Yesterday, an elder in our congregation gave a message related to the Day of Atonement that spent a bit of time on a verse in a familiar passage that I don’t think gets a lot of attention. Let us begin our examination with the verse in question, Isaiah 53:10: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” This is not one of the most familiar verses on Isaiah 53 to linger upon, and yet there are a few reasons why this is a good thing to do from time to time. We are most familiar with Isaiah 53 as offering mankind a hope in the form of the sacrifice of the suffering servant, Jesus Christ, to pay the price of our sins that we may be reconciled to God. Reconciliation, obviously, is a subject I think about and muse about from time to time .
This verse is quite interesting because it begins and ends reflecting upon the pleasure of God the Father. The first part of the verse comments on how it pleased God to bruise Jesus Christ (see, for example, Genesis 3:15) and the last part of the verse comments that the one who God would bruise would see the pleasure of God, strongly implying resurrection. These two examples of pleasure book-end this verse, and should leave a reader reflecting on the complex nature of the pleasure of God. It is easy for us to look at the second aspect of the pleasure of God and to have an optimistic view of God’s pleasure, and perhaps try to forget what the first part of the verse says. It is easy to cheer on that the death is followed after three days and three nights by a resurrection so that Jesus Christ may be raised to see the spread of the offspring of God through the gift of the Holy Spirit and the growth of believers through obedience and the transformative work of the Spirit. Yet the first form of pleasure still remains and gives us something dark to ponder.
It cannot be denied that the pleasure of seeing someone bruised, no matter how good the end, is still a grim pleasure. The word used in Hebrew for bruised also means crushed, and so this is not a mild sort of bruising but is intense brokenness. We may, for example, look at the book of Job and ponder the nature of the pleasure that God had in Job’s suffering; it seems to be the same sort of pressure. If we are particularly grim people, we may even wonder if God has pleasure about bruising us in our own lives. Perhaps we do not want to think this way about God, but in times of intense trials, it is very easy to wonder if God enjoys our suffering. After all, He has the power to change circumstances quite easy. The price of believing in divine providence, as I do, is understanding that everything that happens on this earth is either ordained or allowed by God for His purposes. If these purposes are ultimately for the good, they still often involve a great deal of suffering and anguish for many people, ourselves included. Believing in a God that finds any kind of pleasure in the suffering of the godly, including His only begotten Son, our Savoir, is an aspect of His nature that is extremely dark.
The most charitable explanation for this sort of dark pleasure is something that God has a strong advantage in compared to humankind. God could legitimately have pleasure in the horrific suffering of Jesus Christ, his scourging and crucifixion, because He knew what the end would be. He knew there was no other way that mankind could be forgiven of our sins and have the debt we owe for our unrighteousness wiped away without ourselves being consigned to destruction and eternal judgment. His pleasure in having many sons and daughters brought to glory would allow Him to have at least some sort of pleasure, even if a grim and dark kind, in the process and path it took to get to that point. As human beings, we are prone to attempting to justify our own darker behaviors by pointing to the greater good that justifies our own evil doing in the means by which we get to the desired ends. Yet as human beings we do not have control over the ends of our actions, and so we do not have the freedom to take pleasure in doing evil or in causing harm because we do not know that the suffering we inflict will in fact lead to the desired end. Often, as is the case with so many political radicals, the end that is sought is in fact an evil end that does not justify any of the instrumental violence that it takes to usher in that desired revolutionary state. God, having power over history and being able to shape it according to His wishes, has the right to take pleasure even in the less pleasant but still necessary parts of that process which bring us pain as human beings. Whether or not we like reflecting upon this truth, or like what verses like Isaiah 53:10 say about what pleases God, it still remains something that we have to come to grips with whenever our own life shows the handiwork of God bringing us into trials and difficulties for His purposes.
 See, for example: