What is the meaning of Isaiah 53:1? Why does this chapter begin with a question?
Isaiah 53 is better understood when we understand what God has said in the previous chapter. In Isaiah 52, God reminds the Israelites that they had voluntarily left their home and traveled to Egypt (v. 4) and were later scattered by the Assyrians (v. 4) after they had returned home. Throughout the chapter God declares that He will restore Israel to her land. When we arrive at verse 8, God says that He will restore her to Zion.
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, they shout joyfully together; for they will see with their own eyes when the LORD restores Zion. (NASB) Isaiah 52:8
In verse 10 God states that He has already “bared His holy arm.” That is, God was ready to demonstrate His power and ability to accomplish this task. He has rolled up his shirt sleeves and is prepared to do battle.
The LORD has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God. (NASB) Isaiah 52:10
The Lord God promised to go before them and bring them back to Jerusalem.
. . . For the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. (NASB) Isa. 52:12
The Exalted Messiah
When we arrive at Isaiah 52:13-15, we discover that the person God will use to return them to the land of Israel is called My Servant. He is their exalted Messiah. Then verse 14 makes a surprising statement. Just as others were astonished that Israel went into captivity, the Israelites will be astonished at the appearance of their Messiah.
Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men. (NASB) Is. 52:14
The face and body of their Messiah will be “marred.” The Hebrew word that is translated as “marred” also has the meaning of “disfigured” or “destroyed.” That is, the face and body of the Messiah would be disfigured and “destroyed.” Yet, their Messiah will “sprinkle” or cleanse the people of the world, not just Israel.
Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; for what had not been told them they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand. (NASB) Is. 52:15
Some day in the future, the kings of the world will understand who He is, shut their mouths, and bow down to Him. God’s servant was humiliated when He was rejected, beaten and crucified on a cross. But at some time in the future, He will be exalted when He reigns as King of kings and Lord of Lords (Rev.19:16) for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:4-6) over the world.
The Suffering Messiah
This is the setting when we arrive at Isaiah 52:13-15. The focus is on “My Servant.” He will be beaten and disfigured before He reigns. Is this servant a king or God’s Servant? That is a logical question that most people would have asked if they had heard the prophet Isaiah or read his ancient scroll. So God asks the question for us.
Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (NASB) Is. 53:1
Who would believe that the Messiah would suffer and be exalted? Who would understand and accept such a message?
Then Isaiah the prophet, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21), wrote the rest of Isaiah 53. The rest of the chapter becomes detailed and describes the life of Jesus Christ from His childhood until His death. The last two verses reveal that My Servant will suffer, die, carry the sins of the world and intercede for us.
. . . the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors. (NASB) Is. 53:11-12
“My Servant” is Jesus the Christ.
Suggested Links:Are we promised health and physical healing in the Atonement?
Easter: Jesus Lives Again!