The Atonement: The Confession about the Suffering Servant, Part 3.

“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)

“If we fail to understand what God is saving us from—namely wrath, judgment and hell—we will never understand His mercy. If we are not confronted with the wretchedness of our sin, we will not be able to rest in His amazing grace. For it is only when we grasp that we in our sin put Jesus on the cross that we can begin to see what God did for us at the cross.” Burk Parsons

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. Today, we examine Isaiah 53:3: “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.”

Three words stand out in this verse regarding the reaction of the people towards the Servant of Yahweh: Jesus Christ. He was (1) despised; (2) rejected; and (3) not esteemed.

As we begin examining this verse, please notice that Isaiah used the state of being verb “was” to describe the people’s reaction to Jesus Christ. While Isaiah is writing about events which will take place hundreds of years in the future at the time of this prophecy, he presents it from the perspective of eternity and the people’s realization of what Jesus did in history.

He was despised.” Literally it reads, “He was the One who was despised.” Yahweh’s Servant, Jesus Christ, received nothing but contempt, ridicule and hatred by the masses. He became the object of their scorn and ridicule.

He was despised and rejected by men.” Not only was the people’s attitude toward Jesus one of contempt, ridicule and hatred, but ultimately this resulted in rejection. He was forsaken and deserted by the people for whom He came to die. Jesus was not the political leader they had hoped He would be, but rather was the suffering servant who provided atonement which the people did not feel they needed Him to be.

“And as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised.” Because the people despised and rejected Jesus so much, they literally turned away from Him. What a contrast it will be when Jesus is eternally exalted before everyone because of the rejection and scorn He received while suffering on behalf of His people.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

“And we esteemed him not.” It is interesting to note that the prophet includes himself in this evaluation. He does not deny the sinful condition of his own soul when examining the Servant’s substitutionary atonement (cf. Isaiah 6:1-7).

The verb esteemed is an accounting term meaning credit, to impute, or to determine value. It means to think in a detailed logical manner regarding a particular object.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “The Hebrew word “esteemed” is an accounting term—the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word logizomai meaning “imputed” or “reckoned.” It’s a vital word in the biblical doctrine of justification.” The English Standard Version translates the word as “counted.”

Genesis 15:6 says, “And he (Abraham) believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:3 – “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Within the context of Isaiah 53:3, the prophet is saying that Jesus’ Messiahship did not add up or make sense to the people. They wanted a Messiah like the kings of the world rather than the King of kings and the Lord of lords. They counted Him to be worthless. However, His apparent worthlessness would result in sinners being counted righteous. What irony!

Therefore, it is said the Yahweh’s Servant that He was truly “a man of sorrows.” He was a human being who experienced pain and anguish. This not only applies the physical pain Jesus experienced while on the cross, but also the extreme mental anguish associated with that pain. Along with being a man of sorrows, Jesus was also “acquainted with grief.” He knew what it was like to experience the wounds of afflictions.

As Dr. MacArthur states, “Isaiah is writing this prophecy with an eye to the cross, and his focus is on the profound agony—both the physical pain and the soul-shattering grief—that Jesus endured. The torment of his body and soul was so appalling that he literally became “one from whom men hide their faces.”

Hymn writer Phillip Bliss expressed it this way.

“Man of Sorrows,” what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

 Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood;                                                                                              
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

 Guilty, vile, and helpless, we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full redemption—can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

 Lifted up was He to die,
“It is finished!” was His cry;
now in heaven exalted high;
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

 When He comes, our glorious King,
To His kingdom us to bring,
Then anew this song we’ll sing
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

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