See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him –
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness –
so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Scholars divide over whether the mysterious servant figure in Isaiah is one person or is the nation of Israel. This particular poem of hope spoke to people who longed for the reign of God and looked for a saviour and deliverer from oppression. The cadences of the language alone make it great literature that was wonderfully set by Handel into the glorious music of the Messiah.
As the early church reflected on the deep tragedy of the suffering Jesus, these words from centuries before seemed to mirror all that was known of his passion and declared the amazing love of one who let himself be the sacrifice that saved the world from sin, death and disaster.
Anyone reading these amazing words cannot fail to be moved by them, and will be encouraged by the note of hope in the last 3 verses – a hint of resurrection?
Lord Jesus, who went to the cross for love of the world, may we never belittle the cost of our salvation but always wonder, marvel and glory in what was done for us. May we so live our own lives that costly sacrifice for the good of others may be our service and love of you our offering, every day of our lives.
Stuart Brock is a retired minister, musician, and Training for Life and Service Lite teacher in the Northern Synod
Sign up here to receive these Devotions every day by email