Isaiah is one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. His job was to hear from God and to share what God told him. One role of a prophet was to, for lack of a better term, preach. A preacher takes what God has told us and uses it to either teach or correct. Isaiah would take what God told him and used it as teaching or correction for God’s people.
But a prophet, unlike a preacher, has another job – to prophecy about the future. One great way to discover a false preacher or prophet is when their prophecies are wrong. Isaiah took what God told him about the future and shared it with the people of God.
Isaiah 53 is a clear example – not of preaching – but of prophecy. Understand that Isaiah didn’t write this after Jesus was alive – he wrote it about 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Also, for the skeptics among us, it would have been an impossible task for the writers of the Gospels in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – to have taken the life of Christ and conformed it according to this passage.
What we have in Isaiah 53 is an incredible, accurate, precise, and insightful account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As we unpack this astonishing prophecy, think of it almost like a song – or a poem. There are 4 stanzas to this poem. Each stanza provides a rich understanding of why Jesus had to come to this earth as God in human form, why Jesus had to suffer and die, and what happened when Jesus rose from the dead.
In this blog post, we are going to dig deeper into the first stanza of that song – Isaiah 53:1-3. These verses prophecy that Jesus will be our rejected savior.
In the previous chapters, God speaks through Isaiah to warn Israel that they have wondered so far from God that God would have to directly intervene. To borrow a phrase from the OT book of Judges – the Israelites would over and over again do what was right in their own eyes. There was nothing that Israel could do to overcome their sin of rejecting God and their relationship with him as God’s people.
The solution would have to come from God alone. So God sends, in verse 1, the arm of the Lord.
What is meant by arm of the Lord? After all, this is an unusual name for Jesus…
The arm of the Lord or the arm of God is often used in the books of Exodus or Deuteronomy to refer to the power of God. In these books, it is the Arm of God that rescued Israel from Egypt. This conveys God’s power to rescue his people.
In verse 2, we learn that the arm of the Lord “was not the Lord (before him), not expected (out of dry ground), not special (no form or majesty…). Only those to whom the truth was revealed could see that this was the arm of the Lord.”[i]
Isaiah prophesied that many would look at the surface of Jesus Christ – his birth, his hometown, his humility, and rejected him for being ordinary – for not measuring up to their expectations of the Messiah. This is the ultimate example of judging a book by its cover. They never moved passed the surface, and so we are told in verse 3, the world would reject Jesus.
The prophet foresaw that Jesus would be despised, rejected, a man of sorrows, and the people would not only turn from him, but turn on him.[ii] Jesus would be acquainted with grief simply because “he does not fit the stereotype of the arm of the Lord.”
How often does God not fit your stereotype?
How often do we ask, “God, why is this happening to me?”
Or “God, where are you?”
That is a question that reveals God doesn’t match up with our expectations for him. But the funny thing is, we never – or rarely – ask if we match God’s expectations for us.
How often do we have high expectations for God, but low expectations for ourselves – especially when it comes to our faith? If only we would have the same expectations for ourselves as we do for God! I always expect God to be right there – faithful– and too often to do what I want.
But how often do I despise his expectations of me? To be faithful? To be disciplined? To be even be kind to others – even during rush hour?
Let’s match our expectations of God with our expectations for ourselves. No – don’t lower our expectations of God to our expectations for ourselves – but elevate our faithfulness to God and his commands to the same level that we have for God. This is what we learn from the first stanza of this song – this poem.
We must raise our expectations of our own faithfulness to match our expectations of our God.
[i] Motyer, TNTC, 377
[ii] Motyer, TNTC, 377