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"A Greater Sacrifice" (Pt. 6 of, "The Future King")
June 20, 2021 - Matt Herndon
Intro and Summary:
Isaiah is a book in the Old Testament. He was a prophet who lived in the nation of Judah, eight centuries before Jesus. Judah was God’s chosen people, called by God to live holy lives in the promised land of Canaan. Instead of living lives of holiness, though, Judah practiced the sins of idolatry and immorality. God warned them to stop but they didn’t, so he sent a prophet named Isaiah to announce their destruction. Sure enough, the nation of Judah was defeated, and their temple destroyed by the wicked nation of Babylon. Then the people of Judah were taken into captivity in Babylon for 70 years. The book isn’t all judgment, though. It’s also a book of hope. Through the prophet, God tells his people that he still has plans for them: plans to bring them back to Jerusalem. But he’s going to do it in a different way, and on his own timeline. He’s going to restore their nation once and for all through a future king. Many of these prophecies are included in the book of Isaiah, and we're reflecting on those prophecies in pt. 7 of our study, "The Future King."
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (NIV)
See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
53 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
To understand Isaiah 52-53, we have to go back to the beginning.
God's plan for earth was a planet of peace and prosperity.
In addition to giving us the earth, God gave us freedom to make our own moral choices. We chose poorly. God's vision for a peaceful planet was corrupted as we turned earth into a place of sin, death, and violence.
But God had a plan. His plan was to reveal his holiness and grace to the world through a nation, the nation of Israel. God gave Israel a temple, and priests, and priestly books to instruct them on how they could be forgiven for their sins.
There were shortcomings to this sacrificial system, though. It was so constant and violent and never-ending. And it didn't take care of the problem. Our sins are too severe to be atoned for by bulls.
So what was the purpose of the Old Testament sacrificial system? To convict us of the gravity of our sin. Our sin brings death into the world.
But the system also pointed forward, to a greater and more permanent sacrifice.
Upon Israel (Judah's) return from captivity in Babylon, they picked up where they left off. They rebuilt the temple, reassembled the priesthood, and started making sacrifices again.
Isaiah warns that this won't work. It didn't work before, and won't work again. What's needed is a greater sacrifice of a perfect man from God.
This man is introduced in Isaiah as "The Servant of the Lord." He is prophesied to come in the Spirit, to bring light to the nations. And he is also prophesied to suffer for our sins. This is why the passage is laced with sacrificial language, from Leviticus:
• “The Lord makes [the servant’s] life an offering for sin” (53:10).
• “For the transgression of my people [my servant] was punished” (53:8).
• “My servant bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (53:12)
But this is not a pagan human sacrifice. It is the willing sacrifice of God's own representative, once and for all:
• “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering” (53:4).
• “He was oppressed and afflicted, but he did not open his mouth” (53:7).
People who observed this sacrifice didn't get it. They didn't understand it's meaning.
• “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (53:4-5).
The sacrifice would be effective, too. No further sacrifice would be needed:
• “The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (53:5).
And the sacrifice would not end with death. God would accept it and reward the servant:
• “Though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied” (53:10-11).
• “I will give him a portion among the great…because he poured out his life unto death” (53:12).
For centuries the prophesy stood in Isaiah, confusing readers. But then one appeared whose life and death bore a striking resemblance to the servant prophesied in Isaiah. His name was Jesus. Following his death and disappearance in heaven, his followers started putting it together:
• “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being.” (52:14)
• “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.” (53:7)
• “He was pierced for our transgressions” (53:5).
• “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death” (53:9).
• “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied” (53:11).
• "He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted" (53:13)
The gospel writers emphasize these connections in their works:
• “This was to fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah” (Mt. 3:3; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14; 15:7).
So what? So what's the relevance?
• So you may know that the book of Isaiah is about Jesus.
• So you may trust in God's plan.
• So you may be forgiven of your sins.
Conclusion: Acts 8 and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40)
• “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?”
• “This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
• “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”
• “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”
• “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”
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