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The Substituted Servant-Isaiah 53:4-6
God’s Servant
The Substituted Servant
Isaiah 53:4-6
 
We return tonight to our study of Isaiah 53 and I will confess it’s a little daunting to stand before you and try to represent these verses.  I feel inadequate and inept in doing this because they are so deep and rich and I never want to leave anything out.  I know it’s not possible to share everything at one time, but the challenge is always to break it down into an understandable and digestible presentation, so I’ll give it a try.
 
As I’ve shared with you, Isaiah’s prophecy regarding God’s Servant begins at 52:13 and continues through chapter 53. 
 
Let’s read it again so it’s fresh in our minds.
 
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
 
The whole prophecy breaks into five sections with each section containing three verses.  We’ve looked at the first two where we saw The Startling Servant and the Scorned Servant. 
 
Tonight we come to the middle section and in my estimation, it is the most important of the five.  That is not to minimize any one them, but to maximize what we have before us in these three verse. 
 
Not only is this section the most important part of this prophecy, I think it would be safe to say these verse may be the most magnificent verses in the entire Old Testament. 
I say that because these verses contain the message of the Gospel.  They are the very heart of our faith. 
This is saving truth because here we discover that God’s Servant is the substituted servant. 
 
And we need to keep in mind, we are listening to the future confession of the nation of Israel.  While it is a prophecy that focuses on Jesus as God’s Servant, it is also about Jews who one day to recognize Him as Savior and Messiah.  And as they think back on His life and their response to it, this is their testimony.
 
But we also need to keep in mind that their testimony is the testimony of every person who has ever been saved.  Their story is our story.  Let me show you what I mean by that.   
 
In the opening three verses, they looked at His life and they were unimpressed.  They looked at His beginnings and His life and how His life came to an end and they determined He was nothing more than a weed or an untended root and ultimately they despised and rejected Him. 
 
And most people follow that same path.  Because of the sinful nature, there is a skepticism about salvation and how someone like Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago can have any impact on my life today. 
 
So the scorned Servant of verses 1-3 is where the confession of the sinner begins. 
 
But there is a transition that takes place in verse 4. 
 
 
Notice the first word, “surely” or “truly” or “verily”.  This is an exclamation or sudden recognition of something unexpected.  Their perception was He was a nobody, but a reversal of opinion comes in verse 4.  “Boy were we wrong!” is what they are saying. 
 
Suddenly they understand that what they despised in the way He suffered and died was for their benefit.  Notice the personal pronouns that are used such as our and we and us. 
 
He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.  He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.  Our peace, we are healed, we like sheep are astray, we have turned.  It was our iniquities that were laid on Him. 
 
This is a dramatic change from the first perception.  He was despised.  Now He is embraced.  In fact, it is an absolute reversal or we could use the word repentance.  A complete 180 degree turnaround has occurred.  . 
 
Think about what that means for the Jews.  They said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.”  In fact, given the option of Barabbas or Jesus, they said, “Kill Jesus and give us a criminal.”
 
But now they recognize it wasn’t for His sins He was dying.  He didn’t die for His own iniquities.  He didn’t die for His own transgressions.  He didn’t die because He was a blasphemer like we thought He was. 
 
Notice the end of verse 4.
 
 
They thought that God killed Him for His blasphemies.  God killed for claiming to be the Messiah and claiming to be alive before Abraham and  claiming to be equal with God.
 
That’s what they thought.  But now they recognize that wasn’t true.  Now we know.  It was our griefs He bore.  It was our sorrows He carried.  He was pierced, crushed, chastened, scourged for us.  That is the complete reversal of how they viewed the cross.  He took our place, died in our stead, gave His life for us.  And one of these days, as a nation, they will finally see it and believe it.  And they’re going to be saved.
 
Now these three verses give tremendous insight into the nature of salvation and how what Jesus did on the cross affects us at every level of sin.  There are three specific “wrongs” that are identified.  Then we are told what God’s Servant did to provide atonement for those wrongs. 
 
And keep in mind, they are written from the perspective of the Jewish nation, but what is true of them is true of every person who has ever lived. 
 
These three wrongs are so intricately connected that I found it impossible to separate them and explain them one at a time.  So let me tell you what they are, and we’ll look at it as a whole. 
 
They had a wrong attitude that manifest itself in wrong behavior and was the product of a wrong nature.  True, scriptural repentance addresses all three. 
 
True repentance is the recognition that we think wrong and act wrong because our nature is messed up. 
 
What do we find in these verses? 
 
Verse 4 is about their wrong attitudes.  Verse 5 is about their wrong behavior and verse 6 is about their wrong nature. 
 
Their confession is “Our attitude was wrong concerning Jesus Christ.”  Our attitude was He was being punished by God.  But that was wrong. 
 
We thought He was being punished for His own iniquity.  But it was our behavior that was wrong.  We were the ones guilty of transgressions and iniquities. 
 
But all of it was because our nature was wrong.  We are like sheep who have gone astray.  We’re all doing our own thing. 
 
Let’s take it apart for a few moments.  First of all, repentance and salvation involves our
 
1. Wrong Attitude
 
Verse 4
 
The word for “griefs” is a broad word that primarily addresses sickness or disease.  And the idea here is seeing sin from the perspective of what it produces or the effects it brings.  Because of sin, life becomes full of sickness, disease, infirmity and problems.  These are the “griefs” of life, the outward problems we experience.
“Sorrows” is the word for pains.  Now we are talking about inward effects of sin.  “Griefs” is a word that refers to the outward effects of sin while “sorrows” refers mostly to the inward effect of sin. 
 
So what we have in verse 1 is sin seen more in the distresses and problems that come our way because of our sin. 
 
And notice the contrast we find in these verses.  The Jews who watched Jesus die thought He was the one who was stricken, smitten by God an afflicted.  He was one the cross because of His sin. 
 
The word “stricken” is a very strong word that means to strike violently.  It is the word Moses used to describe the plagues in Egypt.  The word “smitten” means to beat someone to death.  And the word “afflicted” is to be humiliated or destroyed. 
 
So their attitude was when Jesus was being beaten and degraded and humiliated, that God was doing it because He was a blasphemer.  In other words, what He received was what He deserved because of His sin.  That was their attitude.
 
But the truth is they were the ones who were stricken and smitten and it showed in their griefs and sorrows.   
 
So what did Jesus do in regard to our griefs? He “bore” them.  The word “borne” means to pick up and place on one’s self.  He picked up everything that that sin produced and put it on Himself.
 
 
Or to say it another way, He carried it.  He picked up everything sin produced, put it on Himself and carried it to the cross where He took the punishment for our sin.  It wasn’t for His sin that He suffered.  It was for their sin.  Their attitude was wrong.   
 
Second, they had
 
2.  Wrong Behavior
 
Everyone who has ever been born has a sense of right and wrong and we understand justice.  We know wrong behavior must be dealt with.
 
So with the confession of verse 4 and admitting they were the ones who were sinners, comes the recognition of
 
verse 5
 
The words here are very strong words.  Wounded means “to be pierced through”.  Hebrew scholars tell us that is the strongest word available to the language to describe a violent death. 
 
Bruised or crushed can refer to anything from being trampled to death to being battered and bruised.  .
 
And then the word chastisement is the only Hebrew word to express punishment.  So it’s more of a legal term. 
 
And all of those word are general words that Isiah could have pulled out of the dictionary of his day to describe a violent death.
 
After all, he had no knowledge of the cross; He doesn’t know what’s going to happen 700 years hence.  And yet, the Spirit of God leads Him to pick these specific words to describe in vivid detail what  happened to Jesus. 
 
Was He wounded or pierced?  No less than five times including both feet, both hands and His side. Psalm 22:16 prophetically says of Jesus, “They pierced My hands and feet.”  In Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah says, “They’ll look on Him whom they’ve pierced.” 
 
In John 19:34 we read, “One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear and immediately blood and water came out.”  Verse 37 says, “And another Scripture is fulfilled, they shall look on Him whom they pierced.”  So that is a specific prophecy fulfilled at the cross.
 
What about the word crushed?  We know what happened to Jesus.  We know that He was slapped.  From John 19:3, we know that He was punched in the face.  Matthew tells us in 27:30 that the Romans took sticks and beat Him.
 
What about the next one, chastisement?  That is the Hebrew legal word for punishment.  You know about the mockery of His trials and how the Jews brought in false witnesses to tell lies against Him.  They paraded Hi in front of  Annas and Caiaphas and Pilate until ultimately, the execution sentence was delivered. 
 
As Isaiah prophesied, His chastisement was the result of a legal process that resulted in punishment. 
 
 
Isaiah also mentions His stripes. According to Mark 15:15, He was scourged.  We all know the story of that as they took those leather straps  embedded with bone and rock and glass and beat His body over and over and over again.
 
And the day will come when Israel looks back on all of that and acknowledges that their attitude was all screwed up and what Jesus endured was for them. 
 
It wasn’t for His blasphemies, it was for theirs.  They’re going to say, “We understand our transgressions.  We understand our iniquities.”  And they will confess that Jesus was punished by God for their transgressions. 
 
And the amazing thing about all of it was He did it to bring good to His people.  He suffered to bring about our well-being.  What He went through brought us peace and healing. 
 
He died under the weight of the punishment of God for our transgressions and our iniquities and in so doing, He purchased for us peace and healing. 
 
The death of the physician made the patient well.  We were sinful and thus sick, grieving, sorrowful, guilty and separated from God with no peace and no spiritual health.
 
But He took our sins and our griefs and our sorrows and everything that comes with sin and He placed Himself under the judgment of God to be punished for our sins so we could know peace with God and be healed from our sin. 
 
 
And anyone has ever been saved or will be saved, must ultimately come to know that is was all because we have the
 
3.  Wrong Nature
 
Verse 6
 
Their thinking was wrong and their behaviors were wrong because their nature was wrong. 
 
Sin is not just a matter of doing the wrong things or thinking the wrong way.  We sin because that’s our nature.  We are sinners and in order to be saved, we must come to grips with that.  The problem is all of us are like sheep, and we’ve gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. 
 
Sheep act like sheep.  Sheep are stupid, defenseless, helpless wanderers.  They don’t travel in flocks like geese or hang around in herds like cows.  They don’t stay together. 
 
They have a built-in tendency to wander away from security and safety, and provision.  They wander off , by themselves, and in going their own way, they get into trouble.  They follow that internal impulse that leads them away from all that is safe and secure and helpful. 
 
That’s our problem.  It is embedded deep in our nature.  We are like sheep, as Jesus said, without a shepherd.  We’re going to go our own way, follow our path and do our won thing.  That’s what sheep do and that’s what sinners do. 
 
The world today offers all kinds of options to sinners.  There’s no end to the paths you can choose.  You can follow your own way.  And without Jesus Christ, you will; you’ll follow the path of sin that you choose.  You’ll go your own way like sheep do.  There will be some others that are going your way and you’ll bump into them from time to time.  But they are just as lost as you are.  This is how sheep function.
 
But you need to know, no matter how far you go or how deep you get into sin, the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 
 
Jesus bears the full weight of our sinfulness on Himself in the sense that He takes the punishment of God.  That’s what the verse is saying. 
 
The Lord God Himself chose the sacrificial Lamb, the Servant, Messiah, the sacrificial Lamb to bear the sins of the whole world.  And the Servant of God was willing to become your substitute. 
 
There are lots of ways to view the cross and what Jesus accomplished there but in these verses, the picture is that of a substitute who took our punishment for us. 
 
He took the penalty for our sins to satisfy the justice of God.  That’s what we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”  Peter puts it this way, “He bore in His own body our sins.”  And Paul says in Galatians 3, “He was a curse for us.”  That’s the New Testament affirmation of the truth of Isaiah 53. 
 
God has not dealt with us according to our iniquities, He has not dealt with us according to our transgressions.  Neither has He overlooked our sins.  Rather He has punished His Son, the Servant, the Messiah in our place.  
 
This will be the confession that Israel makes in the future.  On the day of national salvation, they’re going to look back and realize that God did not put Jesus to death because of His own sins, but He did it to Him because of their sins. 
 
That’s what’s going to happen someday.  They’re going to confess that.  In the meantime, folks, the only way you can ever be saved is to confess it now. 
 
In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul borrows from the forty-ninth chapter of Isaiah in the second verse.  Listen to what he said:
 
2 Corinthians 6:2
 
Israel’s national salvation will occur sometime in the future during a time called the Tribulation. According to the book of Revelation, the gospel will be preached during that time, first by two witnesses who die and rise again, followed by 144,000 Jewish evangelists, 12,000 from every tribe, and Israel will come to faith. 
 
But in the meantime, now is the day of salvation.  Now is the acceptable time for you, Jew or Gentile.  The sad reality is that between the death of Christ and the salvation of Israel in the future, generation after generation of unbelieving Jews have gone into eternal punishment for which there is no remedy. 
And in the same way, generation after generation and nation after nation of Gentile unbelievers have gone into eternal punishment for which there is no remedy.
 
In the end, there will be a revival in Israel.  In the end, in that same period of time, there will be a massive revival, a massive expanse of the gospel, angels in the heavens,
 
But between now and then, people continue to die and perish without remedy forever.  And now is the acceptable time for you.  Now is the day of salvation.  This is available if you will receive the gift. 
 
Maybe tonight is your “surely” moment.  We were wrong about Him.  It was for us that He died.  He took our griefs, our sorrows, our sickness, our calamities, our disasters, and our sin, paid for all the sin and carried away all its effects forever.  This is your day to put your trust in the Savior.  I trust that you will do that. 
 
Let’s bow in prayer.
 
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