But YHWH was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief; if he would render himself as a guilt offering, Isaiah 53:10
Was Pleased – How are we supposed to understand this callous and brutal declaration? Do we really believe that YHWH found delight in the abuse of HaMashiach? How is it possible that God was pleased to crush him?
The Hebrew verb, hephets, leaves little doubt about the accuracy of the translation. Psalm 35:27 uses the verb to express God’s delight in His people. Psalm 1:2 uses the noun form to describe the people’s delight in God’s Torah. But here, applied to the torture and execution of the Messiah, it seems completely out of place. Scholars trace the etymology to two different cultural patterns: protection (intensive care) and desire. But the general context is still an activity of deep positive emotional connection. It seems impossible to imagine that God’s love for His Son could create a deep positive emotional connection over the brutality and abuse the Son would suffer.
The clue to understanding how hephets can apply here is to look at the much bigger picture. This is a case where we need to take the director’s posture, not the positions of the actors on the stage. Observers of the event recoil. They simply cannot see love in this mixture of hatred, rejection and execution. At the event level, the drama displays only sadistic brutality. But the director sees more than those on the stage. He sees the purpose accomplished in the gruesome act. He sees the higher value behind the sacrifice. Without this elevated perspective, the events make no sense at all. But with this perspective, even though the events seem terrible, the result is joyous triumph.
Elliger points out that whenever hephets is used in Isaiah 40-55, “the emotional element almost always takes a back seat to the element of will.” In other words, God is willing to sacrifice the deep emotional connection so often associated with this verb in order that a more noble and divine purpose might be accomplished. God is not joyful over the events demanded by the task ahead, nor is He desirous of the suffering needed to accomplish the task, but God is greatly pleased to see the fulfillment of His plan of redemption carried out, even if it means the temporary tragedy of death. In order to understand, we must have God’s perspective on the matter. The events have no intrinsic meaning. They can only be understood after we read the director’s script.
How many events in our lives appear incompatible with the nature of a loving God? How often have we faced brutality, abuse, confusion, despair and tragedy, thinking that the meaning of the story is the story itself? The meaning is never in the events of the story. The meaning must be found in the God behind the story, and most of the time the actors on the stage are not privileged to read the director’s script. They have to trust that the director sees the bigger picture. They can act their parts because He knows how it all fits together.
Topical Index: haphets, please, desire, care, sovereignty, Isaiah 53:10