In our journey through
the master theme of the Bible we have arrived at a
series of mountain ranges that include the "loftiest
peak of Messianic prophecy."
In no passage in the Old
Testament is the message of the Lord God's
sovereignty over history clearer than here in a
series of four Servant poems. Isaiah reveals with a
loud piercing trumpet sound, "The Lord God
omnipotent reigneth!" No where is this clearer than
in our salvation through the Suffering Servant of
Yahweh. Calvary was no accident (Acts 2:22-24).
In the ever growing clear
vision of the Messiah, the Hebrew prophet introduces
Yahweh's Servant (42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9;
52:13-53:12). It is a message of God's saving grace.
God's eternal purpose is redemption, and He works
out that eternal purpose in history. The climax to
these poems and history itself comes in Isaiah's
"Rhapsody of Redemption," and "the Song of the
Suffering Servant." Isaiah chapter fifty-three has
been called "the golden passional" and "the most
important text in the Old Testament."
As you proceed through
the servant poems, a careful reading reveals the
clear image of a person. There is a growing
connection and transition between the nation and a
person as an innocent, substitutionary sufferer. The
ancient Jewish Targum takes the view here that the
Servant is the future Messiah. He is an individual,
and not the prophet, or a personified collective
personality such as the nation of Israel.
Many scholars have noted
the comparison between these poems and Jesus'
ministry. Jesus began His public ministry by meeting
the needs of hurting people and preaching the good
news of the kingdom of God. As time passed and he
was rejected he concentrated on teaching His
disciples. After Peter made his great confession of
faith in Christ, he began to make a steady emphasis
in His teaching on His coming rejection, death and
resurrection. The life of Christ comes to a grand
fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy in His vicarious,
substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of Israel and
the world and His resurrection. Let's
begin our loft climb with the first poem.
The Introduction of
the Chosen Servant in (42:1-4)
"Behold, My Servant, whom
My chosen one in whom My
I have put My Spirit upon
He will bring forth
justice to the nations" (42:1).
Yahweh introduces His
Servant. The stress in this introductory poem is on
the character, method and mission of the Servant of
Yahweh. The Servant is divinely chosen, called,
anointed, equipped and commissioned. The LORD
sustains Him who is to be a prophet, priest and
The humble, gentle
Servant willingly assumes His responsibilities. He
is characterized as gentle, unobtrusive in manner,
yet strong and resolved (vv. 2-3). A silent
spiritual influence is at work until the mission is
accomplished. He will keep at the task until it is
finished. "He will not be disheartened or crushed,
Until He has established justice in the earth" (v.
Matthew quotes verses 1-4
with slight variation in Matthew 12:18-21
attributing it to Jesus' ministry in Israel. Jesus
did the Father's will and obeyed Him fully. He could
do something Israel could never do because He was
completely under the control of the Holy Spirit all
the days of His life. God has placed His Spirit on
Him, which is clearly a Messianic characteristic
(cf. 61:1; Matthew 3:16; 4:1; Luke 4:14, 18-21;
The task of the Servant
is to establish "justice in the earth." This is the
task of Immanuel, God with us. Only God could
accomplish such an awesome responsibility given to
the Servant. When Jesus returns at His Second
Coming, He will bring justice to all the nations of
the earth. Israel's achievements were never at such
a high level. Indeed, she was characterized as
unrighteous. However, the heavenly Father declared,
"This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased"
(Matthew 3:17; 17:5). There are sufficient arguments
in the New Testament for maintaining that Jesus
Christ, the Anointed of the Lord, fulfills these
opening verses in the Servant poems.
The Mission of the
In the second poem, the
Servant is seen as a prophet addressing His call and
commission for the restoration of Israel and the
redemption of all mankind.
The "LORD called Me from
the womb," before I was born, as He did Jeremiah (v.
1). He has equipped Him with wisdom from God's Word
(v. 2), and protected Him. The Rabbis had a saying
concerning the names of the six persons who were
named before they were born: Isaac, Ishmael, Moses,
Solomon, Josiah and the name of the Messiah. Jesus
Christ existed long before the angel told Mary that
she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and
bear a son and call His name Jesus (Matthew 1:18-25;
Why is the Servant called
"Israel" in this passage (v. 3)? We know from the
context that the nation is not being referred to
because it will be the Servant who will bring the
people back to God. The Messiah is called "Israel"
here because He fulfills all of God's expectations
for the nation. His mission is to restore Israel and
to a bring light to the Gentiles (v. 6). The
Messiah-Servant will receive the worship He deserves
when He returns at His Second coming (v. 6; cf.
"I will make You a light
of the nations
So that My salvation may
reach to the end of the earth" (v. 6).
The apostle Paul and
Barnabas witnessed the rejection of the gospel by a
Jewish audience. Paul said to these individuals, "It
was necessary that the word of God should be spoken
to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge
yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are
turning to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46). Then he
quoted to them the words of Isaiah 49:6.
Furthermore, "when the Gentiles heard this, they
began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord;
and as many as had been appointed to eternal life
believed" (Acts 13:48). Paul uses this verse to
support his identification of the Servant as the
Messiah Jesus Christ. The Servant of the Lord is the
"light of the world," and the One who brings
salvation to the end of the earth (John 8:12).
People all over the world, Jewish and non-Jewish,
walk in darkness until Jesus Christ comes into their
lives. He alone is salvation to all who believe on
Him (Acts 4:12).
The devout man named
Simeon, filled with the Holy Spirit, saw the infant
Jesus in the Temple, took Him into his arms, and
"blessed God." He said, "For mine eyes have seen Thy
salvation, Which Thou hast prepared in the presence
of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE
GENTILES, and the glory of Thy people Israel" (Luke
2:30-32). Simeon and Luke understood this poem to be
fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
A Steadfast Obedient
In the third poem, we
encounter the suffering of the Servant for the first
time in these poems. He experiences unbroken
fellowship with God. The desire of His heart is to
do the will of God. In spite of suffering, He will
remain unfaltering in His faith in God. He is set as
a flint to do God's will, although He will be
rejected by His people.
"The Lord God has opened
And I was not
Nor did I turn back.
I gave My back to those
who strike Me
And My cheeks to those
who pluck out the beard;
I did not cover My face
from humiliation and spitting" (v. 5-6).
The people of Israel
would be rebellious toward God's chosen Servant and
treat Him cruelly. This is the consistent treatment
of criminals in those days. Is this not the way in
which God's Servant was treated before His enemies
crucified Him? "Then they spat in His face and beat
Him with their fists; and others slapped Him . . .
Jesus he scourged . . . And they stripped Him and
put a scarlet robe on Him. And after weaving a crown
of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in
His right hand; and they kneeled down before Him and
mocked Him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' And
they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to
beat Him on the head, . . and they led Him away to
crucify Him" (Matthew 26:67; 27:26, 30). The
scourging was terrible torture. They stripped the
victim, tied his hands behind him, bent the victim
double and tied him to a short post. The lash was a
long leather thong, studded at intervals with
sharpened pieces of bone and pellets of lead. The
body of the victim was reduced to raw, bleeding
flesh of inflamed and bleeding welts. Men often died
under scourging and lost their reason. Few remained
conscious to the end of a scourging. These words of
the poet were fulfilled in the suffering of the Lord
Jesus Christ (Luke 22:63; John 19:1-3).
How does the Suffering
Servant remain faithful? The Lord comforts, sustains
and strengthens Him. He is a willing obedient suffer
who leans upon Yahweh.
"For the Lord God helps
Therefore, I am not
Therefore, I have set My
face like a flint,
And I know that I shall
not be ashamed.
He who vindicates Me is
near. . . (v. 7-8a).
Behold, the Lord God
Who is he who condemns
Me?" (v. 9a ,b).
The Suffering Servant
These Servant poems reach
a climax in the last poem. How can a person possibly
miss the vicarious, substitutionary, suffering of
this pure and righteous innocent Servant? Isaiah
sees Him wounded, bruised, chastised, pierced,
plagued and cursed for our sins. The LORD God
provides this perfect Substitute as an atonement
that results in full redemption of the guilty
sinner. When we study this passage in the light of
history––the life, death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ––it becomes quite evident that He is the
Suffering Servant of Yahweh. Verses 4-6 read like an
eyewitness account of the crucifixion of Jesus
Christ at Calvary.
John R. Sampey well said:
"The New Testament application of this great
prophecy to Jesus is not an accommodation of words
originally spoken of Israel as a nation, but a
recognition of the fact that the prophet painted in
advance a portrait of which Jesus Christ is the
Nowhere else in Hebrew
thought do we find the idea emphasized of the
innocent suffering vicariously for the guilty
sinner. Israel is never said to suffer for others;
she only suffers for her own guilt. She suffered
captivity and exile because she was guilty. Here we
find the innocent suffering for the guilty sinner.
The Suffering Servant is the Suffering Savior.
Please allow me to
paraphrase this last servant poem by substituting
the pronouns in the poem that refer to the divine
Sufferer with the name of Jesus of Nazareth. See if
you do not agree that this poem comes alive with
full meaning of the identity of the Suffering
Servant. Please read it aloud to yourself.
"Behold, My servant will
Jesus Christ will be high
and lifted up and greatly exalted.
Just as many were
astonished at you, My people,
So Christ's appearance
was marred more than any man
And His form more than
the sons of men.
Thus Christ will sprinkle
Kings will shut their
mouths on account of Jesus Christ;
For what had not been
told them they will see,
And what they had not
heard they will understand.
Who has believed our
And to whom has the arm
of the Lord been revealed?
For Jesus grew up before
Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of
Jesus has no stately form
That we should look upon
Nor appearance that we
should be attracted to Him.
Jesus was despised and
forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom
men hide their face
Jesus was despised, and
we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs Jesus
Christ Himself bore,
And our sorrows He
Yet we ourselves esteemed
Smitten of God, and
But Christ was pierced
through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our
The chastening for our
well-being fell upon Jesus Christ,
And by His scourging we
All of us like sheep have
Each of us has turned to
his own way;
But the Lord has caused
the iniquity of us all
To fall on Jesus Christ.
Jesus was oppressed and
He was afflicted,
Yet Jesus did not open
Like a lamb that is led
And like a sheep that is
silent before its shearers,
So Jesus Christ did not
open His mouth.
By oppression and
judgment Jesus was taken away;
And as for His
generation, who considered
That He was cut off out
of the land of the living
For the transgression of
my people, to whom the stroke was due?
Jesus' grave was assigned
with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich
man in His death,
Because Jesus had done no
Nor was there any deceit
in His mouth.
But the Lord was pleased
To crush Jesus Christ,
putting Him to grief;
If He would render
Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of
the Lord will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the
anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be
By His knowledge the
My Servant, will justify
As Jesus will bear their
Therefore, I will allot
Jesus Christ a portion with the great,
And He will divide the
booty with the strong;
Because Jesus Christ
poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the
Yet Jesus Christ Himself
bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the
Have you put your trust
in Jesus Christ as your substitute who died in your
place on the cross? Are you enjoying His peace and
assurance that all your sins have been covered by
the death of Jesus Christ? Ask Jesus Christ to be
your personal savior today. Here is A Free Gift for
Title: Isaiah 42-53
The Servant Songs of Isaiah
Christ in the Old Testament