Servant Song #4 – Isaiah 52:13-53:12

220px-IsaiahI would like to talk about belief. As you well know there are things, truths, and issues that some folks believe, that others do not. To those who believe these things they are obvious. To those who do not, what is obvious is missed, b/c of neglect or choice. For someone who holds a given position, the nature and reason for the position is obvious, but can be missed by others.

To illustrate this, I was reminded of a story about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The story goes that they went on a camping trip. And after a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night, and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. He said: Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see. Watson replied: I see millions and millions of stars. What does that tell you, Holmes asked. Watson pondered for a minute, and eventually said: Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Holmes? Holmes was silent for a minute, then said: Watson, it should be obvious -Somebody has stolen our tent!

For someone who holds a given position, the nature and reason for the belief is obvious, but may be missed by someone else. As believers in JC, His actions on the cross are obvious to us. But for an unbeliever, His actions seem unnecessary and impotent.

This is our final week of celebrating the season of Pentecost. After Pentecost we fall into a season on the church calendar called: Ordinary Time. This season of Pentecost we have been examining the Songs of the Servant in Isaiah. Pentecost is a season that celebrates: Gods Renewal, Gods Faithfulness, Gods empowerment via the HS, And Gods mission. Belief in the mission of JC and the outpouring of the HS is obvious to those who celebrate Pentecost. b/c of the sacrifice and resurrected life of JC, we are now blessed w/ the HS so that we might join the Father in fellowship and mission. But the problem is that JC was rejected by His own people. And if we are honest w/ ourselves, like Israel, we live like the His sacrifice was unnecessary and impotent.



I would like to close out our Pentecost study by looking at the 4th Servant Song, found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. So grab a Bible and turn to Isaiah 52:13. Like the other servant songs, here we see rich images and insight into messiah. In this fourth servant song we see greater detail of the servants suffering and vindication.[1] After God exults the servant, Israel acknowledges the servants work. They finally realize what was obvious all along. They had been living like the servants sacrifice was unnecessary and impotent. So, the Question I want to ask the text is: Why did Israel reject the servant? And, likewise, why do we? If I were to outline Isaiah 52:13-53:12, I would break it into 3 parts:

  1. 52:13-15 –The Honoring of the Servant
  2. 53:1-9 – The Confession of Israel
  3. 53:10-13 – The Promise for the Servant

So w/ that question and outline in mind, lets read Isaiah 52:13-53:12, in parts.

1st, we will look at Isaiah 52:13-15, The Honoring of the Servant:

13- See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him -his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness- 15 so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Here we see that God is speaking of the servant. God is Declaring Honor to the Servant. This comes as a shock. No one would have guessed that Gods chosen servant would have endured such humiliation. And so, nations and kings are amazed that such a sad example would be brought to glorious exaltation.[2] This arrogance is met w/ a surprise of humility. Now what was missed is obvious and the ramifications are sinking in. They realize the true, divine nature of the servant.

And so in the next section, Isaiah 53:1-9, we see a Confession and Acknowledgment by Israel:

1 -Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

What a picture of our saviors suffering! Here Israel realizes what was obvious all along. They had not expected Gods servant to undergo such pain, so they disregarded Him. But now in His exalted state, they know His suffering was necessary for their own redemption. Here Israel confesses its former unbelief and acknowledged the power of the servants work. They confess that they never had considered such a thing possible for they had not accepted Gods power revealed through the servant. They regarded him as insignificant and interpreted his intense sufferings as a sign of Gods divine displeasure. But Now in His glory, they are forced to reevaluate their former opinion. As one commentator says, they realize that the servants suffering was due to their sins and for their ultimate benefit.[3] As the NLT says in v. 5: He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. Relief was given for our rebellion. Peace was given instead of punishment. Healing was given instead of wounding. He was innocent of wrongdoing, yet he silently endured oppressive treatment and a humiliating death. Israel realizes its sin, confesses, and acknowledges what was obvious all along.

Lastly, lets look at Isaiah 53:10-13 – The Promise for the Servant:

10 Yet it was the Lords will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

It is hear that we see the vindication of the servant. One scholar said, the song ends as it began, with the Lord Himself declaring His pleasure with the servant.[4] B/c the servant submitted to suffering for the sake of Israel, He is now able to redeem many, and finds His reward.

The Good News I see in this entire passage is that b/c of the servant, we are healed and whole. He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. b/c of the servant, we are healed and whole. This is good news.



So why do we reject the servant? Why do we live as if His work was unnecessary and impotent? There was a brief article in the magazine, Psychology Today, that may speak to this. A psychology professor writes about a day she had on campus. She says: A few months ago, I was rushing across campus worried that I would be late for teaching a class. I wanted to check the time, but my phone was buried in my backpack, and I was carrying too many books to get my arm in a position to see my watch. Just then, the bells in the campus bell tower chimed, and I relaxed. It was 15 minutes before the hour. As a gesture of appreciation, I looked up at the bell tower and saw its clock face. There was the time staring right back at me. I had been teaching at the college for 21 years, yet this was the first time I realized that I could tell the time on campus simply by looking up. This professor then asks: Was I uncommonly unobservant? She says: curious, I asked my colleagues and students if they knew of a way to tell the time while outside on campus without checking their phone or watch. Few mentioned the bell towers clock, and many laughed with surprise when I pointed it out. Our bell tower was built in 1897 and is located right in the center of the campus. I bet most students consulted its clock 100 years ago, but few do today. Have we become so wed to our personal devices that we have forgotten how to observe the obvious external cues around us?[5]

I would argue that in the face of what has become normal to us, we miss the obvious. In the face of busy schedules we forget the clear, simple blessing of sitting and resting in Gods grace. In the face of anxieties of the future we forget the obvious peace of knowing we live in Gods provision. We miss what is obvious.

The Good News is that b/c of servant, we are healed and whole. b/c of the servants suffering, we and He are exalted. And now we can live in peace, even in the face of our challenges. Easier said than done, right?

Consider something that is weighing on you today and this season, something that occupies your thoughts. It could be a family issue, a job situation, or the fact that you have to wait until Xmas to see the new Star Wars movie. Consider something that is weighing on you, and listen again to Isaiah 53:5, and see how that thing on your mind responds to Gods word. In the ESV it says: But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. His punishment brought us peace. The word peace here is a Hebrew word you know: Shalom. In the face of your challenges, the thing on your mind, Gods servant brings Shalom. A simple definition of Shalom is peace, but it has many nuances. In the face of the things that weigh upon your mind the Lord brings: Completeness, Safety, Health, Prosperity, Quiet, Contentment, Friendship, Completeness. [6] He brings Rescue and Safeness.[7] As Isaiah 9:6 says, the servant Messiah is the Prince of Shalom, brining all these things. How does that thing that is weighing on you respond to God word and message of Shalom?

Being in the thick of challenges, we neglect the obvious. We end up living as if the servants sacrifice was unnecessary and impotent. But regardless of our feelings or lack of observation, the good news is that b/c of the servant we are healed and made whole. Whether on this side of heaven or the next, we find relief. The Prince of Peace fulfills His mission. So as you face that thing that is weighing on you, may the servant bring you His peace. And may we, in the face of so much, rest in His peace.



[1] Chisholm, R. B. (1998). The Major Prophets. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 287). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Chisholm, R. B. (1998). The Major Prophets. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 287). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Chisholm, R. B. (1998). The Major Prophets. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 287). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Chisholm, R. B. (1998). The Major Prophets. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 287). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


[6] Strong, J. (2001). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[7] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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