(a) The Speakers Identified. Clearly it is not the Lord Himself speaking, for He is spoken of—“the arm of the Lord”. Indeed the verse is quoted in the N.T. as addressed to the “Lord”, John 12. 38; Rom. 10. 16, as also in the Septuagint. The use of the plural “our” indicates that Isaiah is not speaking on his own behalf. I suggest that the speakers can be identified as the apostolic preachers of the gospel. Such are fittingly described earlier (“How beautiful… are the feet”, Isa. 52. 7) in words which, together with our text, are applied by the apostle Paul to gospel preachers, Rom. 10. 15-16. Isaiah 52. 7 describes the gospel messengers (note Paul’s change of “feet of him” to “feet of them”, Rom. 10. 15) and Isaiah 53. 1 describes the failure of the Jews generally to respond to their message; cf. Rom. 10. 19-21.
This, is not, of course, the only application of Isaiah 53. 1. For example the apostle John claimed a fulfilment of the verse in connection with the ministry of the Lord Jesus, John 12. 37-38.
(b) The Sentiment Expressed. The word translated “report” is passive in form: lit., a thing heard. It signifies “the report that reached us”, “that which was reported to us”. This is illustrated well by Paul’s claim that he had declared that which he had “received”, 1 Cor. 15. 3. The response noted in our verse was disappointing and the sad sentiment expressed has been shared by many preachers since. The expression “the arm of the Lord” can be understood in several ways. It could be taken as a title of Jehovah, or a designation of the Lord Jesus as the Administrator of God’s affairs in creation, salvation and judgment. Or again, it could denote the power of Jehovah. See Isaiah 51. 9; 52. 10, where it is employed as an emblem of power, and compare “the arm of his strength”, 62. 8. Isaiah also assures us that the power (“arm”) which the Lord God exerts to rule is the same power which He exerts to care for the very weakest of His people, 40. 10-11. How precious!
These words are suited to the lips of converted Jews today, as they will be to the lips of the repentant nation when “all Israel shall be saved”, Rom. 11. 26. The words provide an answer to the question of the preachers in verse 1.
(a) Preconversion Experience, vv.2-4.
Three things gave rise to the unconverted Jew’s false opinion and assessment of Jehovah’s Servant,
Taking full account of the Servant’s humble origin, abject appearance and severe sufferings, the unbelieving Jews drew a wrong conclusion about the cause of His sorrows and suffering. It was not, however, that they erred in interpreting His suffering as a punishment for sin. Their error lay in their assumption that His suffering came as a punishment for sins He had Himself committed. In the next article we will see the radical change of opinion on this matter which accompanies conversion.
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