“Behold, my servant shall act wisely, he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.”
The footnote for the word, “wisely” gives the alternate translation, “shall prosper.” The ESV Study Bible gives a further definition as “succeed at his task.” And the King James Version translates the phrase as, “deal prudently.”
The latter half of the verse reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Jesus was referring to His forthcoming death by crucifixion. In light of that and the above definitions, one could re-phrase the verse in Isaiah to read, “Behold, my servant, Jesus, shall prosper and succeed at his task – he shall be crucified.”
The irony is inescapable. The most torturous, painful, humiliating experience one could endure was also God’s means of lifting up and exalting His Son. And by surrendering to His Father’s design and will in this, Jesus achieved success.
How vastly different this model is from everything that seems right and true to our human way of thinking! How often do we avoid, rather than follow after, the very things that would truly make us prosperous and successful – not by the world’s standards, but by the fixed truth of God?
The message is clear in Scripture – God wants His people to be prosperous and successful. And so in Jesus He gave us the definition and model of it. Then Jesus even put it into words for us,
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Perhaps we should see pain not as a crushing blow from God, but as His means to lift us up; rejection not to shame us, but to exalt us; suffering not to sabotage our work, but to make us truly successful. And all of this to fix our eyes on Jesus who through the greatest suffering achieved the greatest success.