A-Z: Famous stories from the Bible: The suffering servant
Through the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, God tells his people about a figure who will serve him in the future. Christians interpret this as a description of Jesus (who lived 700 years later).
The description is of someone who is not good looking or powerful, but is looked down on by others. He is used to sorrow and suffering, consistently being rejected. People think that he is under God’s curse, whereas in fact he carries the wrongdoing of humanity, for which he is punished by death. That death brings peace and healing to humankind. Although it is people who have gone off course, it is God’s servant who carries the blame.
The servant does not speak out when persecuted, but allows himself to be led to his death silently, like a lamb which is due to be sacrificed. He is unfairly condemned and has no biological children to follow him. He is given a grave amongst rich and sinful people, although he is a man of integrity and peace.
Yet all this happens according to God’s plan, and although the servant gives his life, he will live and have descendants, bringing about God’s purposes. Because he is prepared to die, he will be honoured. His death enables the lives of many to be put right with God, because he takes away their sins.
The servant is someone anointed by God who brings good news to the poor and mends the broken-hearted. He proclaims freedom for people who are trapped and releases prisoners from all forms of darkness. He tells people that God loves them and is speaking to them now, and about God’s time of vengeance and justice against oppressors. The servant brings comfort to all who are in mourning, transforming destruction, grief and despair into beauty, joy and praise. Those who hear his message will become like strong and perfect trees displaying the splendour of God.
The passages illustrate:
- That God has a plan to rescue his people from the consequences of their rebellion
- Beliefs about the suffering and mission of the Messiah.
Big Ideas: Messiah, Christ, Jesus; Dreams, visions and prophecy; Atonement and sacrifice; Sheep, shepherd, lamb
, Isaiah 61:1-3
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned - every one - to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to grant to those who mourn in Zion - to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 4They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 5Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 6but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. 7Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. 8For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed. 10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. 4And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. 5And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. 6But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. 7For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. 8For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed. 10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. 11For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
A 'testament' is a covenant or binding agreement and is a term used in the Bible of God's relationship with his people). The sacred writings of Judaism (the Hebrew Bible). These also form the first part of the Christian Bible.
Someone who conveys God's message to human beings or speaks about the future sometimes through words alone, sometimes through dramatic actions.
Old Testament prophet who lived in Jerusalem in the 7th century BCE, and prophesied under King Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. He is regarded as one of the greatest Old Testament prophets.
The Bible describes God as the unique supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.
Name originally given to disciples of Jesus by outsiders and gradually adopted by the Early Church.
The name given to the man believed by Christians to be the Son of God. Also given the title Christ, meaning 'anointed one' or Messiah. His life is recorded most fully in the Four Gospels.
Animal used for sacrifice in the Bible. Jesus was referred to as the 'Lamb of God' in the New Testament.
1. The giving up of something deeply valued
2. Offerings a worshipper gives to God to express devotion, gratitude, or the need for forgiveness.
3. In the Bible, the sacrifice is seen to take away guilt and blame.
Disobedience to the known will of God. According to Christian theology human beings have displayed a pre-disposition to sin since the Fall of Humankind.
In the Old Testament Kings and Priests were ceremonially anointed (touched with holy oil) to show that they belonged to God and as a sign of receiving God's power.
A Hebrew word meaning 'anointed one', describing someone who will be the saviour of the people. Title (eventually used as name) given to Jesus.