Isaiah 52:13-53:12 The Servant Part IV – Suffering, Exaltation, And Reign.
In the preceding three occurrences of the servant (42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11), there was some overlap in that both Israel and the Servant were being referred to in various parts. However, this final passage can have no other fulfillment but in the Servant. It was a favourite passage for the apostles and NT writers. Dealing prudently means that “the Servant will discern and perform God’s will, and as a result achieve His glorious purpose” (NGSB p.1119). So this Servant comes from an exalted position (v. 13 Cf. 42:1; 57:15), and when His work is done he returns to this exalted position (Cf. Phil. 2:9). Many would be astonished at his marred visage (v. 14 Cf. 53:3; Ps. 22:6-7; Mt. 26:67; 27:30; Mk. 15:17-19; Jn. 19:3). “So shall He sprinkle many nations” (v. 15a). The participation of many nations, in the benefits of the Servant’s sacrifice, would come through the sprinkling of his blood (Cf. Ex. 24: Lev. 4:1-5:13; Heb. 9:19; I Pet. 1:2). “Kings shall shut their mouths at Him” (52:14b).
As with people, so with kings, they will see this Servant and be forced to consider him. “For what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider” (52:14c). Revelation would accompany redemption as Paul taught (Rom. 15:21 Cf. Eph. 3:5, 9). John also saw this verse and others in Isaiah as key, believing that Isaiah in fact saw the Son in “His glory and spoke of Him (12:41 Cf. Jn. 12:37-40; Is. 53:1; Is. 6:9-10). Those who previously had the gospel mystery closed to them would hear, but also many would not believe the report (53:1; Jn. 12:38). Paul also referred to this passage to make this same point, that apostate Israel had rejected the gospel (Rom. 10:16). He would come “as a root out of dry ground” (v. 2). So he would come as hope in the midst of a barren spiritual wilderness. This wilderness motif figures prominently in the NT, with apostate Israel following in the pattern of the apostate wilderness wanderers (Cf. Heb. 3:7-19).
He would not come as a typical leader, and his appearance would cause many to despise and reject him (v. 3 Cf. 49:7; Ps. 22:6; Lam. 1:1-3; 2:15-16). These words also found fulfillment in many NT passages (Mt. 27:30-31; Lk. 18:31-33; 23:18; Jn. 1:10-11). Verses 3-5 will be expounded on by the writer to the Hebrews as he argued that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). This Servant would be “acquainted with grief,” which was because, among other things, that “He has borne our griefs and carried away our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (v. 4). In other words, even though he healed many, it was believed that he deserved what he got-that this is why God had judged him. This verse also found fulfillment in several NT passages (Mt. 8:17; Heb. 9:28;).
“They believed this about the Servant because the Law said, “he who is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). The onlookers thought Christ was suffering only what He deserved, but His experience of pain and anguish was for His people (1 Pet. 2:24). The extremity of His suffering shows that His compassion is real and not theoretical (Heb. 2:17, 18)” (Ibid. p.1120). “He was wounded (or pierced through) for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (v. 5 Cf. 53:10). Again, as with the preceding verses, this verse is added as seed material, as it were, for the preaching of the gospel in the new covenant scriptures. Christ “was delivered up for our offenses” (Rom. 4:25), and “died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3), “and by His stripes we are healed,” quoted by Peter (I Pet. 2:24).
Peter does not quote verse 6 word for word, but he does apply it to his audience, and to all who would follow, immediately after quoting the end of verse 5 above. This is no coincidence for he wrote that “you were like sheep going astray.” We did this by going our own way, but the covenant “LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” “Even as we all sinned, so He died for all of us (2 Cor. 5:14, 15 Cf. Ps. 51:5)” (Ibid. p.1120). “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). As Isaiah continues we again find seed material for the new covenant proclamation of the gospel, the best of commentaries on this passage. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth (v. 7a Cf. Mt. 26:63; 27:12-14; Mk. 14:61; 15:5; Lk. 23:9; Jn. 19:9). “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (v. 7b Cf. Acts 8:32-33; Rev. 5:6).
“He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation” (v. 8a Cf. Mt. 27:11-26; Lk. 23:1-25)? “For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (v. 8b). This same thing was predicted by Daniel. “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself” (9:26). At his crucifixion he was “cut off” (Cf. Mt. 27:50, Mk. 9:12; 15:37; Lk. 24:26; 23:46; 24:26; Jn. 19:30; Acts 8:32), “but not for Himself” (Cf. I Pet. 1:21). “And they made His grave with the wicked-but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence” (v. 9ab Cf. Mt. 27:57-60; Lk. 23:33). “Nor was any deceit in His mouth” (v. 9c; I Pet. 2:22; Cf. I Jn. 3:5). “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief” (v. 10a). This occurred when the LORD made “His soul an offering for sin” (v. 10b Cf. Jn. 1:29; Acts 2:23). So the Servant Messiah suffered in the totality of his human nature-body and soul! How incredible a thought!
However, of this Servant Seed, we also read that after this suffering “He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand” (v. 10c). Peter also saw this fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, in His resurrection from the dead and ascension to the right hand of the Father, to begin his Messianic reign (Acts 2:24). “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied” (v. 11a). “By His knowledge My righteous (Cf. Rom. 5:19; I Jn. 2:1) Servant (Cf. 42:1) shall justify many (Cf. Acts 13:38-39; Rom. 5:15-18), for He shall bear their iniquities” (v. 11bc). The Servant’s knowledge is that which he shared with the Father, and the Spirit, in the counsels of eternity, concerning this plan of salvation and redemption. “‘Justify’ means “to declare righteous.” Christ’s righteousness is imputed to His people (53:6), and in return He accepted their guilt so as to ‘bear their iniquities’” (Ibid. p.1121). All of this is referred to in the following ‘therefore’.
“Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great” (v. 12a). There is no break here between the Servant’s work in the sacrifice of himself, and the immediate exaltation to reign. This portion which He then received were all the nations of the earth, borne out also by the witness of the psalmist at 2:8. “And He shall divide the spoil with the strong” (v. 12b) “Principalities and powers” have been “disarmed” Cf. Col. 2:15), and the strong ones are the Servant’s seed, that is, His church. “The seed are those who come to life through His death (John 12:24; Gal. 3:29)” (Ibid. p.1121). This is the case “because He poured out His soul unto death” (v. 12c Cf. 50:6; 53:10; Rom. 3:25), “and He was numbered with the transgressors, and bore the sin of many” (v. 12de Cf. Mt. 27:38; Mk. 15:28; Lk. 22:37; II Cor. 5:21), “and made intercession for the transgressors” (v. 12f Cf. Lk. 23:34). This is our humbled but exalted Lord (Phil 2:5-11).