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The Startling Servant - Isaiah 52:13-15
God’s Servant
The Startling Servant
Isaiah 52:13-15
We began a study last week that focuses on the One God identifies as “My Servant”. The primary text for the study is Isaiah 53.  But in order to know Who the prophet is talking about in chapter 53, we have to back up to the 13th verse of chapter 52 because that’s where this specific prophecy begins. 
And that will be our text for tonight.
Isaiah 52:13-15.
What we, both here and in chapter 53, speaks of Jesus Christ, seven hundred years before He was born.  In fact, as I pointed out to you last week, the last 27 chapters of Isaiah focus on Jesus and the salvation made possible through Him, beginning with Israel, made available to sinners and extended to the ultimate Kingdom of God of Earth. 
For us, as Christians, we go back to the Old Testament and we see Christ everywhere throughout the Old Testament because the Old Testament is all about Jesus.  It has to be that way because He is the only Savior the world will ever know.
Therefore, when we read our Old Testament, we may take note of the history and setting and circumstances, but the context is always Jesus and what God was doing to deliver Him to the world and ultimately the cross. 
And it really boils down to a very simple presentation.  All who have ever lived are sinners in need of a Savior.  God provided the One and only Savior when He chose to come to this world Himself.  And in the person and work of Jesus Christ, He died and rose again to save His people and bring them all to heaven.  That’s the message of Holy Scripture and that’s the truth. 
It is the greatest event in the history of the world.  And we have the privilege of having a New Testament perspective on that. 
But to better understand the text before us we need to try and put ourselves in the place where Isaiah is as he writes about this seven hundred years before it happened. 
So let’s flash back a little bit and see if we can get into the Jewish mindset a little bit.
The Jews had always waited for the Messiah.  They thought of Him, rightly so, as a King. They had been promised greatness.  They had been promised prosperity as a nation.  God made a covenant with Abraham and repeated it to his sons and then repeated it again through the history of Israel that God would one day bring glory to the nation of Israel and cause them to be a blessing to the world. And they counted on that promise being fulfilled.
They were waiting for their King.  He would deliver them from their enemies, from their bad circumstances, and from all of their suffering. 
He would fulfill all the Old Testament covenant promises of blessing and prosperity and the nation and influence, and peace and righteousness to them and through them to the world.
Their expectations were not unlike our own as born-again believers.  We, too, are looking for the coming of a King to deliver us from our enemies and bring blessing and peace. 
The Jews were looking for the coming King.  And they knew what to look for because the prophets had given them all these signs of His coming and arrival.  They were told He would be a man born of a virgin, the tribe of Judah in Bethlehem from the lineage of David.  On and on the list went. 
They had all the details they needed to identify the Messiah.  So for centuries, they had been looking.  And then Jesus Christ arrived, born of a virgin in the line of Abraham, in the line of Judah, in the line of David, born in the town of Bethlehem, and evidenced His deity by words and works the likes of which the world had never and has since never seen, you would think they would have immediately signed up for follow Him. 
All the qualifications were met and more.  But the problem they had was He didn’t look or act like the King they were expecting. 
Where was the pomp and circumstance?  Where was the fanfare and royalty?  He was born in a cattle stall and his momma used a feed trough for a cradle.  The lowest people on the social ladder were the attendants at His birth. 
He lived a very humble life in a very average home in a less than average, out of the way town called Nazareth.  He collected around Him some very humble nobodies and made them His messengers.  He sought no office, He sought no position, He  sought no education.  He made no friends with the elite.  He gathered no army.  He presented no strategy to set up His rule.
The only thing that set Him apart from the crowd was His power.  He had power over disease, demons, death and nature.  And even with all the disappointment about what He wasn’t doing, there was still the reality that He had this amazing, divine power. 
And for those who knew Him best and studied Him the closest, there was this lingering hope that He could be the One.  And that hope really came to the surface on one day in particular and that was the day He came riding into Jerusalem for the last Passover He would observe.   
They threw their garments at His feet.  They threw palm branches under Him.  They said, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” which was the Messianic title.  They praised Him, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”  They hailed Him as their King and their Messiah based on His miracles.
And they must have hoped that maybe if we just force the issue and put a little pressure on now, we can get this thing going.  They were all hoping.
Those hopes were dashed the next day after the triumphal entry when Jesus comes to town and goes on the attack.  But He didn’t attack the Romans, the enemies of God and the enemies of Israel.  He attacked the Jews; He attacked the temple.  He made a whip, started throwing people out. 
And that was the beginning of the end.  Already doubtful about Him because He didn’t act like a King, and tired of being disappointed by Him because when they tried to make Him a King, He disappeared, they turned on Jesus. 
And before the week is over, the same crowd that worshipped Him at His entry into the city will be screaming for His blood with shouts of “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”  They turned Him over to the Romans and that’s exactly what the Romans did.  They were hoping that He would be the one to redeem Israel but He wasn’t the king they wanted.
Now the truth is Jesus is the King.  But He could not bring His Kingdom in its fullness with all its promises until He had provided salvation for His people.  His Kingdom is a Kingdom of salvation.  People in His Kingdom are people who have been saved from their sins.  There can’t be a Kingdom for Israel or anybody else until sin has been paid for and that was why He had to die and rise again.  And that’s the gospel. 
That was the message He preached.  That was the message the apostles preached.  That was the message the preachers, after the resurrection, preached, and that’s the message the New Testament writers gave us, and that’s the message that the true church has preached ever since up until this very day. 
And they should have believed it.  They should have made the connection.  When John the Baptist said, “This is the Lamb of God,” they should have put it all together.  At the very least, they should have known what Isaiah 52 and 53 said because Jesus appears in Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12.  God said, “This is My Servant.”
It is about Him.  Now this prophecy concerning the Messiah breaks down into five sections, and we’ll walk our way through all five sections.  Each is about three verses long.  They get more profound, weightier and even somewhat lengthier as they go.  It’s an accumulating powerful presentation of the coming Messiah. 
One other thing to note about this section of Scripture is that it’s a sad, sorrowful passage.  It’s dark, and the darkness of it and the weeping of it and the sobbing of it sets a background of darkness against which its light shines ever so brightly.
Now, as we come to verses 13 to 15, we’re going to be introduced to the Messiah, the King, and thus to the Lord Jesus Christ in His career.  This is a remarkable prophecy.  It serves as the introduction to the 53 chapter. 
And what it tells us about the Messiah is that He will suffer and He will be exalted.  Before His glory will come His suffering.  That’s what you see in the three verses that I point you to at the end of chapter 52, suffering and then glory.  We find both the crucifixion and the resurrection in these verses.    
Let’s take a few moments to see what they tell us about God’s Servant.  If I were to choose a word to describe Jesus in these verses, I would choose the word “startling” or “surprising”.  God’s Servant is a startling servant. 
The section begins with the word “behold” in verse 13.  In verse 14, the word “astonished” appears.  And then in verse 15 the word which in some Bibles is “sprinkle,” would be better translated “startle,” and I’ll explain that in a moment.  And then you have speechless kings and nations.  The language, “Behold, astonishing, startle, speechless” all indicates that this is a startling, shocking, stunning picture of the career of the Messiah King.
The text lends itself to a simple four-word outline.  Let me share them with you.  The first one is
1. Revelation
Verse 13 
The very first word is “behold”.  What’s about to be said begs for your full attention.  God is speaking about “His Servant”. The Hebrew word is “slave.  It describes one who did hard, grueling work in obedience to his master, had no will of his own and lived to please his master.  So God’s way of identifying the Messiah is to call Him His obedient, submissive Slave. 
By the way, there are five times in the prophets where a messianic prophecy begins with the word “behold” including this one.  Three of them are in the book of Zechariah. 
In chapter 3:8 it is, “Behold My servant”.  Then in Zechariah 6:12, it’s “Behold the Man” which tells us He will be a real, live human.  And in Zechariah 9:9, the prophet says, “Behold your king.”
Then in Isaiah chapter 40, verse 9, it says of Messiah, “Behold your God”.
So the Messiah will be Man, God, Servant and King.  No wonder the prophecy begins, “Behold!”  It’s too amazing for words!  Its almost incomprehensible that He could be all that at the same time! 
It’s interesting to see that those four titles, Man, God, Servant and King become the theme of the four gospels.  Matthew presents Him as King.  Mark presents Him as Servant, Luke presents Him as Man, and John presents Him as God. 
And God says, “Look at Him! Look at My Servant, the One whose food is to do the will of Him who sent Him and finish His work.  He is the One who said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to My Father. 
And notice, God says, “My Servant will deal prudently”.  What does that mean?  A good way to translate that phrase is “He will have success”.  It carries the idea of wisdom and prosperity. 
So why does God reveal that about the Messiah? Well, for those who watched it play out, it looked like He had anything but success.  He appeared to be a failure.  But He was successful.  His life was not a well-intended plan gone bad.  Jesus didn’t die as some kind of a martyr to a noble cause that He failed to be able to pull off.  “My Servant will prosper.”
The Hebrew actually is, “to act intelligently or wisely.”  And in the Hebrew thinking wisdom is measured by success.  Those who act wisely are successful.  And God says of Messiah, contrary to what it will look like, His decisions are wise decisions.  He will successful accomplish My work and prosper.
He will do what I sent Him to do.
And the evidence of His success is found in the same verse. 
Verse 13b
More than repeating the same thought three times, that’s actually a series of ever growing exaltations, 
God is going to make Him high, then higher, and then highest.  High, I believe, looks at His resurrection.  Higher looks at His ascension.  And highest looks at His coronation.  He is going to be so successful that God is going to raise Him from the dead, God is going to take Him into glory, and God is going to sit Him at His right hand.  There are foreshadows of Philippians 2:9 to 11 in that thought. 
God is going to give Him a name above every name, the name Lord.  And at that name, every knee will bow.  God is going to make Him the ruler over everything in the universe.  He’s going to be the King of the universe, as well as the head of the church. 
And the astonishing revelation God’s Servant is He will come, He will succeed, He will accomplish the purpose of God by His great effort, and God will validate that by raising Him from the dead, taking Him into glory and seating Him on His throne.  That is the revelation. 
It is followed by
2.  Humiliation
The amazing prophecy of verse 13 very quickly fades into the reality of
Verse 14
In some ways, this verse seems wrongly placed because the prophecy begins with the announcement of His success, and the very next thing said will talk about how the nations and the kings are silenced by His glory. 
And in between is this reference to his humiliation.  That would have been especially hard for a Jew to comprehend.  Why would the Promised King be marred beyond recognition?  What’s going on here?  His career will be successful.  He will be lifted up, ascended and crowned in glory.  But the promised success of God’s Servant includes an astonishing humiliation.
The first phrase of the verse is directed at the Messiah.  This is God talking to the Servant.  “Many are going to be astonished at you”.  The pronouns then change to talk about Him.  Many are going to be astonished at Him, but not because of His exaltation. 
The astonishment will come because of his humiliation.  I think the astonishment has two dimensions. 
First, on the physical side, what is going to happen to the Messiah is so shocking, it’s almost paralyzing.  His visage has to do with His face, and His form has to do with His body. 
So in face and body physically, He is marred more than any man has ever been.   That means His face and body will be so totally disfigured and so totally distorted that He will literally appear to be out of the category of being human. 
That’s not a reference to His normal, physical appearance.  Jesus wasn’t ugly.  How do we know that?  He was God in human flesh.  He was the sinless ideal of human creation; therefore, He was beautiful in every feature.  He was the manliest man, the most strikingly handsome man who ever lived.
But that’s not the point.  This looks at His crucifixion and what led up to it, where He was so disfigured, so mutilated, so distorted as to be beyond looking human.  We all know what happened to Jesus.  We know about the scourging and the slaps to His face.  We know about the beard being plucked out and the crown of thorns and the wounds.  
That’s all on the physical side of the crucifixion.  It was an astonishing thing.  But I think there is also an ideological astonishment.  
This couldn’t be their Messiah.  He was nowhere near what they wanted in their Messiah King, not even close.  It was too unbelievable to contemplate that this man could be the exalted Messiah of God.  How in the world could a man that was crucified as a common criminal be the Promised Messiah?
And yet, God says, “My Servant will be humiliated.”
The third word is
3.  Exaltation
verse 15
The scene changes with another jolting shock.  If the common, local Jews living in Israel were astonished at His disfigurement in death, imagine the astonishment as the nations and rulers of those nations come to terms with Who He is.  The prophecy is they will be speechless when they see Him.
One of the most fascinating word studies of this text is found in this verse in the word translated “sprinkle”.  T
The original Hebrew word can mean a couple of things.  It could mean something literal or something metaphoric or symbolic.  In this case, sprinkle is a fair translation of the verb.  It literally means to spurt or something that spurts up. 
Translators that interpret the word in that way say this verse means that in His death and humiliation and mutilation, He will provide cleansing for the nations.  That thought is certainly not foreign to the Bible.  He writer of Hebrews pulls that picture from the Old Testament to talk about the work of Christ. 
So in our text between verses 14 and 15, Messiah moves from being a sacrificial lamb to being a priest before God who sprinkles the nations with His blood. 
And again, I want to emphasize that’s not a bad way to render the text. 
But let me suggest another option.  The word can also be translated “startle”.  In fact, many newer translations use that exact word.  The Amplified Bible uses both by saying He will startle and sprinkle the nations. 
I think that is a better translation of the verse.  Why startle?  Well, because it fits the parallel.  If the people were astonished at the marring of the man, they will be really be surprised by His exaltation. 
In fact, it will be such an amazing thing that the nations and rulers of the world will be silenced.  And beyond that, nations can’t be cleansed anyway.  Individuals can.  But the whole world can be startled and will be startled by the return of Christ.  The day will come when the nations of the world will tremble with astonishment when He comes.  They will be electrified.
According to Matthew 24-25, the sun, moon and stars will go out as the Son of Man makes His appearance in blazing glory. 
The Revelation tells us people will cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them, to hide them from the face of His coming.  Every eye shall see Him.  And when He comes to establish His Kingdom, rulers and nations will bow in His presence as He will literally takes over the world. 
And while the few gathered around a cross outside of Jerusalem were stunned at His crucifixion, the They’re stunned at His crucifixion, the whole world will be stunned when He returns and appears in glory. 
Now, if God’s Servant was humiliated and that humiliation included His death, and if He was exalted at His return, then there had to be a resurrection in between the two.  Now while it’s not specifically stated in our text, it certainly is implied in verse 13. 
it’s the most obvious missing part of the text because you can’t have death and exaltation unless you have resurrection.
And without the message of the resurrection we have no gospel.  That’s why Paul said, at the end of the 15th chapter of Romans, I have made it my aim to preach the gospel where Christ has not yet been preached.”  Then he quotes this verse from Isaiah by saying, “To whom He was not announced, they shall see;  And those who have not heard shall understand.”
That’s his way of showing that the verse is talking, not just about the final exaltation and reign of Christ, but the preaching of the gospel that leads up to that.  The world will be shocked when it happens because they will not expect it.  They haven’t been told.  They haven’t understood it.  But all through history, even now, people are being told, people are coming to understanding. 
So Paul extends this prophecy, which has its ultimate fulfillment in the return of Christ and the shock of the nations, back to the period of the preaching of the gospel where we are telling people what they’ve never before seen, what they’ve never before understood about the glory of Christ.
And ultimately, this little section is just saying, God wins!”.  The Messiah will succeed.  He will accomplish the work of God and therefore be raised, taken to heaven, and crowned. 
Unfortunately, there is one more word which must be included and it’s the first line of chapter 53.  The story of God’s Servant included an astonishing revelation, an astonishing humiliation, and astonishing exaltation, and there in that one line we have
4.  Rejection
Verse 1
 “Who has believed our report?”  In retrospect, the Jews had all this information available to them when they chose to crucify the Messiah and they had this after He rose from the dead.  It’s been there all along.  Who has believed it?  Unfortunately, only a small remnant has believed the report. 
The world has had this portion of Scripture concerning the death and resurrection of the Messiah since it happened and who has believed it?  That’s the sad reality of rejection.
And it begs the question; what about you?  And that’s the question that has to be asked and answered today.  What about you?  Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again from the dead for your justification, and one day will come as the exalted king and take His people into the Kingdom promised to them? 
Do you believe that He couldn’t come to reign until He came to save?  Do you believe that He couldn’t receive His glory until He suffered?  That’s the gospel.  And in believing the gospel there is salvation for you.  That would make this the most wonderful day of your life if up to now you haven’t embraced Christ. 
Join me in prayer.
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