The Man of Grief
As we celebrate the birth of Yeshua (Jesus), we want to look at who Yeshua is. Isaiah speaks to us about the man of grief and sorrow. We want to take a closer look at this passage in Isaiah 53, because we as believers don’t meditate enough on this thought about Yeshua (Jesus) as a man who went about with grief and sorrow . . . or is this passage talking about someone else?
Isaiah 53:1-3 says this: “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
The opening statement is so obscure and mystical. “Who has believed what he . . . “—who is the “he”? “Has heard from us . . . “—who is the “us”? “And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” What and who is Isaiah talking about here?
Well, let’s start with the easiest. The arm of the Lord is a reference to God’s strength. So the line would say, “And to whom has the arm of the Lord (strength of the Lord) been revealed?” I would think your first answer would be Israel. So let’s see, then, if that would be true if we said, “Who has believed what he (Israel) has heard from us?” But then who is the “us”? As far as I know, it’s Isaiah speaking . . . or is it? Well, In Genesis 1:26 it says, “Let us make man in our image.” So here we see God referring to himself as “us.” So we can conclude that it is God speaking about Israel . . . or is it?
It goes on to say, “For he grew up before him like a young plant.” Who grew up before who? So, if we plug in the “he” as Israel and the “him” as God, we can say that Israel grew up before God as a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground. Who is the root? It can only be Yeshua. Isaiah 11:1-3 tells us, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” And we know that Israel is the land of milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). Even though many people say this is talking about Israel, and it may be so, the only possible explanation is that this tender shoot must be Yeshua. He was born of lowly descent, a carpenter as a father, born in a manger with the livestock around Him, who grew up with no education to speak of. He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, in other words, as a king He should have been raised in a kingly fashion with traditions known to a king. He had no beauty that we should desire Him. He was not handsome like Jacob’s son Joseph (Genesis 39:6) or like King David (1 Samuel 16:12).
He was despised and rejected by men. Why? Because Yeshua did not come from wealth. The priests and the scholars had their status, like Paul who was educated (Acts 22:3). Paul was not a good-looking man either, and yet he was not despised by the elites of his day because of his education and his status. This passage goes on to tell us that men actually hid their face from Yeshua. They wanted nothing to do with him. Yeshua was a man of sorrow. When we read the gospels, they do not indicate this. We can only assume this was the case by Isaiah’s account.
Isaiah 53:4-6 goes on to say, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Yeshua was a burden-bearer.
Yes, how significant it was that Yeshua rode into Jerusalem before His crucifixion on the back of a donkey! Zechariah writes in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
So, let’s look at the beginning part of Isaiah 53 again and put in who’s who. “Who has believed what (he) Yeshua has heard from (us) God? And to whom has the (arm) strength of the Lord been revealed? For (he) Yeshua grew up before (him) God like a young plant, and like (a root) the root of Jesse, He sprouted out of the dry ground.”
Now that we have determined who we are speaking of, let us continue looking at Isaiah 53:7-11. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
Hebrews 5:8-9 tells us, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” God disciplines those He loves, even His only begotten Son, and so we too must be disciplined and suffer so that we too may learn obedience and yield the fruit of righteousness.
Hebrews 12:1-11 tells us, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.’ It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
It is important that we remember that God does not ask us to do anything that He Himself has not done. Yeshua went before us so that we can follow in His footsteps. He is our example. 1 Peter 2:24 tells us, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” Yeshua was the perfect sacrifice.
1 Peter 1:17-19 tells us, “And if you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Messiah, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
We do not think about this too often. We celebrate Messiah’s birth with jubilant celebrations and decorations and gifts, and yet here was One destined to a life of grief and sorrow and pain and death.
Yeshua tells us in Matthew 16:24, “Then Yeshua told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Yes, God so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son to be crushed under the weight of sin and death, to be slaughtered as an animal, as a perfect sacrifice upon the altar, so that we may have eternal life. Our hearts must also be crushed from our sins, iniquities, and transgressions, sorrowful and full of grief, repentive as we come.
Psalm 51:17 speaks to us this way: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise.” We too are asked to lay down our lives on the altar as living sacrifices. Romans 12:1-2 says to us, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We too are to be without spot or wrinkle. Ephesians 5:25-27 tells us this regarding being perfect: “Husbands love your wives as Messiah loved the chosen and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the Bride to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Matthew 5:48 also says this to us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
At this time, and every day for that fact, shouldn’t we be meditating on the life of Yeshua, so that we too can walk in His footsteps? Shouldn’t we start today as we prepare not for His first coming, but His second? As believers, we too are being crushed so that we may be pure and perfect and obedient, leaving the world behind us and having the cross before us leading us to our Messiah. Like the star that led the wisemen, so too the cross leads us, and only the wise follow it.