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The Glory of Yahweh and the Exaltation of the Suffering Servant

More proof for the Deity of Christ from the prophetic book of Isaiah

Sam Shamoun

In the inspired Hebrew Scriptures Yahweh, the one and only true God, emphatically proclaims that he will not give or share his Divine glory with another:

“I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” Isaiah 42:8

“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” Isaiah 48:11

At first glance these texts seem to suggest that Yahweh will not give his glory to anyone. However, when we examine the immediate context of the first citation it seems that what Yahweh is actually saying is that he will not share his glory with anyone other than his Servant whom he appoints as a Light to bring salvation and justice to the nations:   

“Behold my Servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Thus says God, Yahweh, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: ‘I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am Yahweh, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to graven images.’” Isaiah 42:1-8

According to the NT, this Servant is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ:

“And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” Matthew 3:16-17

“Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all, and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will any one hear his voice in the streets; he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory; and in his name will the Gentiles hope.’” Matthew 12:15-21

The reason why we believe that this particular reference actually means that Yahweh will not give his Divine glory to any one other than this Servant is because of what the prophet goes on to say concerning the Servant’s exaltation by Yahweh: 

Behold, my Servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up (yarum wa nissa), and shall be very high (gabah). As many were astonished at him – his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men – so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand.” Isaiah 52:13-15

The Servant will be exalted and highly lifted up, language which is used in relation to Yahweh’s throne or to his rule over all creation:

“In the year that King Uzzi'ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up (ram wa nissa); and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of hosts!’” Isaiah 6:1-5

And note how the following Psalm connects God's throne with God's height or exaltation:

“Who is like Yahweh our God, who is seated on high (hammagebihi), who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?” Psalm 113:5-6

In fact, all throughout Isaiah it is Yahweh who is exalted and dwells on high:

Yahweh is exalted, for he dwells on high (marom); he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness.” Isaiah 33:5

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says Yahweh. For as the heavens are higher (gabahu) than the earth, so are my ways higher (gabahu) than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Yahweh even has an appointed day when he will come in judgement against all who are high and lift themselves up, since he alone is to be exalted:

“The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the pride of men shall be humbled; and Yahweh ALONE will be exalted in that day. For Yahweh of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty (ram), against all that is lifted up (nissa) and high; against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up (ha ramim wa ha nissa’im)… And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the pride of men shall be brought low; and Yahweh ALONE will be exalted in that day.” Isaiah 2:11-13, 17

“Man is bowed down, and men are brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled. But Yahweh of hosts is exalted (yyigabah) in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.” Isaiah 5:15-16

The fact that Isaiah uses the very same language to describe the lifting up of Yahweh’s Servant shows that the Servant shares in the Divine rule of Yahweh, being exalted to Yahweh’s throne!  

Furthermore, Yahweh not only dwells on high but also with those who are crushed in spirit:

“For thus says the high and lofty One (ram wa-nissa) who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high (marom) and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite/crushed (daka) and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” Isaiah 57:15

Interestingly, we are told that before the Servant is highly exalted he first identifies with the lowly by volunteering to be crushed in their place in order to make atonement for their sins:

“Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the Arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed (maduka) for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush (daka) him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the Righteous One, my Servant/my righteous Servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:1-12

Thus, much like Yahweh the Servant dwells on high and identifies with the crushed in spirit!

Moreover, according to Isaiah 53:11 the Servant justifies or makes many to be accounted as righteous, something that Isaiah says Yahweh alone does:   

“Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, Yahweh? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.’ ‘ONLY in Yahweh,’ it shall be said of me, ‘are righteousness and strength’; to him shall come and be ashamed, all who were incensed against him. In Yahweh all the offspring of Israel shall be righteous and glory.” Isaiah 45:21-25

It is obvious from all of the above that Yahweh does indeed share his Divine glory with his Servant by having him perform the very work of salvation that Yahweh performs and by exalting him to his Divine throne to share in his rule.

And in this regard Isaiah is in complete harmony with the NT teaching, specifically the Gospel of John. According to the fourth Evangelist the One whom Isaiah saw seated on the throne was Christ in his prehuman existence, and it was his glory which he beheld!  

“… When Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the Arm of the Lord been revealed?’ Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw his [Christ’s] glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. And Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me.’” John 12:36b-45

The inspired Evangelist also referred to Jesus as the glory of the Father:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; we have beheld his glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Jesus himself spoke of sharing and regaining the glory which he had with his Father before the world was created:

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do; and now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made.” John 17:1-5

Other NT writings concur with John that Jesus is God’s glory, going so far as to even identify Christ as the very Lord of glory!

“None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:8

“In their case the God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness/image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the Heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance/effulgence of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Hebrews 1:1-3

"My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory." James 2:1

Jesus as the Divine Light

There is additional evidence from Isaiah that the Servant shares in Yahweh’s glory. As we already mentioned, the prophet speaks of the Servant being a Light to the nations who brings God’s salvation to the ends of the earth, a point he reiterates elsewhere:

“Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, ‘You are my Servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ But I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.’ And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his Servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am glorified in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength – he says: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the servant of rulers: ‘Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’ Thus says the LORD: ‘In a time of favor I have answered you, in a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; saying to the prisoners, “Come forth,” to those who are in darkness, “Appear.” They shall feed along the ways, on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall smite them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.’” Isaiah 49:1-10

Isaiah also mentions that a great Light will eventually dawn on the people living in darkness, with that Light being identified as a child who is born to rule on David’s throne forever as the Mighty God!  

“But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zeb'ulun and the land of Naph'tali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7

Astonishingly, Isaiah says elsewhere that Yahweh is the Mighty God who is the Light of the people, especially his people Israel:

“Therefore the Lord, the LORD of hosts, will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire. The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame; and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day. The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the LORD will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away. The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down. In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean upon him that smote them, but will lean upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.” Isaiah 10:16-21

“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” Isaiah 58:8-10

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising… The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.” Isaiah 60:1-4, 19-20

Once again, the NT applies the language of both Isaiah 9 and 49 to the Lord Jesus. For example, Jesus is the One who institutes a covenant with the people:

“And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’” Mark 14:22-25

He is the God who comes as a light of salvation for the nations:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him… Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Caper'na-um by the sea, in the territory of Zeb'ulun and Naph'tali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘The land of Zeb'ulun and the land of Naph'tali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles -- the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 3:13, 4:12-17

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now let you your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for mine eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.’” Luke 2:25-32

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.” John 1:1-10

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

“We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:4-5

“Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light… I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.’” John 12:35-36a, 46

He is also the Divine Shepherd who leads the people of God to springs of living water:

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17

And it is his mouth which is likened to a sharp sword:

“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’” Revelation 1:12-18 – cf. 2:12, 16; 19:15

With the foregoing in perspective can there be any doubt that the Holy Bible as a whole plainly and emphatically teaches that Jesus is God in the flesh, the eternal Divine glorious Son of God? The answer is obvious to those whom God has given eyes to see and ears to hear.

A Modern Interpretation?

Someone may accuse us of coming up with a novel interpretation, one that was virtually unknown and unheard of in Jesus’ day or in early Church history.

On the contrary, our explanation is quite old since it is a view which second-century Christian apologist Justin Martyr proposed in his debate with certain Jewish opponents as recorded in his book, The Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. Renowned NT scholar Larry W. Hurtado refers to this explanation in his monumental work on Christology:     

The Dialogue with Trypho, by Justin Martyr, is the oldest extant Christian text that is wholly devoted to a presentation of Christian faith over against Jewish objections. Although probably written sometime in the middle of the second century, the Dialogue is widely thought to incorporate disputations that Justin may have had with Jews in the aftermath of Bar Kokhba war (132-135). Moreover, it is also widely accepted that a good deal of Justin’s argument in the Dialogue reflects traditional early Christian thought that had been around for some time, a good deal of which likely came from Jewish Christian circles.        

“I draw attention to a particular passage where Justin’s Jewish interlocutor, Trypho, cites the statement in Isaiah 42:8, ‘My glory I will not give to another,’ to refute Justin’s view that Jesus shares in God’s glory and is rightly worthy of worship (Dial. 65.1). Justin’s response is to claim that the Isaiah passage in fact asserts that God did give his glory ‘to his Christ alone’ (ho theos to christo autou mono ten doxan didosin; Dial. 65:3), and in support of this he quotes the surrounding statements (Isa. 42:5-13). For Justin the immediately adjacent statements in 42:6-7 are crucial, where God speaks to another figure whom God called and gave as ‘a covenant to the people [Heb. berith ‘am; Gk. diatheken genous], a light [phos] to the nations.’ Justin clearly reads the following words of Isaiah 42:8, ‘this is my name,’ as a further reference to this same figure (i.e., as ‘this [one] is my name’), and he takes the statements ‘My glory I give to no other [hetero]’ to mean that God does rightly give his glory to this ‘light/name’ figure, but not to any other! Justin’s summary statement to his Jewish partners in dialogue is worth quoting: ‘Have you perceived, O friends, that God says that he will give his glory to this one [touto], whom he established for a light of the nations, and to no other, and not, as Trypho said, as though God kept his glory to himself!’ (Dial. 65.7).

“Although this is our earliest explicit evidence of this reading of Isaiah 42:8, I think it a safe bet that Christians did not have to wait until the mid-second century to have this text thrown at them by Jewish opponents of their veneration of Jesus. Given that Johannine Jewish Christians were thrown out of their synagogues and regarded as blasphemous by Jewish opponents on account of their reverence of Jesus, it is almost impossible to imagine that they did not have to come to terms with Isaiah 42:8 (and its echo in 48:11). In fact, I propose that the Johannine references to God giving glory to Jesus (e.g., John 17:5, 24) intentionally allude to the sort of early Christian reading of Isaiah 42:8 that Justin explicitly attests in the Dialogue. That is, GJohn expresses the direct claim that God has given glory to Jesus, because he is the ‘light’ promised in Isaiah 42:6 (John 1:4-9; 12:35-36) and the ‘name’ pointed to in Isaiah 42:8.” (Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ – Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, U.K. 2003], Chapter Six. Crisis and Christology in Johannine Christianity, Jesus in the Gospel of John – Jesus as/and the Name of God, pp. 386-388; underline emphasis ours)   

Thus, it turns out that our exegesis is actually very ancient, being evidenced by John’s Gospel and the statements of early Christian writings!  

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus, come! We testify that you are indeed the eternal glory of God the Father, the Divine Light who brings salvation for all mankind! We love you, O risen glorious Lord and immortal Savior!

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