Week of Aug. 2

The Love that Conquers Injustice

Read: Isaiah 53-56; 2 Peter 2

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
Isaiah 53:7, ESV


“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul/what wondrous love is this, O my soul!/ What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss/to bear the dreadful curse for my soul...” These are words to a hymn based upon Isaiah 53:6 (What Wondrous Love is This). Perhaps you have never considered the depth of meaning in that tune, so we will today!

A Biblical Lens

Isaiah 53 contains a large portion of what has been termed the last of the four Servant Songs in the book (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). I will venture to guess that most Christians associate the “Suffering Servant” concept with Isaiah’s prophecy. If they are not familiar with this rubric, then they will surely know that the book contains messianic teachings. We certainly do not have space today to cover this important subject, so I will choose to focus on a narrower application of messiah, then apply it to our lives. OK? Good!

Messiah in a narrower sense referred to the hope that the Jews had in the time period between the Old Testament and the New Testament, which also stretched into the New Testament era. They believed that God would raise up a divinely appointed king to deliver Israel from her enemies. This Ruler would come and fulfill perfectly God’s purposes (EBC).

There are several messianic themes that run throughout the book of Isaiah, and the “Branch” is one that figures prominently. Israel had been stripped bare by the Assyrians (1:7-9) which pointed to a future more devastating judgment (7:23-25). However, God promised fruitfulness for the land (4:2; cf. also Ch. 35; 41:18-19; 55:12-13). Israel was likened to a vineyard that had become a wasteland (5:1-7), but the vineyard would flourish again and fill the world with its fruit (27:26). Until then, the nation would be reduced to a stump along with the house of Jesse from which the eternal throne would be established (6:13; 11:1). Out of this stump would come the ultimate fruitful Branch, the messianic king (11:1-5). Thank you for your patience to this point!

Please read Isaiah 53:2 where the Branch theme picks up again (“young plant”). In an unexpected twist, we read that this future King, the one whose reign would produce the fruit of righteousness and peace, would suffer greatly and die! What? Isaiah writes that he would suffer meekly and without protest the death sentence that would be placed upon him (53:7; Matthew 26:63; cf. 1 Peter 2:21-25). This death would be, in a supreme sense, an injustice.

The messiah, who was innocent, would suffer execution (53:7). The prophet makes sure that we know that the Servant's life was in direct contrast to sinful sheep (53:6; NAC). This ruler in the line of David would give his life for his sheep, the very ones who had him murdered (Cf. Ezekiel 34:23). Messiah’s suffering and death, from a human perspective, was a tragic injustice of outrageous proportions. The system and the people who ran it were instruments of oppression (53:8)! Rather than soaking our souls in bitterness and hatred, we need to consider something more. Ponder the radical, sacrificial love of the Servant and the profound change that his sacrifice made possible (53:10, “offering for guilt”). Our culture today needs these words.

Isaiah writes, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him” (53:10). Talk about a huge idea to grasp! Humankind’s injustice became God’s saving purpose through the Servant Messiah’s sufferings. Hang on a minute. Compare verses 4-6 with verse 10. The suffering was “substitutionary,” meaning it was in behalf of sinners like those who had him killed. The only sure hope that the Suffering Servant had was to trust God’s justice (cf. 50:8-9). The Lord, indeed, vindicates him following this suffering and he opens the way to new life, thus paving the way for others to follow (53:11). The death was not a tragic mistake; instead, it was used by God to justify many and to honor the Servant (Philippians 2:9-11).

A Moral Pathway

There was a young man in our church youth group when I was growing up that had the kindest disposition and an incredibly radiant Christian witness. Sadly, he was too often teased and had to endure mistreatment by some in the group. I, myself, recall poking fun at him on occasion. These actions were passed off as teenage pranks, but they were hurtful. His parents sought some relief for him, but it usually did not last for long and the harassment would begin again. Looking back, I never recall hearing him protest or lashing out in anger. He was a rare light in the world (Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:15).

A few years later, he died tragically when a trailer that he was towing jackknifed, causing his truck to overturn. He was pinned beneath the wreckage. His parents were following behind his truck in another vehicle and witnessed the entire tragedy. He died in his father’s arms. He, of all people, in my mind, did not deserve that horrible death. His passing, even to this day, has caused me to groan deeply within my theology of good and right! In fact, I have often wrestled mightily with the injustice of his passing. Do you carry a burden in your soul about some moral jackknife that led to some incredible injustice in your life? If you are like me, then read on!

Isaiah helps me to find healing from my nearly four-decades-long sorrow. There is victory over tragedy though our commitment to the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ. Read Isaiah 53:12. Isaiah writes, “I will divide him a portion with the many.” Gary Smith believes this phrase means that the Suffering Servant, whom God exalted, will be given the ones he has redeemed, and he will apportion to them the spoils he gains in victory (NAC; cf. Philippians 2:9; Ephesians 4:8). My friend's life was not extinguished on a highway roadside. Yes, he was a victim of a horrible death, but he tasted immediately the victory in Christ that he had lived for throughout his life. The Suffering Servant's wondrous love makes this possible.

For Your Journaling

1. What injustice haunts your mind and heart today? Write it down, then turn it over to the Conquering Servant, Jesus Christ. He will cause hope to shine in your heart.

2. Take time throughout the day to note areas where injustice appears to be deeply embedded. It may be on your job, in some level of government, or even in your neighborhood association. Jesus Christ is uniquely able to open the doorway to reconciliation and peace. He will do this through your witness. Ask the Lord to help you to be salt and light in these dark places.
May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock