Isaiah 52. 13 to 53. 12 – Part 4

Having considered (i) Messiah’s suffering, Isa. 53. 5-7, and (ii) death, v.8, we now come to look at (iii) Messiah’s burial, v.9. For centuries this verse must have formed something of a holy riddle to its readers—a riddle which has been solved only by its detailed fulfilment in Christ. We observe:

  1. Man Proposes. “They made (appointed, assigned) his grave with the wicked”, R.V. It was the intention of the Jews that the Lord should be buried with “the wicked” (the plural word indicating the malefactors at Golgotha). The Jews’ request to Pilate was that the legs of the three crucified men “might be broken, and that they might be taken away”, John 19. 31. The unrelenting hostility which the Servant had experienced through His life was continued even after His death, and expressed itself in the proposed manner of His burial. One feature of an ignominious punishment among the Jews was the denial of an honourable burial; cf. 1 Kings 21. 19, 23; Isa. 14. 19. But
  2. God Disposes. The phrase “in his death” signifies the condition of death, i.e. “when he was dead”, “after his death”. The word “rich” is singular, making the fulfilment in the Lord’s burial at Joseph’s tomb the more striking. Note that Matthew explicitly describes Joseph as “a rich man”, Matt. 27. 57. The word “death” is plural, indicating either the many-sided aspect of Messiah’s death, that it involved all kinds of suffering, or the intensity of the suffering which made it like dying again and again. We see
  3. Christ Vindicated. The reason that God would not permit men to dispose of the Lord’s body along with the bodies of criminals was that He was not one! The Lord was accused of stirring up sedition, Luke 23. 2, 5; God declared that He had done “no violence”. He was accused of being a blasphemer, Matt. 26. 65, and a deceiver, 27. 63; God declared that He had practised no “deceit”. He was perfect in deed and word; cf. the order in Acts 1. 1.

Attention is now directed to (iv) Messiah’s resurrection, v.10. The verse provides an assessment of what has been done by Jehovah’s Servant and of the resulting benefits. We read of

  1. The Pleasure of Jehovah. The word “pleasure” is descriptive of complacent delight; see its use in I delight to do thy will”, Psa. 40. 8. Messiah’s suffering formed an essential part in God’s purpose of saving His people, which is His good-pleasure. Hence we note
  2. The Purpose of Messiah’s Suffering; “when his soul shall make an offering for sin”, R.V. marg. The word “offering” relates to the trespass offering, Lev. 5. 6; 7. 5 etc., which had the twofold purpose of dealing with offences between man and God and between man and man. This connects well with the sinner’s condition detailed in verse 6 (see earlier note). Reference is made to
  3. The Posterity of Messiah; “He shall see his seed”. This “seed” are the “many” of verses 11-12. It should be noted that the Jews regarded it as a high mark of divine favour to be permitted to “see” their posterity; cf. Gen. 48. 11. The reference to Messiah seeing His spiritual posterity presupposes of necessity the resurrection of Him who was “cut off out of the land of the living”, v.8. There is
  4. The Perpetuity of Messiah; “He shall prolong his days”. His sufferings all over, now He lives by the power of an endless life, Heb. 7. 16. The Risen Lord announces, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore”, Rev. 1. 18. Finally, we read of
  5. The Prosperity of the Lord’s Pleasure. All that brings pleasure to God is guaranteed to prosper in the hands of His Servant— whether the salvation of the sinner, Luke 15. 7, or the administration of His kingdom.

The last section of the Song provides

The Confirmation of Jehovah, vv. 11, 12

Finally Jehovah speaks—to signify His approval of His perfect Servant. Three things are said of the Servant’s work and its outcome.

(i) The Results Achieved, v.11.

  1. The Satisfaction of the Servant. The opening part of verse 11 can be translated, “Because (on account) of the travail of his soul, he shall see, and be satisfied”. The word “travail” makes no reference to childbirth but rather signifies painful and exhausting exertion and toil; see the translations “labour”, Jer. 20. 18, and “pain”, Psa. 25. 18. It is the cross which is in view. The root of “satisfied” is “to be full”, and the Lord Jesus is fully satisfied as He sees the fruit of His self-sacrifice in Satan defeated and sinners saved.
  2. The Justification of the People. For the Christian, justification means being declared righteous by God as a result of faith in Christ, Rom. 5. 9. Four points are to be noted:
    1. The grounds of justification—“He shall bear their iniquities”. His people are justified because He has removed the weight of their iniquities. For God to impute righteousness means that He does not impute sin, Rom. 4. 6-8. Sin must therefore be dealt with if men are to be justified.
    2. The means of justification. The phrase “by his knowledge” means “by the (i.e. our) knowledge of him” as Saviour and Lord.
    3. The Justifier. Literally, “The righteous one, my servant”. It is the righteous One who makes the many righteous. He “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity”, Heb. 1. 9; He lived in accord with what He loved and died on account of what He hated!
    4. The justified. Whereas Christ gave Himself as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2. 2, the benefits of His salvation are reserved for those who trust in Him (the “many”). The “many” also serves to qualify the preacher’s complaint at his hearers’ general lack of response, Isa. 53. 1.

(ii) The Rewards Given, v. 12a. The Servant’s rewards are seen in His relationship to two classes of people, the “great” and the “strong”. I regard the first as denoting believers and the second unbelievers. The Septuagint reads, “He shall inherit many, and he shall divide the spoils of the mighty”. The “many” are those mentioned elsewhere in verses 11 and 12. They are the “many sons” who are being brought to glory, Heb. 2. 10. The “mighty” are His prey; see Rev. 17. 14. They, as all others, will bow before Him one day, Phil. 2. 10.

(iii) The Reasons for the Rewards, v.l2b. The word “because” introduces the reasons for Messiah’s rewards. The first reason consists in (a) His finished work. The word translated “poured out” means “to strip or empty, or pour clean out, even to the very last remnant”, Delitzsch. The Servant’s being “numbered with the transgressors” points not only to His being associated with criminals in His death, Mark 15. 27-28, but to the fact of the incarnation, when He “was made flesh”, John 1. 14. The second reason consists in (b) His unfinished work. I suggest that the last two clauses of verse 12 relate to the Lord’s present work of advocacy. A more accurate translation would be “and he beareth the sin of many, and for the transgressors He shall (continually) make intercession”. The word translated “bare” is rendered “forgive” in Genesis 50. 17 and Exodus 10. 17. If we sin (not, if we confess our sin!), we can rely on our Advocate in heaven to take up our case with the Father, 1 John 2. 1. At the same time, the “Advocate” in our hearts (the Holy Spirit, John 14. 16 Greek) reveals our sins to us. When we confess them to the Father, He forgives us and our broken communion with Him is restored, 1 John 1. 9. How much we owe to our Lord’s intercession for us, Rom. 8. 34; Heb. 7. 25.

This last Servant Song of Isaiah ends therefore where it began—in glory! Oh, that we may hear God’s call, “Behold my servant”, Isa. 42. 1.