It is obviously a joy and a pleasure to be able to be here with you to share in the celebration and to hear my dear friends Keith and Kristen Getty and to spend some time with my dear friend Jeff Williams and other friends that I’ve met here at Houston that I haven’t seen in a long, long time, many decades. So it’s a real joy to be back in Houston after I don't know how many years ago. Maybe I preached here 25 years ago and never been invited back. So I’m not sure how that works. But it is a great joy to be here.
It’s always a special privilege to meet the folks that listen to Grace to You, just a real joy. Thank you so much for being there and supporting us with your prayers and your gifts, and for supporting the radio station, as well, so that we can keep this partnership together.
You know, my life is really consumed with the study of the Word of God and everything sort of spins off of that if you can imagine that. I’m still doing today what I started doing in 1969, and that is pastoring Grace Community Church and preaching every Sunday morning and every Sunday night, essentially, year after year after year in that church, and that’s what I’ve been doing all these years. My life hasn’t really changed much.
I spend most of every week in my little study upstairs at my house, looking out my window at the trees and pouring over the Word of God and preparing sermons for Sunday. And none of them are 23 minutes and 40 seconds long. I know – is that what they show up as on your radio station? I’ve never preached a 23 minute sermon in my entire life. So if you’re expecting at 23:30 an announcer to speak, you might be disappointed. But I preach to the congregation, and somebody takes a recording of it, and it becomes a couple of radio programs, and I don’t do anything. I just keep doing what I do.
And some other folks type up the sermon and it becomes a manuscript. And they give it back to me and I work on it, and it becomes a book. And then somebody else gives me manuscript after manuscript of everything and I work on that quadruple-spaced manuscripts, and I add, and I delete, and I change, and I alter it, and it becomes a commentary. And sermons are put up on the website and they become downloads.
And I’m not doing anything. I just go to my little study, and I study, and I come out and preach at Grace Church. And we live in this incredible world where you dear people down in Houston, thanks to these precious folks, can hear the Word of God, and publishers take it and spread it. And, you know, when I first got involved in doing this as a young man, I came to Grace in my 20s, I just was pressed in my heart that if I took care of the depth of the ministry, I could let God take care of the breadth of it. It was always going to be about quality and not quantity.
You know, I think I learned that when I played football in college, that I could never control the outcome because there were too many other people on the field. I could only control the effort and I could only walk away saying, “I did everything I could do,” and I had to leave the results to some other factors. But I knew this. I don’t have any guarantees in football, but I had a guarantee from the Word of God that the Word would never return void, but it would always accomplish that to which God sent it. And so I said, “I can live on that one.”
I’m not into results. I’m not in charge of the effect. I’m only accountable for the delivery. I can’t deal with results. I can’t deal with impact. I have no mechanism to change a heart. I can’t awaken a dead sinner. I can’t motivate a carnal believer. I can’t make a person love the Word of God. I can’t make somebody walk in the Spirit. I can’t make them love, or forgive. I can’t make them demonstrate humility. I can’t make them do any of those things. That is all the work of the Holy Spirit. But I know that the Holy Spirit does all that work with one tool, and that is the Word of God, the truth of God.
And it isn’t just that you have a Bible, it is that you understand what it means by what it says. Let me put it to you this way. The meaning of the Scripture is the Scripture. If you don’t have the meaning, you don’t have the revelation. You could own a Bible warehouse and remain unconverted and untransformed unless you knew the meaning of it. Because it is the Spirit who applies the meaning, and so my passion through the years has been to help people understand the meaning of Scripture. And that’s really all that I do.
And I have a passion to train another generation of people to do that. That’s why The Master’s College exists, to raise up a generation of men and women in every profession who know what the Scripture means and can fill in the churches across this country and around the world, and help other people find out what it means. And The Master’s Seminary is to train – well, we basically train 400 men a year to explain the meaning of Scripture all over the world. We have now about 1200 graduates, 90 plus percent of them in full time ministry across the planet, explaining the meaning of Scripture, which the Spirit uses to save and sanctify.
Now in coming into a situation like this, I always ask myself what Scripture could I bring to these dear folks kind of dropped in like an alien here, without any context leading up to or following after this, because I’m kind of a sequential preacher, you know? I go through books. I just finished after 45 years, the New Testament, verse by verse. It took me 45 years. And you know what? I should have gone slower because I’m still alive and I’m done. And somebody said to me, “Why don’t you do the Old Testament?” Ha. Are you kidding me? At the pace that I go, I would be dead in Genesis 13.
But I did tell the people at the church, “We’re going to look at the Old Testament.” And that’s what I want to do with you tonight. I don't know if you brought your Bible. If you did, you might want to look at it. If you didn’t, you ought to get one. They’re really helpful. They really are. You know, when I used to be on the Larry King program from time to time - some of you may have seen some of those – people would ask me, “How do you prepare for that? How do you prepare to be on that kind of program and have Larry about two feet from your face, not knowing any of the questions, having no knowledge of who’s going to be sitting around you, and you just show up? How do you prepare for that?”
And I said, “It’s easy. It’s easy. That or any other of that kind of program.” I said, “I already know what I’m going to say. I don’t care what the conversation’s about. I don’t care what the questions are. I don’t care what the issues are. I already know what I’m going to say. What I’m going to say is, ‘The Bible is the only authority from God, and Jesus is the only Savior.’ ”
So I used to say to Larry, “Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know the Bible is the only authority and Jesus is the only Savior.” And I just find ways to say that because that is the message, that the Bible is the only divine revelation and Jesus is the only Savior. And that is the only message we have. So I’m either going to talk about the authority of the Bible or Jesus. Tonight, it’s going to be both in, I think, a way that you might find interesting.
When it comes to religions, Christianity is the only religion that has two ancient books separated by hundreds of years that are in perfect harmony with each other. The Old Testament tells us what’s going to happen, and the New Testament writes the history of the fact that it did happen. No religion has that. Therein lies the evidence of the voracity of divine authorship, because only God knows what’s going to happen. The greatest proof of the truth of Scripture is prophecy. The Old Testament tells us what will happen. The New Testament explains how it happened. The Old Testament gives the prophecy. The New Testament gives the precise record of its historical fulfillment.
I want you to look in your Bible at a prophecy, Isaiah 53, Isaiah 53. This is a prophecy separated from its fulfillment by 700 years. Isaiah lived 700 years before Christ. In my mind, this is the most stunning, startling, complex, detailed, verifiable prophecy on the pages of Scripture. Now, I know you know Isaiah 53 to some degree or another. But I hope in the time that we have tonight, you’re going to see in this chapter something that you never, ever imagined.
Some have called Isaiah 53 “the fifth gospel.” It’s actually the first gospel. It’s the first gospel. Matthew is the second and Mark’s the third. In fact, in many ways, it is a gospel. And what is a gospel? A gospel is the history and the record of the person and work of Christ, right? And when we say it’s a gospel, we mean it would involve His arrival as deity in human flesh. It would involve His life, and death, and burial, and resurrection, and ascension, and exaltation. That’s a full life of Christ, and that’s what you have in Isaiah 53.
Everything is here from the incarnation to the final exaltation of Christ, everything: His arrival, His life, His rejection, His trial, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension, His intercession, and His exaltation. It’s all in this one chapter. It is literally an incomparable evidence of the divine authorship of the Old Testament.
Luther said – Martin Luther - “Every Christian should be able to recite Isaiah 53 by memory.” That’s your assignment. In 1866, a couple of German scholars had studied this and they wrote this. “It looks as if it had been written by someone standing at the foot of the cross.” Many an Israelite has had Isaiah 53 melt his hard heart. Isaiah 53 is the most central, the deepest, the loftiest that Old Testament prophecy ever produces.
It rises above everything. The roots of the Christian gospel are here. The vocabulary that you use as a Christian is rooted here. And contained in this chapter is the most important truth that God ever deposited in this world. This may surprise you. The clearest explanation of the meaning of the death of Christ – listen, the clearest explanation of the meaning of the death of Christ is not in the book of Romans. It’s in Isaiah 53. There is no New Testament passage that is as clear, as rich, as deep, and as full an explanation of the death of Christ as this chapter written 700 years before He arrived. It is unsearchable. It is profound. It is bottomless. It is exalted.
Now, let me just kind of get you into this chapter for a minute. Isaiah is split. His book has 66 chapters. How many books in the Bible?
How is the Bible split? How many in the Old? 39, 27. Isaiah is split the same way. There are 39 books of judgment, chapter 1 through 39. And then there is chapter 40 to 66, and that’s salvation. So it’s split the same way the Bible is. And, of course, the Old Testament is a book of warning and judgment, and the New Testament is a book of salvation.
In the 27 chapters that make up the second half of Isaiah, there are 3 sets of 9. The first 9, salvation from the Babylonian captivity, which was a historical reality in Israel. The last 9, salvation from the curse in the future millennial kingdom of Christ and the new heavens and the new earth. The middle 9, salvation from sin. Okay? So the middle 9 chapters of Isaiah, salvation from sin. The middle chapter of the middle 9 is 53. The middle of 53 is “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.” So the Holy Spirit just takes you right down to that verse.
That’s a surface comment on the depth of this chapter. It’s astonishing. It’s so riveting and compelling. Words, frankly, collapse under the weight of this chapter. I don’t have words to carry this chapter. It crushes my vocabulary. I’ll tell you something else. The first chapter in the last section begins exactly where the New Testament begins, with an introduction of John the Baptist. And the last chapter of Isaiah ends exactly where the New Testament ends, with the new heavens and the new earth.
It’s like a microcosm of the Bible. Its scope is staggering. It starts with our Lord’s eternal relationship with the Father in the exalted state of glory. It descends down into His humiliation, His incarnation, His rejection, His execution. Then it goes back up through the empty tomb on Easter to the accomplishment of justification for the many. Then His intercession and then His glory and final kingdom. It’s all in this chapter. Is it any wonder that this chapter is quoted in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 1 John?
Let me tell you something else about this chapter. Virtually every phrase in this chapter you will find somewhere in the New Testament. The writers of the New Testament just pirated this chapter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Let me tell you something else. If we lost the New Testament, and all we had was a record that Jesus died and rose again, this chapter would give a complete enough gospel for any sinner anywhere to be saved. The gospel is in this chapter.
So as I thought about what I might share with you tonight, I just, I couldn’t let go of this chapter. The best gift that I can give you on this 50th anniversary is an understanding of this chapter. Now, I can’t do it all. That would be way over the top. But I’m going to give you a sense of this amazing chapter. This chapter is so clearly about Jesus Christ that it has been called the “torture chamber of the rabbis.” It has been called the “guilty conscience of the Jews.” Let me read this chapter to you. You tell me who this is talking about. I find myself basically overwhelmed just reading this.
“Who has believed the message given to us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
“His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
“As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.”
That can’t be anybody but Jesus, right? Can’t be anybody but Jesus. Let me just step aside from the historical reality of this text and its application to the Lord Jesus Christ and tell you this. This text is important not only for its apologetic value in terms of scriptural voracity, it is important not only because it points to Christ, but listen. This text is critical because it answers the most crucial, significant, essential, vital, weighty, paramount, question that humans can ever ask. And I stacked up the qualifiers.
And it has nothing to do with health, and it has nothing to do with wealth, and it has nothing to do with prosperity, it has nothing to do with fulfillment, success, education, morality, philosophy, sociology, politics. Because the most important question in the world has nothing to do with any of that. The most important question, the transcendent question, the question of all questions it this. How can a sinner be made right with God so as to escape eternal hell and enter eternal heaven? That’s the question of all questions.
And that is the question that must be answered by religion or it is a religion from hell. That’s the question. How can a sinner be made right with God so as to escape eternal hell and enter eternal heaven? If religion doesn’t answer that question, or if it answers it wrongly, it’s a religion from hell. This answers that question of all questions. So it has apologetic value. It has historical value in Christ, and most importantly, it has spiritual value.
Well, why do the Jews reject it? I’m going to give you a simple answer. I’ll tell you why the Jews reject it. Because their religious system is set up so that they go about – listen to Paul in Romans 10 - “to establish their own righteousness.” There are only two religions in the world. You know that. Only two. The religion of human achievement and the religion of divine accomplishment. Either you do it for yourself or God does it for you and you do nothing. It’s either grace or works.
The Jews – apostate Judaism – for millenia, has been premised on human achievement. You earn your way in through morality and religiosity. And it comes to this. They don’t need a Savior. That was the case in Jesus’ day. He said, “Look, I didn’t come to call the righteous - ” if you think you’re righteous, I can’t deal with you “ - but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus, in Luke 4, went into His hometown in Nazareth to the synagogue where He grew up, spent His whole life there. They knew him. They knew the kind of person He was. He was sinless and perfect His whole life, obviously. So they saw His perfection. So He came back after a year in Judea and some miracles in Capernaum. He came back to His hometown and went to His hometown synagogue, stood up to preach, opened to Isaiah 61, and He preached the gospel. And He said, “The gospel has come to the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed, and this day is fulfilled in your ears.” And what did they do to Him after that sermon? They tried to murder Him.
After one sermon, hometown boy comes back. They try to throw Him off a cliff. Why? Because He said to them, “If you don’t see yourself as the poor, prisoner, blind, and oppressed, you have no hope.” And then He used a couple of illustrations. “You’re just like your forefathers. God couldn’t do anything for them, either and He had to go over to Baal’s country and heal a widow’s son over there. And you’re just like those people in the days of Naaman. God couldn’t do anything for the Jews. He had to go over and heal a border terrorist who was coming across the border and ravaging Jews. You’re the same kind of people who think you’re righteous.” And that indictment is why they tried to murder Him after one sermon in His hometown, in the synagogue He grew up in.
They’re still that way. You tell self-righteous people that they’re sinful, it could get painful. They don’t need a Savior. They don’t know what Isaiah said in chapter one, “the whole head is sick.” You’re sick from the head to the toe. You don’t get it. You don’t know how wretched you are. And let me just tell you something, folks. There is the difference between the Jews and true Christians. They don’t need a Savior. We do. We understand that. We understand that. They just wanted a deliverer.
This has always been the way with them. They wanted a deliverer from their enemies and their negative circumstances. When Jesus didn’t deliver them from their enemies and their negative circumstances, they killed Him. They did ultimately to Him what they were going to do after one sermon. They weren’t ready to hear the answer to the most important question. If you’re ever going to witness to a Jew, what you want to ask is, “Do you need a Savior to rescue you from divine judgment for your sins?” That’s the question. That’s the question. This is the ultimate moral issue of all human existence.
Well, Isaiah answers that question in this 53rd chapter. Having said all of that and read the chapter, I want to say one other very important thing. Though this chapter deals with the deity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, the life of Christ, the rejection of Christ, the humiliation of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the intercession of Christ, and the exaltation of Christ – listen – it’s not primarily a prophecy about Christ. It’s not. It’s not a prophecy about Christ.
In some ways, it doesn’t even look forward. You say, “Why do you say that?” Because all the verbs starting in verse 1 all the way down to the middle of verse 11 are in the past tense. Listen. “Who has believed the message given to us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up; He was despised and forsaken; Surely our griefs He Himself bore; our sorrows He carried; He was stricken, smitten of God, afflicted. He was pierced; He was crushed; He was chastened; He was scourged; He was oppressed; He was – ” All the verbs are past tense. This is describing something that has already happened. How can it have already happened? Because what you have in chapter 53 are the words of the confession that Israel will make in the future when they are redeemed.
And they will – remember Zechariah made this incredible prophecy. Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn as for an only son. And in that day - ” 13:1 “ - a fountain will be opened for the house of David, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.”
That is a promise of the future salvation of Israel. It’s also promised in Ezekiel 36. It’s also promised in Jeremiah 31. It’s also promised in Romans 11:25-27, “so all Israel will be saved.” And what you have here is this amazing text of Scripture that gives us the statement that the Jews will make in the future when they look on the one they’ve pierced and get it right. It’s a stunning portion of Scripture. It’s an amazing portion of Scripture.
So what it really is, because – now understand, this section of Isaiah is a prophetic section. What you have here is the very words that the Jews will say in the day that God opens up grace and saves them. This is their confession. All the pronouns are plural. This isn’t Isaiah talking. All the pronouns are plural. And all the verbs are past tense. And they’re going to look back, and this is what they’re going to say when they repent and see Christ for who He really is.
Now let’s look at chapter 53. I’m going to give you several little stanzas as we go, and we’re just going to flow through and not get bogged down, so stay with me. They’re going to look at His life and see it completely differently than they ever saw it through their whole history. From a genre standpoint, this is a sad, sad chapter. You might think this is a joyful chapter. This is not because whatever generation to come says this is going to be a broken-hearted, crushed and devastated generation of Jews who realize that from the arrival of Christ until that hour, the Jews have passed into eternity rejecting their Savior.
This is a sad, sad, profoundly painful song. There’s a song about the coming servant of Jehovah, which is what the Messiah is called in this section. In chapter 42, another song about the coming Messiah. In chapter 49, another song about Him. In chapter 50, this is the fourth servant song. The Messiah is called the “servant of Jehovah” or ebed, in Hebrew, the “slave of Yahweh.” And that is the Messiah.
And they’re going to say first of all, “Who believed the message given to us?” Which is the way it should be translated. “And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” You know, the first thing they’re going to say? “We didn’t believe. Who believed it? Who believed it? Nobody believed it. Nobody believed it.” It’s not the message we gave, although the message came from Jews. All the Old Testament writers were Jews. All the prophets were Jews. The apostles were Jews. Jesus was a Jew. John the Baptist was a Jew. The message came from them, but that’s not the intent. The question is who believed it? Nobody believed it. Nobody. Nobody.
“And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” What they mean by that is we didn’t understand it was the right arm of God. That’s a Hebrew expression for the power of God. We didn’t understand it was the power of God. In other words, this is God incarnate. How did He demonstrate that? By power over disease, power over demons, power over death, power over nature. But we didn’t see it. We didn’t buy it. We didn’t believe it.
He is introduced in 52:13. “Behold, My servant will prosper, - ” and then it says this “ - He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.” That’s God speaking and God says, “When He comes, He’ll be high, higher, highest.” Three verbs. He will be high, higher, highest. And listen to this. Those three verbs are used only one other time in Isaiah, and they’re used to describe God on His throne in Isaiah 6. “I saw God high and lifted up, and exalted on His throne.” And here we hear that He will be high, higher, highest, which is to say that He is God incarnate who comes off the throne.
We should have known it was the right arm of God. We didn’t believe it. We didn’t see it. We rejected it. Well, why would you do that? And they’re going to give an answer. It’s going to pour out of their hearts. They’re going to say, “Well, - ” verse 2, “He grew up before God - ” even before God, not only us, but from all that we could tell, He grew up “ - like a tender shoot, like a root out of parched ground;” Now you’ve probably read that many times. Do you know what that means? That’s a sucker branch.
We didn’t see Him as anything important. He’s a sucker branch. What do you do with a sucker branch if you’re a farmer? He was a root out of dry ground. We didn’t plant Him. We didn’t need Him. He wasn’t part of anything that was living. He was just a dead root sticking out of parched ground. That’s their way of saying He had a contemptible origin. He came from a nowhere town. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Came from a nobody family. He’s a carpenter’s son. Mark 6.
He didn’t come from elite people. He didn’t come from highbrow people. He had no education. He was totally unimpressive. His family was unimpressive. His town was unimpressive. His background was unimpressive. He was a sucker branch. He was a dead, dry root, nothing to us. His origin was contemptible. They couldn’t process the fact that the Messiah, God in human flesh, the great King long awaited would come that way. Born in a manger, in a stable, attended by shepherds, who were on the bottom rung of the social ladder. Very unimpressive, contemptible, despicable origin.
And then they said, “You know, when He grew up, He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” Nothing about Him was royal. Nothing about Him was regal. He had no bearing. He had no persona. He had no presence. And then, His end was really contemptible. Verse 3, “He was despised and forsaken of men, - ” the word “men” there is not the normal Hebrew word for men in a generic sense, but “leaders.”
He was despised by the leaders. None of the important people affirmed Him. And then at the end, He was just full of sorrow and grief. He was the kind of person that you don’t even look at, like one from whom you hide your face because to look at someone would be embarrassing, like a disfigured person. You don’t want to turn and look at somebody who is disfigured and you don’t want to assault your eyes.
They despised Him. They despised His origin. They despised His presence. And they despised Him at the end. He was “a man of sorrows.” Nobody gave Him honor and nobody gave Him respect. Nobody important. He had no one in His life that mattered. He hung around with a bunch of ragtag nobodies from Galilee who, seven of whom may well have been fisherman. The rest were uneducated Galileans. And the only non-Galilean in the group was Judas from the town of Carioth. He was the kind of person you just turn your face away from. That’s why we rejected Him.
You know, it got ugly from there. Do you know the Hebrew word for Jesus is Yeshua? Have you heard that? Yeshua. The Jews through history have changed it to Yeshu, Yeshu, which is an acrostic for “let his name be blotted out.” Let his name be blotted out. He is also called Tului, in Hebrew, “the hanged one.” And “cursed is anyone - ” Deuteronomy says “ - who is hanged on a tree.”
Maybe you’ve heard the story about Mary being a hairdresser. This is written in the Talmud, which is the codification of Jewish history. That His mother Mary was a hairdresser who committed adultery with a Roman mercenary named Joseph ben Pandera, produced Yeshu, who learned the magical arts in Egypt and led people astray. That’s a quote from the Jewish Talmud.
They developed early on a prayer, Jewish prayer. “May all Christians be suddenly destroyed without hope and blotted out of the book of life forever.” This is a deep-seated animosity. And it hasn’t been helped through history by what so-called fake Christians have done to the Jews. But they started out with contempt and it’s still there even today. And do you know every Jew knows the story of Jesus so he or she can reject it? I mean, you’re not really a Jew if you don’t know you can’t believe in Jesus. We didn’t esteem Him. That’s an important last line. “He was despised; we did not esteem Him.” That’s the ultimate scorn. You know what that means in Hebrew? He was non-existent. He didn’t even exist. To put it mildly as Paul said in Romans 9:32, “They stumbled over the stumbling stone.”
This will be where their confession will start. That’s our confession and it will be heartbreaking, heartbreaking because centuries will have passed with that kind of treatment of Christ. And then we come to verse 4, and the spirit of grace and supplication has come on them, and the light has broken, and they say this. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.”
In other words, we thought God was punishing Him for being a blasphemer, right? That’s what they thought. This man blasphemes. Why? Because He said, “I and the Father are one. I and the Father work on the Sabbath. I am Lord of the Sabbath.” We thought He was being punished by God as a blasphemer, but now we know “our griefs He Himself bore, our sorrows He carried.”
Then verse 5. “But He was pierced through for - ” what? “ - our transgressions.” Is that an incredible dawning? “He was crushed for our iniquities; and The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” That future confession by the Jews is what every soul must confess to be saved. If you’re a believer, you made that confession, didn’t you? Jesus is no blasphemer. He was pierced for your transgressions. He was crushed for your iniquities. He bore your griefs. He carried your sorrows.
If you get a theological here, verse 4 is about expiation, a doctrine of expiation. Christ takes your sins away. Like Leviticus 16, the scapegoat imagery. He picks up all our sins, loads them on Himself and hauls them away as far as the east is from the west. Peter, 1 Peter 2:24, “He bore in His own body our sins.” That’s expiation. Then you have propitiation. He was pierced through and crushed for our sins. In other words, to satisfy God. That’s what propitiation means. He’s the satisfaction to God. He pays the penalty for our sins.
The word “pierced” means exactly that. He was pierced. The word “crushed” literally means “to be bruised.” And we know He was bruised. He was hit in the face with sticks. He was punched in the face when He was in the hands of the Romans. He was brutalized with scourging. That even is referring to that in verse 5, scourged, “by His scourging we are healed.” See the detail? Psalm 22 said He would be pierced. Here it says, “He was pierced.” He was pierced in His head with a crown of thorns. He was pierced in His hands, pierced in His feet, pierced in His side.
And we thought that all these verbs in verse 4: stricken, smitten, afflicted, refer to God. Smitten by God, smitten by God, stricken by God, afflicted by God. But now we know differently. And this is Zechariah 12:10 when they look back on Him “whom they pierced.” And the Romans actually did it, but it was at their will that it was done. When they look on Him “whom they have pierced,” they’re going to see the truth.
There’s negatives. Pierced for our transgressions and our iniquities. Just a little insight into those words. Transgressions has to do with sins in a general sense, violations of God’s law. Iniquities is the word for “perversions.” It means to “bend double, to be twisted.” He carried away our griefs. He carried away our sorrows - meaning the chastisement, the pain, the suffering that comes from sin - and He also carried away our sin. “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our perversions.” And then it turns positive. He was chastened for our shalom and He was scourged for our healing.
You know, this is the confession that everyone must make if he wants to escape the wrath of God. There is no salvation in any other than this, the suffering Savior. The death of the physician makes us well. And in that day – and this is an important thing – in that day when they confess, they will confess not only the things that they did that were wrong, but they will go deeper than that. Look at verse 6.
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” Right there, in those verses that I read you, 4 to 6, you have the vicarious substitutionary atonement of Christ. You have the doctrine of imputed sin. Our sin is imputed to Christ. This is the doctrine of justification. This is the true doctrine of salvation. He doesn’t die as a moral influence. He doesn’t die as a martyr. He dies as a substitute for us.
But not just for our transgressions, acts of sin. Not just for our perversions, but “all of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;” And the Jews will go deeper and say, “We not only have behavioral issues, we have issues of nature.” Sheep act like sheep. Sheep act like sheep. Sheep are defenseless, stupid, dirty, and they do what sheep do. And the Jews in that day will not only confess their behavior, they will confess their deep down depravity as any true sinner must.
It isn’t that we need a Savior for the things we do. We need a Savior for who we are, to rescue us from the depravity of our nature. They get it. They have a full soteriology. What an incredible realization that will be when they realize that our sins have been transferred to Jesus.
This is richer than any New Testament text on an explanation of the cross. If I were to preach on the cross from the New Testament, I’d use 2 Corinthians 5:21. “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” And I would explain to you that being made sin for us means this. Not that Jesus became a sinner. No. He was wholly harmless, undefiled. He was the lamb without blemish and without spot. But that – listen – when Jesus was dying on the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had personally committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe, though He committed none of them. God punished Jesus for every sin of every person through human history who is redeemed.
You say, “Well, if people are going to go to hell forever and their sins still aren’t paid for, how can that be?” Because when people go to hell, their sins can never be paid for because they never stop sinning. They will be as hateful and anti-God there as they’ve ever been here, even more.
You say, “How could Jesus bear all the sins of all the people who were ever redeemed through all of human history? How could He do that and do it essentially in a few hours on the cross when it was dark?” And the answer is this. Because He was an infinite person, He had an infinite capacity to bear sin, and all our transgressions, and all our perversions, and the wretchedness of our nature, and all of its attitudes He paid for in full. They will confess the truth about the cross and all the iniquity, the iniquity of us all will fall on Him, has fallen on Him.
Verses 7 to 9 just quickly depict Him as the willing sufferer. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, He did not open His mouth;” He was “Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers.” I had the opportunity to be in New Zealand where you get a lot of information about sheep if you’re there for a long time. There are 3 million people and 70 million sheep, so that’s actually the last number I heard.
And I spent time with sheep farmers there and in Australia, and you know what sheep love? They love the shepherd to clean them. They love the shepherd to shear them, because at shearing time, they’re hot. It’s uncomfortable, and their wool is full of lanolin and they become the dirtiest animal on the planet because they have no mechanism to clean themselves and because the oil makes everything stick. Periodically through the year, their little rumps have to be completely shaved, even when they’re bearing wool or they will die because they’re so plugged. So when the shepherd comes to lift them up, this is relief for them to be cleaned or to be sheared. And so they go to the slaughter willingly because the shepherd has always done them good and they don’t make a sound when it’s time to kill them.
They knew that. They sacrificed animals every day, every single day. The morning sacrifice, the evening sacrifice. They knew that sheep went to the slaughter silently, just the way they went to the shearing silently. And that’s how Jesus went to the cross. Never said a word to defend Himself. Never said a word in defense to Herod, never said a word in defense to Caiaphas, Annas, never defended Himself to Pilate. Silent. How does Isaiah know this 700 years before? How does he know this? How does he know about piercings and bruising? How does he understand this?
This is stunning. How does he know He will go silently? How does he know He won’t defend Himself? Innocent sufferers scream about their innocence, don’t they? Even Job. You got to wade through chapter after chapter of Job saying, “Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this?” And guilty sufferers cry out for forgiveness and mercy like Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Silent sufferers? You don’t find silent sufferers.
And when the Jews came along and decided this chapter was about them, they didn’t want it to be about Messiah, so they made it about them. The first question you ask them is, “Since when have you been a silent sufferer?” But this is the silence that is the result of a prayer in the garden. “Father if it’s your will, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless - ” what? “ - your will be done.”
So the Messiah will come. He will be God in human flesh. He will be high, higher, highest. He will be rejected because He has such humble beginnings, such unimpressive appearance, and such a horrific ending, and they will reject Him through history until the day when the spirit of grace and supplication is opened by God Himself and the light comes on, and they look on the one they’ve pierced, and they mourn for Him, and a fountain of cleansing is opened to them because they will look back on the cross and they will see it for what it was.
And you and I are here because God in His Spirit has come on us with the same spirit of grace and supplication and opened our understanding of the cross. And what we say about the cross is exactly what they say because this is how you’re saved.
“By oppression and judgment, verse 8 “ - He was taken away;” Those are technical terms for a trial and a sentencing. The word “judgment” there is a word that is the only word in Hebrew for a legal punishment. So it was the Jews who wanted Him dead. It was the Romans who wanted Him dead. “He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?”
Scripture goes back in this chapter again and again to the substitionary vicarious death of Christ. He died in our place. And here, for the first time, in verse 8, His actual death is mentioned. “He was cut off out of the land of the living - ” and it was done “ - For the transgression of my people.”
Who would do this to Him? Verse 10. “The Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; Since He would render Himself as a guilt offering.” Did the Romans kill Jesus? Not really. They were agents. They were intermediate agents. Did the Jews kill Jesus? Not really. Who smote Him? God. He was God’s lamb. John the Baptist introduced Him in John 1:29. “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This was God. Every family picked out a lamb. Every father picked out a lamb to offer. This was God’s lamb. The smiter was God and He did it so that He could be a “guilt offering,” a trespass offering.
In verse 9, we get past His death. “His grave was assigned with wicked men.” What does that mean? Criminals were thrown in the valley of Hinnom, which was down the slope on the backside of Jerusalem. The valley of Hinnom is where Gehenna comes from. It was the city dump and the fires always burned there. And so Jesus used it as a metaphor for hell, where the fire never goes out, the worm never dies.
And the criminals, basically, were left on the cross, and they were left there until the carrion birds could tear into them, and animals could climb up the wood and chew on them. They were roadkill. They were roadkill. And that’s what would have happened to Jesus. And then after enough desecration was done to frighten all the people who thought they might go against Rome, after they made the point that it’s not a good thing to do, they would have taken their bodies down in the condition they were in and thrown them in the dump on the fire.
So “His grave was assigned with wicked men” because He died between two thieves, right? He would have gone the way they went. But something strange happened. “He was with a rich man in His death.” You remember who that man was? Joseph of Arimathea, who came and asked for His body and put Him in a brand new tomb. Seven hundred years before He ever showed up, that little detail is recorded here. Why did God do that? Why did it matter to God? Because Psalm 16 said He would never “allow His holy one to see - ” what? “ - corruption.” And this was the first step back up. Small step, but I will not allow His body to be desecrated. So the Father works providentially through Joseph and His body is taken and put in a new tomb.
And then come to the end of verse 10. “He will see His offspring.” Something’s happened here, folks. Because when you’re dead, you don’t see your offspring. And we talk about that a lot. You know, Patricia and I – my wife – and we have four kids who love the Lord. We’re so grateful their spouses do. We have 15 grandchildren, love the Lord. They’re all in our church and we have a great time together and we wouldn’t want to miss any of them.
We’re thankful the Lord let us live to see our offspring. But they’re from 22 to 18 months and I’d like to see kind of what they become when they get to be real people, like big people. We would love to see our offspring. We’d love to see another generation. We’ve got a lot of love invested in their lives and we’d love to see what the Lord does with them and how the Lord uses them. But we won’t see. I don’t know how much time we have, and that’s fine with me. I’ve had all the good things that the Lord could give me in this life. I’m ready for the things that eye hasn’t seen and ear hasn’t heard.
But if you’re dead, how do you see your offspring? In that very statement, you have the resurrection of Christ. “He will see His offspring.” You know what that means? He will see all the redeemed of all the ages gathered around Him. And “He will prolong His days - ” a euphemism for living forever “ - And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” And what is the “good pleasure of the Lord”? I’ll put it simply. You don’t have time for this. The whole purpose of redemptive history is for the Father to gather a bride for His Son.
That’s the whole purpose of redemptive history, for the Father to gather a bride of His Son. Why would the Father want to to gather a bride of His Son? Because He loves Him with an infinite, and eternal, and perfect love, and salvation is to bring to glory a redeemed humanity to demonstrate the Father’s love to the Son. In a sense, we’re not the goal of salvation. We’re simply the means. He’s saving us to create this massive redeemed humanity who can praise and glorify His Son forever and ever and ever. And the only way God can do that is through the death of His Son.
So He will die. He will rise. “The good pleasure of the Lord - ” to gather a bride for His Son “ - will prosper in His hand. And as a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see and be satisfied;” God will be satisfied, Christ will be satisfied at the end of redemptive history, when all the redeemed are gathered around Him forever and ever. That’s the confession that they will make. That’s pretty good theology. That’s like the apostles’ creed, if not better.
They will one day confess the deity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, the rejection of Christ, the substitionary vicarious death of Christ to justify the many. They will confess the resurrection of Christ, the intercession of Christ, and the exaltation of Christ, and they will confess that the whole of the redeemed humanity that God determined before the foundation of the world will be gathered around His Son forever in His presence. Man, they will be in one day full-blown Calvinists. I mean, they’ll get the whole picture from glory to glory.
And you say, “But that’s the Jews’ confession. That’s the Jews’ confession.” It is. Is it right? Well, let’s let God close the chapter. We go from past tense verbs and plural pronouns to future tense and singular pronoun. God speaks. Verse 11, the middle. “By the knowledge of Him the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.” This is God summarizing the confession. They’re right. That’s the right confession. He “will justify the many.” That sounds like Romans, doesn't it? He “will justify the many by bearing their iniquities.”
Go to the bottom of verse 12. “Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; - ” that’s putting it mildly. He absorbed all the sins of all the redeemed transgressors. “He bore the sin of many, interceded for the transgressors.” Which He continues to do. Which He continues to do. This is God’s summation of the work of Christ expressed in the confession of the Jews.
And there’s one final note. Verse 12 is exaltation. “I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong;” Who’s that? Who’s the great and the strong? I wish I had time to develop this. I took a whole Sunday on this at Grace Church. That’s us. What? We’re the great and the strong? Yeah. How did we get great and strong? By His saving power. And what this says is essentially what Paul says, we’ll become heirs and joint heirs with Christ.
I just wish I could get you to grasp this. “He will divide the booty.” That is all of the riches which He triumphantly has gained through His redemption, all the riches, all the booty, all the portion that He has gained through His triumph, He will share with you and me.
So if some preacher told you that the way you’re living, you’re going to end up in a shack eight blocks down from the main part of the New Jerusalem, you can take him here and say, “Sorry. Sorry. Scripture says my Lord is going to share with me all the treasures that He has earned in His redemptive triumph.” I just want to close with one comment on this. There’s so much here, but when Jesus died, some people suggest He died a martyr. Let me tell you the difference between the way Jesus died and the way martyrs die.
I’ve read a lot about martyrs. I have an original editions of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, three volumes, huge things. It’s a first edition. I’ve read all the stories of all the martyrs as much as I can find through history. And martyrs die with comfort. Martyrs die giving testimony to the grace of God. Martyrs die singing hymns, songs, praising God, reciting Scripture, praying for their persecutors. There was none of that when Jesus died. Why do martyrs die that way? Because they enjoy the sweet comforts of grace. They enjoy the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They’re comforted when they die because they die under grace.
Jesus didn’t die under grace. Jesus died under the full fury of the law taken to its maximum, incomprehensible level, under the full fury of the law. Martyrs die with a taste of heaven. Jesus died tasting hell and He did it so that He could bring us to glory and share everything He has with us.
Why am I telling you this? Because I’m convinced that the Christian life comes down to this, loving Christ. And if I’ve helped you a little bit to love Him more, then I’ve given you the best gift I know to give.
Father, we thank You for a wonderful time tonight of fellowship and just celebrating what You’ve done over half a century here. And yet we feel this may be just prologue to what You have yet ahead should our Lord tarry. We thank You that all of this is because of Christ and we have endeavored to lift Him up. And we ask, Lord, that what we’ve heard tonight might find its way not only into our minds but into our affections, that we may love Him. We would want to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We fall short of that but increase our love for Him we pray in His name. Amen
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