Author: Ron Graham
This lesson is a study of one of the key chapters in Isaiah, namely Isaiah 53.
Verse 7 is a key verse in the chapter. It speaks of one "led like a lamb to the slaughter" whom we understand to be Jesus Christ who was crucified.
- When the man from Ethiopia was reading this chapter as he rode home in his chariot, he was puzzled as to whom this "lamb" might be. He asked Philip the evangelist to explain it to him, and Philip "preached Jesus to him". (Acts 8:26-39).
- John the Baptizer heralded Jesus as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29).
- In the vision John had of Heaven, he saw "a Lamb standing as if slain" and this Lamb was honoured and worshipped as God (Revelation 5:6,12-14).
We therefore take Isaiah chapter 53 as a prophecy about Jesus Christ.
Three parts of the chapter
The chapter has three sections. The first is about the life of Jesus, the second about his death, and the third about his glory. So we will make these the three points of our lesson.
1 The Lamb’s Life
Verses 1 to 4 show three important aspects of the life of Christ. The four accounts of the life of Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, portray him in the same manner.
Not a man of outward appearance
Belief in Jesus is based on what one sees in the heart of Jesus, and in the words that came from his heart. Most people look at the outward man, at stately form and majesty, at attractive outward appearance. Jesus was a man of lowly birth and appearance. He was a king who did not look like a king. Therefore true believers in him are few (Isaiah 53:1-2).
A man of sorrows
The life of Christ was a hard one, in that most people did not esteem him as he deserved. Many followed him in a shallow way and later left him (John 6:66-71). Others, as Isaiah predicted, actually despised him (Isaiah 53:3-4).
Christ experienced hardship and rejection not only at his death, but right from the beginning of his ministry (Luke 4:28-30). The prophets of old, such as Elisha, experienced the hurt of doing good and being reviled and thus prefigure Christ (2Kings 2:23).
Led an exemplary life
Jesus was a good man, bearing other people's griefs and sorrows in the good works that he did (Isaiah 53:4, Matthew 8:17). There is another reference, later in the chapter, to the goodness of Jesus, that he never committed any violence or deceit (Isaiah 53:9).
Jesus led a sinless life. He "knew no sin" (2Corinthians 5:21), "a lamb without blemish" (1Peter 1:19), "in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
2 The Lamb’s Death
Verses 5 to 9 show three important aspects of the death of Christ. The very name "Lamb of God" would have no significance but for the death of Christ.
Suffered in our stead
In every line of verses 5-6, we find a contrasts of "he-him-his" with "we-us-our". These echo the contrast and develop the message in the first part of verse 4. Now, in verses 5-7, Isaiah emphasises that Christ’s punishment and death is vicarious.
A vicarious act is one that is done on behalf of another, or in another’s stead. Christ was punished not for any crime or sin of his own, but for yours and mine, that you and I could have our punishment cancelled. He suffered and died on our behalf that we ourselves should not suffer what is our due.
Caiaphas the high priest said, "It is fitting for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish" (John 11:47-52). You will note John’s comment, that Jesus not only died for his own people and nation, but also "for the children of God who are scattered abroad" over all the world (John 11:52, 1John 2:2).
Peter nicely summarises this wondrous fact about Christ’s death: "Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God..." (1Peter 3:18).
Jesus died with the meek submission of a lamb. He did not revile or curse those who punished him. "He did not open his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7).
And so we read, "While Jesus was being accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no reply... and he did not answer Pilate with regard to even a single accusation" (Matthew 27:12).
Again Peter nicely summarises this fact about about Christ’s death: "He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth. While being reviled, he did not revile in return. He spoke no threats, but kept his trust towards him who judges righteously" (1Peter 2:21-25).
Verses 8 and 9 predict that the life of Christ would be cut short by oppression and injustice. As it turned out, he was taken into custody by a crooked court, humiliated and killed like a criminal. Only his burial was allowed some dignity, lent by a rich man’s grave.
The passage ends with the injustice of his death. He was taken from life "even though he had committed no violence, nor was any deceit found in his mouth" (Isaiah 53:9). Peter, again, on the day of Petecost, voiced the injustice of killing Christ. "A man attested to you by God... as you yourselves know... you nailed to a cross by the hands of Godless men and put him to death" (Acts 2:22-23).
3 The Lamb’s Glory
God’s plan and pleasure
Verse 10 speaks of God being "pleased to crush him" and says that "the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in his hand". This does not mean that God the Father got some kind of twisted sadistic pleasure in seeing his Son suffer cruelly.
Yet God was pleased that his Son was willing to "render himself as a guilt offering" for the sins of the world, so that God’s plan of salvation could be accomplished. God’s pleasure came from the "result of the anguish of his soul" not from the agony itself.
God was "satisfied" and "pleased" because at last a full and final sin offering had been made for the sins of the world. Thus "the pleasure of the Lord" being his gracious will and purpose to save mankind, would "prosper" in Christ's hand, because Christ would render himself as the necessary sin offering to enable God to righteously forgive unrighteousness (Verse 11).
His days prolongued and prospered
Verse 10 also promises of Christ that God would "prolong his days". This refers to the resurrection of Christ from the dead to live forever. "He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through him, since he ever lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
Worthy of Glory Because He satisfied and justified
Verse 11 shows that Jesus "satisfied" the requirements of God’s strategic plan of redemption and thereby was able to "justify" many and "bear their iniquities". This is a matchless accomplishment and thus the Lamb of God is worthy to be exalted, glorified, and worshipped (Revelation 5:9-14).