High Holiday Blessings in Yeshua,
Yom Kippur (Yohm key-POOR), the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the Jewish year. It begins this year on the eve of Tuesday, October 8, 2019 and continues until sunset on Wednesday, October 9, 2019. Yom Kippur is a day of total fasting, of afflicting one’s soul, of going to temple services and repeating lists of intentional and unintentional sins. Since there is no atoning blood in traditional Judaism today, as prescribed in the Torah (Lev. 17:11), the rabbis have determined three substitutes: teshuvah (t’shoe-VAH) repentance, tefillah (t’fee-LAH) prayer, and tzedakah (tze-dahKAH) charity. But—if you ask a Jewish person, at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, if they have assurance of atonement, of sins forgiven, most will say, “No. No one can know for sure.” Messianic Jews know otherwise. We are confident that atonement (ka-poor-AH) has been made for us by our Cohen Gadol (Ko-HEN Gah-DOLE), our High Priest, Yeshua (Heb. 4:14; Heb. 9:11-12).
Over the years, my husband, Neil, and I heard reports of Jewish people coming to faith in the Messiah Yeshua during Yom Kippur services. The Messiah had sovereignly appeared to them. There have been even more reports of Jewish people coming to faith after a believer (often a non-Jew) read a portion of the Tanach (Old Covenant) to them. What portion? Isaiah Chapter 53. Recently, in a report from Israel by Jews for Jesus, an atheist named Larissa was engaged in a lengthy conversation with one of their staff members about Isaiah 53. Larissa admitted that if God exists, she did not want to face judgment for her sins, and asked to receive Yeshua. She prayed to receive Him right then. There is tremendous revelatory power in that ancient prophecy!
Isaiah 53—The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 52:13–Isaiah 53:12
“Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. Just as many were appalled at You—His appearance was disfigured more than any man, His form more than the sons of men. So He will sprinkle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of Him, for what had not been told them they will see, and what they had not heard they will perceive.
‘Who has believed our report? To whom is the arm of Adonai revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, like a root out of dry ground. He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, nor beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, One from whom people hide their faces. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our pains. Yet we esteemed Him stricken, struck by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities. The chastisement for our shalom was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us turned to his own way. So Adonai has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, like a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. Because of oppression and judgment He was taken away. As for His generation, who considered? For He was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression of my people—the stroke was theirs. His grave was given with the wicked, and by a rich man in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased Adonai to bruise Him. He caused Him to suffer. If He makes His soul a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the will of Adonai will succeed by His hand. 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 make many righteous and He will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the spoil with the mighty—because He poured out His soul to death, and was counted with transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” (TLV Version)
Isaiah Chapter 53 is one of the best-known chapters of the Word of God. It is the clearest Messianic Prophecy in the Bible, actually beginning in Isaiah 52:13. This portion of Scripture has been called the “holy of holies” of Isaiah, and the “golden passional” of the Old Testament. It is the connecting link between Psalm 22 (the psalm of the crucifixion) and Psalm 110 (the psalm of Messiah’s royal priesthood).
Of the nearly eighty references to the Book of Isaiah in the New Covenant, most of them are references to Chapter 53. Remember the Ethiopian eunuch? He asked Philip to identify the one the prophet Isaiah was speaking about in Chapter 53. May we have similar encounters!
Of whom does the prophet speak? Who is the Servant of the Lord (EH-bed Adonai) mentioned in this chapter? Ancient Jews, before the coming of the Lord Yeshua, regarded the passage as Messianic. The Servant mentioned was seen as the Messiah. Believers have always regarded the Servant as the Messiah Yeshua—prophesied in Isaiah 53 over 700 years before He was born. The prophecy declares that the Messiah will be highly exalted, will suffer terrible disfigurement and pain, will grow up in obscurity, be rejected by his own people, die for their sins, bring healing and redemption, and rise from the dead. As space allows, let us examine this biblical jewel, verse by verse.
The Servant Exalted: Isaiah 52:13–15
Isaiah 52:13—Dr. Michael Brown, foremost Messianic apologist, comments that Jewish tradition (not modern thinking) on Isaiah 52:13 states that Messiah will be higher than Abraham, Moses, and even the angels. An ancient belief was that the Messiah of Isaiah 53 was Mashiach Ben Yosef, the “Suffering Messiah.” This view was changed in the 11th century A.D.
In verse 13, God calls on us to Behold, Hineh (He-NAY), His servant and the final future glory that will occur after suffering. He is pointing toward the Lord’s “Bond-Servant” mentioned in Philippians 2:6-11.
Traditional Jews today claim that this passage cannot apply to Yeshua. They state that the subject of the passage is the Nation of Israel, who suffers in exile for the sins of the nations. As Dr. Brown says, that is impossible since the entire Tanach states that Israel was in exile for her own sins. The text also clearly speaks of an individual rather than a nation or a group. The term “Servant” is used for the Messiah in other places in Isaiah (Chapters 42 and 49).
Isaiah 52:14—This verse describes the brutal beating inflicted on the Messiah, both on His face and body. We can sense the depth and intensity of His suffering.
Isaiah 52:15—Torture brought disfigurement. Disfigurement caused amazement. He became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21)! His suffering included the sprinkling and the cleansing of His atoning blood.
The Servant Despised: Isaiah 53:1–3
Isaiah 53:1—The “Arm of the Lord,” the “Z’roa Adonai,” will one day be revealed—including a National Day of Atonement for Israel mentioned in Zechariah 2:10. It is the same term used for the lamb shank bone on the Passover Seder plate. Yeshua, the Messiah, is the Arm of Deliverance—the Eternal Passover Lamb—whose blood is the final atonement for sin. But Israel did not believe. (See John 12:37-38 and Romans 10:16.)
Isaiah 53:2—The Messiah was not what Israel was expecting. He did not come as a great regal warrior king like King David, but a gentle, loving carpenter and Shepherd. Lowly. Humble. He entered our world as a baby in miserable circumstances of an enslaved nation (out of dry ground).
Isaiah 53:3—The Servant is despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. The world still rejects Him, especially those of high rank, as in Yeshua’s day (Jn. 7:47-48). Sadly, in Israel today, Yeshua is called a derogatory name by some: Yeshu, a Hebrew acrostic that stands for the phrase, “Let His name and His memory be blotted out.” How this must add to Messiah’s sorrow— sorrow of heart in all its forms. Grief in verse 3 is suffering or grief of soul as the Servant takes upon Himself the wrath due to sin.
The Servant Wounded: Isaiah 53:4–6
Isaiah 53:4—This verse and those following set forth the true reason for the Servant’s sufferings, as well as confessing the mistaken evaluation of them. He did not suffer for His own sins, but for the sins of a future believing remnant of Israel. We begin to see the concept of the Servant’s vicarious, or substitutionary, suffering and death. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our pains…” The verb nasa, to bear, is the same word used in Leviticus in speaking of the expiation achieved by the sacrifices (with the idea of substitution).
Isaiah 53:5—The word “wounded” (Hebrew: mecholal, meh-Kho-LAHL) literally means “he was pierced.” This was a prophetically inspired word, accurately fulfilled in the death of Yeshua, the Messiah. “Crushed for our iniquities” is m’duka in Hebrew (m’doo-KAH). Both pierced and crushed express the vicarious nature of the suffering of God’s servant—the innocent for the guilty. Yeshua for each one of us. He took our place and made atonement for our sin (1 Pet. 2:24). God’s righteous servant took on Himself the punishment that secures our peace—with God and man. But not only peace, but healing as well—for spirit, soul, and body.
Isaiah 53:6—”We all like sheep have gone astray.” “All we” in Hebrew is kulanu (koo-LAH-nu), and indicates emphatically that all people, without exception, are included. All of us have an innate tendency to go our own way, not God’s way. This is “sin,” and is called iniquity in verse six: avon (ah-VONE). It indicates not only the sin, but the guilt it incurs and the punishment the sin demands. (See Romans 3:23.) Note that the Lord God caused the iniquity of us all to be laid upon the Messiah. (See 1 Peter 2:22-25.)
The Servant Cut Off: Isaiah 53:7–9
Isaiah 53:7—The Servant was a voluntary sufferer. His was a voluntary sacrifice. He said, “Lo, I came…to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). He would be the final Passover sacrifice—the Lamb led to the slaughter—proclaimed years later by John in John 1:29—”Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (This Servant would in no way be the Nation of Israel. Our people have resisted with all their might, whenever able, in the face of torment and oppression.) Messiah’s suffering without complaint showed His strength, His submission to the will of God, and His unfathomable love. All the references to the Lamb of God in the Brit Hadasha spring from this passage in Isaiah 53. (See Matthew 26:63; 27:11-12.)
Isaiah 53:8—Some versions use the word prison (otser, oats-ER in Hebrew) instead of oppression, but both include the idea of violent constraint. The Servant of the Lord was indeed snatched or hurried away, given a hasty, mock, illegal trial, and condemned to death. “Cut off from the land of the living” refers to Messiah’s death. Yeshua’s life was cut off prematurely—after 33 years. He died for the transgression of “Ami” (ah-ME, “my people”). Again we see the doctrine of vicarious sacrifice for human sin. (It is mentioned 14 times in 12 verses in Isaiah 53.) The term “my people,” throughout the Book of Isaiah, always and only refers to Israel. (Traditional Jewish interpreters ascribe this phrase to the nations, insisting that Israel has suffered for the sins of the nations rather than Messiah suffering for the sins of Israel.)
Isaiah 53:9—The prophetic prediction in this verse is astounding. The Servant would die with the wicked yet be buried with the rich. Our Messiah was crucified between two thieves, and normally would have been buried in an unmarked grave, where criminals were buried. But a “rich man,” Joseph of Arimathea, had Yeshua buried in a private grave in his own garden (Matt. 27:57). Verse nine ends with a proclamation of the Servant’s complete innocence. No violence. No deceit. A perfect description of Yeshua. 1 Peter 2:21-25 says it so beautifully: “For to this you were called, because Messiah also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth,’ who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 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. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
The Servant Satisfied: Isaiah 53:10–12
Isaiah 53:10—Who is really responsible for the death of the Servant of God, His Messiah? God Himself. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him. Yeshua’s death was God’s will, His plan for the redemption of the world. He was willing to make the supreme sacrifice because of His love for mankind. The Messiah was willing to obey His Father’s will “for the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:2)—seeing lost sinners made whole and in loving communion with their Creator. After God allowed His Son, the Servant of Isaiah 53, to die as a sin offering (asham, ah-SHAHM in Hebrew), He prolonged His days through resurrection. The “seed” He shall see is each one of us—souls in His Kingdom. His spiritual offspring are the result of Messiah’s atoning sacrifice.
Messiah will accomplish God’s will; God’s pleasure will prosper as salvation and righteousness are purchased for both Israel and the nations through the Messiah’s atoning sacrifice. “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:19-20).
Isaiah 53:11—The Servant will look on the anguish and sorrows of His earthly life and be satisfied with the results of His sacrifice since through the knowledge of God’s “righteous servant” others have been made righteous—justified by faith in Him. “For He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Yeshua makes us new—just as if we had never sinned—a glorious bride and a redeemed Israel.
“He will bear their iniquities” is thought to refer to action beyond the Messiah’s finished work, pointing to His continuous work of mediation. Hebrews 7:25 testifies to this: “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
Isaiah 53:12—The Prophet Isaiah foresees a time when the great men of history will pay homage to God’s Servant, the Messiah. This had indeed happened over the ages. Yeshua has a “portion among the great ones” of history. His impact on Israel and the nations of the world is a result of His having poured out His life unto death.
The One who was wholly righteous permitted Himself to be numbered with transgressors, poshim (poh-SHEEM), literally “criminals.” He interceded for them at the very moment of His death, praying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Yeshua is our eternal High Priest—our Atonement—who forgives us as well.
May your joy be full as you worship the Servant of Isaiah 53 and dwell in His sukkah forever,
Love in Him,