“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:1-3)
“Death is the great equalizer.” W. Robert Godfrey
As we examine the servant song of Yahweh from Isaiah 52:13-53:12, today’s theme title is taken from Isaiah 53:1-3. It is the second of five sections in Isaiah’s Fourth Song concerning the Servant of Yahweh. In these three verses, and for the next three days, we will consider the Confession about the Suffering Servant.
What exactly is a confession? We normally think of a confession with respect to an acknowledgment by an individual of a committed crime. When I was growing up, one of my dad’s favorite television programs was the hour long court room drama Perry Mason. Each week’s episode featured a climatic and dramatic confession on the witness stand by the actual murderer under cross examination by the famous, fictional defense attorney.
A confession is also a declaration and affirmation of truth or that which is real. It does not necessarily always involve the admission to a sin or criminal act. It may refer to a truth which is often ignored, denied or ridiculed. Such is the case with the atonement of Jesus Christ.
The Prophet Isaiah begins recording Yahweh’s confession regarding His Servant in Isaiah 53:1. It takes the form of two questions. “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
In spite of the details surrounding this prophecy, few would recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah; the Servant of the LORD when He appeared. Israel did not welcome Him at His first advent.
John 1:9-11 says, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
John 12:37-38 says, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
What was true regarding Israel’s inability to recognize Jesus Christ as the Servant of Yahweh also applied to the Gentile nations. The Apostle Paul applied these two prophetic questions to the world at large. Romans 10:16 says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”
As Yahweh’ spokesperson, Isaiah posed the question, “Who has believed what he has heard from us?” In the Hebrew, the question is literally, “Who has believed?” Isaiah asked the question with respect to and concerning Yahweh’s Servant: the Messiah. In other words, Jesus Christ.
The verb “believed” parallels the noun “faith.” It is the Hebrew word He-emin. It means trust, dependability, and what is known to be firm and reliable. This definition parallels the Greek meaning of trust in, dependence upon, commitment to and worship of an object worthy of such trust, dependence, commitment and worship. In short, God and God alone.
“Who has believed what he has heard from us?” This rhetorical question has an obvious answer: no one! Within the immediate context, the pronoun “who” specifically refers to Israel.
Dr. John MacArthur, from his book The Gospel According to God, writes, “Bear in mind that this passage represents the collective confession all Israel will make on that day yet future when the nation finally turns to Christ. The words, of course, would be a suitable expression for anyone who has known about Christ but spurned Him for some time before embracing Him as Lord and Savior. But in this context, it is a remarkable confession of national repentance and we need to understand it in that light.”
“And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” The phrase “arm of the Lord” refers to Yahweh’s power and strength. It is the potency and ability to accomplish something (cf. Isaiah 51:9; 52:10; 59:16; 62:8; Luke 1:51; John 12:38). It is a power and strength which the LORD alone possesses.
It is this power and strength of the LORD that has been revealed or uncovered. Initially, it refers to the many miracles Jesus Christ would accomplish during His three year ministry. However, ultimately the LORD’s power and strength refers to the powerful message of the gospel. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Dr. John Walvoord explains, “The Jewish remnant will lament the fact that so few people will believe their message about the Servant, and that so few will acknowledge their message as coming from God and His strength.”
As it was with Israel, so it is with unbelievers today. Many believe that they are justified before God solely by their physical death. The reasoning is that all you have to do to become accepted by God into heaven is to die. He welcomes everyone.
However, that is not what the Bible says. Our acceptance by the LORD God is solely based on sinners being justified by grace alone, through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Romans 3:21-16 says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
May you have your hope for righteousness and acceptance before God based solely on the person and work of Jesus Christ: The Servant of Yahweh.
May God’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!