Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 21 2019 - Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – The Suffering Servant

How can the cup of God's wrath be removed from his people? They were sent into exile because of their disobedience. Is that disobedience simply to be forgotten so that they may be restored to God's favour? The answer to these questions is given in this, the last and most wonderful of the four Servant Songs in Isaiah.

Israel was accustomed to the idea of an animal being sacrificed for the sin of the people, but here God speaks of one who is his Servant (52:13) who has been raised up to bear the judgment his people deserved:

He was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

The judgment of God has fallen on him so that God's people may be forgiven, healed and restored. It was the Lord's will to crush him and make him "an offering for sin" (53:10) so that the guilt and shame of his people might be swept away.

It is difficult for us to imagine what these wonderful words meant to the Israelites facing return from exile. They must have seemed deeply mysterious even though they offered the comfort and confidence that their sin had been dealt with. For us, standing on the other side of Jesus' coming into the world and of his death and resurrection, they speak clearly and prophetically of him. He is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself not merely the sin of Israel, but the sin of the whole world (see the wonderful words concerning the Servant in Isaiah 49:6). He is the one who suffered cruel mistreatment at the hands of others without lashing out in protest. He suffered the judgment of a holy God against sin for our sake. "The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed" (53:5). He is the one who prayed that his persecutors might be forgiven and who still makes "intercession for the transgressors" (53:12).

The atoning work of the Suffering Servant will result in people from all nations being brought to know the living God (52:15). "He will see the fruit of his suffering and will be satisfied" (Septuagint translation of 53:11).

From every nation we shall be gathered,
Millions redeemed shall be Jesus' reward.
Then he will turn and say to his Father:
'Truly my suffering was worth it all!'

The Suffering Servant has been "highly exalted" (52:13), and one day every knee will bow to him and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Lord God, help us to see more clearly the dreadful offensiveness of sin that it demanded the sacrificial death of your beloved Son. Help us also to see more clearly the greatness of his love who gave himself for us. Help us to know that through his resurrection he has forever conquered sin and death and gained salvation for all who come to him. Help me to know that there is always more grace in Christ than there is sin in us. Holy Spirit, fill us with wisdom and courage to tell others the good news concerning the Lord Jesus that they also may find forgiveness, freedom and eternal life in him.

Peter Misselbrook