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Isaiah’s Suffering Servant: More Prophetic Hints for the Messiah’s Divinity and Priestly Role

Oftentimes when Christians want to show that the Hebrew Bible testifies to the divinity and vicarious sufferings of the Messiah they will turn to Isaiah 9:6-7 and 53:1-12, since these texts are rather explicit in spelling out these divinely revealed truths. Rarely, however, do Christians cite Isaiah 52:13-15 to support these doctrines. As such, we have decided to focus on this specific passage in order to show how even this particular section points to the Deity, glory and substitutionary death of the Lord’s Anointed.

“See, My servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled (yarum wanissa), and be very high (wagabah). Just as many were astonished at you, his visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men; so he shall sprinkle (yazzeh) many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall consider.” Isaiah 52:13-15

The Servant’s Priestly Role

With the start off with Isaiah’s reference to the Servant sprinkling many nations. The word yazzeh, which is a form of nazah, is predominately used in relation to the priestly function of sprinkling blood on items or individuals in order to cleanse them from sins. In other words, the verb refers to the sacrificial work of the priests whom God commanded to sprinkle the blood of the offerings for the express purpose of making atonement for all the evil and crimes committed by the people. Note how this word is used in Leviticus 16, which is the chapter dealing with “the Day of Atonement/Coverings” (Yom Kipporim), the day which God appointed for the high priest to enter into the most holy place in order to make atonement for all of Israel’s willful and unintentional transgressions:

“The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near to the Lord and died. The Lord said to Moses: Speak to Aaron your brother so that he does not come at any time into the Holy Place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is on the ark, so that he will not die, for I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat. Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and he shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and shall be girded with a linen sash, and shall be wearing the linen turban. These are holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water and then put them on. He shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. Aaron shall offer his bull for the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house. Then he shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat on which the lot of the Lord falls and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot falls to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement with it, that it may be sent away as a scapegoat into the wilderness. Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bull of the sin offering for himself. And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. And he shall take of the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the eastern side, and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle (yazzeh) from the blood with his finger seven times. Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, and bring its blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle (wahizzah) it over and in front of the mercy seat. And he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions in all their sins, and so he shall do for the tent of meeting that remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness. There shall be no man in the tent of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place, until he comes out and has made atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it, and he shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. He shall sprinkle (wahizzah) from the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.” Leviticus 16:1-19 – cf. 4:6, 17; 5:19; 6:27; 8:11, 30; 14:7, 16, 27, 51; Numbers 19:4

This clearly indicates that Isaiah is envisioning the Servant carrying out the priestly task of purifying the nations by the sprinkling of blood which, in the immediate context, would be the Servant’s own blood that was shed as a result of his offering himself as a guilt offering, or vicarious sacrifice, for the express purpose of making atonement for the sins all mankind:

“Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all… By oppression and judgment he was taken away, and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was struck. His grave was assigned with the wicked, yet with the rich in his death, 
because he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; He has put him to grief. If he made himself as an offering for sin (asham)… By his knowledge My righteous servant shall justify the many, 
for he shall bear their iniquities… because he poured out his soul to death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, thus he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:4-6, 8-10a, 11-12

This is precisely what the NT documents teach, namely, Christ offered his life as a sacrifice in order to sprinkle all those who would trust in him by his precious blood so as to purify them from all their sins:

“to the praise of the glory of His grace which He graciously bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace,” Ephesians 1:6-7

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14

“…When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:3b

“But Christ, when He came as a High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies so that the flesh is purified, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the Mediator of a new covenant, since a death has occurred for the redemption of the sins that were committed under the first covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance… And according to the law almost everything must be cleansed with blood; without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It was therefore necessary that the replicas of heavenly things be cleansed with these sacrifices, but that the heavenly things themselves be cleansed with better sacrifices than these For Christ did not enter holy places made with hands, which are patterned after the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. Nor did He enter to offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. For then He would have had to suffer repeatedly since the world was created, but now He has appeared once at the end of the ages to put away sin by sacrificing Himself. As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this comes the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to save those who eagerly wait for Him.” Hebrews 9:11-15, 22-28

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven; to God, the Judge of all; and to the spirits of the righteous ones made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator of a new covenant; and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better than that of Abel.” Hebrews 12:22-24

“elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification by the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied… For you know that you were not redeemed from your vain way of life inherited from your fathers with perishable things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:2, 18-19

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

“and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6

“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests unto our God; and we shall reign on the earth.’” Revelation 5:9-10

“Then I looked. And there was a great multitude WHICH NO ONE COULD COUNT, from all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures and fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’ Then one of the elders asked me, ‘Who are these clothed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ He said to me, ‘These are those who came out of great tribulation and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. “They shall neither hunger any more, nor shall they thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them,” nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and “He will lead them to springs of living water.” “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”’” Revelation 7:9-17

The Servant’s Divine Enthronement

That’s not at all. Isaiah employs the exact same words to describe the Servant’s being high and lifted up that he used elsewhere in relation Jehovah’s exalted status as the King of creation:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up (ram wanissa), and His train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim. Each one had six wings. With two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. One cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.’ The posts of the door moved at the voice of him who cried, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am undone because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.’” Isaiah 6:1-5

“For thus says the High and Lofty One (ram wanissa) who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high (marom) and holy place and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15

The Lord is exalted (nisgab), for He dwells on high (marom); He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness… ‘Now I will rise,’ says the Lord, ‘now I will be exalted (eromam), now I will be lifted up (ennase).’” Isaiah 33:5, 10

This means that the Isaiah is basically stating that Jehovah is exalting his Servant to share in Jehovah’s unique sovereign rule over the entire creation!

What makes this all the more remarkable is that Isaiah explicitly states that Jehovah shall bring down every individual who has lifted himself up in his pride and arrogance, since Jehovah alone is and shall be exalted above all things:

“The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord ALONE shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of Hosts shall be upon everything that is proud and lofty (warom), and upon everything that is lifted up (nissa), and it shall be brought low; and it will be upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up (haramim wahannissaim), and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high (haramim) mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up (hannissaot), and upon all the high towers, and upon every fenced wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant sloops. The loftiness of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the Lord ALONE will be exalted in that day;” Isaiah 2:11-17

“In the day the Lord gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear, and from the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, you shall take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say: How has the oppressor ceased! The golden city ceased! The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers; he who struck the people in wrath with unceasing strokes, he who ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and no one hinders. The whole earth is at rest and is quiet; they break forth into singing. Indeed, the fir trees rejoice at you, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you are laid down, no tree cutter has come up against us.’ Hell from beneath is moved for you to meet you at your coming; it stirs up the dead for you, even all the chief ones of the earth; it has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. They all shall speak and say to you: ‘Have you also become as weak as we have? Have you become like us?’ Your pomp is brought down to Hell, and the noise of your harps; maggots are spread under you, and the worms cover you. How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also on the mount of the congregation, in the recesses of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Hell, to the sides of the pit.” Isaiah 14:3-15

Therefore, the only way that the Servant could share in Jehovah’s elevated status as the sovereign Lord of creation is if he is one with Jehovah in essence, power and majesty. Note how this works out logically:

Jehovah alone is high and lifted up above all creation as King.

The Servant shall be raised on high and lifted up after offering his life as a vicarious sacrifice for sins.

This indicates that Jehovah is exalting his Servant to reign alongside of him as the King of all creation.

The Servant must therefore be one with Jehovah in his essence, power, and glory.

Once again, the inspired Christian Scriptures inform us that this is precisely what the Father did after raising his beloved Son from the dead, namely, God exalted Jesus the Messiah to sit enthroned alongside him as the supreme head over all creation:

“Again the high priest asked Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’” Mark 14:61b-62

“After the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God. Then they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.” Mark 16:19-20

“Brothers, I may speak confidently to you concerning the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. But being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of his seed according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he foresaw this and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. God raised up this Jesus, of which we all are witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this which you now see and hear.” Acts 2:29-33

God exalted this Man to His right hand to be a Ruler and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31

“and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He performed in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE ALL principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and EVERY name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet and made Him THE HEAD OVER ALL THINGS for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all things in all ways.” Ephesians 1:19-23

“For in Him lives all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all authority and power.” Colossians 2:9-10

“He is the brightness of His glory, the express image of Himself, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:3

“Figuratively this is like baptism, which also saves us now. It is not washing off the dirt from the body, but a response to God from a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels and authorities and powers being made subject to Him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and cried out in labor and in pain to give birth… The dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as He was born. She gave birth to a male Child, ‘who was to rule all nations with an iron scepter.’ And her Child was caught up to God and to His throne Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’” Revelation 12:1-2, 4b-5, 10

There you have it folks. Even more prophetic hints from Isaiah which point to the essential Deity and priestly role of God’s Anointed Servant, Jesus Christ our risen Lord!

All Scriptural references taken from the Modern English Version (MEV) of the Holy Bible.

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