Hebrew religious poetry is supreme in world literature for its beauty, depth, and moral elevation. In words of epic majesty, the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, considered by many the greatest passage in the Old Testament, presents a picture of the suffering Servant of the Lord. Nowhere does the Old Testament contain a more poignant story. The poem fills us with wonder. This Servant holds the key to the greatest moral problem facing man, and his accomplished work in its solution is the challenge of the ages.
The Servant is introduced in the fifty-second chapter, verses 13 to 15:
Behold, my servant prospereth;
He is highly lifted up and greatly exalted.
As many at first were appalled at him—
His visage marred beyond men’s,
His form beyond sons’ of men—,
So doth he startle great nations;
Before him kings keep silence,
Seeing what they never were told,
Perceiving what they never heard.
Then follow the 12 verses of the fifty-third chapter, at once presenting this challenging question: “Who is the Servant?” Scholars have advanced two main theories: 1. that he represents the people of Israel, 2. that he is an unknown individual.
SOURCE OF THE CHALLENGE
What picture does the passage give of the Servant?
1. He is portrayed in detailed features as a human personality.
2. He is an innocent sufferer (vv. 9, 12).
3. He is a voluntary sufferer (v. 7).
4. He is an obedient, humble, and silent sufferer (v. 7).
5. His suffering springs from love for sinners, including his executioners, who act in ignorance (vv. 4, 7, 12).
6. His suffering is ordained by God in love, and fulfills the divine intentional will and purpose (v. 10).
7. His suffering is vicarious, that is, substitutionary (vv. 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12).
8. His suffering is redemptive and spiritual in ...1
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