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 dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 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 was he stricken. 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. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief:( Isaiah 53:7-9)
We are looking at the fourth Servant Song of Isaiah’s prophecy, (Isaiah 52:12-53). The first part of the prophecy(Isaiah 52:13-15) is the LORD’s introduction of His Servant,“Behold my servant… .”
The middle section,(Isaiah 53:1-9) comes in the form of a mournful confession, offered by a chastened and recently enlightened Israel. The Holy Nation has been made to see the suffering servant in an entirely different light. This has forced them to see themselves also and the long, painful history of Israel completely differently than they had previously.
The one whom the nation had long “despised and rejected” turned out to be the Messiah whom Israel had long-awaited! This ignominious figure in Jewish history, whom they had assumed to have suffered and died as a false prophet, and as a blasphemer under the judgment of God Himself, is now revealed to be the chosen One of God.
This man Jesus, of whom Israel had reckoned to have been the cause of so much suffering and hatred of Israel through the centuries, is in fact revealed to be the greatest lover of Israel;
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.(Isaiah 63:9)
Our passage in Isaiah 53 considers the civil trials of Jesus, with the emphasis the compliance of the Saviour, even at the patently sham trial, and the false condemnation which followed it. The King James renders it,
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted; and He opened not his mouth…
But the Hebrew scholar Delitzsch translates the passage
“He was ill-treated, whilst he bowed himself…” ie“suffered voluntarily”.
David Baron notes that a rendering by a Bishop Lowth, in agreement with Cyril and other ancient expositors, rendered this passage thusly,
“It was exacted, and He was made answerable, and He opened not his mouth…”.
The outstanding truth shining through this part of the prophecy is that the Messiah, the suffering servant of Jahweh, took the full responsibility and liability for our sins, he co-signed our note, and offered himself as a payment for our sins.
Like a meek lamb, led to the slaughter, so the Servant, who truly could have testified to his own innocence and successful acquittal, refused to open his mouth in his own defense. He took our place in judgment.
He was taken from prison and from judgment…(KJV)
The idea is that he was violently denied due process, the Hebrew word “taken” , luqqach, means to be snatched or hurried away, an accurate prediction of the unlawful and hurried conditions of Jesus’ trials and condemnation before religious and Civil authorities.
And Who Shall declare His generation?
This is possibly a prophetic allusion to the custom of the Jews to call for anyone to plead on behalf of the one condemned to death, to declare anything in favor of the defendant; innocence or any mitigating factors. Who among Jesus’ contemporaries, stood up for him at his trial, or registered a complaint at the manifestly unjust treatment he was receiving?
…for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
The expression “cut off” implies violence, and also implies being stopped short of fulness, a prediction that the Servant would die at the prime of life. But once again the confession of the nation reverts to the theme of vicarious suffering and death. Israel has always known that Jesus of Nazareth died a violent death and in relative youth.
But now they know and ruefully acknowledge that the Servant was “stricken” , “plagued by God” and “cut off” from life, for the transgressions of God’s people, as a substitute for them.
He made his grave with the wicked, but now they see that contrary to the Talmud and other Jewish legends, the Servant himself wasn’t wicked, though he died on a cross. He died between two thieves, but”He did no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth”.
But with the rich in his death...
The custom of the times was to degrade the condemned even beyond death, by denying them so much as a a dignified burial. Crucified ones were often thrown in unmarked communal graves, or even thrown out into the open.
But as the Psalm says of the Messiah ”the LORD would not allow his holy one to see corruption”. Thus to honor him, the LORD put him into the unused tomb of a rich man. THis prediction was remarkable fulfilled in the case of Joseph of Arimathea, a Senator of Israel, who lent his family tomb to Jesus.
But it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, he hath put him to grief…
Here we come to the deepest mystery of this prophecy. The LORD wants us to realize that the sufferings of the Servant spring not primarily from wicked men, neither the Jewish nation or the Gentile Romans. Nor do these sufferings come from Satan and the hosts of hell.
Now the penitential confessors see the deepest meaning of the tragic life of the LORD’s Servant. The Servant is being bruised ,(lit crushed) because of the pleasure of the LORD himself! It pleased the Holy God to crush the servant and to “Put him to grief”, (lit “make him sick”) because He knew, in His Sovereign wisdom that this is what it was going to take to bring about our salvation.
What a mystery!
We could fathom some malevolent evil, crushing the innocent sufferer, but here in the confession of Israel, we stand in awe and horror, and ask ourselves, is this what had to be?.
For we behold the truth that the Servant, whose whole life was a none but a demonstration of fidelity to God, sincerity, compassion, truth , and holy love, is crushed at the hands of The LORD of love, holiness and glory, .
As Baron put it,
“Here is not only the mystery of suffering innocence;but of innocent suffering at the hands of righteousness and perfect love”.
How could it be? Why did it have to be so? The Righteous God had to make a Righteous way to accept you and I, unrighteous sinners, into his presence. For So God loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…