The Suffering Servant - His Destiny
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 52. We are going to begin to look at the portion of the Word that begins with verse 13 and goes all the way through chapter 53.

We have often said that the chapter divisions in our Bible are not in the original text. I am very thankful for them, because it would be very difficult for us to find our way through the Word of God without chapter and verse divisions, but we must also recognize that sometimes the chapter divisions come at unhappy places. I think that this is one such situation, for I believe that chapter 52 closes with verse 12 and chapter 53 should begin with verse 13 of chapter 52 and carry on through the chapter.

Although we will not be able to get through this whole chapter in this lesson, we will read it together. If you could read this in the original text, you would find that it is a poem of five stanzas containing three verses of Scripture as we recognize them to be. Each one of the stanzas of this particular poem tells us something about the Lord Jesus Christ, because this chapter to which we refer is another Servant passage in the book of Isaiah.

You will keep in mind that we have been studying the book of Isaiah, chapter by chapter, verse by verse; and when we came to the second half of the book, which began with chapter 40, we said that we would find in it four Servant passages , passages of Scripture which speak of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the last of the four, and this particular chapter or poem is going to present to us a picture of the suffering Servant , just as the last one at which we looked presented to us a picture of the surrendered Servant .

All of the other Servant passages of Scripture speak plainly of the Lord Jesus Christ, but some folk may have some question about them as to their exactness in description, though we have none. However, I do not see how any individual could question that the passage of Scripture at which we are looking in this lesson definitely refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, because in the New Testament there are over eighty references to the book of Isaiah, and most of those eighty references refer to this particular chapter.

On top of that, you will recall the story of the Ethiopian eunuch. He was traveling along in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah. At the command of the Spirit of God, Philip, the evangelist, joined himself to this caravan, ran along side the chariot, heard the Ethiopian eunuch read and said to him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch said, “No, frankly I don't. I wish there were someone who could tell me what I am reading.” The story goes on to point out that he was reading from Isaiah, chapter 53. Philip, the evangelist, began with chapter 53 and said, “I can tell you what it is all about. You have asked a question. ‘Is Isaiah speaking of himself or is he speaking of someone else?' He is speaking of someone else. He is speaking of Jesus.” He began at that passage of Scripture and preached Jesus unto the Ethiopian.

Inspirational Description of Christ

Peter quoted from chapter 53 and said it refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul quoted from it and said that it refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, so let us fix firmly in our minds that this passage that we are about to consider is telling us about the Lord Jesus. This becomes all the more wonderful when you realize that this passage of Scripture was written about 700 years before the Lord Jesus Christ ever came to earth in bodily form. It describes Him so perfectly that we must recognize again the inspiration of the Word of God.

Look with me at the first stanza of the poem which describes for us the destiny of the Servant :

Isaiah 52

13Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
14As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
15So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

The second stanza of the poem begins with chapter 53, verse 1, and speaks to us of the despising of the Servant by His own people:

Isaiah 53

1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
2For 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.
3He 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.

The third stanza of the poem begins with verse 4, and speaks to us of the discipline of the Servant, or the things which He suffered:

Isaiah 53

4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But 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.
6All 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.

The fourth stanza, which begins with verse 7, speaks of the dedication of the Servant:

Isaiah 53

7He 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.
8He 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.
9And 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.

This brings us to the last stanza of the poem. It speaks to us of the dividends reaped by the Servant:

Isaiah 53

10Yet 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.
11He 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.
12Therefore 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.

I would like to consider with you the first stanza of this poem which speaks to us of the destiny of the Servant. We all know what a destiny is, I trust. It is the thing which is planned toward the individual in question. It is the ultimate end that God has in mind for the individual in question.

Christ Was Marked for Ultimate Prosperity and Success

I suggest to you, as we look at the first stanza of this poem and consider the destiny of the Servant, the destiny of our Savior, the destiny of the Son of God, that He was marked for ultimate prosperity and success. Do you realize how many people looked upon the Lord Jesus Christ as an abject failure? Do you realize how many unbelievers today look upon the Lord Jesus Christ as a failure? Do you know that writers have referred to Him as a martyr for a forsaken cause? Such references to Him are made because men do not realize the destiny which God has outlined for Him in the Word of God. That is brought to our attention by what we read chapter 52, verse 13:

Isaiah 52

13Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

This is a summary of the ultimate destiny which is related in detail in further stanzas of the poem. The destiny is brought to our attention by two phrases and two words. You will notice the phrases, deal prudently , and very high . Then notice the words exalted and extolled .

I wonder exactly what Isaiah had in mind when he wrote these words about the Lord Jesus Christ. What do they bring to your mind as you read them? There isn't much point in our reading them and not knowing what they say, is there? So, let's try to learn exactly what God had in mind, for example, when He said that the Lord Jesus Christ would deal prudently.

What is this word prudently ? Let me suggest to you that it comes from the Hebrew word sakal , and it speaks of prosperity and of success. It does not basically mean that the Lord Jesus Christ was a wise individual, though He was. His wisdom was so great that when men heard Him speak, they said, “Never man spake like this man,” though this is not a reference to His wisdom. It is a reference to the fact that God had destined him for prosperity and success.

Turn over to the book of Jeremiah, chapter 23, in order that you might notice another meaning of this word sakal and the word prudent , to which we have referred. Here is another prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ in verse 5. He isn't referred to by the name Jesus or by the word Christ . He is referred to by an Old Testament name that is used several times over in relation to Him. It is the word Branch and by the word King . Notice verse 5:

Jeremiah 23

5Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

If you are looking at your Bibles, you recognize that the words King and Branch are capitalized, which indicates the individuality of the one and the personification of the other and reminds us that we are speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ. God said through the prophet, Jeremiah, “There is a day coming when I'm going to let a descendant of David”—Jesus was a descendant of David—“reign upon the earth. He shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.”

Look at the word prosper . It is a translation of this Hebrew word sakal and is translated by the word prudent in Isaiah, chapter 53, verse 13. Go back to that passage of Scripture again, keeping in mind that one of the phrases which indicates the destiny which God had outlined for the Lord Jesus Christ is one of prosperity. “Behold My servant shall deal prudently,” or “My servant shall be prosperous.”

Christ Lifted Up On the Cross

Then we read: “He shall be exalted. He shall be extolled, and He shall be very high.” If you accept these words according to their English meaning, you might think that God is saying the same thing three times over, but He isn't. He is speaking of a comparative blessing for the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is speaking of mounting victories one on top of the other. For example, look at the word exalted . That word exalted comes from the Hebrew word ruwm , and it means “to be lifted up,” but it was a special kind of lifting up. How do we know that? Turn with me to the Gospel of John, chapter 3, that chapter which deals with the new birth and the promise of eternal life.

Keep in mind that there is a translation of the Old Testament Scriptures to which we have often referred as the Septuagint . The Septuagint is the Old Testament translated from Hebrew into Greek by seventy Greek scholars. We have learned many things from the Septuagint about the meaning of words because whenever these Greek scholars used a Greek word to translate a Hebrew word, if the Hebrew word was not as clear in its meaning to us as it could be and the Greek word was, we knew what they had in mind. We have a perfect illustration of this in John, chapter 3. Isaiah said, “The Lord Jesus Christ is going to be exalted. He is going to be lifted up.”

When the Lord Jesus Christ was speaking of His own future, He used this very same word in the Greek. But, how did He use it? Look at verse 14:

John 3

14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Notice the phrase, lifted up. What was the Lord Jesus Christ talking about? If we had time to read the rest of the story, we would discover that the Lord Jesus Christ was talking about being lifted up between Heaven and earth on the Cross for your sins and for mine.

When we read in Isaiah, chapter 52, verse 13, that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to prosper someday, we must recognize that before the glory there must come the humiliation. The first step in the humiliation is the Lord Jesus Christ being lifted up on the Cross, being crucified for your sins and for mine.

I would like for you to turn in your Bibles to Ephesians, chapter 1. Let me remind you of these other two words. You will remember that in Isaiah, chapter 52, there were three words—the word exalted , to which we have already looked, the word extolled , and then the phrase very high . The word extolled comes from the Hebrew word nacah , which means “to raise something from a lower place.” The words very high come from one Hebrew word gabahh , which means “to raise to a great height, just as high as you can possibly get it.”

Is that suggesting anything to you? The Lord Jesus Christ was first lifted up on the Cross. What happened to Him? When He died, He was taken down from the Cross and He was placed in a tomb. Was He left there in that tomb? No, of course not. He was raised from the dead. Isaiah expressed it with the Old Testament word extolled . Then do you remember what happened to Him? When He was raised from the dead, did He just wander around on this earth, or was it just His Spirit that was raised which influenced everybody, as some folk suggest? No, He walked this earth in constant contact with ordinary people for forty days and then He ascended on high. He not only ascended on high, He was raised up very high , as the Old Testament expression describes it.

Here in Ephesians, chapter 1, is the description of this very thing that occurred in the Old Testament. Paul is praying for the Ephesian believers, and in praying for the Ephesian believers, of course, is praying for all believers. In verse 18, he is asking God:

Ephesians 1

18The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his [our] calling, and what the riches of the glory of his [our] inheritance in the saints [or more accurately, our inheritance as is related to Him] ,
19And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20[Listen carefully] Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places [where was that?] ,
21Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,

Turn back to Isaiah, chapter 52, as we marvel at the unity of the Scriptures and the inspiration of the Word of God, how Isaiah, before the Lord Jesus Christ ever came to earth in human form, could describe so accurately the destiny of the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at verse 13 again:

Isaiah 52

13Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

That is, He shall be lifted up on the Cross. He shall be extolled. He shall be raised from the dead and He shall be made very high, or be made far above principalities and powers.

We Should Be Astonished

What effect should this have upon you? It should amaze you. It should astonish you. What effect is it going to have upon the nations of the world—listen carefully to what I say—when their eyes are finally opened to the tremendous truth of the Gospel? Their eyes are not yet open, and what I am saying, perhaps even to some of you, can be as boring as anything can be and dry as dust, because your eyes have never been opened to how wonderful the Lord Jesus Christ is. To some of you it is just so many words, and certainly the world who knows not Christ, the world whose eyes have been blinded by the god of this world, can't see anything wonderful in what I am talking about. But, one of these days the eyes of the world are going to be opened and every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God.

We are still in the first stanza, and that is what Isaiah is talking about in verse 14, where we read:

Isaiah 52

14As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
15So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

Notice in this paragraph two words. The first one is astonied or astonished , and then the second one is sprinkle . What connection do they have? In our English text they have absolutely no connection, but those two words come from the same Hebrew word shamem . A very normal question is, “Why did they use the word sprinkle in the second translation and the word astonied in the first?” This is what we refer to as a translator's difficulty. You have heard the Lord Jesus Christ speak of jots and tittles. Hebrew words have consonants, but no vowels. In place of vowels, they have what are called jots and tittles . These jots and tittles look very much like what we call an accent or comma , or a colon and semicolon . Of course, you realize how small they are.

In Hebrew you read from the right to the left, and you read from the bottom of the page to the top of the page, and sentences are made up of words that look like one great long word, instead of being divided nicely as our English text is. You can see how very easy it would be for somebody to miss one of those jots or tittles.

The words are so very much alike except for the jot or the tittle, and that is the reason for the word sprinkle , but most Bible scholars whom I know agree that the word astonied and the word sprinkle come from the same word, because it is the only thing that makes sense in the paragraph that is before it. You notice in verse 14, He said:

Isaiah 52

14As many were astonied at thee…

Then he has a thought and he expresses it before he finishes the sentence he started. We call these afterthoughts . Have you ever had an afterthought? You start to say something, and before you can finish it you have an afterthought. You utter that, then you get back on the main track again. He was talking about how many people would be astonished at the Lord Jesus Christ. He was talking about how many people would be astonished at what they saw. Then he had this afterthought. Looking through the eye of prophecy under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he could look at a certain incident in the life of our Lord when men were astonished at what they had seen, and we ought to be astonished when we read about it.

He Suffered More Than Any Man

Notice the last part of verse 14:

Isaiah 52

14…his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:

The word visage refers to your face, and the word form refers to your body. What is this we are reading? We are reading that the face and the body of the Lord Jesus Christ was marred more than the face and the body of any man who has ever lived upon the earth. I hope this isn't a commonplace thing to you. I hope that you love the Lord enough that you can sense, at least in a small way, what He suffered for you. His suffering wasn't imaginary. It was real and it was physical.

You have all had the opportunity, I am sure, of being blessed by Handel's Messiah . Handel based part of his oratorio on this portion of the book of Isaiah. The story is told that as he was reading this portion in preparation of his marvelous masterpiece, his finger rested on verse 14. As his head bowed over it, tears discolored the page of his Bible when he realized what his Savior suffered for him. Look at those words again:

Isaiah 52

14…his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:

I wonder if we can grasp what it means when we say, “The face and the form of the Savior were marred.” Maybe this will help us. Turn to II Samuel, chapter 20, as I remind you this word that is translated marred in Isaiah, chapter 52, comes from the Hebrew word shachath . The same root word is translated in a rather interesting way in II Samuel, chapter 20.

This is a story about a battle in which Joab, the captain of David, was waging war against one of the rebels to David's reign. We are not going to read the whole story, but we are going to take up our reading with verse 14. Notice:

II Samuel 20

14And he went through all the tribes of Israel unto Abel, and to Bethmaachah, and all the Berites: and they were gathered together, and went also after him.
15And they came and besieged him in Abel of Bethmaachah, and they cast up a bank against the city, and it stood in the trench: [notice very carefully] and all the people that were with Joab battered the wall, to throw it down.

This word battered is the Hebrew word shachath which is translated marred in Isaiah, chapter 52. When we speak of the face and the form of the Savior being marred more than the sons of men, what are we talking about? We are talking about Him being so cruelly treated that He was battered with as much force and vengeance as when men set up a battering ram outside a city wall and batter the wall until it crumbles. This should give you some idea of what the Lord Jesus Christ suffered for you and for me.

Notice again in Isaiah, chapter 52, when Isaiah said, “Many people are going to be astonished at the Lord Jesus Christ.” Then he said, “I remember one time when they were astonished, when His face and His form were battered more than the face and the form of any individual.” Then he continued his thought in verse 15 when he said, “So shall He astonish many nations.” That makes more sense, doesn't it, than to say, “So shall He sprinkle many nations?” You can never agree on what that word sprinkle means. “So shall He astonish many nations.”

Give Him Your Allegiance Now

The rest of the verse is consistent with that interpretation, for there we read:

Isaiah 52

15…the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

This is a picture of them putting their hands over their mouths when they see everything that there is related to Him. The half has not yet been told for this is a prophecy of the ultimate destiny of the Savior. Jesus Christ will return to this earth some day and the kings of this earth will cover their mouths in His presence and they will be amazed and marvel at what they see. This person that they refer to as the lowly Galilean is someday going to return as the mighty Son of God, and that is why the Psalmist, in Psalm 2, says, “You kings of the earth kiss the Son lest He be angry with you.” This simply means to give Him your allegiance now, for if you give Him not your allegiance now willingly, there will come a day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God.

The most foolish thing in the world to me is for puny man to say, “I will live my own life and leave God out of it.” You may for a while, but there will come a day when you will wish that you had not.


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