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Please Read Isaiah 52:13-53:6
Today we celebrate the Lordís Supper; or rather we remember the Lord Jesus Christ and all that was accomplished on our behalf as believers during His work for sinners at Calvary and for us personally who believe. In observing the Supper we proclaim the Lordís death until He comes again. Part of our remembrance of the Lord in our observance of the supper has been to focus intentionally and specifically on some aspect of the Lordís work in saving sinners or on some aspect of the Lordís Supper itself. So today, as we have been doing for some time now, our attention turns once again to the Servant songs of Isaiah and specifically to Isaiah 52:13-15.
Thus far in our consideration of the Servant songs we have considered Isaiah 42:1-7 and the elect Servant of God that would indeed accomplish salvation for the elect, for He has been so equipped by God that He cannot fail. We have considered Isaiah 49:1-6 and the prepared Servant of God who would save not only the elect of physical Israel, but those from throughout the world also. Then we also considered Isaiah 50:4-9 and the Servant of God who was determined to fulfil His mission in complete obedience to His Fatherís will, supremely confident that His task would be fully accomplished. So we now come to Isaiah 52:13-15.
As we come to this last Servant Song this morning, let me briefly explain the context and setting of it. The passage we are considering this morning follows a series of prophecies dealing with one particular unknowing servant of God who would deliver the people of Judah from captivity in Babylon. Unknowing for it was not his purpose to serve the God of Israel, yet in the purposes and providence of God this is exactly what He did. That servant was a Persian king named Cyrus, who cared not for the God of Israel but for his own purpose, yet he was made to serve the Lord and to accomplish what God had ordained to come to pass. In the purpose and providence of God, this man would free one nation from the bondage of the Babylonian captivity, thereby returning the remnant of Judah to their Palestinian lands and to the worship of God.
Now following on from these prophecies Isaiah launches into the last of these Servant songs recorded in the Book of Isaiah. This song is perhaps the most descriptive and the most obvious prophecy of the entire Old Testament pointing to the mission and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here you see another Servant of God, this time one who knows His Servanthood, as the one appointed by the Father to Save His people from their sins, not from one nation alone but from all nations the world over. He came to fulfil the will of His Father in the deliverance and salvation of men from all nations.
All the verses of this particular Servant song, except verse 2 of Isaiah 53, are quoted in the New Testament and are always applied to the Lord Jesus Christ as coming in fulfilment of them. The New Testament leaves us in no doubt that this song is speaking of Jesus and his mission. In Luke 22:37 Jesus identifies Himself with this prophecy. Other passages such as Matthew 8:17, John 12:38, Acts 8:30-35, and 1 Peter 2:22-25 all point to Jesus as coming in fulfilment of this prophecy in Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
Indeed, this passage in Isaiah is perhaps the best summary statement in the Bible of Jesusí purpose in coming to the place of men. Do you want to know the purpose of the Lordís coming? Then look to this passage and consider it carefully, for here you have it in a nutshell. Here you will find what He intended to do and what He did do in order to fulfil His mission. Here you will find the reason for the hope that fills the breasts of so many believers the world over. Here you will find a way of escape for your own corrupted, guilt-ridden, sin stained lives. Here is the way that you must go in order to escape the final punishment and wrath of Almighty God - it is by this Servant of God, and through what He has accomplished as described so graphically in this passage.
Dear ones do not lightly think on this passage, consider carefully this passage as we study it today and in coming Lordís Supper meetings. Here you have a series of some five stanzas (52:13-15; 53:1-3; 53:4-6; 53:7-9; 53:10-12) dealing with the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ as sent from the Father to save sinners, of whom we all are. This is our message of hope. This is the way of escape for all that will accept the terms given by the Lord Jesus Christ. Friends, 'How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation (Heb 2:3a),í for there is no other way of salvation but that described here in this passage.
Here believer is precious consolation and encouragement for you as you pass through dark hours of back slidden sin, struggling to keep your head above the depths of despair. Here is the record of a salvation fully funded by the Servant Himself in your stead. Despair no longer grieving Christian, but look to Jesus and rejoice in the salvation of your God! These are precious words that have cheered many a Christian throughout the centuries.
'Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high (Is 52:13).'
Behold! Look everyone and consider - almighty God through the prophet Isaiah is crying out to gain our attention. Here is something that God wants you to know and to see. We need to focus here and to consider carefully what God has to say to us, for He seeks our immediate attention. Listen, for He speaks to you this morning through this same Word that He spoke millennia ago to the people of old. What does He say? What does He want you to know? Oh listen to the words of the Lord.
ĎBehold, My Servant shall deal prudently ... (Is 52:13a)í The Father is pointing us to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Servant of God who has now come and accomplished salvation for the elect people of God. The Servant of God, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ shall deal prudently, or with wisdom in order to accomplish that for which He was sent. To accomplish the mission that God has given Him, the Servant of God will make use of the best possible means to accomplish and fulfil His mission. He will do that which is certain to obtain the elect for the Father that He might present them to Him at the last day. 'I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles (Is 42:1b).í
Perhaps you say, ĎI canít remember any brilliant schemes or displays of masterful strategy in the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. How could He have used the best means when it all resulted in Him being killed on a Roman cross?í Ah, do not think as men think, but look beyond the thoughts of men to those of God and consider the salvation of God and what He has to say in the Scriptures concerning it. Has there ever been a more wonderful display of love and grace and mercy toward sinners? Could there have been a greater way to demonstrate and display the love of God for lost sinners? Has there ever been such a wise plan of salvation that brought such everlasting glory and honour to God, that demonstrated and displayed the sovereign power and purpose of God orchestrating the whole of history to bring this event to pass? Think on this, for this is the best possible means of bringing salvation to men, indeed it was the only way possible in order to bring men into a right relationship with God while maintaining the holiness and justice of God.
He did not use guesswork or wild stabs in the dark to accomplish salvation; he didnít stumble through human life being subject to the whims and fancy of men. No, rather He did that which was most effective in bringing sinners to His Father. Through this wise plan of salvation not one of the elect is to be lost, for all must be saved, and so with determined, purposeful and wise action the plan to bring deliverance to the sons of men was put into action and accomplished by Jesus in fulfilment of His Fatherís will. Has not the work been finished? Has not the Servant paved the way for the return of the people of God unto eternal life and the enjoyment of an everlasting relationship with the Father? Has He not succeeded in fulfilling all the Fatherís will in salvation?
Oh yes, we know that there are many who believe this to be nothing but foolishness, and it is to those that are perishing. Yes, we know that this is a stumbling block for others, but for us that believe it is the way of life. Yes, it appears as a very poorly planned and executed rescue mission, for the Servant of God died on a Roman cross - yet still it is the power of God unto salvation. Yes, we know it appears to be unsuccessful, that it appears useless, and all other descriptions of ridicule that men might pour upon it, yet by the eye of faith we see in this the certain hope of glory, and know with an eternal certainty that this has been the greatest rescue plan known in the history of the universe, bringing the most possible glory to God and the best result for sinful men who will accept it by faith.
Is He still dead in the grave - Oh no, for the text before us says that 'he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high (Is 52:13b).' That is hardly the description of someone lying in the grave and devoured by worms is it? He is no longer there; He is risen and gone into glory and will return as He went.
'And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth (Rev 5:6).í
How wise was His choice of means in accomplishing His mission? Well the prize of His completed mission was resurrection, ascension, and glorification above all. He is now in glory awaiting the glorification of the sons of men, and soon all will bow before Him and confess that He is Lord. He has inherited glory as a result of His successful mission here, and the day is coming when He will present a people to the Father in complete fulfilment of His Suretyship. There before the Father will be all that were given to Him, not one having being lost, to share glory with Him as His brothers and sisters.
'Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing (Rev 5:12)!'
What a contrast this glory is to what the Servant experienced here in the place of men. As a result of His successful mission He now experiences the greatest of glorification, whereas previous to His resurrection, ascension and coronation He experienced the greatest of humiliation in the place of men. Worthy indeed is the Servant of God to receive all power, glory and honour.
'As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: (Is 52:14)í
Men and women looked upon the Servant of God, who was in fact the Son of God and were astonished at what they saw. There on a Roman cross, bound in the place of criminals was one who claimed to be the Son of God, suffering unimaginable punishment and torture. Surely God was punishing this one for His sins. Many were startled and confused with what they witnessed, for this is the one in whom so many had placed their confidence for freedom from Roman tyranny - but all they got was shattered dreams and horror for their confidence and trust.
The translation at this point goes a little astray, for the original thought is not that of His appearance being disfigured more than other men, but that His appearance was no longer that of a man. Hanging on that cross the Servant of God no longer appeared as a man, but as some twisted and perverted figure that had once been a man, such was the rigour and torment of the cross upon the Servant of God. He no longer appeared like the rest of us, the cruelty of the cross transforming Him into a picture of tortured agony and twisted horror.
'I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death (Ps 22:14,15).í
What a picture of pain and punishment is portrayed in these words. We cannot begin to capture or understand the intent of what the Scripture is telling us at this point - except that it does paint a picture of indescribable and intense suffering in the place of sinners, and that is the idea of the Isaiah 52 passage, for He is not just suffering at human hands here, but also suffering the wrath of God in the stead of sinners.
My friends, this verse captures the agony of the Saviour of sinners standing in the stead of the elect, bearing the punishment of separation from God as His Father turned His face away from Him and poured out the terror of Hell upon His only Son because He so loved the world. Here is Jesus forsaken of the Father, indeed punished by the Father for the sins that He had willingly taken upon Himself for you who have taken Him as Saviour and Lord by faith, and for all those that will do so. Here He is bearing away your sin Christian, that you might live - remember that when you look upon these words.
This is a picture of the Servant of God not abandoning His mission, not failing in His purpose to save sinners, nor being thwarted by the powers of Satan and the world, but actually triumphing over them through His Substitution in the place of fallen sinners, appeasing the wrath of God that was turned toward men in all its consuming fury, and reconciling enemies to an offended Sovereign, thereby bringing His people into possession of eternal life at that point when they turn from sin and believe in Him for their own personal salvation. Being worked out in the annals of history upon that cross was your salvation believer, no longer will you have to suffer the torment that Christ went through, for He has stood in your stead, having been counted among the wicked for you.
A fallen world ridicules what it seeís as a pathetic attempt to gain its confidence and following, yet what it ridicules is its only escape and right of entrance into the eternal Kingdom. 'He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him (Ps 22:8)!í The world is astonished at the claims of Christ when it sees His death as the end result, and the Ďblind and foolish faithí of those who yet follow Him.
Yet there is another form of astonishment that is sweeping the world as a result of the mission of Christ, for 'As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider (Is 52:14,15).í
The world is astonished at the claims of Christ and those that follow Him considering the apparent end of the Servant of God, yet here we find the same expression of astonishment in another class of people. One group was astonished at one thing, another group by another. What was it that astonished these other people, a group that includes even kings and people from the world all over? Is it not that salvation has come to them through that which the world considered to be foolishness?
Men shall look upon the suffering Servant of God and see in Him the hope of Israel and their own salvation. People from throughout the world who were not brought up in the Old Testament Scriptures will experience the salvation of God and be brought into the Kingdom of God through that which to so many in the world appears foolishness - transformed by the grace of God as so many reject and snigger at the gospel of Christ.
Here Oh world is your salvation, do not reject it but embrace it, and for many the world over this is what they have done and will do. A stumbling block and foolishness has become the way of salvation for people the world over, even for kings. The despised way of Godís salvation has been exalted and will continue to be so, and men will continue to be astonished at so great a salvation.
This amazing work of the Servant of God shall be for the sprinkling of many nations. This is the reason for the disfigurement that He went through. This is why He willingly suffered the agony and terror of the cross, that many nations might be sprinkled. But what does that mean for these people and for you for whom Christ died?
The answer is in the Old Testament - consider the Law of God where the significance of this result is prefigured through the Old Testament pictures and types. What did sprinkling in the Old Testament signify? Look at Leviticus 16:11-19,30.
What then is the idea being expressed in Isaiah 52? It is the very same idea of being cleansed from sin. The offering has been offered up to God by Christ Himself upon the cross and the blood from this sacrifice has been, and is being sprinkled upon many nations. This is a purification of sin, a washing clean from sin, so that sinners may appear just before the throne of God.
Not all in the world will be saved, only those that call upon the Lord shall be saved. Only those that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ shall not perish and have eternal life. But there will be people from many nations that shall believe, from every tribe, tongue and nation, and these have been sprinkled by the blood of the Lordís sacrifice.
Here then is your salvation Oh Israel of God, here is the reason for the Lordís Supper season that we observe today - it is Christ having died in the place of sinners and cleansing as from all our sins. Let us then remember Him as the One who died for us that we might be made the sons of God and inherit the Kingdom prepared for us. Let us remember Him and exalt Him above all else for He is indeed worthy of all praise, glory and honour - Amen.
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