Isaiah 51 – 53

The Faithful Remnant Restored
Isaiah 51 – 53

A Remnant of Jews Awakened (Isa. 51:1 – 52:6)

Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek Jehovah: look unto the rock whence ye were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye were digged. 2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bore you; for I called him when he was alone, and blessed him, and multiplied him. 3 For Jehovah shall comfort Zion, he shall comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of Jehovah: gladness and joy shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of song. 4 Listen unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will establish my judgment for a light of the peoples. 5 My righteousness is near, my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the peoples: the isles shall wait for me, and in mine arm shall they trust. 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. 7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of men, and be not afraid of their revilings. 8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool; but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation. 9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of Jehovah; awake, as in the days of old, as in the generations of passed ages. Is it not thou that hath hewn Rahab in pieces, and pierced the monster? 10 Is it not thou that dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; that made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over? 11 So the ransomed of Jehovah shall return, and come to Zion with singing; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy; sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 12 I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou fearest a man that shall die, and the son of man that shall become as grass; 13 and forgettest Jehovah thy Maker, who hath stretched out the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and thou art afraid continually all the day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he prepareth to destroy? And where is the fury of the oppressor? 14 He that is bowed down shall speedily be loosed, and he shall not die in the pit, nor shall his bread fail. 15 And I am Jehovah thy God, who raiseth the sea, so that its waves roar: Jehovah of hosts is his name. 16 And I have put my words in thy mouth, and covered thee with the shadow of my hand, to plant the heavens, and to lay the foundations of the earth, and to say unto Zion, Thou art my people. 17 Arouse thyself, arouse thyself, stand up, Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of Jehovah the cup of his fury. Thou hast drunk, hast drained out the goblet-cup of bewilderment: 18 — there is none to guide her among all the children that she hath brought forth; neither is there any to take her by the hand of all the children that she hath brought up. 19 These two things are come unto thee; who will bemoan thee? — desolation and destruction, and famine and sword: how shall I comfort thee? 20 Thy children have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as an oryx in a net: they are full of the fury of Jehovah, the rebuke of thy God. 21 Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine: 22 thus saith thy Lord, Jehovah, and thy God, who pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I take out of thy hand the cup of bewilderment, the goblet-cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again: 23 and I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; who have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over; and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street to them that went over. 
Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. 2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, captive daughter of Zion. 3 For thus saith Jehovah: Ye have sold yourselves for nought, and ye shall be redeemed without money. 4 For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and Assyria oppressed them without cause; 5 and now, what have I here, saith Jehovah, that my people hath been taken away for nought? They that rule over them make them to howl, saith Jehovah; and continually all the day is my name scorned. 6 Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore they shall know in that day that I am HE, that saith, Here am I. 

The Deliverance of the Remnant (Isa. 52:7-12)

7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that announceth glad tidings, that publisheth peace; that announceth glad tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! v.7 Notice that it says “him” (singular) as opposed to “them” (plural) where this verse is quoted in Romans 10:15. Does this refer to the Messiah Himself being the bringer of good tidings?
8 — The voice of thy watchmen, they lift up the voice, they sing aloud together; for they shall see eye to eye, when Jehovah shall bring again Zion. 9 Break forth, sing aloud together, waste places of Jerusalem; for Jehovah comforteth his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. 10 Jehovah hath made bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. 11 — Depart, depart, go out from thence, touch not what is unclean; go out of the midst of her, be ye clean, that bear the vessels of Jehovah. 12 For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; for Jehovah will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear-guard. 

A Confession as to the Sufferings and Glorification of Christ (Isa. 52:13 – 53:12)

Application vs. Interpretation. We can make application of these scriptures to ourselves, but the proper interpretation has to do with the remnant of Israel in a coming day, when they will make a confession of (1) their national responsibility in rejecting Messiah, (2) their understanding of the atoning work, and (3) their expectation of Christ’s vindication. The Maschillim (instructed ones) will come into an understanding of these things earlier (read the Maskill Psalms) perhaps from reading the gospels, and epistles. They will teach the rest of the remnant, but it will all be brought to home to the nation when they “look on Him whom they have pierced”.

Christ as the Faithful Servant will be Exalted in the Day of Glory (v.13)

13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and be lifted up, and be very high. v.13 The Bible records the history of two men; the first man, who failed in every way, and the Second Man, who has faithfully accomplished the will of God in every way. God here calls Him “my Servant”. God has “highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name”… but men today do not recognize it. So God has purposed that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11). When “He comes, whose right it is” God will “overturn, overturn, overturn” (Ezek. 21:27), and make all His enemies as a footstool under His feet (Heb. 1:13), and give Him the reins of power over the whole earth (Rev. 11:15).

Impact of His Past Sufferings & Future Exaltation (vv.14-15)

14 As many were astonished at thee — his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the children of men 15 — so shall he astonish many nations; kings shall shut their mouths at him: for what had not been told them shall they see, and what they had not heard shall they consider. vv.14-15 These verses contrast the incredulity of His shame and sufferings at His first coming (“were astonished”) with His power and glory at His second coming (“shall he astonish”). His visage here has a double significance. Firstly, the Spirit is presenting the physical face and form as smitten… never did a man go lower than Christ Jesus in His humility (Phil. 2:8). Yet this could not be the full meaning, because other men have had their faces ripped off in blasts, etc. Primarily, “visage” has the thought of outward reputation. What man in this world has been so abused, as Jehovah’s Servant? His name has become the song of the drunkard (Psa. 69:12). Can you think of one other whose Name has been used as a curse word? The sight of His stricken form has astonished many. But in the day of His glory, He will astonish the world for a very different reason. The fact that “The Son of man who was crucified, is the King of glory now” (L.F. #213) will “shut the mouths” of every king, and every nation. Just as Haman couldn’t have been more shocked to find out that “the man whom the king delighteth to honour” was none other than “Mordecai the Jew” (Est. 6:9-10).

Israel’s Failure to believe the Prophets’ Report (v.1)

Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed? v.1 Isaiah speaks on behalf of the Old Testament prophets, who all spoke of Christ; “Who hath believed our report?” Peter sums up their “report” in 1 Pet. 1:11, when he says that those scriptures “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” In Luke 24:26 the Lord rebukes the two on the road to Emmaus; “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” It was a complete report, but the Jews had largely failed to receive those portions of Messianic prophecy that spoke of His sufferings. Rather, they latched onto those that spoke of His glory, perhaps because mixed in was the desire for national glory. Paul quotes this verse in Rom. 10:16 to show that it was a failure of disobedience on Israel’s part. The “Arm of Jehovah” is a symbol of the power of God, and here it is personified in the Lord Jesus Christ. The “Arm of Jehovah”  — God’s purpose to bring in the Kingdom through a rejected Messiah — is revealed to those who receive the prophets’ report. God’s strength is perfected in weakness! John quotes this verse in John 12:38, showing that, although the miracles Jesus did were proof that He could bring in the kingdom, nevertheless they would not believe on Him.

Israel’s Despite for the Messiah: Three Reasons (vv.2-3)

Reason #1: His dependent demeanor

2a For he shall grow up before him as a tender sapling, and as a root out of dry ground: v.2a The root and the sapling both speak of dependent humanity, but each have a different emphasis. The tender sapling speaks of dependency on God for preservation; He would say “Preserve Me, O God: for in Thee do I put My trust” (Psa. 16:1). Trees in scripture speak of men (Rev. 8:7, 11:4), and great ones speak of man in his self-sufficiency (Dan. 4:22). There was none of that with the Lord Jesus. He lived “before Jehovah” as a perfectly dependent man. He did not insulate Himself from suffering by:
  1. Divine power. Jesus did not use His divine power for His own well-being.
  2. Monetary wealth. He was born into a poor (though royal) family.
  3. Official rights. He did not insist upon His official rights as King of Israel.
A root out of dry ground speaks of dependency on God for sustenance. The dry ground is the backdrop of the nation of Israel. There was nothing in apostate Israel, or even in the whole world, to sustain the Lord. All His sustenance was from above. He could say of Jehovah, “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned” (Isa. 50:4). But while this world, and all of its fleshly attractions, was but a moral desert to Him, what a delight for God to look down and see a man here below in Whom was all His delight! This delight the Father expressed when He cried aloud from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). As the disciples looked on, they saw the manifestation of Eternal Life… the only man in this world who really lived; full of joy, peace, and fellowship with God. “The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life” (1 John 1:2). The believer too has Eternal Life, and can be a root in the desert.
  • v.2a ……..… Presents Christ in eyes of Jehovah
  • vv.2b-3 …… Presents Christ in the eyes of men

Reason #2: His humble demeanor

2b he hath no form nor lordliness, and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. v.2b He did not carry Himself with worldly pomp and glory. He veiled His official glory (His being King) when He was here. The Jews were looking for a “form”, something outwardly impressive; e.g. the presidential motorcade. They were looking for “lordliness” or majesty; but there was no halo around His head. They were looking for some worldly “beauty” that the flesh might be attracted to; but there was none. However, there was beauty in Christ; but it was moral beauty. His perfect dependence, devotion, etc. were attractive to the eyes of faith, but there was no halo around His head.

Reason #3: His sorrowful demeanor

3 He is despised and left alone of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and like one from whom men hide their faces; — despised, and we esteemed him not. v.3 He was characterized by sorrow. Generally speaking, people avoided Jesus. Instead of a ‘man of the people’, He was a ‘man of sorrows’. Instead of acquaintance with ‘friends’, He was acquainted with ‘grief’. The point of this verse is not that He was sorrowful because He was despised; although certainly His rejection was a great contributor to His sorrow. Rather, the point is that He was despised because He was sorrowful!  He was so touched by what He saw around in the ruined creation that it produced a visible effect on His demeanor. This sorrow, however, did not displace His happiness. It is something that we struggle to understand; but in the midst of His deep, deep sorrow Jesus was the happiest man that ever lived. He is called the “Blessed Man” (Psa. 1:1). The conclusion of these three reasons is that the Messiah was despised, and Israel yielded not to Him the honor (esteem) that He was worthy of.

Israel’s Grievous Misunderstanding of His Sufferings (v.4)

4 Surely “he” hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; and we, we did regard him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. v.4 In all of His physical and emotional sufferings, the Lord Jesus was passing through griefs and sorrows on behalf of His people, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest (Heb. 2:10, 17-18). Even when we healed others on earth, He entered into each one’s personal condition in His spirit, before He exercised His power to relieve them (Matt. 8:17). He felt the effects of sin in the creation, and His people as part of creation (John 11:38). He even suffered in seeing the effect of sin on the hearts of His people (John ). But Israel “did regard him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” in that they assumed that all His sufferings were because God was punishing Him as a sinner (John 9:24; Matt. 27:41-43)! As Gehazi or Uzziah had been stricken by God for their own sin, so they attributed Christ’s sufferings to some wrongdoing. How sad. The very humiliation of the Messiah which should have drawn out Israel’s affection for Him, instead only drew out disgust.

The True Reason for His Sufferings: The Sins of His People (vv.5-6)

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. v.5 Here we have the Jewish remnant recognizing what they were blind concerning at His first coming; the truth that Christ was suffering for their sins. We can of course apply this to ourselves, because it presents the substitutionary aspect of atonement. Peter references this when he writes of Christ bearing our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Pet. 2:24). The emphasis in this verse is on the thrice-repeated word “our”. They had grievously misjudged (1) the reason for His sufferings – grace, and (2) their own deep need of moral cleansing – sin. Human wisdom always underestimates two things: God’s love, and man’s condition in God’s sight (see Rom. 2:4). The astonishing truth is that His sufferings were in love to them, and on account of their sins. Four types of physical injuries are used to picture the atoning sufferings of Christ: wounds, bruises, chastisements, and stripes.
  1. Wounds. A sharp injury involving piercing the skin. It took the figurative wounding of Christ to take away our transgressions. Transgressions, iniquities, offenses, and sins are all a little different (see note). Transgression is breaking a known commandment. Israel had a law of commandments, and they overstepped them. It is presumptuous sin.
  2. Bruises. A blunt injury that does not break the skin, but crushes the underlying flesh and ruptures blood vessels. It took the figurative bruising of Christ to take away our iniquities. Iniquities are a deeper form of sin, and likewise contusions are a deeper form of injury.
  3. Chastisements. A beating with a rod, used quite generally for the discipline of children (Prov. 3:11). It took the figurative beating of Christ to make peace with God. Peace was made at the cross (Col. 1:20), testified at the resurrection (John 20:19), and obtained for the believer through faith (Rom. 5:1).
  4. Stripes. A scourging or flogging with a whip, which results in long cuts or welts. It took the figurative scourging of Christ to heal our sinful condition. Notice that the most painful of all four figurative injuries is to deal with our condition… what we are! It speaks of Christ being “made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
6 All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all. v.6 Here the repentant Jewish remnant confesses their failure as Jehovah’s sheep. They had sought their own things, and had not been faithful to claims of God. Just as a sheep is prone to wander, so the heart of man is prone to sin, to go after “his own way“. How different Jehovah’s perfect Servant (Isa. 49:3-4) who substituted Himself willingly for failed Israel – the opposite of selfishness. It is beautiful to see the contrast between Israel (and all men) as willful sheep and Jesus as the perfect lamb, who allowed Jehovah to lay the iniquity of all who would believe upon Him (v.6b), and bear that judgment humbly and silently (v.7). Just as Aaron, on the Day of Atonement, would “lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat” (Lev. 16:21) so Jehovah laid our sins upon that Sinless One. But how much greater was this substitution than any sacrifice of the Old Testament which could neither take away sin nor perfect those who brought the sacrifice (Heb. 10:1-4), but Jesus, as that perfect victim, offered Himself up as a sacrifice once and for all.

The Trial, Suffering, and Atoning Death of Christ (vv.7-10a)

His Perfect Humility throughout His Trial (v.7)

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, but he opened not his mouth; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and was as a sheep dumb before her shearers, and he opened not his mouth. v.7 This verse brings out the contrast between sinners as willful sheep (v.6) and the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29). From the time Jesus was arrested in the garden until His death, He was both unjustly “oppressed” (denied liberty) and “afflicted” (persecuted); and in all this He maintained His silence before His accusers. When men are unjustly treated they almost always protest loudly, or fight against their oppressors. Yet Christ was completely different. He maintained perfect silence (Matt. 27:11-14; Mark 15:3-4; Luke 23:9; John 19:9) except when the Father gave Him a word to speak. His silence is compared to that of a lamb being led to the slaughter, and a sheep before her shearers. A lamb is totally ignorant of the danger, and will even stand calmly while its neck is cut. Sheep too have a remarkable trait that when flipped on their back (a most vulnerable position) they become perfectly quiet and allow their shearers to do their work. But in the case of sheep, their patience is due to ignorance and stupidity; but the blessed Savior was perfectly aware of the judgement that was in store. He never fought back, He never called for a lawyer, He never cursed the sinners for whom He died. “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him the judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23).

His Death, Man’s Culpability, and Its Efficacy in Atonement (v.8)

8 He was taken from oppression 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. v.8 He was led from prison (or, oppression) to one judgement hall after another. First the Jewish court, then Pilate’s hall, then before Herod, then back to Pilate, where He was condemned to a death of crucifixion. In all of this, Christ was denied fair and decent treatment. They weren’t looking for justice; instead they looked for false witnesses, but couldn’t find any that agreed together, and finally they used His own words to find him guilty of blasphemy (Matt. 26:60; Mark 14:59). No one stood up for Him. His own friend and disciple Judas betrayed Him. The one disciple who had promised to stand by Him no matter what the cost (Peter) denied Christ three times in a row. The expression “who shall declare His generation?” could have several meanings. Our Lord’s descending from the royal line of David (Matt. 1; Luke 3) was a fact which should have had some weight with the Sanhedrin, but no lawyer stood up to “declare His generation”. Also, it could refer to the Lord’s being deserted by the disciples. In Psa. 22:30 we find that the faithful remnant gathered around the Messiah will be counted to Him as His children; “A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.” But at His trials, the Lord was forsaken by His own. Instead of being defended, He was “cut off”; an expression which denotes an unceremonious and premature death. At thirty-three and a half years old Jesus was in the prime of life, naturally speaking; but He was cut off “out of the land of the living”. John 10:18 makes is clear that Jesus’ life was.9 not taken from Him; He laid it down. But this expression “cut off” brings out man’s culpability in the crucifixion; a guilt which will be taken up in judgment in the Tribulation by our Lord pictured as a “lamb as it had been slain”. However, while man is guilty of His death, this verse goes on to make it abundantly plain that the death of Christ had atoning value. The death of Christ was not just some tragic accident. He was “stricken” in the hours of darkness “for the transgression” of His people.

His Burial, God’s Overruling the Enmity of Man (v.9)

9 And men appointed his grave with the wicked, but he was with the rich in his death, because he had done no violence, neither was there guile in his mouth. v.9 While Jesus suffered for our sins, He never was anything less than holy. This verse brings out that once the atoning work was complete (the sufferings, death, and blood-shedding) God stepped in providentially to overrule any further intentions of men against His Servant and His Son. Men had “appointed” a grave for the dead Christ with the other malefactors; perhaps a mass grave for executed convicts. But instead, God moved Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, to offer his “new tomb” for the body of the dead Christ. It was cruel hands that nailed Jesus to the cross, but it was loving hands to took His body down. The reason is given here: God refused to have His Son buried with criminals, because He was not one; “he had done no violence, neither was there guile in his mouth”.

Four Glorious Results of His Sufferings and Death (vv.10-12)

Result #1: God has been Propitiated (v.10a)

10a Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath subjected him to suffering. v.10a Finally we come to a deeper aspect of atonement. Up to this point, the substitutionary aspect of atonement has been in view; e.g. “He was bruised for our iniquities”. But here we find that He was bruised for Jehovah’s pleasure. How could it please God to punish His own Son? Not in the sense of vindictive pleasure, but in the sense of satisfactory pleasure. The work of Christ on the cross perfectly satisfied the righteous demands of a holy God with regard to sin. In fact, not only was God satisfied (He did not merely “break even”) but He was glorified in His Son (John 13:31)! This aspect of atonement is what we call propitiation. This is the most important, and deepest result of the cross.

Result #2: Christ has been Raised and Rewarded (v.10b)

10b When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see a seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand. v.10b As a result of the most awful agony (His soul made an offering for sin), Christ has been raised from the dead, and has received certain rewards of redemption:
  • “A seed” – The “children whom God has given Him” (Heb. 2:14) are the first reward that is mentioned. When He was suffering on the accursed tree Jesus was thinking of you and me, whom He could not have without the price of Calvary.
  • “Prolonged days” – Life on this earth as a glorified man! He will physically reign on this earth, not in some mystical, spiritual format, but as a real man risen from the dead.
  • Blessing for the earth – Jehovah’s desire to bless the earth in the Millennium will be made good in Christ; it will “prosper in His hand”. This creation that has fallen under the curse of sin, will be liberated by the very hand of the one who “tasted death for every thing” (Heb. 2:9; see Col. 1:20).

Result #3: Christ will be Satisfied with the Results (v.11)

11 He shall see of the fruit of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant instruct many in righteousness; and “he” shall bear their iniquities. v.11 We were told what Christ would receive in v.10b, but now we learn of His final assessment, survey the full effects of His work and all that He has won through His travail. He will be satisfied (see Gen. 41:51-52). When our blessed Lord gives His final assessment of what His travail has accomplished, He will be fully satisfied! The word used for “satisfied” has the thought of there being no more room for anything else to be added. The second part of v.11 gives a summary of what Jehovah’s righteous servant would accomplish on earth for those who believe:
  • In life, He would instruct many in righteousness (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount)
  • In death, He would make atonement for their sins.

Result #4: Christ will be Invested with His Kingdom Glory (v.12)

12 Therefore will I assign 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 was reckoned with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. v.12 The final result of the cross is portion that Christ will be given as the King of kings and Lord of lords. At the beginning of His public ministry, Satan tempted Christ with the “kingdoms of this world” saying; “All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matt. 4:9). It was a shortcut around the cross. Would He take the kingdom without first going to the cross? Never. But having “poured out His soul unto death” and having stood in our guilty place before a holy God, He now takes the kingdom from the hand of God (see Heb. 1:13).