Summary: the Suffering Servant of Isaiah is God’s salvation plan and provision

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Isaiah 52.13-53.12

‘Wounds that Heal’ – may seem a very strange title to a sermon. It may not even seem to make sense to you. How could a wound bring healing? Psalm tells us that the words of a friend may wound but they may also bring healing. This morning it is not the words of a friend that we are going to look at but physical and spiritual wounds that bring us healing and ultimately salvation. Turn with to Isaiah 52 verse 13 and following. This happens to be one of my favourite OT passages and if you are familiar with Handel’s Messiah it is one of the pieces of Scripture included there.

52.13-53.12 is one complete passage which is rich in teaching about the cross of Christ Jesus. In fact, it is so focused on the Cross that even if we added the name Jesus to the passage we would shed no more light on the Cross than the passage itself does at present.

52.13-15 The Servant’s exaltation and humiliation.

In some translations the first word of verse 13 is ‘Behold’, the NIV has ‘See’ but see does not come with the force of the Hebrew here. It is the Lord God speaking and it is a literal command for people to stop what they are doing and to have a look at this. They are commanded to look and see ‘The Suffering Servant of the Lord.’ ‘Behold’, stop and look, really look at what is going on here. God draws our attention, our gaze, to his servant. Note too ‘my servant’ – he is God’s servant and in God’s eyes he acts ‘wisely’ and the result is that he is given a three fold exaltation – ‘raised, and lifted up and exalted.’ This is the lord God’s testimony of his servant and it flows into a description of the servant’s sufferings and reactions to it.

Verse 14 what a stark contrast to the three fold exaltation of the servant by God. There is revulsion and rejection here. When people gaze upon his suffering they are appalled because the suffering meted out to him has consumed both his individuality and humanity. They are left asking ‘Is this really a man?’ His true beauty is hidden from the ‘many’ because they viewed him merely from a human point of view and yet when you read verse 12 you realise that human appearance is irrelevant to God.

Verse 15 the appalling suffering of God’s own wise servant who deserved none of it and the subsequent elevation of one so dishonoured by men is hard to believe for many. God’s way of doing things does not seem to make any sense and yet in verse 15 this suffering, this disfiguring of the servant of God, will by divine revelation leave kings (those who are highly exalted by men) dumb before him. It is only by divine revelation that this will make sense and the ‘many’ (not all) will understand. His work is priestly and many nations benefit from this ministry – ‘shall sprinkle…many nations.’

Isaiah 53.1-3 The Suffering Observed and Misunderstood.

Have you ever seen something you do not understand? It may be a piece of modern art or one those photographic puzzles. No matter how you view it, it does not make any sense to you and you fail to understand. That is exactly what we encounter here in verses 1-3. The people see the servant of the Lord suffering and they fail to understand why.

Verse 1 - At one point there were no believers but now because of divine revelation (v13) there are believers. Hence the first question ‘Who has believed our message?’ The answer would appear to be ‘no-one’ and verses 2 and 3 bear testimony to that. On the basis of human observation alone there is no discernment of who the servant really is. If you look at 52.10 you will see that ‘the Arm (capital A) of the Lord’ is revealed by God as the one who brings salvation.

Verses 2 and 3 the reason people dismissed him was because he appeared to have a completely earthly origin – the imagery of growth out of soil and it speaks of his humanity. When we come to the NT we find that just such questions are asked about Jesus – Matthew 13.55 ‘is this not the carpenter’s son?’; rejected because he came from Nazareth John 7.41-42 etc. There was nothing special about his appearance that would attract men to him – in appearance he was like any other man. So they would ask ‘How could this be the Lord?’ There is nothing special or distinctive about him. The result of their observance and understanding of him is seen in verse 3. They not only reject him they also despise him. They shun him and will not follow him. Hence in John 6, after he has taught about himself as the bread of Life, many desert him and he asks his disciples ‘will you too leave me?’ So men dismissed, despised and rejected him. This man of sorrows and grief is counted as of ‘no value’ by men. He is seen as ‘nothing’ by them. Verses 4 and 10 explain fuller the reason for his sorrows and grief.

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