Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord ’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. – Isaiah 53:1-12
Today’s passage is a very familiar bit of water. It contains only a fleeting reference to water, but it is such an important verse to followers of Christ that I felt it important to float this stretch of water. I think this is one of the most quoted of the Isaiah prophecies that I can remember, with the possible exception of the one that John the Baptist quoted back in Isaiah 40:3-14. Followers of Christ have seen a clear description in this passage of the death and suffering of Jesus. It provides an explanation of this event that is consistent with all I have read so far about the extending of the “Arm of God” and a God who deeply desires to carry us like a son or daughter.
The description here of the “Arm of the Lord” is so strikingly similar to the Gospel description of Jesus that it is hard to imagine it is referring to someone else. Although there are still many Jews and others who do not accept this as a prophetic pointer to the Messiah who we call Jesus. Some argue that the English translation is incorrect or inaccurate. I will just say that this passage is one of many in Isaiah that all seem to point toward the same Messiah. A Messiah Who many did not expect and that only some will understand and receive as we find in the beginning of the passage; “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
The main character of the story is someone that sounds a lot like Job, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” This man was not flashy or “popular” in a worldly sense. He “took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.” So this person will see suffering which seems out of proportion with their actions and His treatment will lead many to ask “where is His God“.
We can identify with the character being described because “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” So the “Arm of God” was extended so that all of us rebellious and lost sheep could find our way home. This word picture is completely consistent with the metaphors and parables shared about lost sheep, coins, and the prodigal son in the New Testament.
God is revealing here a great mystery. He will take our transgressions onto Himself when He was “cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.” This is truly a paradox. The most powerful being in the universe subjecting Himself to the same mortal death that our bodies experience when we die. This is clearly deep water.
God allowed part of His spirit to “condense” into human form and experience the same physical death to make “his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.” So God needed to provide this demonstration of His love for us. I do not pretend to fully understand why this was needed. I am content to accept the mystery that it was a necessary part of God’s plan. Part of the New Song that God has been alluding to throughout Isaiah.
The end result of this sacrifice is a continuing legacy of Lordship through the God-man Jesus: “Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
All those who follow “the Way” of Jesus are part of this legacy and benefactors of this amazing grace. Jesus “poured out” his soul for all of us so that we could learn how to pour out our souls both here on earth and when we “cross over” at the end of our earthly existence. God made it clear that we are itinerants in this world and our souls are not really intended to be “comfortable” in our earthly bodies. In a sense we do not really belong here. We are spiritual children of God and our rightful home is with Him. It is when we remember this that we find peace like a river flowing from the One River.
Prayer: God Your sacrifice for our transgressions is a great mystery. Help us to learn to live and die as You taught us through Your Son Jesus.