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The Silent Servant - Isaiah 53:7-9
God’s Servant
The Silent Servant
Isaiah 53:7-9
 
We return tonight to our study of God’s Servant in Isaiah 53.  And just jumping into the subject before us tonight in verses 7-9, the Jews are told, 700 years before Messiah arrives, that He will be God’s sacrificial Lamb.
 
Verses 7-9
 
Here, in a direct statement, we are told that the Messiah will be slaughtered like a lamb and in that slaughter He will be silent as a lamb is silent.
 
The imagery certainly was not lost on the Jews.   They were very familiar with animal husbandry and particularly with sheep.  Sheep were a staple part of their life because of their wool and their meat.  They were sheared and they were slaughtered and that was a very familiar part of life in ancient times in the land of Israel. 
 
And here they are introduced to their Messiah as a lamb who is to be slaughtered.  Now while the lamb part is analogy, the slaughter part was real.  And the particular point Isaiah makes is that He will be quiet and silent when He is being slaughtered, the way a sheep is silent when it is being slaughtered.  Twice in verse 7 we read that He did not open His mouth.
 
Now remember, even though this chapter looks forward to the death of Christ, it also looks backward from the conversion of Israel at the end of human history.  That is why the verbs are in the past tense.  He was oppressed.  He was afflicted.  He did not open His mouth.  It is a past-tense perspective because all that is said here about the death of
Jesus Christ is said, not looking forward from Isaiah’s viewpoint but looking backward from the future conversion of Israel when they look back on their treatment and response to Jesus. 
 
And as I mentioned to you last week, it is actually the confession of every person who has been saved or will ever be saved.  Their future confession is our confession now. 
 
We are saved because we believe He was pierced for our transgressions, verse 5.  We are saved because we believe He was crushed for our iniquities, that the punishment that came on Him was for our well-being and that by His scourging, we are healed.  We are saved because in verse 6 we believe the Lord caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. 
 
We are saved because of verse 8.  We believe He was cut off for our transgressions.  We believe, as verse 10 says, that the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief so that He would become a guilt offering for our sins.  We believe, in verse 11, that He justified many by bearing their iniquities.  At the end of verse 12, we believe that He bore the sins of many and interceded for the transgressors.
 
In short, we believe and they will come to believe that Jesus died in our place.  He was our substitute. 
He died as the Lamb of God. 
 
 
 
Now the Jews were very familiar with sacrificial animals.  All through their history from Leviticus on, when they were instructed in the book of Leviticus that God required a blood sacrifice.  INfact, that goes all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden after the fall. 
 
We see it pictured with Abraham taking Isaac up on the mountain because God told him to sacrifice his son.  Every Jew understood that sin causes death.   .  And that there must be a penalty paid for sin.  Someone must die and every sacrificial animal that was ever slaughtered through the history of Israel was a testimony to that fact.
 
But no one would have ever dreamed that the ultimate final and acceptable sacrifice would be the Messiah.  That wasn’t on anybody’s radar.  It just made no sense that Messiah would be slaughtered like a lamb.
 
And yet at the beginning of His earthly ministry, that is exactly the introduction of Him that his cousin, John the Baptist makes when he says, “Behold, not the Soveriegn of Glory or the King of Israel, but the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.”
 
The next day, he uses the same introduction:  “Behold the Lamb of God.”  John doesn’t explain anything.  But with that one phrase, he takes his hearers all the way back to Isaiah 53 to let them know the Messiah has arrived and in direct fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy He has come as a lamb and a sacrifice for sin. 
 
 
And to a people who are like sheep without a shepherd, He came as One of us in order to become the sacrificial lamb to save the sheep. 
 
And in verses 7-9, the focus is on the silence of the lamb.  Every verse has a reference to His silence and as it unfolds I hope you will be as amazed as I was to see how that plays out in the crucifixion. 
 
Let me show you what I mean. 
 
In verse 7, we discover there was  
 
1. Silence at His Trials
 
Verse 7
 
Notice the word oppressed.  This is a word that takes us to brutality and confinement.  It’s a prophetic reference to his arrest and the abuse He endured. 
 
We’re familiar with that because of our study of the New Testament.  But keep in mind Isaiah is writing 700 years before it happened and yet he describes the severity of what Jesus endured. 
 
By the time they were finished with Him, both in terms of the physical beating that He took on His body, and the abuse that He took on His head and His face from a crown of thorns, and sticks that beat Him in the face, and spit and sweat and blood running down His face, He didn’t even look human. 
 
 
 
 
And it started with His arrest in the middle of the night in the garden.  Then it continued through the mockery of trials, false witnesses, the abuse that came to Him there, the psychological torture that He underwent there, and the outrageous injustice of turning Him over to the Romans, and the way they handled Him and abused Him physically.
 
From the arrest in the garden through the trial at the house of the high priest and trying to indict Him by false witnesses giving false testimony, His time before Herod, before Pilate, all the mistreatment from the Jews and the Romans and yet no crime was ever validated, no proof ever given and no guilt was ever established. 
 
In fact, according to Luke 23:15 not only did Herod declare His innocence, Pilate, no less than three times, did also.  Still the leaders of Israel with the support of the people in general, pushed Pilate to follow his triple declaration of the innocence of Jesus with a call for execution.  That’s what we see here in verse 7 in one phrase.  He was oppressed.
 
And then it says He was afflicted. And experts in the language tell us the particular verb used there is a passive verb which means the action happens to you, not from you.  In other words, He allowed Himself to be afflicted.  Paul may well have had this very phrase in mind when he wrote Philippians 2, “He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.”  That may well be a direct reflection of Isaiah 53:7.
 
That is not normal for tortured people and it’s certainly not normal for innocent people who are being tortured to be silent. 
Normally an oppressed, tortured person who is innocent cries out about the injustice and the innocence, but not God’s Servant.   He doesn’t say a word. 
 
He has been hunted down in the middle of the night and after the betrayal of a friend, arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane He is taken into custody, tortured, tormented, harassed, ridiculed and abused in every way imaginable and unimaginable and then led to execution and yet He offers no resistance or complaint.
 
When He was brought before the high priest, Matthew 26 tells us that He was silent.  In the next chapter, Matthew 27, He was taken before the chief priests and the scribes, elders, and He was silent.  In Mark 15 He was taken before Pilate and He was silent.  And John 19 records the same thing, His silence before Pilate. 
 
In Luke 23 He was taken before Herod, and again He was silent.  He was silent before the high priest, the Sanhedrin.  He was silent before Pilate, He was silent before Herod.  He never said a word in defense of Himself and His innocence.
 
And Isaiah says He was like a lamb.  He was led to slaughter and like a sheep that’s silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. 
 
Seven hundred years before Jesus showed up, the prophecy is crystal clear that when He comes He will come as a lamb for slaughter, absolutely silent in judgment and according to verse 7, silent at the trials. 
 
In verse 8, the scene changes and we see the  
 
2.  Silence at His Death
 
verse 8. 
 
He was taken from prison and judgment.  The scene changes from the legal halls and trials to the crucifixion itself. 
 
Pilate orders His execution and he orders Him to be executed the way slaves were executed.  Remember, He is the Servant, the Slave of Yahweh and thus He is executed in a slavish fashion. 
 
Isaiah describes His death as being “cut off out of the land of the living.” By the way, that is a Jewish expression.  It appears in a number of places in the Old Testament.  Daniel 9:26 talking about Messiah, says, “Messiah will be cut off.”  Daniel also predicted His death.
 
So He will be executed.  That’s what that expression means.  He will be murdered.  In spite of all that He was, in spite of all that He did, all that He said, the most horrendous injustice in human history is done to Him and He is executed.
 
And somebody should have said something! But there is this overwhelming silence.  That’s what the phrase “Who shall declare His generation?” is all about.  Who saw it for what it was?  Where was the high priest in protest?  Where were the Sadducees or Pharisees or somebody who understood Jewish prophecy?  Where were the rabbis?  Where were the scribes?  Where was anybody? 
 
Where were His disciples?  They were living out Zechariah 13:7 “strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”  They were long gone.  They had fled.  Matthew says that they fled and Mark says the same thing that the Shepherd was struck and the sheep were scattered.  Who was there to speak in His behalf?
 
Here we find in the prophecy 700 years before it ever happened, the pronouncement that no one will defend Him.   
 
Remember, this is Jewish testimony from a future day.  And as they look back on what happened, it’s as if they are saying, “Somebody should have seen what was going on!”  That is the flavor verse 1 “Who has believed our report?  And to whom has the armo fo the Lord been revealed?”
 
Well, it was them!  Their ancestors heard the prophets and studied the Scriptures!  It was all revealed to them!  And yet nobody saw it for what it was!  Not even those closest to Jesus. 
 
Who saw it?  Who will tell the story?  Nobody!  In fact, so extreme was their rejection that even after He had risen from the dead they still refused to believe and tried to cover it all up. 
 
No one cared.  No one would have believed that He was cut off for the transgression of the Jews.  Who would have ever thought His punishment came from God on behalf of the Jews and humanity?  No one even thought of it that way and they still don’t. 
 
There was silence at His trials and silence at His death.  That brings us to verse 9 where we see
3.  Silence at His Burial
 
Verse 9
 
“They made His grave with the wicked.”  Let’s stop right there for a moment.  This is an astonishing set of details here.  What does it mean that “they make His grave with the wicked?” 
 
He died alongside criminals, right? He had one on each side of Him.  According to Jewish law, if you died as a criminal, you didn’t deserve a proper burial.  The ultimate disdain was to leave a body to disintegrate or be road kill and not honor it with a proper burial. 
 
Jesus was crucified between two criminals and ordinarily the bodies would be left on the cross.  Nobody cared if the bodies hung there and rotted.  The birds would come along and pluck out the eyes.  Animals could climb up and eat the rotting flesh. 
 
Nobody cared!  They served as a warning to anybody else who might think they could get by with a similar crime.  This was the ultimate deterrent to a life of crime.  Eventually they would have taken the rotted corpses down and thrown them in a dump.   And that’s what was in the plan for Jesus. 
 
Now the Jerusalem city dump was in the Valley of Hinnom over on the southeast side of Jerusalem.  There was always a fire burning at the dump.  It is a very interesting place, historically.  It was the place where apostate Jews and followers of Baal and other Canaanite gods burned their children to the god Molech.  You find that back in 2 Chronicles 28:33.  Jeremiah talks about it, Jeremiah 7.  It was the place where they offered babies to Molech.
 
It was there that King Ahaz sacrificed his sons, 2 Chronicles 28.  It is the place that Isaiah identifies at the end of his prophecy as the place where the worm never dies.  And Jesus said it’s a depiction of hell, in Mark, where the worm never dies…Mark 9.  And he says that three times. 
 
Horrible place where they threw what was left of the corpses.  Jewish historians describe it as a place of perpetual fire to consume the filth and the cadavers that are thrown there.  So if Jesus was executed with criminals, the assumption is He would end up like criminals in His burial.  As far as those who crucified Him were concerned, that was what would happen.  And that’s what Isaiah says in verse 9. 
 
But something happened between the first phrase and the second.  “They”, that is the ones responsible for His death made His grave with the wicked”.
 
But God wasn’t going to let that happen.  Psalm 16 says that He would not allow His Holy One to see corruption.  God would never let that happen.  So verse 9 says there’s an amazing, unexpected turn that takes place and He winds up being buried with the rich!
 
How did that happen?  Well a rich man named Joseph, from a place called Arimathea had become a disciple of Jesus Christ.  And he goes to Pilate and requests permission to bury the body of Jesus.  Pilate grants him his request. 
 
And the Bible says, in direct fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, Joseph took the body of Jesus from the cross, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out in the rock and he rolled a large stone against the entrance to the tomb and went away.” 
 
He should have been road kill.  He should have been in the dump.  That’s what was planned.  And yet He ends up in a brand new tomb owned by a rich man.  Just exactly what the Holy Spirit reveals to Isaiah was going to happen.
 
Why?  Why was that important?  The end of verse 9 tells us. 
 
Verse 9b
 
That’s just a way of saying He was holy on the inside and the outside.  There was nothing unholy in His mouth and there was nothing in His behavior that was sinful. 
 
He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, because He was the sinless, spotless Lamb without blemish and because of that , the Father protected Him from ending up in the dump.
 
Listen:  At the cross, Jesus went as low as He could go and when He said, “It is finished”, it’s as if God said, “You are exactly right”.  There will be no more humiliation for My Son.
 
And His burial is the first step up in His resurrection and exaltation.  God honors Jesus in His burial because there was no sin inside and no sin on the outside. 
And in a few hours on the third day, He comes out of the grave, and, eventually, in His ascension all the way up and one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess what God confessed through Isaiah 700 years before it ever happened. 
 
Well, this is the testimony of the Jews of a future day when their understanding of Jesus is forever changed. 
 
You know, Paul was one of these unbelieving Jews.  Paul had such hatred for Jesus Christ that he killed Christians.  Acts 8 tells us he went everywhere he could get with letters from the authorities who wanted all the Christians they could find thrown in jail or executed.  And Paul was the executioner. 
 
He did everything he could to stop Christianity until the day he would up face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus.  And there, the Lord stopped him, blinded him, and introduced himself.  And through that encounter, Paul was forever changed. 
 
I bring that up, because as we close tonight, I want you to see and hear a little portion of Paul’s testimony that you may have never paid any attention to.  It’s found in 2 Corinthians 5:16 and 
it’s actually a little preview of the kind of testimony that the Jews are going to make in the future.  ANd in reaity, it’s your testimony and mine if we are saved. 
 
Listen to what Paul says:  2 Corinthians 5:16,
 
“We have known Christ according to the flesh.”  Did Paul know Christ before his conversion?  He knew all about Jesus.
He says, “I knew Him as a man.  I had the typical, standard, rabid, zealous, passionate, anti-Jesus attitude of the Jews.”
 
That’s what he’s referring to.  “I knew Him according to the flesh. 
 
Then he says, “Yet now we know Him in this way no longer.”  He didn’t see Christ the way he had always seen Him.
 
From the Damascus Road on, his view was totally changed.  So much so, that he would continue by saying,
 
2 Corinthians 5:17-20
 
That is the testimony, not only of Paul, and not only will it be the testimony of the Jews in a future day, it is the testimony of you and me and anyone who ever comes to Christ.  He saw Jesus on the Damascus Road and never saw Jesus the same way again. 
 
And you and I may not have been on the road to Damascus or anywhere near Damascus, but you’ve had a Damascus experience if you’re a believer, because you now see Jesus completely differently than you saw Him before you knew Him.  And so will the Jews.
 
And the good news is tonight can be your Damascus Road as you come to Jesus.  But you can’t be silent.
 
Romans 10:9-10, 13 
 
Let’s pray.
 
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