The Suffering Servant - The Dumb Servant
Dr. Joe Temple


We have been studying the Servant songs in the book of Isaiah, and we have been discussing of late the Servant song which is referred to as the song of the suffering Servant . We pointed out to you that it is a song of five stanzas, each stanza comprising three of our Scripture verses. I would like for you to notice with me as I read the song from the very beginning down to the point of our discussion in this lesson.

Notice verse 13 of chapter 52, the first stanza of the song, which reveals to us Christ and His destiny:

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 [astonish] 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 song, which portrays for us the despised Servant , begins with the words:

Isaiah 53

1Who hath believed our report [the report that was given to us] ? 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 song, verses 4-6, portrays for us the disciplined Servant :

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.

We come to the fourth stanza of the song, which begins with verse 7 and ends with verse 9. It portrays for us the dumb Servant or the silent, suffering Servant . We read in verse 7:

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.

You can tell from the reading of the stanza why we say that it portrays the dumb Servant , for we have emphasized for us several references to the fact that He opened not His mouth. “As a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

We can learn much from the silence of the Lord Jesus Christ because most of us are talking when we ought to be listening. Most of us are talking when we ought to be silent. If we understand some of the circumstances of His silence, it may help us to appreciate His silence more, for have you not said any number of times when you have been in certain situations, “I just couldn't keep quiet. I was doing all right until he said thus and so, and then I just had to say something.”? Or, haven't you said any number of times, “I was all right until he did that, and then I had to let him have it. I just couldn't keep quiet anymore.”?

He Was Oppressed

Of course you have felt that way, and I am sure that you have said that at some time. That is the reason I would like for us to notice together the circumstances of the silence of Christ. The silence will be more meaningful if we understand some of the circumstances in which it occurred.

Look at verse 7, and notice the statement:

Isaiah 53

7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted…

We have been talking about His suffering practically throughout the entire song, and we noticed particularly His suffering when we were talking about the disciplined Servant . When we come to these two statements, we might be prone to think that we are just repeating the same thing, but we are not. We are speaking of something in depth. We are going deeper, for the Holy Spirit of God, in describing the suffering of the Servant, is going further now than He had before. Keep in mind that you and I are able to hold our tongues up to a certain point, and then we let loose, but we need to remember that the Savior held His tongue. He kept silent even though He was oppressed.

This word oppressed comes from the Hebrew word nagas , and it speaks of driving an animal ahead of you with the blows of a whip because it is not moving fast enough, or just because you think you ought to drive him as you drive any dumb beast. You may be wondering why we would say that this word oppressed comes from a Hebrew word that means just that. The reason that we say that is that is what it means. That is the way it is translated.

Turn with me to the book of Job, chapter 39. You will recall that friends of Job, in speaking to him endeavoring to point out the error of his ways, often called upon Job to find out where he was when God was doing certain things. God Himself spoke to Job in that manner, for Job was asked, “Where were you when all of these things were put into motion?” He was asked, “Tell me why it is that certain courses of nature operate according to schedule, that animals operate to certain instincts. If you know so much, explain all of that to me.” This suggestion is made here in chapter 39, verse 1, where we read:

Job 39

1Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?
2Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? or knowest thou the time when they bring forth?
3They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows.
4Their young ones are in good liking, they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them.

Of course, you realize from our reading that this paragraph is simply speaking about the normal activity of animals. They are born and every mother animal knows, whether you do or not, the exact time of birth of their offspring, and they begin to make preparation for it. It is almost uncanny how they understand. Then, after the offspring are brought forth, they see to it that they are well fed.

You will notice in the last part of verse 4 the phrase, they go forth, and return not unto them . It is amazing how a mother dog, for example, will guard her puppies with her very life, but there comes a time when it looks as if she has no more interest in them at all. Then, they go off and do whatever they wish, as though there were no relationship at all. Job is addressed and asked to explain that, if he can. Where did they learn that sort of thing? Here is the verse that we wanted to get to. Notice verse 5:

Job 39

5Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?
6Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings.
7He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver.
8The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing.

This is a description of the wild ass. He roams where he will and nobody can put any bonds upon him, ordinarily speaking. God has given him the whole range of the mountains for his playground, but once in a while man tries to tame the ass. They put a harness on him and drive him before a cart. Sometimes he goes and sometimes he doesn't. If he makes up his mind he won't, he doesn't. That is exactly what Job said here. Notice in the last part of verse 7:

Job 39

7He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver.

At Miracle Camp , sponsored by Bible Memory Association , there is a participant in the camp known as Jezebel . She is an ass that somebody gave to the camp for recreation. Some people drive her around with a cart. I don't think that I have ever been there when someone hasn't come and said, “What are we going to do with Jezebel?” I usually know what the trouble is, but I always say, “What happened? Did she run away?” They say, “No, she won't run at all. She won't even walk. What can we do with her?” I have been there long enough to know what to do, so I just say, “Let her alone. Forget it. When she thinks that you have forgotten, she will get up.” If she makes up her mind that she is not going to heed the cry of the driver, then she is not. God said she was made that way.

I didn't bring you here to tell you about an ass that won't obey its driver. I brought you to this Scripture to look at the word driver . It is the noun form of the verb nagas in Isaiah, chapter 53. When we read that the Lord Jesus Christ was oppressed , what do we mean? We mean that the individuals who were persecuting the Lord Jesus Christ in those days prior to His death were driving Him about with a whip as a driver might drive a stubborn ass.

You have had the feeling, haven't you, that you don't mind doing something for somebody if they ask you nicely to do it? But if they tell you, you're just not going to do it, and if they try to make you, you get that much more stubborn, whether it is right or wrong. I'm driving home a point—the Lord Jesus Christ was silent even while they were driving Him like you would drive a stubborn ass. He didn't open His mouth.

He Was Afflicted

Notice again verse 7 of Isaiah, chapter 53:

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.

This word afflicted comes from the Hebrew word anah , which means “He was given a hard time.” Without any specific reference to whether it was an emotional or a physical type of persecution, He was given a hard time.

You know, sometimes you see people in conversation and you can tell that things aren't going as smoothly as they might and, if you know the individual concerned, when it is over, you may say, “They gave you a hard time, didn't they?” He says, “Yes, they sure did.” He doesn't need to speak details. You know what he meant. We say reverently that the folk who were persecuting the Lord Jesus Christ gave Him a hard time, but He didn't open His mouth. He didn't say one word in the midst of all the affliction. We want you to realize that, because there is a lesson that can be learned from the silence of the Savior.

You probably realized from reading the prior stanzas to this song that I didn't read it exactly as it is written in the King James Version . The reason that I didn't is that we pointed out to you the changes and why they were made. When we look down at verse 8, we do not find a happy translation at all. The King James Version reads:

Isaiah 53

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.

It sounds as though there is a pile of unrelated phrases, but when you go back to the original text and decipher the whole thing, it can be read this way, and to my mind it is much clearer: “By oppression and judgment He was taken away: and as for His generation—the people who lived during the time that He was on earth—who among them considered that He was cut off from the land of the living for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due.”

We don't have time to examine every word in this verse in order to verify this suggested translation that I have made, but we are going to look at one of them, because it is along the line of our thinking, and that is the word prison . That word prison in the original text comes from the Hebrew word otser , and it is translated “oppression” other places in the Scripture.

Turn with me to Psalm 107, and notice verse 31:

Psalm 107

31Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
32Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
33He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground;
34A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.
35He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.
36And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation;
37And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase.
38He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.
39Again [on the other hand] , they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow.

This paragraph is suggesting that God is in control of everything. There are times when He blesses, and there are times when He withholds His blessings. There are times when men are increased because of the blessing of God, and there are times when they are diminished because of the oppressing of God.

Notice particularly in verse 39 the word oppression . You will discover that it is the Hebrew word otser which is translated “prisons” in Isaiah, chapter 53. So you see, we are still talking about the hard times which these individuals gave the Lord Jesus Christ. “They oppressed Him, but He opened not His mouth.”

He Was Stricken

Notice the last word in Isaiah, chapter 53, verse 8. It is the word stricken . Yes, they oppressed Him, and for the transgression of Isaiah's people was He stricken. If you are thinking, you probably remember that in verse 4, we read: “Yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.” The word stricken in verse 4 and the word stricken in verse 8 are not the same word. This one comes from the Hebrew word nega , and it speaks of a much stronger thing, for this word nega speaks of a blow that could deprive Him of His very life.

Oh, they slapped Him about, but there came a time when they gave Him a blow that could have taken His life if God had not planned for it to be taken on the Cross. Yet He opened not His mouth. He didn't have one word to say.

I want to emphasize that you and I have learned to keep quiet when things aren't too bad, but when things get too bad, we justify our speaking out, and we say that we couldn't keep quiet in view of what happened. Well, the Savior did. These were the circumstances of His silence.

A Sullen Silence

I would like for us to go back over this stanza and look at the character of the silence of the Lord. There are different kinds of silences, as you know. For example, there is such a thing as a sullen silence , and that accomplishes absolutely nothing. We may say to some person, “Did they say anything when you told them that?” “No, they didn't say a word.” They might as well have. They stayed sullied up all day about it. It would have been better if they had said it and gotten it off their chests. We know what a sullen silence is, don't we?

A Selfless Silence

There are different kinds of silences, and the first kind that is represented in this particular period of the life of the Savior is what I am going to, for want of a better term, refer to as a selfless silence , not a selfish silence . There is such a thing as a selfish silence . We keep silent because we are too selfish to do otherwise. We don't want to stick our necks out; we want the other fellow to take the rap, and we keep quiet. I am not talking about that. We are talking about a selfless silence , and it is suggested to our minds by what we read in the first part of verse 7:

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.

Look at that word opened with me, as I remind you that it comes from the Hebrew word pathach , and it means “to break forth” or “to lash out.” You know what that means. It is pretty expressive. Sometimes you are talking to someone and they don't like what you say, and they give you a tongue-lashing. Any of you who have ever experienced anything like that will agree with me. There have been times when you have suffered a tongue-lashing, which you gladly would have exchanged for some bodily punishment, because the individual lashed out with all the venom and the bitterness of which they were capable.

The Lord Jesus Christ didn't, even though He suffered these things that we have referred to in the earlier portion of the message. He opened not His mouth. He didn't lash out when He had every reason in the world to lash out. Why? Because He wasn't thinking of Himself. He was thinking of you. He was thinking of me. He had a job to do, and He knew that His job wasn't to lash out and to talk back. It was to suffer.

I wonder if we could be that unselfish. Do we know anything about selfless silence for the cause of Christ? Have we been so interested in the cause of Christ that sometime in our Christian experience we have kept quiet for the sake of the cause, even when we ourselves were maltreated and misused, even when we had to let somebody think something about us that we would rather they not think? Isn't it true that sometime in your experience you have said, “I just had to speak out. I couldn't let them think that about me.”?

Of course, there may be times when you should speak out and not let them think that about you. But, are you sure that in every case it was an unselfish thing that you did? Could it be true that there were times when you did speak out because you didn't want them to think that about you, not for the cause, but for your own selfish respect?

A Submissive Silence

Look at verse 7 again, as I suggest that the Lord Jesus Christ manifested a submissive silence , for we read:

Isaiah 53

7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: [notice] he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

He opened not His mouth this time as a sheep before his shearers or a sheep led to the slaughter. He was perfectly submissive, not asserting anything of Himself in any respect whatsoever. He submitted silently.

Do you know anything about that kind of silence—a submissive silence ? I'm not talking about ordinary things. I'm talking about individuals who have a vision of what it means to be completely yielded to Christ and who are willing to submit and keep quiet.

Don't you think for one moment that the Lord Jesus Christ had to keep quiet; don't you think for a moment that He had to act like a sheep. He was the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and He could have devoured instantly all the opposition in front of Him, but He didn't. Like a sheep is dumb before his shearers, He submitted. His silence was such.

A Surrendered Silence

The last kind of silence that I want to leave with you is suggested to us from verse 8, and for want of a better term, I have referred to it as surrendered silence. “By oppression and judgment He was taken away, and who among His generation considered that He was cut off from the land of the living because of them?”

Have you ever done something good and you realized everybody misunderstood it? How you longed to speak out and say, “Look, you have it all wrong.” Have you ever wanted to do something and before you could get it done, you were cut off? You were silenced, and you longed to cry out and say, “Wait. Let me finish. I am not finished yet.” Perhaps you have. Have you ever been in a position like that and yet realized that though you longed to cry out, you knew full well that you shouldn't? You surrendered. Oh no, you didn't surrender to the enemy any more than Christ surrendered, but you surrendered to the LORD.

Think about the Savior here for a moment. “By oppression and judgment He was taken away.” There were few in His generation who even considered the real purpose of the whole thing. They thought that He was dying as a common criminal, and He couldn't open His mouth to change their minds about it. He couldn't open His mouth to change their viewpoint. He surrendered, and His surrender is even made more evident in verse 9, when we read:

Isaiah 53

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 would be clearer if you will look at the word made and recognize that elsewhere in the Scripture, it is translated by the word “appointed.” It is the same word that Moses used when he appointed certain individuals to do things in relation to the tabernacle in the Old Testament.

What you are reading here is not that the Lord Jesus Christ made His grave with the wicked and with the rich, but that He was appointed a place of burial with the rich and the wicked, with ordinary human beings, though He was King of kings and Lord of lords.

If you will look at the word because and recognize that it should be translated by the phrase, even though, it becomes clearer. Somebody else told them where to bury Him. He didn't even pick out His own burial plot. He, Who created the earth, couldn't say, “I want to be buried in this spot right here.” Even though He was as pure as pure could be, even though there was no violence nor deceit found in His mouth, somebody else appointed Him a place of burial, and He was silent about the whole thing.

This is what I refer to as a surrendered silence , for it is only when an individual is completely and thoroughly surrendered to the LORD that he can be silent when he doesn't have to be.

In closing, turn with me to Peter's epistle, because I believe one of the most beautiful comments on this particular stanza of the Servant's song , is found in Peter's first epistle, chapter 2, verse 23. In this passage of Scripture, we have presented to us all three of these kinds of suffering that we have been speaking about. We begin with verse 21:

I Peter 2

21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

They reviled Him. Oh, the things that they did and the things that they said, but He did not give them the same in kind. He refused to let self come to the surface. He took it. It was a selfless silence. He didn't open His mouth. He didn't break forth. He didn't lash out. He didn't revile again.

Then we read that when He suffered, He threatened not. That speaks to my own heart of a submissive silence. He submitted. As I said, He acted like a sheep, but He could have acted like a lion. He didn't turn around and say, “You all had better stop it. Don't you hit Me again. Don't you lash Me with that whip. I can break you into pieces.” He could have said that, but He didn't, for He was submissive.

Full Surrender to the Lord

Why was there such a selfless silence with the Lord? Why was there such a submissive silence ? I think that it is all bound up in the third kind of silence to which we referred a moment ago—the surrendered silence . He was completely surrendered to the LORD, and that is indicated here in verse 23, where we read:

I Peter 2

23…but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

He surrendered Himself. You say, “Oh, He surrendered Himself to the Roman government and to the Jewish hierarchy.” No, He didn't do that. They may have thought that He did, but He didn't. He surrendered Himself to the LORD. That is the One to whom He surrendered Himself.

Peter finally came to realize that. You remember, on the day of Pentecost when he stood up and addressed the nation of Israel, He said, “You men of Israel, you with your wicked hands have taken Jesus Christ and crucified and slain Him. You thought you did it, but you didn't really. You did it by the predetermined counsel and foreknowledge of God, Who delivered Him into your hands. You couldn't have done it by yourselves. You could not have done it if God hadn't permitted it.”

That is the reason I say to you that when you surrender and are silent, it isn't a surrender of principle. It isn't a surrender of conviction. It isn't a surrender to an individual. It is a surrender to the LORD.

I suggest that if you and I would learn the fullness of surrender as did the Lord Jesus Christ, our mouths would not be too difficult to surrender to Him. Our tongues wouldn't be too difficult to surrender. If we are surrendered to Him and there comes a time when our innermost being wants to lash out about something, the Savior says, “For My sake don't say it; for My sake, be quiet.” You don't have to fight a battle; you don't have to grit your teeth. You just have to say, “All right, LORD, if you want me to be quiet, I'll be quiet.”

You may say, “Wait a minute. I think you have to do something.” No, you don't have to do anything if you are surrendered. This is not to suggest that He will tell you to keep quiet all of the time, but I am just talking about keeping quiet. There will be times when He will tell you to speak up, and if you are surrendered, you won't have to fight a battle about that. You won't have to sweat and fume and fuss. You will just say, “All right, LORD, if that is what You want me to say, I will say it.” You won't even have to count the cost as to what it might cost you if you are surrendered, because whether it is the spoken word or the silent witness, if it has its roots in a full surrender, you have learned what the Lord Jesus Christ intended when Peter said, “He has left us an example that we should follow in His steps—the example of suffering in silence.”

I think that it is a lesson that most of us need to learn.

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