Isaiah is sometimes called the Bible in Miniature and Isaiah is referred to as the Evangelical Prophet.
There are 66 chapters in Isaiah. There are 66 books in the Bible (we know that Isaiah didn’t make the chapter divisions, but it’s interesting to see the parallels anyway).
The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are compared to the 39 chapters of the Old Testament, which focuses on God’s judgment for sin.
The second 27 chapters of Isaiah are compared to the 27 chapters of the New Testament, which emphasizes God’s grace.
Isaiah’s “New Testament” opens with the ministry of John the Baptist (Isaiah 40:3-5, Mark 1:1-4) and closes with the New Heavens and the New Earth (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22). In between are many references to the Lordship of the Messiah.
Isaiah’s heart is chapters 59-57. These chapters exalt the Messiah as God’s suffering servant. The center of the heart is 52:13-53:12, which focuses on Jesus’ substitutionary death for the sins of the world.
Jewish Rabbis call chapters 40-66 “The Book of Consolation” because Isaiah was comforting the Jewish remnant and assuring them that God was still in control and would return them to their homeland after their Babylonian captivity, which happened in 541 B.C. by decree of King Cyrus of Persia. Isaiah also revealed much about the Messiah and showed the Jews what would happen at the end of the age, after “the day of the Lord” and the destruction of the final Babyon (Revelation 17-19).
The Suffering Servant Passages (servant songs)
Isaiah 42:1-7 – The Servant’s Ministry
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. 5 Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
These words are applied in Matthew 12:14-21.
But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. 15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” Matt 12:14-21 (ESV)
Jesus ministry accomplished God’s plan of salvation for the entire world. God sent Jesus to perform a very difficult and specific task, and because of Jesus’ willing obedience to suffer a gruesome death and triumph over the grace, God will bring justice to the nations (42:1). Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12) and that includes all people – Jews and Gentiles (a Gentile is anyone who is not a Jew) (42:6). 42:7 has a double meaning: first to the Jews to give hope of deliverance from Babylonian captivity, and then to a sinner, giving hope for deliverance from condemnation (Luke 4:18-19).
Isaiah 49:1-7 – the Servant’s Authority
Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. 3 And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” 4 But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.” 5 And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” 7 Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Jesus had authority because he was called and prepared by God. He was a Servant and a Warrior. Messiah is called Israel in 49:3 because He was doing Israel’s work, and of course He came from the line of King David.
As Jesus ministered on earth, it was sometimes discouraging for His servants – it seemed that what He did was in vain (v. 4). He was opposed by the religious leaders, misunderstood by His closest followers, and toiled thanklessly for the sick and oppressed. But through it all, He showed us how to live day by day with faith that God will equip us for the ministry we’ve been chosen for. He was hated by both Jews and Gentiles (v. 7) but He was glorified because He did God’s work.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:1-11 (ESV)
Isaiah 50:4-11 – The Servant’s Submission
The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5 The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. 6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. 7 But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. 8 He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. 9 Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. 10 Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. 11 Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.
This passage emphasizes the Servant’s submission to the Lord God. His mind was submitted to learn God’s will (50:4). Jesus learned everything from the Father, praying for guidance (John 11:42, Mark 1:35) and meditating on the Word (the Old Testament). His ear was open to obedience to the voice of the Father, even though His contemporaries spat on Him, whipped Him, mocked Him, and nailed Him to a cross (Matthew 26:67; 27:26, 30).
Jesus’ actions were because of His faith in the Lord God (Isaiah 50:7-11). He knew that by doing the Lord’s will, He would suffer humiliation and death (John 18:1-11).
Isaiah 52:12-53:12 – The Servant’s Death
For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward. 13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. 1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 52:12-53:12 (KJV)
1. The Shocking Appearance of the Servant (52:13-15)
a. Appearance (14) – marred so He was unrecognizable. Stop and think for a moment. Our LORD JESUS CHRIST was beaten so thoroughly that He was unrecognizable, but He willingly suffered for each one of us. He did it for you. He did it for me. Jesus’ love for us is incomprehensible. Jesus was slapped, beaten on the head, hit with fists and scourged. A scourging was so awful that people frequently died, but Jesus took it for each person who has ever lived.
b. Exaltation (13) – Jesus suffered and died but rose again. Although it looked as if Jesus was defeated, in God’s eyes it was a victory (Colossians 2:15). He is now seated on the right hand of the Father and has all authority (Matthew 28:18) because God has placed everything under His feet (Ephesians 1:20-23)
c. Message (15) – Paul claims these verses as he preaches the Gospel to the Gentile nations:
and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” Romans 15:20-21 (ESV)
2. The Humiliated, Sorrowing Servant (Isaiah 53:1-3)
Jesus was born in poverty (a tender plant) rather than in riches. He attracted crowds but He wasn’t anything special to look at – His words were special. He was the irreplaceable Son of God, but a cheap price was placed on Him (30 silver pieces). His people were ashamed of Him because He didn’t represent wealth (Luke 16:14), prestige (Luke 14:7-14; 15:12), reputation (Luke 18:9-14); or living the good life (Matthew 16:21-28). Some reject Him today for those same reasons.
3. The Sacrificial Servant (Isaiah 53:4-6)
This passage reminds us that Jesus died for our burdens and our sorrows. He did nothing to deserve His death; He died for us. Jesus was crushed by a burden, “the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus kept the Law but suffered the beatings that we deserved. Because of His sacrifice we can live at peace with God through the healing of forgiveness of sins (53:5).
4. The Silent Servant (Isaiah 53:7-9)
a. Jesus was silent before Caiphas (Matthew 26:62-64); the chief priests and elders (Matthew 27:12); Pilate (John 19:9) and Herod Antipas (Luke 23:9). He stood mute because that’s what a servant must do – submit quietly to the will of the master.
b. Jesus was compared to a lamb (Isaiah 53:7). A lamb died for the sins of each family at each Passover (Exodus 12:1-13), and Jesus died as The Lamb of God, taking away the world’s sin (John 1:29).
5. The Vindicated Servant (Isaiah 53:10-12).
Jesus’ death had been determined long before He came to this earth (Acts 2:22-23). Jesus’ resurrection was also determined long before He came to this earth. Satan offered Christ an earthly kingdom in return for His worship – and if Jesus had accepted, He would not have had to die. He was “obedient unto death” and because of that He is highly exalted (Philippians 2:8-11).
Through Isaiah’s prophecies we see a picture of God’s amazing grace. We’ve been saved by God’s grace. Jesus took our sins and gave us the gift of righteousness. Once we have asked for forgiveness, God never keeps a record of our sins.
How astonishing is it that such specific predictions could be made hundreds of years before the birth of the Messiah? Sadly, all the predictions came true, but without Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, we could not be called sons and daughters of God.
If you’ve not accepted Jesus’ free gift – why not? Is there anything in the text that causes you to disbelieve? To doubt? If not, now is the time! All you have to do is pray (talk) to God and tell Him that you know you’ve sinned (done wrong) and that you’d like forgiveness. Ask Him to help you turn away from your sins and lead a righteous life. Tell Jesus that you want Him to take control of your life and be Lord and Master.
Did you do it? Have you been born into the Kingdom? If you have, then go tell! Tell a friend. Tell a pastor. Tell me! You’ll need to continue studying the Bible, and if you don’t go to church, you’ll need to find a Bible believing church (not every church believes that the bible is the inspired Word of God)!. If you need help finding a church, or if you’d just like to share your news, email me. I’ll pray with you and help you in any way I can.
I pray that this study has brought you closer to the living God. I look forward to hearing from you, and I will be back next week!