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 ( 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.