Isaiah 52-54, Psalm 119:97-128
So profound and clear is the description of Jesus in today's reading, our Messiah, in His first coming, that many have called the book of Isaiah the fifth gospel. Many portions of Scripture to fully understand, require us to move throughout the Bible, cross reference, etc. Then there are portions of Scripture which are meant to be read slowly and absorbed just as it is written. Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12 slowly and allow these words to open our minds to our Messiah along with His mission, written over 700 years before they transpired.
So many mistakenly believe that Jesus came for the Gentiles. But we read in Matthew 15:24, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Paul stated in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." Interestingly, many question, if Isaiah 53 is so strongly Messianic, why don't all Jewish people believe in Jesus. When Isaiah was given his commission in Isaiah 6, he was told how most of his people would reject his message in 6:9, "And He said, "Go and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive'." First of all, if you read the ancient rabbinical writings from the Targums, the Talmud, and the Midrash until the 11th century, this portion of Scripture was always considered Messianic. In the Targum (The oldest known commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures (200 BC- 200AD), specifically the Targum of Isaiah, it is written that the servant mentioned in Isaiah 53 was the Messiah, and it was the will of God to pardon the sins of all of us on his account, and the Messiah was ready to suffer martyrdom. This was also referenced in the Targum of Jonathan. In the Talmud (written 200-500 AD which is a commentary on the Jewish Oral Laws), which is what is primarily read by Ortohodox Jewish men after their Bar-Mitzvah, in the portions Sanhedrin 93b and 98b it clearly states that this passage of Scripture in Isaiah 53 refers to the Messiah who would suffer and bear our sorrows and pains. Many portions of the Midrashim (running commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures from 200 BC- 1600 AD) clearly state that this portion refers to the Messiah and even confirms that He would die for the sins of His people.
Just consider these three verses, Isaiah 53:5-7, and reflect on Who this describes, "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 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." So with all of this, how can the Jewish people deny Jesus as their Messiah. Like most Christians, Most Jewish people are biblically illiterate. Next, in the Jewish reading calendar there is the weekly Torah and Haftorah (Isaiah is part of the Haftorah) readings for the year, that are read in the synagogues. Isaiah 53 is omitted from the calendar, so that even those Jewish people who read do not read Isaiah 53. Next, in the 11th century, Rabbi Rashi of the Midrashim, interpreted this portion of Scripture as referring to the nation of Israel, rather than the Messiah. This point of view was vehemently rejected by many other prominent rabbis of the Midrashim, including Rabbi Moshe Cohen Crispin who states that to remove the Messianic application from Isaiah 53 distorts the verses from their natural meaning, forsakes the knowledge of the Teachers that preceded them, and reveals the stubbornness of their hearts. Sadly, the minority view of Rabbi Rashi is the one which prevails in the hearts of the modern Jewish people. The view is illogical, if one reads Isaiah 53 slowly, it only makes sense to be applied to an individual and specifically to the Messiah. Israel is not an innocent sufferer (we are all guilty of sin); the text clearly states that an individual suffers, not a nation; to state that Israel must be cut off on behalf of Israel doesn't even make sense.
So profound is Isaiah 53 that it is easy to pass quickly over Isaiah 54. Realize there were no chapters and verses when Isaiah wrote this book (chapters inserted in the 1200's AD, verses in the 1500's AD). We, who are primarily Gentile are those referred to in 54:1, "Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, You who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate Than the children of the married woman,", says the Lord." Throughout Scripture, Israel is referred to as the wife of God. Prior to Jesus, we the Gentiles, were barren with no knowledge of God and no relationship with Him. But with the commission of Paul and the presentation of Jesus, the Messiah, to the Gentile world, we now form the Bride of Christ as foretold in Isaiah 54:5, "For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth." With this blessing that we do not deserve, but have only received by His grace and mercy, we are commanded in (Matthew 28:18-20) to make disciples of all nations, including our Jewish friends. This portion of Scripture in their Bible can not be ignored if they are to be reached. 2 Corinthians 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."
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: