Message from - Moody Founder’s Week 2013
Watch/read D A Carson’s message at Moody Founder’s Week 2013 here - When Jesus confronts the world
Watch/read Tony Evans’s message at Moody Founder’s Week 2013 here - There is no more important place to know Christ than the struggles of life
This is about Christ, and about knowing Christ. Martin Luther said,”There’s a chapter in the Bible that every Christian should memorize, if that Christian intends to know Christ.” The German theologian, in 1866 said, “There is the chapter of the Bible, that is the most central, the deepest, the loftiest that Scripture has ever achieved. That same chapter, others have called ‘The Gospel of all vocabulary’. There’s a chapter in the Bible that has such stirring predictions, so complex, that only God could have known them centuries before history unfolded them. There’s a chapter in the Bible that is the most comprehensive exposition of the cross in all of Scripture, the most complete description of the substitutionary vicarious sacrificial death of the Savior in all of Holy writ. This same chapter has a scope that extends from eternity past to eternity future, and gathers up a whole history of redemption by focusing on the redeemer. It sweeps from His position in the eternal trinity to His return to full glory with His redeemed in the new heavens and the new earth. There is a chapter that embraces His past glory, His incarnation, His humiliation, His rejection, His unjust treatment, His unfair trial, His mistreatment, His death sentence, His execution, His resurrection, His intercession, His exaltation, and His coronation.
What is this chapter? It is the first Gospel, and it’s not Matthew. Matthew is the second Gospel. This is a chapter that is sufficient to save sinners. In fact, it is a chapter that was used by Philip to explain the Gospel to an Ethiopian eunuch. This is a chapter that you know. It is Isaiah 53- the first Gospel.
The description of the atoning work of Jesus Christ in Isaiah 53 surpasses any single Scripture on those subjects in the epistles of the New Testament. Let me tell you about Isaiah. 66 chapters, same as the number of books of the Bible. It’s split into two parts: the first 39 and the second 27. Exactly the way the Bible is split: Old Testament 39 books, New Testament 27.
The first 39 are about judgment, much like the Old Testament. The last 27 chapters (of Isaiah) are about redemption, just like the New Testament – Salvation. The last 27 are divided into 3 – 9 – 9 – and 9. The first 9 is about the physical salvation of Israel, the last 9 are about the physical salvation of creation. And the middle 9 is about the spiritual salvation of sinners. (8) So, let’s go down into the middle 9, and the middle chapter is chapter 53, and the middle verse, essentially, is, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our inequities.” The Holy Spirit forces us right down into this incredible chapter. Isaiah 53 has been called the torture chamber of the rabbis. It has been called the guilty conscience of the Jews. And it is that. They run from this chapter like the black death.
This chapter, stepping back in history and the place that it occupies in Scripture, this chapter answers the most critical question that will ever be asked or answered, ever, by anyone, anytime. The most essential question, the most important question is answered by this chapter. Religion must answer this question correctly or it is form hell. Any religion that does not give the right answer to this question is right out of hell. What is the question? It’s the riddle of the Old Testament. Did you know there was a riddle in the Old Testament? Turn to Exodus 34. Moses comes before God and wants God to assure him, he wants God to show up and reveal His glory. In Exodus 34:5 we read “the Lord descended from a cloud and stood there as he called upon the name of the Lord.” Now, the Lord is going to introduce Himself. “The Lord passed by in front of Him and proclaimed, “The Lord God, compassionate, and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth, who keeps grace, loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.” And, by the way, “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” That’s the riddle of the Old Testament.
That’s the riddle of redemption. How can God be gracious and punish the guilty? The answer to that is Isaiah 53. He will punish someone else. How can God, in the words of Paul, be just and the justifier of sinners? That is the question: How can a sinner be reconciled to a holy God? How can God love and bring to heavenly glory, sinners, without violating his righteousness? That is the question. If the right answer to that question is SAVED, then every other wrong answer DAMNS. That’s why I say that whoever doesn’t answer that question accurately is from hell. One more thing to say, about Isaiah 53. Just by way of introduction, if we think about it, this is a paralyzingly sad chapter. I don’t know of a sadder moment in all of redemptive history than the moment depicted in this chapter. It is horrific, beyond comprehension. This starts out as the most plaintive lament, the most extreme expression of sorrow. It is a kind of epic dirge. It is a funeral song with massive, sweeping implications. The crushing sorrow that is depicted in Isaiah 53 has no historic parallel, exceeds all other sorrows. (13:25)
The astonishing revelation
We start back in Isaiah 52 at verse 13. And, everything about this section is astonishing, absolutely astonishing. To start, in verse 13 we come to the very words of God. This section begins and ends with God speaking. God speaks in 52:13-15 and speaks half way through verse 11 and verse 12. So, what happens in the middle is bracketed by the words of God. God introduces and God sums up what’s in this great chapter. In 52:13-15, God Himself introduces the Messiah. He introduces His servant, His slave. First, it is an astonishing revelation. By the way, this is the 4th chapter that focuses on the servant or slave of God- the Messiah- vv. 42, 49, 50, 53. All servant songs, slave songs of the slave of God. He introduces Him: Behold because it is astonishing. “My slave will succeed”. Any reader of the Old Testament knows that that’s a Messianic title. Going all the way back to chapter 42, this is the Messiah. (15:29)
He will prosper. Actually, in Hebrew it is ‘act intelligently, act wisely’, succeed. It’s important that we understand that’s how God introduces this, because when He came, it looked like He didn’t succeed. It looked to the world like He failed. Then He begins to introduce Him. He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted. That identifies Him. Well, you say, isn’t that just repetitious? No, in the Hebrew, here’s what it says: He will be high, He will be higher, He will be highest. And those 3 designations in combination, only appear in one other place in all of Scripture. And those three designations refer to God. They only appear together in one other place- Isaiah 6. “I saw the Lord high, and higher, and highest.” So, now we know that the slave is God.
The astonishing humiliation
The deity of Messiah is proclaimed. Verse 14 adds: Just as many were astonished at you My people, so His appearance was far more than any man.” Now we know that He not only will be God, but He will also be man. The God man. He will be marred, that word in Hebrew means mutilated, it means distorted, it means disfigured. And, so extremely disfigured as to be literally beyond human recognition, looking like a beast, not a man. This servant is God? The eternal God: high, higher, highest. Exalted, loftiest, sitting on His throne. And, in the New testament, we know the writer of the Gospel of John tells us that the vision of Isaiah 6 is none other than Jesus Christ. He is God, lifted up and exalted. And He is man, marred, disfigured. This is the second riddle. Who is this Messiah? The Jews had a Messianic view, they had a concept of Messiah. I don’t know that they thought He would be God, but they assumed that He would be exalted. They had no sense that He would be marred, disfigured, far form it. But, that is only temporary.
His marring will be so severe, end of verse 14, that His form would be disfigured and distorted more than the sons of man. The implication of the language is- in face and form He will become subhuman. And we know that happened. All the brutality imposed upon Him. The physical distortion of His body, in all that He suffered and the distortion of His face, from sin bearing… We’re glad to get to verse 15. because the astonishing revelation, followed by the astonishing humiliation, brings us to the astonishing exaltation. (19:50)
The astonishing exaltation
“He will startle many nations.” Startle means to burst, to jump up. “He will startle many nations and Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him. What has not been told them, they will see, what they had not heard they will understand.” This is His final exaltation. So, God Himself, introduces His servant, His slave, the slave of Yahweh. the slave of Messiah, who is to come. He will be God, He will be man, He will be marred, He will be exalted. There is the career of the Lord Jesus in broad terms, from the mouth of God. This information is given to the Jews from Isaiah, 700 years before Jesus came. (21)
Now, let’s come to chapter 53. And, all of a suede something changes. Verses 13-15 ’1st person- future’. “He will be”… “He will…” Kings will..” “they will…”, “they will see..”. All future- speaking of the coming of the Messiah. Everything changes. This is one speaker: God, speaking of the future career of His servant. When you come to verse 1, everything changes. Everything now is in the past tense. And plural pronouns: “we”, “our”, “us”. The big question for us is, “Who is talking?” Not God. Who is speaking?
The Suffering Servant
53 Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
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.
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,
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.
Who is saying this? Who is making this massive confession? What group of people is this? What group of people is this? This is plural ’til you get down to verse 11, where God begins to speak again. Who is this? It is Israel.
What did we learn about Isaiah? Israel’s physical deliverance in the first 9 chapters of the second half, and Israel’s salvation in the second nine. You bore down to those 9 in the middle chapter and the middle verses- this is the prophecy, not the death of Christ. This is not a prophecy of the death of Christ, this is a prophecy of the future conversion of Israel, when they look back at the death of Christ and see who He really was. This is stunning. This leaps across the death and resurrection of Christ to the future conversion of Israel. That’s why Isaiah gave this. To give hope for the national salvation of his people.
Remember Ezekiel 36, when God promises salvation to Israel, a new heart, His spirit… you remember Jeremiah 31, the covenant passage promised to Israel, where God saves Israel. But, you might wanna think about this in terms of another prophecy. As you come to the end of the Old Testament, in Zechariah 12:10 I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
And Zechariah sees the future day, when Israel has, by the sovereign purposes of God, the spirit of grace and supplication comes down from heaven and gives them life. And when God does that, they will look on the one they pierced and they will mourn. vv 11-14 11 In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; 14 all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves. What are they all mourning about? That is the future work of God, when He saves the nation of Israel. Romans 11 “So, all Israel will be saved”. That’s the future promise of God.
When that day comes, what will they say? They will recite Isaiah 53. This is their confession. That’s why it’s in the past tense. Think of it this way, as we look at this incredible chapter. Why the mourning? Why the horror? Why does everybody mourn, from the lowest to the highest? From the King, the leader, always down to the humblest family? What is all this mourning and weeping, and sorrowing? It’s obvious. In that future day, when Israel is saved, they will look back over their history and realize that everyone that came before them and rejected Jesus Christ was damned forever. The horror. All the history of holocaust, all those people are lost. The mourning will be beyond comprehension. (transcript from first 30 min provided by our blog)