Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Isaiah 52:13 - The Servant is Exalted, Even in His Sufferings

"He will be high, and lifted up, and greatly exalted."

Here it appears we have a pile-up of synonyms. But do we?

Although it is true that the Hebrews were fond of using synonymous terms for emphasis, I do not believe the Spirit's intent in this passage was merely to emphasize how exalted Christ is. I propose that this verse does not simply tell us that He is exalted; rather, it tells us why and how He is exalted. The three terms - high, lifted up, greatly exalted - may speak of three distinct phases in the existence of the Son of God: His pre-incarnate glory, His crucifixion, and His exaltation at the Father's right hand following the resurrection. The main reason for this is the phrase, "He will be ... lifted up," which is consistently used in John's Gospel as a reference to the cross.

Jesus Christ was
Highly Honored from all eternity

Heb. RUWM, רום = " to rise, rise up, be high, be lofty, be exalted ... to be set on high ... to be raised, be uplifted, be exalted ... to be lifted ..." (Brown-Driver-Briggs) It is noteworthy that on numerous occasions this Hebrew word is translated "to offer," in the context of ritual sacrifices. Perhaps there is a hint here of the covenant of redemption.

Where was Jesus before the incarnation? Did He exist prior to the virgin birth? Scripture makes it clear that He not only existed eternally as God, but He existed in a state of glory with the Father. Consider this prayer in John 17 . . .

John 17:5 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."

And look at the claim He makes in a dispute with the Pharisees:

John 8:57-58 “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

The last sentence was correctly interpreted by the Jewish leaders as a claim to deity, for they immediately picked up stones and attempted to kill Him.

Jesus Christ was Lifted Up on the Cross

Heb. NASA, נשא = the common Heb. word for lifting or carrying, occurring 654 times in the OT. It means "to lift, bear up, carry, take ... to be lifted up, be exalted ... to be borne, be carried ... to be taken away, be carried off, be swept away" (Brown-Driver-Briggs)

The term "lifted up" can be taken as a technical reference to crucifixion. Note that the voice is passive (in Heb. it is the Niphal stem), while the terms before and after are in the active voice (Qal stem in Heb.). Someone is lifting Him. While this might refer to Christ's exaltation by the Father, there is no reason to suppose it does not rather indicate the cross. Note these passages from the book of John:

John 3:14 "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."

John 8:28
So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.

John 12:32-34 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. The crowd then answered Him, "We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?"

It is not by accident that the cross is placed between "high" and "greatly exalted" in Isaiah's account. Our Lord was indeed "lifted up" on the cross . . . but this was not the end.

Jesus Christ is Now Greatly Exalted

Heb. MEOD, מאד = "exceedingly, much" (Brown-Driver-Briggs)
Heb. GABAHH, גבה = "to be high, be exalted ... to be lofty" (Brown-Driver-Briggs)

He has been glorified exceedingly in His resurrection, ascension, and heavenly reign.

Ephesians 1:20-22 ... [God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church ...

Philippians 2:8-11 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It was through the humble obedience of being "lifted up" on the cross that our Lord was most highly exalted. Beloved, our path is to follow this same trajectory. The way of humble obedience leads to the highest glory.

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