Meditations in Isaiah 53: The Pearl of Prophecy (3)

The Position of the Passage

This prophesy of Isaiah has been called a miniature Bible. Just as our Bible contains sixty-six books, so Isaiah has sixty-six chapters. Genesis shows us the entrance and consequences of sin. Chapter one of Isaiah likens sin to leprosy, an unclean disease with “wounds, bruises, putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” In Genesis after man sinned, God calls, “Adam, where art thou?” In Isaiah 1:18, God is calling, “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ saith the Lord, ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.’” Sin is evident, but salvation is available, provided by the Lord. The Bible ends in Revelation with the apostle John seeing a “new heaven and a new earth and a New Jerusalem” (Rev 21:1). The closing chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy look forward to a happy millennial day as the prophet records, “Behold I create new heavens and a new earth … behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy” (Isa 65:17-18). The Old Testament’s thirty-nine books tell of events prior to the first coming of our Lord Jesus. Isaiah’s first thirty-nine chapters deal primarily with events from Uzziah to Hezekiah. While these chapters have much prophetic truth, they also relate to historical events when Assyria was the great northern power. The New Testament has twenty-seven books and the last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah deal mainly with things future from Isaiah’s day: the carrying away into Babylon and the restoration to follow. The dividing point of the two sections is the fortieth chapter. Its third verse tells of one coming as “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord.” Here the New Testament begins with a prophesy of John the Baptist, who preached, “prepare ye the way of the Lord.” Each of the four Gospel writers quote this verse.

As a miniature Bible, Isaiah divides readily into two sections – 39 and 27 chapters. Being midway between chapters 40 and 66, chapter 53 is the midpoint of this latter section. Is this at all surprising? The story of Christ and Calvary is the central theme of all New Testament truth. Furthermore, a closer look at these last 27 chapters shows that they divide into three sections of nine chapters each. A common thought ends each section. Chapters 40-48 end with the words “’there is no peace,’ saith the Lord, ‘unto the wicked.’” Chapters 49-57 again conclude with “’there is no peace,’ saith my God, ‘unto the wicked.’” Chapters 58-66 close with the sad picture of a place “where their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched.” These remind us of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ as threetimes in Mark 9 he says, “where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” Isaiah 53 ends with a threefold reminder of “His soul” as an offering for sin. The central verse of the New Testament part of Isaiah is the story of redemption. We read of Him Who “was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities” (53:5). Three is the number of the Trinity, a truth that pervades our Bible. At the beginning, we read, “let Us make man in Our image.” So mankind is made, spirit, soul, and body. The New Testament clearly shows that the God of creation is also the God of salvation. This salvation comes only “of God” (John 1:13); it is the work of the Spirit (John 3:6); it is through the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19), God’s Son. God willed redemption, Christ died for it, and the Holy Spirit bears witness of it. Isaiah, whose name means “Jehovah’s Salvation,” writes of Him Who “poured out His soul unto death.” We have the very stamp of a Triune God on the salvation offered.

Another feature of interest is the use of the word “servant.” Between chapters 40 and 53 this word is always in the singular. Occasionally the word refers to Israel or to the prophet himself. It seems to be used collectively of the prophets appealing to the people. Chapter forty two, however, clearly speaks of a future Servant, the Son Who came to earth and went to Calvary. He was the perfect, unfailing Servant. In fact, from chapters 53 to 66 the word is always in the plural. Why should this be? Before chapter 53 it almost seems as if the eye of Jehovah is upon only one Servant. In the Passover story of Exodus 12 the fathers took a lamb for the family: “take to them every man a lamb.” That must have involved thousands of lambs, yet we read, “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” (Exodus 12:6). The Lord’s eye seemingly gazed not on one of the many lambs of Egypt but on the blessed Lamb of God. If the word “servant” is singular before chapter 53, why should it be in the plural after this chapter? Is it because the redemptive work at Calvary will not only bring many sons to glory but will also give to God here upon earth many servants purchased by the precious blood of Christ?