Summary: Isaiah predicts the arrival of the Servant of Yahweh as a surprise. What does that mean to us?
A friend told me about being in a boat hunting Canadian Geese in the dead of winter on a freezing lake. Bone cold the three of them in a 16-foot aluminum boat hold out for a few more minutes of light and the last chance at a goose. Sure enough their patience is rewarded. Overhead they hear a flight. Each of them fire their long goose guns straight up and two of the biggest birds come tumbling down out of the sky. For an instant they were exhilarated; then horror griped them. One of those birds was headed straight for the boat. 35 pounds of goose at 90 miles and hour. When it finally hit the boat it nearly sunk it and them with it. Sometimes you get what we want but it comes at you from a different angle.
That is what we noticed last week as we concluded our series in John’s Gospel. But it is also something that we see in our text this morning. For the next few weeks, we will be looking very closely at this passage. We are not going to skip through it in large chunks as we did in our study of the John, but rather we are going to look at it paragraph by paragraph. Today we will examine Isaiah 52:13-15: the Surprising Appearance. Walk with me as I set the stage for this morning’s reading and as we see A Violent Grace in the Prospering Servant, in the Overwhelming Servant and in the Disfigured Servant.
Let us open our Bibles and read Isaiah 52:13- 53:12:
See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him-- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness--so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
I. Setting the Stage
The entire Old Testament predicted that a King would come. But as we know it came at them from a different angle, an angle they did not expect. So also the prophet Isaiah. The nation was looking for a king, a deliverer. Ever since the garden of Eden men and women have looked for a promise. A promise that would restore what their sin had taken from them. Instead of paradise, they struggled - with weeds, with childbirth and with each other. And things didn’t get better.