Isaiah: Violets on the Heel.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explained that, “Mark Twain once wrote that “forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Though this man was by no means a Christian, this quote does depict the biblical truth that true forgiveness never comes without a cost to the forgiver. Though crushed, the violet refuses to withhold a good gift but absorbs the crushing blow, blessing the heel that has injured it. The same thing happens every time forgiveness is offered — the offended person, while not overlooking or denying the hurt, refuses to hold the hurt against the offender over the offender’s head permanently. The offended blesses the offender with the promise of real reconciliation and fellowship when the offending party repents and asks for pardon.”

“Such costly acts of forgiveness among violets and heels and people do not even barely approximate the cost the Suffering Servant paid to forgive us. Isaiah 52:13– 53:12, the best known of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs,” depicts this cost most vividly. For the Lord to finally forgive those men and women who trust in His promises of redemption, the offended party must incur a cost. In this case, the offended party is God Himself, who incurred the cost of the death of His only begotten Son. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah, had to be “cut off” for our forgiveness (53:8). Being cut off is a biblical way of referring to divine judgment (Num. 9:13), and so we see the glory of Isaiah’s prophecy and the work of the Suffering Servant. It is one thing not to charge the offender the full cost that forgiveness requires but quite another for the offended person, who has done no wrong, to pay the cost himself. This is what our Father did for us — He paid our cost by sending His Son to be the Suffering Servant so that we might be accounted righteous (Isa. 53:11).”

 Isaiah presents the oracle contained in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in five stanzas of three verses each: (1) 52:13-15; (2) 53:1-3; (3) 53:4-6; (4) 53:7-9; and (5) 53:10-12.  It begins and ends with the Servant’s exaltation (first and fifth stanzas). Framed within this is the story of his rejection in stanza two and four, which in turn frames the third stanza (53:4–6). This is where the atoning significance of the suffering of Yahweh’s Servant is expounded. The third stanza functions as the centerpiece of the oracle.

I encourage you to begin memorizing this song of the suffering of the Servant of Yahweh, beginning with the first stanza, Isaiah 52:13-15. It is this first stanza which we will examine when next we meet.

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.

14 As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

15 So shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

 Soli deo Gloria!




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