The Suffering Servant - His Despising of Men
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Please turn to Isaiah, chapter 53. We have been studying the book of Isaiah, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. We have been looking at what we refer to as the Servant songs of Isaiah. The Servant in question is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have been studying the songs of the suffering Servant and we have come to the last song of the Servant. You will recall in our last lesson that we pointed out to you, by way of comparison of Scripture with Scripture, that there is absolutely no question that this song is a song concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.

We pointed out as well that the song begins with chapter 52, verse 13, and includes all of chapter 53. In the original text you will discover that this is a poem of five stanzas, each stanza comprising three of our Scripture verses.

After our last study, someone said to me, “How do you know that this is a poem, even by reading it in the original text?” We need to keep in mind that when we are speaking of poetry in Hebrew, we are not speaking of poetry in rhyme, as is the case in our English poetry. We are speaking of what we call a parallelism of thought . A Hebrew did not write poetry in rhyme; he wrote poetry by saying the same thing twice over. That becomes evident in the text before us.

Let us just glance at the first stanza of the poem at which we looked in our lesson. We are not attempting a repeat of the exposition, but just noticing how it is poetry. Notice in verse 13:

Isaiah 52

13Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

The first thought is presented in the first statement: “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently.” The next statement repeats the same thought: “He shall deal so wisely that He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” Then, notice the next statement:

Isaiah 52

14As many were astonied at thee; [then the next statement] his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:

Then the next statement is in verse 15. “So shall He sprinkle many nations…” We reminded you that the word sprinkle would be better translated “astonished,” so we would read it: “So shall He astonish many nations.” Then we have the parallel thought, “the kings shall shut their mouths at Him”—that is, they will put their hands over their mouths, so to speak. Then the next statement: “For that which had not been told them, they shall see,” and then the parallel thought, “and that which they had not heard shall they consider.”

In our last lesson we read to you the entire poem of five stanzas and gave to you one word that would describe the theme of each individual stanza. We will not repeat that, but we would remind you that in the first stanza of the poem there was presented to us the destiny of the Servant. The destiny could all be summed up in one simple statement; The Lord Jesus Christ is destined to astonish all the nations of the world. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God.

He Was Despised By Men

Before the destiny is fulfilled, the procedure must be carried out. We outlined for you that procedure by giving other words related to the stanzas of the poem. The one at which we now wish to look in the second stanza of the poem is built around the word despised . Just as certainly as the first stanza describes the destiny of the Son of God, this second stanza tells the manner in which He was despised of men.

Notice this stanza with me:

Isaiah 53

1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
2For 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.
3He 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.

You will notice in the stanza which we have just read that twice over the statement is made that the Lord Jesus Christ was despised by the people to whom He came. If we are to fully understand this particular stanza of the poem, it will be important for us to keep in mind what we said to you in the introductory remarks concerning the whole poem, and that is that this is a prophecy. It is a prophecy not only of how the nation of Israel felt about the Lord Jesus Christ when He came, which John so aptly sums up in John, chapter 1, verse 11: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”; it is also a prophecy of the prayer of confession which the nation of Israel will pray toward the end of the Tribulation when God will pour out upon the entire nation of Israel the spirit of supplication, according to chapter 12 of the book of Zechariah. They will turn to Him whom they have pierced and will acknowledge the manner in which their forefathers rejected Him and will disclaim any relationship to it.

If you will keep that thought in mind, you will understand the first question of this stanza. Notice:

Isaiah 53

1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

It is important for you to recognize that grammatically the phrase, our report , does not describe the report which individuals gave. I might say, “I preached a message and nobody believed my message.”, but that is not what this verse of Scripture is saying. Literally it is the nation of Israel saying, “Who among us believed the report that was delivered to us?” One of these days they as a nation are going to have their eyes opened, and as they review their past history, they are going to say, “Who among us believed the report that was given us?”

Of course, if they were waiting for an answer, which they are not because it is a rhetorical question, they are going to have to say, “Very few of us believed it.” Only a remnant believed the report that God gave to them.

What was the nature of this report? What was the subject? It is suggested by the parallel thought which makes the poetry of the verse when you read, “To whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?”

Those of you who have been able to follow along in our study of the book of Isaiah will keep in mind that the Arm of the LORD is a title for the Lord Jesus Christ, and it was first brought to our attention in Isaiah, chapter 50, when God emphasized that He himself would reveal His strong and mighty arm.

He Was Not Acknowledged for What He Was

Then notice again in chapter 51, verse 9, where the nation of Israel looks to God and cries out:

Isaiah 51

9Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old…

The phrase, the Arm of the LORD , should be capitalized, because, as we have said, it represents another reference to the Old Testament title of the Lord Jesus Christ. These believing Jews are going to say some day, “Who among us believed the report that was given to us, and to how many of us actually was the Arm of the LORD revealed? How many of us really recognized the Lord Jesus Christ for what He was?”

As we have already said, very few. There must have been a reason for it. Why was it that they did not recognize Him for what He was? Why was it that they could not acknowledge Him for what He was? Several answers are given in the paragraph. Look at verse 2:

Isaiah 53

2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant…

This, in Hebrew, is what we call future perfect , and you could just as well read it, “For [because they are looking back] He grew up before the nation as a tender plant and as a root out of the dry ground.”

There are three phrases important in that statement. One of them is, “the dry ground.” This was the condition of the nation of Israel when the Lord Jesus Christ made His appearance, for the nation of Israel had slipped so far away from God that they were teaching in place of the law of God the traditions of men. So dry were they from a spiritual standpoint that the Lord Jesus Christ could address the leaders of the nation and say, “You are supposed to be the guards, the gatekeepers to the Kingdom of Heaven. You are not going in yourselves, and you are preventing anybody else from going in.” This was the sad spiritual state of the nation of Israel. So sad was it that the Lord Jesus Christ said to those who would listen to Him, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

It was in that dull, dry spiritual state which the Lord Jesus Christ made His appearance. There is a principle. It has always been true that when men are far away from God, they find it difficult to discern spiritual truth. I have had individuals say to me, “You know, suddenly the Bible is a new Book to me.” When we pursue the conversation a bit more, we discover that the reason that it is a new Book, is that their spiritual relationship to God has changed. When the Bible was a dry, boring thing, they were not as close to God as they might have been, but after their sins were confessed and the Holy Spirit resumed control of their lives, the Book became real.

Individuals who are far away from God are spiritually dull of perception, and such was the case of the Israelites at this particular time. You will notice the Lord Jesus Christ appeared here as a tender plant, really as a root out of the dry ground. If we wanted to translate it literally, it would read, “He appeared as a little green shoot on a dead root.” Now, that is not very impressive. If He had appeared, figuratively speaking, as a mighty oak, a flourishing tree, everybody would have been impressed, but all He was was a little green shoot on a dead root.

Of course, we feel differently about the Lord Jesus Christ than many of the men did in His day because we have had 2000 years of preaching. There is no doubt in most of our minds that He is the Son of the living God, but you will recall that when He was on the earth He said that He was the Son of God. Many folk knew from where He came. For example, He did not come from the leading section of the Holy Land as we refer to it today. He came from the humble village of Nazareth so people could say, “Can any good thing come from Nazareth?” You see, He didn't make a great big splash when He came. He was not one who stirred the universe at His coming. Folk looked down upon His origin. He was nothing more than a little green shoot out of a dry root in the midst of dry ground.

He Had No Majesty nor Splendor

Our parallel thought to this is found in the last part of verse 2, where we read:

Isaiah 53

2…he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Notice the word form . It refers to His body, and the word beauty is the translation of the same Hebrew word from which the word visage is translated in verse 14. We read, “In form and face, there was no comeliness.”

Have you been puzzled when you read that? Have you wondered exactly what it could mean? Is it contrary to your conception of the Lord Jesus Christ to think that He had no comeliness about Him? Well, I am going to be frank with you. It has been contrary to my conception of it. I couldn't believe when I read this passage of Scripture that the Lord Jesus Christ was an individual so unattractive that people were repulsed by His very appearance, because that was contrary to what I read in the Scriptures about little children. You will recall that little children ran to Him. Little children were attracted to Him, and you don't see little children attracted to unlovely, repulsive people, so what does this word comeliness mean?

I was very interested to discover that this word comeliness has nothing to do with beauty or handsomeness as we think of it today, but rather it has to do with majesty and splendor. That fits better into the whole story, because this word comeliness elsewhere in the Scripture is translated by the words magnificence, majesty and splendor . We understand that, don't we?

You see, the little children did come to Him. Many were those who traveled long distances just to sit at His feet and hear what He had to say. Since there was no majesty and since there was no magnificence about Him, the leadership of the nation of Israel was not interested in Him. As far as they were concerned, He was a little green shoot on a root that came out of the dry ground. It would follow that there was no magnificence that would attract them, so they were not interested in Him at all.

He Was Not Desired

Because they were not interested in Him, we read in verse 2, “They did not desire Him.” That is an interesting statement, especially in view of the fact that the word desire , in Daniel, chapter 9, verse 23, is translated by the word beloved . Remember when Daniel had prayed for some time seeking a revelation from the LORD, God said to him, “O Daniel, greatly beloved.” Beloved is the translation of the word that is translated by the word desire . You see, there wasn't anything about Him as far as magnificence was concerned, as far as majesty was concerned, that would encourage the leadership of Israel to even want to follow Him. Because they set the example and they had no real desire for Him, they turned their backs on Him.

Isn't that an interesting thing? There is a play on words here. If you are familiar with the second chapter of the book of Haggai, verse 7, you will recall that the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as the desire of all nations . He is the one who meets the need of all mankind. The desire of all nations was not desired by the people to whom He came first.

He Was Looked Upon With Contempt

If they did not desire Him, if they turned their backs upon Him, in what way did they do that? Look at verse 3, which is the last portion of this first stanza, and notice the words, “He is despised.” Then notice down in the last part of verse 3 again “He was despised.” The word despised is a very interesting word. When you say, “I despise him,” what do you really mean? I am not so sure that any of us know. This word is used rather loosely in this day. You say, “I hate him.”, but you don't really hate him. If they pinned you down and said, “Do you really hate him?”, you would say, “Of course not. I just don't feel good toward him.”

What does it mean when the Scripture says that the people to whom the Lord Jesus Christ came despised Him? Let me suggest to you that this word despised comes from the Hebrew word bazah . Turn in your Bibles to I Samuel and notice a very interesting illustration of what we mean when we say that individuals despised the Lord Jesus Christ. In I Samuel, chapter 17, you will notice a record of David going out to meet the giant, Goliath. Keep in mind that at this particular time, David was a very young boy and Goliath was a mighty giant, old in years and large in size. Notice verse 41, keeping in mind that David was sent out to pit himself against Goliath:

I Samuel 17

41And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.
42And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.

Notice the word disdained . It is a translation of the Hebrew word bazah . What does it mean that Goliath disdained David? The answer is in verse 43:

I Samuel 17

43And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.

He was insulted that they should send out a little boy to fight against a mighty giant. When we read in the Scripture that these individuals despised the Lord Jesus Christ, what do we mean? It means that they were insulted that this individual should claim to be the Messiah, the One for whom the whole nation had looked, for you will remember, they were looking not for a man who was meek and mild, but they were looking for a man who would deliver them from the yoke of the Roman Empire and put those Romans in their place for having persecuted and captivated the nation of Israel as they had.

Look at the last book in the Old Testament, the book of Malachi. You will recognize some of the things which God had to say to the people of Israel because of the way in which they looked upon Him and the sacred feast that bore His name. Look at Malachi, chapter 1, verse 6:

Malachi 1

6A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
7[Notice the answer] Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.

Look at the word contemptible . It is a translation of the Hebrew word bazah , which is translated by the word despised . When they despised the Lord Jesus Christ they looked upon Him with contempt. They said, “You mean this thing is the Messiah for whom we have been looking?”

He Was Rejected of Men

Turn back to Isaiah, chapter 53, as I ask you a very normal question in light of what I have been saying. If that is the way that they felt about Him, what active attitude would be manifested toward Him? The answer is found in Isaiah, chapter 53, verse 3, where we read again:

Isaiah 53

3He is despised and rejected of men…

If they despised Him in the manner in which we have been speaking, it would be only natural to reject Him. This word reject is an interesting word. Turn, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 23, as I ask you how you feel about the word reject ? If I were to ask you, “Have you rejected Jesus as your Savior?”, I wonder what your answer would be? Would you say, “I have received Him as my Savior. I have trusted Him, and I know that His sacrifice on the Cross was sufficient payment for all of my sins. I realize that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross has gotten me into the right relationship with God.”? Or would you say, “Yes, I have rejected Him. I have said no, I will not have You as my Savior.”?

Does that startle some of you? It does some folk, yet it says that the Israelites rejected Him. Are they any different from us? Isn't human nature always the same? Do you suppose that the vast majority of the nation deliberately said, “We will have none of you.”? Oh, I know that at the time of the crucifixion, the mob, whipped to a frenzy by the leadership, cried out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him and let His blood be upon us.”, but in a sense they rejected Him.

He Was Rejected By Forbearance

How did the vast majority of the nation reject Him? That is why I asked you to turn to Exodus, chapter 23. In this chapter you have the list of the various requirements related to the Levitical economy in which the nation of Israel was required to do certain things if they were going to please the LORD. Notice in chapter 23, verse 1:

Exodus 23

1Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
2Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:
3Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.
4If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.
5[Now notice verse 6] If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.

Notice the word forbear . It is the translation of this Hebrew word chadai which is translated “reject” in Isaiah, chapter 53. Have you caught the vision? Get the picture: There is somebody you don't like. He has made you mad any number of times. This is the time before automobiles and trucks and so you have to bear your burdens on ordinary beasts of burden. Your neighbor overloaded his donkey. The load was too heavy, and the donkey collapsed under the burden, or at least laid down. He wouldn't budge an inch. What do you do? Well, you say, “It serves him right. Now I am getting even for everything he has done against me. It just serves him right. I hope that old donkey never gets up and moves another step.”

Somebody approaches you and says, “Sir, will you help this donkey to its feet?” You say, “No sir, I will not.” You don't reject the suggestion that you do anything; you just forbear. You just don't do it. You look the other way. You walk in the opposite direction. God said, “If you feel that way, you help that donkey to its feet.” That is the meaning of the Levitical regulation.

We have asked you to turn here for the illustration of the word. Why am I saying this to you, Beloved? You need to realize that the vast majority of the people who will be in Hell will not be in Hell because they have deliberately rejected Jesus Christ. Very few people do that. The vast majority of people who will be in Hell will be those who reject Him in the sense that they forbear. They never get anything done about it. They have heard the Gospel any number of times, and they plan to do something, but they never get around to doing it. Oh, they have been raised with the Gospel. They can even tell you some of the stories that they learned in Sunday School, but they have never done anything about it. They have forborne to do anything.

Beloved, I am saying to you that that is just as definitely a rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ as if you were to look in His face and say, “Lord Jesus, I don't want to have anything to do with You.” I repeat that I don't think very many people do that, but, oh the number who reject Him because they don't ever do anything about Him.

I don't know your hearts, and I don't think that it is safe to assume that everyone here has made a definite commitment to Jesus Christ. I hope you have. I don't know of anything that would make me any happier than to know that everybody in this place has made a definite commitment to Jesus Christ. But should I be so bold as to assume that? Should I be so bold as to take too much for granted?

Think carefully. Think as carefully as though you were an individual alone in my presence and I were addressing you personally. Have you made a definite commitment to Jesus Christ? You say, “I was raised in a Christian home. I have gone to Sunday School all my life.” I know that. I am not asking you that. I am asking if you have made a definite commitment to Jesus? “I'm not saying that I reject Him.” I am not asking you if you want to go to Hell. I'm not asking you if you have rejected Jesus Christ. I am asking you this: Have you made a definite commitment to Jesus Christ? Have you said to Him, “Jesus Christ, I know from the Word of God that You are God's Son, Jesus Christ. I know from the Word of God that You died for the sins of the whole world, and I am included in the whole world. I know from the Word of God that if I receive You as my Savior, if I believe on You, if I trust in You, that I will have the authority to be called a child of God. Lord Jesus, this moment, I receive You as my Savior.”

Listen carefully. I'm not concerned about the language you use, but I am vitally concerned whether or not you have ever made a definite commitment like that. Have you? I beg of you, if you have never made a commitment like that, make it right now. Will you? You say, “Oh, I don't have the courage to come down to the front of the church.” Who said that you had to come down to the front? You say, “I don't know if I want to join the Bible Church.” Well, who said there was anything here for you to join? All that I am asking is, will you make that commitment right now? If you will, it can be done in less time than it takes me to snap my finger because the work has been finished. All you need to do is accept by faith what Christ has done for you.

I say this kindly, Beloved, if you go out of this place without the Lord Jesus Christ, you will go out of this place without one excuse that you can offer to God when you stand in His presence, for nothing could be any plainer than I have made it. If you go out of this place without the Lord Jesus Christ, you go out of this place rejecting Him. You say, “Oh, no, no, no. I'm just waiting.” According to this last Scripture, the fact that you forbear to do anything about it means that you have rejected Him.

No Value Was Placed Upon Him

Look again at Isaiah, chapter 53, as we look at one other word in this first stanza which describes to us the Servant who was despised. We are looking at the reasons they despised Him. Notice in the very last statement of verse 3:

Isaiah 53

3…we esteemed him not.

This statement simply means that they did not place any value upon the Lord Jesus Christ. They did not see Him as the Son of God. They saw Him as Jesus of Nazareth. They saw Him as the one who had lived among them and they could speak of Him and say, “We even know His brothers and sisters. Why is there anything so great about Him?” They placed no value upon Him.

Notice the statement in verse 3:

Isaiah 53

3…and we hid as it were our faces from him…

He Hides Not His Face From Us

That is always an interesting statement to me. In light of what we read, you will remember in Isaiah, chapter 50, when we were looking at the picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, another Servant song . We read in Isaiah, chapter 50, verse 6, where the Lord Jesus Christ says:

Isaiah 50

6I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

Get the picture: The Servant of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, so despised by men that they hid their faces from Him, reminded them as He reminds us today that though they might hide their faces from Him, He has never hidden His face from them. Though you may have hidden your face from the Savior many times over, He, in this Age of Grace, does not hide His face from you.

Yes, there is a day coming in a dispensation yet to come when men will cry unto God and He will laugh. He will have nothing to do with them. But, in this Age of Grace, the hour in which we live, He hides not His face from us.


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