An Acceptable Sacrifice
“He will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.”
When Paul explains to the Corinthians the importance of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, he ends with a song of praise: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:55-57). Who can remain silent when hearing the good news of the opened grave of our Lord Jesus Christ? His victory is our victory and it gives us lasting joy.
We see this same joy in the song of Isaiah 53. This is a well-known song, starting with 53:1, but Isaiah’s song actually begins in 52:13. Starting at 53:1, the humiliation of the servant is emphasized. Yet looking back to 52:13, you see that the song starts with his victory: the Lord announces that his servant will be raised and lifted up.
The context of this song is then one of comfort, joy, and victory. This shows us that Christ’s suffering should not be isolated, but considered within the whole of God’s work. Likewise, to understand the joy of Christ’s resurrection we have to keep in mind his suffering.
So we go back to his sacrifice, described in the beginning of 53:10. Twice the word “will” is used in this verse. In the beginning of the verse we learn that it was God’s will to crush Him, for it was God’s will to rescue his people through this sacrifice.
Then in the end of the verse, the noun “will” comes back: “The will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.” Instead of “will,” you could translate it as “good pleasure.” The latter expresses delight or desire. God’s good pleasure will prosper in this servant, for God delights in saving sinners.
It is noteworthy that in the Old Testament, the Lord connected “delight” with sacrificing. The person who brings the sacrifice has to do it with “delight,” that is, in faith. The Lord also tells his people that He delights in sacrifices that are pleasing to Him (see e.g., Psalms 40, 50). In response to their sacrifice, the Lord shows his delight by granting his blessing. In that joy the people of Israel could leave the temple and return home.
This helps us understand the words of Isaiah 53. This sacrifice of the servant is also pleasing to the LORD, for this sacrifice was brought in accordance with his will. The Lord Jesus showed perfect obedience to the Father. His delight was to do the will of God (cf. Ps 40:8).
And the Father shows his delight in accepting this sacrifice. How do we know? Well, it says in verse 10 that the servant will see his offspring and prolong his days. In previous verses we have read about the servant’s death and burial – people who die and are buried do not see their offspring. But that the servant will see his offspring means death and grave will not be his end!
Yes, already at the beginning of the song (52:13) it says that this servant will be raised. Christ’s death is not the end, and his burial is not the end, though many thought it was. But the grave could not remain closed. Why? Because God was pleased with his sacrifice!
Christ’s resurrection is the proof that his sacrifice was accepted by the Lord. The open grave is the undeniable proof that Christ conquered death and that Christ paid for our sins. That is the victory! That is the power of God’s arm!
That is also why the song speaks about offspring. As with Christ’s other works, so also his resurrection is part of the one work of God, the work of redemption.
The offspring of this sacrifice is the gathering of believers, the communion of saints. In this communion, God gives his delight to us, even life forevermore (Ps 133:3).
We rejoice in the victory of our Lord! We are on the way to the day when his work will be completed, when all graves will be opened, and we will receive life in all its glory!
Excerpt from Clarion, THE CANADIAN REFORMED MAGAZINE Volume 59, No. 7, pg. 169, March 26, 2010
Rev. D.G.J. Agema is minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church at Guelph, Ontario