Isa 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.
Lit. ‘Out of [or after, or because of] the travail of his soul he will see and be satisfied.’
1. He will suffer
‘Travail’ signifies severe labour, or painful exertion. It refers to the entire work of toil and suffering of the Lord, which were included in his offering of his soul for sin, and which was consummated when he was ‘cut off out of the land of the living.’
Here, then, is the painful work of the Servant of the Lord. Jn 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?” Mt 26:39 “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Mt 27:46 “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Lk 22:44 his sweat, like “great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Christ’s sufferings were: (a) social, for they accused him of blasphemy against God and sedition against Caesar, Lk 23:2. They mocked him as a king, Mt 27:29; and as a prophet, Mt 27:39,42. (b) physical, he was whipped and wounded and fatigued; all his senses were assaulted. (c) in his soul, for he was deserted by God, Mt 27:46, with regard to the actual comfort, sensible consolation, and joyful solace, which he had been used to. He who had known such enjoyment in the presence of his Father, he alone knew the greatness of the loss of that communion.
But this soul-suffering was not only negative and privative. It was also positive and penal. He stood in the sinner’s stead, and bore the great burden of sin. Many martyrs have gone to their death kissing the stake, and praising God. But Christ’s sufferings were to large extent due to an apprehension of God’s wrath, Gal 3:13 ‘being made a curse for us: for it is written cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree’; Isa 53:10.
Learn then, (a) the sinfulness of sin, (b) the terribleness of God’s wrath, (c) the greatness of our obligations to Christ, (d) what reasons we have to follow Christ, and suffer if needs be on his behalf.
2. He shall see
This verse expresses more clearly than any other in the poem the connection between the suffering and the glory of the Servant. Lk 24:26 “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”; I Pet 1:11 ‘the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.’
When the Son of God agreed to leave his heavenly throne and come and suffer and die, he did not do so blindly. He knew what the cost would be. And yet as he looked forward to the temptations of the wilderness, the agonies of the garden, the curse of the cross, the scourging of the body, and the suffering of his soul, he said, ‘I am willing to pay that price.’ Why? – because he say, not only the suffering, but also the effects of that suffering.
The sufferings of the Messiah shall produce visible effects, which he shall see.
But what will he see? He will see the results that his sufferings were intended to achieve. He did not die in vain. He did not die in the mere hope that some might benefit thereby. He died that many might be saved. He laid down his life for his sheep, Jn 10:17; for his church, Eph 5:26; for his people, Mt 1:21. He did not suffer merely to make us ‘savable’ but actually to save his sheep, his church, his people. When we first come to him in faith, it is in response to his effectual call. Our continuance in faith is entirely due to his protection and safe-keeping. He is, Heb 12:2 ‘the author and finisher of our faith’. Christ will lose no part of his reward and inheritance, Heb 2:13 “Behold I and the children which God hath given me.”
Christ will see, then the success of his great work of redemption. And he will see each constituent element of that work. He will see the prince of this world cast out, and all men drawn unto himself, Jn 12:31f. He will see the Son of man glorified, and God glorified in him, Jn 13:31. He will see grace triumph, the works of the devil destroyed, the kingdom of God established among men, an innumerable multitude made holy and happy, the obtaining for himself the throne of the universe. He will see the Holy Spirit poured out, thousands converted in a single day, many of whom having been his murderers. He will see the Gospel preached throughout the world, churches established, saints built up. He will see his kingdom established, and idolatry, superstition, and paganism, overthrown; immorality, slavery, anarchy, put down. He will see his enemies made his footstool; his sheep safely enfolded in heaven, with not one missing, his church fully gathered, spotless and holy. He will see graves emptied at the resurrection, and all nations standing before him at the judgement. He will see a new heavens and a new earth, with every creature bowing before the throne of his Father and himself, singing ceaseless praises. And all of this, because of the suffering of his soul.
Jesus is even now reaping the rewards of his hard-won victory, Heb 2:8-10. And, in a very special way, you are Christ’s reward. Heb 2:13 – “Behold I and the children God has given me.” You are what made all that suffering worth while for him. He will see his seed, Isa 53:10.
3. He shall be satisfied
Heb 12:2, ‘Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.’
The end of all the labour and suffering was joyful satisfaction. If there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, Lk 15:7, how much more in the heart of the Saviour himself, when he surveys the glorious outcome of his work of redemption? Jn 16 21 “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, he remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.”
He brings happiness to all around him, and upon this he feeds himself. Next to the delight he takes in his Father, is that which he takes in coming into the world and recovering a people to himself, Jn 4:34. Now that work is finished, and, as the grand reservoir of divine benefits, he gives joy to the hosts of the angels and the multitudes of the redeemed! How great must be the final glory which results from the suffering of Messiah’s soul! It is great enough to satisfy his large soul, his mighty mind, his large heart. Bethlehem, Gethsemane, and Calvary left no regrets. He did not grudge the price he paid. Looking back on all he endured, and looking forward to all that it was to accomplish, he is contented – he is satisfied – with the sight.
‘This is Christ’s harvest, when he shall reap the fruit of his labours; and it will not repent him concerning his sufferings, but he will rejoice over his purchased inheritance, and his people will rejoice in him.’ (Richard Baxter)
See then, (a) what we owe to Christ, whose work is perfect and complete; (b) the certainty of our acceptance with Christ, if we come to him on his own terms, since he sees that his work of suffering has been abundantly fruitful; (c) the encouragement to faith to come to Christ, since it makes his heart joyful when you come; he chides none for coming to him, only those who will not come to him; (d) how we should love him who knew such intense desire, painful endeavour, and sweet contentment; (e) a pattern for us to imitate that we may desire him, pursue hard after him, and enjoy him as our highest good.