In this fifty-third chapter of Isaiah (with which we include the last three verses of chapter 52), we believe there are to be found certain Divine thoughts. Divine laws, Divine principles, of abiding and universal application, upon which the Arm of the Lord can be revealed. We continue our investigation to discover what these Divine thoughts are. There are certain thing which lie clearly upon the surface, as we have the record before us.
Man's Attitude to the Servant
First of all, one thing which is very apparent is the difference between the attitude of man and attitude of God to this suffering Servant of the Lord. These two attitudes are very clearly defined, and represent two entirely different realms. What is said as to the attitude or judgment of man concerning this One - 'My Servant' - falls into two parts: firstly, that of the Gentiles; secondly, that of Israel.
The reaction of the Gentiles, on hearing the report and receiving the description, is found in those last verses of chapter 52: "Like as many were astonied at Thee, (His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men, so shall He startle" (for that is the word, not 'sprinle') "many nations; kings shall shut their mouths at Him for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider."
The 'report' of Him (mentioned in the next verse, chapter 53) which has gone forth, has caused the nations and the kings to be startled. They shut their mouths in horrified consternation. The description produces an attitude of dumb amazement and incredulity. "Who has received the report?" Not these! They are incredulous - this could never be the Servant of the Lord! Such an one! "Do you tell us that this is the servant of Jehovah? - that such a weakling stands within the pale of Divine approval? Never! They shut their mouths; their jaws are fixed. That is the Gentile reaction.
Israel (as to His Life)
What is the attitude of Israel? His whole career is here brought before us. First of all, as to His birth and youth, He is described as "a root out of a dry ground." There was a sense in which this was a true description, for the seed of David had seemed to have become very dry; and yet the nation is discrediting Him in this way. "When we see Him, thee is no beauty that we should desire Him." There is no shining glory or splendor perceptible in His coming into this world. Who is He, after all? Where did He come from? Of course we know more, but you must remember that Matthew and Luke wrote their records of His birth long years after He had gone to glory. They had set themselves with pains to trace His ancestry, and to find out all the circumstances of His birth, and we have them in their Gospel narratives. But these were not common knowledge in Israel. "Search," they said, "and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" (John 7:52). "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). No, there was no carry-over of human glories and grandeurs into this life naturally; He was born with no human prestige.
As to His life - well, in the description here, there are more negative things than positive; there are more handicaps than advantages. He had "no form"; He had no "comeliness"; He had "no beauty that we should desire Him." We must not attempt mental pictures of the appearance of the Lord Jesus, but this is how they looked upon Him. He had a heritage of woes - "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." In His life, linked as it was with the tragedies of human inheritance and experience, there were only sorrows, griefs and woes - that is how they viewed it; that was man's judgment. In their view there was not one positive factor about Him that would attest Him as the chosen and anointed Servant of the Lord, the Redeemer and Messiah.
As to His Death
What is Israel's judgment on receiving the "report" of His death? How does Israel look upon Him? "A root out of a dry ground." There is nothing beautiful or attractive about that: it is the sort of thing that you might find in the way and kick out of your path. That is their estimate of it. "Despises and rejected" - that is Israel's judgment. "A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." "Tell us that is the Messiah! Tell us that is the Anointed of the Lord! Tell us that is the Servant of Jehovah! Tell u that is the Redeemer of Israel! No, never, a thousand times never!" "As One from whom men hide their face He was despised; and we esteemed Him not." It is not difficult to visualize the gestures, the attitudes, the looks on these faces. "We did esteem Him smitten of God ..." That is the meaning of His Cross - He deserved it! God has smitten Him!" God has put upon Him the judgment which He deserved and earned. "They made His grave with the wicked" - that is, no doubt, what would have happened, had Joseph of Arimathaea not intervened and begged His body from Pilate. He would have been flung into the common grave with the malefactors.
What a full description there is of His death! "He was oppressed, yet He humbled Himself and opened not His mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb; yea, He opened not His mouth." He was like something for the slaughter - terrible, horrible word! Slaughter! "Smitten of God" - that was the interpretation of the Cross. "From ... judgment He was taken away." The fact was that at that time the judgment was being exercised by Him over His oppressors: but their view was, "He is rightly deprived of judgment; all His franchise is removed, all His rights are eliminated, and deservedly so." "He was cut off out of the land of the living:" God has just cut Him off - God has done it!' This is the judgment of Israel, the judgment of man. Man's judgment of Divine things, Divine Persons and Divine works, is based entirely upon objective consideration, without any knowledge of inward reality.
(continued with # 1 - "Why These Strange Ways of God?")