our entire race. We can’t understand the depth of human depravity until we recognize the terrible things the Lord passed through. While He was on the cross, God couldn’t look on Him and He said, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
Most of us think of ourselves as decent people. We haven’t done some of the terrible things that others have done. But what we see in the cross is the depth of what is in man’s heart and those who put Him there have the same heart we have as natural men. We are born in sin and we sin because we are sinners. It’s a disease that has infiltrated all our lives.
Man was created in God’s image and we once wore the same glory, but the principle of integrity and the resolve to do right has been completely undermined in all of us. We know this is true and that makes the following verse the best possible news: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.”
Our Lord is the divine cure for the evil in the human heart.
Verse 6: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;” How true that is of each of us! Who can claim anything else? But look how wonderful the rest of that verse is; “and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Everyone in the world needs redemption back to God, and the only way to obtain it is to admit that "All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way;" and then to believe the next line, "But the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
I read of a believer who explained his salvation this way. "I went in at the first all, and came out at the last all." He acknowledged that he, too, had gone astray, and then He understood that the Lord bore his punishment and took his place.
Verses 7-9. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8: He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9: And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”
These verses foretell the silent sufferings of Jesus. Scripture is careful to preserve the fact that Jesus was sinless, but He became sin for others. He remained silent before His accusers, He made no protest. He came to do the Father’s will and He had no interest in defending Himself. Jesus never spoke out on His own behalf or tried to escape the unjust penalty. This amazed both Pilate and Caiaphas. When our Lord stood before the High Priest, He was silent until the High Priest put Him on oath to tell them who He was. When He stood before Pilate, He was silent until remaining silent would amount to denying His Kingship. When the soldiers slapped Him and spit on Him and put the crown of thorns on His head, He said not a word... "as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
When He went before Herod, He remained silent and would not say one word to him, so He was returned to Pilate because Herod could find no wrong in Him.
It is quite apparent to anyone reading the gospel accounts that the trials of Jesus were a farce. The Jewish trial before the High Priest was illegal. It was held at night, which was contrary to the Law of Moses. Pilate admitted several times that he could find no wrong in Him, and yet he pronounced the death sentence on Him. Even the thief on the cross next to Him said “this man has done nothing amiss.”
When the crowd cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him," they added these very significant words, "Let his blood be upon us and upon our children." They were unknowingly acknowledging that He was indeed "stricken for the transgressions of His people."
When they had done all that man could do to torture Him and humiliate Him both physically and mentally, He cried with a loud voice, "It is finished." After this, His friends came to take Him down from the cross. No non-believer’s hands touched His body after His death, only those who loved Him.
They took His body down from the cross and placed it in the new tomb of a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea. They "made his grave with the rich," just as Isaiah had predicted over 700 years before.
Verses 10-12. “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you make his soul an offering for sin, you shall see his seed, you shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11: He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12: Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
These verses tell us that He would ultimately triumph, but how could it please God to put His Son to death in the agony and torture of crucifixion? How could a loving God find any pleasure in that? As hard as it is to believe, we must understand that God loved the lost race of mankind so much that He was willing to deliver His Son up to death to provide our race a remedy for the disease of sin. Scripture says, "It pleased God to bruise Him, to put His soul to grief.” Some 700 years after Isaiah wrote this prophecy, the apostle Paul wrote, in Romans 8:32. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” What more can we can say than that?
Verses 10 and 11 describe a resurrection and the satisfaction the Messiah feels when He sees what His sufferings have accomplished. We are told, "He shall see his offspring, He shall prolong His days." That can’t be said about any human being who dies. A dead man can’t see his offspring. A dead man can’t prolong his days. But after Christ’s death, after He had "made his grave with the wicked," He arose from the grave to life eternal and He shall "see his offspring and prolong his days." His offspring are those who take Him as their Redeemer.
Nothing could satisfy Jesus more than knowing the redeemed ones would be brought to the Father by His atoning death. "He shall see the fruit of the travail of His soul and be satisfied." His desire to see the fruit of His travail carried Him through death and hell itself, and in time it will bring a world free from pain, torment, death and injustice.
It will, in God’s time, provide a place where those who belong to Him will be delivered from crying, sorrow, sadness and heartache, and a world in which men and women will live in peace, filling the believer with the things God had instilled in man when He made him in the beginning.
Verse 12 puts this all together: "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
In our weakness,
the Christian is made strong by faith in His atoning death,
and the Christian will share His inheritance with Him.