This program is a rebroadcast from September 17, 2016.
Isaiah 53: Theology of the Prophecy
Today as we continue studying Isaiah 53, Chris highlights the Messiah’s role of a suffering servant. Isaiah’s prophecy doesn’t just explain that someone would live a life of humiliation, die, and ultimately be exalted. It goes one step further to describe exactly why the Suffering Servant lived a life of humiliation and why He had to die. And we’ll see how 700 years later, Jesus took on that role of the suffering servant to bring salvation to all who believe in Him.
If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can catch up here.
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, with me is our host and teacher Chris Katulka. Once again, we're taking a detour from our series on Joel and airing the second and final program in the series from our archives on the theology of Isaiah 53. In the news, the Israeli Antiquities Authorities Theft Prevention Unit was on the hunt for a rare 2,700 year old Dead Sea scroll, a papyrus letter written in Hebrew from the first temple period. You might think Israeli intel would be combing the Holy Land for clues, but all the evidence pointed them to the treasure state, Montana, where the owner of the rare papyri bought it during a Christian mission to Israel in 1965. The Dead Sea papyri was recently repatriated to Israel.
Chris Katulka: Steve here's what I love about this story is that the Christian owner's son who inherited the rare find was aware of the high value of the scroll fragment, but still chose to donate the papyrus to the state of Israel, first to memorialize his mother. But second, because he knew that it was the right thing to do as a Christian. And if that's not amazing enough, any Dead Sea text that is found and archived in Israel is a historical piece of evidence, proving that the Jewish people have had a continual presence in the Holy Land for thousands of years.
Chris Katulka: Hello, friends, and welcome. Thanks for joining us today on The Friends of Israel Today Radio Program. So last week we started having a conversation about Isaiah 53. Isaiah chapter 53, I think is one of the clearest prophecies about Jesus. It all but stops short of saying, Hey, this one in Isaiah 53 is Jesus. In fact, I mentioned last week that the Jewish people who hear Isaiah 53 for the first time read aloud, think it's actually from the New Testament and that it's speaking about Jesus. And when they hear that it's an Old Testament prophecy that's coming from the prophet. Isaiah, the only thing that they can do is kind of shrug it off because they don't know what to do with it. Again, it's so clearly pointing to Jesus. And in our conversation last week, we looked at the overarching message of Isaiah 53.
And that overarching message is that of humiliation to exaltation. Kings and nations would marvel at the suffering servant of the Lord. And it says in the prelude to Isaiah 53, Isaiah 52:15, kings would be shocked at his exaltation. And this is the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah as portrayed in the gospels, Jesus didn't live the life of a king. And though he is a king, he didn't live the life of one. He was lowly and he was rejected by his very own, actually to the point of death. He died the most humiliating death on a Roman cross. And really Jesus knew as he was living his life, that he was walking the footsteps of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 and yet in his resurrection, he found vindication and exaltation. So today though, I want to focus our attention on what I think is one of the most amazing parts of Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering servant.
And that's the layer of theology that's embedded in the prophecy. Isaiah's prophecy, it doesn't just simply explain someone that would live a life of humiliation, die and find in the end, his exaltation, it goes one step further, which is incredibly unique in God's prophetic word. It goes one step further to describe exactly why the suffering servant lives a life of humiliation and why the suffering servant had to die. When Jesus makes the statement in Matthew 20:28, the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. Where did this idea come from? How in the world could the King of Israel come to understand that he would give his life for many, that he would stand in our place as a substitute for sin and the judgment of sin that we deserve? Where did this idea come from?
The theology that defines the sacrificial death of Jesus. Jesus didn't just die for any old cause. He died so that we might have life. And without Isaiah 53, it would be much harder for us to build the bridge between the animal sacrifice of the Old Testament and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And there aren't many prophetic passages that talk about the King of Israel, who would willingly sacrifice his life for his people. So not only does Isaiah give us the facts about the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus, 700 years before Jesus was even born, Isaiah explains exactly why Jesus had to die. And that's amazing. Just listen to some of these verses from Isaiah 53, 4 through six, as to why the servant of the Lord had to suffer. He was despised and rejected by people. One who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness. People hid their faces from him. He was despised and we considered him insignificant.
Now listen to the theology here. The reason why this one suffering servant was so humiliated and was crushed. Listen to this, verse four, “But he lifted up our illnesses. He carried our pain, even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God and afflicted for something he had done. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins. He endured punishment that made us well. Because of his wounds we have been healed. All of us have wandered off like sheep. Each of us had strayed off his own path, but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.” These few verses from Isaiah 53, describe with concise clarity, the mission of Jesus. They show the depth and significance of the suffering servant. How one person would stand in the place of the rebellious and the sinful and take the divine judgment. they deserved upon himself.
This suffering servant would willingly bear our illness, our wounds, our pain, our punishment, our selfishness, our rebellious acts, greed, lust, envy. He would take all of these things that separate us from having a relationship with God so that we might be healed. And that healing that Isaiah is talking about, is having an uninterrupted relationship with the God who created us. This concept of one person taking the sins of another is called substitutionary atonement. A very big theological term that ultimately means that this suffering servant would stand in our place and take the punishment that we deserve, that he would become the one that would stand in our place of judgment, that he would be the one to bear our sins. Now listen to this verse from Isaiah 53:10, “But the Lord was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief if he would render himself as a guilt offering.” Do you hear what Isaiah is saying?
Isaiah is saying that the Lord desired and was pleased to crush his servant. The Lord was satisfied with his servant becoming a sacrifice for the many. The Lord was satisfied with the crushing of his servant because it fulfilled his ultimate plan of redemption for all mankind. It's what would redeem not only the nation of Israel within the wider context of Isaiah, because that's what Isaiah is looking at here. If you go beyond Isaiah 53, God is looking at the redemption of Israel, but who will be the one to provide redemption for Israel? It will be this suffering servant. And not only would this suffering servant bring redemption for Israel, he would also bring redemption for everyone, salvation to anybody.
It's the reason on the night of the Lord Jesus' last supper, that last Passover Seder. When the Lord passed the cup, remember we say this all the time in church, “Drink from it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant,” what? “which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus knew he was fulfilling the role of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. He understood that through his suffering and his death, he would bring salvation and healing to everyone who would believe in him. And that just goes to show that Isaiah 53 has both you and me in mind, we need forgiveness for the sinful state we're in. We need forgiveness for our rebellious ways and through the death of Jesus, he provided that forgiveness and righteousness just as the prophecy has promised.
I hope you enjoyed our study on Isaiah 53. I hope it brought to light some of the complexities of this amazing prophecy, but we're not done just yet. When we return, I'm going to be speaking with Steve Herzig, director of North American Ministries of The Friends of Israel. And we're going to talk about where Isaiah 53 is still effective today in the way that we share the gospel, really where the rubber meets the road with Isaiah 53. So stick around.
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 everybody. I am joined with Steve Herzig, who is the director of North American Ministries of The Friends of Israel. He is also author of Jewish Culture and Customs, a wonderful book on a look into Jewish life and Jewish culture. Steve, great to have you on the program.
Steve Herzig: Chris, it's great to be here.
Chris Katulka: You're the perfect person for what we're talking about here in Isaiah 53. Really, as I was saying earlier, I wanted to talk about where the rubber meets the road with Isaiah 53. It's not just a prophecy about Jesus. It's also impacting the lives of people all the time, and you're a Jewish believer. Can you explain how Isaiah 53 impacted your life?
Steve Herzig: Well, I know this is going to sound funny, Chris, but Isaiah 53 impacted me simply because of its location. It's in the Old Testament. And for me, the first time I read Isaiah 53, if I didn't know the source, which was my own Jewish Bible from my own synagogue, I would've said this is in the New testament.
Chris Katulka: And I've been saying this in our broadcast that I've read that Jewish people who don't know Isaiah 53, read it for the first time go, “oh, that's a New Testament passage,” because it's so clear about the future of what Jesus would do.
Steve Herzig: Well Chris, you're absolutely right. And to further what you're saying, I realized what an impact this chapter had on my life. And to be honest, I've never heard a Jewish believer not include Isaiah 53 as part of their testimony. But one of the things that I did when I went into the ministry was to take Isaiah, and this is before computers or anything like that and type it out with no “Isaiah” on it. No numbers, just paragraphs. And as I would go around, meet Jewish people, I'd have them read it and simply ask them this question. Would you mind commenting to me what you think about this that I'm handing you?
Chris Katulka: Wow. What was the reaction?
Steve Herzig: I was on college campuses, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, I was in Bible studies with Jewish people that ranged in age from college age all the way up to retired Jewish people, all of them. And I'd get several different answers. One: “don't show the New Testament to me.” This isn't in the New Testament. Then they'd say, “Well, I'm not allowed to believe in Jesus. I'm Jewish.” “Well,” I said, “it doesn't say Jesus. And by the way, it comes from Isaiah the prophet in the Jewish scriptures.” They would say, “you're trying to mash the Bible down my throat.” And remember, I wasn't handing them a Bible. I was handing them a sheet of paper with Isaiah 53 typed on it. And I told them, “Wait a minute. This is just one chapter from the Bible, and it's your Bible.”
Chris Katulka: And look at the impact it's having. I mean, they're commenting and you're not even saying anything to them.
Steve Herzig: There's always a reaction that is…if I were to show them in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, Jewish people would say, “yeah, that's from the Bible and I'm familiar with it and however.” But this is a passage that since most of them are not familiar. And since in, at least in North America, they have a sense of who Jesus is. For them, this is Jesus. And it's out of character for them.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. That's a good way to put it.
Steve Herzig: And so it's hard. It drives their emotion. It drove my emotion. The first time I ever heard about Jesus was not out of Isaiah 53, it was a typical gospel presentation. I was 18 years old on a college campus, but that was delivered from the New Testament.
And it was easy for me as a Jewish person to fluff it off and not pay any attention. Four years later in a Bible study, I was confronted with Isaiah 53, as well as other passages in the Jewish scriptures, but it was Isaiah 53 that allowed me to confront head on with not another person being aggressive and not even the Bible. I was reading the Bible, yet it was aggressive. It was confronting my sin and my need for a savior, not in the context of the New Testament, but in the context of the Jewish scripture. And I had to deal with it. And that’s it’s power.
Chris Katulka: It really builds the bridge between the idea of Jesus having to give his life as a sacrifice for us. And it builds that bridge to say, here's somebody who's suffering in Isaiah 53, giving himself that we might have life. And it kind of builds that natural bridge between what the gospels are saying in many ways.
Steve Herzig: Chris, you are a hundred percent correct. And it is exactly why when some Jewish people are confronted with this, their reaction is this, “Hey, I'm not sure what this is supposed to be. I need to talk to my rabbi,” right? But that's a wonderful thing. It drives people to a place they've never been before, rather than from a New Testament point of view. Nothing wrong with the New Testament, but from a Jewish point of view, if you can find a place, and there are hundreds of them, thank God, prophecies concerning Christ. This chapter is the most powerful out of all of them.
Chris Katulka: Okay. Let's talk practicality here. Let's talk, how can this passage be used to share the gospel today within a Jewish context?
Steve Herzig: When I'm asked that question, I always go to the person who's asking it. And I say, “do you have a relationship with your Jewish friend?” And many times they say “yes.” And then what I say is simply this, “take the passage, give it to your Jewish friend with this in mind saying, look, you're Jewish. I'm a Christian. This is coming from your Bible. I want your insight. I want you to tell me as a Jewish person what you want me to know about this passage for me as a Christian.” Well that does all kinds of things Chris, not just from the text itself. Number one, it's telling them you're not trying to change them in any way. In fact, you're asking them to teach you what it does for the Jewish person? It might be the first time they've ever seen it. And if it isn't, it's the first time anybody's ever asked them to read it and teach back what it means.
Steve Herzig: They don't know. So it will drive them to a rabbi. It'll drive them to online, to check out what they might supposedly say to them. And it will give the Spirit of God an opportunity, as we believe his Word doesn't return void. A lot of the time they've already talked to their rabbi. This has happened to me and they say, “oh yeah, we already know, this is Israel.” And I said, “oh, that's a really interesting answer. This is Israel. So are you telling me that Israel became sin? And as a result of its sin, which we're spoken about in chapter one, now qualifies to be a sacrifice, a sin that's apart from God is now qualified to be a sacrifice? And oh, by the way, Israel is he and him?”
Chris Katulka: Yeah, the singular. Yeah.
Steve Herzig: “Does that mesh with the way when you took English and in college?” And they're all, if you're going to be intellectually honest. Even if you have the answer that's supposedly given. I just say, “is that your conviction or the rabbis' conviction?” And then you get into great conversations.
Chris Katulka: That's great. We've been speaking with Steve Herzig who's the director of North American ministries. Steve, I want to thank you for coming on and sharing with us a little bit of how we can practically use Isaiah 53 to share the gospel and also how it's impacted your life really where the rubber meets the road of Isaiah 53. So thank you very much.
Steve Herzig: Sure thing.
Chris Katulka: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: In these times of great uncertainty in Israel, the rabbis of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, have decided to compose a new prayer, a poem to comfort the people of Israel. One is the leader of a large synagogue in my neighborhood. For a long time, he would not even look at me because of my faith in Jesus. But when members of his synagogue told him, I often make repairs to their homes for free, he gradually changed his attitude. We have since become good friends. When I met him recently, he was the first to say “Shalom.” And I knew immediately. He wanted my help. I was happy to do the work he requested and as always, I did not charge him. When I was finished he asked, "Zvi, have you lost your head believing in this man Jesus?" Because we were in a synagogue, I pointed to the extensive library and said, can you show me even one copy of the Bible here?
He answered, "Most of the books are prayer books. The rabbis and I are trying to compose a new prayer. Could you offer any help in composing the new prayer?" I replied, "If you want to know how to pray, you must ask God directly for his help. All of the poems and prayers in the world would not help you. If they do not come from your heart, they are nothing more than what king Solomon called “vanity” in Ecclesiastes one and two." The rabbi was listening intently. And then he asked, "How do you pray?" I opened my Bible to Psalm 25 and read, "To you all, Lord, I lift up my soul. I trust in you. Show me your ways, oh Lord, teach me your paths, for you are the God of my salvation." I told him, "These are the words of king David. He prayed all that was in his heart without worrying about whether it was a nice poem."
Use David's words as an example of his simplicity and humility before God. The rabbi asked, "How do believers in Jesus pray?" I replied, "We pray what is on our hearts at any given time, in any given situation. The ability comes through the Holy Spirit of God as people place their faith and the Lord Jesus. Hannah prayed silently in the temple of Shiloh, but her petition came from deep within her heart. God heard her prayer and gave her the desire of her heart. And the result was the birth of Samuel. We come before God with open hearts, and he answers our prayers according to his will."
The rabbi was surprised I read from the Bible because he was sure believers in Jesus did not use the Bible. He said, "I have learned much today, but the distance between us is still very great." I said, "You must not try to bridge the distance between you and me, but between yourself and God. As it is written in Isaiah 53, he was bruised for our sins and crushed for our iniquities. And because of all he has done for us, we must come to him in the way he is directed in his Word."
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for being with us today. This concludes our time in Isaiah 53. Next week, we return to our series on Joel. 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. 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.
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Isaiah 53: Where the Rubber Meets the Road with Steve Herzig
Chris interviews Steve Herzig, director of North American Ministries for The Friends of Israel. As a Jewish believer in Jesus, Steve explains how Isaiah 53 impacted his life and how this powerful chapter is still a practical tool for sharing the gospel.
Apples of Gold: How Do You Pray?
During times of great uncertainty in Israel, the rabbis of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) decided to compose a new prayer – a poem to comfort the people of Israel. One of the rabbis was the leader of a large synagogue in Zvi’s neighborhood. For a long time, he would not even look at Zvi because of his faith in Jesus, but one day a kind gesture opens the door for Zvi to share with the rabbi about prayer and the Messiah.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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