The Suffering Servant (Part 1)

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

The Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah are some of the most important passages in the Bible. We discover in these words the heart of God, who loves people with an everlasting and robust love.

God’s character is revealed in these verses and the world’s system is exposed for the small, corrupt entity that it is.

Today’s article will examine how God understands honor and shame. It will amaze us with the method God uses to conquer his enemies. It should inspire our love, devotion, and emulation of our loving Lord.

The Exalted Servant

When people think about prosperity and honor, they don’t imagine what we are about to read in Isaiah 52.

Isaiah begins his message about God’s Servant with these words.

See, my Servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
(Isaiah 52.13)

Jesus clearly understood Isaiah’s prophecy about the Servant of the Lord, because he was that Servant.

On one occasion he said, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3.14-15).

God sent poisonous snakes as judgment to his rebellious people. When Moses prayed for them, God instructed him to fashion a bronze snake. When persons looked at the snake, God mercifully healed them.

Jesus referenced the story from Numbers 21.4-9 and said that he would be lifted up for the salvation of the world. When people turn to him in faith, they are healed.

On another occasion Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12.32).

In both instances Jesus turned the common understanding of prideful, self-sufficient, honor into something else. As the Suffering Servant, Jesus was lifted up in self-sacrifice and love for the healing of the nations.

His sacrificial love draws people into a relationship with him.

The Marred Servant

As Jesus approached the time for his trial and execution, he said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12.23).

We normally associate glory with high honor and esteem. However, in this instance Jesus’ glory referred to the most horrific event in human history.

Isaiah prophesied that the Servant’s treatment would be so harsh that he would not look human.

Just as there were many who were astonished at him
—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals . . .
(Isaiah 52.14)

What is astonishing about the tragic sight of Jesus is that his crucifixion was God’s plan to release people from the power of sin.

No one could imagine that God’s mighty “arm” would be stretched between two beams of wood on a hill in Jerusalem and that this would be the most powerful act in human history.

The Roman Centurion who oversaw Jesus’ crucifixion was so impressed that he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mark 15.39).

Salvation Revealed

Paul understood the message of Isaiah. He wrote a powerful hymn that is his response to the message of Isaiah and the work of the Suffering Servant.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

But emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,

He humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,

So that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

And every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2.5-11)

Try reading Paul’s words as you meditate on Isaiah’s prophecy about the Suffering Servant.

So he shall startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
(Isaiah 52.15)

How did the Servant startle the nations? How did his act silence the mouths of kings?

His example puts to shame the arrogant striving of the so-called powerful.

His act of self-giving love has saved more people than any other act in history.

His enemies are defeated, because his act of love has turned them into friends.

About This Blog

Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video of these blog articles on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is Jewish, a Christian, and an excellent Bible student. The videos present insights from a dialogue with the two of us.

I am indebted to Dr. John Oswalt, who has written an excellent two-volume commentary on Isaiah for insights into the Book of Isaiah.

Please email your prayer requests to me at bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.

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