Written by Paul J Bucknell on April, 25, 2022
MGL6 Isaiah 53:10-12 The Ultimate Glory of His Servant
Isaiah 53:10-12, the fifth stanza, describes how the godly leader embraces God’s greater purposes of hardship for his life. The Servant’s ultimate glorification issues great hope for God’s people who follow Him.
Learn to live in hope despite oppressive and vulnerable situations. As we discover the right perspective for understanding our hardships, we will be able to imitate Christ and embrace God’s greater and more glorious purposes which come to fruition in such situations.
“10 But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If (when) He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great (many), And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (NASB).
Isaiah 52 contains the promises of redemption and deliverance for His people. Isaiah 54 similarly continues on by speaking of God’s great work as seen in the church and the splendor of the One who makes the church great. Isaiah 53, the Fourth Servant Song, is lodged between these two chapters, providing the promises and aspirations needed for His people.
We all like free things. We might not even need the object, but if it is free—we want it. And we are happy! But there is always a cost. Someone has to pay the bill. This entire Servant Song of Isaiah 52:10-53:12 zeroes us on the high price to secure the promises for God’s people.
Due to this passage’s extreme emphasis, we are moved to ask, “What is the reasons to elaborate on the cost of salvation?”
Isaiah 53:10-12, the last verses of the Servant Song, provide a clear picture of Christ’s work and its effects. These verses, similar to what we find in the Book of Romans and 1 Peter, intertwine Christ’s work, His suffering and death, with the propitiatory results of His work. God’s Servant joined the two together. Our success is only found in Christ’s sacrificial offering of Himself. The great works from His death are seen in the establishment of the people of God, the church. Isaiah 54 makes this announcement by unfolding a great picture of the church of God.
- First, God is trying to tie an unbreakable bond between our hearts and our Savior, the Bridegroom. He wants us to be thankful, appreciative, and devoted. When we know of His great love, then we are more apt to affectionally respond to Him.
- Second, our salvation completely rests on the work of God’s Servant. We are not allowed to confuse His endearing and efficient work with our morality, devotion, or other commitment.” He testifies of our iniquity.
- Third, it is absolutely critical that we understand Christ’s saving work in detail to both believe and to pass on. Without Christ, we have no salvation; with Him we have eternal life.
- Lastly, deeply understanding these teachings is connected to the strength and devotion of our Christian lives.
Why Isaiah 53:10-12? This passage lays the foundation of the church of Christ. That foundation is none other than Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
From the beginning of the Servant Song, a puzzle has been set before us. We wondered how success can come from horrible suffering (52:13-14), and how this wretched one can bring cleansing to many (52:15). Remember in Hebrew poetry, the first and last unit run parallel in thought. This last stanza (#5) runs parallel to the first and fully clarifies the meaning of the remaining puzzle pieces.
Wherein before, Isaiah focused on Christ’s sufferings, here, Christ’s death is repeatedly alluded to. The mallet drives the wedge deeper and deeper into the heart of the log, until finally it splits. The cracking-splitting sound increasingly intensifies, creating suspense in us. We ask, “How can it be God’s will for the righteous to die?” “Why would a good man die for the sinner?” These questions demand an answer.
We sense a very important mission lies behind all this talk about death. There is one clue about how He works on behalf of others, but how his death can help others still remains a puzzle.
It is here in this last stanza that we finally begin to see the grand scope of God’s glorious redemptive work in Christ. Let’s now launch ourselves into the middle of these last three powerful verses that instruct us on the glorious results of the Servant’s suffering.
We never can understand the suffering of the righteous until we see the awesome results stemming from it. The “U” shaped diagram from 52:13-15 showed us that the original hopes and promises would at some point come to fulfillment.
It’s hard to predict how long the trial period at the bottom lasts, but we can be sure that God will cause the wonderful blessings to abound. All the Servant’s suffering will be rewarded! This passage further shows how all our blessings are wholly wrapped up in the blessings that Christ gained from being a wholly available servant.
1. God’s Good Will (Isaiah 53:10)
10 But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
Although some see the death of Christ as an accident or something that occurred when God was caught off guard, it actually is the complete opposite. This was planned by God, “The Lord was pleased to crush Him.”
If a you went to the market to buy some fruit, would you choose the best or worse-looking pieces? The answer is obvious. You choose the nicest ones! The Lord did not send Christ as a back-up plan but as His main strategy.
Ephesians 1:4 states, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” That means His redemptive plan, including His suffering Servant, was planned out before Adam’s existence. The ramifications of this truth are profound. It is sufficient for us, now, to recognize that sending Christ to die was God’s preferred choice. It was not accidental but deliberate. “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23). He had a purpose in all that happened to His prized Servant.
This word “pleased” is often translated as delighted. God loved His Son even though it was a most difficult plan to carry out. God took pleasure “to crush Him.” It is critically important to note that God took not pleasure in the pain and gore but in the purpose of the Servant’s pain.
People inflict all sorts of pain to their bodies hoping that it would help them when awards or be more spiritual. Pain has no virtue in and of itself. Pain’s preciousness is found in what can be accomplished through it. The mother’s birth pain brings forth delight in her newborn child. Those things which can be accomplished through pain are counted more valuable than the absence of pain.
We are willing to suffer but only because there are greater purposes to be accomplished. God demonstrates His glorious love through pain; He gives up His Son. His purposes are not based on the Servant’s preferences but on His greater plan—so that others can share in His glory. “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You’” (John 17:1). This is the heart of missions, bringing greater glory to God through challenging and sacrificial work. The greater we live for Christ, the clearer the rewards.
Paul, in Philippians says, “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). The word for attitude comes from the Greek meaning “to think about” or “regard with your mind.” In other words, we are not just to imitate the things Jesus does but also to maintain the right mindset when doing those things.
Many call themselves Christians but their lives don’t remind you of Jesus Christ. What happened? They don’t have the heart of Jesus, from which springs His faithful and kind service. They imitate actions without His attitudes and motives. The Lord humbled Himself by coming to earth and suffering: “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5). He left that glory behind to accomplish His service; He made Himself available.
Jesus’ pain served another equally grand purpose besides giving us an example to follow; He suffered on our behalf, in our place. In so doing, the Servant bore our guilt. Our guilt and penalty transferred onto Him. God would judge Jesus Christ, His own Son, because He took our sin upon Himself. This greater redemptive purpose called this into plan into action.
We will not fully understand many of God’s designs until the end. If we took x-rays of a child’s mouth, we would see that there are other teeth embedded in a child’s gums—this is God’s plan. When the first baby teeth in the child’s mouth fall out, God has arranged for those hidden ones to come in. God has it all planned out so the mother does not need to be alarmed when her child’s teeth start to fall out; God had already arranged for the secondary teeth to come in. There is a greater plan; the same is true with our salvation. He knows the plan ahead of time and shares it with us before it is done. This is part of the reason Isaiah 53 seems so cryptic in places.
There are at least three direct results from Christ’s death on the cross mentioned here in Isaiah 53:10.
a) He will see His offspring (53:10)
This term, offspring, refers to the children of God, the many people He would save—the church (Gen 15:5-6). While all living beings are God’s creatures, God only adopts some as His spiritual children through faith in Christ Jesus on the basis of the Servant’s death (cf. John 1:12-13). His death brought life to a host of undeserving people, like you and me—all characterized by their sinfulness. Many others, scattered in hills and cities, still need to be reached. Nothing will thwart God’s plan to reward His Servant. Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
The offspring’s existence depended upon whether or not the Servant would become a guilt offering. “If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring” (Is 53:10). When He made the guilt offering with His body on the cross, then many would become His offspring. God allowed the suffering so that He could cause blessing to rise up in our lives. This is His absolute love which we should never forget. Tertulian, the church Father, rightly observed, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Tertulian spoke of many Christian martyrs, but the pattern was indelibly set in Christ’s example.
The main purpose of Holy Communion is to constantly remember Christ and His work. Some have drifted off in seeing a spiritual blessing in the elements themselves. This perhaps occurs because we no longer cherish Christ’s suffering or understanding its crucial work. Isn’t this confusion much like the high priests in Jesus’ time who killed Him? The priests couldn’t see the purpose for which they served God!
How many offspring does God want? A few, many, a multitude? I have asked this question a number of times to groups of pastors. They are always fully convinced it is a multitude. They are right. Revelation 5:11 gives us a sneak preview of a scene in heaven.
“And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11).
Many Christians work hard at evangelizing the lost. We need to be active in evangelism, discipleship, and missions. It is our calling because He wants many blessed offspring.
b) He will prolong His days (Isaiah 53:10)
Isaiah also speaks of Christ’s resurrection. Without the Gospels’ full explanation, this phrase “He will prolong His days” would look contrary to what is said about the Servant in Isaiah 53.
He was crushed and put to grief. Everyone knew what happened to guilt offerings—the priests killed them (cf., Leviticus 14:12-18). “Next he shall slaughter the male lamb… sprinkle some of the oil seven times before the LORD.” But here it says that the Servant’s life will be prolonged. Jesus died, but His days were prolonged by coming bodily alive and now living forever.
We need to understand this theological concept. Jesus Christ did die, but not due to his sins; He was righteous. He died because He took on the sins of others. Because He was righteous, death had no claim on His life. “He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life” (Proverbs 11:19). Jesus came alive and lives forever.
How blessed it is to know that He who gives away His life shall be saved and those who live a self-life shall die. Our blessed Lord Jesus rose from the dead and lives forever. A third blessing remains.
c) And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand (Isaiah 53:10)
Surprisingly, Isaiah writes, “the good pleasure of the Lord.” In the first part of the verse, he writes how the Lord was pleased; and now the Lord’s good pleasure. Isaiah uses the same Hebrew word for both uses of pleasure.
This perspective serves as a foundational block for those who endure suffering and pain. The righteous might suffer, but they live under the special care and delight of the Lord. They should not feel rejected due to their general poverty, pain, lack of food, social rejection, or persecution. Each bruise and scar brings glory to God. God works greater things out through His people’s affliction. “The good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.”
These last words, “will prosper,” are critical. Otherwise, the conclusion will be drawn that this righteous Servant will suffer and be forgotten. But with such words, people are unable to draw the conclusion that the One who suffered will forever suffer. A hope of blessing always accompanies the righteous one’s suffering. The Lord delights in this predetermined action that crushed the Righteous Servant because, in the end, His death results in life and a great ongoing extension of God’s blessing. He will be greatly rewarded. This partially refers to Christ’s exaltation; He now sits at the right hand of God. There is another aspect, however. Christ’s life and blessing would somehow be invested in offspring.
Interestingly, Ephesians 2 teaches that it is not only Christ who sits at the right hand of God but also his offspring.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-7).
The Messiah pleased the Father by becoming a guilt offering. The sufferings and the guilt offering—the sacrifice of His body, satisfy God’s wrath. His vicarious death, vividly and repeatedly described, brought wonderful blessings to His offspring. They would surely come about because Yahweh would prosper His hand. This all finds fulfillment through Christ’s resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of the Father and the spread of the church around the globe.
The riddle is finally solved, though we need the New Testament perspective to understand how it practically works out in real time.
2. Effective Sacrifice (Isaiah 53:11)
“As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).
The theological explanation for the blessings mentioned in verse 10 is given here. Can you see how God especially uses the anguish of His faithful Servant? The Gospel does not exclude grief and acute pain, but instead, promises great blessings to come from it. Christ arose from the dead and therefore sees the good that came from His pain. When we looked at the U-pattern (see 52:13-15), we observed that many want success without the pain. There is no room in their mind for suffering. Success in their eyes means that there is no sacrifice, no pain, and definitely no blood. The God of the living, however, looks beyond death into life everlasting.
Jesus’ success, however, originated in His pain, suffering, and ultimately His death. Jesus Christ would “justify the many.” This “many” would include the wicked who believed in Christ; they now would now be declared righteous (lit. justify). There is no clearer explanation of the cross than in this verse. Let’s look specifically at what it says.
Christ’s death served, in fact, as a guilt offering that satisfied the Father. “Their iniquities” shows their dilemma; good works could not make them righteous. God’s righteousness (and justice) must always be satisfied; He rules righteously and all sin must be judged. The Servant’s death resulted in the justification of the many sinful ones because He Himself bore their iniquity. The Righteous for the unrighteous, that many might be declared righteous.
Justify can mean to cause to be righteous or declared righteous. Since the judgment is in view here, the latter—vindication or acquittal, appears to be the most accurate, especially with the New Testament’s interpretation. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21). We become the righteousness of God—but only because we are in Him, in Christ.
Some Christians have a problem with the word “many.” They want to see all, the all-inclusive ‘everyone.’ I’m glad the word “many” is used because God did not need to save any. Only due to God’s loving sacrificial plan did He save many. He did not half save, like making them better, but instead transferred their penalty of death upon His Servant so that many would be fully justified and saved. Christ secured their salvation so that they could fellowship with their Lord.
What results from His death? After Isaiah 53, Isaiah no longer uses the word “Servant” in the singular form. The plural form, however, is used eleven times, and refers to the “many” followers or offspring (53:10). The apostle Paul called himself a servant. As Christians, we all are servants making our lives available just like Christ did.
3. Blessings from His Death (Isaiah 53:12)
“Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (53:12 NASB).
“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.
“So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels” (53:12, NET Bible).
This last verse is one of the most meaningful verses in the scriptures. Yes, what the Servant has done is amazing; we are stirred by God’s Servant dying for many of us, even for those condemned in their iniquity.
However, the thought introduced here reaches far beyond the sense of mercy. We might think it is out of pity that God saves sinners; He is very merciful. But He didn’t just deliver us from trouble but shared His very best with us–that’s extreme grace. He treats us as if we did all the work with Him by dividing His booty with us! The fact is, we did nothing but be the cause of His pain. Let’s look more into this.
But let’s pause a moment and examine the translations. The NASB is confusing, “Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great.” The ESV is more accurate, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many” or “with the multitudes” (NET). We saw the same “many” is the prior verse. There is a parallel with the strong in the next line, but the word “many” along with the angels, “the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev 5:11-12).
The Servant will be greatly lifted up, partly by the great fanfare of His rescued people. In victory, He shares these riches with others. “He will divide the booty with the strong” (cf. Exodus 12:35-36). He distributes His booty for those He suffered and died. Now, He lives for them, distributing all His wealth with them! He who had all, gave up all, had nothing, gets crushed, then obtains all but more! He then shares all that He has with us who deserved nothing but judgment. We did not win the war but were the cause of His death. How incredible this is!
God not only displays His magnificent mercy, but His extreme grace, through His Servant upon the many. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). In the next chapter, Jesus tells them that He goes to prepare a place for them (John 14:1-4).
His greatness will be seen in the way He is highly esteemed. Remember 52:13, “My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted?” This is where we now find Him, like a general who won the war and took the plunder. But the verse goes on and explains what is not often perceived.
Past and Forward
And so, Jesus, the Conqueror, has finished His redemptive work but now continues interceding for the saints, “interceded for the transgressors.” The first three verbs are in the past tense. The “poured out,” “was numbered” and “He Himself bore”; they are activities accomplished in the past.
We have discussed this substitutional redemptive idea earlier. If somehow we missed it, Isaiah more clearly in verse 12 unfolds His dynamic, sacrificial love, bringing untold blessings to His people. In one breath and action, the Servant’s death brought atonement, “Because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many.” He actually bore our sins, taking them away, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
The last verb, “interceded for the transgressors,” or “intervened,” however, is in the Hebrew imperfect tense making His intercession an ongoing action. “The Spirit Himself intercedes for us” (Romans 8:26). “Christ Jesus ... who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34). “Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus is the willing servant who died for others because another wished Him to do so. Quietly and humbly, He journeyed toward the cross, giving up His life for the sins of the many. His death, happened only once in history The effect of it continues on, justified these many people. He now continues interceding for “the many” that they might eternally share Christ’s earned riches.
Contemplations on His Grace
God not only had extreme mercy and pity upon us but also pours extraordinary graced upon us. He treats us as if we had never sinned. Instead of judging us, He took that judgment upon Himself, and through His interceding work, calls us to join Him in His work that He might better reward us.
Consider God’s love for you by meditating upon these rich verses. I have added an extended appendix to “set up” many meditation sessions for you. Think how awful His death and suffering were due to our guilt and sins. Isaiah repeatedly mentioned the Servant’s death so that the fact of it might deeply touch our hearts. May we never forget His love for us!
Having received such mercy, we must be merciful to all. We must forgive those who offend us. We must not allow people’s offenses to restrict God’s mercy that has been poured out into our lives. Sometimes, we meet up with dreadfully rude people. Some of the most hurtful contenders are professing but offensive professing Christians. We still must remain merciful. Always be merciful, whether it be to a colleague, wife, child, neighbor or even an enemy. The challenge becomes our opportunity to replicate Christ’s mercy.
God has also awarded us His grace. He extends His goodness to us and lifts us up to join Him in His work. God does not just accept or tolerate us but desires our fellowship and service as His servants. He welcomes us, as a long lost child, to join Him in the great honor of serving God together and being rewarded forever. How stirring!
There are many castes, or subdivision of people in India. People are born into them, dictating who they are, what they do, and how they associate with others. We might find one belonging to the highest caste who had pity on one from a lower caste. It would be one thing to give this peasant a job. That would rescue him from poverty. But this distinguished one went out and found a castaway child about to die. He violates social laws by personally picking up the child and bringing him home. He not only cares for that child but then adopts him into his family and shares all his wealth and prestige with him. In a sense, he himself lives on in the life of this once castaway child. The child was totally unworthy of this new life of wealth and prestige. But miracles do happen, and the grace given to us is simply this miracle of God’s love, imprinted in history and alive into eternity.
Many of us have grown up not being treated as a special member of our family. If this was your experience then it will be hard for you to understand God’s amazing grace. You will think that you are just a casual member of His family. You think He might just tolerate you, but God wants you to know by the authority of His Word that He desires your presence. He wants to bless you so that you can be greatly blessed.
A Life Perspective
If God has poured out His grace in our lives through the Servant’s death, then we need to trust Him for our lives—even if it requires suffering or death. The apostle Paul, in Romans 8:32-39, carefully explains this.
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:32-39).
Romans 8:32 succinctly summarizes the argument, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” If He has poured such mercy and grace in Christ Jesus upon us, will He not do everything good for us that is necessary? Of course. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. There is no basis for any doubt in God’s constant love expressed toward our lives, no matter how fierce the moment.
Summary of the Fourth Servant Song
What does the Lord have for our lives? We truly do not know until His plan becomes history and our last breath marks the last entry of our lives. After Jesus asked Peter three times whether or not he loved Him (this was the same number of times Peter denied Him just days before), Jesus told Peter what his end would be like.
“17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”” (John 21: 17-19)
Peter himself would be tested on his availability. He failed one test but would have other opportunities. During his life, he would be tested on whether or not he fed the sheep. During his death, he would be tested on whether he went where they would lead him to die (19). The Lord perfectly oversaw Peter’s situation and will likewise watch over ours. The key is to “Follow Me!” We are to follow God’s Servant, Jesus Christ, wherever He leads.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
We all are in a race, but sin easily trips us up. We have, however, a choice to put off sin and run the race with endurance. Satan will predictably come and tempt us with shortcuts. He will tempt us to despair and want us to give up hope. We must pin our hope on finishing the race well by “fixing our eyes on Jesus” who endured and secured that success.
Success is simply making ourselves available to the Father, just as Jesus did. He is the author of our faith by virtue of His work on the cross. In His life, He is our perfecter of our faith. Wherever the pathway of service and life goes, it is there we must make ourselves available to Him. Although we make life commitments to serve Him, we need to remember that this requires the discipline of many individual decisions each day of our lives.