Scriptures

The Redeemer Revealed

Introduction

Isaiah 53

The ‘Seed of the Woman’ whose coming was foretold in Genesis 3:15, made His appearance ‘in the fullness of time’, that is, at the end of the series of divinely planned events,

‘but when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.’ Galatians 4:4

Today we will look at Isaiah 53, and the title that has been given to this study is, ‘the Redeemer revealed’. Now, I don’t really think it really necessary to point out, that Isaiah 53 is a chapter which, for centuries been a source blessing and strength for all those who study God’s Word.

I must, however, point out, that also for centuries, it has been a source of debate, because theologians have been unable to decide, to their own satisfaction, to whom God referred when He spoke about ‘servant of Yahweh’ sometimes described as the ‘the suffering servant’.

Yahweh

But, before I continue, let me explain something, which I regard as very important. Many years ago, I discovered that the word ‘Jehovah’ isn’t a Biblical name, but is a mongrel word, a name that was cobbled together by a certain Galatinus, around the 1300’s.

There are, in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, three primary titles used of God. Elohim, Adonia, Yahweh. Galatinus, a theologian took the vowels of the word ‘Adonia’ and inserting them between the consonants of the word ‘YaHWeH’, to form ‘Yahovah’, and this was later Anglicized, turned into English and created the word ‘Jehovah’, the word so dear to the ‘watchtower’ organisation.

Now, since I know this, I’m not comfortable, using that word, because, in spite of what the ‘Watchtower’ people claim, ‘Jehovah’ is not God’s name. It has absolutely no Biblical authority whatsoever.

I use the name ‘Yahweh’, because it is Biblical, certainly, it is the closest we can get to the pronunciation of the sacred Tetragrammaton, the ‘name of four letters’, which God said ‘is my name forever’.

And, as I am sure you know, Yahweh is the name represented in the Old Testament when you encounter the word ‘LORD’ in capital letters. I’m not trying to sound clever or scholarly, or pedantic. I just think we should use biblical terminology and Bible names and avoid the ‘language of Ashdod!’

When Isaiah issued his prophecy, everyone in Judea recognized that ‘servant of Yahweh’ was one of the titles of the Messiah who was to come.

But, then, faced with this passage, which declares that the servant of Yahweh would suffer and even be put to death; that was too much for them! After all, their priests and rabbis taught them that when Messiah came He would live forever! He couldn’t die! And, certainly could never be put to death! Never be killed!

And yet here is the greatly respected Isaiah, not only saying, that the ‘servant of Yahweh’ would experience suffering but that He would be, ‘cut off out of the land of the living – and he would

“make his grave with the wicked and the rich in HIS DEATH.’

You can understand their consternation! It was something that they could not even bring themselves to consider!

So, how did they resolve the difficulty? They did it by developing a theory which said there would be two ‘servants of Yahweh’, a theory known as ‘the dual messiah theory’.

One of them, this ‘suffering servant’, would be killed, but the other, the ‘messiah’, would never die. Now, you may wonder why God didn’t, at that time say through the prophet,

‘behold my son’.

In other words, why was it not openly revealed in the Old Testament period, that the messiah, the Servant of Yahweh, would actually be God’s own Son?

I think that the reason is that, also, would have been hard for the Jews to take in. They would not and probably could not, have understood such a revelation.

Indeed, they would have found the very suggestion that God had a Son, objectionable and probably blasphemous. It’s a matter of historic fact, that after their return from Babylonian captivity, the Jews never again served idols, never worshiped many gods.

They remained strictly monotheism, believing in the uniqueness of God, as proclaimed in Deuteronomy 6:4 words which, even today, constitute one of the most important declarations in the Jewish faith, recited at every synagogue service, and known as the ‘Shema’, because its opening words are,

‘Shema Israel’… ‘Hear 0 Israel, Yahweh our God is one.’

The Jews couldn’t have accepted the existence of the Son of God who shared the nature of Deity, any more than they could have understood the existence of a personality whom you and I know as the Spirit of God, who we today, describe as

‘the third person in the Godhead’.

The doctrine of the Godhead, as a tri-unity, consisting of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, isn’t taught in the Old Testament. It is a doctrine that was progressively revealed in the scriptures of the New Covenant.

In fact, God’s entire plan of redemption, was also a matter of progressive revelation, beginning with Genesis 3:15. And, if Genesis 3:15 were all that we were ever told about the One who was to come inflict defeat on Satan, I suggest that we, too would be very much in the dark and need further enlightenment. So, that is how the revelation came. Isaiah says, in Isaiah 28:10-13.

‘Whom will He teach knowledge, and to whom will He explain the message?’ ‘Therefore, the word of the Lord will be to them, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little.’

After Genesis 3:15, God revealed a little more of His plan to Abraham. Galatians 3:8, says,

‘The scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’. And later, centuries later, God revealed how and when and where the wonder was to occur. ‘A virgin……But thou Bethlehem….. In the days of these kings……’

But the people to whom Isaiah prophesied, simply were not ready for the full revelation of Purpose of God, which only reached its climax when the one, who existed in the beginning with God, and who was Deity, came into the world as a little baby born to a virgin in Bethlehem.

‘Emmanuel- God with us’

Even during the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Jews couldn’t accept the idea that Messiah must suffer and die. John 12:34, reveals that the Lord Himself came into contact with Jews who found this doctrine utterly incredible, because, after He had spoken to them about His death, by being

‘lifted up from the earth’,

we read,

‘the crowd answered him, we have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up?’

You can understand their dismay! How could He talk about dying, and yet claim to be the Christ? They found this just too much! Indeed, they found two reasons to oppose him!

Not only had He offended them by saying that the Christ would be lifted up, crucified, in other words. He also claimed to be ‘the Son of God’. Not a son, but the Son. John 10 records that Jesus described God as

‘MY FATHER’,

and, so, for the second time, the Jews, John 8:58, threatened to stone Him, and when He asked them,

‘For which of my good works do you want to stone me?’ they replied, ‘we do not want to stone you for a good work, but because YOU, BEING MAN, MAKE YOURSELF GOD’.

Incidentally some modern theologians say that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. But the Jews who actually spoke with Him, and heard Him certainly believed that he did! And we know who were in the best position to know!

It was only when Jesus came to John, to be baptized that God announced, in unmistakeable terms,

‘This is my Son my beloved in whom I am well pleased’, Matthew 3:17

And again, on the Mount of Transfiguration, He said,

‘This is my Son with whom I am well pleased. LISTEN TO HIM.’ Matthew 17:5

History tells us that over a century later, in the days of Origen about 150 A.D. Jewish teachers were proclaiming a new explanation of Isaiah 53. They began to teach that the passage does not refer to an individual, but to the suffering of the entire Jewish people. They said that the suffering of the Nation, was the result of its faithfulness to God, a claim which, I suggest, in the light of their history, is highly debatable!

But the real reason why they began to make this claim is at the early church was teaching that the passage speaks about the Messiah and declaring that Messiah to be the Lord Jesus!

In Acts 8, Luke tells us about the meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian, who was reading aloud, as he returned home from a visit to Jerusalem, the centre of his adopted religion. And what was he was reading? He was reading Isaiah the prophet. And which passage was he reading? The one we are talking about at this moment. And how did Philip explain the passage?

‘He told him the good news of Jesus’, says Acts 8:15.

For obvious reasons, this kind of preaching from the followers of Jesus was not what Jewish leaders wanted to hear. They did not care to be told that that the prophet Isaiah was referring to Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had crucified. They found it more convenient to claim that Isaiah was predicting the sufferings of Israel.

But only a person whose mind is already made up could come to this chapter, and make such an outrageous claim! It is absolutely impossible to read the chapter and reach such a conclusion, that idea is simply not there!

In fact, I suspect that the majority of you listening to me, have probably never before even heard of this explanation! And you would never have imagined that Isaiah 53 could be describing a nation and not an individual!

Of course, as, you might expect, so-called ‘Liberal’ theologians in the denominational world, men who profess to be ‘Christians’ who have accepted the notion that ‘the suffering servant of Yahweh’, is the Jewish people. One theologian even thinks that this interpretation is ‘sublime and unique’. His own words!

‘Sublime’?

I think not! ‘Unique’? In the sense that unique means there is not another like it? The Dictionary defines the word as meaning ‘the only one of a particular type’! I will agree with that!

Another of these men has written and I quote

‘The suffering Servant of the Lord – that is, the Jewish people – was the sacrifice which God Himself had provided for human sin, to be offered before the new and final age of righteousness and peace could be inaugurated’. ‘Frederick C. Grant. ‘Basic Christian Beliefs’, p. 45’

But, you should remember that these same theologians just don’t believe in prophecy anyway. To believe in prophecy you have to believe in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and, since these liberal theologians either reject, or doubt the doctrine of Inspiration they also reject prophecy.

We Christians, who believe in the inspiration of the word of God and the validity of Biblical prophecy, have no problem in seeing that Isaiah 53 foretells the suffering and death of the Messiah, the Christ, who bore our sins in His own body on the Cross.

So, let us think about what it reveals concerning this servant of Yahweh. I think you will agree that this chapter is, indeed, the

‘revelation of the redeemer’.

Let me point out that chapter 53 contains the last of four passages in the book of Isaiah that speak about the ‘servant of Yahweh’, and the chapter has even been described as ‘the climax of Hebrew prophecy’. As we read these four passages, we discover that, in them, a kind of dialogue is taking place.

1. The first ‘servant’ reference is found in Isaiah 42:1-4, and the speaker is God Himself.

He says,

‘behold, my servant whom I uphold, My chosen in whom My soul delights’.

And there then follows a statement which I think you will certainly recognise,

‘He shall not cry, nor lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a dimly burning wick he shall not quench. He shall bring forth judgment unto truth.’

I think you will recognise this statement, because it is found in Matthew 12:18-20, where it is used with reference to Jesus and it is declared to be a fulfilment of this prophecy concerning the servant of Yahweh.

2. The second passage is in Isaiah 49:1-6, and this time it is the servant himself who speaks, announcing to mankind that God has called him.

3. Then, in Isaiah 50:4-ff, the servant speaks again, this time about His persecution and suffering.

‘I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.’.

4. And finally, in Chapter 52: beginning at 13-15, God speaks once more. He says,

‘Behold MY SERVANT shall prosper’.

And there follows, at verse 15, a statement which is quote by Paul in Romans 15:21, when he explains why he is preaching the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles.

‘THEY shall see, who have never been told of Him.’ ‘THEY shall understand, who have never heard of Him’.

We see, then, that through the prophet Isaiah, God called men to ‘behold my servant’, and it is this last reference to the servant that leads us into Isaiah 53, that very familiar passage which begins with a rhetorical question, a question that needs no answer, because the answer is obvious.

Isaiah is aware of the existence of a problem! The problem of Israel’s unbelief. He exclaims,

‘Who has believed our report and to whom is the arm of YAHWEH revealed?’

And the implied answer is No-one! In spite of all that God has revealed through his prophets, the people of Israel have not believed what they have been told, concerning the Suffering of God’s Servant, the Messiah.

That this is the correct interpretation of Isaiah’s words is established by the fact that, in Romans 10:16, Paul tells us that Isaiah was the speaker, and that the One to whom he was speaking was God. Paul writes,

‘Isaiah says, ‘lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ Then he continues, ‘but I ask, have they not heard? Indeed, they have!’

And, if further proof were needed that the Jewish nation either could not or would not believe what God had said through His servants the prophets, just listen to Stephen, in the speech for which they finally killed him. After reciting the history of the Hebrew race, to a crowd that was both attentive and approving at first, Stephen suddenly changed his tone and says,

‘you stiff-necked people! You always resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers, did, so you do! Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the righteous one, whom you have now betrayed and murdered.’

Consider the evidence that proves this chapter predicts the suffering of the Saviour.

Firstly, the use of personal pronouns and the singular number both make it obvious that it points to one person, and this becomes crystal clear as you read through the complete passage.

Secondly, this individual to whom God calls our attention, is someone who experienced and endured terrible suffering.

Look at chapter 52:14

‘His appearance was so marred beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men’.

The same theme continues in chapter 53:2-3.

‘He hath no form nor comeliness and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him’.

The R.S. V. makes this more vivid when it says,

‘He hath no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. ‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with sickness’.

Here is someone who has borne physical suffering, which has left its mark on his appearance.

John 8:57 ‘You are not yet 50 years old and have you seen Abraham!’

His appearance is marred by suffering wounded, because of our transgressions bruised, because of our sins.

Thirdly, he is someone who gives his life for others.

The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, means that he bore the punishment that makes us whole; And the scourging which heals us. He died in the company of wicked men, and was buried in a rich man’s grave. I wonder how Jewish teachers explain these last two statements!

The prophet predicts all of these things. And if we ask the question why did the servant bear all this? The answer is simple. Isaiah says, because

‘He made Himself an offering for sin’.

In other words, He died a voluntary death,

‘for the sins of the many’.

And, more than this, as he died,

‘he made intercession for the transgressors’. ‘Father forgive them.’

Now, do you get the impression that the prophet is speaking about a nation, Jewish or any other nation? I would use another word with which to describe the ‘suffering nation’ theory. It is surely so incredible that it is pure fantasy!

However, I should think that any modern theologian, who holds this view, must have been pretty badly shaken in recent years. by what has been going on over there in Israel and the Palestinian occupied territory. I don’t think you will find very many people in the world today who believe that Israel is being offered ‘symbolically’ or in any other way, for all mankind.

Indeed, I doubt if the Jews have ever been willing to be offered for the sins of the Gentiles! During their entire history, they have regarded the Gentiles as unworthy of existence! The simple truth is that this section of the prophecy of Isaiah predicts in a very graphic and accurate way, the suffering and death of the lord Jesus.

And it should be emphasised, that in dying, the lord Jesus was always in control of the situation. His death was a voluntary act. Matthew 26:1-5. records a very significant situation.

Near the time of the last Passover two very different meetings were taking place in Jerusalem. Matthew 26:1-2 tell us that Jesus was meeting with his disciples, and he told them that, in two days the Passover would be celebrated, ‘and the son of man will be delivered up and crucified.’

Matthew 26:3-5 tells us that meanwhile, not very far away in the city, in the Palace of the High Priest himself, others were meeting, the Chief Priests and the Elders of the people. But they were working to a very different agenda. Yes! Jesus must die. But, they said to each other,

‘NOT during the Feast, lest there is an uproar among the people’.

Diametrically opposed purposes! Which one will triumph? Whose intention will prevail? We know whose will was the stronger! Jesus died at the time of his own choosing! HE

‘made his soul an offering for sin’,

and He did it at the time when the Jewish rulers least wanted it to happen.

The Lord might have chosen anytime He wished. He said; John 10:18,

‘No man takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. This charge I have received from my Father’.

But He chose to die at that particular time, and the question is why? He never did anything without a reason.

Why at that time?

We can understand that the rulers may have felt they had good reason for wanting to avoid killing Jesus at Passover time. They were afraid that there might be public outrage. Some of the people might be supportive of Jesus; others might even object to what they would call the

‘desecration of a Holy Feast’.

So, it must not be at Passover time! But these were not what Jesus had in mind! He was not making a play for public support. Not seeking, to use the modern phrase, maximum exposure for His death.

There was a far greater significance than that, in His choice of the Passover as the time for His own sacrifice. You know, that, the Passover was one of the Three major feasts celebrated by the Jews every year. But there was a Day that was really of greater significance than the ‘Passover’, and that was ‘Yom Kippur’, the Day of Atonement. The most solemn event in their year and for very good reason.

That was the Day when the high priest entered the holy of holies, with the Blood of the sacrifice, which he offered, first for his own sins and those of the priesthood, and then for the sins of the entire nation. it was the day that symbolized a new beginning. But it was an annual occasion, because atonement was necessary every year. But, in contrast,

The Passover was a reminder of a one-time event in the history of Israel. only once! only once were they delivered from the slavery of Egypt. And Passover could not and would not ever be repeated.

Therefore, since Jesus, whom Paul describes as ‘our Passover’, came to die once for all, making one offering for sin, as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and by that one sacrifice, accomplishing what all the days of atonement in their History could never accomplish, by choosing to die at Passover time, Jesus was making a statement concerning the significance of His death. Underlining its uniqueness, emphasizing its finality.

Hebrews 9:26 ‘He appeared once at the end of the age to put away sin by the offering of himself’.

l John 3:5, He was manifest ‘to take away our sins; and in him is no sin!’

Hebrews 1:3 states;

‘He, being the effulgence of God’s glory and the very imprint of His person, and upholding all things by His powerful word, when he had by the offering of himself purged our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high.’

When Jesus died, His atoning work was finished, true atonement was accomplished and for all eternity. That is why, on the cross, He cried

‘it is finished!’

He didn’t expire, fade away, as His strength and His life slowly ebbed from His body. He didn’t expire with a whimper, or a moan.

The Greek text tells us that He spoke one word, He cried

‘Tetalestai!’, ‘it has been accomplished!’

This was a cry of triumph! He had done what he came to do, He then dismissed His Spirit. He ‘sent a way’ His spirit. He said,

‘Father, into Thy Hands I commend My Spirit’.

His last words were not,

‘My God why hast Thou.’

In fact, this is the only time that, Jesus ever used that expression. When personally addressing God, He invariably used the word

‘Father.’

So, I don’t subscribe to the notion that, when Jesus was on the Cross, He was

‘Deserted by the Father’.

I don’t believe that God abandoned Him, I don’t believe that God could not look on Him because He was bearing the sins of the world! Such an idea doesn’t fit the Scriptures. And to make such a statement is to misunderstand completely what was happening on the cross.

In Acts 2, Peter declares that Jesus

‘was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.’

This can only mean that it was the will of God that Jesus should be arrested and tried and sentenced to die. l John 4:14 ‘The father sent the son to be the Saviour of the world’.

Philippians 2:8 ‘He was obedient unto death – even the death on a Cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess Him Lord to the glory of God the Father’.

In the Death of Jesus, The Father was glorified. His purpose had been accomplished.

That is why, after declaring His suffering and His death, Isaiah 53, too, closes with these statements,

‘He shall see His offspring. He shall prolong his days, the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand; He shall see the fruit of the Travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. He shall make many to be accounted righteous and shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I, ‘and remember this is God speaking!’ I will divide him a portion with the great; He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he has poured out his soul to death’.

The prophet expresses God’s delight with, and satisfaction in, the perfect obedience of His suffering servant, the messiah. This means that, the Lord’s death wasn’t as some have suggested,

‘the inevitable consequence of a clash between a good man who was harmless and innocent, but naïve and the powerful religious leaders of the Jews, whom he had angered to the point of desperation’.

1. His death was not the result of an error in the strategy of the priesthood.

2. It was not determined by any human agency.

3. And it was not an unfortunate accident.

4. Jesus died when he personally chose to die.

John 8:27 records that whilst speaking to the Pharisees about the Father Jesus said,

‘I do nothing on my own authority, but speak as the Father taught me. And He who sent Me is with Me : He has not left Me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him.’

In other words, when Jesus chose to die, even then, he was pleasing the father. This must be true, because we read in John 6:3

‘I seek not my own will, but the will of Him who sent me’.

John 8:28-29, ‘I do nothing on My own authority, but speak this as the Father taught me. And He who sent Me is with me. He has not left Me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him.’

Don’t we see the garden, when, faced with death, He prayed,

‘Not My will be done!’

The crucial question is this, did the death of Jesus please God? Was it in harmony with the will of God? I wonder why, then, is it said that, when Jesus died on the Cross He was deserted by the father?

I think I know why! It is because many people have not understood when on the cross, Jesus was heard to utter the opening words of Psalm 22.

The explanation of His words from the Cross is not hard to understand. The Lord was quoting Psalm 22, in the way of any devout Jew, when meditating on a passage of Scripture. This is the view of many Bible scholars, and it is also the explanation provided by a Jewish scholar, in a letter to the ‘Times’ newspaper.

It was not the cry of a soul in agony who felt deserted by God. It was a striking demonstration of the fact that Jesus knew that what was happening to Him was, yet again, the fulfilment of prophecy.

It shows that, even on the cross, Jesus was in control, well aware of what was happening; and applying the prophecy of Psalm 22 to Himself. He was applying the Psalm to Himself. All through His life He fulfilled the things written by the prophets.

After His resurrection, He spoke to the two men on the road to Emmaus.

‘Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms, there is Psalm 22! must be fulfilled’.

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them,

‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’ Luke 24:44-47

And notice how comprehensive that exposition must have been,

‘beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself.’

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

Proverbs 3:6

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