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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 53:1 says,
1 Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
The prophet recognized the blindness of the people and of the world at large. He knew that to believe the gospel required revelation. The “arm of the Lord” had to be revealed to them in order for them to believe (i.e., have faith). So we read in Matt. 16:15-17,
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
Someday all will have this revelation, so that they may be justified by faith. Most will have to await the great White Throne judgment, for it is there that Christ will be revealed to them in all His glory. It is there that “every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance” (Isaiah 45:23), including all the Israelites who had gone into captivity on account of their unbelief and anger against God (Isaiah 45:24, 25).
Isaiah 53:2 says,
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
God had little interest in giving His Son a “stately form” that might convince people to follow Him. He was not a tall, handsome man like King Saul. He did not look like a natural born leader that men would follow. He was “like a tender shoot” from “the stem of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1), and the prophet compared Him to “a root out of parched ground.” In other words, He was like a plant struggling to grow in dry ground. The plant simply did not look very good on the outside. The Messiah would not be physically attractive, the prophet says.
Isaiah 53:3 continues,
3 He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows [makove] and acquainted with grief [choliy, “grief, sickness, disease”]; and like one from whom men hide their face [shun] He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
We know from the New Testament gospels that Jesus was despised and hated by the chief priests, with the exception of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. But Isaiah speaks more broadly, telling us that His very appearance caused men to think less of Him. It was only when the people saw His works, heard His teachings, and felt His love that He gained their profound respect.
Perhaps Isaiah was referring to the constellation Centaurus, whose name in both Hebrew and Arabic means “The Despised.” But in what way was Centaurus despised? Another Hebrew name for this constellation was Asmeath, which meant “sin offering.” As we will see later, Isaiah 53:10 refers to the Messiah as “a guilt offering,” or anyone that attracts guilt.
God Himself created the constellations as “signs” (Gen. 1:14) and also named the stars (Psalm 147:4; Isaiah 40:26). This was man’s first gospel, a revelation of the story of Christ from His birth through a virgin (Virgo) to His coming as the Lion (Leo) of the tribe of Judah. Its later perversion created the need for a written revelation, but in no way did this negate the original truth of the gospel pictured in the stars.
The Greek name for this constellation is Cheiron, which means “the pierced,” for His side was to be pierced (John 19:34). For this reason, Centaurus was pictured holding a spear with which He was piercing Lupus, “the victim,” which served as another type of Christ. The scene showed clearly that Jesus laid down His own life, as He said in John 10:17, 18,
17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.
Greek mythology carried grains of original truth about Christ, although they had lost the proper understanding of prophecy. Yet even so, to them Cheiron was renowned for his skill in hunting, medicine, athletics, and even prophecy. He was said to be immortal but voluntarily agreed to die. It is certain that many Greeks who heard the gospel of Christ remembered the story of Cheiron and realized that Jesus fulfilled the gospel in the stars.
Isaiah 53:3 also prophesies that the Messiah would be “a man of sorrows.” Perhaps this should be compared to the first woman of sorrows, Eve, who was told, “In pain you will bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). Jesus too brought forth the sons of God through pain, for the cross was the only way to bring forth His children.
This is also prophesied in the story of Benjamin’s birth. Genesis 35:18 says,
18 It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
Ben-oni means “son of my sorrow.” Benjamin means “son of my right hand.” The child’s two names prophesy of Christ. Isaiah 53:3 says He would be “a man of sorrows” in His death on the cross; but God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:20).
A son of the right hand also indicates that the Father’s right hand takes hold of the left hand of the son. So it appears that Benjamin himself was left-handed. Thereafter, there were many left-handed men in the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:16).
Isaiah 53:3 also says that the Messiah “was acquainted with grief.” The Hebrew word choliy means “sickness,” implying that the Messiah would not enjoy perfect health. He bore our sickness as part of His intercessory work, not only on the cross but also during His life on earth. The townsfolk of Nazareth remembered Jesus as a sick child. When they heard that Jesus had been healing others, they wondered why He could not heal Himself. Jesus knew their thoughts, and so we read in Luke 4:23,
23 And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”
They did not know that it was necessary for Him to experience our sickness in order to take it upon Himself so that we might be healed. And so it is with many intercessors, many of whom are despised by those who do not understand this principle of intercession.
While Jesus’ crucifixion and death brought us resurrection life, His scourging brought us healing from sickness. The law in Deut. 25:2, 3 says that “if the wicked man deserves to be beaten… he may beat him forty times but no more.” I believe that in order for Jesus to bring full healing to the world, He had to be beaten with forty lashes.
Normally, the Jews limited beatings to 39 lashes (2 Cor. 11:24), but Jesus fulfilled the law to the letter. Hence, I believe that He was beaten with forty lashes, as if He were an exceedingly wicked man. Therein lies full healing for all.
Isaiah 53:4, 5 says,
4 Surely our griefs [choliy] He Himself bore, and our sorrows [makove] He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken [naga], smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed [daka, “broken in pieces, crushed, bruised”] for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
The fact that Jesus carried our “griefs” and “sorrows” gave Him authority also to heal others, for we read in Matt. 8:14-17,
14 When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him. 16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were ill. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”
We see that Isaiah’s “griefs” and “sorrows” are interpreted to mean “infirmities” and “diseases,” which He took upon Himself. Furthermore, Isaiah says that “we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,” that is, with disease. The Hebrew word for leprosy is zar’ath, which literally means “stricken.” It is from the root word zar’a, “to strike down.” Isaiah uses the word naga, which carries a similar meaning.
The prophet does not say that the Messiah was indeed a leper; he says only that “we esteemed Him” to be like a leper, that is, an unclean outcast, one to be abhorred. Even so, the other descriptions indicate that Jesus was not in robust health, and the people of Nazareth knew this.
Yet the spear was to pierce Him “for our transgressions,” and He was to be “crushed for our iniquities.” Piercing brings an open wound; bruising is an inner wound. The open wounds that Christ experienced on the cross were for “transgressions” (open sin); the bruising was for “iniquities,” that is, the hidden condition of our heart.
Jesus did a complete work on the cross, laying the legal groundwork to save the world completely. By dying and then overcoming death through resurrection, He was able to give us immortality and incorruption.