“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 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. 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.” (Isaiah 53:1-3)
Isaiah’s rhetorical question stems from the immediate preceding context of Isaiah 52:13-15. In light of this previous revelation concerning the person and work of the Servant of Yahweh, the prophet wonders aloud who would believe what had been spoken; not only from him in particular, but also from the believing remnant of God’s people in general.
“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Isaiah acknowledged only but a few would trust, depend, commit and worship the Servant of Yahweh. They would not believe what they heard. Additionally, very few would acknowledge that this revelation came from God and His strength of His might.
John Calvin commented that, “It is a holy complaint made by one who wished that Christ should be known by all, and who, notwithstanding of this, sees that there are few who believe the Gospel, and therefore groans and cries out, ‘Who hath believed our report?’ Let us therefore groan and complain with the Prophet and let us be distressed with grief when we see that our labor is unprofitable.”
2 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.” Isaiah’s lament regarding the ambivalence of God’s people towards God’s Servant, is understood by the fact that there is nothing particularly noteworthy about the Servant’s appearance.
The Servant grew up humanly before God like a tender shoot from the lineage of King David (Isaiah 11:1). The Servant grew up, as it were, like a root out of dry ground. In other words, He grew up in an area where one would not expect an individual from David’s lineage to live. He also did not look like a royal person who would be desired and admired.
“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.” Instead, God’s people would despise and reject the Servant. He was regarded with contempt and was forsaken (John 1:10-11).
The Servant was a man of sorrows, pain and anguish. He was acquainted and knowledgeable with grief, affliction and trouble. He was so despised, he was repulsive to people.
Isaiah’s conclusion is that “we” did not esteem the Servant. Isaiah includes himself in this condemnation. The people did not think the Servant was very important. People still feel that way.
It should again be noted that the past tense state of being verb “was” is repeatedly used by the English translators, of the Hebrew text, to convey the certainty of this rejection of the Servant, even though Isaiah is prophesying about the future.
Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “The prophet foresees the hatred and rejection by mankind toward the Messiah/Servant, who suffered not only external abuse, but also internal grief over the lack of response from those he came to save (e.g., Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34). By using the first person, the prophet spoke for his unbelieving nation’s aversion to a crucified Messiah and their lack of respect for the incarnate Son of God.”
Soli deo Gloria!