Fourth Servant Passage: Isaiah 52:13- 53:12

The arrival of the Son of God, followed by His sinless life, atoning death and resurrection are among the most important events in history. Not surprisingly, the Creator gave the prophets of the Chosen People detailed information about these events to help us identify the Messiah and understand Him and His ministry. Isaiah was given more information about the Messiah than any other prophet. In the second half of Isaiah’s book, there are four “Servant passages” that are prophecies about the Messiah. The fourth Servant passage (52:13-53:12) is the most detailed prophecy about the Messiah in the entire Tenach. It refers to Messiah’s sinless life, His death and His resurrection – which are the essence of the Good News. The prophecy starts with the Lord, who in this situation is God the Father, speaking. He begins by telling us to pay very careful attention to what is being revealed about His Servant. Behold, My Servant will act wisely. He will be high, and lifted up, and greatly exalted. God the Father is speaking and the first word, “Behold,” means that the Father wants us to consider with concentrated attention the one whom He calls His Servant. This Servant is an individual who assists God. This Servant is a very important person whom God wants us to know about. The first thing we are told about God’s Servant is that He will act wisely. He will conduct Himself with wisdom in all that He does, so that He will succeed in the extremely important tasks that God has assigned to Him. Do you want to act wisely? Do you want to have a successful life? Connect with this Servant of God who always acts wisely and find out how and why He does what He does. Ask Him for wisdom and understanding – and it will be given to you.

Behold, My Servant will act wisely. He will be high, and lifted up, and greatly exalted. That’s an unusual way to talk about a servant! Servants are usually thought of as lowly – not high and lifted up and greatly exalted. But this Servant is different from all other servants. He will be higher than Abraham, lifted up above Moses, more exalted than the angels and archangels and the mighty cheeruveem and burning serafeem! Even now, Yeshua is high and lifted up and greatly exalted! He is exalted above the heavens, seated at the right hand of God. He has a name above all names! He is the most famous Jewish person who ever lived. Rabbi Hyman Enelow observed: “Jesus has become the most popular, the most studied, the most influential figure in the religious history of mankind … No sensible Jew can be indifferent to the fact that a Jew should have had such a tremendous part in the religious education and direction of the human race.” It’s now 2014 – two thousand fourteen years since the time we think Yeshua was born, and much of the world marks time because of Yeshua. He already is high and lifted up and greatly exalted – and a day is coming when He will be even higher and more lifted up and even more greatly exalted, when every knee will bow before Him and confess that He is Adonai – Lord. Is He high and lifted up and greatly exalted in your thoughts? In your priorities and the way you conduct your life?

Even though He will be greatly exalted, God’s Servant will experience great humiliation. Just as there were many who were appalled – His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond human likeness. Many will be astonished at Him because He is disfigured. According to the New Testament, Yeshua was beaten, a crown of thorns placed on His head, and He was whipped and crucified by the Romans. For a particularly cruel whipping, the Romans were known to tie pieces of bone or metal to the leather whip, which cut through skin and muscle. The whole body could be affected, including the face. Often when the Romans were through with one of these whippings, friends and family could no longer recognize the person because he was so marred. Even though He will be disfigured, that won’t prevent this Jewish Servant from having an impact on all the nations of the world. So He will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of Him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. The Messiah will have a worldwide impact. He will sprinkle the nations, a word used for the blood being sprinkled at the altar to make atonement. He will help the nations get right with God. And He will startle the nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of Him. Perhaps their surprised silence comes when the Crucified Carpenter returns to Earth with the armies of Heaven, and the leaders of the nations suddenly understand that Yeshua is alive, and He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who will rule the nations with a rod of iron from Jerusalem, His capital. The world’s leaders will shut their mouths in shock and out of a new-found respect. Won’t that be a blessed relief – when all the lying politicians of the world have nothing left to say? Will His arrival startle you, or are you prepared for it?

Chapter 53 begins with two questions: Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? This message about God’s Servant will come first to the Jewish people, because that is God’s way of dealing with humanity – to the Jewish people first. But Isaiah is also letting us know with the question, “Who has believed our message?” that the majority of the Chosen People will not believe in the Messiah or be loyal to Him when He comes the first time. He will be rejected by the majority. Who has believed the message? Just the faithful few. Just the remnant. God’s Servant is also called “the arm of the Lord.” Your arm works for you. It carries out important functions. Your arm does what your mind tells it to do. If you tell your arm to reach out and touch or lift something, it does it. God’s Servant is “the arm of the Lord” because He does what God tells Him to do. He carries out very important tasks God instructs Him to accomplish. Through Him, God reaches out and touches the world. Through Him, God accomplishes great deeds that result in mankind’s salvation.

You might think that the arm of the Lord would be powerful and everyone would want to follow Him. But Messiah will not appear as a powerful leader. He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. God’s Servant is different from most of the influential people in our world, who are usually rich, handsome or powerful. Messiah appears like a tender shoot, small and seemingly insignificant. He does not come with power or beauty. He comes, not like a mighty oak tree, but like a humble root in parched ground – the parched ground referring to the dry spiritual condition of the Chosen People. The dry, spiritually low condition of the Jewish people, combined with Messiah’s arrival in such a humble way, results in the majority not being attracted to Him, and instead, rejecting Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Even though He Himself is not sick or in pain, He will be familiar with suffering and pain. He will feel the full weight of mankind’s problems – both physical and spiritual. Although He feels our pain and is burdened with our burdens, we won’t appreciate Him or His sympathy for us. God’s Servant will not be popular. Most of the people will despise Him and reject Him – not follow Him and appreciate Him like He should be esteemed. If He is despised and rejected by the majority, are you willing to identify with Him and be despised and rejected? Are you willing, like Him, to forsake the esteem of the world in order to serve God?

Messiah not only felt the full weight of our problems, He took them upon Himself. When one person suffers for another, it is called substitution. God’s Servant is our Substitute, who suffers for us to end our suffering and our alienation from God. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. We thought that God was punishing this unimportant individual, and He deserved what He was getting. We were certain that He was suffering for His own sins. But we were wrong! That wasn’t what was happening at all! But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His stripes we are healed. This is clearly an individual, God’s Servant, suffering on behalf of the many for the purpose of atonement. God wasn’t punishing His Servant for His own sins, but for our sins, as our Substitute! Because He was pierced, our sins can be forgiven. Because He was crushed, we can be restored. Because He was punished, we can become whole. We can have shalom – peace with God, peace with ourselves, peace with other people, peace with nature. Because He was whipped, we can be healed from the ruinous consequences that resulted from joining the rebellion of the fallen angels in the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man. This great redemption is something that only God’s Servant, the Messiah, the Seed of the Woman, can do. God’s Servant will not die a natural death. The words for “pierced through” and “crushed” indicate that Messiah will die a violent death. This matches the experience of Yeshua when He was beaten, whipped and crucified. All of us are guilty of iniquities – being unfair to God and to others. All of us have sinned. All of us have crossed moral and ethical and spiritual boundaries that should never have been crossed. God’s Servant can take care of your transgressions and iniquities, or you can try to deal with them yourself. Choose. The Messiah was punished so we could have peace. Are you enjoying the peace that comes from a restored relationship with the living God, or are you rejecting that peace? The Messiah was striped so that we could be healed. Have you been healed of the consequences of joining the rebellion of the fallen angels or are you trying to heal yourself – something that you will never be able to do?

We desperately need God’s Servant, because only He can help us where we need help the most – returning to the great Creator God from whom we have strayed and having our sins forgiven. 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. Members of the human race are rebels who have turned away from the Creator. We are like a flock of sheep that have foolishly strayed from the Good Shepherd. We are rebellious, lost, confused, alienated from God, who is the source of life. The only solution to our rebelliousness and alienation from God was for the Father to place the sins of all of us, all of humanity, on His Son. And, the Servant was willing to take those sins on Himself and suffer in order to atone for us. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. Even though He will be treated very unfairly – He will be oppressed and afflicted – He won’t complain. He won’t protest that He is innocent or cry out that His rights are being violated. He’ll suffer silently. Maybe because it’s so unusual for an innocent man to suffer in silence like this, it’s repeated for emphasis. And, of course, this unjust treatment and silent suffering is exactly what Yeshua experienced.

Again, to make things crystal clear, even though God’s Servant is innocent, He will be treated unfairly and killed. By oppression and judgment He was taken away. Yet who of His generation protested? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of My people He was punished. He will be oppressed and unfairly judged by the authorities with no one on His side. This is exactly what happened to Yeshua. He went through an unfair trial by the Sanhedrin and a flawed trial by the Romans. Although innocent of all charges, He was unjustly executed. The truth is that we were the guilty ones. We deserved to be punished. We deserved to die. But the Servant died in our place for our transgressions. God’s innocent Servant will be cut off from the land of the living. He will die. And He will be buried – but not in any haphazard way. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. His death is connected to wicked men. Yeshua died between two criminals. His death is connected to the rich. Yeshua was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea, a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin. God’s Servant would be an innocent, honest, non-violent man – one might even say, sinless man. He will not lie or deceive. He will speak only the truth. In spite of His innocence, honesty and truthfulness, He will be persecuted, executed and buried, with His death and burial connected to wicked men and rich men. Sound familiar?

What a tragedy! But not entirely, because something supernatural was taking place, something profound, something planned from ages past. It was the Father’s plan to allow His Servant to suffer and die! Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer. Why would God the Father want His Son to suffer and die? So Messiah could be a kind of sacrifice that atones for our sin. And though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand. Messiah will cause the Lord’s will to be successful. God’s plan to rescue humanity from the catastrophe of Eden and joining the rebellion of the fallen angels will be accomplished through the sacrifice of this Servant! If God the Father makes His Servant an offering for sin, and Messiah is cut off from the land of the living and dies and is buried, how can He see His offspring? How can His days be prolonged? This can only happen if Messiah is raised back to life! Death will not triumph over this honest, innocent truth-teller who allows Himself to be sacrificed for our sins! God’s Servant will be vindicated! He will not be allowed to remain in the grave. The Son of God will be raised from the dead! The Messiah will see His offspring – those who become sons and daughters of God because they transfer their loyalties to Him. He will come back to life and enjoy the satisfying sight of many humans beings restored to a right relationship with God because of what He does. After He has suffered, He will see the light of life and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify (make righteous) many, and He will bear their iniquities. Though the majority of the Chosen People despise and reject Him, God the Father respects and admires Him. The Father declares Messiah to be His knowledgeable, righteous Servant who will enable many people to get into in a right relationship with God. The Messiah will make many righteous by His knowledge – His knowledge of God, His knowledge of the plan of God, His knowledge of the Word of God, His knowledge of the only way to redeem humanity: through His death.

Is it possible that God’s high and lifted up and greatly exalted Servant, who will be despised and rejected, who will suffer and die on our behalf, will not be vindicated and rewarded for His amazing accomplishments? Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. The Servant is rewarded with the most magnificent of rewards. In fact, He becomes the Heir Of All Things. All things will be given to Him by His Father – the universe and everything in it, including us. The Heir Of All Things will in turn reward those He has made righteous, those who exchange their weakness for strength because they believe the message about Him and become loyal to Him and His Father. The Servant will reward them for their faith and loyalty, and they will become joint-heirs with King Messiah! I want to share in those eternal rewards. How about you? Won’t that make life’s trials inconsequential by comparison? Why this greatest of rewards? Again, it’s because of Messiah’s willing sacrifice of Himself. He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. His death was sacrificial and voluntary. He poured out His life unto death. His death was like a pouring out: a pouring out of blood that made atonement; a pouring out of His perfect life that poured life into us when we were dead in our trespasses and sins. He allowed Himself to be numbered with the transgressors. He allowed Himself to be misunderstood. He allowed Himself to be considered a sinner. But the reality is that He was honorable and innocent and was carrying the sin of many and making intercession for the real transgressors – you and me.

In my opinion, this is the greatest prophecy in the Word of God. It contains the Good News about Messiah’s sinless life, His atoning death, His resurrection. It was given by God to Isaiah around 700 BC. It perfectly describes the life and ministry of Yeshua – and no one else. Everything was fulfilled literally and specifically. That tells me that all the other prophecies and promises in the Word of God will be fulfilled literally and specifically. And, since the Bible is the only book that contains literal and specific prophecies like this, that it is divinely inspired by the God who is not limited by time.

May this great prophecy inspire us to be more like God’s Servant, so that we become better servants of God; more righteous, wise and knowledgeable; willing to be despised and rejected; intercessors for the transgressors and helpers of fallen humanity. Amen? Amen!