Today’s devotional is the study notes from yesterday’s Sunday school class on Isaiah 53, the greatest chapter in the Old Testament, a chapter rich in truth about the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross. God bless you.
Because of Calvary,
Adult SS Elective: Isaiah 52:1-53:12 November 6, 2016
“(1) Let them prepare for joy…. (2) Let them prepare for liberty.” [Matthew Henry’s Commentary IV, p. 232]
“Two things move the Lord as he soliloquizes: the misery of his people and the honor of his name…. If the rulers are helpless, how grim is the state of the people (2 Ki. 6:26-27)!” [Motyer, p. 418]
iii. Good News! (52:7-10)
“Practically each line is a jubilant note of victory. As indicated above the scene is cast in military terms — just after the battle. People and officials are gathered anxiously waiting for a report on the outcome of the battle…. Suddenly they spy a runner. He must be the messenger with a report on the outcome. All can tell even at a distance from the eager attitude of his running that good news is speeding his course. Oh, how ‘attractive’ those feet appear! …As the messenger comes near, his first cry is ‘All is well!’ The announcements tumble over his lips: ‘good news,’ ‘deliverance.’ He finally manages to sum it all up effectively: ‘You God has proved himself king.’ Of course, Yahweh has been king right along. But now, by liberating his people he has demonstrated conclusively that the reins of world-government are firmly in his hands.” [H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Isaiah, II, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1971), p. 216]
- Depart (52:11-12)
“The clean break from Babylon. The picture is of a priestly procession, not the unceremonious departure of Ex. 12:33. The homecomings of Ezr. 1:5-11 and 7:7-10 were to have something of this character, and Ezra himself took the promise of divine escort fully to heart (Ezr. 8:22) and was not disappointed. But behind the literal departure from Babylon, Rev. 18:4 sees a greater movement, the withdrawal of the church from the embrace and judgment of the world, ‘so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.’” [Kidner, p. 662]
- His Work (52:13-53:12)
“From the great homecoming we turn to the solitary figure whose agony was the price of it…. The poem, unusually symmetrical, is in five paragraphs of three verses each. It begins and ends with the Servant’s exaltation (first and fifth stanzas); set within this is the story of his rejection in sections two and four, which in turn frame the centerpiece (4-6) where the atoning significance of the suffering is expounded. God and man reconciled share the telling (see the ‘my’ and ‘I’ of the outer sections, and the ‘we’ and ‘our’ of 53:1-6).” [Kidner, p. 662-663]
“These five matchless stanzas of the fourth Servant poem are ‘the Mt. Everest of messianic prophecy.’…
“The Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 was held by Jewish rabbis till the twelfth century. After that, Jewish scholars started interpreting the passage as a description of the sufferings of the nation of Israel. But how could Israel die for the sins of Israel (v. 8)? And who declared that Israel was innocent of sin and therefore suffered unjustly (v. 9)? No, the prophet wrote about an innocent individual, not a guilty nation.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary IV, p. 58]
“…The Targum of Jonathan on the Prophets inserts the word ‘Messiah’ after ‘my servant’ in Isa. 42:1 and 52:13.” [F. F. Bruce, “The Book of the Acts,” The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1954), p. 369]
“In this prophecy Isaiah speaks so plainly of Christ that he seems to perform the part of an evangelist rather than a prophet.” [Jerome in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 325]
“It is a gospel before the Gospel. To expound it is to ‘preach Jesus.’” [Alexander Maclaren, “Acts,” Bible Class Expositions, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 98]
- Christ’s initial exaltation (52:13) Cf. Philippians 2:5-11; John 6:15; 12:19; Mark 11:7-10
“The threefold exaltation (raised…lifted up…highly exalted) expresses a dignity beyond what any other merits or received… It is impossible not to be reminded of the resurrection, ascension and heavenly exaltedness of the Lord Jesus.” [Motyer, p. 424]
- Christ’s awful sufferings (52:14): “The threefold exaltation of the Servant (13) is followed by the deepest of contrasts: a revulsion from him caused by a suffering…” [Motyer, p. 424]
He suffered at the hands of the Priests (Matthew 26:67,68), their servants (Mark 14:65; Luke 22:63-65), during His trial (John 19:1-3), at Pilate’s hands (Matthew 27:26), and from the soldiers (Matthew 27:27-31). The result was horror even by the people who had cried, “Crucify Him!” Cf. Luke 23:27.
“…Those who saw him stepped back in horror not only saying ‘Is this the Servant?’ but ‘Is this human?’” [Motyer, p. 425]
- Christ’s wonderful atonement (52:15a): For “sprinkle” see Leviticus 1:5, 11; 3:2, 8, 13; 4:6, 17; 5:9; 6:27; 7:2, 14; 8:11, 19, 24, 30; 9:12, 18; 14:7, 16, 27, 51; 16:14-19; 17:26; Matthew 26:26-28.
“…His work is priestly and many nations receive his priestly ministry…” [Motyer, p. 426]
- Christ’s far-reaching salvation (52:15b) Cf. Acts 1:8
- Christ’s unbelieving people (53:1) Cf. John 5:39,40
“Man’s voice can but pierce the ear… God only can reach the heart.” [The Complete Works of Thomas Manton III, p. 209]
- Christ’s surprising undesirability (53:2) Cf. John 3:16-20; Luke 19:14
“Without…revelation, who could believe that this one, with his birth and early life, his unimpressive appearance, was the arm of the Lord?…(cf. ‘is not this the carpenter’s son?’, Mt. 13:55).” [Motyer, p. 427]
“A man may say, ‘I can see nothing.’ It does not follow that there is nothing to be seen…. Because some people see ‘no beauty in Him that they should desire Him,’ it does not follow that Christ is not the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely. The defect is not in Christ, but in those who look at Him.” [J. D. Jones, Commentary on Mark, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1914), p. 687]
- Christ’s heart-rending rejection (53:3,4) Cf. John 1:10,11
“The Servant was not an incessant sorrower and sufferer but he was notably so, not by reason of his constitution but because he took our sorrows and weaknesses as his own.” [Motyer, p. 428]
“Refusal to follow developed into shunning. Esteemed is an ‘accounting’ word, a reckoning up of value. When all that the human eye saw and the human mind apprehended up the result was zero.” [Motyer, p. 429]
“…To see the Servant and find no beauty in him (2cd) reveals the bankruptcy of the human emotions; to be one of those who despise and then reject him (3ac) exposes the misguidedness of the human will; to appraise him and conclude that he is nothing condemns our minds as corrupted by, and participants in, our sinfulness. Thus every aspect of human nature is inadequate; every avenue along which, by nature, we might arrive at the truth and respond to God is closed. Nothing but divine revelation can make the Servant known to us and draw us to him.” [Motyer, p. 429]
“We wish for more than we are able to achieve, so that the good life is always eluding us; we long for a truly happy life but are constantly baulked by sorrow in whatever form it may come ― disappointment, bereavement, tragedy, whatever. But he made our burdens his.” [Motyer, p. 430]
- Christ’s substitutionary sufferings (53:5): Note: wounded, crushed, beaten.
“Our estimate that he suffered under the rod of God was marvelously true, though not in the sense intended. For his sufferings were caused by our sins and achieved our peace, through the personal, deliberate act of the Lord himself.” [Motyer, p. 424]
“Isaiah opened this sequence of oracles against the background of a peace that was lost (48:18). The Servant stepped forward (49:1) precisely because the wicked cannot enjoy peace (48:22) but needed one to bring them back to God (49:5-6). The work has now been done by his substitutionary, penal death. Where there was no peace (48:22) there will be, through the Servant’s peace-making work (53:5), a covenant of peace (50:10).” [Motyer, p. 431]
- Christ’s sin-bearing work (53:6): Cf. Colossians 2:13,14; I Peter 2:24
“We all and each expresses both common culpability and individual responsibility. We cannot blame a ‘herd instinct’ even though we are all alike implicated.” [Motyer, p. 431]
“Each sin of every sinner would be like a separate wound in the heart of the man of sorrows.” [T. R. Birks, Commentary on the Book of Isaiah, (London: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1878), p. 264]
- Christ’s silent deportment (53:7): He was silent before the priests (Mark 14:60,61), at his trial (Mark 15:3-5), before Herod (Luke 23:8,9), and with Pilate (John 19:8-10).
“‘Now,’ says Sir George Adam Smith, ‘silence under suffering is a strange thing in the Old Testament — a thing absolutely new. No other Old Testament personage could stay dumb under pain, but immediately broke into one of two voices — voice of guilt or voice of doubt. In the Old Testament the sufferer is always either confessing his guilt to God or, when he feels no guilt, challenging God in argument. David, Hezekiah, Jeremiah, Job, all strive and are loud under pain. Why was this Servant the unique and solitary instance of silence under suffering? Because He had a secret which they had not.’” [The Speaker’s Bible V, p. 136-137]
“…We see him, not caught in a web of events, but masterfully deciding, accepting and submitting…. The Servant offered no physical resistance to violence…; he offered no verbal resistance, but did not open his mouth.” [Motyer, p. 432]
“The servant himself did nothing wrong… He did no violence nor did he speak in a deceptive way. Why then did Yahweh lay such suffering upon him?… In these verses Isaiah describes how the servant was oppressed and afflicted, how he did not receive a just sentence. He was put to death and buried like a criminal.” [VanGemeren, p. 507]
“Wicked hands, willing victim…. Taking note of the NIV mg. On v. 8 ‘From arrest and judgment [sentence] he was taken [led] away’, the whole stanza irresistibly evokes the trial of Jesus and its sequel (see on v 9).” [Kidner, p. 663]
“It is the very heart of our sinfulness that we sin because we want to. We do not want ‘this man to reign over us’ (Lk. 19:14). Because of this, no animal can do more than picture substitution: only a person can substitute for a person; only a consenting will can substitute for a rebellious will.” [Motyer, p. 433]
“Cut off…is a verb with an almost unbroken record of violence.” [Motyer, p. 434]
- Christ’s surprising burial (53:9a): Though He died as a criminal, he was buried with the rich (Matthew 27:57-60)
“…Since the Servant was condemned as a criminal, the natural expectation was that he would be brought to a criminal’s grave, but, on the contrary, following a…violent death he was found ‘with a rich man… How could a condemned man receive a rich man’s burial?” [Motyer, p. 436]
“In fact, without the commentary supplied by the fulfillment, it would be impossible to understand v. 9a at all.” [Delitzsch, p. 514]
“…If we reflect that the Jewish rulers would have given to Jesus the same dishonorable burial as the tow thieves, but that the Roman authorities handed over the body to Joseph the Arimathaean, a ‘rich man’ (Matt. 27:57), who placed it in the sepulcher in his own garden, we see an agreement at once between the gospel history and the prophetic words, which could only be the work of the God of both the prophecy and its fulfillment…” [Delitzsch, p. 515]
“The NIV should restore the Hebrew’s singular, ‘a rich man’. It was an enigma until the event of Mt. 27:57, 60, and it still embarrasses those to whom detailed prediction is unacceptable. But the ancient versions and the Scrolls confirm the authenticity of rich, the latter source indeed correcting a plural found in the LXX, retaining the singular, as found in the standard text.” [Kidner, p. 663]
“Together violence and deceit embrace the total guiltlessness of the Servant; in neither…deed nor word could a charge be justly leveled…. It was the sinful tongue that exposed to Isaiah his own guilt and that of his people (6:5; cf. 3:8), and it is no wonder then, that he returns to this point to underline the perfection of the Servant.” [Motyer, p. 436]
- Christ’s attested innocence (53:9b): By Judas (Matthew 27:4), Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19), Pilate (Matthew 27:24), Herod (Luke 23:15), the thief on the cross (Luke 23:41), and the Roman centurion (Luke 23:47)
- Christ’s transforming resurrection (53:10,11): Though buried He shall see His seed, and of the travail of His soul, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
“The function of the guilt offering was reparation or compensation. Wenham notes that it applied to offences against the Lord’s holy things and to offences against one’s neighbor, that it ‘draws attention to the fact that sin has both a social and a spiritual dimension’ and that the distinctive testimony of the guilt offering is satisfaction. Thus, in the present verse the death of the Servant satisfied both the needs of sinful people before God and the ‘needs’/requirements of God in relation to his broken law and offended holiness…. The Lord, who alone knows what reparation (Godward and manward) is required, delight in his Servant as the one who fully meets the need.” [Motyer, p. 439]
“Those who become the Servant’s beneficiaries through the reparation-offering become his children…. We stray as sheep (6), we return as children.” [Motyer, p. 440]
Jesus died childless but had children!
“His death-pangs were our birth-pangs; and Christ shall see that which is born of his soul-anguish, and ‘shall be satisfied.’” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XLIII, (1897), p. 443]
“Metaphors borrowed from the ancient military life, in which a victorious general had conferred on him, by his monarch, the spoils which he had won, and again distributed them among his soldiers.” [Henderson in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 329]
“The emphasis…laid on the Servant’s righteousness is deliberate. First, it prepares for the reference to his work of sin-bearing in verse 11d by underlining his moral fitness for the task. Secondly, and immediately, we learn that this righteousness is something he extends to others: he will justify many/’will provide righteousness for the many’…. In 51:1 the remnant were characterized as ‘seeking after righteousness’; the Servant is the end of their quest.” [Motyer, p. 441-442]
“Christ is the righteousness of sinners to God and the righteousness of God to sinners.” [Venning in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 329]
“Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all the philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of the school, He spoke words of life such as were never spoken before, or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet. Without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, works of art, learned volumes, and sweet songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. Born in a manger and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destines of the civilized world and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe.” [Philip Schaff, The Person of Christ, (New York: America Tract Society, 1913), p. 22]
“Here is a man who was born in a lowly manger, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in an obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never went to college. He never owned a house. He never had a family. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He had nothing to do with this world except the power of His Divine manhood. While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying — His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed tomb through the pity of a friend.
“Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone. Today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has THAT ONE SOLITARY LIFE.” [Phillips Brooks in William B. Gamble, “Well Said!” Benedicte’s Scrapbook, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1954), p. 45]
“When I was asked which single individual has left the most permanent impression on the world, the manner of the questioner almost carried the implication that it was Jesus of Nazareth. I agreed. He is I think a quite cardinal figure in human history and it will be long before Western men decide — if ever they do decide — to abandon his life as the turning point in their reckoning of time. I am speaking of him as a man…. To assume that he never lived, that the accounts of his life are inventions, is more difficult and raises far more problems for the historian than to accept the essential elements of the Gospel stories as facts…. Now it is interesting and significant that a historian, without any theological bias whatever, should find that he cannot portray the progress of humanity honestly without giving a foremost place to a penniless teacher from Nazareth. The old Roman historians ignored Jesus entirely; he left no impress on the historical records of his time. Yet, more than 1900 years later, a historian like myself, who does not even call himself a Christian, finds the picture centering irresistibly around the life and character of this most significant man.” [H. G. Wells, “The Three Greatest Men in History,” Reader’s Digest, (May 1935), p. 12]
- Christ’s infamous companions (53:12a): They were thieves (Luke 23:39-43) and we are sinners (Romans 3:23).
- Christ’s loving intercession (53:12) Cf. Luke 23:34; Hebrews 7:25
Mathematician Dr. Peter Stoner, taking eight prophecies from the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, calculated that the probability “any man living on the earth from the day of Isaiah up to the present time, who would have fulfilled the eight prophecies is 1 in 5.7 X 1020.” To illustrate he suggested we take that number of silver dollars “and lay them on the face of the earth; they will cover all of the land surface 70 feet deep…. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly all over the earth; blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes but he must pick up one silver dollar and say this it the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that Isaiah would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man from his day to the present time, providing he wrote them in his own wisdom.” [Peter Stoner, From Science to Souls, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1944), p. 95-96]
“It is well known that the Earl of Rochester was for many years an avowed infidel, and that a large portion of his time was spent in ridiculing the Bible. One of his biographers has described him as ‘a great wit, a great sinner, and a great penitent.’ Even this man was converted by the Holy Spirit in the use of His Word. Reading Isaiah liii, he was convinced of the truth and inspiration of the Scriptures, and the Deity and Atonement of Christ. On that atonement he rested, and died in humble expectation of heavenly happiness.”
[Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 327]