God’s Suffering Servant: A Look at Isaiah 53: Part 1
There’s no doubt that the study of prophecy is exciting, especially with all of the current events that are unfolding before us. The news of the day is fitting in with what was proclaimed over two thousand years ago. Everything that is going on should make us even more watchful for the LORD’S coming. The key word is to watch, not to figure out what each of the toes on Daniel’s statue means, or try and calculate the number of the beast by putting in names of famous or infamous individuals, or worse yet, listen to those who have the date of the Rapture all figured out.
We can get carried away with what we believe will happen. Remember, we are not looking for the Tribulation or the Antichrist or to figure out what the two-hundred-million-member army represents. We are looking for Jesus Christ, who is the center of all prophecy. We can get obsessed with symbols and ignore the Savior.
For a few minutes, let’s take a look at prophecy that has been fulfilled up to now. I want to examine a profound segment of the Scriptures that could only have been fulfilled, not by an earthly king or a nation, but by an individual chosen by God Himself to take up the cause of salvation and redemption. We need to look first at the individual who wrote about this Person. We need to examine the work and words of the prophet Isaiah, who was the prophet to kings. His prophetic calling started during the reign of Uzziah, a good king of Judah, and concluded with the reign of Judah’s most wicked king, Manasseh, who, according to tradition, had the prophet sawn in two.
Isaiah, at the start of his ministry, had called for reason in salvation (1:18) and had lamented over the twisted morality of the nation (5:20). However, his call was solidified by an encounter with whom biblical scholars agree was the Pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, who manifested Himself in the Temple (6:1-8).
Isaiah was cleansed and set apart to serve the LORD as a prophet to a stubborn people who would at best ignore his message, and at worst, would want to see him gone. He did the work of a prophet during the reign of Jotham, who, like his father Uzziah, governed the nation in the fear and admonition of the LORD. However, just because there is a good king does not mean that the next ruler will be as godly, which describes the character and person of Ahaz.
Ahaz was probably one of Judah’s worst rulers, who disregarded God and had his sons sacrificed to pagan deities. He did not trust in God and relied on international alliances to strengthen the nation, which Isaiah warned would be folly.
Isaiah confronted the king in his distress and told him to ask God for a sign that He was with the nation. Pretending to be pious, Ahaz refused. Isaiah then presented a declaration that would be, in the eyes of the nation, an impossibility. God’s sign was that a virgin would conceive and bear a Son (7:14). This was a prophecy that would be fulfilled by the Virgin Mary, who would bear the sinless Son of God (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:26b-38).
The prophet spends a great deal of time declaring the mission and rule of this Son (9:6-7). He declares that the Son will be in charge of a righteous government, be endued with glorious names, and the fact of His rule as one of peace and prosperity, with justice for all of His people. He will be in the line of Israel’s greatest king, David, and will be the ruler for all time. We see this proclamation fulfilled in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:4-6; 21:1-7, 22). This is truly news for which to praise God.
However, there is a price to be paid by the Son, God’s Messiah. Before the crown, there must be the period of suffering and shame that Isaiah records in Chapter 53. To read this chapter is to see an undeniable portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah has been called “the fifth gospel” and is worthy of our examination. In the next few installments, we shall examine the mission and message of whom God Himself calls “His Suffering Servant.”
This is going to be a study in what is probably the greatest piece of prophetic literature ever written. Stay tuned.