Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53: The Messiah or Not?

Even before Christianity had its inception, devout Jews believed that the Suffering Servant seen by the Prophet Isaiah was the Messiah, making atonement for the people's sins. After Jesus came and was rejected by the Jewish religious authorities, the Rabbinical commentators began to move from this interpretation. Now, modern Judaism usually interprets the prophecy of Isaiah 53 to be referring to either Israel or Isaiah himself. In this article, we will see why Isaiah 53 is a prophecy of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. This article will be a verse-by-verse commentary on the prophecy:

Who, believed what we have heard? And, the arm of Yahweh, to whom was it revealed?

"What we have heard" refers to the Gospel message about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Many people rejected the message of Christ and did not accept the testimony the Father bore of His Son, nor the testimony that the apostles bore when they spread the Gospel. John 12:37-38 says, "And though he did all these miracles before them, they did not believe in him. That the word would be fulfilled of Eshaya the prophet who said, My Lord, who will believe our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" The identity of the Messiah is not something you can discover through the fleshly, but only by revelation from the Father's Holy Spirit. Matthew 16:13-17 says, "And when Yeshua came to the region of Caesarea of Philippi, he was asking his disciples, "What do men say concerning men? That I am [merely] a son of man? And they said, Some say Yokhanan the baptizer but others Elia and others Aramiya or one of the prophets. And he said to them, "But you, who do you say that I am? Shimon Keepa answered and said,  You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Yeshua answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Shimon, the son of Yona; because flesh and blood has not revealed [this] to you, but my Father who is in heaven."

The "arm of Yahweh" refers to the Messiah. The Messiah is not a separate Person from Yahweh, but is Yahweh Himself in the flesh. Andrew Gabriel Roth, a Messianic scholar, brings out that the arm moves under the direction of the brain, so does the Messiah move under the direction of His Father. Jesus is essentially equal with God. John 5:17-18 says, "And because of this, all the more were the Yehudeans seeking to kill him. Not only because he [Jesus] had broken the sabbath, but also that concerning God he would say that he is his Father, and was equating himself with God." Jesus did however, humble Himself and function as a genuine human being, therefore operated in subjection to God. Verse 19 says, "But Yeshua answered and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you: that the Son is not able to do anything by his desire, but what he sees the the things that he, the Father, does, for that the Father does, these things also the Son likewise does."

When he came up as a sapling before him, And as a root-sprout out of dry ground, He had neither beauty nor majesty,—When we beheld him, there was nothing to behold, that we should desire him;

This is clearly referring to an individual, not the corporate state of Israel. "We" is referring to Israel. Jesus did not look like much, He did not look like the king that they expected. In Isaiah 42:1-4 (which is quoted in Matthew 12:17-21), the prophet says concerning Yahweh's servant: "Lo! my Servant, I will uphold him, My chosen, well-pleased, is my soul,—I have put my spirit upon him, Justice—to the nations, will he bring forth: he will not cry out, nor will he speak loud,—Nor cause to be heard, in the street, his voice: cane that is crushed, will he not break, And wick that is fading, will he not quench,—Faithfully, will he bring forth justice: he will not fade, nor will he be crushed, Until he establish, in the earth, justice, And, for his instruction, Coastlands, wait."

This Servant was not going to even seek His own glory. In John 8:39 Jesus says, "And I do not seek my own glory. There is He who seeks and judges." All Jesus cared about was doing God's will and bringing glory to His name. This is speaking about how the Messiah humbled Himself, He did not come in the glory of a king, but in humility; He also was not born in a palace, but in a stable. Jesus did not look like a king apparently and he did not come with a military force like the Jewish people wanted Him to in order to overthrow the Romans.

When the Word became flesh (John 1:14), He could have become whatever He desired and whoever He desired. God, however, did not lay hold of His divine privileges and became like one of us (Philippians 2:6-8). He chose to be born in a stable in Bethlehem and was lying in a manger. He did not bow down to the devil in order to receive and earthly kingdom (Matthew 4:8-10), because His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). 

Despised was he, and forsaken of men, Man of pains, and familiar with sickness,—Yea, like one from whom the face is hidden, Despised, and we esteemed him not.

The Servant of God is not a popular man. He was hated of all men and endured much persecution. The Gospels record several instances in which the people attempted to stone Him and accused Him of blasphemy for revealing who He truly was. Jesus was truly hated by the religious establishment, even his brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:3-5). Jesus was betrayed and forsaken even by most of His closest followers.

Yet surely, our sicknesses, he, carried, And, as for our pains, he bare the burden of them,—But, we, accounted him stricken, Smitten of God, and humbled.

Jesus bore our spiritual illness of sin and healed us of our physical illnesses. This is quoted in Matthew 8:17 after Jesus works miracles of healing and deliverance in the Galilean town of Capernaum. In John 16:2-3, Jesus said, "They will drive you out from their assemblies and a time will come that all who kill you will think that they offer an offering to God. And these things they will do because they do know neither my Father nor myself."

Those who had Jesus crucified were in ignorance and believed that they were doing the work of God. John 18:29-30 says, "And Peelatos went outside to them and said to them, What accusation do you have against this man? They answered and said to him, If [he] was not a doer of evil, not even to you we would have delivered him." Peter confirms that they had Jesus crucified in ignorance: "The God of Awraham, and of Iskhaq, and of Yaqub, the God of our forefathers, has glorified His Son Yeshua; He whom you delivered up and whom denied before the face of Peelatos after he saw it fitting to let him go. But you denied the Just and the Holy, and you requested for yourselves a murderous man to be given to you. And that Prince of Life you killed, whom God raised from the dead, and we, all of us, are his witnesses. And in the faith of His name, this man that you see and you know, He has strengthened and healed and the faith that is in him has given him this wholeness before all of you. But now, our brethren, I know that in ignorance you did this, as did your leaders. And according to God, that beforehand He preached by the the mouths of all the prophets that His Messiah would suffer, in this manner has fulfilled [it]."

Yet, he, was pierced for transgressions that were ours, was crushed for iniquities that were ours,—The chastisement for our well-being, was upon him, And, by his stripes, there is healing for us.

This is one of three verses in the Tanakh that speak of the Messiah being pierced. Here are the other two:

"For dogs have surrounded me,—An assembly of evil doers, have encircled me, They have pierced my hands and my feet..."- Psalm 22:16

"But I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitant of Jerusalem, the spirit of favour, and of supplications, and they will look unto me, whom they have pierced,—and will wail over him, as one waileth over an only son, and will make bitter outcry over him, as one maketh bitter outcry over a firstborn."- Zechariah 12:10

The Messiah was not slain for His own sins, but for our own. Jesus is declared to have died for our sins in the New Testament. Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:3-4, "For I delivered to you from the first, according as I had received: That the Meshiha died for our sins, as it is written; and that he was buried, and arose the third day, as it is written." In another Epistle, Paul tells the Corinthian church that God made Jesus, who knew no sin, into sin for our sake (II Corinthians 5:21). Notice also how Isaiah distinguishes himself from the Servant of Yahweh.

Notice that this verses says that the Servant was pierced and chastised, resulting in stripes on His body. This perfectly fits in with the Roman punishment of crucifixion, which was the means of Jesus's death. Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15, and John 19:1 all tells us that Jesus was flogged under the authority of Pilate. All four of the Gospels record Jesus's death by crucifixion (Matthew 27:35-50, Mark 15:25-37, Luke 23:33-46, John 19:23-30). 

We all, like sheep, had gone astray, Every man—to his way, had we burned,—And, Yahweh! caused to light upon him, The guilt of, us all!

Jesus is not recorded to have been physically crushed, as this would have resulted in a bone being broken and nullified the Word of God (John 19:31-36). Jesus was crushed with the weight of our sins and wickedness. The real pain of the crucifixion was not only physical, but spiritual. The sinless Messiah had all of the sins of the world laid upon Him as the Lamb of God.

Hard pressed—yet, he, humbled himself, Nor opened his mouth—As, a lamb, to the slaughter, is led, And, as a sheep, before her shearers, is dumb—Nor opened his mouth.

Jesus did not speak in lengthy discourse to defend Himself before the Jewish authorities, or Pilate while the Jewish authorities were making their accusations. All he said were the words, "You have said it." Pilate is said to have been amazed by Jesus's silence (Mark 15:5). Jesus did speak some, but not as much as I would if I was about to be crucified. In order to make Jesus speak at His trial before the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas had to command Him by the name of God (Matthew 26:63). Jesus did answer questions from Pilate when he took him to question him (John 18:33-38, 19:9-12) but still did not make a legal defense, He just stated the truth. He also did not directly answer the questions of Annas, merely telling him to ask His disciples what He taught (John 19:19-21). When one of Annas's servants hit Him, He merely ask them why they hit Him (John 19:22-23).

By constraint and by sentence, was he taken away, And, of his age, who considered, That he was cut off out of the land of the living, For my people's transgression, did the stroke fall on him?

This Servant seems to be a young man with no physical descendants. Again, this is referring to an individual who experiences death ("cut off out of the land of the living") and not to the nation of Israel. When the nation of Israel was punished by God, it was punished for its own sins. This Servant however, is punished for the sins of others.

And, appointed with lawless men, was his grave, And, with the wicked, his tomb,—Though, no violence, had he done, Nor was guile in his mouth.

The Servant was regarded as a criminal. Jesus is emphatically stated to have been viewed as an evildoer by the Jewish authorities (John 18:29-30). He was also crucified in between two thieves (Mark 15:27). Israel clearly did do wrong in its long history, but this Servant had done no wrong to deserve the punishment that He received.

Yet, Yahweh, purposed to bruise him, He laid on him sickness:—If his soul become an offering for guilt, He shall see a seed, He shall prolong his days,—And, the purpose of Yahweh, in his hand, shall prosper:

It says that Yahweh did this thing to Him with the purpose of sin offering. Yet it says that this one who has died without descendants shall see His seed! Jesus's descendants are those who believe in His name. Therefore, this is not talking about descendants according to the flesh. This Servant who died is also said to prolong His days. Jesus prolonged His days by rising from the dead! For His suffering, Yahweh blesses His Servant. I believe Jesus was blessed by being given the name above every other name. Paul says in Philippians 2:5-11, "And feel this in yourselves, which Jeshu the Meshiha (did) also: who, when he was in the form of Aloha, considered this not to be robbery, (this, namely,) that he was the co-equal of Aloha: yet emptied he himself, and took the form of a servant, and was made in the form of men; and in fashion was found as a man, and humbled himself, and was obedient unto death, but the death of the cross. Wherefore also Aloha greatly exalted him, and gave him a name that is more excellent than all names, that at the name of Jeshu every knee should kneel, of those in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jeshu the Meshiha is the Lord, to the glory of Aloha his Father." Jesus, who laid aside His divine prerogatives and privileges, and obeyed God even to the point of dying on a cross, is exalted above all else for His obedience.   

Of the travail of his soul, shall he see, He shall be satisfied with his knowledge, A setting right, when set right himself, shall my Servant win for the Many, Since, of their iniquities, he, taketh the burden.

The Servant's suffering is not in vain and He will know it. Many people will be blessed by the Servant's suffering for their sins. This is clearly talking about the salvation that comes by way of Jesus's death and resurrection.

Therefore, will I give him a portion in the great, And, the strong, shall he apportion as spoil, Because he poured out, to death, his own soul, And, with transgressors, let himself be numbered,—Yea, he, the sin of Many, bare, And, for transgressors, interposeth.

Because of this Servant's unwavering obedience to Yahweh, He is blessed and exalted. He bore the sins of all mankind and makes intercession for sinners. Jesus is exalted by God for what He did on the cross. Even on the cross He prayed for His enemies. Luke 23:34 says, "And Yeshua was saying, Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Even today, Jesus sits at the right hand of the power of God and acts as our everlasting High Priest and as the sole Mediator between God and man. Hebrew 4:14-16 says, "Therefore having such a great High Priest, Jeshu Meshiha, the Son of Aloha, who hath ascended to heaven, let us persevere in the confession of him. For we have not an high priest who cannot suffer along with our infirmity, but (one) who, [having been] tempted in every thing as we, (was) separate from sin. Let us therefore approach with confidence to the throne of his grace, that we may receive mercy, and find grace for help in the time of affliction." The Apostle Paul writes in I Timothy 2:5, "For one is Aloha, and one is the Mediator of Aloha and of men; the man Jeshu Meshiha..."

Surely now it must be apparent that Isaiah 53 is talking about none other than Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Messiah and the Son of God who is prophesied of in not only this passage, but all throughout the Tanakh. The Scriptures bear witness to Jesus being the Messiah. Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 5:39-40, "Search hte scriptures, because in them you think you have life that is eternal, and they testify concerning me. And you are not desiring to come to me, that you may have life that is eternal." 

The only thing keeping you from Jesus is you. If you search the Scriptures with an open heart, you will see that Jesus is exactly who He said He was. He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the living God, Yahweh, made flesh. He came to die for not only my sins, but yours also. If you accept this revelation that God is trying to give you, then you will be blessed in a greater fashion than you could ever imagine!

All Scripture quotations are taken from:

Rotherham's Emphasized Bible by Joseph Bryant Rotherham
Peshitta.org Aramaic-English Interlinear Gospels by Paul D. Younan
A Literal Translation of the New Testament From the Peschito by John Wesley Etheridge


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