"The Pleasure of the Lord" (Isaiah 53:10-12)
The final section of this prophecy shows the death of Christ
to have been the will of God, because it was essential to the producing of a
righteous seed. The reward of Christ is pictured; it is twofold: the inheritance
of a "spoil", and the everlasting joy of fellowship with those whose salvation
he made possible.
"Yet it pleased the LORD to "bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou
shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong
his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his
"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him" -- "It was the will of
the Lord" (RSV). The death of Christ was essential to our salvation, and was
foreordained by God (Acts 2:23; 4:27,28; John 3:14,15). The word "bruise" is the
same word as in v 5; "He was bruised for our iniquities".
"He hath put him to grief" -- A grief which he bore on our
behalf (v 4). The word signifies a malady or a weakness:
"He was crucified through weakness" (2Co 13:4)...
"When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin" -- The
stress should be put on "thou". It is only when one accepts Christ in faith that
he can become a part of Christ's seed. We are the ones who must reach out and
grasp the hope offered us in the completed sacrifice of Jesus. As he was "led"
like a lamb to the slaughter (v 7), so we must be "led" by his "spirit", or his
teachings, to become through him sons of God (Rom 8:14)! We have an example of
how Isaiah's appeal to the reader fell upon the eyes, and the heart, of one
listener, when the Ethiopian eunuch asked, in effect, "Am I allowed to make this
man's life an offering for my sin?" And the response came from Philip, "Only one
thing is necessary. If you believe with all your heart, you may be baptized"
"...put to death in the flesh" (1Pe
Each time there is this positive response when Jesus is
preached, the prophecy of Isaiah finds a further fulfillment; and Jesus sees yet
another one who is the fruit of the travail of his soul.
"An offering for sin" -- "Asham" is the guilt, or trespass,
offering. Everywhere else the word is used for an offering it is rendered
"trespass offering" (Lev 6; 6; 7:1; Num 6:12; etc). The sins covered by the
trespass offering were violence and deceit, sins practiced against Jesus (Acts
3:13-15). The One who committed no trespass became the trespass offering for
those who did!
"He shall see his seed" -- The one who was first of all the
"Seed" of God was "planted" in the earth. Joseph of Arimathea and his helpers
carried his body from the cross. Weeping as they went, they bore the precious
"seed" (Psa 126:5,6) and laid it in a new tomb. The "seed" was planted and
watered with their tears, and they returned in sorrow to their homes. Daylight
came, and night, and day again, and finally there was a stirring! The annual
miracle of sowing and reaping found its counterpart in a "harvest" of the
highest order. Christ was raised from the dead to become the "firstfruits" of
them that sleep (1Co 15:20), the guarantee of a more numerous harvest to
"Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if
it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John
"He shall prolong his days" -- Moses spoke to the people of
Israel of the kind of king that should rule over them. He should not multiply
horses or wealth or wives, and he should write out a copy of the law, that he
might read therein and keep it. Such a king would "prolong his days in his
kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel" (Deu 17:20). Such a king
would, in fact, receive "length of days for ever and ever" (Psa 21:4), and his
throne would be an everlasting throne (45:6). All this would be possible for the
one who could say:
"I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen;
and have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev 1:18)... the one who has "the power
of an endless life" (Heb 7:16).
"And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand" --
The word for pleasure" is "chephets", similar to the word "pleased" earlier in
the verse. It is translated "will" by the RSV. It is elsewhere translated
"purpose" (Ecc 3:1,17; 8:6). Those things which "please" God are those things
which fulfill His purpose. He has no "pleasure" in the death of the wicked (Eze
18:32); but, marvelously, He finds "pleasure" in the death of a perfectly
righteous Son, because that death brings salvation to others!
"He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his
knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their
"He shall see of the travail of his soul" -- "The fruit of the
travail of his soul" (RSV). It was decreed of man by the Adamic curse that only
by the sweat of his brow, only by sore travail, would he wrest bread from the
soil. By the travail of his soul, and the sweat of Gethsemane, Jesus persevered
under the curse and finally produced the "fruit", the "bread" of eternal life.
We are that "one bread", that "one body", the fruit of his travail.
"By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many" --
"By the knowledge of him" is probably the best way to read this phrase. Those
who would make this man's life an offering for their own sins must know of him;
this knowledge must lead them to repentance, confession, and baptism. Knowledge
of Christ is essential to salvation:
"This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus
Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (John
So Paul endeavored to "know him" (Phi 3:10), "in whom are hid
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:3). The people of Israel were
destroyed for lack of the knowledge of God (Hos 4:1,6).
This is the last of 20 references in Isa 40-53 to the
"Servant" (singular). This marks the transition; the work of God's singular
Servant has now climaxed in the justification of "many". Isa 54-66 has no more
references to the "Servant" but eleven references to "servants"
"Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the
spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he
was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made
intercession for the transgressors."
"Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great" --
"Great" is "rab", identical to the "many" of v 11 and that of the latter part of
this verse. Jesus will divide his portion, or inheritance, with the same ones,
the "many" who have been justified by their knowledge of him (v 11), the "many"
whose sins he bore (v 12). The "portion" is the inheritance of life and glory
and joy in the Kingdom. The companion-prophecy of Psa 22 speaks of this
"The meek shall eat and be satisfied; they shall praise the Lord" (v
The portion is the "feast of fat things", enjoyed on Mount
Zion when death is swallowed up in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away
tears from off all faces (Isa 24:23; 25:6-8; 1Co 15:54; Rev 21:4). This great
carriage Supper of the Lamb is typified by the miracles of the loaves and
fishes, and also by the memorial feast -- in which Christ has divided portions
with us, the "many" who are ransomed by his blood.
"And he shall divide the spoil with the strong" -- This phrase
is echoed by Jesus' brief parable:
"How can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he
first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house" (Mat
This parable was given in the context of Jesus' miraculous
healings. The "strong man" is the personification of sin and death (Heb 2:14).
Only one is stronger than he, and that is the One who has conquered death. The
healing of demoniacs by Jesus was a bringing near to man of the Kingdom, a
foretaste of the powers of the age to come, when he will wrest his redeemed ones
(the "spoil"!) from the hand of the "strong one" Death.
"And he was numbered with the transgressors" -- One of the
greatest ironies is that the only perfect man was consistently accused of sin,
and finally came to a criminal's death. During his ministry Jesus was labeled a
"blasphemer, a sabbath-breaker, a winebibber, and a colleague of "Beelzebub".
His friendship with social outcasts was pointed to as a sign of his depravity.
All who believed on him were to be put out of the synagogue (John 9:22). He was
hunted and threatened constantly. The climax, of course, came with his
crucifixion between two thieves, as if he were the worst of the three. His
countrymen asked for the release of a murderer and rebel instead of
Why was this so? If we will ask ourselves this, as we stand at
the foot of the cross, the answer will come. We are the criminals! We are the
ones deserving of torturous, violent death! All that the perfect man endured was
for our sakes, because of our sins.
For the man who blasphemed God's Holy Raise, Christ spent
sleepless nights in prayer. For the man who coveted, and even took, his
neighbor's wife, Christ denied himself all fleshly indulgences. For the man who
in hot anger or cold hatred slew his brother, Christ bore the Roman scourge that
tore his flesh and exposed his bones and nerves. And for us, "righteous" as we
might be in the ordinary "middle-of-the-road" sense, but sinners at heart if we
would but admit it, consumed with petty jealousies and grumblings, unthankful,
lazy, and often indifferent -- yes, for people like us -- Christ, the holiest of
all men, groaned and bled and died.
But even while we are cast down and humiliated by this
recognition, let us be lifted up and encouraged because through this man who was
numbered with the transgressors, God has reconciled us to Himself. Thanks be to
God for His unutterable gift!
"And made intercession for the transgressors" -- The one who
died for us has been raised from the dead for our justification (Rom 4:25). As a
high priest at the right hand of God in heaven, he intercedes for us. The one
who, while in the flesh, experienced every weakness and sorrow, yet without
sinning (Heb 4:15,16), is able now to save "to the uttermost" those who come to
God through him, since he lives always (7:25,26). All his life fitted him
expressly for this task, to be merciful and sympathetic of us his
New Testament Quotations
* * *
- Verse 11 -- Rom 5:19: "So by the obedience of one shall many be made
righteous" is probably a citation of "My righteous Servant shall justify (or,
make righteous) many".
- Verse 12 -- Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37: Jesus crucified
between two thieves.
- Verse 12 -- Mat 26:28: "For this is my blood of the new
covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Jesus was the
righteous "Servant" who gave his life a ransom for "many". We should never read
that word "many" as it occurs in the gospel records without thinking of Isaiah
- Verse 12 -- Heb 9:28: "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of
It would be a great pity if our understanding of the cross of
Christ were confined to the controversial issues that have so plagued
Christadelphians from their very beginning. It is true that error regarding the
nature and sacrifice of Christ must be resisted. But there is a danger that we
may exhaust our efforts in argumentation alone, and fail to grasp the other
aspects of this great subject, aspects that should touch our hearts!
* * *
To this end Isaiah 53 is invaluable. We must not read this
prophecy in a cold intellectual fashion. Rather, we should be lifted to
spiritual heights; our emotions must be touched; our lives must be changed, as
we strive in some small way to reciprocate the unearthly love shown toward us.
All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid on one man the
iniquity of us all. Let us examine ourselves, let us purge out all evil desires,
and let us return to the Great Shepherd. His hand is stretched out
* * *
The picture we see of Christ is different now. It is the same
face -- as portrayed by Isaiah, the same strong character, the same compassion,
the same tenderness. But the lines of sorrow and grief are gone. The visage that
was so marred has now taken on a beauty surpassing all the sons of Adam, a
radiant joy unknown to mortals. He is the firstborn of the family of God; and we
have been called to be his brothers and sisters.