3.) A Godly Leader Embraces God’s Greater Purposes of Hardship for One's Life
Learn to live in hope despite oppressive situations. We will begin to find the right way to understand and perceive our hardships. But even more, we will see how embracing God’s greater and more glorious purposes come to fruition from such situations.
Isaiah 52 contains the promises of redemption and deliverance. Isaiah 54 continues on in the same thought by speaking of the great work of God seen in the church and the splendor of the One who makes the church great. Isaiah 53, the Fourth Servant Song, is the means by which these promises and great aspirations for the people of God can be fulfilled. We all like free things. We might not even need the object but if it is free, we want it. And we are happy! But there are always a cost. Someone has to pay the bill. This whole section Isaiah 52:10-53:12 tell us the great cost of securing the promises and hopes for the people of God.
With the great degree of emphasis in this passage, we are moved to ask, “Why does it so emphasize the cost of salvation?” There are several reasons for this.
• First of all, God is trying to tie our hearts to the Savior our Bridegroom. He wants us to be thankful, appreciative and devoted. When we know of His great love, then we are apt to respond to Him with affection.
• Secondly, our salvation completely rests on the work of this Servant. We are not to be confused with other attempts to make us think any different.
• Thirdly, it is absolutely critical that we clearly understand this work of Christ for without understand and embracing it, we have no salvation.
• Lastly, the clarity by which we understand what will be summarized and emphasized in these verses has everything to do with how strong we will be as Christians.
Isaiah 53:10-12 provides a clear picture of both Christ’s work and its results. These verses, quite similar to what we might find in the Book of Romans, interweaves Christ’s propitiatory work along with the results of His work. We must never separate the two. They are welded together here. Our success is found in Christ’s great offering of Himself and nowhere else. These great works will be seen in the establishment of the people of God, the church. Isaiah 54 makes this announcement by unfolding a great picture of the church of God. Why Isaiah 53:10-12? This passage lays the foundation of the church of Christ. And that foundation which is oft mentioned is Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
From the beginning of the Servant Song, a puzzle has been set before us. We wonder how success can be combined with horrible suffering (52:13-14). Then we wonder how this same wretched one is to be used in bringing cleansing to many (52:15). Remember in Hebrew poetry, the first and last unit runs parallel in thought. This last stanza (#5) runs parallel to the first and clarifies the meaning of the remaining puzzle pieces.
Christ’s death is again and again mentioned here much like that mallet that is used to drive the wedge deeper and deeper into the heart of the log being split. The cracking-spitting sound is ever intense. It creates in us a great expectation. Why would it be God’s will for the righteous to die? Why would a good man die for the sinner? The questions demands an answer. We all sense some very important mission lays behind all this talk about death. We have seen that the work is on the behalf of others. But how one’s death can help another remains a puzzle. It is here in this last stanza we finally begin to see the grand scope of God’s glorious redemptive work of Christ. Let’s now launch ourselves into the middle of these three very powerful verses that lead us into the glorious results of the Servant’s suffering.
We never can understand the suffering of the righteous until we see the results that come from it. The “U” shaped diagram from 52:13-15 showed us that the results stemming from the promise would come to fruition. It is hard to tell how long the suffering at the bottom would continue on. But we can be sure at some point that God will cause the wonderful blessings to come about. All the suffering of the righteous will thus be rewarded. Of course, our sufferings are nothing compared to Christ. All of our blessings are wholly wrapped up in the blessings that Christ gained from being a wholly available servant.
Although some would see the death of Christ as an accident or something that occurred when God was not looking, we discover that it was completely opposite to this. It was planned by God. “The Lord was pleased to crush Him.” Just as if a you went to the market and saw a kind of vegetable that you wanted to buy, Would you choose the best or worse-looking vegetable? It is obvious. Those who have a choice choose the one that best suits their purposes. The Lord did not send Christ as a back-up plan but as His main strategy.
In Ephesians 1:4 it says “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” That means it was before Adam was born or man was created that this whole redemptive plan was chosen. The ramifications of this truth are many. But it is sufficient for us to recognize that sending Christ to die was His choice. It was not accidental but deliberate. He had something that He was accomplishing.
This word for ‘pleased’ is actually more often translated as delighted. God was not covering up His plan. God loved His plan even though it would be most difficult to carry out. God took pleasure in the pain to Himself but, and this is critically important, not for the pain but for the purpose that arises from the pain. Some people inflict all sort of pain to their bodies hoping that they would be more spiritual. Pain has no virtue in and of itself. Pain’s preciousness is found in what can be done through it. In other words, those things which can be accomplished through pain is more important than the actual pain one has to endure.
We are willing to suffer but only because there are greater purposes to be accomplished. It is in this abscess of pain that we see God’s love. His purposes were not based on His own preferences but His willingness to inflict Himself, His servant, so that others can share in His glory. This is the key to missions. The clearer we get this picture, the greater we can live for Christ.
It is interesting that Paul in Philippians again says to “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). This word for attitude comes from the Greek meaning ‘to think about’ or ‘regard with your mind.’ In other words we are not just to imitate the things Jesus does, but we need the right attitude to do those things that He would do. There are a lot of people who call themselves Christians but don’t at all remind you of Jesus Christ. What happened? They don’t have the heart of Jesus from which springs His faithful and kind service. They try to imitate actions without the right attitudes and motives.
Jesus’ pain had a purpose. Other than giving us an example on how to suffer for others, He Himself also became a guilt offering. He would suffer on our behalf. Our guilt would go from us and be cast upon Him. God would judge Jesus Christ His own Son because He took our sin was upon Himself. But note closely, there is a greater purpose. Many of God’s designs we will not fully understand until the end. If we took x-rays of a child’s mouth, we would see that there are some things embedded in a child’s gums. It is only later do we realize ‘the plan.’ When that first baby tooth in the child’s mouth comes out, God has arranged for those hidden ones to come in. God all along knows what He is going to do when the mother sees in alarm that her young child’s teeth have come out. There is a greater plan. The same is true with our salvation. He knows of the plan ahead of time and tells us of this even before it is done.
There are at least three direct results from Christ’s death on the cross mentioned here in Isaiah 53:10.
a) He will see His offspring (53:10)
This of course refers to the many people He would save. The offspring are the ‘children of God.’ Many are God’s creatures but only some are His children. They were adopted into God’s family through the death of Christ (cf John 1:12-13). His death brought life to a host of others like you and me and the many others scattered in hills and cities that still are to be reached. Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
The offspring’s existence is dependent upon whether the Servant would become a guilt offering. ‘When’ the guilt offering is provided, then He will see His offspring. God allowed the suffering so that He could cause blessing to rise up in our lives. This is His absolute love which we should never never forget. Tertulian rightly observed, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” It is from the death of Christ from which many others receive their new life. Tertulian spoke of the many Christian martyrs, but the pattern was set in Christ’s example.
It is no mistake that the main purpose of Holy Communion is to remember Christ. Some have drifted off in seeing a spiritual blessing in the elements themselves. This perhaps occurs because there is no real value seen in the suffering Christ. They focus more on the blessing of what they do rather than simply remembering to connect their hearts to the cross of Christ. We do well by remembering Christ rather than putting extra effort in the liturgy surrounding the Lord’s table.
How many offspring does God want? A few, many, a multitude? I have asked this question a number of times to groups of pastors. They are always fully convinced it is a multitude. They are right. Revelation 5:11 gives us a sneak preview of a scene in heaven. “And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands.”
Many Christians will work hard at evangelizing the lost, but I wonder if they have not missed out on the first and best opportunity to raise up new believers by having many children of their own. It is a fact that raising one's own children in the Lord is much easier and quicker than converting the lost. No wonder God desires His people to have many children. Just notice the difference of a congregation that has many young children and one that does not.
We need to be active in evangelism, discipleship and missions. It is part of our calling. He wants many offspring so we work toward that purpose.
b) He will prolong His days (53:10)
This second result, which the first gives hint of, speaks of Christ’s resurrection. Without the Gospels’ full explanation, this phrase ‘ He will prolong His days’ would indeed look contrary to everything being said about the Servant here. He was crushed. He was put to grief. Everyone knew what happened to guilt offerings. They were killed. See Leviticus 14:12-18. “Next he shall slaughter the male lamb... sprinkle some of the oil seven times before the LORD.” But here it says that His life will be prolonged. Jesus day’s were prolonged because He came alive and lives forever.
We need to understand this theological concept. Jesus Christ did die, but it was because He took on the sins of others. He Himself was fully righteous. Because He was righteous, death has no claim on His own life. “He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life” (Proverbs 11:19). Jesus came alive and lives forever. In summary, Jesus’ death was not because of His sins but because He took on the sins of others. Secondly, His life does go on because of His righteousness. He lives forever.
How blessed it is to know that He who gives away His life shall be saved and those who live for one’s life shall die. Our blessed Lord Jesus was raised and lives forever. A third blessing is listed next.
c) And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
Notice how Isaiah writes here, “the good pleasure of the Lord.” In the first part of the verse he writes ‘the Lord was pleased’ and now again he speaks about the Lord’s ‘good pleasure.’ The same Hebrew word for ‘pleasure’ is used. And it is here we so clearly obtain the perspective we need to have if we are properly going to endure suffering and pain.The righteous might suffer but they live under the special care and delight of the Lord. They should not feel rejected with their general poverty, lack of food, social rejection or persecution. God works greater things out through the affliction. “The good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.”
These last words are important otherwise people will draw the conclusion that this righteous Servant will suffer and be forgotten. But with such words as this, there is no way that people are able to draw a conclusion that the One who suffered will forever suffer. A hope of blessing always accompanies the suffering. The Lord delights in this action that crushes the Righteous Servant because in the end His death results in life and ongoing blessing. He will be greatly rewarded. This no doubt refers to Christ’s exaltation. He now sits on the right hand of God. There is another important aspect, however. Christ’s life and blessing will be somehow invested in offspring.
Interestingly we find in Ephesians 2 that it is not only Christ who sits at the right hand of God.
The Messiah pleased the Father by becoming a guilt offering. As a guilt offering He would take the wrath of God upon Himself. And yet because of this He would have offspring that would share His wonderful blessings. They would surely come about because Yahweh would prosper His hand. This all finds fulfillment through Christ's resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of the Father and His blessing upon the church.
God’s good pleasure is upon Christ and His offspring of obedience. It is here the results have become so apparent. The riddle is finally being solved, though we need the New Testament perspective to understand how it practically works out in real time.
The theological explanation for the blessings mentioned above is given here. Can you see how God specially uses the anguish of His faithful Servant? There would be times of anguish but stemming from it great blessing would come. Christ arose from the dead and therefore sees the good that came from His pain. When we looked at the ‘U’ shape (see 52:13-15), we saw that many want the success without the pain. There is no room in their mind given for suffering. Success in their eyes means that there is no sacrifice, no pain and definitely no blood.
Jesus’ success, however, was found in His pain, suffering and ultimately His death. Jesus Christ would justify the many. He declared that the many wicked who believed in Christ would now be declared righteous. There is no clearer explanation of the cross than in this verse. Let’s look specifically at what it says.
Christ’s death was in fact a guilt offering that satisfied the Father. God’s righteousness always must be satisfied. He rules righteously and any sin must be judged. His death then resulted in the justification of the many sinful ones. He Himself bore their iniquity. The righteous for the unrighteous that many might come to be declared righteous. Justify here means to cause to be righteous. It can have either a declared sense of righteousness or life of righteousness. Since the judgment is in perspective here, the former is probably more accurate.
Some Christians have a problem with this word ‘many.’ They want to see ‘all.’ I am glad the word ‘many’ is used at all. God did not need to save any but because of His love He saved many. He did not just make it so that some would be saved. He made it that the many would have a sure place of forgiveness. Christ secured their salvation.
What will be the result of His death? After Isaiah 53, the word 'servant' is no longer used in the singular form. The plural form, however is used eleven times, referring to the “many” followers or offspring (53:10). The apostle Paul called himself a servant. As Christians we all are servants making our lives available just like Christ did. The word 'justify' means to declare righteous. He bears their iniquity so that God's wrath is removed and they gain His righteousness (not mentioned here).
Application. We can never repay Christ’s love for us, but can we not show our affection? How do we see our new devotion lived out to the Lord?
This verse is one of the most meaningful verses in the scriptures. Yes, what the Servant has done is amazing. We are moved that God would die for any of us let alone many of us. But somehow the thought introduced here goes far beyond this. We might think it is perhaps out of pity that God saves sinners, but He did not just deliver us from trouble but shared His very best with us. He treats us as if we did all the work with Him, when in fact we did nothing but be the cause of His pain. Let’s see how this verse teaches this.
We finally see how the Servant will be lifted up. He will be alloted a’ portion with the great.’ His greatness will be seen in the way He is highly esteemed. Remember 52:13, “My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted?” This is where we now find Him like a general who won the war with all of its booty. But the verse goes on and explains what is not often seen.
He shares these riches with others. He who had all, gave up all, had nothing, gets crushed, then obtains all and then shares it with us who do not deserve anything. We did not win the war. We were the cause of His death. “He will divide the booty with the strong.” This word for’ strong’ refers to the many strong warriors. Strength in those days, as it is today, often measured in number of soldiers. And although they are referred to as the strong in one breath, in the next we are reminded that they are also the ‘transgressors.’
It is through His actual death (if it isn’t yet clear) that the blessing comes to us believers in Christ. And so Jesus the Conqueror has finished the bulk of the work and now continues interceding for the saints. The first 3 verbs are in the past tense. The ‘poured out,’ the ‘was numbered’ and ‘He Himself bore’ are accomplished activities. The last verb, however, is in the Hebrew imperfect making His interceding an ongoing action. “The Spirit Himself intercedes for us” (Romans 8:26). “Christ Jesus ... who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34). “Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus is portrayed as a willing servant who died for others because someone else wished Him do so. Quietly and humbly He went to the cross for the sins of the many. His death justified these many people. His death happened only once in history, but the effect of it continues on in the intercession for the saints but also in the way that they are being blessed by sharing Christ’s riches for eternity.
Do you realize that God not only had mercy and pity upon us but graced us? He treats us as if we had never sinned. Instead of judging us, He takes that judgment and then rewards us. He calls us to join Him in His work.
If down deep in your heart, you wonder how you should think about God’s love for you, I recommend that you use these verses to meditate upon. Think much how awful His death and suffering was. This was your guilt and mine. If our sin was not so bad, then He would not have needed to die such a horrible death. But His death was required and mentioned over and over again so that we might never forget. God does not want us to forget His love for us. He does not want us to sin.
When we apply this to ourselves, we must me merciful to all. We must forgive those who offend us. We mustn’t allow people’s offenses hold up God’s mercy that has been poured out into our lives. Sometimes we meet up with terribly rude people. Some of the worst are professing Christians. We still must remain merciful. Always be merciful whether it be to our colleague, wife, child or neighbor or even our enemy.
But we must also think about God’s grace. He extends His goodness to us and lifts us up to join Him. God does not just accept or tolerate us. He desires our fellowship. He welcomes us as a long lost brother to join Him in the great honor of serving God together and being rewarded forever. There is nothing more touching.
I shared this illustration from the caste system when in India. There are many castes. People are born into them and it pretty much dictates who and how they associate with others. If we thought of one in the highest caste who had pity on the lower caste. It would be one thing to give this peasant a job. That would rescue him from poverty. But this distinguished one went out and found a castaway child about to die. He personally picks up the child and brings him home. He not only cares for that child but then adopts him into his family and shares all his wealth and prestige with him. In a sense, he himself lives on in the life of this once castaway child. The child was totally inappropriate for this new life. But miracles do happen and the grace given to us is simply that: the miracle of God’s love. It is rooted in history but alive into eternity.
Many of us might have grown up not being treated as a special member of our family. If you did not, then it will be hard for you to understand God’s amazing grace. You will think that you are just a casual member of His family. He might tolerate you. But God wants you to know by the authority of His Word that He desires your presence. He wants to bless you so that you can be greatly blessed.
Having thus been loved, we need to have this same attitude toward others. How do you perceive other coworkers? What do you think about the members in your congregation? Do you value them? Do you love them. How special are they to you? It helps if we think this through on several levels.
Other colleagues: Do we want their best? What have we done to show this?
Other leaders in our church: Do we want their best? Are we jealous of our own authority that we worked so hard for? Or do we want them to succeed to be greater than ourselves?
Our spouses: Do we care about the amount of blessings our spouse will receive? Do we care for him or her? If her growth is dependent on how much we love her, how much has she grown? For example, think through how much time you spend with her. How much time talking, praying, and just enjoying her fellowship? Paul says our love for our spouses and their growth is connected (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Our children: Do we train up our children? Are they just tolerated or valuable members of our family? Do we have a vision of them being great men and women of God? Have you spent any individual time discipling them or revealing your hopes for their lives with them? Are we praying for them? What are we praying and why?
We need to carry forth this principle of grace to others, treating others better than they deserve. We must not stumble on this point. If we are saved by grace, then we need to live by grace.
A life perspective. If God has so poured out His grace on our lives through His death, then we need to trust Him for the way He cares for our lives even if it requires suffering or death. The apostle in Romans 8:32-39 carefully explains this.
Romans 8:32 succinctly summarizes the argument, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” If He has poured out for us such mercy and grace in Christ Jesus, would He not do everything good for us that is necessary? Of course. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. There is no basis for any doubt in God’s love constantly being expressed toward our lives.
What does the Lord have for our lives? We truly do not know until His plan becomes history and the last line of our life is written down. After Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved Him (this was the number of times he denied him just days before), Jesus told Peter what his end would be like.
Peter himself would be tested on his availability. He failed one test but would have others. During his life, he would be tested whether he fed the sheep. During his death, he would be tested whether he went where they would lead him to die. The Lord was in perfect control just as in Jesus’ case. He would be with Peter and He will be with us. The key is to ‘Follow Me!” We are to follow Jesus Christ as He leads us wherever it is.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
We all are in a race. Sin easily entangles our feet. We have a choice to put off these sins and run the race with endurance. Satan will come and tempt us with shortcuts. He will come and try to have us give up. Our hope is ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus’ rather than in our concept of success. Success is simply making ourselves available to the Father just as Jesus did. In His work on the cross, He is the author of our faith. In His life He is our perfecter of our faith. Wherever the pathway of service and life goes, it is there we must make ourselves available to Him. Although we make life commitments to serve Him, we need to remember that this requires the discipline of many individual decisions each day of our lives.
Are you available to Him as He made Himself available to you? Reconfirm your commitment today.
We need to better understand suffering and martyrdom if we are going to live out strong Christian lives.
• Revelation 2-3 Understanding the suffering of Christians
Read through Revelations chapters 2-3 where the Lord describes how He will deal with the seven churches. Write down and examine everything He says about how Christians might or might not suffer. What should their attitude be towards the different kinds of suffering?
• Revelation 6:9-11 The Biblical perspective of martyrdom
Read Revelation 6:9-11 and explain what is happening. What did they cry out? Is that okay? Why or why not? What specific things does this passage teach about martyrdom? How might you respond if you were chosen to be one that was to be martyred for the Lord? Why? You might reflect on John 21 where Jesus told Peter that he would be martyred one day.
• Psalm 149:4-5 Attitudes toward affliction
For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation. Let the godly ones exult in glory; Let them sing for joy on their beds.
Note at least three significant thoughts that are spoken of here regarding suffering and our response to it.
• John 15:1-5 Understanding God’s purposes for suffering
We should be tremendously moved by the power work of the Lord on our behalf. There is perhaps no better place to see this than in John 15. For God to have His only begotten Son to die for us on the cross He had to be totally committed to our welfare. The image in John 15 portrays how the Lord cares for us even during extreme testing in our lives. The image of the vine reminds us of several special truths:
1) God our Father is our caretaker.
2) We consciously depend upon Jesus for wisdom, strength and help (branch dependent upon the vine).
3) God wants us to bear fruit.
4) God already had Jesus die so that we could be His branches.
5) God will do everything in our lives that we need to cause us to bear more fruit: lift up and prune depending upon our situation.
Explain how you see God’s awesome work in your own life?
• 1 Corinthians 15 Resurrection of the Dead
Without the resurrection, Paul says he would have been so foolish to suffer for Christ. What is the resurrection? How does Isaiah 53:10-12 point toward His resurrection? Why is it so important in the Christian faith? Read and reflect on 1 Corinthians 15?
5.) The Glory Resulting from His Grief (Isaiah 53:10-12)
1. Who killed Jesus? Whose fault was it? Discuss God’s plan revealed in verse 10.
2. What three important results happened because of Christ's death as stated in 53:10? (Notice the “If ..., then ...” pattern).
3. Explain how God saves people. How does 53:10 relate to this?
4. What does ‘the many’ refer to in 53:10? Compare to Romans 5:12-21.
5. How are 53:10 and 12 similar? (Hint: Because .... (therefore) ....). Be sure to note the results of salvation from 53:12.
6. What does it say in 53:12e that the Servant is doing for His people today? Where does it state this in the New Testament?
7. Review God’s mercy and grace shown throughout this chapter. How should you then live out your lives? Pick out at least one circumstance where you want more of God’s grace abiding in you.
Biblical Foundations for Freedom
By Paul J. Bucknell
 Hengstenberg suggests that in the death of the servant there will be an animating power and thereby he will found his church. The introductory particle of the protasis, ‘im (when), shows that if there is to be a seed, i.e. the redeemed, the expiatory sacrifice of the servant must take place. Without the vicarious atonement there can be no redeemed people, no Church. Hence, all attempts to increase and to propagate the Church apart from the cross of Christ are in vain and doomed to failure. On the other hand, where the doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction is proclaimed, in its biblical fullness, there the true Church progresses. (A Commentary on Isaiah, Vol III by E.J.Young, p. 355.)
 The Muslims are said to occupy Europe by 2050 simply because of their large families.
 Of course we need to care for this offspring. Many Christians are not discipling the new believers. This act parallels a mother not nursing her infant. See more on discipling: www.foundationsforfreedom.net
 See Romans 5:12-21 for further use of this significant word.