The Fourth Servant Song describes the Man of Sorrows in five stanzas.
Stanza 1, found at the end of Chapter 52, introduces the summary of Jesus’s exaltation.
Stanza 2, found at the beginning of Chapter 53, speaks of Jesus’s early life and ministry.
Stanza 3, still in Chapter 53, describes the perfect substitutionary sacrifice of Christ.
Stanza 4, again in Chapter 53, prophecies of Jesus’s silence and death.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with affliction.Isaiah 53:10-12 (NRSV)
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out himself to death
and was numbered with the transgressors,
yet he bore the sin of many
and made intercession for the transgressors.
From the Beginning
Yet it was the will of the Lord …
Paul began his letter to the assemblies in Ephesus with this great truth, reminding his readers that God “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.”
God began to talk about the great Plan of Redemption with the first man and woman, after they had succumbed to Satan’s attack in the Garden of Eden, warning the Serpent,
I will put enmity between you and the womanGenesis 3:16 (NRSV)
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
God continued to talk about The Plan to each of the patriarchs. God regularly reiterated The Plan throughout the history of God’s people. The Plan was deeply embedded in the holy feasts, in the Levitical laws concerning sacrifices. And God spoke through the prophets, including Isaiah, prophesying seven hundred years before Jesus.
God the Son would do the magnificent work God had designed, the Son fulfilling the will of the Father perfectly in the power of the Spirit. He shall find satisfaction through His knowledge. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied. The cross did not end in suffering but in satisfaction, as Jesus breathed His last saying, “It is finished”
Because Jesus went all the way to the cross, God the Son died. But because He was dead, He could also rise to eternal life, and ascend to heaven. This is what humankind needs, the pioneer and perfecter of faith who will break open the way for us to follow Him into eternity.
God the Son is now exalted: crowned and seated on the throne with the Father for all eternity—he shall see his offspring and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. This is what gives meaning and depth to the famous promise Paul proclaimed in his letter to the assemblies in Rome.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.
Romans 8:28-30 (NRSV, modifications mine)
- And those whom he predestined he also called,
- and those whom he called he also justified,
- and those whom he justified he also glorified.
The Language of Salvation
he bore the sin of many
When you make his life an offering for sin … and made intercession for the transgressors.
This is the Great Work, The Plan of Redemption God intended from before the “foundation of the world.”
We are justified in the sight of God, a teaching which includes five key concepts.
Atonement: Think of atonement as the phrase “at one ment.” God desires to repair the damage done to humankind’s relationship with God through, as Isaiah put it, wandering and iniquity. God desires for people to be made “at one” with God once more, as it was before humankind succumbed to Satan’s attack.
Jesus’s death on the cross made atonement for all the wandering and iniquity of the world.
In a certain sense, God the Son took within Himself all the poison of transgression then drank the cup of God’s purifying wrath, the antidote to sin. There could only be one result, and it was lethal. But in God the Son’s death, atonement was achieved for all those who would put their faith in Christ.
Propitiation: If atonement is what reunites us as one with God, then propitiation is that specific part which satisfies God’s holy law, the part that says with finality: “justice is served.” By having satisfied the law with His infinite and eternal capacity to die, justice has fully been served, for all people of all time.
All you and I need do is avail ourselves of what Jesus’s propitiation has accomplished.
Substitution: The way Jesus did this for us was to take our place.
Vicarious: Embedded within substitution is the idea of our vicarious experience – “experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another” – because of Jesus’s vicarious substitution—”serving instead of someone or something else.”
For all those who have put their faith in Jesus, it was as if we took part in His experience on the cross.
The apostle Paul described it this way, “if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” The phrase “in Christ” that runs throughout the epistles explores all the many aspects of this vicarious experience.
Justification: To be justified is to be declared righteous. All people are guilty. But because of Jesus’s Great Work, we have been declared innocent. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. God acknowledges that justice has been served completely in Christ’s death and so declares the person who believes in Jesus’s death and resurrection as righteous. You can think of “justified” in this way: God treats my sin “just as if I’d died” for it myself.
Counted Among the Lawless
Luke wrote that Jesus quoted from Isaiah when He was explaining to His disciples about how the public sentiment towards them was going to grow hostile soon, as Jesus would be arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to death.
He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.
For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless,’ and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.”Luke 22:35-37 (NRSV)
Jesus would fulfill the plan of redemption and share the wealth of glory, joy, life and power with His own when He rose up into heaven and sent His Spirit to be with them, and us today.
Jesus is satisfied because believers are justified
Remember that movie I spoke of, a number of posts ago? At the end of the movie, the main character had a new lover who we were to understand was going to become her husband. She was sure she had found balance and love, that being crazy in love was really the way to erase her guilt and be the happy, fulfilled person she wanted to be. And there is something to that.
But it is not romantic love between human beings, or familial love, or bonding earthly loves that does this. It is God’s great love for you and me that prompted the Lord to free us forever from our wandering, iniquity, and guilt.
We cannot just imagine our guilt away, or imagine our inquiry and wandering away, these things are all too real. So, Jesus really did something about it.