WHO WOULD HAVE BELIEVED?
Jefferson Vann preaches about biblical faith from Isaiah 53:1-12 NET
This month we are talking about repentance and faith. We are looking at the Old Testament to fill in some or the gaps about what repentance and faith entails. Last week, we looked at Hosea 14 for a description of biblical repentance. This week we are looking at Isaiah 53 for a description of biblical faith.
Isaiah predicted a Messiah who was hard to believe (1-3).
1 Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the LORD’s power revealed through him?
2 He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him.
3 He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.
Isaiah’s people were a despised lot. No one would have expected the Son of God to make his appearance among men as one of the Israelites. But that is exactly what Isaiah predicts. And just to show that God rejects all our deceptive assumptions, Isaiah predicts that when the Messiah does show himself, he will be despised and rejected by those same people. He will appear weak, struck down and afflicted. But this beating he would take would be as a substitute for the transgressions of the world.
Before we run off with this idea as it relates to Christ, and his suffering on the cross, we need to see the message from Isaiah’s standpoint. He was speaking to a group of people who had deceptive assumptions about themselves. He was trying to encourage them to stop believing those lies. The truth is, God did want to work though them. Example: the Messiah himself would be seen as a beaten, condemned criminal. But God would work in that reality to save us all.
Isaiah asks the question “who would have believed what we just heard? God has a plan, but it is going to show up way out in left field. God is not going to use a mighty warrior to accomplish his purpose. He’s going to use a root out of parched soil. Roots don’t grow well in parched soil. Mostly dry soil just stays dry soil. When the rain comes — if the rain comes — then we can expect something to happen.
My series of sermons this month is on repentance and faith. This passage tells us something about the faith that reaches God. It is a faith that dares to see him doing what no one would expect. The focal point of that faith is Jesus Christ.
The world doesn’t really mind it if we have faith. But the world has a fit when we dare to tell everyone that we have put our faith in Jesus Christ. There is no saving faith outside of Jesus Christ.
Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”
Isaiah predicted that when Jesus appeared there would be no significant evidence that he was the one the universe needed. It would have to be taken on faith.
Yes, the crowds folllowed hm, but before long the crowds were shouting “crucify him.” They wanted someone to overthrow Rome, not someone who would be executed as a criminal by Rome.
Isaiah predicted a ministry that was hard to believe (4-6)
4 But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.
5 He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.
6 All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the LORD caused the sin of all of us to attack him.
We know all about that ministry today because we have had two thousand years to ponder the significance of the cross. We call it the docrtrine of substitutionary atonement. It involves four particular things that Jesus did for us by dying on the cross.
By dying on the cross, Jesus purchased forgiveness for sinners so that we can be justified — decalred righteous in God’s sight.
By dying on the cross, Jesus reconciled us to God, so that we could become his friends instead of his enemies.
By dying on the cross, Jesus served as our substitute, taking upon himself the penalty of death that we deserve.
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.
1 John 4:10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
By dying on the cross, Jesus absorbed the full wrath of God for all those who put their faith in his finished work. That does not keep any of us from dying the first death, but it will prevent us from experiencing the second death.
Isaiah also mentions in this amazing section that the Messiah would do this while people looked on, thinking that he was suffering for his own sins. Verse 4 say “we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.” The cross was for criminals — but here is the sinless Son of God walking the via dolorosa and getting nailed to the cross — not for a real crime but as a sacrifice to purchase deliverance for us.
Isaiah predicted a faithfulness that was hard to believe (7-9)
7 He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth.
8 He was led away after an unjust trial — but who even cared? Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded.
9 They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully.
Note the silence of Jesus before his accusers and judges during his trials. Note his refusal to lash out at them or those taunting him.
Matthew 26:62-63 So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer? What is this that they are testifying against you?” But Jesus was silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
Matthew 27:13-14 Then Pilate said to him, “Don’t you hear how many charges they are bringing against you?” But he did not answer even one accusation, so that the governor was quite amazed.
Isaiah predicted a victory that is hard to believe (10-12)
10 Though the LORD desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the LORD’s purpose will be accomplished through him.
11 Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. “My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins.
12 So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.”
Now Isaiah predicts a victory that assumes two things. First, he predicts that the suffering servant will accomplish restitution.
But verse 10 says something that is not quite made clear in the NET translation. The phrase “once restitution is made” is actually im tasim asam nafsho (אִם־תָּשִׂ֤ים אָשָׁם֙ נַפְשׁ֔וֹ) in Hebrew. The WEB (World English Bible) translates that phrase more literally, “When you make his soul an offering for sin.” Christ’s whole being died, not just his body. He did not appear to die. He died — completely. When Jesus said “it is finished” that is what was finished. He accomplished the purpose for which he came into the world. That is the first part of the victory. His resurrection was the proof of this accomplishment.
The second thing that Isaiah predicts is a profound exaltation. Isaiah says the Messaiah “will see descendants and enjoy long life” which is a bit of understatement. All of the saved of all time will enjoy eternal life with him — as a result of his victory for them. With victory will also come the spoils of victory. Ultimately, the prophet is talking about eternity in the new universe. The king of kings and lord of lords is going to take his throne. Under him will be every other king and every other lord. He will have gone from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high.
The Servant shall be high and lifted up and exalted.
Isaiah 52:13 “Look, my servant will succeed! He will be elevated, lifted high, and greatly exalted.”
But first he will be despised and rejected by men.
Kings will be shocked by his exaltation (52:15).
But first he must go to the cross with his own mouth shut, like a lamb led to the slaughter (53:7).
He will know eternal life and prosperity , but first he must allow God’s will to happen, which means he will be crushed (53:10). He will make many to be accounted righteous (53:11), but first he must pour out his soul to death, and be numbered with the transgressors (53:12).
Who would have believed such a thing? This was God’s plan. Yet there is something still more unbelievable. God has done all this for us through Christ, yet there are still people who say they don’t believe. There are still some who refuse to put their faith in Christ.
Repentance is half of the foundation. Faith is the other half. We must turn to God, ready to tell him all the things we have done against him. But then we must also turn to God in faith.
LORD, thank you for the ultimate sacrifice: infinite purity made into a sin offering to rescue us from our own defilement. We choose to believe in Jesus Christ the one you sent.