The Vindicated Sufferer
“He shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days… . Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (vv. 10b–11).- Isaiah 53:10–12
Called to obey God perfectly, Adam failed and all those in him were cast out of the Lord’s blessed presence (Gen. 2:15–16; 3; Rom. 5:12–21). Rescued from Egypt and called to obey God, Israel—especially its representative, the king—broke covenant and was cast out of the Promised Land, where the Lord’s blessing resided (2 Kings 17:7–23; Hos. 6:7). The expulsion of God’s old covenant people proved that mankind is wholly defiled (WCF 6.2). If even those rescued by the Lord failed, what hope does anyone have?
That hope is the gracious and merciful Creator, who, by the work of the Messiah, provides the perfect obedience and cleansing necessary to make up for Israel’s failures. In so doing, He makes up for Adam’s failures, and anyone who by faith alone submits to the Messiah—the King of Israel—is accounted a member of true Israel as well and saved from the wrath to come (Isa. 11:10; Zech. 2:10–12; Rom. 11; 1 Thess. 1:10).
We know the Messiah accomplishes all this because of His vindication (Isa. 53:10–12). It is the Lord’s will to crush His Servant, but if everything ends there, modern Jews and Muslims would be correct that the cross is impossible in God’s plan. At best it would be an accident of history and at worst proof that the Lord hates Christ, who can save no one, not even Himself. But the story does not end there. After He offers Himself, the Servant prolongs His days and is satisfied. He is given a reward—a portion and spoil—His offspring, those who are born anew as children of God because of His work. All of this is “because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors” (v. 12), not in spite of it. He is vindicated because He chooses to submit Himself to the Father’s will that He suffer for His people. John Calvin comments, “Isaiah means that the death of Christ not only can be no hindrance to his having a seed, but will be the cause of his having offspring; that is, because, by quickening the dead, he will procure a people for himself, whom he will afterwards multiply more and more.”
Ultimately, this points us to the resurrection, for if the Messiah dies for His people, He can see and enjoy the fruit of His labors only if He is raised from the dead. Moreover, the resurrection proves what Isaiah has been saying all along in 52:13–53:12—that God willed the death of the Messiah as an atoning sacrifice for His people and accepts this atonement for our justification before Him (Rom. 1:1–4; 4:22–25).
If we are not careful, we will miss what is perhaps the most beautiful truth taught in Isaiah 53: the Messiah does not fail to save His people. He actually and fully saves them from first to last. Isaiah will have none of the idea that the atonement merely makes salvation potential; he agrees that it makes salvation actual and permanent for the elect. That is glorious. Calvin writes, “Men are not only taught righteousness in the school of Christ, but are actually justified.”
Passages for Further Study