See, My Servant Will Act Wisely,

He Will Be Lifted Up and Exalted

52: 13-15

   DIG: This is the last of the four Servant Songs (see 42:1-7; 49:1-13; 50:4-9). To whom is this song intended? In what sense is this the Gospel. The songs in Chapters 42 and 49 indicated that the Servant would be a light to the Gentiles. How is that idea communicated in these opening lines?

   REFLECT: What is your opinion of the prophecies in the TaNaKh fulfilled by Jesus? Could they have been written after they had already occurred? Do they make any difference in what you believe? Do they increase your faith? Are you in the wheelbarrow? Why or why not?

    This is a far eschatological prophecy to Jews just before the Second Coming. The purpose of the Servant is stated simply and clearly: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). One of the ways that we believe in the Servant is through knowledge of prophecy. Prophecy is history written in advance, and the TaNaKh gave precise details about the Servant of the LORD. Among other things, it predicted that He would be supernaturally conceived (7:14), born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), be Semitic in the line of Abraham and of David (Genesis 9:26, 22:18; Second Samuel 7:13), and be of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). In His death He would be executed by rulers (Psalm 2:1-2), forsaken by God (Psalm 22:1), betrayed by a friend for thirty pieces of silver (Psalm 41:9 and Zechariah 11:12), have His beard plucked out and be spit upon (50:6). In His resurrection He would rise in three days (Hosea 6:2), He would not experience decay of His flesh (Psalm 16:10), and would conquer death (25:8). All of these prophecies came true in the life of Jesus. The probability of all of these prophecies being fulfilled while being given centuries in advance, leads us to the undeniable conclusion that Jesus was indeed sent from God the Father and He would accomplish His purpose. Our faith, and our trust and our belief is based on the tangible evidence of the person and life of Christ; it is based on who He is and what He did (First Corinthians 15:3b-4).

    In 52:13 Isaiah starts out with the word see. Whenever the prophets used that word it was always to call attention to a new context that is going to be more important than other writings within that chapter. Thus God, speaking through His prophet says: My Servant will act wisely. That Hebrew phrase could be translated in that way, but I think a better translation would be My Servant will accomplish His purpose. Isaiah is not saying here that the Servant will be a wise man. But he is saying that He will know and do the right things in order to accomplish the purpose for which He was called (42:1; 49:2-3; 50:7-9). Whatever the frustrations on His part (49:1-4), or the failure on the part of the nation of Isra'el to see Him for who He really was, the Servant will accomplish His purpose. This very same phrase is used in Jeremiah 23:5. The prophet writes: The days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will accomplish His purpose (or reign wisely), and do what is just and right in the Land. Here Isaiah is picturing the Messiah sitting upon David’s throne and ruling over the messianic Kingdom (see Db - The Nine Missing Articles in Messiah's Coming Temple).

    The next three phrases in 52:13 give us a summary of His activities during the messianic Kingdom. First: He will be raised up and this refers to His resurrection. Secondly: He will be lifted up and this refers to His ascension that took place 40 days after the resurrection. Thirdly: He will be highly exalted or honored by being seated at the right hand of God the Father interceding for us day and night. But the Servant would not only be raised and lifted up and highly exalted, He would also be humiliated. We can see these two opposite extremes in these three verses without a break. Paul’s great hymn in Philippians 2:5-9 is almost certainly a reflection of this passage. Therefore, the exaltation of the Servant in 52:13 is contrasted with the humiliation of the Servant in the very next verse.

    The way Jesus looked upon the cross will be in stark contrast with His appearance at the Second Coming. The nations, the many who were appalled at Him, will be speechless by what they see in God’s Servant, something they were not expecting. He will be so disfigured that He will not resemble a man. So as people looked upon the cross in the closing hours and minutes of His life, His form would be marred beyond human likeness (52:14). Evidently His beating was so severe, that after the resurrection, no one recognized Him at first. But even before the resurrection, by human standards Jesus was not attractive when He was on the earth (53:3).

    Author Henri Nouwen tells the story of a family he knew in Paraguay. The father, a doctor, spoke out against the military regime there and its human rights abuses. Local police took their revenge on him by arresting his teenage son and torturing him to death. Enraged townsfolk wanted to turn the boy’s funeral into a huge protest march, but the doctor chose another means of protest. At the funeral, the father displayed his son’s body as he had found it in the jail - naked, scarred from electric shocks, cigarette burns, and beatings. All the villagers filed past the corpse, which lay not in a coffin but on the blood-soaked mattress from the prison. It was the strongest protest imaginable, for it put injustice on grotesque display. Isn’t that what the Lord did at Calvary? The cross that held Jesus’ body, naked and marked with scars, exposed all the violence and injustice of this world. At once, the cross revealed what kind of world we have and what kind of God we have: a world of gross unfairness, a God of sacrificial love. [Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God (Zondervan, 1997), pp. 185-186. From a sermon by Terry Blankenship, The Way to Life, 5/16/2011]

    But when the nations see Him at His Second Coming, those who did not consider Him important will be absolutely astounded. They will see Him from a new perspective.215 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dripped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of ADONAI, God of heaven’s angelic armies. On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:12-16).

    In 52:15 the victory of the Servant will startle many nations. The word sprinkle is not a good translation; a better word would be startle. The people, who were once astonished by His disfigurement, will now be startled at His exaltation. To go from the humiliation of the death of a common criminal to being exalted in all the earth and the heavens is indeed startling. The kings of the earth will shut their mouths because of Him out of respect. When you are talking and a man of greatness comes by, there is silence in the room out of respect. Why? For what they were not told, they will see. They will understand what they were not told about the inhuman treatment that the Messiah went through at His crucifixion. This verse is quoted in Romans 15:21: Those who were not told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.

    For the Servant, Jesus, to accomplish His purpose, faith is needed. The writer to the Hebrews said: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, if there is anything that is clear in the Bible, it is that a person is saved by faith plus nothing. However, if there is anything that is unclear today, it is the nature of faith. So it is vitally important that we understand faith. The Greek New Covenant word for faith most commonly used is pisteuo. It has a wide semantic range and can be translated faith, trust, or belief. This Greek word has two basic elements: mental assent and reliance. But these two elements also assume knowledge. Thus, faith consists of knowledge, mental assent, and reliance.

    Faith, trust, and belief assumes knowledge, that is, recognition of some information. Before we can believe anything, we must know about it. If faith assumes the understanding of knowledge, what does a person need to know? The object of faith in the New Covenant is Yeshua Messiah. If you were to look up all the occurrences of faith and belief in the New Covenant to see what a person must know about Christ, you would discover that a person must believe four things bout Him: (1) that Christ is God (John 20:31) and yet (2) a real man (First John 4:2); that He is the one who died for sins (Romans 3:25) and (4) rose from the dead (Romans 10:9). Those last two facts are called the Gospel. So the object of faith is Jesus Christ, the God-man, who died once for all time and arose. It is not just any “Christ.” The object of faith must be the Messiah who is offered in the Gospel and revealed in the Bible.

    The second element of faith is mental assent. The knowledge received about Christ must now be accepted as true. The most basic meaning of pisteuo is to accept something as true. A person could have knowledge and not accept the information as true. In other words, he or she could not believe. However, if there is both knowledge and acceptance, there is belief. For salvation, a person must know that Jesus Christ, the God-man, died for sin and arose from the dead, and accept that as factual and true. Faith does not mean believing when there is no evidence; faith is believing the evidence. Faith is not built on ignorance, but on knowledge.

    The third element is trust, belief, and faith. These words refer to resting in, relying on, or depending upon something or someone. Often the New Covenant emphasizes this and makes it even stronger by adding a preposition after believe. For example John 3:36 says: He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, and Acts 16:31 says: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. You may believe a bridge is safe, but you do not believe in the Biblical sense until you drive onto the bridge. You may believe an airplane can fly you from your hometown to England, but you do not believe in the New Covenant sense until you buckle up and the plane takes off. If your clothes were on fire, you may believe that jumping in the swimming pool will save you, but you are not saved until you jump in the pool. That’s what faith is like, acceptance plus reliance. Faith in and of itself does not save. Faith is not magic; there is no saving virtue in it alone. Faith is merely the means by which the benefits of Christ’s death are applied to you. The New Covenant does not teach that you are saved on account of faith, but rather, you are saved through faith. The saving power does not reside in the act of faith, nor in the nature of faith, but exclusively in the object of faithJesus Christ.

    Imagine a ship filled with people crossing the Atlantic. In the middle of the ocean there is an explosion. The ship is severely damaged and slowly sinking. Most are dead, and the rest are rushing for the lifeboats. Now suppose one man doesn’t know about the lifeboat, so he does not get aboard. He doesn’t have knowledge, so he is not saved. Suppose another man knows about the lifeboat and believes it will save him, but he is grief-stricken over seeing his wife killed, so he chooses not to get aboard and dies with his wife. He has knowledge and mental assent, but he is not saved. Others believe the lifeboat will save them, and they get into the boat. They are saved by faith, that is, they have knowledge, mental assent, and trust. However, it is not their faith that saves them, no matter how much faith they have. It is the lifeboat. Saving faith trusts Christ, and Messiah saves.216

    Around 1900, before the days of rock stars and sports heroes, some of the most famous people were known for daring feats, like climbing mountains, escaping from chains and vaults, and swinging on the flying trapeze. None was more famous than the great Charles Blondin of France, the greatest tightrope walker in the world. He became famous in America by walking a tight rope 1,300 feet long, two inches in diameter, across Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. 160 feet above the water, he would walk across with a balance bar, he would ride across on a unicycle, and sometimes, with someone with a lot of faith in him, he would carry a trusting soul across on his shoulders. One year a delegation from England came to see him perform. He pushed an empty wheelbarrow across the tightrope of Niagara Falls and back again. He asked the crowd if they believed he could do it again. They cheered "Yes, we believe you can do it." Then he asked the Duke of Newcastle if he would get in the wheelbarrow. The Duke refused. So he asked the huge crowd if anyone would get in the wheelbarrow. At first, no one came forward. Then finally an old woman volunteered. He wheeled her over and back. She had faith in him because he was her son. Do you have faith in the Son? That is what faith is, putting our life in Christ’s hands. That is faith. As far as Christ is concerned, are you in the wheelbarrow?

    This is the first of five messages in this section, My Servant will accomplish His purpose, where God contrasts the Servant’s lowly death on the cross with His being lifted up and given a name that is above every name (Philippians 2:8-9). But having mentioned His humiliation, Isaiah will now detail it in the next section.

 

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