Messiah in the Gospel of Isaiah
Dr. Gerald L. Stover of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, has served the Lord for many years as a Bible teacher, author and Christian education consultant,
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 (Isaiah 53:9).
Two other translations of what seems to be a rather difficult passage in the original will prove very helpful. Hengstenberg renders it,
They appointed Him his grave with the wicked (but He was with a rich man after His death); although He had done nothing unrighteous, and there was no guile in His mouth.
Delitszch really confirms the work of Henstenberg in translating this passage,
And His grave was assigned to Him with transgressors, and with a rich man in His death, because He had committed no unrighteousness, nor was there deceit in His mouth.
His enemies were not satisfied to only inflict indescribable punishment on God’s dear Son, but they hated Him so that they sought to insult Him even in death, since they desired to bury His body among criminals. They assigned Him a burial spot with criminals so that all who passed by in the future would point out that here is where Jesus the imposter was buried.
Keep in mind that in Isaiah 53:2 we noted that the eye of God was ever upon His Son until He hung on the cross. In those hours of darkness at Calvary the Son was forsaken by God inasmuch as He was now identified with all the guilt of all the ages. God shrouded the sun and turned His face from the Son inasmuch as he had been made sin for us.
But now in verse 9 the Son is no longer forsaken, and God attends every plan of the enemies of grace. They wanted to add humiliation to humiliation, but God literally said, “No, never, you can go no farther!” God stays the wrath of man who would add shame to shame. Now, no hand but that of reverent affection could touch the body of our blessed Lord. They appointed shame to shame, but the Father had appointed Him a burial place in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. For all of time the name of Joseph of Arimathea would be associated with the burial of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 53:10 reads, “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” (KJV).
At this point Delitszch’s translation of the Hebrew text should be considered helpful.
“And it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him; He afflicted Him with disease; if His soul were to pay a trespass offering, He should see posterity, live long days, and the purpose of Jehovah should prosper through His hand.”
Again, we must call attention to the fact that the prophet declares the afflictions of the cross. He assigns to Messiah the judgments of God for sin. As the Sin-bearer He was bruised or crushed under the load of the world’s guilt at Calvary. Who can estimate the unbelievable load that He carried at this, the darkest hour in all of human history. “Soul” points us to the Saviour Himself. He, Himself, was made an offering, a trespass offering for sin, even as in Leviticus 7:1-5. At Calvary He bore in Himself the full penalty for sin. In the Scriptures five words spell out God’s description of the sacrificial work of His dear Son on the cross.
The English word atonement is really not a translation of the Hebrew kaphar (Exodus 29:33, 37; 30:10). The word really means to cover, and when the legal sacrifice was made, it is said to have covered the offender’s sin, and secured for him God’s forgiveness of sins. The English word atonement is used by the King James translators for the Greek katallagentes (having been reconciled). The word reconciliation is to be preferred in Romans 5:10. On the basis of His sacrifice at Calvary man is said to be reconciled to God. Keep in mind that man because of sin is viewed as at enmity toward God; it is the blood of His sacrifice that made atonement for sin and at the same time reconciled man to God. Thus the two great words atonement and reconciliation speak eloquently to us of His work at Calvary in behalf of a lost world. See also Colossians 1:20; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.
A third word used of His work at Calvary is propitiation, the translation of the Greek hilasterion (Romans 3:25), the place of propitiation, or the mercy-seat. Propitiation signifies an appeasing, a placating. It satisfies the holy demands of God with respect to sin, and causes God to be favorably disposed toward man. God is infinitely holy and cannot countenance sin, compromise with it, fellowship with it. His holiness must be satisfied by the shedding of the blood of a sacrifice acceptable to God. In the Old Testament it was the blood of bulls and goats (Leviticus 1). However, such blood could not in itself remove sin; it was accepted as a type of the sacrifice of the One yet to come, even God’s dear Son, whose blood shed at Calvary and that alone, could atone for sin (Hebrews 10:4-14). Prior to the cross God forgave sin in view of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ who was yet to come.
A form of the word (Greek, hilasmos, the propriatory sacrifice) appears in 1 John 2:1. The blood shed at the brazen altar was presented at the mercy-seat, which blood satisfied the holy demands of God’s nature with respect to sin. Thus God was propitiated and the sinner reconciled in view of the coming Messiah who would die for the sins of the world.
Another word is redemption. It signifies the release of a slave from his captivity by the payment of a ransom price. It signifies a buying back. Specifically it is used of the blood shed at Calvary, the ransom price paid for the redemption of man. This ransom price delivers man from sin and death (eternal). Note Matthew 20:28; Galatians 3:13; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Peter 1:18.
The final word we would use is not a Biblical word, but it certainly presents a Scriptural idea. It indicates that one person has taken the place of another, a fact so wonderful as we consider the substitutionary atonement of Christ. See Isaiah 53:6; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18. Thus the word substitution completes the five words suggested as being important to the understanding of the death of Jesus Christ.
The Program of Messiah
In the closing section of the portion of Isaiah that we have been studying together we will consider Messiah’s Resurrection (10a); Messiah’s Program of Grace (10b); Messiah’s Satisfaction (11:a); Messiah’s Grace (11b); Messiah’s Inheritance (12a) and Messiah’s Priestly Ministry (12b).
A very important comment on Messiah’s resurrection life appears in Isaiah 53:10, namely, “He shall prolong his days.” We take this to be a definite reference to His resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the Father’s validation of the work of Calvary. While we will consider this fact, the resurrection was much more than this. It was a fulfilment of Biblical prophecy (see Luke 24:25-28; Acts 2:25-31). It was a fulfilment of our Lord’s own predictions (John 2:19; Matthew 16:21; John 10:17, 18). And by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Father has declared that He has accepted and is satisfied with the settlement that Christ made for sin at Calvary. Should the believer ever have doubts as to whether the Father has accepted the offering Christ made, he needs only to look back at the empty tomb and rejoice in a risen Saviour.
Out of the resurrection of Christ there develops a wonderful truth so important to the Christian life, a life of victory over sin, a life of fruitfulness in service. Read through and rejoice in the truth of Romans 6-8. And as one studies carefully 1 Corinthians 15 he cannot but notice how very important is the resurrection to all of preaching and service for Jesus Christ.
Messiah’s Program of Grace
Delitzsch translates “and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand,” as follows: “and the purpose of Jehovah should prosper through His hand.” This means that whatever was the great, compelling purpose of the Father in the work of redemption, all will be accomplished. God moves with sovereign, stately steps to accomplish the fulness of His purpose in the cross and the empty tomb. The redemption of all who believe is assured. He will bring His Church to its completion. He will restore Israel as a nation to a place of blessing (Isaiah 11); He will be a light unto the Gentiles — Isaiah 60:1ff.). All that constitutes the purposes of God will be fulfilled in the Person who died and rose again. God will not be defeated. His eternal purposes will not fail.
Isaiah wrote, “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.” In verse 10 the prophet wrote that “He shall see His seed.” The idea expressed here is that He shall see those who were born of God because of His travail at Calvary, and “the sight shall be refreshing” or putting it quite accurately, “He will enjoy a refreshing sight.” As Jesus Christ sees the saints of God come marching in, the sight shall rejoice His heart. It was for this that He endured the cross, despising the shame (see Hebrews 12:1, 2).
My wife and I lost our first baby. Nellie was involved in a frightful automobile accident and the baby due to be born in another two or three weeks was killed instantly, and the doctor even despaired of my wife’s life. However, God was so good. While the baby was lost, my wife lived. But it was a hard experience, for we had looked forward to the day when the baby would arrive. However, in due time God gave us another, and after giving birth to this little one she rather sleepily asked me, “How is the baby?” I had seen the child, a dear little baby girl, and I said, “She has all her fingers and all her toes.” She smiled and went back to sleep. However, when later she could hold this little one in her arms, she was reassured, and the sight of this child brought great joy to her heart. She had seen now the fruitage of her travail, yes, even having suffered twice for one child, and… it was indeed a refreshing sight!
And one day, led by our Lord Jesus Christ, all the saints will come marching Home. I somehow feel that as they march through the gates of Glory, He will beam upon them, one and all, and shall be satisfied or refreshed so to speak. Calvary will have been worth it all — to see so many redeemed from the ravages of sin will be to Him a refreshing sight.
“By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many” (11b). Or it is to be read, “Through His knowledge will be obtained righteousness for the many…” I rather feel that the emphasis here is upon “by the knowledge of Him,” that is, on the part of others. This points us to a deep, abiding, experience and knowledge of Him. By having come to know Him, many will have been justified from the guilt of sin. This spiritual, heart-knowledge of Him is only by the grace of God. Having borne their iniquities at Calvary, He has and will justify many by His matchless grace.
This writer would suggest that in what appears to be a rather difficult passage, the thought is not so much that of dividing the spoil into portions as it is of “assigning.” Next, if we think about the “kings” of Isaiah 52:15 in the light of the “great” (many) and the “strong” of Isaiah 53:12, we will probably conclude that Isaiah made reference to many who by reason of faithfulness to the will of God are assigned a place of regal authority in the kingdom of Christ on earth. Reference is made to the atoning work of God’s Servant, even the Messiah, and it would most assuredly appear that the participation in kingdom matters is made possible only because of His work at Calvary. First the cross and then the crown. This was true of the suffering Messiah, and it will likewise characterize believers who will reign with Him in that day when righteousness will cover the earth as the waters covers the sea.
There is a problem involved in the translation of the words “and made intercession for the transgressors.” The problem lies in the verbal form to be used here. Is this last clause of the chapter to be considered as strictly future? Therefore, does it mean that the future is employed to indicate that the whole of the passage is yet to take place: the first advent of Messiah, the suffering, death, resurrection of Messiah, the reigning and sharing of glory in the future? Or does it mean that our Lord’s intercession would not be finished, as suggested by T. R. Birks of Cambridge, as was His sacrifice, but go on and on for ages to come seeing He ever liveth for the purpose of interceding for His own? If the latter be true, then we can rejoice in the constancy and understanding of His faithful intercession in our behalf moment by moment.
His sacrifice is once for all. He is exalted to the right hand of the Father. He makes intercession for us as our Great High Priest. It is a ministry that will fill the void time-wise for the believer until He comes. It is a difficult passage indeed, but if this be a proper look at the passage, and it has those qualities, then it has a present-day, moment-by-moment blessing for our lives.