By Raymond Harris
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Book of Isaiah in conjunction with this article.
It seems fair to say that each of us wants to be appreciated. We would like people to value not just our appearance, but also our involvement, if not our entire person. If we contribute to an event, we prefer to be recognized. If we are correct, then we want to be heard and believed. But stop and consider how you feel, when you know that you are valuable, when you know that you are needed, but those around you couldn’t care less. This seems to be the trials of God’s Servant.
God’s Servant Rejected
This week’s study is influenced by the writings found in Isaiah 52.13-53.12 and its poetic description of God’s Servant. While this passage seems to speak prophetically about the Messiah, its descriptions are so gripping that it is worthy a brief look at the man… rejected. Isaiah provides a stunning image of a man that will endure grief yet his suffering is not for his benefit but others. That thought is truly profound. But consider the passage in light of our opening paragraph – when those around you couldn’t care less.
While Isaiah’s description begins in chapter 52.13 revealing that people will marvel at the servant, it seems right to begin with from where the servant will come. The passage reveals that the servant will be “as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.”1 It seems surreal to think that dry, drought ridden, sun baked land could bring forth any kind of life, but this is what Isaiah reveals – from death comes life. Does it not seem strange that from a thirsty parched land life will come forth? After all, who stays in drought infested land when it will not produce?
While the servant is not physically attractive,2 being rejected personally seems to be the greater burden. Attractiveness is helpful, but when one feels completely rejected3 by their society, what is he or she supposed to do? Where does this rejected person go for cheer? For comfort? If one only has to face rejection from society, that is sorrow itself. But being scorned by your people,4 this is rejection and heaviness of heart and soul that few can bear.
While Isaiah’s dramatic description continues, it is difficult to determine where to stop evaluating God’s Servant. Re-read Isaiah 53.2b-3. Observe the appalling, the deplorable, the down right shameful treatment that he receives from his society. Perhaps the most pitiful part is that society believes that he deserves it – “we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”5 Esteem in the King James carries the idea that others devised a belief of value that the servant earned his “punishment” from God. How terrible it is to recognize that the poetry of Isaiah reveals that the rejected servant is rejected by his people not his God. It is terrible not because God has accepted you, but because the servant is human and wants to be accepted by humanity and God, especially when one’s fellow people are Jehovah’s people.
God’s Servant Accepted
Isaiah’s dramatic poetic portrayal continues in verse six through verse nine. But what is tremendous is the acceptance that the rejected servant has with Jehovah. Verse ten states that “it pleased the LORD to bruise him”. It seems so difficult to reconcile that the suffering servant pleases an all-knowing, all-seeing deity. Yet beginning with this same verse, Isaiah makes a tremendous spiritual application.
Isaiah goes on to explain that through the suffering, the servant becomes the atonement for transgressions. The very people that rejected the servant will be spiritually healed by the same. Yet Jehovah will be pleased because of the restitution that the servant brings. Isaiah reveals that Jehovah is concerned about the covenant relationship between Jehovah and Israel, established during the Exodus.
Because of the servant, the transgressors (those who esteemed the servant deserving of God’s “punishment”) will ultimately be recipients of Jehovah’s blessings. Through the servant’s death,6 they as covenant transgressors will once again be justified, vindicated, saved… accepted.
The entirety of the passage7 concerns itself with redemption. But one cannot escape the feelings of rejection. Each of us have been rejected. Consider the rejection a boyfriend/girlfriend feel when they breakup. Worse yet, the rejection a husband/wife feel when they divorce. These rejections are real; they really hurt. And they hurt deeply. While some say “time heals all wounds,” I dare say that some wounds only heal because the trauma and bleeding are gone, but what remains is scarred, tender, and potentially painful.
The suffering servant knows rejection. He knows grief. He knows pain. The tragic beauty for us is that through his pain, he heals ours. Unfortunately, we try to kill our pain through various physical means, the intoxicating abuse of alcohol and drugs, or the intoxicating effects of sensuality and prosperity. And sometimes we try to kill our pain by stamping out the one who is suffering for our benefit, because if we hurt, then it is good that he hurts too.
The prophetic nature is such that our savior was the suffering servant. He has healed a transgressing people. May we as healed people refuse to suffer rejection, refuse to reject those who are suffering and begin to offer the healing power of the suffering servant. May the LORD bless us in this endeavor.
1. “Tender Plant, Dry Ground.” Isaiah 53.2a, NASB.
2. “Not Physically Attractive.” Isaiah 53.2b, NASB.
3. “Completely Rejected.” Isaiah 53.3a, NASB.
4. “Scorned by Your People.” Isaiah 53.3b, NASB.
5. “He Deserved It.” Isaiah 53.4b, NASB.
6. “The Servant’s Death.” Isaiah 53.12, NASB.
7. “Passage Entirety.” Isaiah 52.13-53.12, NASB.