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Lowell Brueckner

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Obedient unto Death


 48. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 53

To believe requires revelation

We will now open to one of the most, if not the most, significant prophecy of Isaiah. As we turn to chapter 53, there will not be many readers, who do not recognize the fact that it was fulfilled by the cross. It is cited directly in Matthew 8:17, Mark 15:28, Luke 22:37, John 12:38, Acts 8:28-35, Romans 10:16, and 1 Peter 2:21-25, and is alluded to a good number of times more in the New Testament.

We marvel at the wonderful, supernatural perception that is given to this man, Isaiah. Not only does he foresee the crucifixion, but he sees its cause and its accomplishment. The supreme importance of its theme makes me hesitate in taking on this study and certainly causes me to do so with a keen sense of inadequacy. Then let us together approach our text prayerfully and humbly, submitting our hearts and minds to the divine Author, who alone can penetrate into the depths of our being and teach us in a spiritual and heavenly manner.

“Who has believed what he has heard from us?” Isaiah identifies his report with that of many other prophets. He has come to the very heart of his own message and ministry; he has been forewarned from the very beginning that his people would not perceive, because of a dull heart, heavy ears and blind eyes (6:9-10). They continued to disbelieve, as it came to its fulfillment 700 years later, and they reject it to this day. Humankind, as a whole, is not looking for a bleeding and dying Hero. “And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (v.1) Similarly, after relating parables to the crowd, Jesus called to those among them, who had ears to hear. The spirit and life of Scripture can only come to those, who receive divine illumination.

Isaiah identifies with his people, using the pronoun we. In doing so, he sees his own unworthiness and recognizes the grace of God, which takes him above the aspirations of his race and above that which human nature, in general, can conceive. His account is, in the first place, not to human liking. Secondly, it is not within the limited conception of natural thinking. The Jews were looking for a champion Messiah, a king who could overthrow Rome, not a suffering Servant, who was executed by Roman soldiers

Even Christ’s disciples needed serious adjustments in their way of seeing things. When Peter heard the Lord speak of His coming trial and death, he took Him aside and rebuked Him. Jesus, in turn, said to him, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mk.8:33). Four times, in the book of Mark, Jesus foretold his disciples of His death and five times of His resurrection, yet none believed, when He rose from the dead. The good news of His resurrection was rejected, because resurrection requires first a death.  

The root out of dry ground

“He shall grow up before him as a tender plant.”  Let us begin our observation of the Person portrayed in this chapter, by saying that He has the Lord’s full attention. Let men disbelieve, let all their generations miss totally what takes place, we will ascertain that He is the centerpiece of the purpose of the Triune God on planet Earth… He is before Him. He proceeds from a fallen tree, as a tender, new sprout. This is the figure that Isaiah uses in 4:2 and 11:1. Jeremiah also uses it and Jesus Himself identifies with it in Revelation 22:16, when He says, “I am the root and the offspring of David.” He is the renewal and the hope of a fallen Israel. In a broader sense, stemming from fallen creation, He is the new Man, the new Creation, the last Adam (1 Co.15:45), the hope of all the earth.

The Holy Spirit brings before us again the ways and manner of God, as He moves among men. This chapter calls to our attention the greatest single event that the world has ever seen, carried out by the greatest Personality that ever walked on earth. However, looking through natural human eyes, He is “like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (v.2). Isaiah is writing of the unique God/Man, God the Son made flesh, as He is seen by natural man. Yet what is happening is so superior to man’s world that the biblical writers use terms, such as peace that surpasses all understanding, love that surpasses knowledge and joy that is inexpressible.   

It is so important that we be able to view things correctly, so let us be open to the lesson that God gives us. Christ’s humanity, by design, is a stumbling block to human nature. Salvation is not available through man’s natural reason. Because men did not want to see Christ, as He was presented, therefore their reaction followed in this way: “He was despised and rejected by men… as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”  They are totally missing the purpose and benefits of His coming. The apostle Paul tells us, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Ti.1:15).

His mission is one of compassionate condescension. The apostle also taught, “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Co.8:9). He actually takes our condition upon Himself, becoming “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (v.3). Because He speaks of the future, as though it were past, He is One, in whom we can be totally confident, when He uses the word surely. Whether we believe or not, this is a sure report from the highest authority. Let us grasp it and make it ours.

In judging him “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (v.4), His accusers inadvertently struck upon truth, although totally misinterpreting God’s purpose. In the same way, the high priest, Caiaphas, declared, “It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (Jn.11:50). John explains that the Sovereign Lord used his high priest position to prophesy to all of Israel that Jesus would die a substitutionary death for the nation. Yet, in Caiaphas’ mind and heart was an evil motive, contrary to God’s intentions. He thought that the nation would be saved by ridding it of Jesus.  

A guilt offering

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (v.5). Isaiah saw, and identified with, the sentence pronounced against us. The court of God’s justice demanded rightfully that we should be wounded for our transgressions and that we should be crushed for our iniquities. It declared that, in order for us to be reconciled to God and have peace, we must be chastised. So that our sinful, sick nature could be healed, we must receive stripes. In fact, because our sin was infinite, our worthy punishment was so severe that we could never in this world satisfy justice. The consequence would extend on into eternity and, even in the torments of hell, the interest on our debt could never be paid, much less the principal.

The God/Man was the only One mighty enough to make an infinite sacrifice and He willingly went to a Roman cross to take our place. For that reason God became man, so as man to die a human death, and as God, able to shed blood that was precious, or rich, enough to pay the price and fulfill the penalty. And it was successful, for Isaiah declares, we are healed!

He continues by stating that we all, without exception, are like unnaturally rebellious sheep, who refuse to obey the Shepherd. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned… every one… to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (v.6). Isaiah turns this into an individual waywardness, which each one must accept and confess. He begins the sentence with all and in the middle of the sentence emphasizes by stating every one.

Each one simply turns away from God’s will by going his own way; our way and His way are contrary one to another. There is enough iniquity in our own way to crucify Christ. That is another truth that we must accept. The Lord has laid that individual rebellion upon Him, so that each one can be assured that his iniquity has been covered. Notice that the Lord is the agent behind the death of Christ. Though wrong in their hearts, the people were right in concluding that He was smitten of God.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (v.7). We were rebellious sheep, so He became a meek sheep. Like an innocent lamb, before the slayer, and like a sheep, in the hands of the shearers, amidst all the emotions that His humanity might experience in the full realization of what lies before Him, He gives no vocal protest. He is entirely submissive to the will of His Father, therefore He, who will judge the earth, receives sentence from His accusers. He places Himself in hands that He has created. Such gentleness and lowliness of heart must be a divine characteristic (Mt.11:28); there is nothing on earth to compare to it. By it, He showed the character of the Father and everyone, who is endowed with meekness, a fruit of the Spirit, is manifesting the Holy Spirit’s nature. What an attribute inhabiting the omnipotent godhead!

The full account of His oppressive, unjust trial, before old Annas, then before the acting high priest, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin, and finally in Pilate’s judgment hall must be read in the four Gospels. You will read that he was sentenced and taken away to be crucified. There can be no doubt that Israel’s Messiah died in the first century. Daniel prophesied that the Anointed One would be cut off 483 years after the Persian mandate to rebuild Jerusalem (Dn.9:26). Jesus was born 450 years after the decree and died 33 years later. Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ! By the same Spirit who anointed Daniel, Isaiah agrees that “he was cut off out of the land of the living” and did not live out His generation. Gabriel assured Daniel that this decree that involved the Messiah, concerned his people and the holy city. Isaiah confirms that He was “stricken for the transgression of my people” (v.8).

It pleased the Father to bruise Him

Jesus was crucified with two thieves and died by the Roman execution for criminals. One of the thieves recognized his own guilt, the innocence of Jesus, and in his beaten, bloody, and dying body, he saw a King, who would conquer death and reign! It was probably intended that He should be buried with them. However, a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, along with Nicodemus, who came to Jesus one night, prepared the body of Jesus and placed it in Joseph’s own tomb. All this is foretold by Isaiah (v.9).

I have already stated that the Jews were right in attributing the death of Jesus to God. We must understand that Jesus came to earth and died, principally, to please His Father and that He was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Ac.2:23). In verse 10, the Hebrew word, assigned to the Father concerning Christ’s death, is khaw-fates’, and it means to take delight, desire, be pleased, will, among a few other synonyms. Therefore, the King James translates, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” Obviously, the Father did not take pleasure in the torture of His Son, but to say that He was any less than pleased with His death, is to take away from the meaning of the Hebrew word.

We will consider several reasons: He is pleased with the submission of His Son to His will, taking the form of a Servant, and in perfect obedience, willingly laying down His life for the Father. The Father takes pleasure in the fulfilling of His good will, because His purposes perfectly accomplish what must be done. He is pleased, because at long last his righteousness has been vindicated and His anger has been placated. He, along with the Son, are pleased, because of the fruit that will result from His suffering.

Offspring and ultimate victory

“When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will (pleasure, KJV) of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” At this point, we again come into the picture, because the death of Christ is a guilt sacrifice (Lv.5:19; 7:5; 14:21; 19:21). It is offered for a guilty sinner, the one who was been justly pronounced “guilty” before God and according to His law. The soul of the crucified takes the guilt and brings to completion the will and pleasure of God. There is a living, breathing result from this mighty act. It brings an offspring to life and, to be sure, God has foresight and foreknowledge of an entirely new creation. To prolong His days means resurrection and Christ lives today to see them born.

The anguish of the cross was the birth pangs of Christ’s soul and the Father Himself utters this statement: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge (or by the knowledge of Him) shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (v.11). Life will spring from His death and the Son, who is His Servant, with full realization of what He was accomplishing, in conjunction with the Father, was completely satisfied that He had fulfilled the work. Therefore He cries triumphantly from the cross, “It is finished!” (Jn.19:30)

Christ knew the plan and unveiled it to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). He sees millions accounted righteous, Jew and Gentile, through the course of time, from all kindred, tongue, tribe and nation, throughout the age of the church, in the Tribulation, and down through the Millennium.  They have come to know Him with personal knowledge and have placed their confidence in Him. They have understood the message of His labor, which is the complete and only work, by which they have been saved.

“Therefore will I divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors”  (v.12). Here we see Christ, the victorious warrior, coming from the battle and dividing the spoil of the conquered enemy. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col.2:15). The Millennium will be the ultimate phase of the victory.

He bought the Millennium and eternity beyond by pouring out His soul to death. Jesus cited this verse to His disciples before He went to Gethsemane and then was taken to Calvary to be numbered with the transgressors. From there, He interceded, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk.23:34). Isaiah, not only showed us the cross, but spoke of Christ’s resurrection and now he concludes by writing for us the words of the Father, concerning Christ’s high priestly ministry of intercession.

My hope today is in that ministry. According to the writer of Hebrews, our salvation depends upon our Priest. The Levitical high priests died, one after another, which indicated that their intercession was earthly and temporal, but Christ’s priesthood is full and sure: “Who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life… He holds the priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb.7:16, 24-25).

Life by Death

O merciful Savior, it was to redeem me You sought,
As me and my sin to Calvary You brought.
You knew against my sin, the Father had great wrath,
Yet You carried it with You along Gethsemane’s path.

In great agony You prayed, no one cared, they just slept.
From Your forehead to the ground, fell like blood, drops of sweat.
No one else was sorrowful or even shed a tear,
But cruelly betrayed You and fled away in fear.

It was me and my sin that burdened Your back,
Yet I didn’t bleed from the whip’s horrific whack.
For me You were stripped, I experienced no shame,
When they mocked and they scorned, they should have used my name.

Not my cheek, but Yours was dripping with spit,
And Your precious body that was bruised by each hit.
To my awful shame I didn’t feel a thing,
When for me on the cross, by nails, You did cling.

You could have exposed me when the sword pierced Your side,
But in the flow of that blood You told me to hide.
Me and my sin You chose to take as Your own,
All the torment I deserve, You paid for all alone.

Oh relief! Sweet victory! You walked out of the cave,
And me and my sin, they remain in the grave.
How dare I should live as if I’m still alive,
For my own sinful pleasure as if I survived?
O dreadful hopelessness, this death--how to live it!?
Not by my wretched might, but by the filling of Your Spirit.

Help me never, oh ever, for a moment make light,
Of the war on the cross against sin You did fight.
And remember my sin You don’t tolerate or understand,
As I freely receive this gift of grace from Your hand.

Oh, don’t wait until Glory to make my soul worth the pain,
In me display Your power, that You didn’t die in vain.
To know this love, in my heart, You shed abroad,
And live as I’m dead…..with all the fullness of God.

                                                    Karyn Brueckner


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