What Kind of Bargain is This!

Pastor Steve Ellison

Isaiah 53 has long been one of the most beloved passages of the Old Testament because it so graphically and accurately describes (in advance) what the Suffering Servant (the Messiah) would voluntarily submit to for the sake of His people. 

Pastor Steve Ellison

Isaiah 53 highlights the fact that it is the suffering of the Messiah that would result in the justification of those who repented of their sins and threw themselves on the mercy of the Lord. Without the suffering of the Suffering Shepherd, the sheep would be doomed to that suffering for eternity.

One of the mysteries of our Triune God is that He would formulate and carry out such a costly blueprint to save His creatures who were in active rebellion against Him. God the Son was, without cause, despised, afflicted, crushed, forsaken, pierced, scourged, and rejected so that we would not have to be. In spite of the fact that He was the only innocent man who ever lived, Jesus took our punishment without objection or protest.

Isaiah 53:7-9 moves the prophecy forward and asks an interesting and mysterious rhetorical question: 

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. (NASU)

Verse 8 is a mysterious verse. All agree that a question is asked but there is some confusion about exactly which phrase(s) are included in the question.

This much is clear. Isaiah declared that the Suffering Servant did not deserve the punishment heaped upon Him. He was the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice. Isaiah also plainly proclaimed that the punishment was due to the nation of Israel.  Isaiah honestly and fearlessly included himself in the group deserving of the punishment that was meted out to the Messiah. 

You and I must make that same honest assessment of ourselves.

Some see the question as involving the length of the Messiah’s life. Others see the question as related to the longevity of the Church founded by the Messiah. Others interpret the verse to be asking who among His contemporaries would correctly understand the Messiah and what happened to Him. Some believe the question is about the number of physical or spiritual descendants emanating from the Messiah.  

It seems best to me to focus on what God made clear in the Scripture. I was guilty before a holy God, and I deserved everlasting punishment. Christ voluntarily and without objection took that punishment upon Himself. I am declared innocent because I am in Christ.

There is much left unexplained in that mysterious transaction. The mystery adds to the awe and does not detract from it. Christ being punished for all my sin and I receiving adoption into the family of God because of that is the most lopsided transaction in all of history.  

The stroke of the rod due to me fell on Him, and I am forgiven because of it. I praise God that I do not receive justice. Justice would doom me. Who can rightly understand that bargain?