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 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.
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.
Contained within Isaiah’s grand prophecy are four “servant songs.” Four special prophecies that describe the chosen “Servant of the Lord” who will rescue his people. The Servant will have the Spirit of the Lord (Isaiah 42), he will be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49), and he will suffer for declaring the word of God (Isaiah 50).
Then comes Isaiah 52-53, the final of the four servant songs.
The messiah that Isaiah has been pointing to through this whole book is a powerful Davidic King who will conquer enemies and restore the grandeur of Solomon. Look at how this final servant song begins:
Isaiah 52:13. Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
But then suddenly the song takes a turn. It begins to present a different picture of the Servant. A shocking upside-down picture. Not of a conquering hero, but of a lamb led to the slaughter. A human sacrifice.
Yes, the Servant will be exalted, but only because he has allowed himself to be oppressed and afflicted.
But why? Why must the Servant suffer? What is all of this about? Why can’t we just have a king who conquers all the bad guys and we all live happily ever after?
Because humanity’s greatest enemy is not an army that needs to be conquered, or an empire that needs to be overthrown, or an economic crisis that needs to be solved, or a virus that needs to be cured. Our greatest enemy is the sin that lives inside all of us. And the only way to conquer the curse of that sin is to become that sin’s curse in our place. This is why our conquering, exalted, king must first be our oppressed and afflicted servant.
And that is what the cross of Christ has done for us. Jesus has born OUR griefs and carried OUR sorrows. Jesus was pierced for OUR transgressions and crushed for OUR iniquities. His was a chastisement for OUR peace, and a wounding for OUR healing.
Jesus became the Levitical lamb to die in the place of all we like sheep. Just as the High Priest would ceremonially place his hands on the head of the lamb and transfer the sins of the people into its body, so it was with the lamb of God in our place – The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
But this song is not only a tragic tale of an innocent’s death. Isaiah 53 continues:
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.
Why did God crush his only begotten Son? So that his Son could have those he so desperately loved. Us. His bride. His offering for guilt secured the offspring his heart desired. Because he poured out his soul unto death, verse 12 literally says that God has “given him the many as his portion.” His prize. His spoils.
Can you see what Isaiah is saying? Christ didn’t just suffer and die for you because he HAD to. He suffered and died for you because he WANTED to. You are his descendant, his portion, his reward, his inheritance, his love.
“To live is Christ” is only possible for you and me because Jesus Christ said, like Paul would 700 years later, “to die is gain.” His substitutionary death for us as our Suffering Servant has gained for him the love of his life. You. Me. His bride. And it has gained for us all that is his. His righteousness. His reward. His interceding grace. His life.
Can you see yourself in Isaiah 53?
You in Christ
Read Isaiah 53:10-12 and meditate on God’s great desire for you.
Christ in You
How can knowing that you are Christ’s reward (portion) change how you live today?
Playlist: Suffering Servant.
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