Isaiah 53:1-12 (KJV)
1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The Suffering Servant: A Powerful Prophesy
Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah issued a powerful prophecy about the coming Messiah which we have today recorded in the 53rd chapter of his book. In the prophesy, Isaiah foretold of a servant of the Lord upon whom the sins and iniquity of all men would be placed, and who would through his own righteousness and sacrifice justify many people.
The full meaning of Isaiah’s prophesy was hidden for many centuries, and it still remains a hidden mystery to some today. In ancient times Jewish people made no connection between the prophesy of Isaiah 53 and the Messiah. They did not expect their Messiah to make atonement for their sins. In part, this is why Jesus’s disciples initially found it so difficult to understand that Messiah would die to atone for their sins. (Mark 8:31-32) After his resurrection, Jesus finally opened the disciples understanding of the prophesy of Isaiah. (Luke 24:45) Jesus specifically explained to his disciples that the prophesy of Isaiah 53 pertained to him. (Luke 22:37)
The apostles went on to share with the world the amazing truth contained in Isaiah’s prophesy: Jesus died to pay for all our sins so that we may go free. The apostles referred to Isaiah’s prophesy many times during their ministry and writings and left us with a very clear understanding of the prophesy. (Matthew 8:14-17, John 12:37-41, Luke 22:35-38, 1 Peter 2:19-25, Acts 8:26-35, Romans 10:11-21, Hebrews 10:28)
Even today, with clear explanations of Isaiah’s prophesy from mouth of Jesus and his apostles, many people still struggle to grasp the awesome truth of Isaiah’s prophesy.
The Law Fulfilled
Isaiah 53 provides us with a full explanation of the cross, and just what it means. Isaiah’s prophesy became one of the most quoted by the New Testament writers. Almost every verse of Isaiah’s prophesy is explained to us in the writings of the New Testament.
Isaiah was the first prophet to give a full explanation of the mission of the Messiah. Throughout the Old Testament, prophets had given many indications that a Messiah would come to deliver fallen mankind. And God had established sacrificial patterns to demonstrate that manner in which sin would be atoned for: through the shedding of the blood of a spotless sacrifice. And Isaiah’s prophesy took those two details and put them together for the first time, showing that Messiah himself would deliver fallen mankind through his own personal sacrifice and righteousness.
Isaiah’s prophesy is the answer to a mystery contained in the Old Testament. God explained that He would forgive sin, and yet He also explained that all sin must be punished. (Exodus 34:7, Hebrews 10:11) So how could God both forgive and punish sin? Isaiah’s prophesy contains the key to understand the mystery. Jesus as Messiah would make atonement for all sins, standing in our place, and bearing our punishment on our behalf.
As prophesied by John the Baptist, Jesus was truly the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of world. John’s prophesy connected Jesus to the sacrificial lambs offered by the children of Israel for their sins. Like John the Baptist, Isaiah clearly explained the way in which these sins would be atoned for. The Messiah was to be killed and “cut off out of the land of the living” as he “poured out his soul unto death”. In so doing he would “bare the sin of many” and make “intercession for the transgressors.” The Messiah’s life would be “an offering for sin” and he would “justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”
In perfect clarity, Isaiah explained the purpose of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It was all done as final payment and a final punishment for sin. (Hebrews 10:12) The Apostle Peter used Isaiah’s prophesy to explain that Jesus “himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:19-25)
Jesus was perfect and without sin. (1 Peter 2:22, Isaiah 53:9) Yet he was treated by God as a sinner, and punished in our place. (Isaiah 53:10) Isaiah explains that it pleased God to punish Jesus as a sinner, not because God enjoys inflicting suffering, but because in so doing the love of God could be shown to all mankind by freely offering to them the gift of salvation.
Jesus Christ died in our place.
Substitutionary Atonement: The Power of the Cross
Substitutionary atonement is a really big phrase, but it has a very simple meaning. It means that Jesus served as our substitute, and that he paid for our sins on our behalf. The doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement is found throughout the New Testament and is a foundational teaching of the church. We sing about it in our hymns, like Jesus Paid It All or Nothing But The Blood of Jesus. The reality of Jesus Christ shedding his own blood on our behalf is so wonderful and amazing that the saints are still singing about it heaven today. (Revelation 5:9)
Through one sacrifice, Jesus once and for all paid the debt of sin of everyone who believes on him. (Hebrews 9:26-29) The Apostle Paul explained that sin entered the world through the act of a single person. And because a single sinful person brought sin into the world, a single righteous person could also remove sin from the world and redeem it. Adam’s sin doomed us. Jesus’s righteousness saved us. (Romans 5:15-16, 1 Cor 15:22)
Because Jesus suffered the penalty for our sins, we can be freely forgiven of sin and its penalty. To receive the forgiveness and redemption Jesus, we need only follow the command of scripture. What must be we do be saved? Repent and believe on Christ. Salvation is a free gift available to all. (Acts 2:38-39, Col 2:10-14) If we confess our guilt and believe and accept that Jesus paid the price for our sin, then we are freely forgiven. Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to pay for all sin, including sin in our past, sin in our present, and sin in our future. (1 John 1:9)
Who Hath Believed Our Report: Jesus Is Enough
The gospel is powerful and trusting in it is liberating. Jesus did a complete work, and nothing needs added to or removed from it. (Col 2:10-13) Our salvation does not rest on our own merits or our own works. It does not rest upon our understanding of mysteries of scripture. It does not rest upon connection to special groups or special teachers. Our salvation rests upon the saving work of Jesus Christ which he fully accomplished on the cross and that we accept through faith.
Isaiah opens his prophecy by asking a question. “Who hath believed our report?” Hearing that the Messiah paid for all our sins and offers us eternal life freely can sound too good to be true. To some, it can seem too simple or too easy. They reason that God must surely require something of us to be saved; there must be a task to be completed or a level of knowledge to be attained to receive the wonderful promises of the gospel. To the critics, the thought of eternal life being given freely to anyone who believes seems unbelievable.
To them, the freeness of the gift is foolishness. But to those of us who have received the gift, it is a life transforming power. (1 Cor 1:18, Heb 10:14) As Christians, we understand the gift is free to us. However, we recognize it was not free to our Savior. Our free gift had a great cost, a cost that was paid in pain, suffering, agony, and death. A cost that was paid by a loving Redeemer who endured torment to pay for our sins because he was the only one who could.
We realize that we are not sufficient. No amount of works, no amount of knowledge, and no group, and no special teacher could possibly ever set us free from sin and its penalty. Only Jesus Christ could do that. Only he was sufficient. For us to think otherwise would be a great folly.
To you and I, the arm of the Lord has been revealed. And his arm is reaching down to help us.
When we read Isaiah’s opening question, we can rejoice knowing that we have indeed believed his report. We can take peace in the knowledge that Jesus paid it all. Though mankind around us may reject the free gift of salvation, and seek other ways to ensure their entrance into heaven, we rest fully secured in the knowledge that the saving work of Jesus Christ is sufficient.
Isaiah’s prophesy served as an important reference used by the writer of the book of Hebrews who wrote in great detail to explain the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.
We are not, nor can we ever be, sufficient in our own selves, (2 Cor 2:4-5) but the saving work Jesus accomplished through his death is sufficient. It was sufficient to take away all sins we may ever commit. (Heb 9:28-10:1-2) It is sufficient for God to forgive us of all our failures and shortcomings. (Heb 10:15-18) It is sufficient to supersede the law of the Old Testament. (Heb 10:5-9) It is sufficient to sanctify us and make us holy. (Heb 10:10) It is sufficient to fully deliver us from all forms of the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9) It is sufficient to bring us to ultimate perfection and glorification. (Heb 10:11-14, Romans 8:30)
Jesus My Glory: A Prayer of the Puritans
Oh Lord God,
Thou hast commanded me to believe in Jesus;
And I would flee to no other refuge,
wash in no other fountain,
build on no other foundation,
receive from no other fullness,
rest in no other relief.
His water and blood were not severed
in their flow at the cross,
may they never be separated from me.
May I be convinced of the guilt and pollution of sin,
May I feel my need for a prince and savior,
and ask of him repentance and forgiveness
May I love holiness and be pure of heart
and have the mind of Jesus and tread in his steps.
Let me not be at my own disposal,
but rejoice that I am under the care of one
who is too wise to err,
too kind to injure,
too tender to crush.
May I scandalize none by my temper or conduct
but recommend and endear Christ to all around,
Bestow good on every one as I may,
and decline no opportunity to be useful.
Grant that I may be a wise steward of all you commit to my care.
Help me to guide my affections with discretion,
that I may owe no man anything,
able to give to him that needeth,
and may feel pleasure in being merciful and forgiving
so that I may show the world the likeness of Jesus
In Jesus name, Amen
The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers Edited by Arthur Bennet, 1975