Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.(Isaiah 53:1-3)
The fourth Servant Song opens with a paradox, for we are told that the servant shall “deal prudently…” and that he shall “…Be lifted up, exalted and… magnified”. But in the next line we are told that He will become an object of horror, so disfigured that men will turn away their faces from Him in shock at his appearance.
We are given a hint of what will unfold in the rest of the song, by the revelation, that “So shall he sprinkle many nations”, in other words, in some way his work will be that of a priest, and the effect of it will be to make many peoples Holy before God.
In the stanza above, the song takes the perspective of members of the believing community that shall spring up as a result of the Servant’s work. This is an explanation for the initial unbelief in the Servant…
Who has believed our report? The initial answer is that very few believed it. For various reasons which shall come clear the confession is made, that “we esteemed Him not”.
And To whom is the Arm of the LORD revealed? How then did any of us come to accept the message of the Servant of the LORD, who is exalted and disfigured, abhorred and worshipped ? The arm of the LORD had to be revealed to us, by God the Father. The concept that “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven…” is the very foundation of the new believing company who have come into being through the Servant.
It would take a revelation from God to know that this lowly servant, who raised not His voice in the streets, and who gently deals with the ruined and stained of humanity, never throwing any away or crushing them in exasperation, is none less than the Arm of the Lord , the Messiah of the Lord’s right hand.
O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. The LORD hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen.(Psalm 98:1-2)
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: You see, (for), he looked like he came from a common family, there seemed to be nothing distinctive about him, and there seemed nothing promising about his humble onset. A carpenter from Nazareth? How could he be the saving ‘Arm of the LORD’ ?
…he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him… There is no outward sign of majesty, beauty or ‘presence’ about Him. Nothing around him that says Royalty, or power. He is a lowly tradesman, living in a defeated nation, at the margins of a mighty empire. The first impression of the Servant is usually poor, for humanly speaking he is, well, unimpressive.
…He is despised and rejected of men;…When men don’t ignore Him, they usually scorn or hate him, rejecting Him virulently. To this day, they often refuse to give any credence to Him, and loathe the implications of his life and ministry. Somehow they sense instinctively that this man reveals the very secrets of their own hearts, therefore they hate and shun him.
There is something about Him that brings out in men either an instinctive abhorrence , or an attraction, as it is written, “He came unto His own and His own received him not… but as many as received him…”. He does not and cannot ‘fit in’ with the Age, He is always separate, isolated, the outsider.
…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…This is a man completely familiar with the human condition. He knows by experience what sorrow and grief , weakness and limitation are all about. The Messiah entered into our human dilemma, experiencing death in all of its toxic forms.
…and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not…What is it about him that causes so many to turn away? To be tempted to be ashamed to even so much as associate with Him? Why does he have to promise reward for those who will confess him before their own generation?
We confess that there was a time for all of us, (the believing community of the Servant), that we couldn’t look at Him, we turned away from him in shame and horror. Was it that our own age so hated Him, and we didn’t want to share in His reproach ?
Is it a sad, misguided allegiance with the rest of the world that “despises and rejects” Him whom God has sent? Could it be that we know deeply that His suffering is a testimony to our own sinfulness, weakness, and rebellion ? Does He not evoke the deepest wells of God hatred in the hearts of Adam’s proud sons and daughters?
So we have all turned away our faces from Him at one time or anther. We have laughed at him, taking out own seat with the rest of the scorners who cynically mock him in our own age. Our estimation of Him has been faulty, we didn’t see anything special in Him, nothing to regard or be in awe of.
But all that tells us is that our own faculties of judgment are so utterly corrupt, and that sin has made us all hopelessly bankrupt, morally and spiritually, unable to see truth, Beauty and genuine Holiness and goodness, when it is presented to us.He, the Servant, is rejected of men, but precious to God.
How then did we come to see? How did we come to believe in the LORD’s Servant?
God has revealed Him to us, in mercy and Love.
Truly now we sing with trembling awe,
Jesus is the Cornerstone, He came for sinners to atone, though rejected by His own, He became the cornerstone, Jesus is the cornerstone…