This program is a rebroadcast from September 10, 2016.
Isaiah 53: The Suffering Servant
Over the next two weeks, Chris teaches from Isaiah 53, which contains what many consider to be the clearest prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament. Before Jesus came to Earth, believers in the Old Testament time were somewhat blind to His depth, meaning, power, and significance. They only had bits of information from God’s prophetic Word to explain all that Jesus would encompass. This week, we’re going to look at how Isaiah 53, written 700 years before Jesus was born, describes the life of the “Suffering Servant.”
Steve Conover: We're taking a detour from our series on Joel to spend two weeks in the archives contemplating what many consider to be the clearest Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures, Isaiah 53. Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. In September of 1972, Palestinian terrorists, murdered 11 Israeli athletes, this was at the Munich Summer Olympic games. 50 years later, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked the victims' families for forgiveness for not keeping the delegation safe. After the attack, Germany, concealed key details about the botched rescue attempt, creating a rift in the special relationship that Israel and Germany attempted to build since the end of the Holocaust.
Chris Katulka: Steve, here's my take, it's never too late to ask for forgiveness. The German president admitted to the Israeli families that were there, that they neglected to keep the athletes safe and they failed to even try and find answers to the botched rescue plan that led to many of their deaths. Germany promised 28.1 million dollars in compensation and the promise of an Israeli-German historical commission, tasked with producing a historical understanding of the event, which includes even Germany's failures.
Chris Katulka: Hello, friends and welcome. Thanks for joining us today on The Friends of Israel Today radio program. Now, right up front, I want to encourage you to go to our website, foiradio.org, to find out more information about our ministry, The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, and while you're there, I also want to encourage you to sign up for our one year trial subscription to our award-winning magazine, Israel My Glory, that's a free one year trial subscription so you won't want to miss out on that. I promise this magazine will not let you down. So I'm really excited about the next two weeks here. We're going to take some time to unpack Isaiah 53, what many, including myself, consider one of the clearest prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament.
When I was reading through Isaiah 53, it reminded me of a video that I came across online, where a blind man from birth asked people if they would describe colors to him. Think about it. The name of a color means nothing to someone that's been blind from birth that has never actually seen that color and he wanted to find someone that could give a sense or a feeling of the color since he just can't see them or experience them. And of all the different colors that people described in the video. The guy that described red, I think, did the best job. And so just listen to his explanation here:
Man 1: Describe red to me so I can understand it.
Man 2: Red is, it's in your face. It gets your attention. So fire is red and stuff like that's red. Fire would get your attention. Red also sort of pops out at you and grabs you. And I guess we see that when we... for what we color, we make fire engines red if you want people to notice them, we make logos and chip bags red when you want them to notice them. It's a color that... it stands out a lot. And right now I'm looking around the hall and mostly what I see without looking in further detail is stuff that's red. All the other colors are like an afterthought. It's very bold.
Chris Katulka: So, here's a blind man who has never seen the color red, experienced the color red, interacted with the color red and he has to rely on someone to give depth and feeling and meaning to the color and even how we use red practically in our culture. You know how it's used to warn people of things or how it's meant to bring attention to things like fire trucks or stop signs. And Isaiah's prophecy of Jesus in Isaiah 53 is a lot like this experience the blind man is having with colors. Isaiah is essentially describing Jesus to Israelites who will never have the opportunity to see Jesus with their own eyes. Now you might be thinking, "I never saw Jesus." Well, you're right, but you have his words so that you can listen to him whenever you want. You and I have the revelation of Jesus the Messiah in the New Testament.
And think about this, Isaiah spoke his clear and concise prophecy 700 years before Jesus was even born. Step back and think about that for a minute, 700 years. Before Jesus came to earth, believers in the Old Testament time were somewhat blind to the depth and the meaning and power and significance of all that Jesus would be. They only had bits of information through God's prophetic Word to explain all that Jesus would encompass. They didn't have the New Testament like we do to give depth and meaning and power to the name of Christ. They didn't have the fullness of that revelation, just bits and pieces scattered throughout God's prophetic Word. Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest prophecies about Jesus and it all but stops short of saying, "This one in Isaiah 53 is Jesus the Messiah." In fact, I've read that some Jewish people who hear Isaiah 53 for the first time read aloud think it's from the New Testament speaking about Jesus. When they hear it's an Old Testament prophecy, the only thing they can do is shrug it off.
So this week we're going to look at how Isaiah 53 describes the life of the suffering servant. And then next week, we're going to look at how Isaiah explains why the suffering servant, Jesus, had to suffer. Isaiah 53 actually opens in Isaiah 52, verses 13 through 15, which serves as a prelude to Isaiah 53. If you need a quick summary of Isaiah 53, just jump back to the previous chapter in Isaiah 52 verses 13 through 15. And Isaiah's prophecy can be broken down into a few different concepts, like the life of the suffering servant, the suffering in death of the servant and the exaltation of the suffering servant. But the overarching imagery that we see in Isaiah's prophecy is that of humiliation to exaltation. Isaiah paints the picture of a servant of the Lord, an important person in the eyes of God, whose life was completely humiliated. It was a life of humiliation.
Just listen to some of these verses from Isaiah 53, "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, no beauty that we should desire him. 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." This is the perfect picture of the life of Jesus. He didn't come into this world full of pomp and circumstance. Instead, he was born in the shepherds' fields of Bethlehem, laid as an infant in an animal trough. When he grew up, he didn't stand out in appearance as someone who would demand your attention. He looked like everyone else. And he was even rejected by his own and despised. No one cared about him. That rejection would lead to the extreme suffering and his death.
Just listen to Isaiah 53:7, "He was oppressed and he was afflicted. Yet he opened not his mouth, like a lamb that was led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before it shears is silent. So he opened not his mouth." Jesus, likewise. He didn't argue his innocence in the gospels, remember when he was brought before the Sanhedrin. For the most part, he kept his mouth shut and he was willing to embrace his death, yet another picture of humiliation. However that isn't the end of the servant of the Lord, the suffering servant. Even after his death, the prophet Isaiah says that this one will see vindication for his humiliation. The lowly, ignoble, humiliated servant will be exalted by the Lord. Listen to what Isaiah 52:13 through 15 says, and I've chosen a New English translation because it really smooths out some of that difficult Hebrew poetry here.
Listen to what it says, "Look, my servant will succeed. He will be elevated, lifted high. greatly exalted, just as many were horrified by the sight of you. He was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man. His form was so marred he no longer looked human. So now he will startle many nations. Kings will be shocked at his exaltation for they will witness something unannounced to them and they will understand something they had not heard about." Think about it, the humiliated Jesus found his vindication in his resurrection. And today he sits at the right hand of the father as the King of kings. Isaiah's picture of the suffering servant perfectly matches the life of Jesus.
I personally believe Jesus knew that he was walking in the footsteps of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Jesus only quotes Isaiah 53 once in his life, and that's just before he leaves for the garden of Gethsemane, as he tells the disciples his death is a part of God's divine plan and he quotes Isaiah 53:12, which is the best passage to show how Christ's humiliation will lead to his exaltation in his resurrection. Now, listen, I want you to join us next week because Isaiah doesn't just give us facts about the suffering servant's life. He goes one step further, which is absolutely amazing in this prophecy. He actually goes into the theology and explains his prophecy of why the suffering servant must suffer.
Chris Katulka: At The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, we want you to be equipped to share the gospel wherever you are. One of the greatest tools for sharing the message of Jesus is to show how he fulfilled the prophecies spoken about him hundreds of years before his birth. Isaiah 53 is one of those powerful prophecies that speaks clearly of Jesus as God's suffering servant, who would give his life for ours. In Victor Buksbazen's book, Isaiah's Messiah, Dr. Buksbazen masterfully answers the all important Jewish question of who did the prophet speak? Dr. Buksbazen shows how Isaiah 53, a section of the Bible never read in synagogue, speaks unequivocally of Jesus. This easy to read book will give you the confidence you need to answer any question a Jewish person may have about Jesus. To order your copy of Israel's Messiah, visit our website, foiradio.org, or call (888) 343-6940. That's (888) 343-6940.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back to the program, friends. We've been looking into the famous Old Testament passage of Isaiah 53, the clearest prophecy concerning Jesus in the Old Testament. You know, so clear that as I stated earlier, Jewish people who have never read or heard the passage instinctively believe that it must be a New Testament passage and they're shocked to hear that it comes from the Old Testament and from the prophet Isaiah when they hear it the first time. And so a question that I get a lot from Christians whenever I travel and speak concerning Isaiah 53 is this, why can't the Jewish people just see that Isaiah 53 is talking about Jesus? It's just so clear. Well, the reason Jewish people are able to overlook Isaiah 53 is because it all comes down to interpretation. It all comes down to who is the suffering servant?
Now I'm going to give you two interpretations, the modern Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 53 and the Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53. Now I say the modern Jewish interpretation, because there are some ancient Jewish scholars who may have seen things a little bit different than their modern counterpart. Now, many Jewish people today are able to shrug their shoulders at Isaiah 53 being a Messianic prophecy pointing to Jesus because of how they interpret who the suffering servant is. And for many Jewish scholars and rabbis, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the nation of Israel. That's right, the nation of Israel. Now, before you go rolling your eyes thinking that it's just an excuse not to see Jesus in the Old Testament, I have to admit they have good arguments to support their claim. And one of their greatest arguments is the servant himself. Isaiah 53 fits within a series of servant songs in the latter half of the book of Isaiah and in many of those songs, Israel is considered God's servant.
Just listen to this, a few chapters earlier from Isaiah 53, Isaiah 41 verse eight, the Lord says this, "You are my servant, O Israel." Or even just a couple chapters before Isaiah 53, Isaiah 49, verse three, "You are my servant, Israel." So this concept of Israel being called the servant of the Lord is not far-fetched. In fact, several times throughout the Scriptures, God calls Israel his servant. So naturally Israel would become the servant pictured in Isaiah 53. Well as good of an argument, as it sounds, there is one thing that's often overlooked and that's how Isaiah laser focuses his attention on a singular servant in Isaiah 53. In the previous servant songs, Isaiah does consider all of Israel the servant of the Lord, but now in Isaiah 53, that servant in the Hebrew becomes a singular person.
Just listened to what Dr. Darrell Bock, who teaches at Dallas Theological Seminary, had to say when he was interviewed by the Gospel Coalition on Isaiah 53, and he says this, that "The servant moves from a picture of Israel to the picture of an individual as one moves through the various servant passages. That movement is important to understand in light of Jewish claims that the text is talking about the nation," and he's citing Isaiah 49:3, "Failure to see this movement from nation to individual, blocks a good conversation about who the servant is as we move through these texts and the picture narrows to an individual who is said to restore Israel."
Chris Katulka: So, for a Christian interpretation on Isaiah 53, the New Testament writers, who all but one, Luke, were Jewish, believed Jesus was the suffering servant walking the path of Isaiah 53 and fulfilling the prophecy Isaiah so clearly explained from the Lord. Jesus was the one who would face humiliation in his life and death and ultimately, this is the best part, finding his exaltation in his resurrection.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: I often go to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Many go to the wall to read the Psalms. They arrive very early and read so fast no one can understand them so they can return to their homes as soon as possible. I recently saw a group of young men there who were reading the Psalms in this manner and I approached one young man whose Bible was open to Psalm 24. I asked if he understood what he was reading at supersonic speed. He replied, "It is my job to come here every day and read the Psalms. Are you now trying to teach me how to read them?" I told him, "The Lord is not concerned with who can read the Psalms the fastest, he is concerned with what is in your heart. I see your Bible is open to Psalm 24. Do you know the one about whom King David is speaking?"
The other young man around him entered the conversation and examined the passage. After a few minutes, they ask, "Why should we break our heads trying to interpret this Psalm? A rabbi will tell you." They then called to the rabbi who came over and immediately asked me, "What do you want with these young men? You should not bother them. They must continue to read the Psalms." I responded, "Rabbi, as a believer in God, I am against this degrading of our God. You call on him every day when you say the Shema Yisrael, yet here you read about him as if you are not interested or do not even know who he is." In his Psalm it is written "lift up your heads and the king of glory shall come." Who is this king of glory? Tell me, rabbi, do you know who this king of glory is?"
The passage continues "the Lord is strong and mighty. The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory." If you would read this Psalm slowly to understand the meaning, you would know the one about whom it is written. All the time you and these young men spend here at the wall is nothing more than what King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes chapter one, verse two "vanity of vanities, all is vanity." The rabbi thought for a long time and finally asked, "Who gave you the authority to come here and tell these people how to read the Psalms?" I replied, "The authority I have is available to you also, but first you must receive the Lord as your savior. You think you have a relationship with God, but you're only playing games. If you read Ezekiel 33, you will learn who gave me the authority and responsibility to come here and warn wicked people like yourselves to turn to the Lord."
Rabbi shouted, "How can you say I am wicked?" "Because you worship idols and dance around the golden cap," I replied, "but I worship the living God. I never sacrifice a chicken as a personal offering for my sins and Yom Kippur because Isaiah 53 said “the Lord is my atonement." As soon as I mentioned Isaiah 53, they immediately realized I believed in Christ and am in their opinion an apostate. They didn't understand how I could believe in him and yet put my trust in the Bible. I asked them to inspect my Bible, to see if it is the true Hebrew Scriptures. The rabbi examined it and admitted, "This is our Bible." "Now that you know that," I said, "let me show you how I came to believe in Christ. Not according to any other books, such as the ones you study, but according to God's Word. In it, I found my savior. The one whom you called “this man." A conversation lasted for several hours. I pray those seeds will grow into understanding in their minds and hearts so they will one day come to know the Lord as their savior.
Chris Katulka: The impact of Zvi's life in ministry in Israel, it didn't end when he went home to be with the Lord. In fact, Zvi's legacy lives on. Our Friends of Israel ministry representatives continue to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Israel and really all throughout the world. We also serve Holocaust survivors and their families. We provide free food, medicine and clothing, and we even promote the safety and security of the state of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. So when you give to The Friends of Israel, your donation actually allows us to advance the gospel of our Messiah, Jesus. You can give online by visiting foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org. You can click right there on our donate link. Also, be sure to let us know where you listen when you contact us.
Steve Conover: Thanks for joining us today. Next week, we'll finish up our brief study of Isaiah 53. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. And one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org.
From the scholarly pen of Dr. Victor Buksbazen comes an outstanding work on a premier section of the prophetic Hebrew Scriptures, Isaiah 52—53. This superb and attractive little volume masterfully answers the all-important Jewish question, Of whom did the prophet speak? Of Israel, as many rabbis teach, or of Messiah? In an eloquent yet in-depth verse-by-verse exposition, Dr. Buksbazen shows how Isaiah 53—the only section of the Bible never read in the synagogue—speaks unequivocally of Jesus.
IN CANADA? ORDER HERE
Interpretation of Isaiah 53
A question that Chris often gets asked is, “Why can’t the Jewish people see that Isaiah 53 is talking about Jesus when it’s so clear?” This is a great question! The reason Jewish people are able to overlook Isaiah 53 is because it all comes down to interpretation. Join Chris as he examines the modern Jewish interpretation and the Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53.
Israel My Glory Magazine
This award-winning magazine, published by The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, stands firmly on the literal-grammatical interpretation of the Bible. It is simply the best there is if you want to understand Scripture, Israel, and prophecy.
Sign up for your free one-year print or digital trial today!
*First-Time Subscribers Only
CONTACT US FOR A DIGITAL TRIAL
Apples of Gold: The Expert
Many arrive at the Western Wall early and read the psalms so fast that no one can understand them. They don’t care about truly knowing God’s Word; they just want to return to their homes as quickly as possible. Upon encountering some of these men at the Wall, Zvi asked them if they knew what they were reading. They called on their rabbi to confront him, but Zvi was not afraid. Listen to find out what happened when he approached them with the truth of Scripture.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Your gifts help us reach people all around the globe with our message of truth to bless the Jewish people.