Isaiah 53 Explained

The author, Mitch Glaser, is an experienced missionary to his own people and so his whole approach anticipates the Jewish questions, fears and scepticism with which he is familiar. His style of one Jew to another shines through, especially in the opening and closing sections of the book, and will strike a chord with his readers, whom he anticipates to be mostly from a more secular mindset, even though they may have had a religious upbringing. He assumes they not only have the usual aversion to the New Testament and Jesus but also have doubts about the Old Testament and God. His style is clear and straightforward and he avoids loading the text with in-house, Jewish terminology, which might alienate some readers. Every generation needs a new presentation of old truths and this is one for Jewish people in the early 21st century.

The book does not plunge straight into Isaiah 53 but prepares the ground by looking at the reliability of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the nature of prophecy, the times of Isaiah and how the term 'servant of the LORD' is used by Isaiah of both Israel and Messiah. The core of the book begins with a quick, 'wood for the trees' overview of the sacrifice of the servant in chapter 53, then consideration of atonement, followed by a more detailed comparison between the servant and Jesus to show how he fulfils the prophecy. Within this the author stops to persuade his readers of the credibility of the New Testament and later examines briefly the alternative explanations, such as the servant is the nation of Israel. For those who want to consider other prophecies of Messiah there is an appendix in which 12 well-known ones are looked at.

The book closes with a challenge to believe in Jesus as the one prophesied by Isaiah to be the atoning sacrifice that all sinners need. Faced by such a challenge most Jewish people will feel very alone, so there are some helpful testimonies of Jewish people who came to faith through this chapter, followed by the author's own personal journey to faith and his family's response.

As I wrote at the start, this is a book you can confidently give to a Jewish friend. Also, if they will accept it, I suggest you give them a copy of John's Gospel and encourage them to read chapters 18 to 20 before they get to chapter 6 of the book. This is because the book tends to assume the Jewish reader is familiar with the story of Jesus' sufferings. That may be so in the USA, where it was written, but is much less likely in other English speaking western nations. You need to be aware that the English text of Isaiah 53 used in the book is the one produced by the Jewish Publication Society and so some of the phraseology will be unfamiliar. No doubt the author has used it to help Jewish readers, and despite some attempts by the translators to undermine the teaching of an individual dying in the place of sinners, that truth still shines through. If you have had some discussion with your Jewish friend of the place and significance of sacrifice in Israel's approach to God in Old Testament times that will help, as that is a necessary preparation for the concepts introduced in Isaiah 53. The author uses the familiar words surrounding atonement, such as judgement, guilt, forgiveness and sacrifice. However, it seemed to me that the teaching of God's wrath was only implied by the use of such other terms; the term was not used specifically. I think you should be ready to bring that in.

May the Lord use this book to open the reader's eyes to the one who is the glory of his people Israel.

Paul Morris

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