Isaiah 53:10-55:13

Thus far this great prophecy of the sufferings and death of the humbled Servant of the Lord has dealt with them mainly from the human and visible side: it now proceeds to deeper things, outside the range of human sight. Verses 10-12 predict what Jehovah Himself wrought, and what He will yet accomplish by means of it.

The holy Servant was to endure bruising and grief, and even have His very soul made an offering for sin: and all this at the hands of Jehovah. What it all really involved must ever lie beyond the reach of our creature-minds, even though they have been renewed by grace. And that, "it pleased the Lord" to do this, may seem to us an astounding statement; yet the explanation lies in the latter part of the verse: since the results that should be achieved were to be of such surpassing worth and wonder. A parallel thought as regards the Lord Jesus Himself seems to lie in the words, "Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross" (Heb. 12: 2)

What are the results as stated in verse 10? They are threefold. First, "He shall see His seed." This carries our thoughts on to the Lord's own woods recorded in John 12: 24. Falling into the ground and dying, as the "corn of wheat," He brings forth "much fruit," which will be "after His kind," if we may borrow and use the phrase which occurs ten times in Genesis 1. This will be seen in its fulness in a coming day when:-

God and the Lamb shall there

The light and temple be,

And radiant hosts for ever share

The unveiled mystery.

Every one in those radiant hosts will be "His seed."

And in the second place, "He shall prolong His days," in spite of the fact that He was to be "cut off out of the land of the living," as verse 8 has told us. His resurrection is not stated in so many words, but it is clearly implied in this wonderful prophecy. In risen life His days are prolonged as the days of eternity. Raised from the dead, He "dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over Him" (Rom. 6: 9). In this risen life His seed are associated with Him.

And the third thing is that in this risen life "the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand." There have been devoted men who have served the Divine pleasure to a large extent, yet failing in many details. In the hands of the risen Servant all the pleasure of God will be fulfilled for ever. We have to pass into the New Testament to discover what that pleasure is, and how it will reach its culmination in the new heaven and new earth of which Revelation 21 speaks. The old creation on its earthly side was placed in the hands of Adam, only to be completely marred. The new creation will abide in untarnished splendour in the hands of the risen Christ. The light of this shines into our hearts even now; for as we sometimes sing:-

The new creation's stainless joy

Gleams through the present gloom.

Verse 11 gives us another great prediction. Not only is the risen Servant to fulfil all the pleasure of Jehovah, but He Himself is to be satisfied as He sees the full result established as the fruit of "the travail of His soul." We are little creatures of small capacity, so that a very little will satisfy us. His capacity is infinite; yet the fruit of His soul's travail will be so immeasurable as to satisfy Him. Do not our hearts greatly rejoice that so it is to be.

The latter part of verse 11 in Darby's New Translation reads, "By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant instruct many in righteousness; and He shall bear their iniquities." In these words "the many" are of course those who by faith belong to Him: such receive the twofold benefit-both the instruction and the expiation. Neither can be dispensed with; and, thank God, both are ours in this day of grace, as is so plainly stated in Titus 2: 11-14. Grace not only saves but also teaches us effectively to live sober, righteous and godly lives. What is done for us today will be done also for a godly remnant of Israel in the days to come.

Now we reach the last verse of this great chapter. Note the first word - "Therefore" Jehovah speaks, and declares that because of what Jesus accomplished in the day of His humiliation, He shall be assigned a great portion in the day of glory. Now the whole passage began by the statement that "My Servant" is to be greatly exalted, and this was followed by a challenge as to who believed that? -in view of His humiliation and rejection and sufferings. This last verse declares that instead of His sufferings being in any way contradictory of His exaltation, they are the secure basis on which His eternal fame and splendour will rest. And further, what He has won is not for Himself alone, for He will divide the spoil with others who are designated "the strong." Our Lord's words, recorded in Matthew 11: 12, may be an allusion to this, for strength was needed to receive Him, when the rejection of Himself and His claims was rising like a tidal wave to sweep all before it. Nor is the opposition of the world really otherwise for those who receive Christ in faith today.

The chapter closes with one more prediction as to the efficacy of His atoning sacrifice, coupled with one more detail that had to be fulfilled in His death. It was fulfilled when they crucified Him between two thieves, as Mark 15: 27, 28, records. It is remarkable how the soul of Christ in connection with His sacrifice is emphasised in this chapter, for we have the two statements-Jehovah made His soul an offering for sin, and also that He poured out His soul unto death. In Hebrews 10 the emphasis is placed upon His body, which was prepared for Him, and which He offered, as stated in verse 10 of that chapter. In each of the four Gospels His spirit comes into prominence. In John's Gospel the record is, "He delivered up His spirit" (New Trans.) No wonder then that the sins of the "many"-those who believe on Hirn-have been borne and for ever put away.

Closing the chapter, one asks oneself with wonder, How could Isaiah have written such words as these, some centuries before they were fulfilled in Christ, save by direct inspiration of the Spirit of God?

Isaiah 54 proceeds to unfold the results for Israel of the sufferings of her Messiah, and the first word is "Sing." The marginal reading of Psalm 65: 1 is, "Praise is silent for Thee O God, in Sion." Thus indeed it is today. But the time is coming when, as one of the fruits springing from Christ's sacrificial death, Israel - the true Israel of God-will break forth into singing. That people who were so barren and unfruitful under the law when on that basis outwardly married to Jehovah, will be not only joyful but abundantly multiplied and blessed.

Graphic figures of speech are used to set this forth. Her tent is to be enlarged, her cords lengthened, her stakes strengthened. The holding strength of stakes depends much on the nature of the soil into which they are driven. When Israel drove her stakes into the law, they gave way almost at once. Driven into the grace of God, which will find its expression in the atoning death of their Messiah, they will be made strong for ever.

The One who will be their "Husband," will be their "Maker" as the Lord of hosts, and also their "Redeemer" as the Holy One of Israel, and He will be known as the God of the whole earth. The Gentile nations surrounding Israel were inclined to regard Him as Israel's own God, while they each had gods of their own; and even in Daniel, when Gentile nations were concerned, He is presented as "the God of heaven." In the millennial day He will be known as the God of the whole earth, though His centre will be in Israel.

How striking the contrasts which we find in verses 7-10. This time in which Israel is "Lo-ammi," covering more than two thousand years, may seem long to them, but it is "a small moment" to Him. When at last they are re-gathered it will be with "great mercies," dispensed righteously, since God's humbled Servant had borne their iniquities. Lay stress also on the word, "mercies," for no thought of merit will enter into their blessing. This is fully corroborated in Romans 11: 30-32.

Again, the Jew lies nationally under wrath. It lies upon them, "to the uttermost," as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2: 16. Yet, viewed in the light of the coming mercy, it is seen as "a little wrath," and the kindness that will be extended to them in mercy will be "everlasting." Hence "the waters of Noah" are cited; for as, when that judgment was over, God promised that such judgment should never happen again, so Israel will be beyond judgment for ever.

Verse 10 reveals the basis of this assurance. A "covenant of Mypeace" will have been established, based upon the fact that "the chastisement of our peace" (Isa. 53: 5), was borne in the death of their Messiah. This covenant of peace will no doubt be identical with the "New covenant," which Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 31. Its details are given there, but the righteous basis on which it will rest we have just seen, revealed through Isaiah. We may remember also the New Testament word, "The blood of the everlasting covenant" (Heb. 13: 20).

The closing verses of this chapter reveal something of the blessings that will be Israel's portion when the covenant is established. Verses 11 and 12 may speak of favours of a material sort, but verse 13 indicates spiritual blessing. All the true children of Israel will be taught of God-and His teaching is of an effectual sort-their peace being great, because it will be founded on righteousness as the next verse indicates.

Adversaries there will be, and they will gather together to disturb the peace, if that were possible. Of old God did use adversaries to chastise His people, but in the day now comtemplated their gathering will be "not by Me," and it will only result in their own overthrow. When Israel stands in Divinely wrought righteousness neither weapon nor word shall prevail against them. It is remarkable how righteousness is emphasised here, wrought on their behalf by the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. It reminds one of the way righteousness stands in the very forefront of Gospel testimony, as we see in Romans 1: 17.

Isaiah 55 opens with a call to "everyone that thirsteth," and so we pass beyond the confines of Israel to consider in prophetic outline blessings that will reach to the Gentiles through the work of the Servant who has died. Illustrations of this we see in Acts 8 and 10. The Ethiopian's thirst led him to take a long journey to Jerusalem, seeking after God: the thirst of Cornelius led him to prayer and almsgiving. In both cases, seeking for water to quench their thirst, they got more, even, "wine and milk without money and without price." Moreover they got it by inclining their ear and coming to the Fountain-head. They heard and their souls lived; just as the prophet said in these verses. Thus we can see how strikingly his words forecast the Gospel which we know today. So even Gentiles are to enjoy the blessings of "the everlasting covenant."

Preaching in the synagogue at Antioch, the Apostle Paul cited the words, "the sure mercies of David," and connected them with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. These words connect themselves also with what we find in Psalm 89, particularly verses 19-29. In that Psalm mercies are specially emphasized, and the "David," is God's "Holy One" (verse 19), who is to be made, "My Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth" (verse 27), and, "My covenant shall stand fast with Him" (verse 28). Clearly the Psalm contemplates the Son of David, of whom David was but the type. All the mercies of the Psalm will only be verified in Christ risen from the dead. Foremost in those wonderful mercies are the forgiveness of sins and justification from all things, which Paul preached at Antioch, and which were so well responded to by Gentiles, as Acts 13 records.

Gentiles are definitely in view also in verse 4, since the word "people," which occurs twice, should be in the plural. God's Holy Servant, risen from the dead, is given as "a Witness to the peoples, a Leader and Commander to the peoples." As the Witness He makes God known to men. As the Leader and Commander He brings men into subjection to God. This will be fully seen in the coming age, when "men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed" (Ps. 72: 17); but the same thing is realized in principle today as men from a thousand different peoples hear the Gospel and discover in Jesus the One who has been made both Lord and Christ. Let each reader challenge his or her heart. Have I fully received His witness? Is He indeed Leader and Commander in my life?

If verse 1 gives a call to all who thirst, and verse 2 presents an argument, intended to enforce the call; and verse 3, an invitation to life and mercy; verses 4 and 5 make very definite announcements. Only the announcement of verse 4 is addressed to men, whereas in verse 5 we find Jehovah's announcement to His Servant risen from the dead, stating in different words what had been said in Isaiah 49: 6. This has definite application to the present age, when God is visiting the nations and taking out of them a people for His Name, and it is connected in our verse with His present glory. His people will be willing in the day of His power, as Psalm 110 predicts; but many from among the nations are running to Him in this day, and while He is glorified on high.

Verse 6 follows this by offering what we may call a word of advice, followed in verse 7 by a word of assurance. There is a time when God is near and may be found in grace, and a time when He retires from the scene to act in judgment. How often are these words uttered when the Gospel is preached, for the day of salvation is NOW. The assurance is that if any, however wicked they may be, turn to the Lord in repentance, there is mercy for him. The forsaking of one's thoughts and way is just what genuine repentance involves. Faith, we know, is needed too, but when Isaiah wrote Christ the great Object of faith, though predicted, was not actually revealed. Consequently faith is not brought to the fore in the Old Testament as it is in the New.

But it is true at all times that the soul returning in repentance finds mercy, and the offer here is not only of mercy but of pardon in abundant measure. As the margin tells us the Hebrew is that He will "multiply to pardon." Such is the freeness and the fulness of the Divine mercy to the truly repentant.

Now all this is not according to the thoughts and the ways of men, as was well known to God. Hence what we have in verses 8 and 9. Indeed the whole of this magnificent prophecy concerning the death and resurrection of Christ, and the glorious results flowing therefrom, is totally opposed to human thoughts and ways. Christ, when He came, had nothing about Him that appealed to human thoughts and ways, as is stated in the opening verses of chapter 53, and what was true in Him personally is equally true of all God's ways and of His thoughts expressed in those ways.

But fallen man, alas! is self-centred, and prefers his own thoughts and ways to God's, ignorant of the awful gulf that lies between them, represented as the difference between the height of the heavens and of the earth. In these days of giant telescopes, which reveal the unimaginable height of the heavens contrasted with our little earth, we can perhaps better realize the force of this. God's thoughts are revealed in His purposes, with which His ways are consistent, and now that they have come to light in connection with the Gospel, they form a lesson book for angels, as is shown in 1 Peter 1: 12.

Moreover, besides the thoughts and ways of God there is His word, bywhich He signifies what His thoughts and ways are. Verse 10 assures us of its beneficent effect. Just as the rain descending from heaven brings with it life and fertility in nature, making man's labour to be fruitful for his good, so the word of God acts in a spiritual way. Received into the heart it is fruitful in life and blessing; and not only that, but is full of power, never failing in the effect that God intends whether in grace or in judgment. This was exemplified in the Lord Jesus Himself. No word of His ever fell fruitless to the ground, for He was the Living Word. It is equally true of the written word of God. It is said of the blessed man of Psalm 1, that, "In His law doth He meditate day and night." Happy are we, now that we have "the word of His grace" (Acts 20: 32), as well as the word of His law, if we do so likewise.

God's coming grace to Israel is in view here, as the two verses that close our chapter show. The peace that had been announced in the previous chapter, should without fail be theirs, and joy also. Creation too will rejoice when the millennial day is reached. It is guaranteed here by the unfailing word of God, and when we turn to such a scripture as Romans 8, we are told how creation will be delivered from the bondage produced by the sin of man, and brought into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God, and we are carried beyond that which will be true for Israel into the largeness of the thoughts of God for the whole creation.

Thus all through the wonderful passage that has been before us we can note that what the prophets stated in germinal form comes into full revelation when, Christ having come and died and risen again and ascended to glory, the Holy Spirit was given to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us. May we have hearts that receive them and appreciate their unique value.