Easter Sunday

“It Pleased the LORD”

Isaiah 53:10-12

 

  By Allen Ross

The last stanza of the Song of the Suffering Servant declares the marvelous results of the suffering.  That this is the most important stanza in the song can be seen by the fact that the verse are much longer here than in previous stanzas.  It is as if the song was building to this point, and then when here could not say enough.

10  Yet it pleased the LORD to crush Him, and cause Him to suffer;

and though the LORD makes[1] His life a reparation offering,

He will see His seed and prolong His days,

and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11  After the suffering of His soul,

He will see the light of life and be satisfied;[2]

    by the knowledge of Him

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.

It would take some time to unpack these three verses and develop all the theology that is bound up in them.  And so at this point for some added theological meditations on an Easter Day, I will confine my comments to a few careful chosen ideas that stand out, at least to me.

First, as with the other stanzas, this one also begins with a summary statement, which could be variously translated in the different Bibles.  “It pleased the LORD to bruise Him” is the traditional translation.  This does not mean that the suffering of Christ gave the Father any pleasure.  Rather, it means that the suffering of Christ satisfied the will of God, and that pleased Him.  The stanza will explain what the will of God was in His suffering.

Second, the death of Christ was a “reparation offering.”  This is a unique passage in that one of the animal sacrifices is now linked to the death of a human who dies in the place of others so that they can be cleansed from sin.  The specific offering mentioned was the reparation offering; it was made when a person sinned and the sin had defrauded either God or people of possessions and rights.  The sacrifice was for the guilt and for the defrauding.  For example, if a leper was healed, he had to bring a reparation offering–the animal and back payment for what he had not given to God all the years he was not at the sanctuary.  When Christ died for our sins, He not only paid for all the sins the world has committed and will commit, but His death bought enough (if I can put it that way) to make up for everything that God has been defrauded because people have been rejected Him and His rights as God.  Now, God the Father could say it was alright, He had everything back, and more.  So the song tells how His suffering took care of our sins and our infirmities.  And when He takes us to glory, we shall be made whole in body and in spirit.  God will have His creation back.

Third, by their knowledge of the suffering Servant many will be justified.  The reason for that is that He bore the sins of many, and interceded for the transgressors.  The prophet tells us that because the Servant bore our sins, we have been declared righteous before God (see Paul’s discussions in Romans 3:23-26; 4:25; and 2 Cor. 4:21).  He accomplished the redemption through His blood.  We receive it by faith in Him, so that we may say as we often do that “we came to know the LORD,” or “we came to a saving knowledge of the Lord.”   The phrase, “the knowledge of Him” in the song could be taken either as His knowledge of us, or our knowledge of Him.  The latter harmonizes with a good number of passages on the subject; but there is truth in both interpretations if you care to dig, and it may be that there was a deliberate ambiguity here for that dual emphasis.  But the point is that His death does not automatically save everyone, even though He died for everyone’s sins; there has to be that saving faith, that knowledge of Him to be justified.

Fourth, the word chosen by the prophet for the vast company of the redeemed who are justified is “many.”  I am not so much interested at this point in why the prophet chose the word; I am more interested in Jesus’ use of it in the upper room: “This is my blood of the [new] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28).  “Many” and “poured out” show that Jesus was referring to Isaiah 53 when saying these holy words in the upper room.  He knew who He was, and what He was about to do.

Fifth, here we have the epitome of all intercession.  “He made intercession for the transgressors.”  Now this is referring to His death, not His subsequent High Priestly ministry in which He prays.  Here is a case study where the core meaning of intercession is vividly displayed.  We use intercession to refer to praying for other people; but for that to be powerful the needs of those people must come before our own needs, their needs must be shouldered by us in prayer.  And if in God’s good pleasure it opens to us to be able to help those people, financially, emotionally, spiritually, to fail to do so would be to make a mockery of our intercession.  The idea of intercession is that we put ourselves in the place of others, and plead for their well being above our own.  The older hymn writers often used a parallel word to get this across: “interposed.”  Jesus interposed His precious blood between us and the wrath of God, so that blood interceded so that we might be saved.  Think of the words of Charles Wesley in this old hymn that unfortunately does not get much attention: 

1 Arise, my soul, arise!  Shake off thy guilty fears;

The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears;

Before the throne my surety stands,

My name is written on His hands.

2 He ever lives above, for me to intercede;

His all redeeming love, His precious blood to plead;

His blood atoned for all our race,

And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

3 Five bleeding wound He bears, received on Calvary;

They pour effectual prayers, they strongly plead for me;

Forgive him, O forgive, they cry,

Nor let that ransomed sinner die.

4 The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One,

He cannot turn away the presence of His Son;

His Spirit answers to the blood,

And tells me I am born of God.

5 My God is reconciled, His pard’ning voice I hear;

He owns me for His child, I can no longer fear;

With confidence I now dry nigh,

And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

And so it pleased the LORD, the heavenly Father.  That is why the stanza is full of expressions that declare He is alive even though He was dead, and He will have the spoils of the victory, and He will inherit the world, and He will bring many “sons” to glory, and He will reign forever (stanza 1, the summary, Isa. 52:13-15).  His death was successful; it fulfilled the will of God.  And now He is exalted on High awaiting the time that He will once again come into the world and to bring us to glory.  No other religion of the world has such a solution for sin and guilt, such a plan of salvation, such a provision of grace, such a Savior, or such a hope of glory.  Hallelujah, What a Savior!

 

[1] The Hebrew Masoretic Text has “you make,” probably addressing the LORD.

[2] The Hebrew Masoretic Text does not have “light of life”; the Greek translation of the Old Testament and the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls do.