Day 213: Isaiah 51-53; The Suffering Servant

There is not much that I feel I can add to the Scripture reading for today.  Most of it covers in a very specific way, the “servant of God” that is to be sent that has been spoken about at different times since chapter 40.  Some people think that there are several plausible explanations for who or what this “servant” represents, all but one of which I feel is dismissed in this well-known passage that we attribute as a prophecy of Jesus‘ suffering and death.  Let’s read it again, and then we’ll briefly talk through the possible explanations for who/what this “suffering servant” is.

Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
    he shall be high and lifted up,
    and shall be exalted.
As many were astonished at you—
    his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
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?
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.
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.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
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.

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.
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?
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.

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.
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.
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.

Some have said that this “servant of God” is actually representative as a “personified Israel.”  While this may sound a bit odd, there are many times in the Bible where Israel is identified as a person and as the servant of God.  Indeed God’s choosing of the nation of Israel to be a light to the nations is part of their work as God’s people.  It is plausible for them to be considered God’s servant.  Yet it doesn’t fit all the way.  Israel was not pierced for the transgressions of the whole world, nor did it go quietly to the slaughter.  Through them we have not found redemption in its fullest sense nor did the nation bear our iniquities.  These things lead me to believe that the “servant of God” is not Israel in a personified sense.

Others have claimed that the “servant of God” is not actually the whole nation of Israel, but the remnant of the nation that will return from captivity to rebuild the nation.  These are the people that have gone through the fire and have been refined for the work of God.  I can understand this argument a bit better than the whole of the nation of Israel.  A lot of work has been done on this small group of people that come back from exile.  As we talked about yesterday, they suffered greatly and went through a lot but came out on the other side a better people, refined by God for His work in the world.  Yet this process did not lead directly to the salvation of the whole world.  In fact the people of Israel still turn away from God even after their exile and return.  They need to be reminded again.  Even in their refined state they cannot and did not bear the sins of the world on their shoulders, nor did bring us salvation.  They certainly were oppressed and afflicted, but still they do not fit the bill for all that is said about this “suffering servant.”

The only other explanation then, and the only one that I think makes sense and actually fulfills all that is said about this servant of God is that it is referring to one man, namely Jesus of Nazareth, the Incarnate Son of God.  It is only in His life, death, and resurrection that we find all of the sayings about the “servant of God,” both here and elsewhere in the Bible, completely fulfilled.  Jesus is the second Adam, the true Israel.  He lives the life that we could not and bore the death that we deserve.  Jesus is the fulfillment of all Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, and clearly takes on all of what is said here in Isaiah as well.  No one else fits the bill and no one else ever will.


11 Responses to “Day 213: Isaiah 51-53; The Suffering Servant”

  1. Lisa Collier Clewis says:

    Great article. God is great.

  2. glane8029 says:

    One of my favorite chapters in the Bible “Isaiah 53. You are right it pretty much speaks for itself.

  3. glane8029 says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Eyes of This Calvinist and commented:
    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,

  4. […] Isaiah 53:6 – 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. […]

  5. […] Isaiah 53:11 – 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. […]

  6. […] Isaiah 53:9 – 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. […]

  7. […] Isaiah 53 – Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  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.  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. […]

  8. […] Isaiah 53 – Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 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. 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. […]

  9. […] Isaiah 53:4-5 – Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  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. […]

  10. […] Isaiah 53:9 – 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. […]

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