“A Nation Divided”: Isaiah, Prophet to Judah
Ever since Genesis 3:15, God’s people had been waiting for the Rescuer to come. Every generation wondered if theirs would be the one to experience His arrival. As their anticipation grew, so grew their expectations. But not all of those expectations were correct. Many were far from it. God’s people began to think in earthly terms—the Messiah would rescue them from political and social ills. But God had a different story—a better story. God’s Messiah would not deliver His people from foreign captivity, domestic tyranny, financial poverty, or any other such ill. At least not directly. No, God’s Messiah would deliver people from the greater ills of sin and death. And He would do so in an unexpected way.
This is what Isaiah 53 is all about.
From the outset, Isaiah invites Israel to consider something that is, admittedly, difficult to believe. Changing our thinking can be rather challenging at times. But that is what Israel needed to do. They needed to break free from their incorrect notion that the Messiah would be a great political or military leader. Rather, they needed to come to see the Messiah as God intended Him to be—a suffering servant. There would be a time for Him to appear as a conquering king, but not for His first appearance to humanity.
To say that the Messiah would have an unimpressive form does not mean that he would be unimpressive. We know that Jesus was far more impressive than any other man ever. But not in His external appearance. He was not born into wealth. He was not part of the elite. He was a “regular” person. He would have been easy to look past in a crowd, at least before He began His ministry.
The Messiah was despised and ultimately rejected by His people. Sure, there were moments when it seemed as if the crowds loved Him, but it was superficial. The same crowds who welcomed Him with palm branches shouted “Crucify Him!” soon after. The Book of Acts records there were about 120 true followers after the resurrection. That was a drop in the bucket after a three-year ministry throughout all of Israel.
The Messiah would not be exempt from suffering. Indeed, He would embrace it and it would mark Him. Jesus bore our sickness and carried our pains. He was a man of affliction. In many ways, it defined Him. Jesus was fully human—He felt physical pain. He felt emotional anguish. He felt abandonment and rejection in fullness.
The Messiah’s suffering would culminate in Him being pierced and crushed for us. The piercing is helpful to connect this directly to the cross, where His hands, feet, and side were pierced. It is on the cross where Jesus was crushed, fulfilling the prophecy of Genesis 3:15.
Why was the Messiah crushed? Why did He suffer? He was punished for the iniquity of people. Our sin is what led Jesus to the cross. Although we rebelled against God, although we were completely foolish, although we deserved only condemnation, Jesus endured suffering and hung on the cross for us.
The Messiah, though, would not be a grudging sacrifice for people; He would be a willing one. Jesus did not deserve to die—He was unjustly sentenced to death—and yet, He did not fight His sentence or execution. He was willingly slaughtered instead.
Jesus suffered and was pierced, but that was not all. His crushing ended in His death. The one who came to free people from sin and death did so by becoming sin and dying.
The Messiah’s lifeless body would be buried with the bodies of others—all of whom are wicked in their rebellion against God. Just as they could not escape death, neither would the Messiah.
All of this was done under the watchful eyes and sovereign hand of the Father. God was pleased to do all of this because He knew what it would ultimately bring about: His glory.
God’s glory would be the ultimate fruit of the Messiah’s obedience and suffering, but that would not be its only fruit. Jesus’s suffering and death, brought forth the justification of people. This is the only way we might be saved—through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ.
Because of the Messiah’s faithful ministry, many would be given to Him. Perhaps not initially—again, only about 120 were true disciples before Pentecost—but ultimately. Think of the millions of believers throughout the generations who have trusted in Christ and been restored with God because of His suffering and death. Every single one points to the truthfulness of this promise.
The Israelites in Isaiah’s day would have written a much different script for the Messiah had they been able to. They would have likely had him arrive in splendor—as a warrior king. They would have had him stand up to Israel’s enemies to vanquish them. Their Messiah would have had him establish a prosperous earthly kingdom. And it all would have been a terrible trade for what God the Father did through the suffering of an unimpressive man two thousand years ago.
The Lord’s solution to sin is for his servant to take human sin on himself and to offer himself as a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of others. He will be sinless, but by offering himself as a sacrifice, he will be the one through whom all others can receive forgiveness and salvation. Victory will come through suffering.” — Paulson Pulikottil 
Preschool Tip: For your younger ones, you may not want to go into as much detail about the suffering of Jesus. But you cannot (and should not) avoid talking about how Jesus gave up His life for us. That is a critical aspect of the gospel they need to hear.
Kids Tip: Isaiah provides amazing encouragement to us that the Bible is true. Help your kids realize that Isaiah was written long before Jesus arrived—and yet it records in vivid detail what happened.
 Paulson Pulikottil, “Isaiah,” in South Asia Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Brian Wintle (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 906.