Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Crushed

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.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked —
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

Many people in the world might assume that, like Socrates, Buddha, Confucius and Mohammed, Jesus, died a peaceful death at an old age. But in reality Jesus’ death stands in stark contrast to the death of these other philosophers and religious leaders. Jesus suffered a violent painful death in his mid-thirties at the hands of the state. Crucifixion was a severe punishment instituted by the cruel Roman government in order to instill fear in the people and keep them in order. Yet the cross was ultimately not man’s idea; the cross was God’s free decision made of His own will. The cross is the eternal triune God’s answer that would fully and finally deal with the problem of man’s sin. Strange as it may seem to some, Isaiah 53:10 actually says that the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief (NASB). Because of God’s love for His people, the Father planned the cross from the beginning, and Christ, the Son, offered Himself to God willingly (Jn 10:18, Heb 9:14) so that His people might be saved. The Lord laid on Him, the iniquity of all of us sheep who have gone astray (Is 53:6). Christ, who knew no sin became sin, and a curse for us, paying the penalty and bearing the righteous indignation of God against sin, on our behalf (2 Cor 5:21, Gal 3:13). This doctrine is called the substitutionary atonement or penal substitution. Many throughout the ages have sought to deny and reject the doctrine of penal substitution as incongruous with a God of love; some have gone as far as to call it “divine child abuse;” but it is the cross that demonstrates the degree to which God’s love extends, as in united purpose, both the Father and the Son, act in concert to save God’s people.

Isaiah chapter 53 is the crown jewel of Isaiah’s theology; what has become known as the song of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 more clearly describes the nature of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, than practically any other passage of Scripture. But why was such a violent, bloody death required? Why was it necessary that Jesus be forsaken and even crushed by the Father? And how can all of this be considered “good,” as the Friday on which all of this transpired is often called “Good Friday?”

There are many reasons we can offer as to why Good Friday is indeed “good.” Many answers lie in Isaiah 53:10-12; read those verses and consider as many reasons as you can as to why the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was indeed good. The bottom line is that God was satisfied based upon what He had accomplished. We no longer need to labor hoping that we might be able to satisfy God – He is not waiting to be satisfied by anything you do – He is satisfied in what He did! Likewise, may you find your satisfaction alone in what Christ has done – abandon your search for satisfaction and happiness in sweet little circumstances, carrying their sweet little lies; satisfaction is found in Christ alone – pray that God will help you to be satisfied in Christ.

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3 thoughts on “Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Crushed

  1. Friend, it is true that the facets of the atonement that you bring out in your research are taught by the Scriptures that you quote. The reason for this is that Christ’s atonement is multi-faceted. I know of no advocate of penal substitution who would suggest that penal substitution is the only atonement motif taught in the Scriptures. However, penal substitution is essential to one’s understanding of the Gospel – without it the tapestry of grace is incomplete at best and at worst, falls apart. It leaves us with the great question of how a holy God might forgive sinners without compromising His justice. You have written that one component of atonement is having the wrath of God averted through the intercession and good works of man – if that is the case, then why is Jesus sacrifice even necessary? Is not His atoning sacrifice on the cross the very basis for which atonement is made? Are you suggesting that Moses’ effectual intercession alone could merit the appeasement of God’s wrath, apart from the work of Christ? And how many failed attempts to approach God do we need to see in the Old Testament before we learn the lesson that man cannot approach a holy God, let alone intercede with any efficacy, without the intercessory work of our Great High Priest.

    Is Penal Substitution taught in the Scripture? Absolutely – it is woven throughout – so much so that, as I said, without it, one’s entire understanding of grace could very likely become undone. Consider a few examples:

    1) How can one fail to see the Passover lamb as the substitute for the first born in the land of Egypt – the angel of death being averted from the household under the covering of the blood of the lamb?

    2) The entire sacrificial system was set up by God in order to divert wrath from man’s feeble and failed attempts to approach God. Leviticus 16 establishes Yom Kippor in the context of the failed attempts of Aaron’s sons to approach the Lord – after Yom Kippor, the wrath directed toward them, would be deflected to the animal who would appease God’s wrath.

    3) The rituals associated with the Day of Atonement itself provide strong evidence for penal substitution. As he lays his hands on the two goats, confessing the sins of the people, Aaron, as the representative of all Israel, identified with the goat and symbolically transfers the sins of the people to the goats. The implication of this act is inescapable – to deny substitution here is absurd. Think about it – a group of people live who would have died, and a goat dies that otherwise would have lived – that is substitution plain and simple.

    4) The scapegoat – by its very name implies substitution. Lev 16:22 says: The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land. The judicial fate of the Israelites – namely banishment from the land – is carried by the scapegoat, as it is banished, thus releasing the Israelite from their burden of bearing the judgment of banishment.

    5) The teaching of substitution in Isaiah 53 is so clear and extensive. I would direct the attention of the reader to a sermon that I will preach on April 22, 2011 entitled “Crushed” and available at our website at http://www.sermonaudio.com/breadoflife.

    Suffice to say here, that clearly, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 is punished in the stead of God’s people. And the New Testament applies Isaiah 53 to understand Christ’s death in terms of penal substitution (see 1 Peter 2:22-25 for example).

    6) Was not the cup that Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath? If not, then what was it that would cause Him so much trepidation? Are we to presume that Jesus’ physical suffering alone was the cup he so prayed to have removed from Him? We’re there not other martyrs who bore as much and even more physical pain and suffering than Jesus? The cup that Jesus prayed the Father would take – is the cup of His divine wrath – the bearing of my hell! The cup that will otherwise be borne by the inhabitants of the earth (Jer 25:15-16, Ez 23:32-34).

    7) How about Mark 10:45 – what does a ransom FOR many mean – if not the life of Christ in place of the many. See also Rom 4:25, Rom 8:1-3

    8) Finally there are the definitively clear verses – Gal 3:13, 2 Cor 5:21, 1 Pet 2:24, 3:18 and Rom 3:21-26 – let the reader read them for themselves and understand:

    Gal 3:13
    Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us

    2 Co 5:21
    For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    1 Pe 2:24
    who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.

    1 Pe 3:18
    For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God,

    Ro 3:21-26
    But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    Finally, let me ask you who would object to the doctrine of penal substitution, a simple question. If God’s wrath has not been satisfied upon a substitute, then where does it go? We know that God’s wrath will abide upon the unrepentant sinner in hell forever, but what about His wrath toward those who trust in Christ – are we to believe that it just disappears? Has God changed? Are we to be deceived to think that by our good works, we can some how do enough to appease God? And if so, how much is enough? Is it possible for the finite creature to ever do enough to satisfy the infinite God? Is not wrath one of God’s Divine and eternal attributes? And as such, can we presume that it can be averted by the work of the finite creature?

    I submit that the tapestry of God’s grace, revealed throughout Scripture require a proper understanding of penal substitution – not as the only atonement motif, but as one that is very important, without which, the entire tapestry falls apart.

  2. Hello Joseph,

    I understand your point but simply in terms of Scriptural language, I do not see the Bible ever use the term “atonement” in a way that is compatible with Penal Substitution. In this scheme, Jesus offered up literally everything He could offer in terms of intercession and good works: He gave up His life. To lay down your life is the ultimate act of love since it’s the most selfless act possible, and in the case of the Cross it’s a very tangible sign of how much God loved us. When Christians go around proclaiming “God died for us,” that is utter blasphemy to Jews and foolishness to Pagans (1 Cor 1:23). And as you point out, it is in virtue of the Cross that all prior forms of atonement signified and had their (limited) efficacy.

    The examples you presented of Penal Substitution in the OT should be examined a bit further, because I see indications Penal Substitution wasn’t taking place. For example, the Passover situation is described in Exodus 11:4-7, where God says He will go through and strike down every Egyptian firstborn, yet in the next verse God says: “But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal. Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.” Clearly, God’s wrath wasn’t upon the Jews in the first place. The Passover Lamb instructions were for the sake of Israel not getting swept away along with Egypt’s condemnation.

    You also mentioned “the entire sacrificial system” as a testimony to Penal Substitution, but the article linked to at the start shows conclusive proof that couldn’t have been taking place. For example, the Peace Offering had nothing to do with atoning for sin, yet it contained instructions for slaughtering an animal; thus punishment wasn’t being transferred. Now in the Sin Offerings, if one was too poor, they could offer a sack of flour to atone for sin, but how does a sack of flour get punished? Thus, it couldn’t have been about transferring punishment. Also (among other factors), the OT Sacrifices were for minor sins only, including ceremonial purification (e.g. after a woman gives birth), not for sins like murder (which could not be atoned for). So given that, it would be inconsistent to ‘transfer the death penalty’ to a sin not requiring the death penalty, or even things that weren’t even sins, like a woman’s menstrual cycle or leprosy that needed atonement purification. And the “scapegoat” of Yom Kippor wasn’t even killed, so if that’s cause to stop and think right there.

    When it comes to Isaiah 53, this article shows the Hebrew terms being used are paralleled in the chapter and actually point away from Penal Substitution. For example, Isaiah 53:4a says, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” and yet when the New Testament authors quote this as fulfilled by Jesus casting out demons and curing the sick (Matthew 8:16-17).

    And you rightly point out that 1 Peter 2 quotes Isaiah 53 as well, but I don’t think you understood Peter’s point, which begins back in verse 2:18 (to 2:25). The context clearly indicates the theme of Peter’s teaching is enduring unjust suffering, and that suffering unjustly at the hands of others for doing God’s will is what is meritorious in God’s sight. This is in fact Peter’s theme throughout most of this Epistle (eg 3:3-4; 3:9-14; 3:17-18; 4:12-16).

    The “Cup” Jesus was to drink is a popular passage, but to jump to thinking it’s the cup of God’s wrath is unwarranted, particularly because it goes against the evidence. For example, Jesus says to the Apostles: “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized” (Mk 10:38-39). Clearly, if Jesus says the other Apostles are going to drink from that cup as well, it cannot be Penal Substitution nor God’s Wrath. Instead, it must mean the sufferings and persecutions one will have to endure from enemies.

    Lastly, you mention the issue of “Ransom for,” but the very term “ransom” and “redeem” signifies the exact opposite of transfer of punishment or enduring wrath. A ransom/redemption is offering up a ‘buy out price’ for something. This is why the Ransom-Redemption theme is mentioned explicitly all through the NT, including some of the passages you quoted.

    You asked me:
    “If God’s wrath has not been satisfied upon a substitute, then where does it go?”

    The Wrath doesn’t “go” anywhere; instead it’s a disposition that is changed towards the sinner, which is what appeasing is.

    You also asked:
    “Are we to be deceived to think that by our good works, we can some how do enough to appease God?”

    In virtue of Christ’s Sacrifice, all other forms of atonement get their force. That’s why Proverbs 16:6 can say “through love and faithfulness, sin is atoned for,” and why 1 Peter 4:8 can say “love covers a multitude of sins.” So by Scripture’s own testimony, good works can appease God.

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