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Isaiah 53:4-12 by Robert Dean
As these future Jews look back on who they rejected, the identity of the Servant becomes focused beyond question. No passage is so perfectly honed into the person and work of Jesus Christ as this Word given by God to His beloved Israel. By illumination and elimination the description becomes a driving force to steer the unbelieving world to Jesus Christ. Our grief, sorrows, transgressions, iniquities and chastisement describe our guilt deserving of the penalty. Stricken, smitten, afflicted, wounded, bruised, travail of His soul, describe the severity of the penalty. Borne, carried, offering for sin, put Him to grief, describe Him as our substitute. Justify many describes the completed atonement, and satisfy describes the Father’s approval. Righteous Servant, without deceit, who has done no violence, describes the offering – a righteous man, a sacrifice, Israel’s Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Series:Acts (2010)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 32 secs

Only a Righteous Servant Can Justify Many. Isaiah 53:4-12

 In Isaiah 53:3 we have the words "sorrow" and "grief." The word sorrow is the Hebrew participle makob which means someone who goes through suffering. Here, because of the context of the passage, the focus isn't on the fact that during His life He would have gone through times perhaps of suffering, it is focusing on the ultimate suffering that he went through on the cross. And he was "acquainted with grief." The word translated "grief" often has the idea of physical sickness. The same word is in verse 4. Then at the end of verse 5 it says "by His scourging we are healed." There is terminology here that makes it sound like physical healing of sickness. The Hebrew word has that nuance. It is roughly equivalent to the New Testament word asthenes [a)sqenhj] which is frequently translated "illness" or "sickness," but it is also translated "weakness" many times in the New Testament because the core meaning has something to do with weakness or inability. In the Old Testament the word is also used to relate to a calamity or judgment of God. But it has a core meaning of someone who is weak, and that can mean in context somebody who is weak physically, and thus it comes to mean someone who is ill or sick—or weak spiritually and thus it is dealing with a sin problem. So context is going to determine how this word is understood.

There are some who say that Jesus died so we can be healthy. This is what the health and wealth evangelists on television go to, the so-called prosperity gospel crowd. These words for sickness and infirmities are talking about the result of cause. But the concrete term here that is not a figure of speech are the terms that we find for sin—iniquity, transgression, and sin. So when there is a word that is broad and can go in one of two directions and is used in synonymous parallelism, a narrower word, you have to look to the narrower word to define the broader word. The broader word can refer to spiritual sickness or sin or physical sickness, and since it is used in conjunction with terms that are related specifically to sin then it has to be understood in that sense.              

Verses 4-6 help us to understand the core of what He does. This is poetry. Much of prophecy is written as poetry and that is also important to understand because in poetry language is used in a more figurative sense than in historical narrative or legal language. Even a lot of historical literature in the Old Testament is written in poetry. So language has a little bit of a looser sense to it in poetic language.

We focus on the fact that we have the contrast between "he," a masculine singular pronoun, and a first person plural pronoun "our"—he versus our. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities." The sense here is clearly that of substitution, that something happens to Him not because of what He has done but because of what others have done, and He suffers in their place.

Isaiah 53:4 NASB "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted." The word "bore" is the Hebrew word nasa which indicates lifting up or carrying something. This is a word used in passages related to sacrifices in Leviticus, specifically in those related to the Day of Atonement. All through this section there is a repetition of key words that tie everything together and makes it very clear what is going on. "He bore our griefs," and then when we get to 53:12 we read in the last two lines, "He Himself bore the sin of many." In the first part He carried our griefs. Some people say He carried our sicknesses. How would you argue with that? You go to the parallel in verse 12—same verb, and it is very clear there that what He carries are the sins of many. It is not talking in verse four about sickness, it is talking about sin. "And our sorrows" – a different Hebrew word and it means to bear a load for somebody else. It is used in Isaiah 46:4 where God is speaking to Israel NASB "Even to {your} old age I will be the same, And even to {your} graying years I will bear {you!} I have done {it,} and I will carry {you;} And I will bear {you} and I will deliver {you.}" In that last line the "bearing" is related to deliverance. The Hebrew word for deliverance is a different Hebrew word  but it also relates to salvation. So the bearing is a word that is loaded with a nuance related to deliverance from sin.

Jeremiah 6:7 uses this term again NASB "… Sickness [grief] and wounds are ever before Me." The sickness and the wounds are the result of what happens in the previous line, "Violence and destruction are heard in her." What causes the violence and destruction? It is in the line before that—wickedness. So this is a figure of speech in Isaiah 53:4, "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." The griefs and the sorrows are the result of something else, and that something else is the sin that is the ultimate cause of the sickness.    

If an employer is approached by someone, maybe a homeless person who is hungry, for a job and that employer gives them a job and he says: "I will take away your hunger." That doesn't mean the employer is saying he is going to feed that person but he is going to pay him for the work done and from the pay that the individual receives he will be able to buy food. So when the employer says he will take away the person's hunger he is, using the same figure of speech, saying he is going to produce the results, but actuality what he is going to do is produce the cause of the result. These rods "grief" and "sorrow" are talking about the end results. The other implication of that is that Christ take scare of everything from A to Z; A meaning the cause of all of the suffering and sin in the world as well as removing all of the results, i.e. the sin and suffering in the world.

So in the verse part of the verse where we see the suffering servant, here is one who carries and takes away the result of sin. It has that strong nuance from the Day of Atonement passages, words related to the ritual of Israel. The last two lines talks about their response to Him. He is doing all of these wonderful things for us and we just didn't know who He was and considered Him to be stricken. And there is a series of three passive participles here in the Hebrew: smitten, stricken and afflicted. And it is God who is the one who does this. They just looked at Him with all that happened and they said God must be bringing this judgment upon Him.

It is so interesting how we as human beings jump to the conclusion when somebody is going through hard times that God is punishing them. That is what Job's three friends were trying to convince Job of, but that wasn't true. We have such a superficial view of suffering. So that is their view. They looked at Him, He is rejected, not accepted as the Messiah. God must be punishing Him is their thinking and therefore they thought of Him as one stricken, who had been physically hit by God. God is the one who had rejected Him and allowed Him to go through this suffering. The word translated "stricken" is a word that can mean someone who has been hit with a disease. It is used, for example, of Miriam being struck with leprosy in Numbers 12:9, 10 and also King Uzziah who was king at the early stage of Isaiah's time of ministry. 2 Kings 15:5. It has the idea of someone afflicting somebody with something. The word for "smitten" means someone who is killed—hit to kill. There is a clear sense here that this suffering servant is going to die. That is embedded in the meanings of these words. He is smitten by God; God is the ultimate one who allows Him to be crucified. As Peter says, "God delivers Him over." That is God's plan. 

The responsibility for the death of Christ isn't the Jews, it is the human race. There were many Jews who believed in Him as Messiah and there were Romans as well as Jews who were responsible for His crucifixion. But ultimately God allowed it because He had a plan to accomplish redemption and there needed to be a sacrifice, a punishment that was substitutionary. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, had to die as the punishment for the sins of the world. So He is smitten ultimately by God and He is afflicted, i.e. degraded, humiliated, oppressed. This is all of the mockings, the beatings, the scourging that took place with His arrest. 

The next verse focuses on His substitutionary work. Isaiah 53:5 NASB "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed."

There are four sets of word pairs in the verse. It is Hebrew poetry, which doesn't rhyme words, it rhymes ideas. Here we have a synonymous parallelism. We understand these two words, "wounded" and "crushed" [bruised], because they are in synonymous parallelism. There are two different words for sin here: transgressions and iniquities. There are two different words for punishment: chastisement and scourging [stripes]. And there are two different words for the solution: peace and heal. The healing isn't referring to a physical healing from a disease; that becomes clear from other words in the passage.

The first word "wounded" is the Hebrew chalal and it means to be fatally pierced through. This is not talking about the spear of the Roman soldier that John records. That was to reveal that Jesus had died by that point because the blood had separated into the red blood cells and the lymph and that indicated that death had already occurred. He was pierced by the nails that were driven through His wrists and ankles.

He was "crushed," Heb. daka, a word that is translated pulverised, broken in pieces. The noun form relates to dust. It indicates how He dies. These words when applied to a human indicate death. Cf. Ezekiel 28:9 and 32:26. He is not just someone who suffers for others; He is going to die for others. But He dies specifically for their sins: their transgressions and their iniquities.

The first word translated sin is the Hebrew word pesha, meaning transgression. The idea of a transgression is someone who has violated a command, someone ultimately who has rejected the authority of someone else and has rebelled against that authority. It is interesting that when  it is used in contexts not related to God it relates to violating property rights of others. This once again an affirmation that the Bible clearly affirms the right to own property, the right to enjoy the benefits of that property, and the right to use that property under the authority of God and not for the government to come in and tax it confiscatorially, which is what we have today when the government and people in government think that they have a right to our property simply because they are the government. That is completely unrecognised by God as a right of government. So this is a key word there and it means the rejection of God's authority and going our own way against God. The second word "iniquities" is the Hebrew word aven meaning an infraction and it has the idea of crookedness, of something that is distorted, perverse, and something that is iniquitous. We see these words used in relation to Leviticus 16 which is about the Day of Atonement. See Lev. 16:14-24. The words iniquities, transgressions and sin are mentioned several times on the Day of Atonement and several times in Isaiah 53, which shows that this has a ritual connection that is connecting what the servant does with what is done by the high priest on the Day of Atonement.

The servant can't be Israel. Why? Because: Isaiah 59:2 NASB "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden {His} face from you so that He does not hear. [3] For your hands are defiled with blood And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken falsehood, Your tongue mutters wickedness." Isaiah is speaking to Israel, and they can't be the servant because the servant has to be righteous. The response: [12] "For our transgressions are multiplied before You, And our sins testify against us; For our transgressions are with us, And we know our iniquities." So there is a recognition by the Jewish people that they are iniquitous, they have transgressed the law; they are not qualified to be the righteous servant. Then Isaiah 64:6 NASB "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. [7] There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities." The word "iniquities" is used as a parallel here to the filth of the unrighteousness in verse 6.

The "chastisement" in Isaiah 53:5 refers to a legal punishment, discipline. The stripes or scourging refers to the whipping or being beaten. And as a result of that we have peace with God—shalom, used of the peace offering; healing, rapha, is often used to describe the healing of a relationship with God; primarily for healing of disease but it also has a spiritual sense.        

Why is this necessary? Isaiah 53:6 NASB "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way …" Sheep can't take care of themselves and they all just wander off on their own with no thought for safety, and they would die without a shepherd. The existence of sheep is the greatest argument against Darwinian evolution that you will see. According to Darwinian evolution sheep evolved a long time before there was anybody to take care of them. Sheep have to be watched over and taken care of, and we are the same way. In contrast: "… But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him." The iniquity has put a burden upon the servant.

As a result of this: Isaiah 53:7 NASB "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth." Jesus went throughout this entire trial without saying a thing. He screams out only when God judges Him for the sins of the world. This is why He was silent, to show that contrast. The physical suffering was about the worst that anyone could possibly go through and yet he didn't even moan or groan.

Isaiah 53:8 NASB "By oppression and judgment He was taken away …" Jesus was arrested the night before He went to the cross as He was praying with His disciples in an olive grove across the Kidron Valley, a place where there was a huge olive press. Gethsemane means olive press. An olive press is where they would take the olives and press all the olive out and it is a sort of imagery for what was happening to the Lord Jesus Christ in terms of the pressure upon Him. "… And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living …" He has been rejected, oppressed, ignored, arrested and seen as someone who was cut off—he died. And this is "For the transgression [pesha] of my people, to whom the stroke {was due}?" "For" is a preposition of substitution. The clear idea is that He is unworthy of punishment but He takes on the punishment for others.  

Isaiah 53:9 NASB "His grave was assigned with wicked men [plural], Yet He was with a rich man [singular] in His death …" When He does He is with two criminals, and when they bury Him they bury Him in a grave belonging to Joseph of Arimathea who was a wealthy Pharisee, a secret believer in Jesus as the Messiah. Then we get His character analysis: "Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth." The suffering servant is without sin; He has done nothing for which to be punished; there is no guilt there. There were six trials of Jesus, all of which were deemed to be illegal.

Isaiah 53:10-12 NASB "But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting {Him} to grief; If He would render Himself {as} a guilt offering, He will see {His} offspring, He will prolong {His} days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. [11] As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see {it and} be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. [12] Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors."