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The Scorned Servant - Iaiah 53:1-3
God’s Servant
The Scorned Servant
Isaiah 53:1-3
We’ve kind of been getting a running start to our study of the 53rd chapter of Isaiah.  Two weeks ago I gave you a rather broad overview, including some of the history and setting.  Then last week we looked at the introduction to the chapter found in chapter 52:13-15
Tonight I want to get into the chapter study itself.  I approach it with much trepidation because the more I study it and read it and search it, the more complex and frar-reaching it becomes. 
And as always, I want to do fair service to the text and glean from it all I can to share with you and hopefully whet your appetite to study it for yourself.  Let’s begin by reading the chapter in its entirety.
Isaiah 53
No doubt there is a feeling of victory and triumph found in these verses.  But even more, there is a spirit of sadness.  IF it were set to music, it would be in a minor key. 
Now if you were paying attention as I read, you noticed all the verbs down to verse 10 are in the past tense.  I find that odd because the chapter is a future prophecy concerning Christ, but it is not written in the future tense. 
And even though it is a prophecy regarding what will happen to Jesus, even more it is a prophecy about a time in the future when Israel will look back and say this about the Messiah they rejected and crucified.  Thus the somber mood as they lament the fact that they have long rejected their Messiah. 
And we need to keep that in mind as we study it.  It is about the Suffering Servant Who will bear the sin of the world and experience the judgment of God.  It does talk about His death and suffering and ultimate resurrection and exaltation.   
They would say the suffering Servant here is not the Messiah and not Jesus, but Israel.  And because of her suffering she will one day be rewarded and blessed.  That would be a Jewish interpretation of this chapter.   
But the subject of this writing isn’t Israel.  It can’t be.  They are neither an innocent sufferer such as the one described here, nor a voluntary sufferer.  They need to recognize that they need one to die to pay the penalty for their sins.  They’re unwilling to recognize that.  They want a king and a ruler to deliver them from their enemies, their circumstances and their suffering but not their sins. 
And what they need to understand is they have suffered the judgment of God on them for the rejection of Christ. 
And what we have here is the sadness and sorrow as they realize what they’ve done.  This is Israel’s confession by a generation yet to come as they come to salvation in Jesus Christ. 
Obviously, He is the focus and the spotlight needs to be on Him.  But the setting that places it there is this future time when Israel recognizes the Savior and what they’ve done in rejecting Him. 
The question then that arises, and we’ll let this question serve as our entry point into the text, why did they, and continue to, reject Jesus as Messiah?
Well the opening verses of chapter 53 tell us why. 
Verses 2-3
That’s the explanation.  That’s the explanation of why the Jews for generations have rejected Jesus Christ.  This is the confession a generation of Jews in the future will make when they reflect on that question.  We rejected Jesus for three reasons and they are listed here and they all have to do with the contempt they had for Him. 
1. His Origin
Verse 2a - “He grew up before Him as a tender plant and as a root out of dry ground”
Now the prophecy is regarding Him growing up before God.And by the way, God was absolutely pleased with what He saw as He grew.More than once, God made the statement of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well please.”
God saw every moment of His life and watched Him as He grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man as Luke 2:52 puts it.
So the prophecy is He will grow up before God. And the word “before” carries the idea of “in the pleasure of God, the way God wanted it, according to God’s plan”.
But from the human viewpoint, and more particularly, the Jewish viewpoint, He was like a tender plant and a root growing in dry ground.
Now those are vivid word pictures to those who lived in an agrarian society.  These people worked in the ground.  They grow things and have trees and orchards and vineyards so these illustrations would have been very clear to them. 
To say He is like a tender plant is to simply say He was a weed.  That’s what the Hebrew word used here means.  Weeds pop up unexpectedly and need no cultivation.  And to keep them from sucking away necessary nutrients and moisture from the crop, you get rid of them. 
They’re not wanted, they’re not desired, they’re not expected, they’re not profitable, they’re not needed and they’re cut off so they don’t siphon energy and life from other plants.
Now the tendency is to see here some metaphor for the house of David and the lineage of Christ, but that is really a stretch of the text and it doesn’t fit what’s being said. 
This is very simple language intended to tell us His life and birth and existence was seen as irrelevant.  In the world’s view and in fact in the Jewish view, He was unimportant, insignificant and didn’t matter, He was a nobody from nobodies, from nowhere. 
We looked at Jesus, humanly speaking, and we find an insignificant family, Joseph, Mary, an insignificant town, Nazareth, way off the beaten track.  He was born in an insignificant place in the horse barn for an inn in an insignificant town called Bethlehem.  His momma used a feed trough for a bed and the only ones who showed up for his delivery were shepherds. 
No royal birth, no social status, no family nobility, no formal education.  He spent thirty years as a carpenter in Nazareth, then got in trouble with the law and wound up getting Himself crucified.  He’s a weed.  He’s irrelevant. 
And furthermore, He’s like a root growing in dry ground.  Once again, the imagery was not lost on those who lived in that area.  They knew what parched, dry ground was. 
And as the ground shrinks because water evaporates out, some of the roots begin to come to the surface in search of water and as a result of erosion. 
So what’s the picture?  These are roots from trees and plants that nobody cares about.  If they were valuable or important, someone would be irrigating them.  But they are left to themselves because nobody cares. 
It’s just another way to say He’s unnecessary and unwanted.  He had no value in the eyes of those living around Him.  He is no more significant or important than a weed or a root in a dry ground that nobody cultivates or cares for.
These are the pictures behind comments like, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  He had miserable beginnings.  He had no social standing.  His family had no money.  The followers and disciples He chose certainly didn’t help His image. 
They weren’t brilliant or educated or powerful. None of them mattered either.  They were a rag-tag bunch of fishermen nobodies, with a few other oddballs scattered in like a tax collector and a terrorist
So when the Jews looked all that over and thought in terms of the Messiah, no one could have been farther away from what they expected than was Jesus.
And by the way, that’s why His life was such a paradox to them.  He couldn’t be Messiah because He didn’t fit the profile.  But He could perform miracles and heal and teach with authority.
They acknowledged His wisdom and ower, but then they would say, “Isn’t He the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas and Simon, and are not His sisters here with us?  And they took offense at Him.” 
They were offended at any claim He ever made to be their Messiah, in spite of the power He displayed. 
So one of the reasons they rejected Him was because of His origins.  Another reason they rejected Him was  
2.  His Life
They not only had contempt for how He began, they had contempt for what He became. 
Verse 2b - "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”
Now the Jews, like us, were big into appearances. That’s why they picked Saul to be their first king.  He was taller and more handsome than everybody else.   
But here, I think the reference is deeper than just his features and physical traits.  I mentioned last week that in my opinion, Jesus was the most handsome, manliest man who ever lived.  These verses seem to contradict that, but I don’t think so. 
Here, the references to His appearance have to do with being recognized as Messiah, and there was nothing about His physical appearance that led to that conclusion.  There was no majesty or presentation.  There was nothing royal or regal about Jesus. 
And if my assumption are correct regarding His physical features, then He appeared to be nothing more than another pretty face in the crowd. 
The idea that He was a king was so bizarre and so distasteful and resented so bitterly by the Jews, that Pilate mocked it at the crucifixion by putting that title over His head.   Some king, this Jesus!  It was laughable.  
He was rejected because of His origins.  He was rejected because of His life and thirdly, He was rejected because of
3.  His End
verse 3 - “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem Him.” 
The opening phrase of that verse is the focus.  If there was anything more than any other that caused the Jews to reject Jesus, it was the way His life came to an end. 
What sense could it possibly make, what purpose could it serve for Jesus, if He really as the Messiah, to die, and especially to die on a cross? 
Remember, they didn’t think they needed somebody to die for their sins.  They were in to self-righteousness.  They were going to please God by being good and religious and doing works.  They’re looking or a King who can take over and get the Romans out of their hair and straighten out the mess they were in. 
And here comes this Messiah, and instead of being triumphant, instead of His career ending in glory and majesty and triumph and victory and elevation and exaltation, He winds up on a cross being killed.  No wonder He’s despised and forsaken of men. 
They could have looked at the death of Jesus and saw what you and I see. 
They could have said, “This is the sacrifice we’ve been waiting for.  This is the sacrifice that is pictured when Abraham finds a ram in the thicket to substitute for his son, pulls the knife back from killing Isaac and kills the ram instead.  This is the fulfillment of killing the Passover Lamb and putting the blood on the doorpost and the lintel and escaping the wrath of God because a lamb has been sacrificed.  This is the ultimate sacrifice, the only true saving sacrifice pictured in the millions of sacrifices that they made day after day after day as animals were slaughtered through all their history.”
They could have seen that if they had looked through eyes of faith and Scripture.  Others saw it.  Simeon saw when Jesus was 8 days old.  He understood the need for a Savior and a sacrifice for sins. 
They could have done that.  They could have said, we understand what Isaiah was talking about when He said our sins are like crimson.  But through the blood of Jesus we want them to be white as snow. 
But they didn’t see themselves as sinful and they didn’t need a sacrifice and they didn’t need an atonement and they didn’t need a Savior.  So when they saw their self-proclaimed Messiah being a man of sorrows and grief, His life ending the way it ended, it was despicable. 
He was despised.  It’s a very strong term that means to treat with disdain.  By the way, they still do.  The Hebrew word for Jesus is Yeshua.  You’ll hear name used from time to time in songs and poems and sermons. 
Did you know down through the years rabbis have changed that name by dropping the final “a” and referring to Jesus as Yeshu instead of Yeshua?  DO you know why?  It is because Yeshu is an acrostic meaning, “Let His Name Be Blotted Out.”  It’s their way of saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us.”
He is called by the rabbis “The Transgressor.”  He is called by the rabbis “The Hanged One.”  Cursed is whoever is hanged on a tree.  The Talmud says Jesus is the illegitimate son of a hairdresser and a Roman mercenary who grew up and went to Egypt to learn magical arts and lead men astray. 
They refer to the gospel as sinful writing.  There are generations upon generations of scorn for Jesus.  That’s why twice in verse 3 you find the word despised. 
And then it says He was forsaken of men.  There’s a little more there than first meets the eye.  At first appearance that could be seen as a reference to men in general.  But if you look at in the original, it’s not men in general who forsook Him. 
The word used means lords or rulers.  It’s talking about more specifically leaders and prominent people.  Most likely that is a reference to Jewish leadership, primarily the Pharisees and Sadducees. 
So to the everyday Jew who was around when Jesus was on earth, they could look at His birth and life and have our doubts.  And in the end, nobody of any importance valued Him either.  They looked to their leaders and they were the ones crying for His blood.
For some commentary on that, look at John 7:40-48
How different the response could have been to Jesus, but instead He was despised and forsaken by men. 
They said He was of the devil, that Satan was responsible for his miracle. 
And after He was gone, they persecuted and martyred His followers.  They called the apostles apostates and said they were worse than the heathen.  And in those early years, a prayer was  developed that said, “May the followers of Jesus be suddenly destroyed without hope and blotted out of the book of life.”  Such was the depth of the rejection and the scorn. 
And He ended up a man of sorrows, verse 3, and acquainted with grief.  You just look at His life and their conclusion it, it’s just sad.  That can’t be the Messiah.
He is a man of sorrows. He was acquainted with grief.  Their assessment is Jesus was a sad man who lived a sad life and came to a sad end.  They saw Him as pathetic.  He cries.  He weeps.  There’s no account anywhere in the New Testament that He ever laughed.  Where is their great leader, triumphant, victorious, full of joy, excitement, enthusiasm?  Who is this man who is brokenhearted, weeping, sad, suffering pain? 
And on top of the emotional and spiritual pain was the actual pain.  And that was so bad, verse 3 says, that He was like one from whom men hide their faces. 
By the time He got to the cross, He was marred more than any man as we saw in verse 14 says of chapter 52.  A crown of thorns crushed on His head, blood running down His body, flies covering His naked body as He hangs in the open sun on the cross, nails through His hands, marks from the lashing and the whipping, spit dried on His face and His body, bruises from punches in the face and beatings with sticks.
That image just doesn’t fit the picture of Messiah.  He is totally objectionable, and in embarrassment and rejection, men turn away from Him.
He is so grotesque, so deformed, so ugly, so objectionable that you don’t even want to look.  It’s too embarrassing, it’s too shameful, it’s too ugly, it’s too horrible, it’s too unforgettable.  You don’t want that image in your face. 
That’s the attitude of Israel toward Jesus.  And as we see at the end of verse 3, they did not esteem Him.
It seems rather benign to say it that way, but that little phrase, “we did not esteem Him”, is actually a summary statement for the verses.  It means we considered Him nothing.  It’s like he never existed.   He is just a nobody to us.
Now, the good news is, someday the nation will turn and see Him and understand the truth.  This isn’t a Gentile confession.  This is a confession of the Jews in the future day when they look back and realize what they had done.
If people want a picture of the grace of God, then they should read the 53rd chapter of Isaiah because this is written prophetically about a day that will come when the Jews look back on how they treated their Messiah.   
This is a Jewish assessment of their own unbelief that eventually leads them to repentance.  And what we have here are the words which the nation will speak in their brokenhearted confession of the worst sin imaginable of rejecting Christ.
And these are words that all of us must speak if we will know Jesus as Savior and Lord.  It’s what caused Paul to say to the Romans, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe; to the Jew first and to the Gentile.”  (Romans 1;16)
Let me close by having you turn to Acts 3.  In this chapter we have Peter’s sermon after the sermon at Pentecost.  It is delivered in the early day of the early church.
Acts 3: 13-26
You killed the Messiah, but God is not finished with you.  The day will come when He turns you from your sins and sends His Son to set up His Kingdom and fulfill His promise.  God’s not through with Israel, folks.  Keep your eye on Israel.  Their salvation is assured by the promise of God.  In the meantime, salvation is open to all who call upon Him.
Let’s pray.
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