THE SUFFERING SERVANT KING – 1
He was marred in appearance so we would be glorified.
Dear fellow redeemed: The season of Lent is a penitential season, NOT meaning that we “do penance” or somehow think that we make satisfaction for our sins, but that we take a little time to reflect upon the heart and core of our faith, that we were sinners doomed to an eternity of despair, but are saved by the risen Christ. A faithful observance of Lent assures a meaningful Festival of the Resurrection.
For our devotion this year we will be reflecting upon Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the suffering and death of Jesus, for here we have an account of His suffering – His “passion” just as we do in the Gospels, but looking forward, not looking back. So let’s “set this up,” starting by getting ‘way back and looking at the “whole forest,” the whole book of Isaiah.
The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are called the “Book of Judgment” or the “Book of Woe.” The remaining 26 chapters are called the “Book of Consolation” or the “Book of Comfort.” Chapter 40 begins, ““Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”” (Isaiah 40:1–2, CSB)
Right in the middle of this Book of Consolation comes this passage. It is preceded with a picture of a ruined but (with the common reversal theme) victorious Jerusalem, “Be joyful, rejoice together, you ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:9–10, CSB)
You are “Jerusalem.” You need to understand that there is a certain figure of speech that runs down the spine of a good portion of Scripture. (It’s called metonymy, “Metonymy is a figure of speech in which something is called by a new name that is related in meaning to the original thing or concept.”) It’s like when we say, “Hollywood is corrupt.” We aren’t talking about the hills in Los Angeles named “Hollywood,” we are talking about the culture associated with that place.
Zion is the hill on which the temple was built. Jerusalem is the city around Mount Zion. The temple is where the believers went to worship the true God. So “Zion,” “Jerusalem,” “My holy hill,” and so forth are all names for “the church,” the faithful believers in the true and living God.
You are Jerusalem, and one day the “ends of the earth,” the whole world, will see your salvation. You will travel from the ruined city of this world into the New Jerusalem, the dwelling place of the righteous. The Lord Himself will “go before you and be your rearguard.”
This salvation will be accomplished by means of the Lord’s servant. Think of the number of times Jesus said that He went to the cross to “do My Father’s will.” So, in the way of divine reversal that we have come to know, we hear of the “Suffering Servant” who saves us.
Who needs saving, after all? You see, it is necessary for the dying to defeat death, the sinful to be righteous, the condemned to be acquitted, the suffering to be relieved, the conflicted to find peace, the rejected to be reconciled. That is who we are, and that is who the servant of God, God the Son, became, in order to save us.
So now, our text:
13 See, my servant, will be successful;
he will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted.
14 Just as many were appalled at you—
his appearance was so disfigured
that he did not look like a man,
and his form did not resemble a human being—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations.,
Kings will shut their mouths because of him,
for they will see what had not been told them,
and they will understand what they had not heard.
The Lord announces His victory through Isaiah, 13 See, my servant, will be successful; he will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted. But in order that we share in that victory, and become known as righteous, the glory of Christ must be hidden. “Just as many were appalled at you— his appearance was so disfigured that he did not look like a man, and his form did not resemble a human being— so he will sprinkle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.” (Isaiah 52:14–15, CSB)
Just as Isaiah was hated, just as people saw no worth or value, much less divinity, in his words, so it would be with the Christ. He was hidden, “marred or disfigured in appearance,” so that we might be glorified.
Let’s talk about “glory,” since it is a word used often in Scripture. It is “δόξα” in Greek. It is a “shining forth,” like light, but it doesn’t mean that you will be like a great light bulb in heaven. It means that your goodness, your righteousness, your personality, your virtues, your communion with God, your love for Him and for others will all be apparent.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about this glory to us, who for now are in the midst of this broken world, “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–17, CSB) If you could see the person next to you NOW as he or she WILL BE, with the goodness, love, righteousness, virtue, spiritual life, beauty and wisdom that will be theirs, you’d be scared silly. You’d be temped to worship such a person. Such is the glory that will be bestowed upon us in the resurrection. This is the victory that the suffering servant wins for us.
But for that, he suffered the opposite. He was hated, despised, and treated as subhuman, as is all goodness in this evil world: Just as many were appalled at you— his appearance was so disfigured that he did not look like a man, and his form did not resemble a human being—
This is the opposite of His glory. The world not only does not see Jesus, but it misrepresents Him in every way. He was finally accused and falsely convicted of blasphemy because in raising Lazarus from the dead he incited the envy of the rulers. In our day and age, we in some measure “glorify God;” we let Him shine forth as the source of all righteousness and justice, yes, but also the One who loves the undeserving in Christ. In His glory people will see Him as the Lamb of God.
Using imagery that strikes a chord with Isaiah’s readers as well as with us, Isaiah goes on speaking the Lord’s word: 15 so he will sprinkle many nations., Kings will shut their mouths because of him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.
The sprinkling of nations is with the blood of the lamb, so that forgiveness may come to those who know the law, but not the gospel, who know the natural law, but not the gospel that comes through the word alone. Paul put it this way, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are subject to the law, so that every mouth may be shut and the whole world may become subject to God’s judgment. For no one will be justified in his sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law.” (Romans 3:19–20, CSB)
But with the understanding of the law from God’s word, and the sprinkling of the nations with the blood of the lamb, that is with the Gospel, our Suffering Servant King rescues out of this broken world into the glory that awaits us because of Him. For the law, remember teaches not just right and wrong, but the wrath of God over sin. Anyone who sins is cast off forever. The Gospel, again, is that Jesus took the place of anyone who sins, and He has reconciled us to God through His blood because … THE SUFFERING SERVANT-KING Was Marred in Appearance … (so we would be glorified.)