Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When you make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
In four occasions we have explored the previous 12 verses. Today we conclude the section.
How can God the Father be pleased to bruise God the Son? How can He want to punish Jesus?
There is nothing in God that would make Him wish to hurt anyone. Of God, Psalm 104 says "You open Your hand, they are filled with good." Toward Israel, God has good will, Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." When ungrateful murderers crucified Jesus (I'm including you and I in that), Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Even as He hung naked on the cross His thoughts toward them were full of mercy and forgiveness while they laughed and gambled over who would get His clothing.
But this is consistent with Genesis one. When He finished creating the earth, He reviewed it all and was able to announce that it was "very good." There was nothing evil, wicked, or dangerous in all His creation. There were no traps, no landmines, no thorns, no thistles.
God is love, self-giving love. There is in His character nothing malicious, nothing dark and deadly. He gives life and wants to give life.
There is very limited circumstance where God would consent to harm another: (1) if that other was Himself, and (2) if He could save others by being punished in their place. Those are very particular parameters, and they are exactly the parameters of the incarnation. Jesus took our humanity in order that He might be a our faithful high priest. This meant that He had to be human like we are. That is, He must live His life in a humanity, like our own, able to die. And if He is going to provide an example of obedience in our humanity He has only one option: to give that example Himself in our kind of humanity. When He takes our fallen humanity it is so that He can live in it and it is so that He can die in it. It is, says the author of the book of Hebrews, so that He can be our faithful High Priest.
In short, Jesus' incarnation is so that He can get hurt for us; intercede for us; bear our sins for us; die for us.
And that means, so that He can love for us--so that He can absorb our punishment.
Isaiah says He has put Him to grief; the Father let Jesus receive our grief. He even put Him to grief. Only Jesus has a character equal to God's law. The law was broken. Only God himself could be punished with the full penalty. So, it was the Father, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or nothing. The three persons of the Godhead worked it out among themselves. All were willing, because all were equally loving and equally ready to suffer for others. But Jesus become the one who would take humanity and die for man.
An offering for sin must be made. Just as the animal sacrifices before the cross prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus, now He would come and offer His life for ours. It was voluntary. It was from love. It was supremely dangerous. The possibility of failure was real. But He determined He would save humans even if He must suffer and taste the second death for all men. His soul would be made an offering for sin, but it was a real offering. Nothing could be done that would cheapen sin. The very fullest penalty must be exacted, for a pure and holy God could in no way diminish the evil of sin. If He would bear it, Jesus must bear the penalty for our sins in full.
One of the most fascinating statements in our passage is "By His knowledge My righteous servant will justify many." Of course, we, you and I, are never saved by our gaining of knowledge. But this is the basis of many false religious views. Most cults or cultic movements have some particular point or points of understanding which, say they, are so important, that you must embrace and understand them their way in order to be "saved." This is fundamentally the gnostic heresy, the adherence to special knowledge as a means of salvation. There certainly are several points of knowledge which in themselves are very useful, important even, but we are never "saved" by our knowledge. Salvation is a gift given us by God by grace. As Paul states in Titus 3:4-7:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
So we are clear not only that we are not saved gnostically, by our acquiring knowledge, but also that we are saved by His mercy and that His mercy to us includes washing, regeneration, and renewing in that justification by His grace. Salvation transforms us.
But again, while we are not saved by knowledge, knowledge has a part in our salvation. Only, it is not really our knowledge, but Jesus' knowledge. "By His knowledge My righteous servant will justify many." So this has to do with Jesus' knowledge. What knowledge does Jesus gain by which He is enabled to justify us?
Here, it will help us to make sure we know what is meant by the term "justify." It is very common to misunderstand the meaning. People give the term a meaning as a common theological point of doctrine, where so it is taught, God declares the believer to be counted right but not actually right. This all roots back to Luther, who said we are "at the same time, saint and sinner," and to Melancthon, who managed to inject Erasmus' legal usage of a term meaning forensic justification into the common interpretation of the idea in Christian thought.
This is not the place to launch into a major revisitation of that topic, but we can say a couple of things.
The Hebrew term here is TSADAQ, translated "justify" or "do right." Let's engage in a brief word study. The same word is used several times across the Old Testament. Here are some uses:
You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute. Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify (TSADAQ) the wicked.
First Kings 8:31-32 (from Solomon's prayer dedicating the temple, repeated at 2 Chronicles 6:22-23):
When anyone sins against his neighbor, and is forced to take an oath, and comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this temple, then hear in heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked, bringing his way on his head, and justifying (TSADAQ) the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.
Job 27:3-6 (Job is defending himself as doing right and is saying God is not treating him right; he does not know that Satan is his actual persecutor):
As long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. Far be it from me that I should say you are right (TSADAQ); till I die I will not not put away my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me as long as I live.
He who justifies (TSADAQ) the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink, who justify (TSADAQ) the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice from the righteous man!
He is near who justifies (TSADAQ) me; who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near me. Surely the Lord God will help me.
Then we have our text, Isaiah 53:11, "He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous servant shall justify (TSADAQ) many, for He shall bear their iniquities."
In the context of all these uses, the meaning is not to treat the wicked as righteous, or the righteous as wicked, but to treat the righteous as righteous. When God TSADAQs the righteous, He is stating facts, not fictions. When a man does right because He is responding to the goodness of God and doing good in God's strength, he is justified; he is TSADAQ; he is righteous.
Thus, when we read that by His knowledge, by His experience, Jesus will TSADAQ many, we are reading that Jesus makes them right or regards their right-doing as right-doing. How does Jesus' experience lead to right-doing people?
Paul understood. We've been here before but look again at Philippians 2:5-8 NASB:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus was God, is God, and at that time He emptied Himself. He laid aside powers that were His by right as God, trusting those powers into the Father's keeping. He obeyed exactly as you and I obey, in the power of the Holy Spirit. He took our humanity and in that humanity, Romans 8:3 says "He condemned sin in the flesh." That is, He was TSADAQ in the flesh. The Desire of Ages 363,
In Christ the cry of humanity reached the Father of infinite pity. As a man He supplicated the throne of God till His humanity was charged with a heavenly current that should connect humanity with divinity. Through continual communion He received life from God, that He might impart life to the world. His experience is to be ours.
He not only makes sacrifice for us, tastes death for us by being executed in our place; He also lives a right life in humanity like our own. He lived n the Holy Spirit and by uniting our humanity with His divinity, He gave us evidence that divinity combined with humanity does not sin.
Finally, now consider this critical part of verse 12:
Because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
It was all needful; every part. He needed to be God to have a character that could give us righteousness. He needed to take humanity able to die in order to be enabled to die for us. He needed to live a sinless life in that humanity to provide us an example to us for how to do it. Jesus showed the way.
Remember that as our great High Priest, Jesus has the right to minister for us. As our sacrifice His righteous life stands in place of our unrighteous life. Coming here as the Lamb of God, as a voluntary sacrifice for our sins was necessary or we would be lost. But it was free choice for Jesus. He chose to do it for us because God is love and Jesus is the self-giving kind of love.
Again, he poured out His soul unto death. That wasn't in one especially difficult 20 hour run. It wasn't even in a 3.5 year run. It was in 33 years of living without sinning, always able to choose evil, never choosing evil, and with no intercessor for Himself should ever He falter. There was none to save. It was all or nothing for Jesus, every day, all life long. He poured out His soul unto death for a lifetime.
He was numbered with the transgressors. Although he was innocent, He never sinned, He took upon Himself our guilt, our sins, and was punished in our place. He stood with us, He was counted wicked with us, but He was as pure as the driven snow. He bore the sin of many. He was our sin bearer. He cleanses the sanctuary, He is the High Priest. He makes atonement for us and then removes our sin from the sanctuary. He is the Sin Remover. All these movies where someone heroically enters the reactor room and saves the ship but makes the ultimate sacrifice in the process, are all knock-offs of the ultimate story, the real story, the baseline story of the universe. That God who is love should bear our sins for us in our place and die to wash us in regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us abundantly (Titus 3:5-6), is the ultimate mystery. He would look on all those He redeems with joy and "see the travail of His soul and be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11).
He not only is the sin offering for us, He is the Sin Offerer. Isaiah 53:12 closes by saying He "made intercession for the transgressors." There what is featured? Nothing less than Jesus' High Priestly role, the one for which He had to become human to be our sympathizing High Priest. We are not saved by an alien superman; we are saved by a homegrown everyman. Jesus comes down all the way into His creation and redeems all of us who are willing. He is the ladder come down from heaven to earth, all the way down.
He didn't skip any rungs coming down and we are not able to skip any rungs going up. His love sacrificed for us, and our response is to sacrifice an infinitely smaller sacrifice for Him. And ours is meritless, righteousless. His sacrifice does all the saving; ours is merely the unworthy response of damaged creatures.
Although we have spent five weeks on this place we have only begun to look at this remarkable passage.
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