Smart people disappoint us when we realize that they can be motivated by “group think.” We should value the truth more than acceptance by our group!
In religion as well as with other ideas, truth should be of supreme value. Tradition is nice, but truth is of supreme value!
Before Christ, most Jews were certain of a coming Messiah. That was a given. Their prophets said so in their own eloquent poetry and prose. Isaiah was one of the great ones—a Messiah-predicting prophet. But some of his predictions have been highly controversial among the Jews.
What did Isaiah write about the Messiah that provides such contention?
It all revolves around his term “the servant.” Hang on now.
Isaiah mentions three servants, one of which is Israel the nation, one other is actually a king, Cyrus of Persia, and the third one is spoken of in the first person singular.
The identity of the third “servant” is the question. He is not named. Many Jews say this person stands for the nation Israel.
Do we want the truth about who this third one is.... no matter what our group thinks?
But first: Why is the truth about this one so important? ANSWER: BECAUSE THIS PERSON BEARS THE SINS OF….THE JEWISH NATION AND THE WORLD!!
He was despised and rejected by others;
A man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity….
He was wounded for our transgressions,
Crushed for our iniquities;
Upon him was the punishment that made us whole….
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have all turned to our own way,
And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all….
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
Stricken for the transgression of my people.”
-- Isaiah 53:3, 5-6, 8 (NRSV)
ANOTHER QUESTION: What did the ancient rabbis believe about this passage? Who do they think it is describing?
ANSWER: We have the answers of some of them, and this includes the most prominent. This passage refers to the coming Messiah—COMING IN THE FUTURE.
This is a tense called the “prophetic future”—as though it had already happened. It was so clear in the prophets’ minds that it was like history.
Yes, the ancient rabbis, at least many of them—and they were influential ones-- believed it portrays the Messiah who was to come. In my book, Israel the Chosen, I have listed the names of these rabbis with their explanations. The first one dates back to the first century in an ancient “Targum” (expanded translation). It is called “The Targum of Yonatan [Jonathan].”
Another is the Isaiah Targum of the first or second century.
Yet another is from the Babylonian Talmud (put into writing about 200 A. D.) in which the Suffering Servant is identified as the Messiah and a leper because Isaiah pictures him as “acquainted with infirmity.”
The last one I list is a 15th century Portuguese philosopher, statesman and philosopher, Isaac ben Judah Abrabanel. He himself believed that the figure of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah was of the coming Messiah and reports that this was the majority opinion among the rabbis of his time.
From my book, Israel the Chosen: "With this in mind, how can modern Jewish scholarship reject out-of-hand the consensus of its own revered rabbis and argue that the Jewish nation is the meaning and fulfillment of this prophecy?" (Page 290)
Modern rabbis ignore the opinions of these ancient rabbis and argue that the Suffering Servant figure portrayed in Isaiah 53 is a picture of the people of Israel. Israel, they contend, suffered for the sins of their own people and the world. Israel took the punishment, bore the iniquities and made intercession for the transgressors. Israel was the lamb led to the slaughter....and was the “one” of whom this passage says that there was “no deceit in his mouth.” So they say.
Yet, in this very section of Isaiah where Israel is spoken of, they, the nation, are the complaint of the Lord.
“You have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.” (Isaiah 43:24)
Another complaint of the Lord about Israel is this:
“Listen, you that are deaf; and you that are blind, look up and see! Who is blind but my servant [Israel], or deaf like my messenger [Israel] whom I send? Who is blind like my dedicated one or blind like the servant of the Lord? He sees many things but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear. … So he poured on him the heat of his anger.” (Isaiah 42:19-20, 25)
The Lord was angry with this servant! This servant, Israel, God’s Chosen People, would not listen to His Word. They would not see what He was doing for them. They were preoccupied.
And Israel today is again in a period of paying no attention to the Word of God through the prophets.
Most American Jews today would not be caught dead discussing the issue of whether or not the Messiah is Israel, or some future figure….or Yeshua.
The Suffering Servant, prophesied by Isaiah, has come and has suffered and died as the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world. No one else could have done this. No other nation, not even the Chosen Nation could perform this work of salvation. Yeshua (Jesus) was the One and only sacrifice for sins. He is the faithful Servant, the Holy One whom the Father loves and who is our redemption.
The Lord Introduces His Servant
(8) But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen,
The offspring of Abraham, my friend;
(9) You whom I took from the ends of the earth,
And called from the farthest corners,
Saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off.”
(10) Do not fear, for I am with you,
Do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
(11) Yes, all who are incensed against you
Shall be ashamed and disgraced;
Those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish..
(13) For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand;
It is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”
(14) Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel!
I will help you, says the Lord;
Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.