People are looking in so many different places for the meaning of life. Approximately 2700 years ago the prophet Isaiah gave a prophecy that many consider the most amazing prophecy ever in history- a prophecy that affects us all, and unlocks the meaning of life. The prophecy is about a man who is given a title from the prophet as “My Servant”. Here’s the prophecy- read it with these questions in mind:
Who is the “Servant” that is described?
What did the Servant do and why?
“See, my Servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness- so will he 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.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 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. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
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 her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 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.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, 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. 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.”
How did you answer the questions:
Who is the Servant?
What did the Servant do and why?
Most people came up with the same answers: the prophecy is about Jesus Christ, and He would die for the sins of the world- is that the conclusion that you came to?
Why Did the Servant Die?
1) He Died to Pay for our Sin
“So will He sprinkle many nations” (52:15), “the Lord makes his life a guilt offering” (53:10), “He bore the sin of many.” (53:12) His blood shed is payment for our sins. The word “sprinkle” always has to do with cleansing from sin as a priest dipped his finger in the blood of a sacrificed animal and sprinkled it before the Lord seven times (Lev 4:1-17). The blood was an awful reminder of the price of sins- the wages of sin is death- the animal was a substitute for death in place of the guilty party, but it was a temporary substitute- the final substitute would be the sinless sacrifice of Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for “many nations” (52:15)- this is amazing, since the sacrifices done in the tabernacle/temple were not for “many nations” but rather for Israel’s sins- God had not yet opened the door for many nations. The word, “sin” in these two passages is “chet”- a fault, flaw, disobedience, “to miss the mark”- it’s a hunting term referring to missing the bull’s-eye; anything less than moral perfection is sin.
2) He Died for Our Transgressions
“He was pierced for our transgressions” (53:5) “for the transgression of My people He was stricken.” (53:8) The word for “transgressions” means a willful deviation from the path of righteousness, a premeditated crossing of the line of God’s Law, a rebellious rejecting of God’s authority.
3) He Died for Our Iniquities
“Iniquities” means a depraved action, perversity, guilt, fault, an infraction of moral law. “He was crushed for our iniquities” (53:5) “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (53:6, 11)
He died for “all” of our iniquities. God is extremely serious about sin- are you? God has given us a summary of what sin is- the Ten Commandments, permanently written in stone, unchangeable and eternal. Listen to your conscience- have you ever experienced guilt for breaking the following…
*Stealing (the value is irrelevant)
*Adultery: Only the marriage bed is holy. Why? Our God is a covenant-keeping God who has designed marriage and sex as a covenant between a man and a woman in a stable, secure, “till death do us part” covenant. Jesus also said that if you lust after a person you aren’t married to, that you have committed adultery in your heart.
*Murder: Jesus said that unrighteous anger was murder of the heart, as well as vengeful, hateful thoughts, and that we can murder by speaking evil words about people.
*Honor Your Mother and Father- have you ever disobeyed your parents/authority figures?
*Do Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain
*God is to be of first importance always in your life
If you’ve violated these commandments at any time, by definition you’re a lying, thieving, adulterous, murderous, rebellious, blasphemous, idolater at heart. Would you deserve heaven or hell on Judgment Day if you were judged by God’s Law?
The Holiness of God
Some take sin lightly, “God will forgive. Therefore I don’t need to put my trust in Jesus Christ, repent (turn from my sin) and submit my life to Him to escape hell.” To say such is to misunderstand the holiness of God. Consider in a court of law- you have been convicted of a crime and you ask the judge to pardon you. He would be a corrupt judge to do such. If he fined you $100,000 or jail time, and you didn’t have the money, you’d go to jail, but if someone paid the fine for you, then justice would be served and you’d be free to go. You would be justified before the court of law. That is what Jesus did for you. Isaiah prophesied, “My righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (53:11) He justified you before the highest court- God’s throne. Jesus was righteous and innocent, and He paid all your sins in your place and gave you His righteousness- if you will receive it.
Earlier in the book of Isaiah, the prophet recorded a vision of God’s throne that forever changed his life- he got a glimpse of the holiness of God. He saw angels surrounding God’s throne, crying to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3) When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on the throne, he cried, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) What will you do on Judgment Day when you stand before the Lord of the entire heavenly host, who is wrapped in unapproachable light, who knows your every motive, every thought, every word and every deed? You will need the Servant as your Advocate, who paid the price for your sins. You will need His righteousness to stand before the holiness of God in all His glory and not be justly condemned to hell.
The Servant’s Humble Entrance into the World
Jesus is described as a “tender shoot” (53:2) growing up out of the “dry ground” of desolate Israel. Isaiah also prophesied his virgin birth, that God would be become a man and minister in a hillbilly town in Galilee (7:14, 8:8, 10, 9:1-7). Why was the virgin birth necessary? Immediately after the first man and woman disobeyed God and the curse of sin separated them from God, God held out hope of a future Seed who would come and destroy Satan and sin. God prophesied to Satan, “I will put enmity [division, strife] between you and the woman [Eve] and between your seed and her Seed [Jesus Christ]; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Satan would be crushed by Jesus Christ, but in the process, Jesus Christ would be bruised- He would suffer, bearing the sins of the world on that cross. Isaiah unmistakably picks up on this same word “bruised”: “He was bruised for our iniquities” (53:5).
Why would God become a man? Why would God arrive on the scene in such a meek way? The virgin birth reveals Jesus Christ the God-man. He’s 100% God and 100% man. All of humanity was born of Adam and Eve, and ever since their sin, sin and destruction have reigned in all mankind. But Jesus Christ had no earthly father. Spiritually speaking, God the Father was His Father- and thus Jesus was born into humanity without a sin nature. Isaiah prophesied of the glory and triumph of the day Jesus Christ was born into this dark world, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (9:1-7) Because He was human, He can identify with all our weaknesses, suffering and tragedy. Because He is God, who sits at the right hand of the Father, He is able to empower us and to pray for us, making “intercession for the transgressors.” (53:12)
Prophecies of Events Leading Up to the Crucifixion:
Isaiah prophesied that while the Servant was headed for execution that He would be like a silent lamb ready for the slaughter. Jesus would be beaten up so badly that his appearance would be marred beyond that of any man, causing those who saw Him to be appalled (52:14). Elsewhere in Isaiah it is prophecied that the Servant would willingly offer His back to be beaten, his beard to be plucked and to be spit upon and mocked (50:4-10). The gospels give eyewitness testimony: “Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.” (Mark 14:65) To be struck when blindfolded is to get the full force of a blow- His face was a swollen, bloody mess from these blows. “Pilate …delivered Jesus, after He had scourged Him…They twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and began to salute Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him.” (Mark 15:15-20)
The Death, Burial and Resurrection of the Servant
He died for sin, “He poured out His soul unto death” (53:12), without having any descendants (53:8) as “He was cut off from the land of the living” (53:8). In death a common criminal’s grave was what was expected for one who was crucified, but it didn’t happen that way for Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus in his own tomb (John 19:38). Isaiah foresaw it, “They made His grave with the wicked- but with the rich at his death.” (53:9) In triumph He conquered the grave, “I will divide Him a portion with the great and He shall divide the spoil with the strong.” (53:12, cf Psalm 16:10)
The Meekness of the Servant
The Servant would come in meekness, supporting those who are bruised and hurting “a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench” (Isaiah 42:2-3) Reeds grew in the river and were used for writing. Bruised reeds were worthless and would be burned up in the fire, but the Servant would not destroy such a bruised reed. A smoking flax is a candle on its’ last gasp that is smoldering but not producing a flame. What a comfort these passages are to us- we’ve been that bruised reed- we’ve been bruised by sin and we’ve bruised others as well. We’ve been that smoking flax, ready to perish. In all our sinfulness and frailties, Jesus Christ has been our Servant, supporting us, offering forgiveness when all hope was lost, and granting us a new lease on life and the power and encouragement to live a life holy and separated onto Him. Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden [with sin] and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
God Hides His Servant
Isaiah speaks of the Servant being hidden in the shadow of the Lord’s hand and like an arrow in His quiver (49:2). As I talk with unbelievers about the good news of Jesus Christ, some say things like, “Tell you what, take me through the cancer ward and heal everyone, and I’ll believe. Let Jesus write it in the stars, “Jesus is Lord” and I’ll believe! Why is God hiding? Let Him show Himself plainly to me, and I’ll believe.”
Is God hiding? God says, “Who has believed Our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (53:1) God is hiding His incredible message about His Servant from some people, but why? He has revealed Himself through creation and our conscience to show us enough evidence of our sin, of death and judgment to come by our Creator. This is enough evidence to want to find Him- if we are willing to let go of our sin and our own self-governance and seek Him. Then He will progressively reveal Himself to us on His terms, not our terms. Jesus promised, “Seek, and you shall find”. Are you humbly, earnestly seeking Him? If not, maybe you haven’t found the Lord Jesus Christ for the same reason a crook won’t find a policeman- you don’t want His authority over your life- so it’s easier to look for reasons not to believe, and the world and the devil will give you plenty of those!
Judgment of the Unrepentant
God’s urgent plea through Isaiah is to leave your life of darkness and trust in the Servant: “Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God.” (50:10) For those who reject the message of the Servant, hell awaits. The leaders of the world in their struggle for power pay no heed to Jesus Christ. There will come a day when the tables are reversed- their mouths will be shut as they are judged by the Servant for their rebellion and He unveils His power, wrath and glory, “Kings will shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider.” (52:15) Isaiah ends his prophecy warning unbelievers of the terrors of the Christ returning to judge the world, sending those who refuse to obey and follow the Servant Jesus Christ to eternal damnation: “Who is this who comes from Edom…this One who is glorious in His apparel…Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? ‘I have trodden the winepress alone…I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments…For the day of vengeance is in My heart.’” (63:1-4) The agony of the lost in hell is described in the last verse in Isaiah, “Their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (66:24) I beg you turn to Jesus Christ before it is too late!
The Reign of the Servant
The Servant will reign triumphant as He is exalted (52:13) as King and Savior over all the earth, establishing justice and truth (42:3-4). His sacrifice will bring Him great joy as He sees the results- sinners repenting and living lives glorifying God, “When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed… He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.” (53:10-11) When one sinner repents and receives salvation, there is joy in heaven, to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, who paid the ultimate price for that seed- you and me, His spiritual offspring.
The saving of wretched sinners like us brings ultimate glory to the character of our gracious God- this is the ultimate “why” of the suffering Servant that unlocks the key to the universe and the meaning of life. We exist to glorify God in all His majesty and adore and thank Him for His mercy and grace, and He has provided a way for us to do this by repenting of our sin and living our lives for His glory in obedience to His commands.
Servants of the Lord Jesus Christ will gather around His throne in eternity and sing songs like this incredible Servant song in the book of Revelation: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” (5:9-10)
What’s your song? You’re still breathing- it’s never too late to change your tune while you still have breath to breathe. Will you be His servant, or will you continue serving yourself, your sin and the devil? Heaven and hell are in the balance. Famous rock star Bob Dylan sang, “You're gonna have to serve somebody… well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody.”