Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
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. (53:1–6)
The fourth Servant Song (Isa. 52:13–53:12), brings together many of these strands, and it becomes crystal clear that the victory of the Servant will be achieved through suffering, not just despite suffering. The Servant will be marred, beaten, and wounded for the transgressions of His people. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:6). His suffering will result in the sprinkling of many nations (52:15) and healing (53:5).
Servant Songs in the New Testament
Some of the most memorable questions in the New Testament are answered in relation to the Servant Songs. Whether it is the eunuch asking Phillip if the fourth song is about Isaiah or someone else (Acts 8), or John the Baptist sending his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:20), the significance of these songs cannot be overstated. “Phillip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). Jesus responds to John’s disciples with a summary of His ministry as depicted in Isaiah in particular:
Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me. (Luke 7:22–23)
This description draws, at least in part, on the work of the Servant in the first song, which mentions opening the eyes of the blind and setting the captive free.
When staring up close at one of the mountains, one might receive a limited view, but upon stepping back, the vista of a Servant who achieves victory for the nations comes into focus. From the New Testament perspective, the work that the Servant performs accomplishes the redemption of God’s people and ushers in the kingdom of God. The Servant solves the dilemma presented in Revelation 5. Only Jesus Christ, God’s Servant, can break the seals of the scroll and accomplish God’s purposes for the heavens and the earth. His kingdom of justice will be achieved through the crucible of suffering in order that the praise of His glorious grace might extend throughout all the earth.
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. (Rev. 5:9–10)