Isaiah is prophesying the means by which salvation would reach to the end of the earth and how the arm of the Lord would be revealed. Peace, redemption, salvation, and joy would be accomplished through the arrival of the Lord’s servant. The servant would be successful in accomplishing the task given to him. He would be highly exalted but rejected by the people because of his suffering. Further, the servant came to take away our pains and sicknesses so that we could be healed, but we considered him struck down by God. But he was not rejected by God. The servant’s suffering was not for his own transgressions but because of our rebellion. We turned to our own way and rejected the Lord’s path. Thus, God had the servant carry away our sins, allowing him to be crushed so that we could be healed. In this lesson we are going to examine Isaiah 53:7-12 and read about the servant who saves.
Humble Submission (53:7)
Isaiah continues his description of the work of the servant by looking at his humble submission. The servant would yield to the oppressive acts made against him. The servant did not fight to defend himself nor raise his voice in protest. This is an amazing thought. Jesus is experiencing oppression and affliction but is not protesting against these events. He does not defend himself even though the oppression is unjust and even though he is falsely accused. Jesus is innocent in every way and yet he does nothing and says nothing. Jesus allows everything to happen to him. Therefore, he willingly went to his own slaughter. The scriptures highlight this idea like in Luke 9:51 when Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. Jesus willingly goes to the city that will be the place of his death. He is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
Further, consider the contrast that Isaiah is picturing. We were described as sheep in verse 6. Like sheep we were in rebellion to God and turned from the Lord’s way. Jesus, the servant, is like a lamb who does not turn from the way of the Lord, but submits completely to the Lord’s will. Thus, he is silent before his oppressors. He allows everything to happen to him because this is the will of the Lord. In Jesus we see what humble submission looks like.
A Miscarriage of Justice (53:8)
The next point that is made is that the servant will experience a miscarriage of justice from start to finish. This miscarriage of justice will lead to his death. He will be cut off out of the land of the living. Notice the point is made that no one will care. No one would pay attention to this mistreatment and miscarriage of justice. No one is going to care to stop what is happening to the servant. They would not understand what he is doing.
Further, Isaiah wants to make sure that though the servant is being condemned, he is not dying for his own transgressions. He is stricken because of the people’s rebellion. The NASB is far too interpretative and does not literally render the sentence here. The sins of the people are still the reason for the servant’s suffering. “Because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded” (NET). Yet the people fail to consider what was really happening.
His Burial (53:9)
We now come to a rather amazing prophecy. It was the common practice for the Jewish people in the first century to bury all the family members in a large family tomb. This prophecy declares that something very different is going to happen. The prophecy is even more curious because of the change of subjects. The sentence looks to be in parallel: “Made his grave with the wicked” and “with a rich man in his death.” But there is something here in the Hebrew that the English reflects. If this was only a description of his burial then we would read that they made his grave with a wicked man and with a rich man in his death, making “the wicked man” and “the rich man” to be synonymous. But “the wicked” is plural and the “rich man” is singular. So there is a contrast being made.
The point then is that the servant’s burial was appointed to be with wicked men, but he ends up being with the rich man in his death. The NET reveals this idea in its rendering: “They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb…” (Isaiah 53:9 NET). The Gospel of John records this unusual ending for Jesus. Jesus is crucified with criminals (the wicked) but does not end up with the burial of the wicked (which likely would have been to have his body dumped in the Valley of Hinnom). Rather, Joseph of Arimathea requests the body of Jesus and buries Jesus in his own tomb, and he was a rich man (cf. Matthew 27:57).
This leads to the rest of the prophecy in verse 9. Though Jesus was associate with the criminals, there was no hostility or sins charged against him. He is the Lamb of God without sin or blemish (cf. Luke 23:41). Jesus is killed without cause.
The Will of God (53:10)
But God wants us to know something. This miscarriage of justice against his servant was not an accident. This was not outside of the sovereign will of God. “It was the will of the Lord to crush him.” It was God’s desire to do this. It was not against his will, his plan, or his desire. God is behind this crushing of the servant! God’s desires and plans are being accomplished. God put him to this suffering. God made his life the guilt offering.
Now a number of translations change this from “guilt offering” to “sin offering.” But I think we should be careful in doing so because the “guilt offering” or “restitution offering” has a reference to the sacrificial system in the Law of Moses. The servant will function as this guilt offering, restitution offering, compensation offering, like we read about in Leviticus 5:14-6:7. The guilt offering was when the offerer paid compensation for the sins committed. Consider this carefully. Rather than calling the servant a substitute for us, the servant is described as the guilt offering. His offering made restitution for our sins. He does not bring the offering. Jesus is the offering. This is where the scriptures repeatedly describe the work of Jesus as the work of redemption and calling him the ransom for the world.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV)
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:5–6 ESV)
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:17–19 ESV)
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10 ESV)
…Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:14 ESV)
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7 ESV)
We could continue to show all the scriptures that describe Jesus as the redemption price, the ransom price, and the work Jesus did to redeem us. This fits what Isaiah is picturing. Jesus is the compensation price, the guilt offering, that pays our sins so that we could be healed.
The Reversal (53:10-11)
After pointing out that the servant will be killed by a miscarriage of justice, we now read of an amazing, shocking reversal. The servant will be the guilt offering. But notice the next sentence in verse 10: “He will see his offspring; he shall prolong his days.” How is this possible? How is it possible to see the offspring and have his days prolonged when he is going to be oppressed, afflicted, and like a lamb led to the slaughter? Verse 11 continues the amazing reversal. “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.” The servant will live a long life after his death and have the blessings of God. He will live and see many spiritual children. God’s will and purpose will continue through him even after his death. This had to be a puzzling prophecy for the readers. We know now how this would be true. Resurrection is being prophesied concerning the servant. Though killed, he will accomplish the mission, see his spiritual offspring (which is the result of his work), and his days will continue before the Lord. He will have satisfaction in his work even though he has experienced anguish and suffering.
The result of the suffering has made the many to be accounted as righteous. The sheep who have turned from the Lord’s path and gone their own way can now be justified, righteous, and declared innocent before the Lord. How could this be? Verse 11 reminds us what has occurred. The servant has borne/carried the sins away. He is the guilt offering. He redeems us. He carries our sins away leading to our justification. The apostle Paul makes the same summary concerning our justification.
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:22–26 ESV)
The Victorious Result (53:12)
God now declares what he is going to do for the servant. The Lord will divide for the servant a portion. There are two ways to understand what God will do. One way to understand this prophecy is how the HCSB reads that we are the portion (the inheritance) that the servant receives and his conquest of the mighty are his spoils. The HCSB renders the verse in this way.
Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil. (Isaiah 53:12 HCSB)
This fits what Jesus himself would say in the Gospel of John.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37 ESV)
Another way to understand the prophecy is that the servant is sharing the victory with the many (which is those who are accounted as seen in verse 11) and now we are the strong and powerful with him because of his victory (cf. Ephesians 4:8). The point is to picture the servant as victorious and receiving the spoils of victory. He is given the spoils of victory because he willingly submitted to death and he was numbered with the transgressors. Though he was numbered with the transgressors, he lifted up and carried away the sins of many. He accepted the load of their guilt so that he could make payment for those sins. He made intercession for the rebels by giving his life.
Intercession is pleading on behalf of another. We are sinners who left the path of God. But Jesus intervened. Jesus is the guilt offering making compensation for our sins when wounded and slain. What will be our response to the one who made intercession and paid the price for our sins?