The Known Isaiah: Isaiah 52:13 - 57:21

Isaiah 52:13‑57:21  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Here the antagonism of the modern critics to the truth becomes as evident as it is without excuse. Their theory totally breaks down. What historical circumstances furnished a ground for such a prediction? The critics fall back on one or other of the rival evasions of Jewish unbelief, in order to escape the varied and overwhelming proofs that the Holy Spirit sets forth the Lord Jesus in the expiatory sufferings and future earthly glory of the Messiah. Impossible to ask an accomplishment of the verses that close 52. and fill 53. more detailed or more comprehensive, more reflecting divine glory, more providing for the guilt and ruin, yet deliverance, of God's people through One Righteous Man a sacrifice for many. Every resource of hostile ingenuity in the east and in the west, of ancient times and of modern, has beaten upon this house; but it has not fallen, for it is founded on an impregnable rock, around which are strewn the dishonored remains of God's enemies.
The sole objection which has any appearance of truth is the difficulty to ignorant minds that all its scope is not yet fulfilled. But this could not be consistently with God's ways and counsels, and is the less reasonable, because of the prevalent trait of prophecy which regards the end of the age, when human departure from God meets its judgment, and righteousness shall reign universally to His glory. No display of grace can match the Savior sacrificially dying for our sins on the cross; and what display of glory to compare with Him coming forth from heaven to put down every foe and establish a kingdom which will embrace not only all the earth but all things in heaven also? Now the prophet in presenting His humiliation and especially His death as an offering for sin does not fail to speak of His exaltation and height of glory when He is no longer hid in God but manifested to the nations, to the abasement of kings, and triumphant over the great and the strong. Christ at His First advent made clear what His then work was, and what remains to be made good at His Second. So He said, “First must He suffer many things and be rejected of this generation” (Luke 17), and “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory” (Luke 24)? God's ways are not as man's, who, if he aspire however high, lies down in sorrow, and closes in death; but Christ went down the willing Victim into death and judgment, in order to bear away sins righteously and lay a basis for holy blessing even of the most guilty, never to be sullied by evil, and never to pass away; and this to the glory of God the Father.
These are Dr. D's words (p. 221): “52, 13-53, 12 deals again with the figure of Jehovah's ideal Servant, and develops under a new aspect his character and work. It represents, namely, his great and surprising exaltation, after an antecedent period of humiliation, suffering, and death, in which, it is repeatedly stated, he suffered, not (as those who saw him mistakenly imagined) for his own sins, but for the sins of others.” Is it not distressing that a man should see and acknowledge so much which applies clearly, unmistakably, and exclusively to the Lord, and yet withhold the confession of His name? Who but Christ ever suffered from God for the sins of others? The italics even are his own. Yet not a word honestly lets out the truth of the One efficacious substitute for sinners, though “it is repeatedly stated” as he does not deny but confess throughout the passage. Hence the effort to apply it to Jeremiah, or to Josiah, is as vain as to conceive the Jews to be here so personified. They suffered for their own sins, as all scripture shows, and most justly. Nor has any nation been less patient even under God's chastenings, instead of suffering as a lamb without one spot or blemish or complaint. Even the more ancient Jewish interpretation points to the Messiah; and the evasions alluded to are modern comparatively (on the part of Rashi, D. Kimchi, Aben Ezra, as well as Saadiah Gaon and Abarbanel) through the strain of controversy with Christians. Their very Prayer-book testifies to this truth against them repeatedly.
And why is it that those baptized unto Christ and His death swerve from the evident aim of the prophecy with the more incredulous and antichristian Jews? Alas! it is the same spirit of error, the same antagonism to the truth so humbling to man, so glorifying to God and His Son. Possibly Dr. D. allows that the prophecy, though not all accomplished yet, really refers to our Lord, as the N. T. everywhere attests. But if so, where is the vaunted necessity for showing a specially suitable occasion in Isaiah's age? Where the distinct bearing on contemporary interests? Is the situation presupposed that of any O.T. prophet's age any more than Isaiah's? Is not the predicted glory based upon a condition of things existent only in Christ's life, death, and resurrection? And is not this, the necessary conclusion, destructive of the neocritical hypothesis in every form? The authoritative comment, the best interpretation, is the N. T., especially when we admit the light of the Lord's return from heaven to bless Israel and all the nations, times of restoring all things of which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets since the world began.
Hence even Dr. D. cannot get rid of the impression. There is no frank confession of faith, no gratitude for mercy so rich as the prophecy expresses toward Israel, and the New Testament applies in the largest and surest way to all who now believe the gospel. Still it needs no argument to demonstrate that the atoning death of the Lord Jesus perfectly meets what was here predicted many centuries beforehand; and no Christian ought to question that the anticipated glory and blessing for the earth as its result will assuredly follow in due time, which the hulk of prophecy also awaits.
Chap. 54. looks on to that day. It was in no way applicable to the returned remnant from Babylon. The principle does apply and is applied to the grace of God bringing in so many unexpected children of Abraham as the gospel does by faith of Christ (Gal. 4). But the direct and complete fulfillment can only be as a whole, when Israel's sorrows are ended, and they are gathered and established in righteousness, as far from oppression as fear, and the Holy One of Israel shall be called indisputably the God of the whole earth. No one of intelligence will say that their bright expectation is realized; every believer may well rejoice that God will be thus gracious to Israel in a day that hastens. It cannot be till Christ comes again.
Chap. 55. opens the door of mercy to others beyond God's ancient people. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” When Jehovah intervenes to save Israel according to the prophet, it will be on principles of grace which will bless the Gentiles who feel their need and hearken to His word to the ends of the earth. It does and can not fully express the gospel now; because, for those who have been baptized and put on Christ now, there is neither Jew nor Greek, all being one in Christ; whereas in the new age Zion shall be no longer plowed nor Jerusalem become heaps, but the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established in the top of the mountains and exalted above the hills, and peoples shall flow unto it as the religious center of the whole earth. Then the first dominion, the kingdom, shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem, as indeed Jehovah shall reign in mount Zion henceforth: a state of things incompatible with the gospel.
Chaps. 56. 57. consist of moral warnings, all the more impressed because of the grace which goes out so deeply yet so far and wide. For to grace evil is more offensive than to law which is its open condemnation. God carefully guards His grace from the imputations which fallen nature would cast on it. Hence saith Jehovah, Keep ye judgment and do justice; for any salvation is near to come and my righteousness to be revealed. Jehovah's salvation and righteousness prove to be the opposite of a license to sin, as flesh might wish and think. The sabbath was, and will be, so much the truer a test, because it flows from divine authority simply, not from the action of conscience which of itself condemns corruption or violence apart from God's commandment. Nor need any despair, however naturally powerless or distant. But grace is large, as well as holy and searching; and His house is to be open for the prayers of all who know and rejoice in Him whom once they slighted in their ignorance.
Chap. 57. pursues the same consequences as to the Jew. In that day it will be plain beyond mistake that Israel have no impunity, as indeed they never had, however they may have nursed the fond delusion. Idolatry, strange to say, will reappear among the Jews during the end of the age, as the prophet here intimates, in a way contrasted. with the eve of the return from Babylon or since; so too the Lord warns in Matt. 12:43-4543When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. (Matthew 12:43‑45). The captivity led to the going out of the unclean spirit. from his house, and the empty, swept, and garnished state which characterized “that generation” ever since. But the rejection of the true Christ will have as its issue in the latter days the reception of the Antichrist (see also John 5:4343I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. (John 5:43)), when the unclean spirit returns with seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Our Lord's application of the parable is indisputable: “Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.” Never the unclean spirit of idolatry returned to the Jew, still less with the full power of Satan in Antichrist. But as surely as the Lord spoke, it will be at the close of the age, when this prophecy also is to be accomplished. For “the king” (ver. 9) is none other than that ominous personage who is then to be adored by the apostate people, as “idols” will also be (ver. 5). Compare Dan. 11:36-3936And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 37Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. 38But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. 39Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain. (Daniel 11:36‑39): a prediction in the third year of Cyrus, never yet fulfilled, and expressly said to be “at the time of the end,” just before the final deliverance, blessing, and glory of Israel here below “in the glorious land.” What force does not all this give to the concluding words! “No peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” When it was idolatry only with its moral effects, it was “Jehovah” as in chap. 48:22; here, where is this darker sin of Messiah's rejection with its issues, it is “my God.”