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This is a meditation of Isaiah's fourth so-called "Servant Song"



The Fourth Servant Song : Isa 52:13 - 53 :12

Song of the Awful Task





v.13-15   1. The Task's Success Declared

v.1-3       2. The nature of the servant - unrecognised

v.4-6       3. The purpose of the task - to carry our sin

v.7-9       4. The execution of the task - in silent submission

v.10-12   5. The outcome of the task


NB. For God's word to be meaningful we need to consider:

•  what the passage actually meant

•  how the things learnt can apply to ME.


NB. Watch for the repetitious style of the prophet – sometimes he says the same thing in three different ways – as if he realises we won't take it in if he just says it only once.


Prologue to this Study:


Isa 55:8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD

Lord, please, by your Spirit, teach me your thoughts and your ways.


  1. The Task's Success Decreed v.13-15


13 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 man and his form marred beyond human likeness-- 15 so will he 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.



See – look, take note of this. You need to look carefully or you may misunderstand.

My Servant – this is God's servant and because he is the Lord's servant, there will be no mistakes about what happens.

– He is here to do my bidding, to do the will of God

Will – this is definite, it is going to happen because it is God's will.

Prosper (the alt.) – he will achieve what he's sent to do. Prosper = succeed.

NB. In everything that follows, “naturally” it looks like total failure. If we used this language about a project we were involved in, we could consider it a total failure. We NEED to know from the outset that this WILL be totally successful in God's eyes!

Lord, I am your servant, I am here to do your will, to please you, for I know there is nothing better than I can do, and in this my soul will be satisfied.



He – watch in all that takes place, it will be he, the servant, who this happens to.

Will – again, as you watch you may wonder, but the outcome will be that he is exalted.

1. Raised – this will be done by others; this will be done to him. Somehow he is going to be elevated.

2. Lifted up – again the sense of others doing this to him. This of course was what happened to Jesus on the Cross.

3. Highly exalted – others will raise him and lift him up, but yet he will be genuinely exalted, seen to be above all others. The Father has raised him from the dead, lifted him up to heaven

Lord, may Jesus be exalted through my life, may that be so for then He will receive the glory that is DUE to him and men and women will be in the place where in return they will receive His blessing.



Just as – this sets off in comparison to v.15. On one side there is this, bad news, on the other (v.15) will be good news.

Many who were appalled at him – this was the response of many people to Jesus at some point. Why?

His appearance was so disfigured – a humanly ugly person would have been barred from society. No, this is something that happened to him.

Beyond that of any man – what was done to him made him look different from any ordinary person

His form marred – his whole bodily appearance was put out – such is the work of crucifixion

Beyond human likeness – he will be damaged beyond what ought to happen to any human being.

Lord, you allowed mankind to dress you, step by step, with disfigurement as you went down the path to the most inhumane forms of death. No person can say they have walked a worse path, and you deemed this the only way to redeem me – thank you so much.



So will many nations marvel at him (alt) – although many rejected him, many will hear and marvel.

Kings will shut their mouths – kings have a habit of pontificating, expressing their power and authority through words. When they hear the gospel they will be silenced, they will be convicted and silenced.

Yet, Lord, that which you have done will silence every mouth with its greatness. May you be truly honoured.



What they were not told – they will come to realise things as the Holy Spirit convicts them and brings revelation.

What they have not heard – they will not need extensive teaching from men for the Holy Spirit will let them understand the truth about Jesus.

The word of what you have done will come to many unsuspecting souls as your Spirit draws near and convicts. Thank you that you came to me.



2. The Nature of the Servant v.1-3 - Unrecognised


1 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 men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.



Who has believed – a rhetorical question perhaps implying, no one.

Our message – the prophetic word from God

To whom – is there anyone who had heard about this previously?

The arm of the Lord – the executive arm, or expression of God on earth.

No, this is all new revelation, no one else had a clue about this. In the N.T. Paul spoke about ‘a mystery', because it was something unexplained by God previously.

Lord, if you had not drawn near, convicted me and revealed this to me, I could never have dreamt of this.



A tender shoot… out of dry ground – Jesus stood out in the spiritually dry generation in which he lived. tender – gentle, vulnerable. Further descriptions of him follow.


No beauty – i.e. ordinary

Or majesty – no apparent ruler

To attract us – in the world stars attract the attention of us masses

That we should desire him – Jesus wasn't designed to attract us so that we would desire him for his looks. To the contrary….


He was despised – looked down on with feelings of contempt by the religious leaders.

And rejected by men – they pushed him away. He came offering goodness and wholeness and they chose instead Barabbas.

A man of sorrows – Jesus FELT – he didn't take all this stoically. His heart was racked with sadness at the folly and blindness of men.

Familiar with suffering – whatever the interpretation here, whether his own physical or others, needs, Jesus is one who KNOWS about suffering – same word as used for the suffering of Israel's slavery in Egypt (Ex 3:7). He comes to alleviate suffering for it was alien to God's original world, which was ‘very good' (Gen 1:31 ) or the final world (Rev 21:4) with no more death, mourning crying or pain.


Like – he is to be compared with

One…hid faces – people shy away from certain people

He was despised – 2 nd time – looked on with contempt – that's how far WE got it wrong.

We esteemed him not – that would have been the correct assessment of Jesus, but we, the human race, assessed him wrongly so we a) gave up on him at the crunch [disciples], b) purposefully rejected [Jews] or c) refused to be there for him [ Rome ]

Lord, I am so easily led astray and attracted by the great and the glorious, but that is not how you came. Teach me to be a tender shoot in the dry and arid ground of our society today. Lord forgive us our stupidity, that none of us stood by you but instead thought ill of you, that even today we are so prone to go other ways rather than hold close to you.



3. The Nature of the Task v.4-6 - to carry our sin


4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten 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 upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all



Surely – did he really, yes he did!

He took up – it's like he picked them up

Our infirmities – Matthew (Mt 8:17) saw this in respect of our need for healing from sickness, yet surely ‘infirmities' means more than physical disabilities. To be infirm means to be unstable, wobbly, unsure – that is the condition of fallen man. Our sorrows – As a result of that we have sorrows – we get it wrong, others get it wrong and the outcome is pain and sorrow. Jesus picks all these up and carries them away – we are delivered out of that darkness into the light of the love of God.

Lord, I am an unstable and unsure being and so often I blow it and pain and anguish follow, yet you come and go through my life picking off me these “infirmities”, and taking from me the burden of the failures caused by them. You change me and take them all away from me. Thank you so much for releasing me.



Yet... we considered – while he was doing all this, we thought he was coming under God's judgement, that the Cross was the result of him having brought on himself , unwisely, the wrath of God and of man.

1.Stricken – like disease strikes down a person, so we thought he was being struck down by God.

2.Smitten – we don't tend to use the word ‘smite' but it means to purposefully strike, so in a double sense we thought the Cross was god dealing with HIS sin.

3.Afflicted – when someone is afflicted with a disability it is imposed on them. Thus we (the human race) saw what was happening to Jesus as something being imposed upon him by God – it was no accident or mere consequence.

Lord, how we so get it wrong, how we so misunderstand in our folly. Please forgive our stupidity, our blindness our inability to rightly assess.




















But – no, instead something else completely different was happening to him.


a) He was pierced – Psa 22:16 speaks of his pierced hands and feet. Jn 19:34 records the piercing of his side. These were physical piercings – something alien entered his body – nails and a spear where they should not be! Yet his spirit was pierced – the knowledge of the awfulness of sin and the knowledge of separation from the Father, pierced his experience in the same alien way – he was the last person to know that experience surely – so utterly good was he, so did he know communion with the Father.

For our transgressions – to transgress means to go astray, to wander from the truth, from what is right. This is a continual tendency in the human race, to “wander off the straight and narrow”, a careless, negligent wandering away. There is a careless dimension to sin, but carelessness is not an excuse – we are still responsible.

Law of Negligence – if any person could reasonably foresee the consequences of their actions then a duty of care arises, and they will be liable for those consequences if they fail to exercise that duty of care. i.e. if you could have reasonably thought about it, you are responsible for it. No excuses!

b) He was crushed – crushed usually refers to the spirit (Psa 34:18), not the body, for Jesus' body was not physically crushed, but his spirit certainly was. When something is ‘crushed' it means a great weight has come upon it and squashed it completely out of shape, e.g. car in crusher.

In this case Jesus, who was so strong in spirit was totally crushed so that his spirit was so distorted in shape that even his awareness of his Father (which is what the spirit in us does) was devastated – hence, My God, My God…..

In these 2 descriptions he was both devastated FOR and BY. He was devastated as he took our punishment FOR our sins, but also devastated BY our sins coming on him – see below.

For our iniquities – iniquities are total failures, purposeful sinful acts. They are wilful wrongs as against careless wrongs, things we intended openly to do. It's bad enough, if you are God, for people to be careless about you. It is much worse when they purposefully do wrong against you, knowing it is wrong, knowing it is goes against everything you are, against everything that is good and true. These purposeful wrongs scream for punishment and scream into Jesus' spirit of man's rejection of him. They were utterly devastating – crushing! We need a fresh awareness of this in the church – the awfulness of sin and our desperate need for salvation.

Lord, as I see these two sides of my sin – this careless wandering away from the truth, and this purposeful doing of wrong and rejecting you, I am now devastated. Lord, how this carelessness wounded you, how this wilfulness devastated your sensitive spirit, and you did it that my guilt would be dealt with, that my wrong tendencies would be put to death, and that your life would be given to me to live responsibly and purposefully for you and for good, now.



The punishment – be quite clear, this is what the Cross was – punishment for sin. Natural justice demands a comeback on wrong doing – we see it in the youngest child – it's not fair!

Listen to the parent of a child run down by a drunk driver – they want retribution, they want pain for the offender – no one says to them, “Now, now, you're being too hard.” We understand the desire for revenge or retribution in the human heart when wronged. In our hearts we know we have offended God and deserve His action against us.

That brought us peace – we were at odds with God. We had either ignored him and gone astray (transgressions), or had blatantly rebelled against him and done evil things (iniquities) and we DESERVED punishment. While that was outstanding, God was unhappy in that justice was not happening. He still had stuff against us, uncompleted business! Jesus taking our sin and our punishment meant that justice was satisfied and that there was nothing outstanding between us and God – we were at peace



We all – this is all encompassing – it leaves no one out! I have gone astray! This includes me !

1.Like sheep – sheep tend to be stupid and given half a chance go off the path, that's why they have sheep dogs, because of this tendency in sheep – and in us!

2.Have gone astray – this echoes ‘transgressions' of earlier.

Each of us – if all didn't catch your attention, this should. It means each and every one of us. None excluded.

3.Has turned – we've gone away from the direction we should be going in, the way of righteousness and godliness.

To his own way – Jeremiah identified the same problem – Jer 2:13 " My people have committed two sins: They have (1) forsaken me, the spring of living water, and (2) have dug their own cisterns”

It is always the same twofold sin: 1) Turning from God, 2) Turning to self



And - and so , the result

The LORD – this was God doing this – this was not merely an act of man. Acts 2:23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

Has laid on him – this wasn't deserved, this wasn't self imposed this was imposed or put on him by the Lord as a purposeful act in history.

The iniquity of us all – that is the purposeful rebellion and wrong doing of the human race was attributed to him, and given to him to carry on the Cross.




The task of the Servant involved the following:

  1. His body was entered by alien instruments of death
  2. His spirit was entered by the terrible knowledge of sin and separation from God
  3. His spirit was crushed out of all shape and virtually rendered inoperable by the process.
  4. That process involved him carrying the punishment that we deserved, as he hung on the Cross.
  5. That punishment was for our transgressions , the wrong we did as we carelessly strayed from the path of godliness and righteousness.
  6. It was also for our iniquities , the things we purposefully and wilfully did, our rebellious wrong against God.
  7. The Cross was the Servant taking the punishment of God that was purposefully put on him as THE sin bearer for the world.


4. The Execution of the Task v.7-9 – in Silent Submission


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 her shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

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.



He was oppressed – oppression is more something that is done to the mind and spirit. The word for oppressors is the same word as for slave drivers. When you are slave driven you are made to do something you don't want to do.

In Gethsemane Jesus asked his Father to take away the path before him – Mt 26:38 he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death ” – the very thought of what he knew were the realities of being separated from his Father nearly broke his heart and killed him – then!

1 Pet 1:20 He was chosen before the creation of the world

Rev 13:8 the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world

He knew the perfect will of God – it was necessary to do this thing – but that didn't make it any easier;

Mt 26:39 " My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will ."

And afflicted – as we saw above when someone is afflicted with a disability it is imposed on them, so this is just another way of saying the same thing – it was put upon him!

Yet – despite having all that put on him…

He did not open his mouth – he remained silent in the face of history's greatest injustice that brought justice to eternity.



He was led – as a human he did not willingly go, that would be a perversion of humanity, but was led there by others.

Like a lamb – John the Baptist identified him as the ‘ Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (Jn 1:29 ).

The apostle John saw him as “ a lamb looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne ” (Rev 5:6)

At the Passover it was a lamb that was taken (Exo 12:3).

The idea of a lamb is young animal who is sinless, vulnerable.

To the slaughter – they are taking this lamb purposefully to be put to death. That is the clear objective.

And as – a likeness being shown

A sheep before her shearers is silent – a sheep is helpless, so there is no point bleating

So he did not open his mouth – Jesus similarly remained silent.

e.g. Mt 27:12-14 (before) the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?" 14 But Jesus made no reply.



By oppression (alt is ‘from arrest) – it was forcibly put upon him – they arrested him

And judgement – he was written off even before he was arrested – they judged him (with a wrong assessment) even before they took him.

He was taken away – he was removed from the scene, stopped doing what he was doing and taken from us, this bringer of blessing and goodness.

And who can speak – it seems like he was left without any children, any followers. What was it all for?



For he was cut off – this tender shoot (v.2) – his life was terminated prematurely

For the transgression of my people – because of the waywardness of Israel who had drifted so far from what they were called to be. Israel who deserved judgement, receive mercy, yet it was their transgression that brought about his death.

He was stricken – again, struck down. A purposeful act.



He was assigned – it wasn't apparently preplanned but was just given by the authorities

A grave with the wicked – being seen as a criminal, they would plan to bury him in a criminal's grave.

And with the rich in his death - Isaiah would probably think the rich were the wicked, but in actuality it was a rich man who gave Jesus his grave.

In all this the Lord releases a “Press Release” of the details of what will happen, even if His messenger doesn't fully understand what he's saying!



Though – despite the fact. This is going to happen contrary to what is deserved;

He had done no violence – this was no rebellion against the state that might warrant death

Nor.. deceit – he had not spoken anything wrong.

No, this was completely undeserved.


5. The Outcome of the Task v.10-12


10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring 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 E ; by his knowledge F 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.





Yet – contrary to human beliefs

The Lord's will – it was all part of God's plan

To crush – see above

And cause him to suffer – genuine suffering was a key element to all this – it was no cosmetic show – he really suffered – this was genuine punishment


And though – again despite this – now is coming another contradictory thing. See below.

The Lord makes – God was doing this

A guilt offering – an offering according to the Lord to deal with real and genuine guilt – that's what this was.



He will see his offspring – the servant WILL see good coming out of this – Jesus saw his disciples afterwards and He now sees from heaven

and prolong his days – his days won't be ended (must have appeared contradictory to Is's hearers)

and the will of the Lord will prosper – God's purpose is going to be totally successful despite the human appearance.

In his hand – the servant will achieve this by his activity – his hand indicates it is by his action. i.e. God's will is going to be fulfilled by what the servant achieves.



After – following what he has to go through

The suffering of his soul – the anguish that he will experience

He will see – this won't be a case of the servant just hoping it will all pan out – he will see the outworking

The light of life – light will come to him again after the darkness of death. Life will follow death.

And be satisfied – the work will be completely done, nothing will be left undone by this, so he will be able to feel good at the end of it that he's achieved what he set out to achieve, despite the horror of it all.



By his knowledge – or by the knowledge of him – by coming to know Jesus

My righteous servant – just a gentle reminder that although we had written him off, he was and is righteous, he is God's servant and the Lord has no cause to disassociate himself from him

Will justify many – justification is the partial end product – that people will be put right with God, just-as-if-I'd-never…

And he will bear - he's going to carry away

Their iniquities – as above – their purposeful sinful rebellion



Therefore – because of all this

I - the Lord speaks through His prophet

I will give him – God decrees this as an end for the servant

A portion among the great (or many) – Jesus is going to be numbered among those who are declared great

And he – the servant, Jesus

Will divide the spoils – after a battle, that which was taken was always divided among the victors.

The spoils of this battle? Peace, harmony, goodness, love, goodness, joy (see fruit of the Spirit) – given out

With the strong (or numerous) – the many who have been made anew and are now strong ‘in him'


Because – the reason that he can do all this

He poured our his life – he gave his life

And was numbered – counted among

The transgressors – he was viewed as a sinner



For – again a linking word, because of what he did

He bore the sin of many – this summarises his activity

And made intercession – he spoke up with the Father

For the transgressors – his whole life and activity was to appeal to the father on behalf of us who have wandered away from the truth and broken the Law of God. THAT was what Jesus, the servant, did!





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