Isaiah 53: Who Hath Believed Our Report?
The Servant of the Lord. Considerable prominence is given to this subject in chapters 40-53 of this prophecy. Usually the term refers to Israel as a nation. (See 41:8-16; 42:1-7, etc.) But here in chapter 53, it points to an individual, who is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus. From a careful examination of the various passages concerning Israel "My servant," it is clear that they also refer to the Lord Jesus, for the same service that is placed upon the nation is also assigned to the Savior. (Compare Isa. 42:1-4 with Matt. 12:18-20; Isa. 42:6 and 49:6 with Luke 2:32.) There are many other passages which make this quite plain. The prophecy by Isaiah probably contains a larger number of utterances that can be easily understood as referring to the Lord than any other book in the Word. This is unquestionably one reason why it has been so much studied and been made the subject of so many commentaries. The identity of "My servant" in this fifty-third chapter and the incarnate Lord is unmistakable. The Lord never lacks a servant. The servant appears throughout the Word. Abraham is styled "My servant." (Gen. 27:24) Likewise Isaac and Jacob. "Moses, My servant" is a very frequent expression throughout the Old Testament. And the same is true of "David, My servant." They are all styled servants of the Lord because they had a special Divine service to render to their people or to humanity. They were specially appointed by the Lord to perform that service. The particular service of each is recorded in the Word. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob served as fathers of the race, Moses as a deliverer and law giver, and David as king and conqueror. In Isaiah, the service of "My people Israel" is pictured in glowing terms. Finally, the service rendered by the unnamed servant appears in this fifty-third chapter. The description of it really begins with the thirteenth verse of the preceding chapter. And this undoubtedly refers to the Lord Himself. He is the servant Himself—The Type Itself; of Whom all others are only antitypes. This goes far to show the wonderful unity of the Word, There is but one author of the Word, that is, the Lord.
"The servant denotes the humanity appertaining to the Lord before it was made Divine. This was nothing else but a servant. It was from the mother, therefore, infirm, having with it an hereditary from the mother, which He overcame by temptation-combats, and entirely expelled. When He put off this humanity, He put on the Divine Humanity, by virtue whereof He called Himself the Son of Man, and also the Son of God. The former state was that of the Lord's humiliation, but the latter of His glorification. In the former He adored Jehovah as one distinct from Himself, and indeed as a servant, for the humanity is nothing else in respect to the Divinity." (Excerpted from A. 2159, where the point is fully illustrated.) The meaning of "the servant of Jehovah" is still further brought out in A. 3441. It is there stated that "My servant denotes the Divine Human, because the Lord by this is serviceable to mankind, for by this man is saved, inasmuch as unless the Lord had united the human to the Divine, so that man might be enabled to look upon and adore the Lord's human, and thus have access to the Divine, he could not possibly have been saved." This is fully illustrated in the above number.
Thus the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah treats "of the Lord's appearance in the state of humiliation." (P. P.) "Who hath believed that which we heard, and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been uncovered?" Who can credit that the omnipotence of God is in the Lord Jesus Christ? For He suffered as all people do, and He was despised and rejected by people. Had the Divine, with all its power, been in Jesus, it would not have permitted such suffering to take place. Yet by this humiliation, and by this alone, can humanity be saved. "He hath borne our sickness, and carried our pains, He was pierced for our crimes, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed." This passage has been misunderstood and taken to mean that the Lord suffered in our stead: the innocent suffered for the guilty. This is a terrible perversion of the text, and sets aside the repeated call for righteousness, for the Observance of the Lord's commandments. It is human to regard people as incapable of keeping the law. Our weak human nature tempts us to seek a living without working for it. Likewise the perverted soul longs for heaven without labor, and greedily accepts the vicarious atonement of the Savior.
It is a law of life that people must work for their sustenance. It is likewise a law of heaven that people must labor before they attain the rest of heaven. There are six days of labor. Evil must be conquered. The Lord took "the chastisement of our peace upon Him," but not in the sense that He suffered punishment in our place. Far from it! "Jehovah laid on Him the iniquity of us all," and "He bore the sin of many" that we might have the power from Him to overcome evil, and to do His will. The Lord bears our iniquities "when He fights for man against the hells." (A. 9937) But the Lord cannot fight for people, unless they cooperate with the Lord by shunning evils in the natural human as sins against Him. (Life, throughout.)
The picture of the uncomplaining innocent sufferer in this chapter is full of the most tender pathos. These words have been engraved in the hearts of Christians. The actual fact of the Lord's sufferings on humanity’s account, and the insight into them here afforded us, ought to touch our hearts most deeply. Why should we continue to pain the Lord by the waywardness of our lives, when the means of grace are so freely offered to us? He is still among us as He who serves—the servant of Jehovah—to heal, to bear our iniquities, and to make intercession for transgressors. (As to intercession, see A. 5573, 8705.)