Behold My Servant: Part 6

Isaiah 53:11‑12  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Not less certain is it that the two concluding verses are the answer of Jehovah. Who but He could speak of Messiah as “My righteous Servant?”
“He shall see of the travail of his soul, he shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant instruct the many in righteousness, and he shall carry their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong ones; because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
The godly remnant had said in faith, “When Thou shalt make his soul a guilt (or, trespass) offering, he shall see a seed.” Now Jehovah responds emphatically, “He shall see of the travail of His soul.” It was no mere act done as a duty, though in truth out of the depths of His obedience. It was also “of the travail of His soul,” if these words ever applied to any suffering accepted in love, and endured for the glory of God and the salvation of the otherwise lost. What was it for the Holy One of God to be forsaken by His God, when He cried and could not be heard? when forsaken by His disciples? when despised of men, and scorned by His people, from the high priest to the meanest of the Jews? by the very robbers deservedly crucified on either side? Yet at no time was He so efficaciously suffering for God's glory; at no time so infinitely the object of divine delight, though His God who could not regard sin with the least allowance, so far from then delivering, made Him, the sinless One, sin for us.
Here and here only was the travail of His soul without a parallel; and hence the fruit of it no less unparalleled. It was thenceforward to be God's righteousness to justify the lost if they believed on Jesus, the sole way of salvation by grace for any. Others cried to Him who inhabited the praises of Israel. The saints before He came trusted, and Jehovah delivered them. But He went down under the burden of our sins, intolerable to all but Him; yet to Him more intolerable than to any; and He crying “Thou art holy,” yet the abandonment continuing till the atoning work was done, when from the horns of the buffaloes He was heard, and in departing could say, Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit. And the demonstrative answer came in raising Him from among the dead and seating Him at His own right hand on high. This was God's righteousness to Him (compare John 16:1010Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; (John 16:10)), who has also given us who believe to become God's righteousness in Him, and declares “He shall be satisfied.” For the Father's glory and God's glory thus He secured at all cost to Himself; and hence God, as God and Father, is concerned in glorifying Him who in love and according to divine purpose shares it with us. If He is head over all, we are His body and shall be associated with Him in His exaltation over all things, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth. Our text speaks only of the earthly people's part; but Eph. 1:10-1410That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:10‑14), is no less certain as to the church's union and glory with Him in all things heavenly and earthly.
The rest of verse 11 needs the more care, because it has been forced to speak in concert with traditional views, instead of its real and simple meaning. For the Lord's ministry is first set out, and then His sacrificial death. “Justify many” would be a singular departure from due order, before His bearing our iniquities; which if such a sense were intended would require the preceding place as the necessary ground for justification. But the verb admits where requisite of “instructing in righteousness,” no less than of “justifying,” according to the context, as is plainly demanded in Dan. 12:33And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:3). “They that turn to righteousness” goes too far, especially when we take into account that it is “the” many, who have an evil place in the prophet's usage: not “many” but “the mass” of apostate Jews in the last days, who had their prototypes in those who rejected the Messiah when He presented Himself the first time. These He patiently and zealously instructed in righteousness as minister of circumcision; as the wise or teachers will do in the coming days. “The many” in either case might be instructed in righteousness without being turned to it; for they appear to be in contrast with the righteous few and perish in their stubborn unbelief. Here too, as the phrase is “the many,” it would seem that the same objects are in view.
Hence too there is no need for departing from the regular force of the last clause, “and He shall carry their iniquities.” Such was the second part of Messiah's work, His death-work, as instructing in righteousness was His life-work before. “Justifying” is rather attributed to God on the ground of Christ's death. Hence the necessity for another rendering, required for the human instruments in Dan. 12:33And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:3), pleads strongly for a cognate force in Isa. 53:1111He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11), because it falls in with the order here, which is adverse to “justifying” before propitiation. The change to “for” He shall bear (or, carry) their iniquities was to make the clause square with justifying, which would have been a harder saying with “and,” the true sense.
Jehovah ends the strain (ver. 12) with the proclamation of Messiah's earthly exaltation and all the more because of His humiliation in suffering love. “Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong ones.” He is the mightiest and most enduring of conquerors; but the spring lay not in strength or wisdom or majesty or glory. It originated in infinite love, it flowed out in divine grace, of which He will be the most suited administrator in the day of glory; because He, to make all effectual both for God's glory and for man's need and blessing, had gone down into suffering unfathomable to all but Himself. So the prophet here expresses it, “Because He poured out His soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” He submitted to the last degree of creature weakness; He bowed to the foulest imputation of indignity; He carried the sinful load of not a few but “many,” and made intercession not for friends but enemies, “the transgressors,” who but for Him had been lost forever. What possibly plainer here than the sinless One suffering at God's hand sin's punishment, turning to God in bearing their evils that those who believe might be forgiven and purged, blessed and triumphant through Him? Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; but here primarily for repentant Israel. Yet as the substitute for guilty objects, He suffered at the righteous Jehovah's hand beyond all that man can conceive.