Isaiah 53 is perhaps the most striking messianic passage of the old testament. I had some fun this morning googling Orthodox Jewish responses to this passage: as many of you probably know, a number of Jewish commentaries interpret this passage as referring to the nation of Israel, not an individual person. I found an anti-missionary blog post that was scholarly and well-written here. Man, am I out of my league with some of these arguments!
Still, I believe, along with Martin Luther and the translators of the Old Testament Septugaint* into the common language of the people, that the Scriptures can be read and the simple message of salvation understood by anyone. There are, to be sure, layers upon layers upon layers of organization and information in the Scriptures, but the necessary knowledge is easily unearthed in one verse:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (NKJV)
*The Septugaint (LXX) was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible translated in the 2nd century BC during the reign of Ptolemy (285-247 BC) The LLX translation was used by the Jewish culture in the first century AD, when Jesus lived. This translation was also found in the Qumran cache of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Isaiah lived about 800 years before the birth of Christ. This passage, along with the rest of the OT, was translated into Greek 200 years before the birth of Christ. Read Isaiah's passage in an unbiased fashion to see if this sounds like a nation, or an individual. (NOTE: I do not know Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, but there are many translations of the Bible from the original languages into modern English, and they ALL agree the correct translation is to present this passage using the pronoun *He.* )
Behold, My servant will prosper,
He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.
Just as many were astonished at you, My people,
So His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men.
Thus He will sprinkle many nations,
Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;
For what had not been told them they will see,
And what they had not heard they will understand.
Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
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.
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.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Isaiah 52:13-15, Isaiah 53, NASB
45 minutes ago