The Servant has suffered.
With this week we reach the middle – the pinnacle – of Isaiah’s Song of the Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). In the midst of this week’s stanza lies the point of the servant’s suffering; the “Why?” which we have all questioned.
The people and the city of God suffered under oppression and slavery just as the Servant would also have to suffer (Article one of this series – Wake Up, City of God).
God would have to become a man – forsaking all rights and entitlements – no matter how hard it might be to believe such a thing (Article two of this series – Believe It, People of God).
- Why did Israel suffer?
- Why did the Servant suffer?
- Why did He come as a man?
We may know the “what” of the Servant’s suffering – the characters, the details, the methods, the timing, and the place. All of that is worthless, though, unless we know the “why.” Why gives the suffering purpose.
“Why?” takes a random execution and gives it meaning. This execution held significance for all people for all time.
A little Hebrew wordplay in Isaiah 53:3-4 ties together the suffering of the Servant Man with the reason for why He had to suffer. Verse three describes Him as “a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.” As is common in Hebrew poetry, Isaiah repeated these ideas – in reverse order and with more explanation – in verse four. “He Himself bore our sicknesses and He carried our pains.” In the pictures below, the words highlighted with the same color are the same word in Hebrew.
Yes, the Servant was a man. All men are familiar with suffering, sickness, and sorrow. The first line doesn’t tell us much that’s new. The connection between the first line and the second shows us the significance. The Servant knew pain and sickness because He knew OUR pain and sickness. Isaiah’s. The Jews’. The Gentile’s. Yours. Mine.
Another Hebrew repetition reveals even more significance to the Servant’s suffering. In verse three, when we thought the Servant was just some man who suffered, we couldn’t even be bothered with it; didn’t give it a second thought. “We didn’t value Him.” In verse four, Isaiah told us it’s our suffering that the Servant carried. And so our response changes – we do take the time to think about it. Our conclusion? We “regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.”
- Reached out to strike Him as a sinner
- Wounded and killed Him
- Brought Him down low
But we distort the truth
Whether or not we believe something doesn’t change whether or not it is true. Truth is truth regardless of whether we believe it or not. That’s the case here.
We may choose to believe that Jesus was just a man – brought low, wounded, and killed. But that doesn’t change the reality. Remember, it was our sickness which He bore and our pain which He carried. But there's more...
- Our rebellion pierced Him.
- Our distortion of the truth crushed Him.
- We needed discipline to restore our covenant relationship with God but the discipline fell upon the Servant.
- Every hit He received brought healing to us.
There’s another reason
He carried our sickness and pain. He restored our relationship. In case that’s not enough, the Servant’s suffering is significant for one more reason in this stanza. God created us to go on a certain path but we wandered off it. We turned to our own path instead. We distort God’s truth as we wander aimlessly down our own chaotic path. The result of our wandering was punishment.
But Love stepped in. The punishment that was supposed to fall on us – God made it fall on the Servant instead.
So the answer to "Why?" is this...
He did it so He could carry our sickness and pain instead of us.
He did it to restore our relationship with God, despite the rebellion and distortion of truth that is within us.
He did it to bring us back onto the right path – the path for which He created us.
Read about the fourth stanza, Isaiah 53:7-9, by clicking here: Behold the Lamb, Children of God.
Read about the fifth stanza, Isaiah 53:10-12, by clicking here: Receive the Victory, Children of God.