This Week's Focus Passage

Isaiah 53:10 ‘Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him.’

It is difficult to pass by an opportunity to offer remarks on one of the most blessed portions of the Word of God, namely the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah is the Old Testament volume frequently referred to—and with good reason—as ‘The  Gospel of Isaiah. Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has referred his readers today to Isaiah, as it was for the hearers that were present at the time, when he cited the words of Isaiah the prophet from Isaiah 42. A 19th C. writer agreed with  this thought about these particular chapters in the following words:

“The Servant Songs (also called the Servant Poems or the Songs of the Suffering Servant) are songs in the book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible. They were first identified [according to the particular writer mentioned] by Bernhard Duhm in his 1892 commentary on Isaiah. The songs are four poems written about a certain ‘servant of YHWH.’ God calls the servant to lead the nations, but the servant is horribly abused among them.”

The four ‘songs’ are generally considered to be, first, Isaiah 42, ‘Behold, my servant whom I uphold;’ secondly, Isaiah 49, ‘and he said unto me, thou art my servant;’ with, thirdly, Isaiah 50, which, although it does not contain the title ‘servant,’ notwithstanding, employs the language in verses 5-9 of the suffering servant of Jehovah who is abundantly more conspicuous in the fourth song, Isaiah 53.  It is this first ‘song’ that Matthew has cited in the context of Mt. 12:15-21, saying’

And Jesus perceiving it withdrew from thence: and many followed him; and he healed them all, and charged them that they should not make him known: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying,

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen;

My beloved in whom my soul is well pleased;

I will put my Spirit upon him,

And he shall declare judgment to the Gentiles.

He shall not strive, nor cry aloud;

Neither shall any one hear his voice in the streets.

A bruised reed shall he not break,

And smoking flax shall he not quench,

Till he send forth judgment unto victory.

And in his name shall the Gentiles hope.

‘Jesus was not seeking fame. He did not wish to stand out as a worker of miracles. Vain display, earthly glory, matters such as these did not constitute the reason for his incarnation and sojourn among men. They were completely out of harmony with the humble “Servant of Jehovah” of Isaiah’s prophecies. This explains verse 17. In order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled. To prove Christ’s unassuming, gentle, and retiring nature a reference to Isa. 42:2, 3 would probably have sufficed, but it is Matthew’s desire to quote also the preceding and following context, in order that Messiah’s glory may become all the more strikingly evident, and the wickedness of his opponents stand out more clearly by contrast. Accordingly, what is offered here in 12:18-21 is Isa. 42:1-4 as interpreted by Christ’s fully inspired apostle Matthew. It is not a word for word reproduction but the result of profound sympathetic reflection. And a careful comparison of the Hebrew original with Matthew’s version leaves no doubt about the fact that the former publican had indeed caught the thrust of Isaiah’s strikingly beautiful description of the coming Christ.’           —William Hendriksen

Matthew has referred this prophecy directly to Jesus Christ. Hendriksen helpfully went on to point out that Matthew interprets Isaiah 42 as Philip the evangelist and as the apostles John and Peter interpreted Isaiah 53 (Acts 8:26-35; John 12:37-43; 1 Peter 2:24). The first Servant song cannot be separated from the fourth Servant song, Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This final Servant song—unless Isaiah 61 is included, as it may be—is one of the most gloriously beautiful prophetic songs of all Scripture. It is the primary cause of many referring to the book as the ‘Gospel of Isaiah.’ Here we witness the suffering of the Servant in all its horrific reality. We may be granted sight, as it were, into the depths; depths into which the gospel writers were not led to descend. We only learn from the synoptics and John that Christ was scourged and crucified. But here in Isaiah we are given something more of what may be considered detail of the effects of scourging. In Isaiah 52:13-15, more seems to be said than anything in the Newer Testament. While verse 13 intimates crucifixion in the same wording as Christ Himself employed in John 12:32, when He said, And I, if I be lifted up from the earth. John, in the next verse, clarified what Christ meant by be lifted up; John added, But this he said, signifying by what manner of death he should die.

This passage in Isaiah, 52:13-15, really belongs with chapter 53. In it we witness the result of the scourging that was to precede the determined crucifixion. In verse 14, these poignant and startling realities of the scourging are demonstrated. The instrument used to deliver the sort of punishment intended in scourging was called in Latin a flagellum or flagrum. The flagellum was a whip with several thongs or strands (at least 3), each perhaps as much as three feet long, and the strands were weighted with lead balls or pieces of bone. This instrument was designed to lacerate. It is said that the pain may well have been greater than the crucifixion itself. Isaiah speaks prophetically of the results of such a flogging. He holds nothing back. Like as many were astonished at thee, (his visage was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.) This treatment of the God-man is graphic. But that is not the most astounding message of Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This message is, Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him. How can it be? God so loves us that it pleased Him to have His only-begotten Son beaten and crucified that we might become sons.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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