Now we come back to our initial question: What are the principles upon which the Arm of the Lord will be revealed? As I have said, we think we are very familiar with the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. But when we read it, we are usually so taken up with those vividly descriptive words concerning the sorrows and the sufferings and the sin-bearing of the One Who is in view, with the Person and the experiences of this suffering Servant of Jehovah, that we almost entirely lose sight of the tremendous significance of that fundamental opening question: "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" And yet the whole chapter would have very little value and meaning but for that question. Think about it again: Supposing all that is described there - His sufferings, His sorrows, and His sin-bearing - had taken place, and then the Arm of the Lord had not been revealed on His behalf, what was the value of it all? It has happened - but where is the vindication? What is the verdict of God upon it?
For, although the content of the chapter is so tremendous, and so overwhelmingly moving in its tragedy, it all relates to this one thing: "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" The answer is" To that very One Who is described here in such vivid detail. The Arm of the Lord is revealed to the One Who, with such fullness and such pathos, is here brought into view, as the object of all this tragedy, affliction, misunderstanding and misrepresentation. it is to that One that the Arm of the Lord is revealed.
The prophet is viewing the reaction of the whole world, Israel and Gentile alike, to the report, the proclamation. "Who has believed our report?" he asks. "Who has believed the message that we have proclaimed?" It is all looking on to the day of the Son of Man. The messengers have gone out; the proclamation has been made - and what a proclamation it was! It was made on the Day of Pentecost; it went out from Jerusalem into all the regions round about. But - who believed it? What was the reaction to it, from Israel and the Gentiles. The prophet, in his wonderfully vivid, inspired foreknowledge of, and insight into, the reactions of the world to the message of the Gospel, asks the question, and answers it in the whole chapter. But he asks also: "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" The world has so reacted; the vast majority have refused and rejected the message; they have put a totally false construction upon the afflictions of the Suffering One. Nevertheless, it is to this One that the Arm of the Lord is revealed; it is alongside of this One that Jehovah stands.
The Servant of the Lord
And that leads us to the whole comprehensive context of the question. The wider context takes us back to chapter 42:1 "Behold My Servant, Whom I uphold; My chosen, in Whom My soul delighteth; I have put My spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles," and so on. But that phrase, "Behold My Servant," brings us also to the immediate context of our chapter 53. There ought, in fact, never to have been a break between 52:13 and 53:1, for this whole section really begins at verse 13: "Behold, My Servant shall deal wisely, He shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high." We are thus brought into the wider context of the servant of the Lord, and of what real service to the Lord is? that is, what is that service that the Lord vindicates, what is that servanthood that the Lord stands by. You and I are surely very much concerned with that, to be those to whom the Lord can say: "Behold My servant, whom I uphold" - and "whom I uphold" is only another way of saying: 'to whom I show My mighty Arm,;
Now, this term, Servant of the Lord," is used by Isaiah in a three-fold way.
In the first place (chapter 41:8; 44:1, 2, 21), he uses it of Israel: Israel is called 'the servant of the Lord,' raised up to serve Him in His great purposes in the midst of the nations. But Israel failed the Lord as a servant, tragically failed.
Then, out of the midst of Israel, God raised up One, His Messiah, His Anointed One, and transferred the title to Him "My Servant, Whom I uphold ... I have put My spirit upon Him" ... "Behold, My Servant ... He shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. It opens up a very profitable line of study, if you care to follow it, for you find that Isaiah 52, 53 is quoted no fewer than eleven times in the New Testament, these very words being transferred to the Lord Jesus. For instance Matthew 8:17 says: "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah"; then he quotes from Isaiah 53 in relation to the Lord Jesus. One might say that the whole New Testament can be bracketed into Isaiah 53, and into this title "The Servant of the Lord," His Person and His work.
The third way in which Isaiah used the title 'Servant of the Lord' is in a collective or plural way of faithful believers. In chapter 54:17 (compare also 65:13, 14) the faithful people of the Lord are given this very title, "the servants of the Lord." There is, therefore, a sense in which you and I come within the compass of this great Divine vindication.
But here we must pause to make a fundamental distinction: the distinction between the unique servanthood, the unique work of the Lord Jesus, and that which relates to others. This must ever be born in mind. For Isaiah 53 sets forth that unique servanthood of Christ, that unique work of Christ in which no one else shares at all. And, thank God, no such sharing is necessary! He has fulfilled it all Himself, alone. We shall follow that through in a moment more closely. But, while it is true that we do not in any way share in the atoning work of the Lord Jesus, or come into this vicarious service, nevertheless we do come into a service, and a service that is based upon the same spiritual principles as His. That is very important: for it is upon those principles that the Arm of the Lord is revealed.
(continued with #1 -"The Unique Work and Servanthood of Christ")