Monday, March 10, 2014

Analysis of The Gospel According to Isaiah 53

There are many different topics that can be discussed in dealing with this work; it is my hope to cover several of them as best as I can. This may not be exactly what is expected, but it is the best of what I can offer. So without further ado, let us take a look at the Gospel According to Isaiah 53.
Israel as Servant
            One thing that has to be understood about this work is how it was understood in regards to its original audience. When the LORD spoke of a suffering servant, who/what was he actually referring to? Was he referring to the people of Israel as a whole? Or was he pointing to a specific person at a specific time? This book helps us to take a look at these questions and answer them objectively.  When answering the question about the people of Israel we get one point of view that says, “…the Lord refers to them as “witnesses” (plural) and then goes on to identify them as “my servant” (singular). So from this we know that the singular “my servant” can indeed refer to the nation of Israel as a whole.”[1]
            According to this work and its chapter on Jewish interpretations of Isaiah 53, when taking a closer look at the disparity between how many times the servant is referred to as the nation verses an individual, there is a major difference. A closer look at the Bock text reveals that, “On a larger contextual level, it should be noted that the servant of the Lord is mentioned a total of nineteen times in Isaiah 40-51, sometimes with reference to the nation as a whole (41:8-9, 42:19 [2x]; 43:10; 44:21 [2x]; 45:4; 48:20), and sometimes with reference to a righteous individual within the nation (49:3, 5-7; 50:10).”[2]
            While there may appear to be so many different verses that seem to support the understanding of the servant being Israel itself, that is not the case. “God, speaking in the first person singular and describing the sufferings of the Servant in the third person singular. And this means that the only legitimate, exegetically consistent interpretation of Isaiah 53:8 is that the Servant of the Lord suffered for the people of Israel, not that the servant actually was the people of Israel.”[3]  If that were not enough Bock explains, “Isaiah 53 indisputably features the vicarious sufferings of the righteous Servant as a central theme, and that righteous Servant cannot be Israel, whose sufferings have not brought atonement and forgiveness to the nations.”[4]
            What we can come to understand is that positionally Israel was not in the place to be the Servant because it lacked the righteousness required.  And it is with that lacking we find the more easily understood truth, that Israel incapable of saving herself. Bock further details this by saying, “The Servant has a mission to all Israel to see that they are restored back into the land, so this usage of the term “servant” cannot be a reference to the nation Israel, for in that case, they would be acting on themselves rather than receiving the deliverance promised to them.”[5] As can be seen by this argument, this author does not believe that the servant of the Lord is in reference to Israel, but instead it is a messianic reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Messianic Servant
            If you stop for a moment and take a look at all of the evidence offered up by Isaiah, and then you examine the evidence found in the NT, it becomes much easier to see how Jesus (Yeshua) meets the criteria for the Servant of the Lord. To be certain that Jesus is the messiah,
There are four expressions of what God did to the Servant, Yeshua: (1) “he was pierced” with the nails that went in to his hands and feet. (2) “he was crushed” or “bruised” by the thrust of the spear in his side, the slap on  his face, and the effort of dragging the cross, (3) he took “the punishment that brought us peace” as he faced his crucifixion alone,  and (4) he took the welts and stripes we should have received, as Pilate had him scourged and the soldiers smote him on his head with a reed. But all of this was for “our transgressions”, “our iniquities,” our peace,” and our “heal[ing].”

These are but a few evidences that Jesus was/is the Servant of the Lord. He was the only person with the righteousness to be able to pay the cost of the sins of not only Israel, but  the entire world.  Further evidence comes from the arrest of Jesus, he was lead as a lamb to the slaughter, or a sheep before a sheerer. This corresponds to the arrest to the arrest of Jesus in the garden and the five (that’s right five) trials Jesus would undergo in this one night.[6]
            There is also mention of the Servant being submissive to the will of the father. Christ shows this submission in the garden when he prays, “…Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42, ESV).  Bock points out that, “The Servant’s submission to the will of the father is detailed in this fourth strophe (Is 53:7-9). We see his submission in his suffering (v.7), his death (v. 8), and his burial (v.9).”[7]Further evidence that Jesus the messiah is the Servant described in the final servant song can be found in chapter 53:10-12.
            In this final section, we can see that the servant receives exaltation. The Lord himself brings this fifth strophe to a close along with the fourth Servant Song.[8] It reaches its climax and conclusion all in one final verse, verse 12.  This verse speaks of so many different things; it speaks of two different gifts, and four divine reasons why God’s seal of approval is put upon the servant. The Bock text speaks about each set, first he speaks of the divine gifts when he says, “I will give him a portion among the great,” and “he will divide the spoils with the strong.”[9] I am not exactly sure how these gifts play out in the life of Christ, but they are to be received by him. Now on the other hand, it is easier to recognize the four seals “(1) “because he poured out his life unto death,” (2) he allowed himself to be “numbered with the transgressors,” (3) “he bore the sin of many,” and (4) he “made intercession for the transgressors.”’[10] We see all of this played out at the execution of Jesus, by giving himself up to death for the sins of many, he was hanging on the cross next to two criminals, and he prayed that the Father would forgive the people because they did not know what they were doing. Matt 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19 all give the account of Jesus’ death.
The Servant in the New Testament
            There are several questions we have to be asking ourselves, how does the NT reveal this servant, and does Jesus consider himself to fulfill this prophecy?  In an answer to the second question, “R.T. France declares, that “Isaiah’s Servant figure was a major factor in Jesus’ understanding of is own mission and the crucial basis on which his followers found it possible to make sense of his death as the fulfillment of Scripture.”’[11] There are a minimum of fifty allusions or direct quotations taken from Isaiah 53 found throughout the entire NT, and at least twenty-nine of those are located in the Gospels.[12] This author is going to focus primarily on it use in the Gospels.  Of the twenty-nine references made to Isaiah, eighteen of them are found in Matthew’s Gospel, which is more than any other. [13]
            In this section we will not be focusing on one Servant Song in particular, but several. Matthew 3:17 is from Isaiah 42:1, it deals with the baptism of Jesus and his anointing of the Holy Spirit. Bock says, “Jesus’ anointing by the Spirit is both the coronation of Israel’s Messiah and the commissioning of God’s righteous servant for the work that he will now carry out in the power and the presence of the Spirit.”[14] There have been questions raised as to whether or not first-century Jew would have interpreted Isaiah 53:4 in a messianic nature, while there was some skepticism we have reason to believe from later rabbinic text that it was possible.[15] These are just a few of the many numerous examples of how these text have been used all throughout the NT to explain much about Jesus and his ministry.
            We have been on a long journey together, and it is this author’s hope that you have gained a greater insight into whom the Servant of the Lord was in Isaiah’s Servant Songs. We have seen that while at points it may have been feasible to want to apply the servant terminology to the nation of Israel itself, upon closer inspection we realize that it was unable to fulfill the requirements to be its own savior. We were then able to take some of the prophecies made about the Servant and apply them to the messiah, which as a Christian this author believes to be Jesus Christ. And finally we took all we had learned and applied it to the use of these prophecies in NT books specifically the book of Matthew. So take what you have learned here and apply it to further study of the Servant for yourself, and hopefully you will come to the same conclusion; which is Jesus is the promised Messiah who fulfilled the role of the Servant of the Lord fully and completely in ways that Israel never could.

Darrell L.Bock, and Mitch Glaser. The Gospel According to Isaiah 53. (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2012)41.

            [2] Ibid.75.
            [3] Ibid., 77.
            [4] Ibid. 77.
            [5] Ibid., 89
            [6] Ibid., 102.
            [7] Ibid. 102.
            [8] Ibid., 104.
            [9] Ibid., 106.
            [10] Ibid., 106
            [11] Ibid., 109
            [12] Ibid., 112
            [13] Ibid., 115.
            [14] Ibid., 120.
            [15] Ibid., 122-23.


            In 2010, a relatively unknown pastor came onto the scene with a book that would challenge the landscape of American Christianity. That book was Radical, and the author was David Platt. In his work, Platt calls out Christians to live life in a radically different manner that is counter cultural to what we are being taught by society. In a period of just several short years this book has reached the pinnacle of Christian publishing; remaining on publishing charts for numerous weeks and jettisoning Platt into the national if not global platform.
            To begin with, this is not an extremely long book. It weighs in at 217 pages and nine chapters, with each chapter having its own title and sub-headings.  Chapter one is entitled Someone Worth Losing Everything For.  In this chapter, Platt argues “We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves. “[1]Later on he urges that no matter what we believe, “we have in many areas blindly and unknowingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the gospel he taught.”[2]  At the end of the chapter, he drives home his point when he says “ In the process of hearing Jesus, you are compelled to take an honest look at your life, your family, and your church and ask,, “What is he saying?” but also ask “What shall I do?”’[3]
            Chapter two is entitled Too Hungry for Words.  In an attempt to show our utter sinfulness, Platt reminds us, “ Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator …until we get to you and me. We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, “No.””[4]Platt also does a good job pointing out that, “…we have a dangerous tendency to misunderstand, minimize, and even manipulate the gospel in order to accommodate our assumptions and our desires. As a result we desperately need to explore how much or our understanding of the Gospel is American and how much is biblical.”[5] As we look at chapter three, Beginning at the End of Ourselves, Platt makes the assertion,” The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability.”[6] When we try to live in our own power, God will come along and show us how much we really need him, and according to Platt, “This is how God works. He puts his people in positions where they are desperate for his power, and then he shows his provision in ways that display his greatness.”[7]
            What is awesome about this chapter, is his focus on the magnitude of God and the role he plays in accomplishing anything. He further proves this point when he says, “God delights in using extraordinary Christians who come to the end of themselves and choose to trust in his extraordinary provision. He stands ready to allocate his power to all who are radically dependent on him and radically devoted to making much of him.”[8]
            In the next chapter, the Great Why of God, Platt introduces us to some of the purposes of God. Everyone at sometime has asked the question “what am I here for?” or  “what is my purpose?” Platt tells us that we are to: “Enjoy his grace and extend his glory. This is the twofold purpose behind the creation of the human race in Genesis 1, and it sets the stage for the entire Book that revolves around the same purpose.”[9] In continuing on with this topic of purpose he claims, “God has created us to accomplish a radically global, supremely God –exalting purpose with our lives.”[10]
            Chapter five has a great title, The Multiplying Community. This has become a major topic over the last several years. How are we to go about being a multiplying community? Platt suggests that we follow the pattern Jesus set before us. That pattern is not something that is mass-produced, because “genuine, committed, self-sacrificing followers of Christ—are not made over night.”[11] Something that gets to the heart of disciple making is that we must go to them and not expect them to come to us in order to hear the gospel.[12] Platt brings everything together when he says, “Disciple making is not about a program or an event but about a relationship. As we share the gospel, we impart life, and this is the essence of making disciples.”[13]
            In the next chapter called How Much is Enough?,  Platt discusses how we Americans  need to assess our finances; how much do we really need to live on, and how much do we give up?  According to Platt, “If there is no sign of caring for the poor in our lives, then there is reason to at least question whether Christ is in our hearts.”[14]Something that this author found extremely interesting was this statement made by Platt, he says, “In the dawn of this new phase in redemptive history, no teachers (including Jesus) in the New Testament ever promise material wealth as a reward for obedience.”[15] This was very intriguing and helped to drive the authors point home that we are to serve out of love and for temporal gain.
            Chapter seven is called There is No Plan B. What the author is getting at here is that there is no other alternative route to heaven, the only way there is by Jesus. He makes a very harsh statement when he says, “ I think each of us tends toward either intellectual or practical universalism.”[16] He makes this statement in light of how difficult it is to fathom the fact that people who have never heard of Christ and had the opportunity to respond, go to Hell.  He tells the story of an innocent man in Africa who has never heard the Gospel, but then responds, “There are no innocent people in the world waiting to hear the gospel.”[17]Just a paragraph later he says that, “all people are guilty before God, and as such the default is not heaven but hell.”[18]Those are some harsh words to hear but in all reality they are the truth.
            The next to last chapter is Living When Dying is Gain. In this chapter, Platt goes up against our normal thought process and challenges us to really take a look at what living with death in mind truly looks like. He makes some bold statements about how if we want to serve the Lord and be more like him that we will face persecution. “To everyone wanting a safe, untroubled, comfortable life free from danger, stay away from Jesus. The danger in our lives will always increase in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.”[19] Chapter nine, the last and final chapter, is called the Radical Experiment. In this chapter Platt issues five challenges to his audience.  He challenges his readers for one year to… pray for the entire world; read through the entire Bible; sacrifice money for a specific purpose; spend time in a different context; and commit your life to a multiplying community.[20]
            This book is a very powerful book, but it has one flaw that it may not impact the person completely and make a profound change. The one thing I am afraid of is reading this book and thinking that ‘oh those are good ideas/thoughts and not doing anything with them’. In the very first chapter, Platt makes a statement that resounded with me. He says, “…every day I see more disconnects between the Christ of Scripture and the Christianity that characterizes my life and the church God has entrusted me to lead.”[21] Another powerful statement that Platt made was, “Note taking is not the measure of how committed we are to making disciples, but if we are hearing God’s Word taught in order to teach others, then we want to get it down as best we can.”[22] A statement that was a true punch to the gut was when he said, “Regardless of what we say or sing on Sunday morning, rich people who neglect the poor are not the people of God.”[23]That statement made me wonder if he means we have to be dealing with the poor on a personal basis, or can it be on a corporate basis?
            This book, while it lists five main challenges at the end of the book, it is chock full of things that can be applied to life. I think that the best application points do come from chapter nine and the challenge Platt issues to his audience. Right now I do not pray for much of anyone or anything I do not know, so praying for the whole world will be a new venture for me to enter into. I have the book Operation World he recommends to use.
            I slightly disagree with him in saying that we need to read through the Bible in a year, I personally get through it every two to three years, I have read the NT multiple times in a year. While I can see where for some it may be beneficial I just have come to know myself, and my ability to read and to comprehend, and trying to do it in a year is pushing it.  He also has urged us to sacrifice our money for a specific purpose, this is an area that I do not yet have mastered, my wife and I are faithful tithers, but we do not give too much above our set amount. We live on a very strict budget while living on student loans right now. I have recently helped support a Christian band whose music I like and feel they have a good mission and music. That is one way I have given sacrificially above our normal tithe recently.
            I will have to pray hard about where the Lord would have me spend time outside of my normal context. As I have mentioned in previous assignments my health is not the best, so it is a challenge to do things around my home. But I have been invited by a pastor friend of mine who is getting ready to move to Haiti; He would like me to come down there and help put on pastor training, so that would be outside of my normal context.  Lastly, I am part of a church plant, so we are part of a multiplying community.
            In conclusion this work is a very powerful book that I would recommend to any Christian, especially those who are involved in a small group setting. To go along with this work I would highly recommend you read Crazy Love by Francis Chan, these are two books along similar lines that will ignite a fire inside of you; and hopefully will bring about a change in your life that your community will notice. Even if your community does not see the change right away, the kingdom will. So take the time to read this book and digest it, and if you have the time and ability when your done, come back to it and do it again, I am sure there will be things you missed the first time.


Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. Colorado Sprngs: Multnomah Books, 2010.

DavidPlatt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. (Colorado Sprngs: Multnomah Books, 2010)7.
                  [2] Ibid., 19.
                  [3] Ibid., 21.
                  [4] Ibid.31.
                  [5] Ibid., 28
                  [6] Ibid., 46.
                  [7] Ibid., 48.
                  [8] Ibid. 56.
                  [9] Ibid., 65.
                  [10] Ibid., 83.
                  [11] Ibid., 93.
                  [12] Ibid., 94.
                  [13] Ibid., 96.
                  [14] Ibid., 110.
                  [15] Ibid. 117.
                  [16] Ibid. 142.
                  [17] Ibid., 147.
                  [18] Ibid. 147.
                  [19] Ibid. 167.
                  [20] Ibid. 185.
                  [21] Ibid., 19
                  [22] Ibid., 102.
                  [23] Ibid., 115.


            There are many who would consider Miles J. Stanford’s work The Complete Green Letters to be a classic piece of Christian literature. Stanford’s work is vast and covers a wide range of topics. His book is broken up into five different sections, but for this assignment we were only required to interact with the first two sections that covers twenty-eight chapters.  There will be times it will feel as though this author is jumping around during this assignment because there is not enough room to responsibly cover all twenty-eight chapters.       
            Stanford begins his book where some would argue Christianity starts, with faith. This chapter like every other chapter in this work is not very long but Stanford attempts to pack as much information into it as humanly possible.  One of the first statements that he made which really stuck out to me, was when he said, “Faith needs facts to rest upon.”[1] He goes on a little later to tell us how this faith is built up. He says, “Once we begin to reckon (count) on facts, our Father begins to build us up in that faith.”[2]
            He moves on into the next chapter (2) and here he discusses the idea of time. Not just time in a plain manner but time in how it is used to affect our spiritual lives. He makes a rather profound statement when he says, “…since in most instances when seeming declension begins to set in, it is not, as so m any think, a matter of backsliding.”[3] That is a great statement since most think if you are not moving forward you are moving backwards.  Moving on chapter three find us staring in the face acceptance from God. In this chapter Stanford describes what acceptance looks like form both ends of the spectrum. He says, “Those who have the deepest appreciation of grace do not continue in sin.”[4] He goes on to quote J. W. Sanderson Jr. in an attempt to show how fear and love bring forth different obedience/appreciation.  He says, “Moreover, fear produces the obedience of slaves; love engenders the obedience of sons.”[5] In chapter four Stanford covers purpose, he explains that we are to go to the Word for one purpose and that is to know and meet the Lord. We are not to go to the Word in an effort to just grow smarter.[6]
            In chapter six he discusses how the believer is complete in Christ. One of the most important quotes made in that chapter came when he said, “No believer ever fell into maturity, even though he is complete in Christ.”[7]Chapter nine Stanford deals with consecration. We find in this chapter the power that lies behind the Christian life. He says, “They think because they have the will it is enough, and that now they are able to do. This is not so. The new will is a permanent gift, an attribute of the new nature. The power to do is not a permanent gift, but must each moment be received from the Holy Spirit.”[8] Working ahead to chapter thirteen, were he discusses discipleship there is a fine line walked in what must be preached. He believes “the atonement of the cross and the fellowship of the cross must be equally preached as the condition of true discipleship.”[9] While chapter thirteen leave you wanting more, the next chapter answers what is the hearts cry of a believer is that heart hunger for bearing fruit.[10]He explains that it is not until we take up our crosses for discipleship, and death to self settles in, do we experience real discipleship.[11]
            As Christians we are taught to seek God when we need help, Stanford seems to disagree with that. He says, “God is not trusted, not honored, in our continually asking Him for help.”[12]Now in chapter nineteen he begins a series of what could be called condition verses position. He provides some distinction when he says “Our condition is what we are in our Christian walk, in which we develop from infancy to maturity. Although our position remains immutable, our condition is variable.”[13] There are many more chapters that could be covered, but to be honest I do not know I could do them justice in attempting to cover them. Covering these first twenty chapters has been a challenge.
            It is this author’s hope to be as far and balanced as possible while offering a critique of this work.  This work as whole seemed to have much to offer to its reader. It is not all of the content I have a problem with, it is majorly the presentation of the material. This work would be fine for someone to read as a devotional type of work, but in the context of a college course having to read straight through it, it leaves me wanting for more. There seem to be no line running throughout the material tying it all together. It is not until you get into the second section of the book that he begins to incorporate his idea of condition verses position.
            There are both good and bad spots all throughout this book meaning that there were things I agreed with and things I did not.  I think he makes an excellent point about our attachment to God when he says, “The more you find him in your sorrows and wants, the more you will be attached to Him and drawn away from this place where sorrows are, to Him in the place where he is.”[14] Only two pages away he has another little gem that blows the reader away, he says, “ To taste of the grace of God is one thing, to be established in it and manifest it in character, habit, and regular life, is another.”[15]
            Stanford states, “The lack of Divine blessing, therefore comes from unbelief, and not from failure of devotion.”[16] It is sayings like that which have me concerned about does he hold to a “name it, claim it” type of theology. Because the Bible says we have not because we do not ask and when we do ask we ask from the wrong motives (James 4). Some more along those lines, “That is to say, the first stage of faith is always the battle of taking hold by the will, heart, and intelligence of some truth or promise which is not real to us in experience, and declaring it to be our despite appearances.”[17]  Two pages over he has a quote from S. D. Gordon speaking about claiming our victory that we already have in Christ.[18]I do not know if it is my own Christian immaturity or good discernment but it is this type of teaching that makes it hard for me to put my support behind a work.
            This is truly going to be a difficult section for me. I would be able to give you more application points from the title of the chapters than from the actual material itself. So, here we go. I have realized that I need to spend more time seeking God so that I can be more aware of my need for him in order to progress spiritually.[19] I can learn to fail at things more graciously, because it is in those failures that the Lord is truly growing me to become more like him.[20]I must remember to take in the word and let it consume me so that I can grow in my spirituality.
            There should also be some sanctification taking place in my life where I am setting apart myself for service to God. The best way I can think to set myself apart is through self-denial. If I were able to deny myself things that are good for things that are better, I would grow in knowledge and wisdom for the Lord. In this denying the flesh is also the preparation needed for service to God. There should be continual repentance taking place and not just of a general nature but of specific sins. I should also learn to live in the position I have in Christ, instead of just my current condition.
            It is the hope of this author that this has been a fair and balanced critique of this work by Miles J. Stanford. In my humble opinion I would recommend this work only to seasoned believers who have a strong base in which they can work from. While there were a few hidden gems to be found in this work, I was left with more questions and ultimately confused by the disjointed nature in which it was written.  If you are looking for something to help you grow in your walk with the Lord I would highly recommend Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life or Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.


Stanford, Miles J. The Complete Green Letters. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983.

                  [1] Miles J.Stanford, The Complete Green Letters. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983)4.
                  [2] Ibid. 4.
                  [3] Ibid., 6.
                  [4] Ibid., 13.
                  [5] Ibid., 13.
                  [6] Ibid., 17.
                  [7] Ibid., 24.
                  [8] Ibid., 36-37.
                  [9] Ibid., 53..
                  [10] Ibid., 58-59.
                  [11] Ibid., 60.
            [12] Ibid., 65.
                  [13] Ibid., 77.
                  [14] Ibid., 5.
                  [15] Ibid., 7.
                  [16] Ibid., 13.
                  [17] Ibid., 64.
                  [18] Ibid. 66.
                  [19] Ibid., 8.
                  [20] Ibid., 16.