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This awesome servant.... (4)

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds 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. Isaiah 53: 4-6 [circa 710 BC]

A long, long time ago (c. 710 BC) a prophet (a “foreteller”) named Isaiah wrote in advance about Jesus of Nazareth (on earth c. AD0 – AD33). He did this so as to set out the promises of Almighty God the Lord to the LORD’s own people – Israel.

Why did they need promises from the LORD? Well, in short, the nation of Israel was facing complete and utter disaster in Isaiah’s day.

When we in Jersey think of disaster befalling us we think about the possible decline of Jersey’s finance industry. We think of a shortfall of taxation revenues leading to a cutback in public services like health and education. Not so Israel, the people of God, in 700 BC. Eighty per cent of the nation had been either killed or exiled to other countries a century or so earlier when the Assyrians struck “like a wolf on the fold”. Within another century or so, the remaining twenty per cent would be decimated and exiled to Babylon – to live there as defeated aliens without a country of their own.

But why? Why this awful punishment?

Because they no longer lived as the people of God. Some of them kept to their outward religion but their hearts – and the hearts of all others - were also far from the LORD.
‘Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’ (Isaiah, Jerusalem, BC 710)

Isaiah was required by the LORD to proclaim to them what, one future day, the servant of the LORD would suffer FOR THEM – in their place.

So wonderful are the words of Isaiah – written in Hebrew and translated into Greek well before Jesus was born – that they are worth reproducing for all to read in a thoroughly modern format: The Message Copyright 2003 E F Peterson. Here’s the first half -

“Just watch my servant blossom! Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn’t begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn’t even look human—a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback, kings shocked into silence when they see him. For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes, what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.”

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.
‘Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price’ (Isaiah, Jerusalem, BC 710)
Jesus was well able to say to the crowds circa AD 30; “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Richard Syvret

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