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Meditations on Isaiah 53 (Part 1)

Isaiah 53, the fourth Servant song in Isaiah's prophecy, is arguably the most powerful Old Testament prophecy. Written nearly 800 years prior to the birth of Christ, it is undoubtedly the clearest representation of His substitutionary sufferings and subsequent glories. In the weeks ahead, consideration will be given to some of the spiritual riches of this magnificent chapter. The first verse of this chapter sets the stage for a serious consideration of what follows. "Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" The questions are rhetorical. The answer to the first is clearly, "very few." The answer to the second is, "the covenant people." If these two questions, with these answers, were carefully considered we would soon realize that Isaiah was declaring the hidden nature of the Gospel--even to the covenant people--because of spiritual blindness. The message expounded in the following 11 verses is fundamentally one that has not been believed. Eric Alexander writes:

Isaiah 53 is basically a statement of belief about the death of Jesus; but you will notice that it begins, not with a statement about belief, but with a statement about unbelief. It begins with a question—a question posed in such a way that it expects the answer, "Not very many!" "Who has believed our report?" And the answer is, "Not very many have believed it!" And so the two themes of the passage are not simply Christ as the One in whom men gladly believe, but the Christ in whom so many men and women find it impossible to believe. It is first a statement about unbelief, and then a statement about belief. And it is centered in both cases upon Christ; first on Christ the stumbling block, then on Christ the substitute and the Savior.

Now will you look, first, at the Christ who is the stumbling block to so many? And the first thing we discover as we turn to this fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, in all its beauty and wonder and power, is that the message of Jesus Christ crucified for the sins of men, is not a message which men and women find it natural to accept and believe. "Who hath believed our report?" This Jesus, says the prophet, is One who has no form nor comeliness; when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we shall desire Him. Instead of being gladly accepted and received by men, He is despised and rejected by them: the One from whom we have hidden, as it were our faces.

May God grant us grace that we may be one of the few who believe that report--the glorious report of the salvation of the LORD.

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