THE PERFECT SERVANT OF GOD WILLINGLY LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR SINFUL SHEEP IN SILENT SUBMISSION TO SUFFERING AND OPPRESSION TO ACCOMPLISH GOD’S PLAN OF REDEMPTION
We are familiar with the OT background of prescribed animal sacrifices. What was different about the sacrifice of Christ? We know from the book of Hebrews that it was very different in terms of its effect – look at Hebrews 10. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” The sacrifice of Jesus was the sacrifice of a man, not an animal. But not just a man, but a perfect man who had lived his life fulfilling all righteousness – so by His active obedience, God could impute to redeemed sinners such as us His righteousness. Not just a perfect man, but the very Son of God who could experience the eternal wrath of God for all of those whom He intended to save.
But what really stands out in our passage this morning that makes the sacrifice of Christ so unique is his willing, voluntary, silent submission to that act of sacrifice – knowing full well the entirety of what was involved. The slaughtered lamb did not choose its death. The slaughtered lamb did not understand what lay ahead of it as it blindly followed the rest of the flock to the butcher’s knife. But our Lord Jesus, the precious Lamb of God, set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem, fully understanding what lay ahead on the cross. Not just the experience of a violent, barbaric, grotesque, publicly humiliating death … but the unleashing of the full wrath of God against him because he died in our place to pay the penalty for sins that we deserved to pay. He would cry out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me”
Motyer: though he did not deserve to die he was willing to do so. In a word, the fatal flaw in existing substitutionary procedures was exposed and met in one stroke. For the point where animal substitution failed was also the point where sin is most serious. . . sin as willfulness is the thing God cannot overlook. It is the very heart of our sinfulness that we sin because we want to. We do not want “this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). Because of this, no animal can do more than picture substitution: only a person can substitute for a person; only a consenting will can substitute for a rebellious will.
THE PERFECT SERVANT OF GOD WILLINGLY LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR SINFUL SHEEP IN SILENT SUBMISSION TO SUFFERING AND OPPRESSION TO ACCOMPLISH GOD’S PLAN OF REDEMPTION
I. (:7) HIS INACTION HIGHLIGHTED – PASSIVE OBEDIENCE —
CAPTURED AND PROSECUTED AND SLAUGHTERED WITHOUT RESISTANCE
A. Silent Submission to His Capture and Prosecution
1. Summary Statement
“He was oppressed”
Wield power; throw down, overthrow; harsh physical treatment at the hand of others
Parunak: “Oppressed” – what a lender does to a debtor (Deut. 15); (Ex. 3:7; 5 — Pharaoh’s taskmasters) what a slave owner does to a slave; what a tyrant like Assyria does to a subject nation (Is. 14:4 “How the oppressor has ceased”) = puts you at the bottom of the pile; this man was always at the bottom of the pile; other people were always lording it over him; How did he respond? Did he try to complain and take them to court? Did he mount a protest?
The word “oppress” is one that means He was pressed or harassed to the point of being totally weary and fatigued (William Gesenius, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 533).
Normal human response – defend yourself; this is not right; false accusations; extreme injustice
2. Two Responses
a. Submissive – No physical resistance
“and He was afflicted,”
Allowed himself to be afflicted
Parunak: “being afflicted” – passive verb – but even the normal form has this meaning so this is like a double passive; an idiom (more meaning that just you would get from the word itself); Ex. 10:3 same form of the verb “How long will you refuse to be afflicted before me? Not just something that happens to you but something you allow to happen to you; he didn’t fight back; didn’t occupy temple square; John 18 at time of his arrest – “shall I not drink it?” refused to allow Peter to resist on his behalf
Motyer: he, for his part, humbled himself (reflexive) submitted to be struck down; This is the emphasis of the present stanza: the clear-headed, self-restraining voluntariness with which the Servant approached and accepted what happened. The human eye saw him at the mercy of hostile, and even divine, forces; the theologically instructed eye saw the hand of the Lord fulfilling the Servant’s death as a sin-bearing exercise. Now, however, we stand on a very sacred spot indeed, within the Servant’s own consciousness, and we see him, not caught in a web of events, but masterfully deciding, accepting and submitting. . . deliberate self-submission
Luke 9:51 – set his face to go to Jerusalem
b. Silent – No verbal resistance
“Yet He did not open His mouth;”
Parunak: He didn’t speak against his mistreatment; treated absolutely unjustly but didn’t try to defend himself; Matt. 27:12-14 before Sanhedrin; Mark 15:5 before Pilate;
In fact He stood before these authorities as their Sovereign – actually in control, even in these events; not being forced down a path he did not want to travel
Acts 2:23 “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death”
Acts 4:27-28 “to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur”
B. Silent Submission to His Slaughter – 2 Illustrations
“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.”
Parunak: Illustrations: sheep are meek animals; they tend to follow other sheep; know how to eat grass and follow other sheep; very docile; they let you cut their hair off without a whimper; this is earliest place in bible where Messiah is compared to a lamb; Isaiah has already used image of sheep to describe us back in 53:6; this is the passage NT writers had in mind when they point to the parallel
Look at how John the Baptist introduced the promised Messiah
– Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world
– same at his baptism
Constable: In spite of God’s punishment for sin, the Servant would bear it without defending Himself (cf. 42:2-3; 49:4-9; 50:5-7; Jer. 11:18-20; 12:1-3; Matt. 26:63; 27:12-14; Mark 14:61; 15:5; Luke 23:9; John 19:9). He would allow others to “fleece” Him and even kill him without even protesting (cf. Acts 8:32-33; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). Israel protested God’s shearing of her (40:27; 49:14; 63:15). He would not be a helpless victim but one who knowingly and willingly submitted to death (cf. Luke 9:51). Jeremiah used the same figure to describe himself—but as a naive person who did not know what would happen to him (Jer. 11:19). The sheep metaphor is apt because the Israelites used lambs as sacrificial animals to cover their sins (cf. Gen. 22:7-8; Exod. 12:3, 5; Lev. 5:7; John 1:29).
Beall: v. 7 especially speaks of the Servant’s patient, passive acceptance of his unjust punishment. Though he was oppressed (the verb is used of the Egyptian taskmasters pressing the Israelites to the task) and afflicted (same root as at the end of v. 4), he did not resist. Instead, just as a lamb led to the slaughter, he did not open his mouth. He was willingly doing the Father’s bidding. The use of the word “lamb” here also reflects the sacrificial imagery of the OT, as Christ, the sacrificial Passover lamb of God, died for the sins of the whole world (John 1:29: “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world”; 1 Cor 5:7: “Christ, our Passover lamb, was sacrificed for us”). This verse was literally fulfilled when the Lord did not seek to answer the charges of his accusers at his trial (Matt 26:63).
MacArthur: And when the dramatic moment came, and John the Baptist and Jesus came face-to-face, eye-to-eye in a public place, and Jesus was about to launch His ministry. It was at the Jordan and all Jerusalem and Judea, it says, were going down there to be baptized by John because John was saying the Messiah’s here, Messiah’s here, prepare your heart, prepare your heart. And he was preaching the Kingdom and righteousness and telling people to get ready, and he was offering this baptism, which was a symbol of their desire to be cleansed, and masses of people were there. And one day Jesus shows up, and how does John introduce Jesus? He doesn’t say, “Behold your King.” He says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And that is right out of Isaiah 53.
Beall: vv. 7-8 are cited in Acts 8:32-33 by the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch rightly wondered whether the prophet could be speaking these words of himself, or someone else. Philip then began at this Scripture and “preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35).
II. (:8) HIS INJUSTICE ENDURED WITHOUT PROTEST –
CONVICTED AND EXECUTED WITHOUT JUSTICE OR SUPPORT
A. Injustice in His Capture and Conviction and Execution
“By oppression and judgment He was taken away;”
MacArthur: This is all talking about processes, legal processes. Oppression, His arrest, confinement; judgment is the judicial proceeding, and the final verdict taken away means exactly what it says, from the court, from the trial to be executed.
Oswalt: His treatment was unjust from start to finish
Constable: The Servant’s treatment at the hands of others would be unjust from start to finish. Oppressive legal treatment and twisted justice would result in His being taken away to suffer and die (cf. Matt. 26:59-61; Luke 23:2-4, 13-16). This was not the case in Israel’s suffering in captivity. That suffering was in harmony with what justice prescribed. However, it was for the transgressions of the prophet’s people that the Servant would suffer a fatal blow (cf. Gen. 9:11; Exod. 12:15; Dan. 9:26; Phil. 2:5-8; Col. 1:13-14, 19-20). This does not rule out His dying for Gentiles as well. Perhaps Isaiah identified Israel as the beneficiary of the Servant’s death here because Israel’s sins had been so great and Isaiah’s ministry was to Israel. Miscarried justice would be only the means to that end.
B. Indifference Towards His Execution – No Support on His Behalf by Others
“And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living,”
NIV “who of his generation considered” – better meaning than cut of without children
MacArthur: Who considered that He was violently executed? Who stepped up and protested? That’s what it means. Who saw it for what it was? Where was the high priest in protest? Where were the Sadducees or Pharisees or somebody who was a fastidious adherent to the Jewish order and tradition and Law? Where were the rabbis? Where were the scribes? Where was anybody? Here we find in the prophecy 700 years before it ever happened, the pronouncement that no one will defend Him, no one will defend Him.
Where were His disciples? Well, they were living out Zechariah 13:7 “strike the shepherd and the sheep will be – ” What? – “scattered.” They were long gone. They had fled. Matthew says that they fled and Mark says the same thing that the Shepherd was struck and the sheep were scattered. Who was there to speak in His behalf?
Parunak: “the land of the living” – a desirable place to be because you could experience God’s presence and blessing and goodness (they did not have much of a theology about the place of the dead); Ps. 116:9 “I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living”; to be taken away is a severe judgment; Ps. 52:5 – curse on Doeg – rooted out of the land of the living; you don’t deserve to be here; anticipates the spiritual aspect of the Lord’s death – deprived of the presence and blessing of the Father
Quite a destiny for the Prince of Life
Yet He willingly lay down His life for the sheep
John 10:17-18 “I lay it down on my own initiative”
C. Insight: Substitutionary Atoning Death for the Elect Jews
“For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?”
Third line added here for emphasis [structural elements always a key to emphasis for Isaiah]
“my people” — Not denying here that He died for elect Gentiles as well; but the focus is on the saved nation of Israel in the end times that looks back and makes this confession as they mourn for the one they had formerly pierced.
No escaping where the guilt lay; who was actually culpable and deserved to be executed
This was a heavy stroke indeed
III. (:9) HIS INNOCENCE VINDICATED – ACTIVE OBEDIENCE —
CARRIED OFF AND BURIED WITHOUT DEFILEMENT
A. Protection From Defilement — Paradox of Specific Prophecy
1. Expected Anticipated Burial — Normal Disrespect Shown to Traitors
“His grave was assigned with wicked men,”
The parallelism here is not synonymous but antithetical
What type of burial could such wicked men expect in that society?
How you were buried said a lot about your status in life;
[don’t see a lot of cremations back then unless you were disrespecting the body]
These criminals along with Jesus were viewed as insurrectionists; traitors
Not just buried in some unmarked grave, but in a garbage heap; a landfill – body mixed in with all the stinking refuse of the land – that was the expectation
David Thompson: Man had his plan but God overruled. God wanted His Son to have more honor than being burned or devoured by vultures. So God raised up a man named Joseph to take care of His son’s body. The Romans authorities would grant the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57). God would not allow His Son to be buried in some shameful place.
He would not allow His son’s body to be burned or eaten.
Joseph, a rich man, would get the body and would bury it in his own grave (Matt. 25:57-60). Even though Christ would die with and for the wicked, God would not let Him be buried with the wicked.
2. Unexpected Actual Burial – Surprising Respect Accorded to Jesus
“Yet He was with a rich man in His death,”
Very cryptic statement that seems out of place until we understand the specific events that transpired; then we see the awesome detail of Messianic prophecy
You can’t make this stuff up!
MacArthur: Jesus was crucified between two criminals, Luke 23:33; Matthew 27:38. And here would be the normal disposition. They would die on the cross of asphyxiation, and they would leave Him there. Leave Him there dead and rotting, leave Him there for the birds to pluck out their faces. And they would leave them there like road kill for animals that could climb up the cross to chew their flesh. They would leave them there for the purpose of warning everybody who was watching of what happens to people who violate the Roman power and the Roman law. That’s what was planned for Him. Eventually they would have taken the rotted corpses down and thrown them in a dump.
The Jerusalem city dump was in the Valley of Hinnom; you can go there today. It’s not the dump anymore but the Valley of Hinnom on the southeast side of Jerusalem was the city dump, and it was a fire that never went out, a constant fire there. It is a very interesting place, historically. It was the place where apostate Jews and followers of Baal and other Canaanite gods burned their children to the god Molech. You find that back in 2 Chronicles 28:33. Jeremiah talks about it, Jeremiah 7. But this was the place where they offered babies to Molech.
It was there that King Ahaz sacrificed his sons, 2 Chronicles 28. It is the place that Isaiah identifies at the end of his prophecy as the place where the worm never dies. And Jesus said it’s a depiction of hell, in Mark, where the worm never dies…Mark 9. And he says that three times. Horrible place where they threw what was left of the corpses. The rabbis describe it as a perpetual fire to consume the filth and the cadavers that are thrown there. So He was executed with criminals. He would end up like criminals.
But God wasn’t going to let that happen. Psalm 16 says that He would not allow His Holy One to see corruption. God would never let that happen. So verse 9 says there’s an amazing turn. “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death.” How did that happen? He was with a rich man in His death because all along there was a man by the name of Joseph from a place called Arimathea.
1 Cor. 15; Acts 2:29 – importance of burial in the detailing of what constitutes the gospel message
B. Proclamation of His Innocence – Vindicated in His Burial
1. Innocent in His Actions
“Because He had done no violence,”
Ps. 16 – the Father would not let the Son see corruption in His burial
This vindication begun in his burial would be consummated 3 days later in his resurrection; important that he be buried in a tomb so that there could later be an empty tomb for his followers to visit
2. Innocent in His Words
“Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.”
Constable: since Jesus’ corpse received honorable treatment after His death, this suggested that He was unworthy of such an ignominious martyrdom [being buried among the wicked]. Isaiah seems to have meant that somehow wicked people and a rich man would be involved in the Servant’s burial (cf. Matt. 27:57-60). This is somewhat paradoxical.
Motyer: Like the other enigmas of this Song, this too is written so that when the turn of events provides the explanation we shall know for certain that we stand in the presence of the Servant of the Lord.”
Beall: The phrase indicates that though he was crucified with the wicked (Matt 27:38), and thus his body would normally have been assigned the same ignoble burial as theirs, in the Servant’s case, when he died he was buried with the rich. This prophecy literally came true, since though Jesus died with criminals (and was doubtless originally assigned to be buried with them), wealthy Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus in his own newly made tomb (Matt 27:57-60). In light of the fact that Jesus was crucified with two criminals, and buried in the grave of one rich man, it is noteworthy that (“wicked,” referring to the criminals) is plural, but (“rich,” referring to Joseph of Arimathea) is singular. . . a contrast between the first and second phrase is intended.
1 Peter 2 – to what extent are we willing to embrace the will of God as His servants today?
Jesus left us an example – not that we can be involved in the work of redemption – that is totally the work of the Lamb of God who willingly suffered and died in our place – but we also need to suffer in accordance with the will of God
BY THE GRACE OF GOD, THE PERSECUTED CHURCH FINDS VINDICATION AND
VICTORY THRU LIVING FOR ETERNITY, MAINTAINING COMMENDABLE
CONDUCT, AND ACCEPTING SUFFERING AS THE WILL OF GOD
Remember, his own generation did not even care that Jesus was cut off out of the land of the living. How are we showing that we acknowledge and appreciate His great sacrifice for us? Let’s live today as true servants of God following in the footsteps of the Perfect Servant, the Lamb of God who came to take away our sins.