Messiah in the Gospel of Isaiah (Part 2)

Messiah in the Gospel of Isaiah
(Part 2)

Gerald L. Stover

Dr. Gerald L. Stover of Landsdale, Pennsylvania, has served the Lord for many years as a Bible teacher, author and Christian education consultant.

Isaiah 52:13-15 has been previously referred to as the preface to chapter 53 of this great Messianic prophecy. It is introduced with the words, “Behold, my servant,” words associated with a truth that stretches from eternity to eternity, words that focus upon the very heart of God’s plan of redemption. There could be no redemption for sinful men were it not for the munificent grace of God expressed in the words, Behold my servant.

Before we look at what follows in verses 13-15, it will be quite interesting to note the place that Messiah holds in Jewish prayers for the Day of Atonement. We note therein the words,

We are shrunk up in our misery even until now! Our Rock hath not come nigh to us; Messiah our Righteousness, hath turned from us; we are in terror and there is none to justify us. Our iniquities and the yoke of our transgressions He will bear, for He was wounded for our transgressions; He will carry our sins upon His shoulder, that we may find forgiveness for our iniquities; and by His stripes we are healed. O, Eternal One, the time is come to make a new creation; from the vault of heaven bring Him up, out of Seir draw Him forth, that He may make His voice heard to us in Lebanon a second time by the hand of Yinnon!

Yinnon is one of the Rabbinical names of the Messiah. This portion of a prayer used on the Day of Atonement is cited for the express purpose of demonstrating how thoughtful leaders in Israel have in times past identified Isaiah 53 with the promised Messiah.

How interesting are the words from the Plsikta cited in the Abrath Rochel,

The Holy One brought forth the soul of the Messiah and said unto Him, “Art thou willing to be created and to redeem my sons after six thousand years?”

He replied, “I am.”

God said, “If so, Thou must take upon Thyself chastisements in order to wipe away their iniquity, as it is written, Surely our sicknesses He hath carried.”

The Messiah answered, “I will take them upon me gladly.”

Every effort has been made by many in Israel to eliminate the Messianic application of this passage because the doctrine of a suffering Messiah is offensive alike to Jew and Gentile. Nevertheless, it must be noted that the full weight of Jewish authority, scholarly Jewish authority, is supportive of the Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 52:13 — 53:12. And we might add that the New Testament is likewise supportive of the servant character of the Messiah. In John 4:34 Jesus said,

… My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.

And again in John 6:38 we read,

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.

What magnificent words are they that we read in Philippians 2:5-8:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and, being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Four great truths arise as mountain peaks of revelation out of Isaiah 52:13: (1) His finished work, (2) His resurrection, (3) His ascension, (4) His exaltation.

His Finished Work

Isaiah wrote, “Behold my servant, He shall act wisely” (52:13a) . To the Hebrew mind wise action is effective and leads to prosperity. Acting wisely is acting prosperously. Note Luke 14:28ff. wherein wise action is said to lead to success.

For which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest happly, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it began to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish it?

It is clearly seen that the Hebrew counted the man who planned, worked and finished his work, to be a wise man. To act wisely is to finish one’s work. Otherwise he will be the target of criticism and mocking.

Note John 19:30:

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.

The English words, It is finished, are actually, It has been finished (perfect tense or Greek, tetelestai) . His work of redemption was finished at Calvary and the results accrue to the present (the significance of the perfect tense). He came to give His life a ransom for signers; that aspect of His work is now finished. All of the planning in eternity past now reaches its glorious climax in the death of the Sin-bearer.

His Resurrection

“He shall be exalted” translates Raised shall He be. This constitutes the next step in the plan of redemption. Death could not hold Him; He was raised out of death. His resurrection fulfills the Word of God (Psalm 16:8-10 cf. Acts 2:25-28; 13:35). See also Romans 4:25. The resurrection is God’s validation of the work of Christ upon the Cross. What His resurrection meant to the believer is more fully developed in 1 Corinthians 15. The resurrection of Christ is forever the proof that God the Father accepted that sacrifice for sin as adequate for the sins of the world.

His Ascension

“Extolled shall He be” or “Lifted up shall He be” points us to His ascension (Acts 1:9-11). Forty days after His resurrection He was caught up into the heavens. The forty days were spent in His instruction of the disciples in matters concerning the kingdom of God.

Until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:2-3).

From this Scripture it becomes increasingly clear that He not only taught His own many things concerning the Kingdom of God, but He firmly fixed in their minds the fact that He was alive from the dead. They were to witness to His death and resurrection, and the forty days of instruction were doubtless designed of the Saviour to dissolve all doubts with reference to both His physical resurrection from the dead, and at the same time clearly understand God’s plan for the present age.

His Exaltation

“High shall He be, yea the highest” speaks of His exaltation to the Father’s right hand.

“…when He had by Himself purged our sins, (He) sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

There is an ancient Rabbinic Midrash on the statement of His exaltation in Isaiah 52:13:

He shall be exalted above Abraham: He shall be lifted up above Moses, and be higher than the ministering angels.

Note His greatness in the Epistle to the Hebrews: He is greater than the prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua, the Aaronic priesthood. (Examine Eph. 1:20-23; Romans 8:34; Psalm 110; Phil. 2:9-11).

The Preview of Golgotha

Two great truths are revealed in Isaiah 52:14, the first of which has to do with The Astonishment of Men. The verse as a whole gives us a glimpse of the valley of sorrows and sufferings through which the Servant of Jehovah must pass — a valley whose shadows are lengthened in the remaining portion of the study.

Here it is quite evident that He is subjected to some form of very cruel torture which disfigured and marred His appearance to the extent that He no longer had the appearance of a man.

Matthew 26:27 reveals something of the shocking treatment of our Lord in what was supposed to be a Jewish court of law.

Then they spat in His face, and buffeted Him; and others smote Him with the palms of their hands.

The spittle in the face was shameful enough, but add to this the brutal buffeting with the fist. More than once the Lord Jesus Christ must have picked Himself up from the cobble stones of the judgment hall, only to be struck down again. His trial was a travesty upon justice. Add to this the terrifying scourging at the hands of the Romans who knew no limit to the number of lashes given to a prisoner. Men died under the scourge. His sufferings were so registered upon His entire appearance that those who looked upon Him were completely confounded. They were astonished (Hebrew, shamem, meaning to be desolate, confused as it were with a paralyzing astonishment). Their tongues clave to their jaws as they attempted to describe what they saw.

The Affliction of Messiah is likewise revealed in verse 14. The word “visage” carries with it the idea of form, appearance, His entire appearance, not His face only. “Marred” has in it the thought of destroyed, disfigured. Furthermore, Isaiah wrote that as men viewed Him on the cross, He no longer possessed the outward appearance of a man, so destroyed, so defaced was His appearance. What grace, what love! Nails alone did not hold Him to the cross; it was love, eternal love that nailed Him to the tree. In exchange for such devotion to our need for a Saviour, the least the believer can do is to present to Him the totality of the life He came to redeem at so great a cost to Himself.