The Promised Sacrifice (Advent 2020, #4)

The Greek word for death is Thanatos. If you cut out the “at,” you are left with “Thanos.”

***SPOILERS***

In Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark sacrifices himself to save the universe from death. From a certain point of view, the whole point of Tony’s existence—from Iron Man on—was to sacrifice himself to save the universe from Thanos. (There are statements in Iron Man that hint at this reality if you watch it again.)

With that said, it doesn’t negate the fact that Tony did many other things in the movies that included him. But those things pale in comparison to his sacrifice for the universe.

Similarly, Jesus Christ was born to die. It doesn’t negate the fact He did many other things in His thirty-three years, but those acts pale in comparison to His death and resurrection to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

This is why an advent discussion is not complete apart from a discussion of the work of Jesus on the cross. Because of His death and resurrection, all those who are in Him can be assured of future resurrection, and as such, we need never fear Thanatos (death).

The promise of Jesus Christ in Isaiah begins as early as Isaiah’s call to ministry. In Isaiah 6:13c, God promises that Israel would not be completely destroyed when taken into exile. They would be all but completely destroyed; like a tree chopped down whose stump remains:

The holy seed is the stump.

Isaiah’s first child was named She’ar-yashub, “a remnant will repent” (7:3). But this leads to the question: When will the remnant repent?

In Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah declares:

Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

The words of this verse do not match the words of Isaiah 6:13, but the metaphor is the same: agriculture. And it proves that the chopped stump will again be fruitful. Additionally, in 11:10-11, we read that this will be the day when the remnant repents:

On that day the root of Jesse
will stand as a banner for the peoples.
The nations will seek Him,
and His resting place will be glorious.

On that day the Lord will extend His hand a second time to recover—from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west—the remnant of His people who survive.

But when is “that day”? Has it happened yet?

I would posit that it is happening as i type this. You see, 11:1 and 6:13 both find common ground in a later passage of Isaiah. Our text today is Isaiah 52:13-53:12. But first, two individual passages:

He grew up before Him like a young plant
and like a root out of dry ground.

He didn’t have an impressive form
or majesty that we should look at Him,
no appearance that we should desire Him

Isaiah 53:2

Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely.
When You make Him a restitution offering,
He will see His seed, He will prolong His days,
and by His hand, the LORD’s pleasure will be accomplished.

Isaiah 53:10

The point of this post is to prove that Jesus is the remnant of Israel promised in Isaiah 6:13. The “holy seed” is Jesus–a singular, collective noun. This is why, after Jesus’ birth, He “grew up . . . like a root out of dry ground.” Root is the same word in 53:2 as it is in 11:1, 10. Seeds sprout and become plants. And beyond that, verse 10 says “He will see His seed,” which means He will be fruitful enough that there will be an increase of fruit. The apostle Paul says something similar between Galatians 3:16 and 29:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ. . . . And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise

When Isaiah refers to the remnant of 6:13 as the “holy seed,” he is speaking at one and the same time about Jesus Christ and about all those who are “in Him” by faith. But how can this be?

Our goal today is to walk through Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and observe how Jesus is both the promised “holy seed” and the hope of the remnant–“the holy seed”–at the same time. (For the sake of time, i will attempt to limit myself to two paragraphs per verse, excluding citations.)

See, My Servant will act wisely;
He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted.

52:13

The first thing to note about this text is that it is about “My Servant.” There are several passages in Isaiah that refer to this Servant: 42:1-7, 49:1-7, 50:4-11, 52:13-53:12. Motyer explains:

There is ground within Isaiah for thinking of the Servant as the nation, Israel: for example, the nation is called ‘my servant’ in 41:8 and the Servant is named ‘Israel’ in 49:3. But as soon as details of any such corporate identification (whether with the nation as a whole or with some ‘remnant’ within the nation) are probed, the theory collapses.

The Servant comes, then, as the bearer to the nations of what they have hitherto lacked: a veritable word from God, the answer to their needs as exposed in 41:24, 28–29. At this point, Isaiah does not ask who the Servant is. His task, to be the Agent of worldwide revelation, corresponds to the worldwide role of Abraham and his ‘seed’ (Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4). Furthermore, in 41:8, ‘Israel’ has been addressed as ‘my servant’ so that, at this point, the connection must be made: the Servant is Israel, the ‘seed’ of Abraham. We must wait to see how Isaiah will develop this basic truth.

J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 30, 292.

This comment, on 42:1, shows that initially the Servant is Israel. This lends credence to the contention of this post that the remnant is made up of many, but as the first paragraph cited above states, the theory collapses. Motyer further states (pg. 30), “In what sense could the nation bring the nation back to God (49:5–6)?” Isaiah’s whole point in his book is that the nation is sinful–almost beyond cure (cf. 1:2-10).

The only hope for the nation is the Servant’s mission. We know–based on Isaiah’s book as a wole–that the Servant in 52:13 cannot refer to Israel. This Servant will act wisely. As we continue through these verses we will discover what it means that He will be “lifted up and greatly exalted.”

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—

52:14

The first three verses stand as a summary statement of His mission. He will be exalted, and He will be disfigured. Therefore, His mission is not one of peace, simplicity, and prosperity. But we will see more of this in the coming verses.

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.

52:15

This verse picks up from the first line of the prior verse. The word many is key. Many were appalled at Him and His despicable appearance; many will be sprinkled (cleansed by atonement blood [cf. Leviticus 16]) by His work. Motyer explains well:

The priestly idea of atonement sprinkling (e.g. Lev. 4:6, 17; 5:9) is suitable to this context, and the element of surprise that such blessed results of cleansing and atonement should follow such tortured suffering is what makes kings shut their mouths, i.e. be dumbfounded. New truth has come to them, formerly untold, unheard before, but now seen and understood.

J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 376.

One wonders if kings shut their mouths because this Servant is also a king? As such, they are dumbfounded that a king would allow Himself to be treated in this way. They’d never heard of anything like this before. As Andy Mineo explained:

When you heard a story ‘bout the hero dying for the villain?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aULF0MDHtU

Who has believed what we have heard?
And who has the arm of the LORD been revealed to?

53:1

As we move into chapter 53, Isaiah continues the concept of disbelief. In other words, Isaiah is describing something utterly unbelievable. Right off the bat (in verse 1), Isaiah essentially says:

‘Who could have believed that this was the Arm of the Lord?’, i.e. the Lord himself come to act in salvation, as promised in 52:10.

J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 376.

From a human point of view, it is utterly impossible, which is why John shows Jesus saying no one comes to God apart from His divine drawing (John 6:44), and why Paul says what He does in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. But the story continues:

He grew up before Him like a young plant
and like a root out of dry ground.
He didn’t have an impressive form
or majesty that we should look at Him,
no appearance that we should desire Him.

53:2

This is the Christmas story. This is what we’ve been celebrating over the past few weeks. The agricultural metaphor here connects this Servant to the one promised in 11:1, and the “holy seed” of 6:13c. But, it is important to note that this verse–the first two lines of it–are the extent of the Christmas story in this passage.

You see, Jesus was born, miraculously, of a virgin, but only two Gospel writers (Matthew and Luke) even reference this fact. And only Luke shows Him growing up. Matthew (and Mark and John) jumps straight to His baptism. But all four describe–in great detail–the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. This was why He came. This is why i have to post about the “Promised Sacrifice” as part of an advent series.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from;
He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.

53:3

Isaiah wastes no time in describing the isolation the Servant felt during His time on earth. (For simplicity’s sake, He will be referred to as Jesus for the remainder of the post.)

Think about it: Jesus had experienced perfect fellowship with God for eternity. When He came to earth–interacting with fellow humans–there was not perfect fellowship. In fact, His was a life of suffering. It says here that He “knew what sickness was,” but this doesn’t mean He was always sick. Rather, it leads to the next passage:

Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,
and He carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded Him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.

53:4

He bore our sicknesses. Jesus need never been sick, but He chose to be for our sake. This word does not necessarily refer to physical “sickness.”

The semantic potential of both the verb and the nouns may be characterized by calling them general terms for a “state of bodily weakness,” to be translated “be or become weak,” “weakness.” This broad range can be limited through contextual determinatives to instances of physical or mental impotence, organic diseases, and injuries, so that in most cases “be or become sick,” “sickness” are accurate translations

K. Seybold, “חָלָה,” ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, trans. David E. Green, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), 402. Emphasis added.

Jesus didn’t literally bear our sicknesses on the cross. Rather, He took the punishment that we deserved. Every lash of the whip He received should have been ours. every bit of slander aimed at Him should have been aimed at us. Every minute suffocating on the cross should have been us.

To return to an earlier verse, who would believe that this was God’s plan? Rather, it looks from an external perspective like He was suffering for His own sins (cf. Luke 23:39-43). But Isaiah keeps speaking:

But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.

53:5

There is no doubt here that Jesus’ punishment should have been ours. He didn’t die for His own sin. He died for ours. He was punished so we could have peace (with God). Peace is a main theme in the last 27 chapters of Isaiah. “There is no peace for the wicked” (48:22, 57:21, 66:24). Jesus’ wounds heal us, because they keep us from the injury we deserved as a result of our sin–the cross, or more specifically: the Wrath of God (cf. Isaiah 66:24).

We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the LORD has punished Him
for the iniquity of us all.

53:6

This is a confession of sin. This is still being spoken as if it was someone who is spreading a message that others should believe (cf. 53:1). The speaker admits (in community) that he is a sinner who deserved punishment. But the Gospel is that Yahweh punished Jesus in his place.

“The iniquity of us all” does not mean every single person in existence. It means every single person who admits his/her sinfulness and applies the sacrifice of Jesus to his/her account by faith. In one sense, this is the main point of the passage. Have you realized your utter need for Jesus yet and called out to Him by faith for salvation?

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet He did not open His mouth.
Like a lamb led to the slaughter
and like a sheep silent before her shearers,
He did not open His mouth.

53:7

This shows how Jesus suffered. He didn’t put up a fight. He was silent. He passively allowed Himself to be beaten and killed. He passively allowed Himself to be the eternal sin offering for all who place their faith in Him.

He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;
and who considered His fate?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
He was struck because of my people’s rebellion.

53:8

This shows–without a doubt–that Jesus died. At the time of Jesus’ death, no one cared. People mocked and laughed and challenged Him to remove Himself from the cross. No one was aware of the history-shattering act that was occurring on the cross.

The final line explains that it is the Servant’s work in these verses that solves the problem raised as early as Isaiah 1. He was struck because of the people of Isaiah’s day. They were in rebellion (cf. Isaiah 1:2 is the same word for “rebellion). As early as Isaiah’s first chapter, he is setting up that the only hope for the nation is for another to die on their behalf. The only way for the people to “wash themselves and make themselves clean” (1:16) is for God to effect this cleansing (cf. 1:18-20). This only happens through the work of Jesus on the cross. Additionally, any king who comes to know the Lord by faith can say the same thing regarding the sin of their people (cf. 52:15-53:1).

They made His grave with the wicked
and with a rich man at His death,
although He had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.

53:9

Jesus died and was buried even though He had done nothing deserving of death (cf. Romans 6:23a).

Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely.
When You make Him a restitution offering,
He will see His seed, He will prolong His days,
and by His hand, the LORD’s pleasure will be accomplished.

53:10

This explains why He died. Yahweh was pleased to crush Him. The word for “pleased” here is the same word that describes the righteous man’s “delight” in God’s Word in Psalm 1. This sacrificing of Jesus pleased God; it delighted God. This is due to their perfect plan–before time began (cf. Revelation 13:8)–which the author of Hebrews describes as well:

Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:2, emphasis added.

Yahweh wasn’t pleased to crush Him just for the sake of crushing Him. Rather, it was that He might “see His seed.” This is what accomplishes Yahweh’s pleasure. The “holy seed” (collective) is only holy because of the work of Jesus on the cross. Therefore, they are only holy because they are in Him. Therefore, the promised remnant in Isaiah 6:13 is initially referring to Jesus. You plant a seed (singular) and a new plant grows, which bears fruit–containing seed (many).

“He will prolong His days” may very well refer to the resurrection, but it also refers to the continued–eternal–existence of His holy people.

He will see it out of His anguish,
and He will be satisfied with His knowledge.
My righteous Servant will justify many,
and He will carry their iniquities.

53:11

It is in verse 10 that you see the “one and the many” (corporate solidarity) come to life, and verse 11 expands on this truth. Prior to verse 10, the focus was on the Servant; as of “see His seed” in verse 10, the focus expands to the many as well.

The relationship of the one and the many is integral to the theology of the OT.

G. Goldsworthy, “Relationship of Old Testament and New Testament,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000], 82–83

The many will be justified as a result of Jesus’ work (cf. Romans 5:12-21).

Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion,
and He will receive the mighty as spoil,
because He submitted Himself to death,
and was counted among the rebels;
yet He bore the sin of many
and interceded for the rebels.

53:12

Yahweh, speaking through Isaiah’s pen here, explains that the many belong to Jesus as a result of His work. God places us “in Christ” as a result of our faith and repentance. This is a beautiful truth. Jesus completed His mission, and as a result, we have salvation.

Jesus was counted as no better than sinners, but the fantastical truth is that He bore the sins of sinners. As Paul would later explain:

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Place your faith in Him today!

You don’t know how many more days you have left.

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Scriptura
Sola Gratia
Sola Fide

Thanks for reading.

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