The Suffering Servant: Part V

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The Suffering Servant: Part II

In this final article on the Suffering Servant, we come to understand that the Father offered His beloved in the flesh for us.

¶ “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put [him] to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see [his] seed, he shall prolong [his] days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Isaiah 53:10

“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” These words are said through the principle of Divine Investiture, wherein the Son speaks the words of the Father about Himself. The Targum (𝔗) has, “And it was the pleasure of the Lord to refine and to purify the remnant of His people.” Instead of bruise, the Peshitta (𝔖) has afflict (Lamsa) / humiliate (BPE).

Cheyne well says: “It was no mere accident, but the deliberate will of God that the Servant should suffer innocently … [and then alluding to those who wish to take these scriptures away from the Messiah:] The Servant is a person, not a personification of the pious kernel of Israel. His sufferings are vicarious and voluntary. Hence he who offers the Servant’s ‘soul,’ or ‘life,’ as a sacrifice, must be the Servant himself … may it not be one object of the prophet to show that in the death of the Servant various forms of sacrifice find their highest fulfilment?” Kay explains: “In the old sacrifices He had no pleasure, except so far as they foreshadowed this one all-perfect offering.”

Cheyne notes that the word pleasure is frequent in Isaiah and also means purpose. So, for instance, in this verse חָפֵץ appears twice (חָפֵץ / וְחֵפֶץ). BDAG, when speaking of the translation of חָפֵץ into the LXX (𝔊), i.e., βούλεται, defines its meaning as: “to plan on a course of action, intend, plan, will.”

TDOT has, “especially when God is the subject of חָפֵץ [t]his translation stresses above all the absolute certainty, sovereign self-assurance, and efficacy of the act; it refers to a deliberate and efficacious act of will (Cf. Schrenk, 47).” Was not the coming of Messiah to atone for our sins the central, most wonderful and vital part of the plan of salvation?

President Russell M. Nelson shared: “While visiting the British Museum in London one day, I read a most unusual book. It is not scripture. It is an English translation of an ancient Egyptian manuscript. From it, I quote a dialogue between the Father and the Son. Referring to His Father, Jehovah—the premortal Lord—says: ‘He took the clay from the hand of the angel, and made Adam according to Our image and likeness, and He left him lying for forty days and forty nights without putting breath into him. And He heaved sighs over him daily, saying, “If I put breath into this [man], he must suffer many pains.” And I said into My Father, “Put breath into him; I will be an advocate for him.” And My Father said unto Me, “If I put breath into him, My beloved Son, Thou will be obliged to go down into the world, and to suffer many pains for him before Thou shalt have redeemed him, and made him to come back to his primal state.” And I said unto My Father, “Put breath into him; I will be his advocate, and I will go down into the world, and will fulfil Thy command.”’ (‘Discourse on Abbaton by Timothy, Archbishop of Alexadria,’ in Coptic Martyrdoms etc. in Dialect of Upper Egypt, ed. and translated E. A. Wallis Budge (1914), 482. Timothy, archbishop of Alexandria, died in A.D. 385. Brackets are included in Budge’s English translation).”[1]

“He hath put him to grief;When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin [אָשָׁם] he shall see his seed.” The Targum (𝔗) has, “In order to cleanse their souls from sin, that they might see the kingdom of their Messiah, that their sons and daughters might multiply.” Wordsworth underscores the words of the Targum (𝔗): “The Chaldee Targum has here the remarkable words, ‘They shall see the Kingdoms of their Messiah.’”

Urwick has, regarding אָשָׁם: “a guilt-offering, from אָשָׁם, to be guilty (Leviticus 4:13, 22, 27; 5:2–4, 17, 19); the noun occasionally signifies simply guilt, Genesis 26:10; Psalm 68:22; Proverbs 14:9, but usually guilt-offering. It occurs twenty-six times in Leviticus … The אָשָׁם was a sacrifice for individual sin … As in Isaiah 53:5 the Divine Servant is represented as a sin-offering. His death being an expiation, so here He is described as a guilt offering … His soul, not simply for the pronoun, but with special reference to the nature of the אָשָׁם, which was the guilt-offering in the case of individual sin (Leviticus 5:17; Numbers 5:6). Compare to Matthew 20:28.”

Abinadi, much like Isaiah, testified of Christ expiatory sacrifice and the seed of Christ: “And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed? Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God. For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed? Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy, that has not fallen into transgression, I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began? I say unto you that they are his seed. And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!” (Mosiah 15:10–14).

Right after this, Abinadi speaks of the beautiful feet of those who share the Gospel of Jesus Christ). In Mosiah 5 we likewise have: “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ” (Mosiah 5:7–9).

“He shall prolong his days.” Cheyne, speaking of the Servant, explains that, “death hath no more dominion over him.”[2] Urwick writes: “Though the Divine Servant die, yet shall He live.” Jenour has: “He shall prolong his days] The subject of this prophecy was to be cut off from the land of the living, to make his soul, or life, an offering for sin, and to be laid in the receptacle of the dead; yet here it is declared, he shall prolong his days: what can this mean, but that he shall rise from the grave and live again forever? (See Revelation 1:18).”

So also Rawlinson, “A seeming contradiction to the statement (Isaiah 53:8) that he should be ‘cut off’ out of the land of the living; and the more surprising because his death is made the condition of this long life: ‘When thou shalt make his soul an offering [or, “sacrifice”] for sin,’ then ‘he shall prolong his days.’ But the resurrection of Christ, and his entrance upon an immortal life, (Romans 6:9) after offering himself as a Sacrifice upon the cross, exactly meets the difficulty and solves the riddle (comp. Revelation 1:18).”

“And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” The Lord has power—for He will be the judge—to exalt and justify.

“He shall see of the travail of his soul, [and] shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:11

“He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” Urwick has: “The prophet’s strain from this point becomes triumphant—after the sufferings, glory.”

By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many. The Targum (𝔗) has, “By His wisdom He shall justify the righteous, in order to make many to keep (literally, ‘to do’) the law.”” The LXX (𝔊) reads, “To shew him light and fashion him for knowledge—to justify the Righteous One who is serving many well.” The Douay-Rheims (𝔇ℜ𝔅) has just instead of righteous.

Urwick notes: “Here those justified are not righteous; they are sinners, as is clear from the words which immediately follow, where their iniquities are named. But though sinners, the righteous Servant justifies them, and is righteous in doing so, because He bears their iniquities.” (I will say more about this in a paper entitled, “Justification, Sanctification and Grace.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland provided some comfort on the topic of our imperfection: “First of all, if in the days ahead you not only see limitations in those around you but also find elements in your own life that don’t yet measure up to the messages you have heard this weekend, please don’t be cast down in spirit and don’t give up … With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed.”[3]

“For he shall bear their iniquities.” The LXX (𝔊) reads, “When he shall bear away their sins.” Instead of iniquities, likewise, the Peshitta (𝔖) has sins.

Urwick explains: “Now, according to the ceremonial law, the sin-stricken Israelite came bearing his own iniquity to the altar, and leading thereto an innocent victim, a bullock or a lamb, whose life he offers as a substitute for his own; thus confessing that the wages of his sin is death; that his own conscience, as well as divine and holy love, demanded an expiation; and that the common basis and fellowship of life involved the possibility of substitution. When within the precincts of the sanctuary, he was to put his hand, or rather to press (סָמַךְ)[4] his hand, heavily (Psalm 88:7) upon the head of the animal (Leviticus 1:4; 4:24). This act was to be performed by the offerer himself; it could not be entrusted to anyone else; never to a priest, except when the sacrifice was presented for the priesthood collectively (Exodus 29:10, 15, 19); for the nation collectively, the elders were to do it, and on the day of atonement the high priest. This act was designed to indicate the personal and intimate relation between the sinner and the victim. We read (Leviticus 1:4): ‘It shall he accepted for him, to make atonement for him.’ The sinner had then with his own hands to perform the act of immolation, that the offering might be clearly marked as his own. The receiving of the blood as it streamed from the fatal wound, and the sprinkling of it, were the exclusive work of the priests. This ritual must be kept in view in the explanation of the words: ‘Upon Him was laid the iniquity of us all; He shall bear their iniquities.’ It finds its fulfilment in the atoning death of the Divine Servant, and the truths it embodied are fully met and satisfied thereby.”

“Therefore will I divide him [a portion] with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” —Isaiah 53:12

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great. Barnes suggests: “The words here used are taken from the custom of distributing the spoils of victory after a battle, and the idea is, that as a conqueror takes valuable spoils, so the Messiah would go forth to the spiritual conquest of the world, and subdue it to himself … the spoils of his conquests would be among the mighty or the many; that is, that his victories would not be confined to a few in number, or to the feeble, but the triumphs of his conquests would extend afar, and be found among the potentates and mighty people of the earth.”

I wonder if this verse is related to: “And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him” (D&C 84:38); “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7); and “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21). Without the atonement, none of this would have been possible.

And he shall divide the spoil with the strong. Gill writes: “…  he shall spoil principalities and powers, destroy Satan and his angels, and make an entire conquest of all his mighty and powerful enemies.” Barnes explains: “It was from language such as this that the Jews obtained the notion that the Messiah would be a distinguished conqueror, and hence, they looked forward to one who as a warrior would carry the standard of victory around the world. But it is evident that it may be applied with much higher beauty to the spiritual victories of the Redeemer, and that it expresses the great and glorious truth that the conquests of the true religion will yet extend over the most formidable obstacles on the earth.”

Delitzsch explains: “… the great ones of the earth will be brought to do homage to Him, or at all events to submit to Him.” And once again, the idea of becoming one with the Father and His Beloved and the Holy Ghost comes to mind.

Because he hath poured out his soul unto death: The Targum (𝔗) has, “Because He has delivered His life unto death.” The LXX (𝔊) reads, “Because his soul was delivered up to death.” Instead of soul, the Peshitta (𝔖) has life. The Douay-Rheims (𝔇ℜ𝔅) has delivered instead of poured out.

Cheyne has: “Poured out his soul] The prophet again emphasizes the voluntary nature of the Servant’s sufferings.” We especially saw this in Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice and Isaac’s disposition to be sacrificed, as a type of Messiah’s expiatory sacrifice. Gill explains: “Because he hath poured out his soul unto death; as water is poured out (Psalm 22:14), or rather as the wine was poured out in the libations or drink offerings; for Christ’s soul was made an offering for sin, as before; and it may be said with respect to his blood, in which is the life, that was shed or poured out for the remission of sin; of which he was emptied.”

Delitzsch has: “The blood of the typical sacrifice, which has been hitherto dumb, begins to speak. Faith, which penetrates to the true meaning of the prophecy, hopes on not only for the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but also for the Lamb of God, which beareth the sin of the world.”

Elder Bruce D. Porter testified: “There is yet another dimension of a broken heart—namely; our deep gratitude for Christ’s suffering on our behalf. In Gethsemane, the Savior ‘descended below all things’ as He bore the burden of sin for every human being. At Golgotha, He ‘poured out his soul unto death’ and His great heart literally broke with an all-encompassing love for the children of God. When we remember the Savior and His suffering, our hearts too will break in gratitude for the Anointed One.”[5]

And he was numbered with the transgressors. The LXX (𝔊) reads, “And he was numbered among transgressors.” Barnes has: “… he suffered himself to be numbered with the transgressors, or to be put to death with malefactors.”

And he bare the sins of many. The LXX (𝔊) reads, “And bore away the sins of many.” Driver & Neubauer quote Yepheth Ben ‘Ali, speaking of the Messiah: “The prophet next says, ‘When his soul makes a trespass-offering,’ indicating thereby that his soul was compelled to take Israel’s guilt upon itself, as it is said below, ‘And he bare the sin of many.’ Another commentator however understands the phrase as meaning that ‘his soul gave itself in place of a trespass-offering,’ i.e., he gave himself up freely to be slain.’”

Urwick explains: “It is true that the verb נשא also expresses the idea of bearing away, and this with reference to sin; because the Israelite, bearing his sin with his sacrifice to the sanctuary, there to offer the victim, had his sin thus canceled and his guilt removed. The ceremonial of the Day of Atonement [יוֹם כִּפֻּר] confirmed this, because the scapegoat was ‘to bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited’ (Leviticus 16:22 [וְנָשָׂא הַשָּׂעִיר עָלָיו —And the goat shall bear upon him]); but even here the words נָשָׂא עָלָיו convey the idea of a burden borne. The word, however, thus came to mean not only the means of forgiveness but forgiveness itself; and thus we find it used in Psalm 32:1: אַשְׁרֵי נְשׂוּי־פֶּשַׁע [Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven] and Psalm 32:5: נָשָׂאתָ עֲוֹן חַטָּאתִי [forgavest the iniquity of my sin]” (emphasis added).

And made intercession for the transgressors. The Targum (𝔗) has, “And as for the transgressors, each shall be pardoned for His sake.” Gill has: “… as he did upon the cross, even for those that were the instruments of his death, (Luke 23:34) and as he now does, in heaven, for all those sinners for whom he died; not merely in a petitionary way, but by presenting himself, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; pleading the merits of these, and calling for, in a way of justice and legal demand, all those blessings which were stipulated in an everlasting covenant between him and his Father, to be given to his people, in consequence of his sufferings and death.”

Barnes has: “It may not refer here to the mere act of making prayer or supplication, but rather perhaps to the whole work of the intercession, in which the Redeemer, as high priest, presents the merit of his atoning blood before the throne of mercy and pleads for people.”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explains: “According to the law of intercession, as ordained and established by the Father, the Lord Jesus has ‘power to make intercession for the children of men.’ (Mosiah 15:8.) That is to say, he has the role of interceding, of mediating, of praying, petitioning, and entreating the Father to grant mercy and blessings to men. One of Isaiah’s great Messianic prophecies says: ‘He bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). Of this ministry of intercession Paul affirms: ‘It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us’ (Romans 8:34). And it is Lehi who tells us: Christ ‘is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved. And because of the intercession for all all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him’ (2 Nephi 2:9–10).”[6]

Henderson notes: “So manifestly is the doctrine of atonement taught in this important section of the prophet, that Gesenius himself is compelled to acknowledge it in the following terms: ‘Most Hebrew readers, who were previously familiar with the ideas of sacrifice and substitution, must necessarily have taken this view of the passage; and it cannot be doubted, that the apostolic representation of the death of Christ as an atonement pre-eminently rests  upon this basis’ (Comment, ii, Theil. p. 191).”

Urwick wrote: “It is true, as the Epistle to the Hebrews says: ‘The blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sins,’[7] they were effectual only as types of the one great sacrifice offered for the sin of the world by the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross; but the penitent Israelite, by means of them, obtained the hope of the forgiveness which God in Christ can grant.”

As LDS we understand, however, that the cross is one part of the atonement, along with Gethsemane and the resurrection itself. I wish to testify, from the deepest part of my soul, of the truthfulness of the atonement and of the divinity of our Redeemer, Christ Jesus. I also wish to say that this atoning sacrifice will not only bless out lives in eternity, but in the here and now. It is the very power that helps us begin to change—through the gifts of justification, sanctification and grace—that we might become women and men in Christ.

Notes

[1] Nelson, Elder Russell M., “The Creation,” Ensign, May 2000, p. 84.

[2] Romans 6:9, “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.”

[3] Holland, Elder Jeffrey R. Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You. April 2016 General Conference.

[4] This word not only includes the idea of placing or leaning but also that of the laying on of hands (TDOT). This last concept has numerous significations, including that of transference: “By means of this gesture, Moses transfers his authority to his successor, the priest transfers sins to the scapegoat, and the offerer transfers them to the sacrificial animal (Jewish tradition)” (TDOT).

[5] Porter, Elder Bruce D., “A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit,” October 2007 General Conference.

[6] McConkie, Bruce R. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1985.

[7] Hebrews 10:4.

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Gregorio Billikopf belongs to the Llanquihue Branch, Puerto Montt Stake, in the south of Chile. He is the author of Isaiah Testifies of Christ and an emeritus academic of the University of California and professor of the University of Chile; author of Party-Directed Mediation: Facilitating Dialogue between Individuals and other books. Gregorio’s paternal grandparents are Lithuanian Jews and German Jews and on his mother’s side of the family he is Chilean. He found Christ through reading the Book of Mormon. You may contact him through bielikov2@yahoo.cl.

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