Isaiah was a prophet in the Old Testament. His prophecy began in the year 740 B.C. and continued for several decades. It was during the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel to Assyria while he remained in Judah, the southern kingdom. The prophets of the OT served an important role in the life of God’s people. They were there to remind them of God’s law, His promises, and the consequences for disobedience. Often their message would be accompanied by future revelations of what would come to pass if they obeyed or disobeyed. And because of God’s great plan of salvation, their message foreshadowed the work of the one true savior who would once and for all reconcile a rebellious people with their holy God.
Isaiah writes to the people of Judah as they watched the northern tribes be overtaken by Assyria and as they themselves felt the threat of Assyria approaching. The political upheaval, the threat of impending war, and the potential for being overrun and exiled were more than just political, nationalistic issues. They were spiritual and moral issues. Judah was being confronted with a choice. Who would they put their trust in? Would they trust in surrounding nations, political diplomacy, and negotiating tactics or would they trust in God who had bound Himself to them in a covenant relationship?
By the time we reach chapters 52 and 53 Isaiah has turned his attention to the future. In the midst of prophesying the coming demise of the kingdom of Judah he mentions the hope that they have through the servant of God. This servant will be misunderstood – even despised. But it is through the one that God will send that there will be hope not just for Judah but for all the nations as well.
As we read this text we have the vantage point of knowing it refers to Jesus. Imagine if you can, the mixture of hope and confusion this description of the promised Messiah would have brought. The people were looking for a king and a suffering servant didn’t exactly fit their expectations.
The combination of the suffering and humiliation of Christ and the exaltation of Christ continue to be scandalous for God’s people. If we don’t understand both of these aspects, we will miss the gospel completely. It is through Christ’s suffering and humiliation on the cross that we have hope; hope of a savior who identifies with us and hope of a savior who has paid for our sins. It is in Christ’s exaltation that we see the glory of God on display through His plan to save His people from their sins. Because Christ has defeated death and secured salvation for the elect, He is given the name that is above all names and one day, every person will bow the knee and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.