Summary: In Isaiah 53 the rejected servant of God brings our acceptance through: 1) Living through Rejection (Isaiah 53:1-3), 2) Bearing the Consequences of Rejection (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Abraham Lincoln existed at a time of much division as we have today. In the forthcoming Hollywood movie on him, we see how Lincoln suffered from his ugliness throughout his lifetime and even during his tenure as President. Those who knew him, however, saw past the ugliness and through the gentleness of the eyes into the compassion of his heart. At one time, Lincoln is reputed to have responded to a question about his ugliness by saying, “The face you have before forty you cannot help, but the face you have after forty you deserve.”
Physical features, even in Jesus’ time, influence social esteem. When physically beautiful people reveal their emotional insecurities or their moral emptiness, we are surprised because people tend to equate beauty with esteem. Physically Ugly people live with the opposite reputation. Our first reaction to a disfigured face is withdrawal. Our second reaction is to devalue the worth of that person on our scale of esteem.
The Servant of Isaiah 53 will not have the advantage of time to communicate the beauty of His person and His personality. To the end of His life, He will know the sorrow and the grief of being “despised and rejected by men” (v. 3). Like the shock of the hideous face behind the half mask of the Phantom of the Opera, those who see the face of the Servant will hide their eyes, and without ever knowing the person behind the mask, they will write him off as inhuman. The “sorrow and grief” that the Servant felt from hidden eyes and debasing glares meant that He entertained no masochistic pleasure in His rejection. Just the opposite. With a verve for living, a desire for friends, and a wish for good will, the “sorrows” and “grief” of the Servant come because of His total rejection (McKenna, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1994). Vol. 18: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 18 : Isaiah 40-66. The Preacher's Commentary series (159–160). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.).
We must realize that He bears the full rejection of the Father that we would have the Father’s full acceptance. Because of His rejection, we are accepted by God. Yet for this acceptance we must accept His rejection on our behalf. In Isaiah 53 the rejected servant of God brings our acceptance through: 1) Living through Rejection (Isaiah 53:1-3), 2) Bearing the Consequences of Rejection (Isaiah 53:4-5)
1) Living through Rejection (Isaiah 53:1-3)
Isaiah 53:1-3 [53:1]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. (ESV)
Isaiah felt that he spoke, mainly, to unbelieving ears (ch. 28:9–15; 29:10–15; 30:9–11; 42:23, etc.) so he asks: Who has believed?. The unbelief was likely to be intensified when so marvelous a prophecy was delivered as that which he was now commissioned to put forth. Still, of course, there is rhetorical exaggeration in the question, which seems to imply that no one would believe. This anticipation found literal fulfillment at Christ’s first advent. Israel did not welcome Him at His first advent (John 1:9–11; 12:38). Paul applied the same prophecy to the world at large (Rom. 10:16) (The MacArthur Study Bible. 1997 (J. MacArthur, Jr., Ed.) (electronic ed.) (Is 53:1). Nashville, TN: Word Pub.).
• Unbelief confounds believers. Those who believe and proclaim the truth do not understand why some refuse to believe. Sadly, it happened in Isaiah’s day; a part of the prophet’s mission was to confirm Israel in its unbelief. Rejection of the gospel dogged the work of the apostles, and rejection of our witness will occur, even after we have proclaimed the gospel as clearly and eloquently as we can (Braun, J. A. (2001). Isaiah 40-66. The People’s Bible (222). Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House.)
The referent to “us/we” is most likely Israel, who fails to recognize the “Lord” when it is revealed to them. Delitzsch shows that this is the normal referent of “we” throughout the book (16:6; 24:16; 42:24; 64:4–5 [Eng. 5–6], etc.). Thus the prophet is probably identifying himself with his people and speaking for them (see Jer. 14:7–9) (Oswalt, J. N. (1998). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (381). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
What has been heard by us/ Our report is used technically for a prophetic revelation (see ch. 28:9, 19; Jer. 49:14). Here it would seem to refer especially to the Messianic prophecies delivered by Isaiah. In this supremely important chapter, Isaiah describes in graphic detail the crucifixion of Christ nearly 800 years before it actually occurs! (Willmington, H. L. (1999). The Outline Bible (Is 53). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.)