Reading through the Bible together
Writing on this chapter makes me tremble. Who can say a word about the depths of pain suffered by Jesus, as God’s Servant on behalf of sinners!? Years ago, I read for the untold time the portion found in The Desire of Ages, pages 755-756, that speaks of what the Son of God went through for me at the cross. This one particular day, I was reduced to convulsing tears on the floor, literally overcome to the core by the love of a holy and just God. How could it be possible that God would love sinners like us so much? Over the years, I must have preached over 3,000 times, but in my experience, no series of sermons seems to grip the soul like preaching on Isaiah 53.
This is the fourth of the Servant Songs in Isaiah (after those in 42:1-9; 49:1-13; and 50:4-11). It is made up of five sections, three verses each, beginning with Isaiah 52:13. This is the passage that Jesus asked the rabbis about at the tender age of 12. It was the meditation on Isaiah 53 that brought to Him the first light of His mission as the Substitute for sinful mankind. This is the passage the Ethiopian eunuch was reading, which unlocked the mystery of the Messiah, thanks to Philip’s timely Bible study (Acts 8:26-40). This is the chapter that, in the words of a well-known evangelist to the Jews, “more than any other has been used by God to bring Jewish people to Himself.” It is about the core of Jesus’ mission, and His substitutionary death on the cross for mankind. The New Testament quotes from this portion more than any other in the Old Testament (Mark 15:17; John 10:11; 12:37; Rom 3:25: 4:25; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 2:9).
The report of good news in Isaiah 52:7 is met with disbelief: “Who has believed our report?” (Isa 53:1), Isaiah exclaims. Humans dismissed the Son of God because He had “no [princely] form or [majestic] comeliness” and had “no beauty that we should desire Him” (v.2). Jesus was despised and rejected all of His life, not just during His trial and crucifixion. He is truly acquainted with sorrow and grief (v.3). When we feel the world is against us, we must not forget that it also was against Jesus. From experience, He certainly knows how to sympathize with our feelings.
What can anyone say about what Jesus has done for us? He bore “our griefs” (literally, our sicknesses) and carried “our sorrows” (literally, our pains), He was wounded, pierced through for our transgressions, and bruised (literally, crushed) for our iniquities (vv.4-5). He was “cut off from the land of the living,” and for our transgressions “He was stricken” (v.8). He was made “an offering for sin” on our behalf (v.10), and “poured out His soul unto death” (v.12) for you and me.
When I think of the many times I have ignored, dismissed, or abused the great sacrifice our Savior has given for my soul, I fail to comprehend why He still cares. But more so, this infinite love shown at the cross so fills the soul that it is ready to explode, were it not for the kind hand of God that measures His overwhelming love in doses we can take. We cry out, with the author of a poem written a thousand years ago, and made into the well-known song: “O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!”
Read Isaiah 53. Read it again, and again. We cannot remain the same when we contemplate the infinite love God has had for His enemies (Rom 5:10). Many years ago, I wrote this quote on the inside of my Bible, which I’ll take out only when I see Him in glory: “He who beholds the Savior’s matchless love will be elevated in thought, purified in heart, transformed in character. He will go forth to be a light to the world, to reflect in some degree this mysterious love” (The Desire of Ages, p. 661).
May it be so with me, Lord Jesus.
Ron E M Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and Theology
Andrews University Seminary