The World’s Greatest Sufferer
Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
The description of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah chapters 52 and 53 is one of the most compelling passages in the Tenach (Old Testament). This Scripture portion contains five prophetic insights concerning the suffering of the Messiah. The portrayal of Jesus within the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) shows how He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophetic vision.
The Identity of the
Who is the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12? The Jewish community, almost universally, considered this passage a Messianic prediction until Rashi (1040-1105), the esteemed medieval French rabbi, introduced an alternative interpretation. This great teacher, who interpreted the passage as a reference to the sufferings of the nation of Israel as a whole, has influenced Jewish teaching ever since.
Looking at the text and the context, however, demonstrates very clearly that an individual—namely the Messiah—is the reference, since the Servant is differentiated both from the remnant and from the entire nation. Here, the Servant suffers not only on behalf of Israel, His people, but also for the entire human race.
The Fame and Renown of Messiah’s Sufferings –
Isaiah 52:13 - 53:3
The One described in this prophecy is said to be the “Servant of the Lord” (Isa. 52:13; 53:11). The numerous synonyms indicate the magnitude of His exaltation (Isa. 52:13). Many will be disgusted by His bruised and marred appearance (Isa. 52:14).
There are at least 80 references to Isaiah in the New Testament, and many of these allude to this passage. Philip, the evangelist, did not hesitate to identify Jesus with the fulfillment of Isaiah 53 (see Acts 8:35).
The Purchase of Redemption through Messiah’s Sufferings – Isaiah 53:4-6
Messiah did not die for Himself. No sins are connected with His sufferings. He bore the grief and consequences for His people. Through His death, He made atonement for Israel’s transgressions and iniquities (Isa. 53:4-6). As our substitute, God allowed the Messiah to be attacked, because God’s people wandered off like sheep, so they might experience redemption (Isa. 53:4-6).
This text conveys the great theological concepts of Ransom, Propitiation, Redemption, and Substitution. Messiah’s bruising accomplished each of these
The Resignation to Messiah’s Sufferings – Isaiah 53:7-9
We read that there was no protest or complaint when Messiah suffered. In fact He was meek and gentle. He did not open His mouth to protest (Isa. 53:7). Amazingly, Jesus the Messiah did not ask for a defense.
The depiction of the trials of Jesus mirrors the suffering of Isaiah’s Servant. As the Gospels portray Jesus’ trials, Messiah was absolutely submissive throughout His sufferings and thoroughly resigned to all His cruel treatment (Isa. 53:7-9).
The Rewards of Messiah’s Sufferings – Isaiah 53:10-12
The Servant pleased the Lord (Isa. 53:10) and will see the fruit of His travail (Isa. 53:11). Because He would justify many and would bear their iniquities, He will receive the “portion of the great and divide the spoil with the strong” (Isa. 53:12).
The New Testament indicates Jesus had the privilege of interceding for the transgressors and still does as our great High Priest (Isa. 53:12; Heb. 7:25).
The prophetic insights gleaned from Isaiah 52:13-53:12 point us in one direction—to Jesus the Messiah and the wondrous gift of redemption that God extends to us through His suffering. Have you received that priceless gift?
President's Prayer Letter, March 2015
Shalom. I am thrilled with the wonderful things God is doing in Israel. The war with Gaza was traumatic and many of the most vulnerable Israelis are still recovering from the stress of the war. As you know our missionaries were in the middle of the conflict, doing all they could to comfort the suffering and try to get some of the elderly Holocaust Survivors and children out of harm’s way.
Even today we are still helping some of these beloved folks to recover from the daily threats of rockets, bombs, and indiscriminate terrorism.
May I share a few exciting reports from our post war relief efforts so that you praise the Lord with me for His faithfulness and hard work of our Israel staff?
Post-War Ministry Efforts Among Holocaust Survivors
One of the groups of Israelis who suffered the most during the war were the elderly Holocaust survivors—many of whom we minister to on a regular basis. Let me share with you a brief report from Maxim Katz, who leads this effort.
Shalom Dear Mitch,
I am always excited to be able to do another project for Holocaust survivors because we do not have a lot of time left to reach out to them. Each year, there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors so I pray God will give more opportunities to share His love.
Recently, we organized a three-day trip to the Dead Sea where they could rest and, more importantly, hear about God. About fifty people took part—most of them were not believers, and some of them told me that they have begun to sense God’s presence and that they are now open to Jesus being the Jewish Messiah.
We had wonderful fellowship with worship and Bible discussions. We focused on the lives of Abraham, Moses, and Paul. Specifically, I spoke about their lives before they came to know God and how their lives changed after they met Him. I paid special attention to the cause of this change. Thus, we could stress again the influence that God has on those who meet Him.
Most people came from Sderot and they were extremely grateful for an opportunity to leave the town for some time. The most thrilling moment was on the last day of the project. After the final meeting, we separated into three groups with a volunteer in each group and we prayed for these people and with these people for their needs and worries. It was such a great moment to see how they turned to God.
I thank the Lord for all that He does. It is especially encouraging to see the fruit—I rejoice when I see people change and come closer to God. I am happy when I can minister to them, both physically and spiritually.
Many blessings from Jerusalem,
Children’s Retreats – a Time for Healing
Holocaust survivors are not the only ones who need healing. As always in the horror of warfare, it is the children who suffer most unjustly. Chosen People Ministries held a retreat for 50 children, aged 10-14, from cities targeted by missiles.
This was an opportunity for volunteers to help these children and to build relationships with them. It was also another example of a credible witness for the Messianic movement in Israel, and Chosen People Ministries in particular, as this event was actually held in cooperation with the government branch of the Israel Ministry of Education. Maxim reported again,
Shalom dear Mitch,
It is always such a huge blessing to be able to take part in the work of God and in sharing His love. There was recently such an opportunity. This time it was a three-day camp for children from the South—Ashdod, Ashkelon and some other places. They could not enjoy their summer holidays because of constant rocket fire so we were able to give 43 children, aged 10 to 14, a wonderful three-day retreat.
As usual, we had a lot of fun and the children were extremely excited to be involved in all the activities, whether it was a jeep ride, playing games, or a show. For the children it was truly a lot of fun. They could see interesting things and spend quality time with each other and with us.
“From destroyed to restored” was the subject we concentrated on. We invited a woman who is a believer and a social worker. She specializes in working with people who have mental traumas as a result of terrorist attacks. She held a psychological art workshop for the children. The children smashed colored plates and made mosaics out of broken pieces of china. They took the mosaics home as a souvenir to remember that what has been destroyed can be restored and made beautiful again.
Each morning, we started with worship and spiritual fellowship that helped us focus on the day. The weekend coincided with Tu BiShvat—the Jewish festival that is known as the new year for trees. I spoke about the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the choice that was given to man. Deuteronomy 20:19-20 tells us that every tree that does not bear fruit can be cut down.
A person is also like a tree who needs water and, more importantly, spiritual water which we can receive only from Jesus. The choice that we can make is choosing either life or death. In Matthew 3:10, we read, “Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Therefore, we should chose and be determined to produce good fruit. I encouraged the children to do so.
I am grateful for the support and prayers that made this event possible.
Your Loving and Faithful Partnership
Our Israel team could not have held these three significant conferences without your help and faithful financial support. I hope you are as happy as I am to have had a role in making these historic conferences take place.
These ministries among the children and Holocaust survivors is typical of the kind of ministries Your Mission to the Jewish People does in Israel, in 20 cities around the US, and in 14 other countries around the world. We believe in loving Jewish people into the kingdom and to always make the Gospel of our Messiah Jesus clear and sensitively presented.
We are always looking for His opportunities to reach Jewish people for Jesus. But, we cannot do this great and prophetic work (Rom. 11:25-29) without your prayers and financial support.
Please pray about giving a generous gift that will allow our missionaries to take advantage of the opportunities for the Gospel. For example, we are developing a strategy to reach French Jewish people immigrating by the thousands to Israel. We are getting ready to launch our Isaiah 53 Campaign in the greater Chicago area—a city with almost 400,000 Jewish people. The time for letting Jewish people know about Jesus is NOW!
Thank you again for your continued support of Your Mission to the Jewish People around the globe!
First Fruits of New Life for Israeli at Brooklyn Congregation
Praise the Lord for giving Beth Sar Shalom Brooklyn (our Messianic congregational plant) the first fruits of what we believe to be a great harvest to come. Shmuel,* a young Israeli soldier who was visiting his cousin in Brooklyn (who is a member of our congregation), has received the Lord! After attending our Bible study and weekly service where he heard the Gospel explained in a Jewish way, he then went home and read the Scripture all night long. In the early hours of the morning, he surrendered his life to Yeshua (Jesus), his Messiah. Since then he has displayed a deep hunger for the Word of God: attending our services, participating in our small group gatherings, and meeting regularly with our congregational leaders. Rejoice with us!
Holocaust Survivor Receives Messiah
A member of our West Coast staff was introduced to a secular Jewish man, Yaakov,* an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor who had spent over five years in a concentration camp. They discussed at length who the Messiah is and explored a number of verses from the Hebrew Bible including Isaiah 53. They also spoke about how our sins must be forgiven on the Messiah’s terms. Then, Yaakov prayed to turn from his ways and to receive Jesus as his Messiah. Not long after his life-changing decision, Yaakov passed away. Please pray that our staff may continue to minister to Yaakov’s family.
Despite Hazards, Ministry in Israel Goes On
Unrest in Israel takes its toll and makes ministry there more difficult. Eugene L., who ministers in Maale Adumim, a community not far from Jerusalem, reports regular stone-throwing attacks upon the city’s light rail, as well as private cars and commercial buses that service the city. Despite these hazards, life goes on—and so does ministry. Eugene reports, “Spiritually hungry Jewish seekers continue to gather at least once a week for our Bible studies, often changing buses three times to get there. Two people have decided to be baptized and more have been calling us to request prayer or other forms of help.”
Messianic Flyer Draws Jewish Man to Faith in Berlin
The Lord uses many ways to draw people to faith in Messiah. Igor Swiderski sends along this praise report about Mikhail,* a Jewish man who has just now received the Lord. Mikhail explained, “Someone on the street gave me this flyer. I wanted to throw it away since it was about Jesus, but then I noticed the Star of David.” This was his explanation of how he first got to the Messianic Jewish congregation in Berlin where Igor presented a message from the book of Jonah. At this point, Mikhail has been attending for three months, and God has been knocking on his heart for decades. Igor relates, “Now was the time to open the door. It was pure joy to lead him in prayer to receive his Messiah and Savior!”
Chosen People Ministries Volunteers Reap Harvest for Kingdom
Larry and Eileen Marcus are longtime Chosen People Ministries volunteers in Arizona who have been a tremendous support to our staff there. While they were visiting a retirement community, Larry met David,* a Jewish man who not only was from Larry’s home city of Detroit, but had attended the same high school. With this much in common, they struck up a good relationship and over time their talk turned to spiritual matters. After some months, Larry led David to receive the Lord and continues to disciple him. Meanwhile, during the course of Larry’s visits, Eileen got to know Esther,* a Jewish woman in a nearby room. They too formed a friendship, and after reading Isaiah 53 together and additional spiritual nurturing, Esther also came to faith! *names changed
Who is the Servant in the Servant Songs of the Prophet Isaiah? Is it the nation of Israel, as the traditional Jewish reading maintains? Or, is the Servant a reference to the anticipated deliverer of Israel, the Messiah? While this is not easy to ascertain, a brief overview may give some insight into whether the Servant is Israel or the Messiah.
I. GOD’S SALVATION THROUGH THE SERVANT MESSIAH (Isaiah 49)
The first mention of the term “Servant” in this section suggests the Servant refers to Israel, since Isaiah speaks of “Israel” by name (Isa. 49:3). If this is the case, God promises to reveal His splendor or beauty through Israel. However, the context shows the interpretive difficulty, because it indicates the Servant is separate from Israel; God calls the Servant to bring Israel and Jacob back to God (Isa. 49:5-7). Thus, it appears the Servant is not the nation, but rather her Messiah.
Therefore, Isaiah looks forward to One from Israel who will have the mission to bring the nation back to the Lord. Through this person, the Messiah, God will not only realize His purposes with Israel and restore the nation (Isa. 49:8-13), but He will accomplish all His intentions for the nations as well (Isa. 49:22-26).
II. GOD’S SERVANT SON (Isaiah 50-51)
Who is He who comes to Israel and calls the nation to repentance? It is none other than the Servant, the Messiah of Israel.
One day, all the redeemed of the Lord shall return and enter Jerusalem even “to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their head. They shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 51:11).
III. THREE EXHORTATIONS OF THE LORD (Isaiah 51:9–52:12)
Isaiah concludes the passages we are examining with three exhortations for Israel to rise from her slumber.
The first is “Awake, Awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord…” (Isa. 51:9). The Hebrew Bible frequently uses “arm of the Lord” as a metaphor to show God’s power, typically in His active role as the deliverer of Israel (Ex. 6:6; Deut. 5:15). Isaiah speaks of a future time when God actively reveals His power to commission the rejected Servant, Israel’s Messiah (see Isa. 53:1-3). It is He who tells Israel, “I, even I, am He that comforts you….” (Isa. 51:12).
We find the second exhortation in Isaiah 51:17-23. Isaiah depicts Jerusalem drunken when they drink from the cup of God’s wrath, fallen and lying in the dust (Isa. 51:18-20). Yet this humiliation has one objective, namely that Israel at last may be the channel of God’s blessings, flowing out to all nations (Isa. 51:16).
The third exhortation is the wonderful passage beginning with Isaiah 52:1: “Awake, awake…Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem…for the unclean shall no longer come to you.”
In Isaiah 51:17-23, Jerusalem is pictured as a drunken woman lying helpless in the dust. God will remove the shame from His people and place the cup in the hands of her enemies. Here we find Isaiah’s prophetic assurance that the Lord will care for His people (Isa. 51:21–52:3).
Messiah’s salvation is full and free. The prophet Isaiah anticipates a time when there will be messengers who travel to Israel to proclaim God’s victory and how He has redeemed both Israel and the nations (Isa. 52:7-10). Will you be one who carries this great news to Israel (Isa. 52:7)?