He Was Oppressed and Afflicted…Isaiah 53 pt 6

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…

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The Vicarious Sufferer…Isaiah 53 pt 5

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 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. 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.(Isaiah 53:4-6)

We have been looking at the 4th Servant Song from the book of the prophet Isaiah.It seems that the Song is divided into three parts; 1) Introduction,(Is 52:13-15), 2) The Penitential confession of the Nation of Israel, (Is 53:1-9), and finally 3), the Benefits that the Servant gained, (Is 53:10-12).

We are in the middle section, which is written in the form of a sorrowful confession by the nation, which has been made to acknowledge their complete failure to understand the nature of the Servant and his divinely appointed task.

At the end of time, in the day of the LORD’s intervention into human affairs, Israel will come to realize that Jesus, “the man the nation abhorred…despised and rejected”, is none less than the long-awaited Messiah, sent by God to save them.

One of the things they will suddenly see, when finally the veil is lifted from their eyes, is that the sufferings of Jesus, were vicarious sufferings, and that Jesus was carrying out a priestly role in his life and Passion at the hands of gentiles and Jews.

Thus the fourth verse could literally be rendered,

“Verily they were our griefs ( or sicknesses) which He bore,and our sorrows ( or pains) with which He burdened himself…”

The word nasa, to bear is a technical Levitical term used of the sacrifices, for example of the “scapegoat” offering, from Leviticus 16

And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.(Leviticus 16:21-22)

The idea is that the sacrifice takes upon itself the sins, or takes responsibility or bears the penalty of, the sins of the worshippers. The fourth Servant Song is teaching that the true anti-type to the scapegoat offering is the Messiah himself. On the day that God opens Israel’s eyes, they shall see it and confess to it with sorrow and love.

Matthew 8 says that the physical healings of Jesus were a fulfillment of Isaiah 53,

When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.(Matthew 8:16-17)

It is true that sickness and disease are part of the curse, there would be none had man not sinned. The Messiah truly did come into the world and suffer to effect a complete salvation for those who worship him. This blood bought salvation shall ultimately be fully realized, for all of the affects of sin, pain, guilt, God estrangement, sickness, guilt, etc, will be done away. Surely He bore our griefs…

The Apostle Peter uses Isaiah 53 to proclaim this as well, when he reminded us that it was Jesus,

… Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.(I Peter 2:24)

The self incriminating confession of Israel’s blindness continues ;

(lit) “…But we regarded Him as stricken (Plagued),smitten of God and afflicted (bowed down under suffering)…”

The expressions, “Plagued”, “Smitten of God”, and “bowed down under suffering” all refer to the fate of one under the judgment of God for sins such as blasphemy.

We have already refered to the Talmudic epitaphs for Jesus; the Rabbis and Sages call him Jeshu (an acronym meaning, May His name Be blotted out), the “Hanged one”,(cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree), a convicted magician, “the transgressor” who deserved such suffering and crushing.

But they will freely confess on that day that in their blindness they have only been terribly half right. This Servant of he LORD was indeed plagued, smitten and crushed by the LORD, but not for his own sins, for he did no sin, he never broke faith with God, but for all of ours!

It was for our transgressions that He was wounded(literally pierced through) …

Transgression is high-handed sin against God. God draws a line and forbids us to step over it, and we step right over it in defiance…because we won’t even have God rule us. But the Servant of the LORD was pierced through to death for our transgressions.

…He was bruised ( literally crushed) for our iniquities….

Our Iniquities, refer to our lawlessness. The Servant of the Lord was “crushed” under the wrath of God, for the lawlessness which estranged us from the Judge of all of the earth. This language of Him bearing our iniquities and our transgressions, cries out that the Servant is a vicarious substitute.

The sacrificial system ordained by God presupposes wrath and satisfaction by substitute. Torrents of blood flowed out of Jerusalem on feast days and even in the course of the daily temple services. There is nothing new to the Bible about substitution offerings, they have been around since the garden of Eden, when God killed an animal to clothe Adam and Eve.

There are those now, even within the confessing church, who question the justice of vicarious suffering, one Anglican Bishop going so far as to blasphemously suggest that Jesus suffering and dying in our place is some kind of “cosmic child abuse”.

The Cross: Cosmic Child Abuse Or Fitting?

But the reconciliation of man to God has as much to do with Righteousness as it does mercy. The Righteous God can only reconcile us in a Righteous way. The demands of the Law of God must be met; holiness and justice cry out for satisfaction.

At the end, when God opens her eyes, Israel will finally see and confess, that the one whom they had long rejected, was the Servant God appointed to make expiation* for them.

* To make right a wrong, to atone, to propitiate.

 

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He Was Despised…Isaiah 53 pt 4

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 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.(Isaiah 53:1-3)

It is the climax of human history, the apocalypse, the very end of the world. The Jewish people are surrounded on all sides by armies who have amassed themselves together to wipe them out! Israel’s enemies have never been so seemingly close to achieving their goal .

Suddenly something happens which is totally unexpected, Israel’s God reveals himself . The embattled nation dimly recognizes Him as the one whom they had once shunned and pierced. It is now evident that the Messiah/Saviour who has come to them in their most desperate hour, bears the marks of crucifixion!

The nation of Israel reels. It was Him all along? The Nazarene? Jesus ? Everything they thought they knew of their own history, scripture, and law has been upended. In the darkest hour, the 2500 year old prophecy of Zechariah is fulfilled, “They shall look upon ME whom they have pierced and they shall mourn as for an only Son…”.

 

In the fourth Servant Song, Isaiah predicts the heartfelt confession that the prodigal son nation of Israel, long estranged from her God, will make at that point in time ;

…he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 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.(Isaiah 53:1-3)

He is despised and rejected of men;…When men don’t ignore Him, they usually scorn or hate him, rejecting Him virulently. To this day, they often refuse to give any credence to Him, and loathe the implications of his life and ministry. Somehow they sense instinctively that this man reveals the very secrets of their own hearts, therefore they hate and shun him.

There is something about Him that brings out in men either an instinctive abhorrence , or an attraction, as it is written, “He came unto His own and His own received him not… but as many as received him…”. He does not and cannot ‘fit in’ with the Age, He is always separate, isolated, the outsider.

…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…This is a man completely familiar with the human condition. He knows by experience what sorrow and grief , weakness and limitation are all about. The Messiah entered into our human dilemma, experiencing death in all of its toxic forms.

and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not…What is it about him that causes so many to turn away? To be tempted to be ashamed to even so much as associate with Him? Why does he have to promise reward for those who will confess him before their own generation?

We confess that there was a time for all of us, (the believing community of the Servant), that we couldn’t look at Him, we turned away from him in shame and horror. Was it that our own age so hated Him, and we didn’t want to share in His reproach ?

Is it a sad, misguided allegiance with the rest of the world that “despises and rejects” Him whom God has sent? Could it be that we know deeply that His suffering is a testimony to our own sinfulness, weakness, and rebellion ? Does He not evoke the deepest wells of God hatred in the hearts of Adam’s proud sons and daughters?

So we have all turned away our faces from Him at one time or anther. We have laughed at him, taking our own seat with the rest of the scorners who cynically mock him in our own age. Our estimation of Him has been faulty, we didn’t see anything special in Him, nothing to regard or be in awe of.

But all that tells us is that our own faculties of judgment are so utterly corrupt, and that sin has made us all hopelessly bankrupt, morally and spiritually, unable to see truth, Beauty and genuine Holiness and goodness, when it is presented to us. He, the Servant, is rejected of men, but precious to God.

The Jewish nation has had many figures in her history, many noble and more than a few ignoble. But far and away the one figure in Jewish history who has invoked the most intense despite, and loathing among them , has been Jesus of Nazareth.

I quote the Hebrew Christian author of the last century, David Baron;

“No person in the history of the Jews has provoked such deep-seated abhorrence, as He who came only to bless them and on the cross prayed for them,”Father forgive them, they know not what they have done…”…Their hatred of Him was intense and mysterious…All through the centuries no name has provoked such intense abhorrence among the Jews as Jesus…I have known personally most amiable, and as men, lovable characters among the Jews; but immediately the name “Jesus” was mentioned, a change came over their countenances, and they would fall into a passion of anger….How often it has been my lot to witness some of my people almost mad with rage – clenching their fists, gnashing their teeth, and spitting on the ground at the very mention of that name which to the believer is “As an ointment poured fourth”….Israel’s atitude to our Lord Jesus may be gathered also from their literature. In the filthy legends about him in the Talmud and more modern productions, the very names by which he is called are blasphemous. The precious name Yeshua has been changed to Yeshu,(an acronym meaning ‘May his name and memory be blotted out’)…He is often styled “the Transgressor” and another frequently used term, “Tolui( “the hanged One”) which is equivalent to “the accursed one”.( Baron, The Servant of Jehovah)

But the Jewish people are a microcosm of the entire Human race, their unbelief and rejection of their own Messiah is a type of all of our own bitterness towards God. How did we come to love Jesus, whom we once would have crucified? He revealed himself to us in grace and Mercy, as He will soon to his own original chosen people! Hallelujah!

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Israel’s Penitential Confession…Isaiah 53 pt 3

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 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.(Isaiah 53:1-3)

We have been looking at the 4th Servant Song of Isaiah, the first part of which is God’s introduction to the one whom He designates as “My Servant”,in the beautiful yet mysterious words of Isaiah 52:13-15,

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 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.

We come now to the second part of the prophecy, which is the penitential confession of the nation of Israel. It occurs at the end of the tribulation, when the chosen nation will be brought face to face with the realization that the one they had rejected and pierced, was and is their Saviour and Messiah.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.(Zechariah 12:10)

The whole tone of this prophecy is that of heartfelt remorse, godly sorrow and a bitter sense of regret, as the Nation is caused to “look on Me, (The LORD) whom they have pierced and mourn as for Him as for an only Son…”, in that last day when God grants his long estranged people, a complete and lasting repentance.

Who has believed our message? And to whom is the Arm of the LORD revealed?

The implied answers to these questions is, “few if any at all…” have believed in the message of a lowly Servant who has bought full salvation for God’s people, through his own suffering and death.

Those who do believe in the message, do so only because of a gift of revelation, “Flesh and blood didn’t reveal this to (them), but the Father in heaven”, has shown them that hidden in the spectacle of the defeated, crucified servant, derelicted of all friends, lovers and even God himself, is all of the power and wisdom of God.

The “Arm of the Lord”, is personified and appealed to directly earlier in the prophecy of Isaiah, for it is a metaphor for God in His mighty power.

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over? (Isaiah 51:9-10)

Israel wanted to see the power of God, or as Paul put it “the Jews seek after a sign”

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:(I Cor 1:18)

But for the most part, the nation couldn’t perceive the power of God in the figure of the suffering, Servant. He wasn’t what they considered to be “powerful”, he didn’t fit the ideal that they held of the Messiah. They had misread the prophecies, so they rejected Him , as the confession that they will soon make affirms,

For He grew up before Him as a tender plant- The servant’s development was in lowliness and obscurity. Slowly and quietly, without fanfare,He lives before God, and among an enslaved and humiliated nation. He is born in Bethlehem, but raised in Nazareth, literally “Shootsville”.

A tender plant is a frail shoot, a “sucker” coming out of a trunk or branch, merely a twig that normally would be pruned.

By contrast, Isaiah had earlier predicted that the Messiah would be as a vigorous shoot out of the stump of the felled house of Jesse, and would become an “Ensign” for all to see and seek God thereby,

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord…And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.”(Isaiah 11:1-2,10)

But that is a prediction of the Messiah as revealed in glory.

Here in Isaiah 53, Israel confesses that all they could see of Jesus of Nazareth, was one as a root out of dry ground, that is an unlikely growth, in an unpromising environment.

Israel in the first century had certainly become “dry ground“spiritually speaking. The Priesthood had become corrupt, rationalistic and self-serving. The people of Israel were defeated and occupied by a pagan power, Rome, and there hadn’t been a prophet, nor a “Son of David” upon the throne for more than four centuries. No one expected anything of the tiny shoot, (Netzer) from Nazareth.

He has no form or comeliness, there is no beauty that we should desire Him…

The confession of the nation will acknowledge that there was nothing in Jesus, of the greatness, charisma , power and beauty that they had expected to see in the Messiah. Jews were looking for something else, The same is true for all men. It is only possible to see the beauty hidden in Jesus the Messiah, when one is allowed to see the desperate need for salvation from sin and it’s power and consequences.

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Behold My Servant…Isaiah 53 pt 2

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 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.(Isaiah 52:13-15)

The fourth Servant song is composed of three sections. First of all, we have this introduction in Isaiah 52:13-15. Secondly we have the great and final confession that a chastened and restored Israel will offer, after the time of tribulation and their final conflict and deliverance, (Isaiah 53:1-9). Finally there are three verses ,(Isaiah 53:10-12) which reveal the fruit of the Servant’s travail.

Isaiah’s prophetic Servant Songs have described an individual whom God holds forth as the answer to the idolatrous world’s sad predicament. He is the one person in whom the LORD delights, and he has been given the task of restoring Israel and the nations of the world to God.

His work involves “establishing Judgment”in the earth, that is bringing the truth of God to the world which has embraced lies. It also means , setting things right, and bringing people into a right relationship with God, first of ll Israel, then the nations. Therefore, his ministry will be a ministry of the Word, he will bring “a word to the weary ” from the LORD himself.

Establishing judgment also means that the Servant will be the standard of the final judgment of all men. Eternal destinies will be determined by how individuals respond to God’s Servant.To hear Him is to hear God, to accept Him is to accept God, God cannot be known except by Him, He who refuses the Servant of God, condemns himself.

His manner with people will be gentle, restorative, for He will not discard “the bruised reed, nor quench the dimly burning flax”. He calls all who are “weary and heavy laden” to come unto Him, that they might find rest for their souls.

Though he is chosen of God and fully equipped for the task, He is human also, and subject to discouragement, and weariness at times. But his personal comfort comes from his constant reliance upon God, for He is God’s own disciple.

Finally, we already have seen hints that the Servant’s work will involve suffering,humiliation and rejection. He is the one “Despised of the people” and who “gave his cheek ” to be plucked.

Thus says the Lord,
The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One,
To Him whom man despises,
To Him whom the nation abhors,
To the Servant of rulers:(Isaiah 49:7)

I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.(Isaiah 50:6)

We come now to the beginning of the fourth and most detailed Servant Song which details the reasons for His suffering, and of the glory which will surely follow,

*Behold My Servant Shall deal prudently…In other words, “See that my servant shall act wisely”, He is the LORD’s servant, he has been sent on a mission, he has a task to accomplish. Echoes of Psalm 40 come to mind here, in which the pre-incarnate Son of God discusses his mission with the Father, in eternity,

Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.(Psalm 40:6-8)

The servant knows what needs to be done to bring men back into right standing with God, and He doesn’t hesitate to do it, regardless of the personal cost”. One translation says, My Servant’s wisdom shall prosper. In other words, His wisdom was effective, he took the action that brought about the desired result.

 

*…he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high… This is a sentence which is breathless, as if to say, “He shall be raised… no, not just raised… but He shall be lifted up…and yet more than that…He shall be highly exalted!” Thus Isaiah predicts that the Lord’s servant shall be thrice exalted. Could this be a reference to the Resurrection, Ascension, and Seating at the right hand of the Majesty on High?

*As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:… But people will look at the Servant in horror, they will be appalled at the sight of Him. Shockingly, His face will be disfigured, He will almost not look human!

How do we reconcile the exaltation of the Servant with this vision of horror? The Servant will be Exalted, lifted up, highly exalted ? Yet He will be a picture of disfigurement,pain, and rejection? This is the theme of the fourth Servant Song,

*…So shall he sprinkle many nations;… The partial answer is that humiliation of the Servant will serve to fulfill some kind of priestly ministry. He will sprinkle many nations, as Moses and Aaron and the long line of God appointed priests of the Old Testament would do, ritually sanctifying the worshippers with the blood of sacrifice.

*…the kings shall shut their mouths at him… Kings of the earth shall be dumbfounded at him, they will have nothing to say, their mouths will be stopped, that is how overwhelmed they will be at Him. Who is this one, so disfigured and rejected that men turn away from him in abject horror? Yet who also is this glorious one who is thrice exalted, and before whom ‘every knee’ must one day bow ?

*…for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider… As the truth begins to dawn on the Kings of the earth of who this “despised one” truly is and what He did, they are awestruck. They could never have conceived of the actual truth that reconciles the horror,suffering and disfigurement of the Servant, with his exaltation, ascension and glory, unless God had shown them something that had never entered into their thoughts.

What is it specifically that these Kings will “see” without being told? They will perceive that the one whom the world has hated, condemned, humbled and persecuted, is actually the one chosen by God himself, fully vindicated and exalted by the Holy One. Who could ever imagine such a thing? It can only be revealed as truth by God!

 

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HOLY WEEK SERIES- The Lord’s Servant…Isaiah 53 pt 1

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 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…(Isaiah 52:13-15)

Before we look closely at the Evangelical jewel known as the 4th Servant Song of Isaiah, consisting of the above three verses in chapter 52, and all of Isaiah 53, it would be good to look at the setting of this prophecy within the latter half of the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah has a curious structure. It mirrors the structure of the entire Bible. Isaiah’s prophecy is composed of 66 chapters, (the Bible contains 66 books). Like the 39 books of the Tanach, the first 39 chapters of Isaiah are composed of pronounced judgments upon Judah, Israel, Jerusalem, the surrounding nations, and eventually engulfing the whole earth in tribulation. “The earth staggers like a drunkard…”, as the LORD judges it in righteousness.

But the last 27 chapters of Isaiah correspond in a loose way to the “New Testament”. His vision in chapter 40 begins with “A voice crying out in the wilderness…”(John the Baptist), and ends in chapter 66 with a new heaven and a new earth,(similar to the book of Revelation).*

The second part of Isaiah, (chapters 40-66) can be divided equally into 3 sections of 9 chapters each. The three sections conclude with a variation of the phrase,”There is no peace saith my God for the wicked”.

*Isaiah 48:22- There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.

*Isaiah 57:20-21 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

* Isaiah 66:24-And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

The first section, Isaiah 40-48, concerns the new exodus of Judah and the remnant of Israel, God’s servant, out of Babylon. Isaiah had predicted that Judah would go into captivity as Israel had, but that God would redeem his servant again and restore him.

God would raise up and use another anointed servant, a pagan king named Cyrus, whom the LORD called “My servant…my anointed who will do my will…” to bring this Exodus from captivity in Babylon . King Cyrus commanded the release of the Jewish remnant and even financed the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. **

The last section of Isaiah is a vision of the restored children of Israel and Judah, back from captivity, again reconciled to God, and restored as priests of God, radiant in the garments of salvation.

The forces of wickedness are amassing against them, but “No weapon formed against you shall prosper and any tongue which rises up in judgment against you, shall be condemned…” . This section portrays the final restoration of Israel, into the Messianic Kingdom.

But this final restoration of Israel isn’t the result of the aforementioned Exodus from Babylon. Israel would lapse back into captivity again and remain there for many long centuries.

This final and lasting deliverance of Israel comes to pass as a result of the person who is the primary subject of (chapters 49-58). The Messiah of Israel, is the very embodiment of “Israel my servant…” , he is the ultimate Servant of the LORD, who takes Israel and the world far beyond the deliverance of “Cyrus, my servant”.

There are 4 Servant Songs which emerge in Isaiah,

* He is introduced in Isaiah 42:1-4

*His Discouragement and ultimate triumph is sung of in Isaiah 49:1-7

* In Isaiah 50:4-11 we hear of His discipleship under the hand of the LORD himself.

* In Isiah 52:13-53:12, we hear the song of his redemptive sacrifice and exaltation.

*I am indebted to a wonderful Bible teacher named David Baron for these structural insights, from his little exposition called “The Servant of Jehovah”.

** (Cyrus would not come forth for another 200+ years, in the days of the Medo Persian empire. When Isaiah’s prophecy was shown to him, calling him by name 200 years in the past, the Pagan king was astonished!)

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Societal Collapse…Rev 4-6 pt 16

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6: 15-17)

When Jesus opens the seals of the book given him by the Father, tremendous forces are unleashed upon the earth. All these things actually forward the plan of God to bring about a new heaven and a new earth. The convulsions are painful and awful, but as in a birth, they work together to bring forth something beautiful.

The sixth seal is given the greatest detail so far. The earth underneath is wracked with spasms, everything that can be shaken is shaken! The sky above, usually so warming, and reassuring, churns with ominous portents; stars drop, Sunlight is dimmed, and the moon warns of blood wrath.

Sadly, the sky itself, that usually testifies to the lowliest and most troubled earth dweller, that there is indeed a God of glory and another, far better place, is rolled up as a scroll, and put away. No need for that anymore, the time of witness ends, and final judgment commences.

Thus everything above us and everything below us will violently testify to the wrath of the Holy God on that day. The collapse of everything once thought sure and fixed will have an interesting effect, among us in terms of society . At the last day all people are leveled. The great, the powerful, the celebrated, the bold and daring, the irreverent, the productive, the obscure, the some bodies and the nobodies all finally arrive at the place of common ground that Utopians and collectivists always hoped for.

The leveling and unifying factor among the great and the small of men, will be the stark realization that contrary to their wishful thinking and proud boasting, there really is a God to whom we have to answer. Furthermore they will see suddenly that “Man isn’t really the measure of all things”, and that “Truth is absolute”, not relative, as their philosophers have assured them. Atheism is revealed as an impossible contradiction.

The “great men of the earth” knew it all along, but successfully suppressed the truth about God, not allowing themselves to think about Him, snuffing out the pangs of conscience, refusing even so much as any public acknowledgment of the Christian God. They were going to build a “brave New World” without God. It was going to be more compassionate than the outdated, barbaric religious world they had “evolved out of”. They long before had thrown off the shackles of the old superstition.

By the time of the sixth seal, they now know the truth, and can no longer deny it. The message of the judgments endured by those who dwell on the earth came through. The God of the Bible is a real person and the Kings of the earth have been resisting and defying Him. But rather than turning in repentance and worship as the second Psalm pleads with them to do,the great men of the earth lead an open revolt.

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.(Revelation 9:20-21)

And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.(Revelation 16:10-11)

They get to the point where they wish they could just melt away, to dissolve, or to be covered by rocks and stones ! They want to hide from that which they fear the most, for there is an aspect about the last encounter with the God they have rebelled against that is positively unbearable to these men.

What I refer to is the fact that it is the wrath of the Lamb, being expressed, not the wrath of an angry, vengeful God of hateful fury. This the wrath of one who actually loved them, appealed to them, bore scars in his hands and feet to save them, bled and died for them, and paid the price for their reconciliation!

This is the unbearable part that makes these proud men rather wish they would be crushed in an avalanche than have to face. The Holy wrath of spurned love, self-sacrifice, vicarious shame and suffering, is what these sinners fear and loathe perhaps the most of all. To look upon the face of the One who willingly died for them, will be worse to them than hell itself.

And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of ?(Isaiah 2:17-22)

 

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