“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:1-9).
When the New Testament was written, a careful distinction began to be made between national Israel and the spiritual Israel of God (Rom. 9:1-8). Historically, national Israel, generated by Abraham and established by Moses, was very much like other nations. There was a land for the people. About 1936 years BC, 412 years after the Flood, God called Abraham, a descendent of Shem, from Ur of the Chaldees, to be the father of a new nation (Gen. 12:1-3).
Abraham was 60 years old when he was called to leave his homeland but lingered fifteen more years in Haran until his father died. Then he started for the land flowing with milk and honey. Several times the Lord appeared to Abraham with wonderful promises.
At Ur, God promised a land and then a physical seed to produce a great nation (Gen. 12:1-2).
At Shechem, ownership of the land was given (Gen. 12:7).
At Bethel, the land was promised as far as the eye could see (Gen. 13:15-16).
At Mamre, a seed was promised as many as the stars of heaven. At Mamre, it was told that the borders of the land would stretch from the Nile to the Euphrates (Gen. 15:5, 18).
At Moriah, the promise of a seed was repeated (Gen. 22:16-17). The promises were conditioned upon gospel obedience (Gen. 22:18; 26:5). They were confirmed to Abraham’s son, Isaac (Gen. 26:1-4) and then to his grandson, Jacob (Gen. 28:10-15).
All of this produced great hope in the Lord. In addition to the land, Israel as a nation enjoyed a common set of customs and laws that the people observed. One generation was born. It lived, and died. National life continued in a cycle.
However, in contrast to the other nations of the Earth, the true God resided in the hearts of all in Israel who had the faith of Abraham. Abraham had believed in God and the Lord accounted it to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Those who also believed in the promises of God were credited with righteousness. Unfortunately, not everyone in national Israel enjoyed a personal relationship with the Living Lord.
As a result, Israel became fragmented into three groups. There was a racial Israel consisting of all who had the genes of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob in their body. There was the religious Israel consisting of those who observed the ceremonial Law of Moses. There was the true and spiritual regenerate Israel consisting of those who lived by faith.
Following the days of Christ, the spiritual Israel acquired a new name. It became known as the Church, the ekklesia, the “called out” ones. Composed of Jews and Gentiles, the New Testament expression of the spiritual Israel of God embraced Jesus Christ as the Messiah after confessing its sin. In particular, spiritual Israel confessed how blind it had been to the message of the Servant of Jehovah. When the question was asked, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Israel had to lament that it put no faith in the good news it had heard long, long before, with reference to the Person and work of the Servant of God (Keil-Delitzsch). When the Messiah came, many were offended at Him.
People rejected him from His hometown. In some places, people picked up stones to stone Him. Others wanted to arrest the Messiah, but were afraid of the reaction of the people. Many disciples turned away from Christ after He taught things that were hard to understand so that it could be asked, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? Peter, James, and John? Will you also go away?” The Lord presided over a declining ministry.
The number of true believers was very small when compared with the unbelieving masses within the nation. Even after the day of Pentecost when 3,000 souls were converted, the early Church remained a small vessel cast upon a stormy sea. There were waves of persecution. Verbal and physical blows poured upon the fishers of men.
Stephen was stoned.
Paul was beheaded.
Peter was cast into prison.
Despite the fact that the Church preached a gospel of redeeming love, it remained an object of ridicule and scorn. By and large the gospel message was rejected and Christians cried out in anguish, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
The rejection of the Christ of the gospel, and the gospel of Christ, still continues. Despite five billion-plus people on planet earth, the Christian Church remains a little flock. It can still be asked, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
There is a reason for the widespread unbelief, and the reason is this. The Bible declares those things that cause individuals to realize that they are fallen creatures. People have broken the Laws of God. There is sin and shame.
Though created in the image of God, man has become depraved. By nature as well as by choice, the sons of Adam have eaten of the forbidden fruit. Rebellion has taken hold. Individuals do not want to be told that they cannot have every desire of delight. This fact makes people angry and resentful. And, in resentment, the gospel is rejected and turned away from because the call comes for all men everywhere to repent. But, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
In light of modern psychology and self-esteem theology, who truly believes that man is depraved by nature and in desperate need of a Saviour? The heart of modern man is willfully deceived, for the gospel appears to be too radical.
It is too convicting.
It is too personal.
It is too judgmental.
It appears to be unloving.
The question comes again, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
The gospel says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). But who wants to mourn over sin?
The gospel says, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). But how can men be meek when they are taught to look out for number one?
The gospel says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6.) But why should anyone want go hungry when the world, the flesh, and the devil, has so much to offer? The Christian is left crying out, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
Because there is no longing to be spiritually poor, meek, or hungry, the Christ of the gospel is taken into the hands of angry sinners and cast away. Men want to hurt God, who has hurt their consciences by manifesting their guilt. Men want to kill God, if the truth were told. And that is exactly what Isaiah saw would happen to the Lord incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ.
From the very first, He would not be desired. He is despised and rejected of men. Jesus was not desired because He was not outwardly handsome. Unlike Samson, who was well-known for his physical, rippling muscles, Jesus did not lift His hand to hurt a broken reed.
Absalom was known for his beautiful long hair.
Saul stood head and shoulders above other men.
David had an unusually fair complexion.
But the greater Son of David had no beauty that anyone should desire Him. He was despised and He was rejected. There was a literal and violent casting of Him out of certain cities.
Angry hands pushed and shoved Jesus on one occasion towards the edge of a cliff to cast Him to His death. His bones would be broken on the jagged rocks but people did not care. They only wanted to kill Him. People did not want to look any longer upon holiness. They wanted to hide their faces from Him. And so they did.
The Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and Sanhedrin should have been the first to embrace the Messiah, but instead they covered their faces. “The chief men of His nation who towered above the multitude, the great men of this world, withdrew their hands from Him, drew back from Him” (Keil-Delitzsch).
It is not hard to understand why, in light of Matthew 23. In sentence after sentence, Jesus turned the full light of gospel truth upon the hearts of the religious leaders of the land. The Lord exposed individuals as being foolish, blind, hypocritical and self-serving (Matt. 23:15-33).
When the heart of a person is revealed, only one of two things can be done. A person can confess what is true, repent, and be different, or deny any wrongdoing and attack the Truth.
In February, 1864, Chaplains, Rev. J.W. Jones and Rev. B.T. Lacy, visited General Robert E. Lee along the Rapidan as a committee of the Chaplain’s Association. After a brief visit, the men were prepared to leave the tent when Mr. Lacy said, “I think it right that I should say to you, General, that the chaplains of the army have a deep interest in your welfare and that some of the most fervent prayers we offer are in your behalf.” The chaplain’s noticed tears in General Lee’s eyes as he replied with deep emotion: “Please thank them for that, sir—I warmly appreciate it. And I can only say that I am nothing but a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone for salvation, and need all of the prayers they can offer for me.”
General Lee reflects one response to the declaration of sin in self. The religious leaders of Israel illustrate another response. The Scribes and the Pharisees decided to attack the Truth for Christ had stripped them of their respectability and human dignity. He had exposed the ugliness in their lives. Now, they would attack Him. Return to that moment so long ago and look at what men did to Christ.
They did not desire Him.
They despised Him.
He was rejected.
Leaders hid their faces from Him.
He was not esteemed or appreciated.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted.
Through the eye of a sanctified imagination, we can see the Sovereign of the Universe in the days of His humiliation. Behold Him being arrested in the early hours of the morning. Torches light up the area in the Garden of Gethsemane. Rough hands bind his arms. He is pushed and shoved towards the palace of the high priest. False witnesses arise to accuse Him in order to put Him to death. When the Lord speaks, the high priest is enraged and begins to tear his clothes. Other religious leaders spit in his face, and punch him. Still others slapped the Lord of glory. Voices mocked Him. From the feeding frenzy of human sharks comes a voice, saying, “Prophesy unto us, thou Christ. Who is he that slapped thee?”
And Jesus took it all. Look at what men did to Christ! But the ordeal of the Son of God had only begun. Before sunset, there was to be six trials for the Saviour and finally the execution of the sentence of death. Calvary loomed large outside the city walls.
On Golgotha, blood would run freely.
Screams of agony would pierce the air.
There would be the sound of women weeping.
Hardened soldiers would take wooden mallets and pound spikes through the hands and feet of the Prisoner nailing Him to a cross. An upright beam was to be dropped into a hole with agonizing pain being felt by the Prisoner from the jolt to the limbs. The air would grow stale. The lungs of the Crucified would collapse.
Look at what men did to Jesus!
From the beatings He took, from His beard being ripped from His face, from the crown of thorns being crushed on His brow so that the blood will flow freely, from the whipping with the cat-o-nine tails, Jesus became a mass of raw, open-ended wounds.
Look at what men did to Christ! They killed Him in fulfillment of prophecy so that it could be said, He “was cut off out of the land of the living.”
Look at what men did to Jesus and understand. The same spirit, which killed Christ, is still in the hearts of people today. Hebrews 6:6 teach that it is possible to crucify the Son of God afresh and put Him to open shame. How is this done?
It is done in part by people living in scandalous behavior without repentance. There are those who transgress the Laws of God openly. Others are more discreet. They secretly live in licentiousness hoping against hope that they will go undetected. In the privacy of a home, under the cover of darkness, things are done and said that would be shameful in the light of day. What is forgotten is that it is sin that nailed Christ to the Cross of Calvary. John Bunyan said, “Sin is the dare of God’s justice, the rape of God’s mercy, the jeer of God’s patience, the slight of God’s power, and the contempt of His love.” And we have to confess, “Look at what we have done to Jesus.”
If we had not sinned, Christ need not have died. That He died for you and for me is the grandest theme of all the ages. What a privilege it is to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love. Let us exercise that privilege as often as possible as we remember, the suffering Savior.