ISAIAH CHAPTER 53.
The Suffering of Jehovahís Servant.
The closing verses of chapter 52, according to the somewhat unsatisfactory division of the chapters in this instance, present a summary of the entire next chapter, setting forth the unparalleled humiliation of the Servant of Jehovah, followed by His triumphant exaltation. V. 13. Behold, My servant shall deal prudently, prospering His cause, bringing it to a successful conclusion in spite of its great difficulty; He shall be exalted and extolled, to a position of triumphant power, and be very high. The entire verse has been understood by Lutheran commentators as referring to the resurrection, the ascension, and the sitting at the right hand of God on the part of the Messiah. V. 14. As many were astonied at thee, filled with astonishment and aversion; His visage was so marred, more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men, that is, His entire appearance had been so disfigured by the extremity of the sufferings to which He was subjected that it was almost beyond comprehension how a human being could endure such an excess of misery; V. 15. so, on the other hand, shall He sprinkle many nations, cause the heathen to shrink apart with terror, as when a heavy weight dropped into water causes it to splash in all directions; the kings shall shut their mouths at Him, rendered speechless by the sudden appearance of Jehovahís Servant on the last day, Matt. 24, 30; Rev. 6, 15. 16; for that which had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they consider, since they find that to be coming true which they considered impossible. After this introductory summary the prophet sets forth his message in greater detail. Chapter 53, 1. Who hath believed our report? Who puts faith in that which he hears from us, the messengers of the Lord? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? The evangelist of the Old Testament, in an ineffably sad strain, deplores the natural lack of interest in the great central message of salvation. The report is indeed made, it goes forth and may be heard, but the arm of the Lord, in the revelation of the mighty power of His grace, is hidden from the great majority of men. The way of salvation, through the suffering of the Messiah, does not appeal to their self-righteousness, to the vanity of their hearts. V. 2. For He, the Servant of Jehovah, shall grow up before Him, the Lord, as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground, a shoot springing up from beneath a dead stump. He hath no form, no attractiveness, nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. In the midst of Israelís spiritual wilderness and desolation, from the well-nigh dead stump of the house and family of David, the Messiah came forth, like a shoot springing up from the roots of a tree-stump. But this remarkable happening had little or no influence on the children of Israel. For He had no attractive form; there was nothing in Him to strike the eye of natural man and to draw him to the Servant of the Lord. V. 3. He is despised and rejected of men, forsaken by them all, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, fully acquainted with sicknesses and the misery of this earthly life; and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised, and we esteemed Him not, ignoring Him, passing Him by. He stood all alone throughout His life, despised, rejected, forsaken of men, He who was acquainted with lifeís sorrows, who alone could have compassion on menís weakness. Men, in contempt of Him, turned the other way and ignored Him, just as they do to this day. V. 4. Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, the sufferings and pains which we should have endured; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted, bowed down with suffering. V. 5. But He was wounded for our transgressions, for the crimes by which we had become guilty in the sight of God, He was bruised for our iniquities, for the debts which we had incurred; literally, "by His stripes healing to us." V. 6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and, in the mean time, while we were yet sinners and godless, the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. While mankind, as a whole, was indifferent to Him, rejected and despised Him, He was wonderfully active in our behalf. With emphasis it is stated, "Surely our griefs He has carried, the sufferings which we deserved He has borne in our stead." While we, all men, in the blindness of our self-righteousness, stood back and considered the Sufferer smitten, struck, and afflicted by God, He was taking upon Himself the blame for our crimes, the guilt of our iniquities. Our transgressions were charged to His account, and He was engaged in paying them off. In order that we might again be at peace with God, He took upon Him our chastisement; in order that we might not suffer the bruises and stripes which we had so richly merited, He permitted them to be laid upon Himself. Yea, while we were going astray in our own blindness and willfulness, every one turning to the way which suited his evil nature best, God laid even these crimes and all other iniquities upon Him. Such is the wonderful message of Christís vicarious suffering. V. 7. He was oppressed, sorely ill-treated, and He was afflicted, He bowed Himself down, offering a willing back to the burden placed upon it; 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, not one cry of protest passing His lips. V. 8. He was taken from prison and from judgment, through force and judicial sentence, and who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living, that is, who of the people of His time deplored the fact that He was torn away out of the land of the living? the answer being: Practically not one. For the transgression of My people was He stricken, the curse of the judgment came upon Him. V. 9. And He made His grave with the wicked and with the rich in His death, rather, "but with the rich He was in His death"; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. Christ is the true sacrificial Lamb brought to the slaughter, a sheep dumb before her shearers. But He attained to the object which He had in mind in this suffering, for which He came into this world; for misery and judgment exhausted themselves in His case. He fought His way through to an endless length of life. This involved, of course, that He was torn away from the land of the living. Because His vicarious obedience demanded this sacrifice, the curse came upon Him for His peopleís crime. Yet in the very hour after His death He received recognition. Men had planned His in torment with the wicked; they thought they could break His legs and treat Him like the criminals that were crucified with Him, casting His body into some convenient pit. Instead of that, however, He was with the rich in His death, buried like a wealthy man, in Josephís grave. And this because He had done no violence, and in His mouth there was no deceit: He was the Holy One of God. V. 10. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He bath put Him to grief, laid sickness and sorrow upon Him. When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, literally, "when His soul shall have been offered as a sacrifice of trespass," He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. Here the mystery of the treatment accorded by God to the sinless Servant is set forth. His sufferings, His bruises, were divinely inflicted; He bore the sicknesses of mankind by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. His very soul, His life, was offered as a vicarious sacrifice of trespass, in voluntary surrender, a complete ransom. But now comes the fruit and the glory of the mystery; for the Servant, having died, sees His offspring, His spiritual children, born to Him as the result of the Gospel-message. Having died, He prolongs His days, for now He lives forevermore. Having died and being now once more alive, He carries into effect the divine purpose, His kingdom advancing throughout the world, through the effect of His power. V. 11. He shall see the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied, feel satisfaction and true refreshment; by His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. V. 12. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, apportion to Him the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, the mighty ones becoming subject to Him, because He hath poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors, being their Mediator even today. The work of redemption ends with the Servantís satisfied contemplation of His atoning work, of the consequences of the travail of His soul. Now the knowledge of Him, that is, His Gospel, through which we learn to know Him as the Savior of the world, makes men righteous. It is a grand view of His work which He has before His eyes: the many made partakers of His work, of His atonement, since His sin-bearing is the basis of our righteousness. And, so the prophecy ends with a note of conquest and triumph. Not only has God apportioned to His Servant the many, but Godís power and that of His Servant are placed side by side, gathering men, even the mighty of the earth, as their spoil. The fact that He poured out His life in death, that He bore the sins of many, is now the everlasting foundation of His work as our Advocate with the Father; on the basis of that He makes continual intercession for us. Such is Christís work of vicarious atonement, as it was preached to the believers of the Old Testament, as we now know it to have been fulfilled.