Isaiah Chapter 53 Messianic Prophecies

Jun 24th, 2009 | By | Category: Isaiah, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Isaiah Chapter 53 Messianic Prophecies

Isa. 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

Generally speaking, the nation of Israel did not recognize Jesus as their Messiah. Therefore, it was the apostles who asked, “Who hath believed our report?” This chapter is primarily a picture of the last moments of Jesus’ life.

Isa. 53:2 For 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.

“He [Jesus] shall grow up before him [his Father, God] as a tender plant.” God sent Jesus into the world. God superintended Jesus’ whole life, starting with the virgin birth. Jesus was begotten of the Father in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and he grew up, to all appearances, like a normal human child until he reached the stature of manhood, at which time he began to preach.

Notice the word “we”: “when we shall see him,” “that we should desire him.” This pronoun refers to the apostles.

Verse 2 would seem to indicate that Jesus was not good-looking, that he was not unusual in appearance, but that is not what this verse is saying. Verse 2 is describing Jesus’ crucifixion.

Previously multitudes followed him even into the desert, and just before his crucifixion the people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9). However, all forsook him at the time of his crucifixion just a little while later.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus had healed the blind, the lame, etc., and raised the dead. Therefore, when he rode into Jerusalem on the white ass in the tradition of a king who was about to take office and then, with authority, chased the money changers out of the Temple, the people thought that surely he was the Messiah. But just five days later, when Jesus hung on the Cross, all their hopes crumbled. It seemed impossible that the Son of God could be crucified—hence the people disbelieved him. The Crucifixion occurred at the Feast of Passover, a time when Jews from all over Israel and from other nations were gathered at Jerusalem.

Jesus’ humble beginning is briefly referred to: “He shall grow up … as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.” A little plant with potential life was planted in arid soil.

Although the tender plant looked green at first, its survival seemed to be doomed without water. When Jesus came at his First Advent, the angels proclaimed, “Peace on earth, good will toward men. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11,14). But where did the shepherds find the babe? In a lowly manger in a cave stable—hardly the place one would expect to find a King! The shepherds testified of the angels’ glorious message and proclamation about the child who would be the future Messiah, but to the people he seemed so poor because of his earthly surroundings and humble parents. Even though he himself was unusual, his background seemed incongruous with his being Messiah.

Jesus did not act like a king; he was not proud and haughty. Both the beginning (his humble origin) and the end of his earthly life (his humiliating death on the Cross) seemed to belie his role as Messiah. In between he spoke with authority and healed many of their afflictions, with the result that he grew in popularity. Nevertheless, his humble beginning and humiliating death seemed to negate his claims.

Isa. 53:3 He 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.

When was Jesus “despised and rejected of men”? When was he a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”? In connection with his trial and crucifixion. Before that, the common people heard him gladly, and sinners and publicans were especially attracted to him because his message offered mercy and forgiveness and an opportunity to come back into harmony with God.

The Gospels do not particularly mention Jesus’ sorrows. And there is not one word about his height, his hair or eye color, or whether he was handsome. God purposely avoided describing Jesus because the important thing was the message.

“We hid as it were our faces from him.” The apostles continue to speak here. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, they followed and accompanied him, but at the time of the Crucifixion, even the apostles doubted for a time that Jesus truly was the Messiah. For example, the two disciples walking to Emmaus said, “We trusted [past tense] that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel” (Luke 24:21).

Even the apostles, Jesus’ followers—let alone the Jewish nation—hid their faces from him as he hung naked and all out of joint and twisted (like a worm) on the Cross. “His visage was so marred more than any man” (Isa. 52:14). Psalm 22 prophesied that he would say of his twisted body, “I am a worm, and no[t] man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”

Jesus was tested to the very core so that all beings, heavenly and earthly, will and can say, “WORTHY is the Lamb!” (Rev. 5:11,12).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, all of the disciples fled. Only two, Peter and John, followed him afar off to the high priest’s house where the false trial was held. Nevertheless, they were embarrassed and did not try to defend Jesus.

Under the circumstances and with their limited understanding, how could the apostles have esteemed Jesus as the Messiah while he hung on the Cross? Events seemed to be a mockery of his claim.

Isa. 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

What particularly seemed to indicate that Jesus was “smitten of God”? He was crucified outside the city walls as a criminal. The Old Testament tells us that “he that is hanged [on a tree] is accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23, Gal. 3:13). The Jews knew that according to the Law, anyone who died by hanging on a tree was accursed of God, and hence the apostles and the Jews thought he was being punished by God. But to die as Adam’s substitute, Jesus had to suffer Adam’s experiences. Since Adam’s sin was brought into the world through a tree, a tree was part of the offset ransom price. Also, just as Adam felt forsaken after he had sinned, so it was necessary for Jesus on the Cross to feel momentarily forsaken and separated from God.

Isa. 53:5 But 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.

“With his stripes we are healed.” Jesus took the sinner’s place. He was wounded, bruised, and chastised for our iniquities and transgressions so that we could be healed. In the Old Testament, material fruitfulness and health were equated with obedience to God (whereas in the Gospel Age, God deals with the Christian according to spiritual faith and obedience).

Jesus was beaten, scourged, spat on, buffeted, bruised, hit with a rod, mocked, etc. He knew that if he resisted and did not die, his purpose in coming here to be man’s Redeemer would fail, so he obediently submitted. But to onlookers, to the people, Jesus appeared to be a sinner receiving punishment. They thought, “He was a wonderful man who healed many people and did a lot of good. We thought he would deliver us from the Roman yoke. It is too bad that he has sinned.” Job was similarly regarded when the multiple calamities came upon him.

Isa. 53:6 All 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.

When Jesus was apprehended and crucified, the apostles were like sheep without a shepherd. In their confusion they returned to fishing and their previous occupations. The pronouns “we” and “our” in these verses continue to refer particularly to the apostles. The point is that Jesus’ followers, who had initially proclaimed him, later felt he had been cursed of God.

Isa. 53:7 He 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.

At his trial Jesus did not open his mouth, but earlier, during his ministry, he defended himself against his accusers. His going “as a lamb to the slaughter” at his crucifixion startled the disciples, for they were accustomed to his turning the tables on those who tried to trap him verbally. This chapter of Isaiah, Chapter 53, is primarily a picture of the last moments of Jesus’ life.

At shearing time, a sheep does not need to be restrained, for it stands still and thus is easy to shear. In Old Testament times, the way of removing wool was to pluck or pull it out.

Therefore, the animal suffered the indignity of rough handling by the shearers. Although the plucking did not necessarily cause the sheep to bleed, the skin became very tender. As a parallel to this type of “shearing,” the mockers pulled out the hairs of Jesus’ face.

Isa. 53:8 He 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.

“He was taken from prison and from judgment.” The word “prison” is an incorrect translation, for Jesus was not put in prison in the normal sense of the word. He was apprehended late at night in the Garden of Gethsemane, tried before a kangaroo court, and taken to the house of Caiaphas—all before dawn. Early in the morning, and without any sleep, Jesus was taken to Pilate, subjected to various experiences, and executed on the Cross—all that same “day.” The correct thought in verse 8 is that in connection with the charges laid against him, he was not given a fair trial. Proper judgment was taken away from him; he was robbed of his rights as a person to a fair trial. He was “taken from …judgment”; that is, he was not given a fair trial but was executed without a valid cause. False judgment was intentionally rendered.

“Who shall declare his generation?” Jesus was cut off in the prime of life at 33-1/2 years of age without a wife or children. He was without “generation,” without posterity.

“He was cut off out of the land of the living.” Violence is implied. In the prime of life, Jesus was abruptly terminated (“cut off”) in a violent death with no posterity to perpetuate his memory.

God now comments: “for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” All of the suffering was permitted to come upon Jesus because it was necessary for him to die, but because he faithfully endured all of the stripes and afflictions, eternal honors will be heaped upon him. The Apostle Paul was beaten with 41 stripes several times, he was in perils of the deep, he was persecuted, he was left for dead from a stoning, etc., but he said, “Our light affliction … is but for a moment” when compared with the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). However, being perfect, Jesus suffered more than any man.

Because we are half dead and numb in mind and body, we cannot experience the depth of mental anguish or pain that he suffered. Jesus was keenly aware of all the imperfection  around him, but for everything he suffered, he will be compensated with an eternal weight of everlasting glory. He will forever be on the right hand of his Father, and no one will be able to deny his worthiness.

Isa. 53:9 And 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.

“He made his grave with the wicked” in that he was crucified with two malefactors (thieves). And “he made his grave … with the rich” in that he was laid in the new rock hewn family tomb of the wealthy, honorable counselor Joseph of Arimathea. Hence Jesus was given both a noble death and an ignoble death. His body was laid in a rich man’s sepulcher, and he died between two wicked men. Why do the Old Testament Scriptures call attention to these facts? If any Jew read the Old Testament honestly and had a seeking heart to know, he would have to admit that Jesus was the Messiah, that his life fulfilled the multitude of prophecies.

“Because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” The RSV is better: “Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”

Another point of interest: Jesus died for all; he died for the rich and he died for the poor. Jesus tasted death for every man: for the sinner as well as for the upright (Heb. 2:9). It is true that what a man sows, he shall reap; but no man sows sin that merits eternal torture. In other words, all will have an opportunity to receive everlasting life.

While during Jesus’ ministry, publicans and sinners seemed to flock to him, he said, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matt. 9:12). He did not mean that the scribes and Pharisees were sinless, but that they were proud and did not realize their need to seek forgiveness for sin. Jesus’ making his grave with the rich is symbolic of his commiseration for rich and poor alike.

Isa. 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isa. 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Catholics and Protestants recognize that Isaiah 53 is speaking about Jesus, and yet verse 11 says he is a “servant”; God calls him “my righteous servant.” The apostle Paul said, “There is [but] one God [the Father], and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). It is completely foreign to the Bible to try to make Jesus God. If the context is honestly analyzed, Jesus is seen to be the Son of God, and not God the Son. A father is not a son and vice versa; they are two separate beings.

In verse 11 God is speaking about Jesus, the reasoning being as follows: “Because Jesus made his grave with the rich and the poor, because he was smitten for the transgression of my people, because he made his soul an offering for sin, thus my righteous servant, who died, shall justify many. And the work he does in the future will prosper in my hand. I will honor and exalt him for his work.” When Jesus was raised from death after having died faithfully on the Cross, the Father exalted him to His right hand. But while on earth, Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). Church creeds say that Jesus and God are coequal in authority and person, but the Scriptures say otherwise. When Jesus prayed, he looked to the Father. He said, “Of mine own self I can do nothing, but as the Father hath taught me” (John 5:30 paraphrase).

Comment: “LORD” in all capital letters in the Old Testament always refers to Jehovah, to the Father.

Isa. 53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Jesus will “divide the spoil [treasures] with the strong [the Church].” His faithful followers will share the seat of government with him. These humble (and often uneducated) people will be kings and priests with him, and thus will hold future positions of honor, authority, and glory. The Scriptures show that God will give honor to Jesus, and Jesus will share that  honor with the Church, his Bride.

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