Interpreting the Bible isn't simply an intellectual matter. Certainly
it involves the intellect, but there is much more to understanding
what the Bible says than simply understanding with the mind, which
is a Greek concept, not a Hebrew one. The Hebrew meaning of what
it means to know something is demonstrated by the statement in
the Torah, "Adam knew his wife." Adam did not simply
have an intellectual concept of his wife. He knew her personally,
intimately, physically, and practically. Likewise, to know the
Lord means much more than to know he exists. Jesus' brother Jacob
told us, "You believe there is one God. Good! Even the
demons believe that -- and shudder." (James 2:19) Real belief
and understanding involves action. There is a great deal of difference
between saying I believe there is a million dollars buried in
the back yard and getting out a shovel and digging it up!
We've studied Isaiah 53 from several perspectives. We've considered
rabbinic interpretation, examined to see if the passage could
be referring to Israel or some other individual. Finally, we
saw that the key to understanding the passage is that it contained
the familiar image of a root or shoot (shoresh) sprouting up,
which is beyond dispute a Messianic image in other places in Isaiah,
such as Isaiah 11:10. The figure of Isaiah 53 would be exalted
over the Kings of the earth, yet he would also serve as a priest
who would sprinkle many nations, which is a priestly function.
Let us go back to this rich text again and consider how to understand
it in a Hebrew way, that is, practically and personally.
Let's go back to the text and consider the implications for each
53:1 Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and
acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
The arm of the Lord is his power at work to save his people.
God delivered Israel from Egypt by his mighty arm (Exodus 6:6).
The word for arm is "zeroah," the same word used for
the shank bone of the lamb found on the Passover Seder plate today
to remind us of the Passover Lamb. Isaiah 53 described one who
would come as a sacrificial lamb for us. What can you say about
the response to the message of the Messiah? How was the Messiah
to be viewed? The prophet said he would be rejected, despised,
and one people would prefer to avoid looking at. When Messiah
came the Judean leadership, as foretold, did not accept him.
In fact, many saw his crucifixion as the punishment he deserved,
just as Isaiah foresaw. How have you responded to the Messiah?
Many times in Israel's history the prophets were rejected.
Remember, most of those who came out of Egypt did not make it
into the Promised Land. Many in Israel rebelled against Moses
in his day. It is no surprise that many, often those in power,
rejected the Messiah when he came. Yet the faithful remnant among
Israel believed and took the message of God's love through the
Messiah to the known world of that day. How have you responded?
53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.
53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every
one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity
of us all.
Though many thought the Messiah was suffering for his own sin,
what was actually going on was that God was providing atonement
for us. Human nature is corrupt. We all go astray and wander
from the Good shepherd. We all have guilt and sin. Can you admit
that? The prophet Isaiah confessed that he was among those who
needed healing and payment for our sins. He used the word "we."
Do you recognize yourself among the we? Do you recognize and
admit that you yourself are one of the ones who has gone astray?
Will you receive the Messiah's payment for sin as your own, not
just as a general payment for sin, but as the payment for your
own personal sins? Will you receive God's loving offer of forgiveness
through Messiah's suffering as the sin offering?
53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
53:8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
53:9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man
in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was
no deceit in his mouth.
The servant willingly accepts his suffering and death. Though
he was mistreated and oppressed he never objected to the treatment
he received. He even said "father, forgive them, for they
do not know what they do." Why was he so willing to suffer
and die? Because he loves us and it was God's will for Messiah
to suffer and die to provide payment and forgiveness for our sins.
Jesus said "Greater love has no man than this than to lay
down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) How have you
responded to God's loving offer?
53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; he will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand;
53:11 he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be
satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities.
53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and
he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured
out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
God has provided a guilt offering (asham) for us through the
Messiah. This is the same term used of the Levitical sacrifices
made in the ancient Temple (Leviticus 5 & 6). If Moses
said we needed a guilt offering, what does this imply about us?
The guilt offering of Temple times was the sacrificial animal
upon whom the sins of the worshiper were symbolically placed before
it was slaughtered. God demonstrated through these sacrifices
that guilt could not go unpunished. There was a principle of
justice which had to be fulfilled. But could an animal really
atone for a human's sin? Way before the Temple was built, Abraham
was called to offer up his son Isaac on Mount Moriah (Genesis
22). This was the same place where the Temple was eventually
built by David. The ram was provided as a substitute for Isaac,
but does that hint to us that, in essence, God has the right to
demand the sacrifice of a son? Only the death of a man satisfies
the just punishment. Yet even then, how could one sinful man,
worthy of his own punishment, offer himself in the place of another?
God did not allow even Moses to sacrifice himself in place of
Israel when Moses offered (Exodus 32:30-32). How can the sacrifice
of one man be of enough value for his punishment to satisfy the
judgement deserved by many? Only if that man were without sin.
The Levitical sacrifices were to be spotless. They foreshadowed
the sinless Messiah who would be the perfect sacrifice. Because
the Messiah was perfect he could take the place in judgement and
suffer our punishment. Because the Messiah was more than a man,
he was God residing among us clothed in human nature, his sacrifice
was of infinite value.
When you receive the Messiah as your guilt offering, in payment
for your sin, your guilt is done away with. Will you receive
the Messiah as your substitute sufferer punished in your place
for your sins? The prophet said Messiah would justify many.
This means that all who trust him are counted righteous before
God because of their faith in Messiah's vicarious atonement.
"Many" means not everyone, yes, a great number, but
not everyone. Are you among the many?
The prophet said that after the death and burial of the Messiah
he would see the light of life and be satisfied. Messiah rose
again, just as Isaiah said he would. But there is more. Not
only does Messiah satisfy justice by dying to pay for the sins
of his people, he also provides something very wonderful. There
is a reward to be distributed, the spoils of victory. What are
the spoils he distributes? We are told Messiah has a kingdom
for us, a great inheritance (Luke 12:32). When we receive the
Messiah we are not only forgiven of our sins and counted as righteous
before a Holy God, we also come into the Kingdom of God, spiritually
speaking, and we have a new relationship with our Maker, a close
friendship with all guilt and sin removed so that nothing comes
between us. When Messiah returns we will be co-heirs with him,
as it is written: "The meek will inherit the earth"
God is reaching out to you now. He is giving you a chance to
come into a renewed relationship with him. How amazing that God
would love us to this extent! The only obstacle that can get
in the way is your unbelief, but God is able to overcome that,
as well. Why not pray and ask the God of Israel to help you to
believe whatever is the truth. 700 years before Jesus was born
the Jewish prophet Isaiah spoke of one who would come to suffer
and die for the sins of his people and then rise again. Could
Jesus be the one Isaiah spoke of? Why not ask God to help you
If you now believe the prophet's message spoke of Messiah Jesus, tell God you receive his free gift of forgiveness today. Confess your sins to Him and then thank Him that Messiah came to suffer for your sins. Ask him to renew your heart so that you will live a life of grateful obedience as he enables you. God has shown his love and provided the way back to Him through Messiah Jesus. Will you turn to God and receive the love he offers?