The Suffering Servant and Conquering King by Alec Motyer | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.
One of the articles in this month’s Tabletalk I read Sunday before worship was timely and fitting. Timely and fitting, because, as you will see from the above title, it fits in well with this week of remembering Christ’s passion and with our look at Isaiah 53 on Sunday’s this month. As we have pointed out on the two previous Monday’s in April (see my posts on the 3rd and 10th), this month’s issue is on the theme “Christ in the Old Testament”. The author of the above article writes in particular about the role of the OT prophets, and I found his thoughts instructive and rewarding. I will again share a few paragraphs with you, and then encourage you to follow the link above to read the rest.
In this first paragraph, Motyer is writing about the nature of OT prophecy; his words are worth remembering:
But recall this also: though the prophets lived long ago — from Amos (about 750 BC) to Malachi (about 400 BC) — their word is also what the Lord is saying to us. When they proclaimed “Thus says the Lord,” they meant exactly that. Their words were precisely the words the Lord Himself would have used if He had spoken in person instead of by the prophets. What a precious deposit we possess, then, in their books. Moses, said Stephen, “received living oracles to give to us” (Acts. 7:38), and Hebrews sees Psalm 95 as something “the Holy Spirit says” (3:7), and urges that, in Jeremiah 31:31– 34, “the Holy Spirit bears witness” (10:15). The old word is the present word. The unchanging God addresses us with His unchanged word. Just as the Old Testament people are our ancestors (Gal. 3:29) and the Old Testament history is our pre-history as the people of Jesus, so “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4).
Never tire, then, of reading and re-reading the prophets. If a passage seems at first sight puzzling, ask the question, why did the prophet say this? Usually each passage contains the answer, but in any case Proverbs 2:4–6 is true for the whole Bible: knowledge is in the gift of God, and He gives it to those who search His Word as if looking for hidden treasure.
In the next-quoted section, Motyer is writing specifically about the prophecy of Isaiah:
Isaiah is best known for his central portrait of the Servant of the Lord. This Spirit-filled Servant brings “justice” (literally, “judgment,” that is, what the Lord has decided upon and revealed as His truth) to the Gentile world (42:1–4). But He has a wider task also: to bring the Lord’s professing people who have lost their way and their peace back to Him (48:22; 49:1–6). The Servant obediently endures the direst suffering (50:4–9), and this suffering (52:13–53:12) proves to be the way of salvation, a substitutionary sin-bearing (53:4–6, 12) along with the imputation of His righteousness (53:11). In this way, Isaiah saw the full maturing of the first flowering in the atoning sacrifices of Leviticus. It was given to him to realize that ultimately only a person can be the substitute for a people. He called that person the Servant of the Lord; we call Him Jesus (Isa. 53:12; see Luke 22:37).