This is the first in a series of meditations on this remarkable chapter by our esteemed brother.
A Gem in Its Remarkable Setting
Psalm 23 the Psalm of the Shepherd, is well known as “the Pearl of Psalms.” Luke 15 and the story of the prodigal son, has been called “the Pearl of Parables.” The beautiful prophetic words of Isaiah 53 may rightly be termed “the Pearl of Prophecy.”
These words form a prophetic gem in the midst of a remarkable book. As a beautiful pearl may rest inside an oyster on the ocean floor, so this remarkable gem sits within the first of the Major Prophets in the inspired writings of the Word of God. Its beauty is there for us to appreciate, and the more we muse the more we marvel. The passage begins with Jehovah’s estimation of His true Servant. It follows the pathway of the Servant, His sorrow and suffering on earth. In life He did “always those things that please” the Father; in death He completely satisfied every claim of a righteous God against sin. We see God satisfied and salvation made available for all those who “like sheep have gone astray.” The prophecy concludes with a glimpse of Him as Sovereign, supreme in His rightful place in a coming day of millennial glory.
The fifteen verses from 52:13 to the end of chapter 53 present the Messiah in a five fold way:
Vs 13-15 He is the Serving One of Jehovah
Vs 1-3 He is the Sorrowing One of Earth
Vs 4-6 He is the Suffering One of Calvary
Vs 7-9 He is the Sinless One in Judgment
Vs 10-12 He is the Sovereign One in Glory
The writings of Isaiah are first in the list of the prophetic books of our Bible. This is not because it was written first, for other prophets lived and wrote before Isaiah. With sixty-six chapters it is considered the longest of the prophetic books, yet it has fewer words than either Jeremiah or Ezekiel. It rightly deserves to be so placed because it speaks so much of the coming Messiah.
Isaiah gives to us the clearest portrayal of the coming Christ. In chapter seven we have the sign of the virgin birth of Him Who is “Immanuel” – God with us. In chapter nine we have five beautiful titles of the child born and the Son given. In chapter 11 we see the fullness of the Spirit in the life of Christ. In chapter 42 we see His lovely life, the delight of the Father. In chapter 53 we have His atoning death, for the salvation of sinners. In chapter 60 we see His glorious reign and the coming kingdom of Christ. In chapter 61 we have a seven-fold aspect of the work of Christ. He Who at His first coming proclaimed “the acceptable year of the Lord,” will return in the “day of vengeance of our God.”
Eusebius of Caesarea, a Christian scholar and historian of the third century, called Isaiah the greatest of the prophets. A century later, Jerome referred to Isaiah as an evangelist rather than a prophet, “for Isaiah wrote in the past tense of things yet to happen.” During that same era, Augustine wrote, “Isaiah writes not a prophecy, but a gospel.” F. C. Jennings says this book has the “very fingerprint of God.”
The book of Isaiah is sometimes called “The Fifth Gospel of the Bible.” It is the prophecy of Redemption. The key word of the book is Salvation. The prophet’s name means “Salvation of Jehovah.”
Isaiah, the son of Amos, lived during the reigns of four of the kings of Judah. These are mentioned in the opening verse of the book. Ussher says that the events of his writings cover sixty-two years. Around 700 B.C. Manasseh, the wicked son of good King Hezekiah, rose to the throne of Judah. He was twelve years of age when his reign began and it lasted for fifty-five years. He would later be known as “the Nero of Palestine,” for those were cruel and evil days. The Jewish Talmud records that, in those days, Isaiah the prophet was “sawn asunder with a wooden saw.” This is believed to be the background of the words of Hebrews 11:37 where we read of some who “were sawn asunder.”
Isaiah wrote in the past tense of things yet to happen.
At that time Isaiah would have been an old man of ninety or more, a similar age to Daniel in Babylon and John on the Isle of Patmos. Each of these writers could look back to better days in the past when the grace of God had been seen. Each could look ahead to better days in the future when the glory of God would be revealed. Isaiah himself followed a pathway of suffering before he entered the glory. This is the man God used to write of “the sufferings of Christ” and to give glimpses of “the glory to follow.”