2.) The Godly Leader Endures through Hardships
Stanza #C: Isaiah 53:4-6
The purpose for our study of Isaiah 53:1-9 is to understand two things: 1) Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and 2) how Christ endured different kinds of hardship. We will reflect upon the variety of difficulties that Jesus went through and see that they did not hinder His ministry but enabled Him to serve. It is easy to be fooled into thinking certain things are important to a good ministry. In Jesus’ model ministry, we will find what is critical to a great ministry.
These three verses are the heart of the Gospel hidden deep down in the middle of the later part of Isaiah (see the introduction to Isaiah 53:1-9). They are cleverly tucked away only for those who dare seek for the treasures in His Word. What is the treasure? It is the love of God. Verses 4 and 6 explain the suffering that surrounds the glorious sacrifice of love revealed in verse 5. Verse 5 after all tells us the result of the Messiah’s suffering. Here the love of God is born into the world determined to be reborn in the hearts of His people.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4)
The prophet leads us into unexpected territory. In the former verses we saw how He socially suffered. We might wonder why this faithful Servant would be so rejected. Perhaps we even think that had He done something wrong to deserve such treatment. The answers are partially found here explains why the Servant suffers so. He suffers not for His wrongs but for ours. As our eyes read on, we are surprised by the constant repetition of this same thought. Let us quickly look at the number of ‘our’ words that are found in verses 4-5.
We no longer can leave the riddle unsolved. We perhaps have not totally solved the perplexing problem put before us as we read along this passage, but one part is clear. The Servant does not suffer for His own sin and wrong but for that of others. This explains a whole lot. Of course we do not fully understand why He had to suffer for these people or how His suffering makes things better for them, but it is all accurately stated as clear as it is in the Book of Romans.
The Servant bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. The Hebrew word translated 'grief' emphasizes pain and disease. We can see this word healed used in a physical or figurative way. “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). Matthew 8:16-17 affirms that Jesus’ healing fulfilled Isaiah's words.
This is a prophecy which depicts Jesus' healing ministry. This verse does not tell us that healing from sickness is part of the atonement. The atonement is discussed in the next verse. From how the apostles healed as well as the ministry of healing through the church, we should not discard the importance of this ministry in God’s people today. Christ does have healing power that He does exercise even today through the power of the Holy Spirit in His people. Among the richer nations, people rarely look for supernatural healing; they look to conventional medicine. They do not receive His healing. Only as a last resort do they seek someone to pray for them. This should be our starting point not their literal last prayer.
The greater point is that this One carried our griefs and sorrows. All our sorrows become gone by the way He takes our burdens upon Him. Griefs, pain, diseases and even sin as seen in the next verse are all born by this faithful Servant. No wonder when we look at Him, He looks beaten down (stricken). He was indeed smitten by God and afflicted, but it was not because of His own sin but because of our own. Notice Jesus’ argument here in Mark 2:9-12.
We clearly find the connection of healing with the atonement. If He can heal, then He can forgive. If He can forgive, then He can heal. I wonder if this Isaiah passage isn’t behind Christ’s own reasoning. The reason for Christ’s suffering was us. He was innocent. We make an incalculable mistake when we assume He suffered for His own error. The whole book of Job was written to theologically prove that the righteous can suffer. In this case Christ suffered not for His own wrong. This is the reason Christ’s virgin birth is so important.
Jesus had no sin or wrong of His own. By the virgin birth the sinful nature was not passed on down to Jesus from an earthly father. Although we do not understand the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s birth, we must accept it and the resulting teaching that He was free from inherited sin and suffered not for His wrong but for others. The sense of love is being made evident and reaches a crescendo in these verses.
Exercise: Think how much your ministry and service to others is born out of love. Do you pray, help, preach, evangelize out of love or does selfish ambition, pride or other alternative things motivate your service? List at least three ministries or services you do and prayerfully examine your heart motive.
It is here we find the blossom of love fully open. The most inner and delicate parts of a flower are its reproductive organs. It is from here that a flower forms other flowers. And so it is with the Gospel, only here is the true love of God made manifest. One can touch the outer petals but no real love will be born. One needs to come closer to touch the heart of the Gospel in this verse for love to be reproduced in a person’s heart.
The word "But" emphasizes the true and full interpretation of suffering. It is here that our ‘iniquities’ and ‘transgressions’ are mentioned as in contrast to 53:4’s grief and sorrow. He did not carry our sin to empathize with us as modern man would envision. He was crushed to bring about our well-being. We must refuse to disengage a person's welfare or sanctification from his salvation. We see this from 1 Peter 2:24.
We earlier looked at what Christ took upon Himself in order to help us. We now need to stare at Christ’s own affliction. Again the repetitious words of pain are used to describe the result of taking on man’s sins. ‘Stricken,’ ‘afflicted,’ ‘pierced through,’ ‘crushed,’ ‘chastening’ is His portion. In summary He suffers because He has taken our sin upon Him. One cannot merely take the name or title sin; it has its accompanying baggage of consequences. When Jesus took our sin, He also took our pain and death.
Note the word ‘pierced’ here. The word also can be used to mean polluted. In this case pierce seems appropriate because of the nature of Christ’s death and the nails being pierced through His hands and feet. He was wounded for our sake. Let’s focus on the theology that is being stated here. More general applications will be provided later.
These verses clearly teach what is known as ‘substitutionary atonement.’ Christ died in place of us, that is, He took the penalty of our sins upon His own life. This is a core truth to the Gospel. Several assumptions are being stated in this one truth. (1) That one can die (or suffer) in a way that it brings benefit to another. (2) That sin is of such a nature that deserves death. (3) That this righteous Servant’s piercing, crushing and scourging can satisfy God’s wrath against us. He took our penalty upon Himself. If He suffered our penalty, then we are set free. The last stanza with even more detail summarizes the teaching of justification by faith. Here we see that as a result of His devotion love is born into our own lives. We are healed. Grace has been brought to our lives and now we will live graciousness out to others.
We have been emphasizing two kinds of lessons from this fourth Servant Song. We are focusing on the work of Christ (what He did) but also on the means of His work (how He did it). The later focuses on the example of Christ through His life and attitudes. This is exactly how we are to think about life ourselves. Philippians 2:3-11 clearly develops this thought.
Exercise: In what ways have you suffered for the welfare of others? Have you chosen inconvenience, poverty, pain, sickness so that you can more effectively serve others? If not, are you ready to? In most cases we are not sure what might happen, but we are ready to suffer as needed. Note here Paul’s own attitude that was greatly shaped by the Apostle Paul.
Difficulties did not hold Paul back. He treats these hard times as an opportunity to serve with God’s infectious love. The apostle even tells Timothy to ‘join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).
Some people are trying to catch up with what has been described in the former verses. They are wondering what does ‘our transgressions’ and ‘our iniquities’ imply about our own lives? They can understand our griefs and pain mentioned in 53:4 but not the sin of 53:5. Isaiah here in this verse helps us catch up with thoughts about our own lives. We find that though Christ might have horribly suffered, it does us little good unless we can agree with God’s perspective of our lives.
Man tends to think of himself better than he is. The scriptures give clear record of our actual lives, “All of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way.” Mankind as a whole is rebellious and does not want to give ear to their Creator’s words. We have sought out our own ways. Sin is defined in many ways but one is marked by iniquity (insisting on doing it our way rather than God’s). Simply put, we are perverse.
Unless we can confess our sin and seek healing, no healing is provided. This is the importance of this verse. It highlights our need for the Servant’s Work. We can say it is the reason for His suffering. If we did not sin, then there would not be any need for this suffering. But truly, the source of our grief, pain and sin is all from our own sin nature.
But note what the Lord did do. “The LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” This is most remarkable. It seems unjust to have another rot for our sins. The difference in this case is that Jesus took on this sin voluntarily. We will see that stressed later by His silence during the inquiry. It seems unreasonable that one could suffer in our place but that is the fact of judgment. It seems highly unlikely that One so righteous would suffer so much for wicked people like us, but that is the love of God testified throughout the world. Amazing story of love that will never end.
Jesus suffered terribly on the cross. It seemed as if God was displeased with Him. But in fact Jesus died to do His Father’s will. He lived and died for others, not because of any displeasure of God against Him personally but so that God’s love might be born forth in the lives of the wicked. We first need to acknowledge our sins, however, before we can ever find the glorious love of God in Christ.
Exercise: What do you think of yourself? Are you a sinner? Have you gone astray? God is convinced of it to such a degree that He sent His Son to die on the cross. Have you ever been humbled by your sin to such a degree that you hated it and turned from it? Did you look and find forgiveness and healing through Jesus? This process is called salvation. There is no other way to find God’s grace. Below are some wrong views people have of Jesus Christ. We can compare each of them with what we have just read in this stanza.
Here are a few wrong views of Jesus. Does it make a difference on what you believe? Sure does!
1) Jesus is only a good person.
Some state that Jesus was a good person and even a good teacher. Even those from hostile religions like Islam accept this. Usually when a person says such things, they mean that Jesus was not God. But if Jesus was only man and not God, then He would have been born with a sin nature inherited from Adam and thus himself be a sinner. He might have been a great person, but it is important to recognize that He had to be wholly righteous otherwise (1) His life would not be accepted on our behalf, (2) Jesus would have had to die for His own sin, and (3) He would not have come alive again which indeed demonstrated His righteousness. If Jesus was only a good person, then we would still be in our sin. He was accepted as righteous sacrifice for us only because He was wholly righteous.
2) Jesus is only a great God.
Some state that Christ was only God. The early church battled against cults that had no problem with Jesus doing miracles and being God. Their problem was that if He was God, and it is in this conclusion they made a mistake, that He could not suffer God’s wrath. This phrase ‘crushed for our iniquities’ defines very clearly what happened at the cross. The docetic cult took shape in several forms. But common to them all was the belief that the flesh, the body, was inherently evil. So if Jesus was God, when He came to earth, He merely came upon a person called Jesus. God could not have an evil body. They separated Jesus in the flesh from the Spirit God that was on Him. Cult members asserted that the Spirit God left Jesus just before He died when He suffered for our sins.
This of course has some problems other than being unscriptural. (1) This teaching blames our bodies for our sins when it is not our bodies but our wills. Our bodies are good but due to our sinful heart we do evil. We go astray. Paul instructs us to do good with these same bodies. (2) If the Spirit of God left Jesus or was different from the one who died, then the atonement cannot be complete. This is the reason the Old Testament taught the need to have an unblemished lamb sacrificed at Passover. The only way God would pass-over our sins is if there was a perfect sacrifice. Of course this would not be a lamb but a picture of Christ who would die for us. If the Christ Spirit merely came upon the man Jesus, then in the end it would be a sinner dying for his own sins.
The scripture teaches us that several important points about Christ’s saving death:
(1) The God-man was perfectly united from birth to death/resurrection. Jesus Christ was a hundred percent God and hundred percent man. This is the reason the miraculous birth of Jesus was so clearly mentioned by Matthew and Luke and that His resurrection Jesus’ changed body was so frequently pointed out. He was not just a Spirit.
(2) This same God-man is the One who suffered for us. It sounds odd and strange that one so lofty would die for man so lowly. In many religions man tries to escape the flesh, but God sent His Son and took on human form. The reason was not only to model what a godly life could and should be but to die as a sacrifice. Remember it is this one verse that is the focus of the whole book of Isaiah.
(3) The conclusion, then, is that if Christ’s sacrifice is so precious and is accepted, as testified by the scriptures and His resurrection, then our sins are forgiven. We are released from the wrath of God. Christ is the propitiation (appeasing sacrifice). This is the Gospel. Christ died for our sin so that we do not need to die for them. This teaching in an instant chases away the false teaching of purgatory, a place to purge us from our sins after our death. It also eliminates the question whether we are worth salvation. We are not worthy of salvation. We are saved by grace. It is our sin that brought Him to the Cross but it is there our sin in totality is effectively dealt with.
We have such a wonderful message to proclaim to those in the mountains, valleys and city streets. People are trying to escape sin, its guilt and its power, but do not know how. Governments can’t do it. Religions can’t do it. Only Christ. We need to bring people to Christ to find forgiveness.
(4) We are saved by faith not our works. If we were saved by our good works, then there would be no need for Christ to die. “He was pierced through for our transgressions.” Do you see that it was His death instead of our death? That is why when we believe we find eternal life. An even clearer explanation will come about in Isaiah 53:10. But if we are saved by works, then clearly Christ’s death would be meaningless. But having His death, we have life through faith in Christ.
Evangelism hint: Some reject Christianity because they say it is too easy. Agree that salvation by faith does seem to be easy (we only believe), but then go on and talk about the standard God expects of the believer: the purity of heart, soul and body. See if they can be that all the time. Then you will note how they will become uncomfortable with God’s standards in their minds. Go on and share how you have found that it is not that it was easy to do. It was easy for us but the hard work was done by Christ. Take them if you will right to this prophecy which became fact. Tell them about the gruesome death of the righteous one. Then he and we again will see that there is no easy salvation. It is only that Christ did for us what we couldn’t do ourselves.
Sins, Guilt and Consequences
We need to think carefully about the difference between the guilt and consequences of sin. Here we are speaking about the guilt of our sin taken away. He provides the glorious forgiveness of that guilt by taking our guilt upon Himself. This is the reason the New Testament says that we are “in Christ.” We hide ourselves in Him.
But what do you do as a Christian when you sin? Of course we feel the guilt and shame of the sin. Some Christians consider themselves as second-class Christians because of some past sin. They do not think that the Lord will talk to them as before. We certainly have grieved the Lord again and again. perhaps you are like me who have battled some area of sin again and again. I was tempted to give up. The evil one with malice say to me, “You are no good.” But the truth of this sacrifice again and again taught me to find full forgiveness for all of my sin.
The Lord does not have what we think a ‘second class Christian.’ They are totally forgiven, but they do not live it. I personally find that many Christians fall back into a half zealous Christian life because they have somehow thought that they no longer deserve and can gain God’s full love and forgiveness. Our earthly fathers might have thought we failed them and rejected us, but God’s sacrifice is good for all sin.
It is helpful to think of a father and son relationship when we think about guilt and forgiveness. When the child sins, he has guilt that causes him to avoid his father. But when they approach me and acknowledge their sin and ask for forgiveness, I love to forgive them. But I often provide some kind of extra discipline or training so that they will not again fall into disobedience. I want to strengthen them. Even though we might be forgiven, there are still consequences of our wrong. Study David’s life and this will be quite observable. Forgiveness does not mean there are no consequences either in our lives or others. I know of one man who because of anger to his wife is now years later still trying to win her heart. But he continues to love her even in her obstinate state.
• Propitiation (NASB) & Atonement (NIV)
Study Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17;1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10. Each verse uses the word propitiation or atonement. Do a word study on these words. What do they mean? Especially do this study with Isaiah 53:4-6 in mind. Are there any other verses that speak so clearly on this topic? Why are they so important?
• Study healing
Study these verses to see how it applies to the NT church and in our own lives and ministry. Keep 1 Peter 2:24 in mind as you interpret these passages.
C. His Mission: Suffering for Us (Isaiah 53:4-6)
1. List the phrases in 53:4-6 which have ‘our’ part of them. They show what we contribute to the process of salvation. Notice we do not see our good works listed!
2. List the verbs in 53:4-6 which describe His suffering.
3. The last portion of 53:4 suggests that some people misinterpret why Jesus died. What is the reason mentioned in this line? From 53:5 what would you say the reason of the Servant’s suffering?
4. Do you see yourself included in the phrase of 53:6, “All of us like sheep have gone astray?” Explain.
5. The truth is Jesus died because of our sins. Do you believe Jesus died for your sins? If so, when did this first occur? If not, why do hesitate? Is it related to whether you see yourself as a stray sheep?
6. This one who suffered for us shows what love is all about. From His love and sacrifice love has been spread forth throughout the world. How has His love directly affected your life? Your marriage? Your responses to others?
Biblical Foundations for Freedom
By Paul J. Bucknell