Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Title: Born Our Suffering Servant King
Scripture Text: Isaiah 53
Reason for the Suffering Servant King
Remedy for Sinful Humanity
Response of Seeking Individuals
1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not 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,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Blessed Sunday morning to all. We are just 5 days away from Christmas Day. I pray that through our December pulpit sermons, our hearts are being prepared this Advent Season.
If you are into classical music, one concert you might be familiar with is Handel’s Messiah.
At our Esplanade Concert Hall, it was performed in Dec 2017. At the Sydney Opera House, it was performed in Dec last year.
And even in this pandemic, just this past week, it was performed, with safety distancing measures at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Some trivia about Handel’s Messiah. It was composed in 1741, was first performed in Dublin in April 1742 and received its London premiere a year later.
Handel’s Messiah has 3 parts. Part 1 is about the prophecies of the Messiah culminating in the announcements of the Shepherds. In Part 2 Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus.
Finally in Part 3, it covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven.
Significantly, the entire text of Handel’s Messiah is taken from Scripture, and good portions from Isaiah.
And the relevance to today’s sermon is found in Handel’s Messiah, part 2, scene 1 & 2. The text there is from Isaiah 53.
If you have not experienced Handel’s Messiah before, may I encourage you to do so. Watch it on YouTube.
And if you are watching the version from the Sydney Opera House, Dec 2019. Isaiah 53 is sung at the 1 hour and 8 mins mark and you can listen to it with your bibles open to Isaiah 53 for the next 25 mins.
And if you do have 1 hour, listen up to the 1 hour and 59 min mark, which would be the ending of Part 2 and it includes the Hallelujah chorus.
I thank God that He has gifted composers to write such oratorios. And gifted musicians and singers to perform them.
Viewing it, fills my heart with thanksgiving to God, for what He has done in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So even if you are not into classical music, I think as believers, we should at least view Handel’s Messiah once.
Before we look into Isaiah 53, may I give us some context.
The prophet Isaiah lived around 740 BC. At that time, the nation of Israel had already been divided into 2 in 900 BC nearly 200 years earlier.
The northern 10 tribes became Israel, and the southern 2 tribes became Judah.
Next year as we study 1 & 2 Kings, we will be faced with this history.
Isaiah was a prophet of Judah the southern kingdom. And he come on to the scene as Israel the northern kingdom had been taken into exile by the Assyrians in 722 BC.
Judah will go into Babylonian exile subsequently, but only in 586 BC. Some 136 years after Israel.
Isaiah 53, is written to the people of Judah who have not yet gone into Babylonian exile, but whom Isaiah is prophesying to, about the coming exile.
And he is addressing them as if they are in exile.
Isaiah’s message to the future people in exile, is God’s comfort while they are in exile. Yes, they have been brought into exile by a world power because of God’s judgement, yet, God has not forgotten them.
Isaiah reminds, God has a plan for their redemption.
Today, we Christians believe that this plan of redemption that Isaiah talks about, has already come in the man Jesus Christ.
Yet, we know, there is also a 2nd coming of Jesus that we can look forward to.
May the fulfilment of the promise of Isaiah 53 and the future 2nd coming of Jesus, fill us with hope this Christmas.
And how noteworthy it is, that this messenger of good news is named Isaiah. For literally translated, it means ‘Yahweh is Salvation’.
According to a prominent bible scholar Augustine in the 5th century AD, he described Isaiah 52 & 53 as the 5th Gospel. To Augustine, ‘it is not a prophecy, it is a gospel’.
So it is very appropriate as we prepare to celebrate Christmas in a few days’ time that we appreciate the Good News from this Old Testament text.
I’ve entitled the sermon this morning as ‘Born Our Suffering Servant King’. For those of us who are familiar with Isaiah, chapter 53 is 4th and final song about a divine servant.
This final 4th Servant Song describes the suffering and triumph of the Servant of the LORD. It is also a detailed passage concerning the death and resurrection of the Messiah.
Reason for the Suffering Servant King
Over the past 2 Sundays, Ps Luwin has helped us to see that sin is more than a global pandemic. It’s a cosmic pandemic.
It began soon after creation and has tainted every bit of creation since then.
And Ps Luwin showed us clearly how sin has marred humanity and the environment right up to today.
Even in sunny and green Singapore, we have been shocked by the recent news of how a 14 year old has been arrested on the charges of murdering his 49 year old father.
As we look at v4 – 6, we see that 10 times the plural pronoun, ‘us’, ‘we’, ‘our’ is used.
It reads like an accusation charge which is read out by the police. It seems, like this 14 year old Singaporean boy, we are in the dock and are being sentenced.
Isaiah initial audience were the people in exile. The people of Judah who had fallen into idolatry and sin against God.
Do we identify with these people?
We should, because as our past 2 sermons have show us, we are tainted by sin. As humanity, we are fallen. Our natural propensity is for wickedness.
Isaiah says, we are filled with griefs. This can be translated also as diseases and sicknesses. We believe as Christians, these are the effects of sin.
Diseases and decay are but the pathways to death which is the just penalty for sin.
And in verse 5, we have this key word for sin. Our transgressions. This means rebellion. This means there is a deliberate, intentional and wilful act of disobedience.
Are COVID-19 rules meant for our benefit and that of society? Yes they are right! Yet, as we have observed, there is a need for punishment, as a deterrence, for many will want to deliberately break the rules.
As any parent knows, if you want a child, not to do something, all you need to do is to tell the child exactly that.
Do not touch my handphone, she will touch it. Do not kick the ball in the house and he will strike it.
Why is it so? Because Sin is in us.
And God explains to us through Isaiah, it is because of our iniquities. This means we have an internal guilt, we have depravity within us. It means there is a deposition towards sinning in all of us.
Because of this deposition towards sin, God describes our ways in v6, ‘we all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, everyone, to his own way.
And I think Apple has helped enshrine this verse metaphorically in their products – iPad and iPhone. Apple’s products are highly customizable for each user. It feeds on our self-centred and self-serving desires.
I hope we still remember 1 & 2 Samuel. Even King David went his own way. He decided that he need not lead his troops into battle, like normal kings but instead stayed home and spied on a woman bathing.
After satisfying his lust and to free him of the guilt of making Bathsheba pregnant, he had her husband, Uriah killed.
Next year we will look at 1 & 2 Kings and in 1 Kings, we will come across the wisest man in the world. King Solomon.
Yet, he did not end well. Like King David, he strayed from the Lord and Solomon loved many foreign women and so collected 700 wives and 300 concubines.
The current split nation that Isaiah lived in, is a direct result of the actions of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon.
So the time of Isaiah, in 8th Century BC to today, 21st Century AD, covers a span of nearly 30 centuries.
Yet, we observe that humanity is still the same. Each of us, have gone astray from the Lord, everyone has gone his own way.
Our transgression and our iniquities are the reasons for the suffering servant King.
And so Isaiah comforts the people in exile, yes, because you cannot redeem yourself, thus there is a need for a deliverer.
And Isaiah’s words of comfort is the earthly picture of a spiritual reality.
Today, we need to realize that our spiritual state is like that of the exiled kingdom of Israel and Judah.
We are where we are because of our natural tendencies of disobedience towards God.
And when we come to that realization, then the meaning of Christmas will shine through. The solution of Christmas is the remedy for sinful humanity and that is our next point.
Remedy for Sinful Humanity
As mentioned earlier, Isaiah has 4 servant songs. I’m quite sure this was not the picture that the exiled people of Judah would have envisaged as their redeemer.
And I think this is still the same today as well.
Let me just give a brief overview of the 4 servant songs. This is God’s remedy for sinful humanity.
The first servant song in Isaiah 42:1–9. Introduced us to this divine servant.
According to this song, the Servant of the Lord is chosen by God, and God delights in Him. The Servant has the Spirit of God abiding on Him.
By quoting Isaiah, the Gospel of Matthew, applies the description to Jesus.
Mt 12:18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
The second servant song is found in Isaiah 49:1–13. It speaks of the Messiah’s work in the world and His success.
Isa 49:2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.
Eph 6:17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
In Isaiah 49:2, it describes the mouth of the Servant of the LORD as being “like a sharpened sword”. And biblical scholars believe that Paul must have had this image in mind when he wrote the letter to the Ephesians and described the word of God as the sword of the Spirit.
The third servant song is found in Isaiah 50:4–11. This song contrasts Israel’s sin with the Servant’s obedience. That the Messiah will be persecuted yet vindicated.
Isa 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.
Phil 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Israel went her own way, but the suffering servant did the will of God. And even through terrible disgrace and suffering, Jesus was steadfast in obedience.
Last week Ps Luwin shared with us the example of a Dalit who was murdered for sitting in the wrong place at a wedding.
It blew my mind as I’m sure, he was invited to the wedding, not that he gate-crashed.
Even today, humanity can’t bring ourselves to consider different human beings as equal.
Isa 53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
Scripture says, the creator condescended to become creation.
Jesus grew up like a young plant. But he did not have luxury. His was a root that was planted in dry ground.
So what a gracious God we have. Emmanuel has come, God with us.
In the form of Jesus of Nazareth, we have a God who understands us at our deepest core.
Isa 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
For those of us who have been spurned, Jesus understands for he was despised.
For those of us who have gone through much pain and suffering, Jesus understands, for he is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
The picture of the suffering servant king is not what the Jews wanted, but it is what they needed.
This Jesus who is divine yet human and who knows us through and through. This Jesus is what is needed for us too.
In looking at versed 4 – 6 again, we are instructed, that Jesus, being both human and divine became our substitute.
He was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.
Jesus was the sinless perfect human, yet He went to the cross only because of us.
For those of us who are believers, Isaiah 53 is explaining for us what propitiation means in the book of Romans.
Rom 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Jesus became our substitute, taking on the punishment which we deserve so that the anger of God can been turned away from us and placed upon Jesus.
And now, the righteousness of Christ is given to us.
Now let’s look at v8 and v9. If we are familiar with the New Testament gospel accounts, v8 and 9 of Isaiah 53 will sound familiar.
However if these descriptions do not appear familiar to you, may I invite you to read John chapter 19.
What is described in these 2 verses are literally fulfilled at the death of Jesus. He was wrongly accused; he was crucified besides 2 thieves and he was buried in a rich man’s tomb.
So the prophecy of Isaiah in 8th century BC, is fulfilled in great detail 800 years later.
And if you think that is spectacular, let’s review the whole of human history. Right at the beginning , the bible tells us that God had already revealed the plan in the Garden of Eden.
Speaking to the serpent, God says in Genesis:
Gen 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
And so Isaiah 53:10 says:
Isa 53:10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Jesus did not die because Judas sold him out and it just happened Pontus Pilate was playing politics with the Jewish religions leaders.
No, it was God’s will that Jesus be crucified and God in His sovereignty allowed humanity to be involved in the process.
And this has already been predicted in the Garden of Eden.
Significantly, Isaiah 53:10 tells us that death is not the end for Jesus, instead he will be resurrected, for he shall see his offspring and God will prolong his days.
So this morning, the bible tells us that the remedy for sinful humanity is Jesus, his substitutional death on the cross and His triumph over death by His resurrection.
Thus, if we thank God for Easter, where we commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then we need to celebrate Christmas.
Because Christmas starts the ball rolling.
There can be no Easter without Christmas.
Friends, the cost of remedy for sinful humanity is the substitutional death of the Son of God. And we note that it is God himself who took the sole initiative to be the solution for the sin that humanity has caused.
Upon Jesus was the chastisement that has brought us peace.
Why do many of us celebrate anniversaries – for example birthdays and wedding anniversaries.
It’s because that’s the significant day that resulted in all the subsequent relationships and experiences we have received up to the present.
For Christians, the solution to our eternal reconciliation with God began at Christmas when Jesus came to be born in a humble manger, grew up in a small town of Nazereth and was crucified for our sins.
Let Christmas then be the most important anniversary that we celebrate each year.
Response of Seeking Individuals
In the first century, there was an Ethiopian eunuch who was a high ranking government official who visit Jerusalem.
On his return journey from Jerusalem, I think he needed a rest and also like us, he felt it was not safe to read and drive at the same time.
So he stopped his chariot by the side of the road and began to read what was written by the prophet Isaiah.
Philip, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus was told by the angel of the Lord to go and approach this eunuch.
And as Philip approached the eunuch, the eunuch invited Philip up to the chariot and requested that Philip explained what he was reading from Isaiah.
The passage the Eunuch was reading was:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”
For all of us this morning, does these verses sound familiar? I’m sure it does, for it is taken from Isaiah 53.
The author of Acts tells us:
Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
This morning for all of us who are receiving God’s Word from Isaiah 53, what is our response to Isaiah 53?
If you have yet to place your trust in Jesus, may I encourage you to consider the response of this Ethiopian eunuch.
You are not listening to this sermon either online or in-person by chance.
You are receiving this because God is graciously reaching out to you with the invitation to begin a relationship with Him.
God is saying, acknowledge our sinful condition. Acknowledge God’s remedy in Jesus Christ. And now respond in faith like the Ethiopian.
For those of us who have already placed our trust in Jesus Christ, may we always be seeking to follow after Jesus.
And may I offer the following for our consideration:
Firstly, as I’ve mentioned, is Christmas the anniversary you most joyously celebrate each year? If it is not, can you reflect on why it is not? How could Isaiah 53 help you to recalibrate.
If we, who are born in sin, celebrate our birthdays, how should we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, who bore our sins at the cross?
If we celebrate our wedding anniversaries – let’s remember that the relationship between the husband and the wife is to be mirrored upon the relationship between Christ and the Church.
And Ephesians 5:25 reminds us:
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
It’s right and good to celebrate our love for each other. May Christmas remind us then of the greatest love, we have received from Christ our Redeemer.
Secondly, we see that Philip explained to the Ethiopian that Isaiah 53 points to Jesus.
This Christians, can we be a ‘Philip’ to someone?
For those of us who are bringing our non-believing friends to church on Christmas Day, you are being a ‘Philip’.
For those of us staying at home to participate in the service online, would you invite a neighbor to attend with you as well?
Let’s not stop at Christmas. Next year, when the church organizes Christianity Explored, can you be a ‘Philip’ and invite a friend to attend and accompany him or her through the journey of the Gospel of Mark?
Finally, in the example of the suffering servant we are reminded of what we have gone through in Philippians this year.
That we are to be gospel partners and specifically in relations to Isaiah 53, may we have Christ-like attitude:
Phil 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Man of sorrow what a name, for the son of God who came. Ruined sinners to reclaim, Hallelujah what a Saviour.