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A Midweek Devotional - Isaiah 53

From Unfolding Grace:

“In the exodus God freed Israel from slavery and spared them from judgment through the Passover sacrifices. Through Isaiah He promises an even greater deliverance — not just from physical bondage in Babylon but from spiritual slavery to sin and death. And He will restore not merely Israel but people from all nations. This redemption will reverse the curse and return us to God.

At the center of this salvation is God’s ‘servant.’ This is a title for Israel, but it also refers to a singular person: one ideal Israelite. The servant will live the faithful life Israel (and humanity) has failed to live, die as a sacrifice for sins, and then rise again in victory. Through this servant God will bring salvation to believing Israelites, and then all nations.”

Wednesday, June 30th

Larger Portion of Scripture - Isaiah 52-55

Focused Passage for Reflection - Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12

Reflecting on the Text:

For some of us — maybe for most of us — the gospel is hard to articulate. We know it is good. We know it is about Jesus. But what is it? Is it about being a better person? Is it about doing good things and serving others? Is it about learning about the life and teachings of Jesus? Well, in the heart of the Old Testament, hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah to give us one of the clearest descriptions of the work of Jesus in the gospel.

The gospel is bloody. That may sound strange, or even crass, but it is true. Isaiah describes the “servant” as being “marred beyond human semblance…so shall He sprinkle many nations.” (52:14-15) That marring came about as a result of the brutal, violent death He suffered at the hands of His persecutors. That sprinkling refers to His blood, shed for His people. This bloody rawness of the gospel is meant to break down any polite notions we have over our sin. We can and should be ruthless when dealing with our sin. We can and should be real when talking about it with trusted family members in the Body of Christ. We do this because the gospel is not primarily about polite manners, but about atonement for sin.

Which means the gospel is substitutionary. Isaiah speaks this truth as clearly as any place in Scripture.

“But He was pierced for our transgressions;

He was crushed for our iniquities;

upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with His wounds, we are healed.” (53:5)

The gospel is about Jesus taking our place. It is about the wrath of God being poured out on Him, instead of us. It is not about God excusing our sin. It is about forgiveness…costly forgiveness. In Christ, we are forgiven because Jesus became our substitute. But this is why the gospel is particularly good news: He didn’t then ask us to go and earn this favor so that we might somehow repay Him. He simply tells us to receive it by faith…gracious, true, dependent, transforming, trusting faith.

Which means the gospel is life. The servant Jesus didn’t merely take our place by taking our punishment. He also gave life. The chastisement that was placed upon Him “brought us peace.” (53:5) “When His soul makes an offering for (our) guilt, He shall see His offspring (us); He shall prolong his (our) days.” “By His knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant (Jesus), make many (us) to be accounted righteous.” (53:11)

Yes the gospel is bloody and yes the Gospel is substitutionary, but it is not dour or somber. It is a celebration because Jesus came to accomplish this mission of redemption so that His glory might be seen, and celebrated by all. This gospel is not primarily about polite manners, service projects, or religious rites. It is about reconciliation, through the bloody, substitutionary, life-giving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross…and through His victorious Resurrection from the grave…a victory which He will share with many who trust in Him. (53:12)

Questions for personal reflection:

  • How does this clear prophecy of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection change the way you read the Old Testament and find confidence in God’s eternal, unchanging Word?

  • How does this clear description of the gospel impact your desire to follow Jesus?

  • How does this clear description of the gospel help to focus your experience of the Christian life on Jesus?

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