Scripture reading – Isaiah 53; Isaiah 54


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Isaiah 53 continued the prophetic portrait of God’s suffering “servant” that began in Isaiah 52 with the account: “Many were astonied [appalled; horrified] at thee; His visage [appearance] was so marred [disfigured] more than any man, And his form [appearance] more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 52:14).

Isaiah’s prophecy then foretold the sorrows (Isaiah 53:1-3), suffering (Isaiah 53:4-9), and sacrificial death of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:10-12). As you will see, Isaiah’s prophecy is in harmony with the description of Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross found in the Gospels.


The Messiah’s Suffering (Isaiah 53:1-3)

The unbelief of the Jews was foretold in verse 1, where we read, “Who hath believed our report [message]?” (Isaiah 53:1; John 12:38-41; Romans 10:16)

Some suggest that the suffering portrayed in Isaiah 53 was that of Israel suffering for her sins as a nation (that is the explanation of some Jewish historians). Yet, that cannot be the literal interpretation because the portrait is one of vicarious suffering (one suffering in the place of another). Numerous passages in the New Testament quote Isaiah 53 as the foretelling of Christ and His suffering and sacrificial death (Matthew 8:17; John 12:38-41; Romans 10:16; 1 Peter 2:20-25).

Isaiah 53:2 revealed that the coming Messiah would have a humble demeanor. He would have “no form nor comeliness [no natural beauty]; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty [natural beauty] that we should desire him.” Though the prophets foretold His coming, Isaiah revealed that the Messiah would be “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3).

The Messiah’s Substitutionary Atonement

The Messiah’s Substitutionary Atonement (Isaiah 53:4-5, 7-9)

The LORD stated to the prophet Ezekiel, “Behold, all souls are mine…the soul that sinneth, it shall die”(Ezekiel 18:4). Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Because all are sinners and the penalty of sin is death, how might God’s demand for justice be satisfied? The answer to that question is established in Isaiah 53.


The Messiah would satisfy God’s judgment and the penalty of man’s sin in six ways. (Isaiah 53:4-9)

1) He would bear and carry “our griefs, and… our sorrows [punishment]“ (Isaiah 53:4a), for He would be “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4b; Philippians 2:8).

2) He would suffer our wounds and be chastened for our sins. The LORD would place the burden of our sins upon Him: “He was wounded [defiled; polluted] for our transgressions [our rebellion against God’s law], he was bruised [beaten] for our iniquities [guilt; wicked, crooked ways]: the chastisement [reproof; correction for] of our peace was upon him” (Isaiah 53:5a).

3) He would be scourged and bear the “stripes [wounds, blows]” we deserve (Isaiah 53:5). Under Jewish law, the condemned would receive 39 lashes. Under Roman law, under whose jurisdiction Christ was condemned, scourging was so brutal that some men died before suffering the fate of the cross.

4) He would be treated unjustly but never protest the injustices He suffered: “He was oppressed [driven like a beast], and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter [to be sacrificed], and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29; Matthew 26:63; 27:14; 1 Peter 2:23).

5) He would be rushed to judgment: “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 [Israel] was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8).

Jewish law required two days of reprieve before execution, thus giving an opportunity for new evidence to come to light, the family to visit, and the condemned to search his soul. Under Roman law, however, Jesus was shown no mercy and was crucified on the day He was tried (John 18:12, 24; 19:16).

6) He would make “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” (Isaiah 53:9). Christ fulfilled that prophecy in exact detail. He was crucified amid two thieves (John 19:31), and His lifeless body was buried in the tomb of a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60).


As Prophesied, Christ’s Death Satisfied God’s Judgment (Isaiah 53:4, 6, 10)

Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would die, not for His sins, but for our sins. Isaiah prophesied, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows [punishment]: yet we did esteem [pass judgment upon Him in ignorance] him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted [as one with leprosy]” (Isaiah 53:4). So, Christ bore the guilt and burden of our sins, and in Isaiah’s words, “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).


Closing thoughts for Isaiah 53 –

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah, like an innocent sacrificial lamb, would do nothing to deserve death, for “he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” [not sinned in word or action]” (Isaiah 53:9b). His suffering and death would satisfy God’s judgment, for “it pleased the LORD to bruise [crush] Him; He hath put Him [Jesus] to grief: when thou shalt make His soul [life] an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10a).

In the eternal counsel of the Godhead, it was determined that Christ’s suffering and death would satisfy God’s judgment against sin (Isaiah 53:11; Revelation 13:8). Why did it please God to crush His Son with the weight of man’s sin?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.(John 3:16)

Finally, while Christ’s death satisfied the penalty of sin, His resurrection proved that the curse of sin (i.e., death, Romans 6:23) was satisfied. Sin and the grave no longer have the victory. We have read Isaiah’s prophecies of the vicarious suffering and death of the Messiah, and indeed, must realize Christ fulfilled all that was foretold. 

Friend, if you have not, I invite you to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and…believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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