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2

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,

nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3

He was despised and rejected by others;

a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;

and as one from whom others hide their faces

he was despised, and we held him of no account.

 

4

Surely he has borne our infirmities

and carried our diseases;

yet we accounted him stricken,

struck down by God, and afflicted.

5

But he was wounded for our transgressions,

crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the punishment that made us whole,

and by his bruises we are healed.

6

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

 


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1. Who will believe our report? This division, or rather dismemberment, of the chapter, ought to be disregarded; for it ought to have begun with the thirteenth verse of the former chapter, and these words ought to be connected with what goes before. 5050     “While most modern writers detach the three preceding verses and prefix them to this chapter, Hitzig goes to the opposite extreme of saying that the writer here begins afresh, without any visible connection with the previous context. Ewald more reasonably makes this a direct continuation, but observes a change of tone, from that of joyous confidence to that of penitent confession, on the part of the believing Jews, in reference to their former incredulity.” ­ Alexander. Here the Prophet pauses, as it were, in the middle of his discourse; for, having formerly said that the name of Christ would be everywhere proclaimed, and would be revealed to unknown nations, and yet would have so mean an aspect that it might appear as if these things were fabulous, he breaks off his discourse, and exclaims that “Nobody will believe those things.” At the same time, he describes his grief, that men are so unbelieving as to reject their salvation.

Thus, it is a holy complaint made by one who wished that Christ should be known by all, and who, notwithstanding of this, sees that there are few who believe the Gospel, and therefore groans and cries out, “Who hath believed our report?“ Let us therefore groan and complain along with the Prophet, and let us be distressed with grief when we see that our labor is unprofitable, and let us complain before God; for godly ministers must be deeply affected, if they wish to perform their work faithfully. Isaiah declares that there will be few that submit to the Gospel of Christ; for, when he exclaims, “Who will believe the preaching?” he means that of those who hear the Gospel scarcely a hundredth person will be a believer.

Nor does he merely speak of himself alone, but like one who represents all teachers. Although therefore God gives many ministers, few will hold by their doctrine; and what then will happen when there are no ministers? Do we wonder that the greatest blindness reigns there? If cultivated ground is unfruitful, what shall we look for from a soil that is uncultivated and barren? And yet it does not detract anything from the Gospel of Christ, that there are few disciples who receive it; nor does the small number of believers lessen its authority or obscure its infinite glory; but, on the contrary, the loftiness of the mystery is a reason why it scarcely obtains credit in the world. It is reckoned to be folly, because it exceeds all human capacities.

To whom (literally, on whom) is the arm of Jehovah revealed? In this second clause he points out the reason why the number of believers will be so small. It is, because no man can come to God but by an extraordinary revelation of the Spirit. To suppose that by the word “Arm” Christ is meant, is, in my opinion, a mistake. It assigns the cause why there are so few that believe; and that is, that they cannot attain it by the sagacity of their own understanding. This is a remarkable passage, and is quoted by John and Paul for that purpose. “Though Jesus,” said John, “had performed many miracles in their presence, they believed not in him, that the saying of Isaiah the Prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake,

“Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
(John 12:37, 38)

And Paul says, “But they do not all believe the Gospel; for Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?“ (Romans 10:16) Both of them declare that there will be no reason to wonder, if that which was long ago foretold shall happen; and they do so for the purpose of removing offense which might have arisen from the revolt of that nation, which ought to have acknowledged Christ, but obstinately resisted him.

Isaiah does not include merely the men of his own time, but all posterity to the end of the world; for, so long as the reign of Christ shall endure, this must be fulfilled; and therefore believers ought to be fortified by this passage against such a scandal. These words refute the ignorance of those who think that faith is in the power of every person, because preaching is common to all. Though it is sufficiently evident that all are called to salvation, yet the Prophet expressly states that the external voice is of no avail, if it be not accompanied by a special gift of the Spirit. And whence proceeds the difference, but from the secret election of God, the cause of which is hidden in himself?

2. Yet he shall grow up before him as a twig. This verse refers to what was formerly said, that Christ will at first have no magnificence or outward display among men; but that before God he will nevertheless be highly exalted, and will be held in estimation. Hence we see that we must not judge of the glory of Christ by human view, but must discern by faith what is taught us concerning him by the Holy Scriptures; and therefore the phrase “before him,” is here contrasted with human senses, which cannot comprehend that lofty greatness. Almost the same metaphor was used by the Prophet, (Isaiah 11:1) when he said, “A branch shall spring out of the stock of Jesse;” for the house of David was like a dry stock, in which no rigor and no comeliness was visible, and on that account is there called not a royal house, but “Jesse,” a name which bore no celebrity. Only the Prophet adds here, —

In a desert land; by which he means that Christ’s power of springing up will not be derived from the sap of the earth, as in trees, but contrary to the ordinary course of nature. They who in this passage speculate about the virgin Mary, and suppose that she is called a desert land, because she conceived by the Holy Ghost, and not by ordinary generation, speak beside the purpose; for the present subject is not the birth of Christ, but his whole reign. He says that it will resemble a twig springing out of a dry soil, which looks as if it could never become large. If we take into account the whole method of establishing his kingdom, and the agency which he employed, and how feeble were its beginnings, and how many foes it encountered, we shall easily understand that all these things were fulfilled as they had been foretold. What sort of men were the Apostles that they should subdue so many kings and nations by the sword of the word? Are they not justly compared to offshoots? Thus the Prophet shows by what means the kingdom of Christ must be set up and established, that we may not judge of it by human conceptions.

He hath no form nor comeliness. This must be understood to relate not merely to the person of Christ, who was despised by the world, and was at length condemned to a disgraceful death; but to his whole kingdom, which in the eyes of men had no beauty, no comeliness, no splendor, which, in short, had nothing that could direct or captivate the hearts of men to it by its outward show. Although Christ arose from the dead, yet the Jews always regarded him as a person who had been crucified and disgraced, in consequence of which they haughtily disdained him.

3. Despised and rejected. This verse conveys the same statement as the preceding, namely, that Christ will be “rejected” by men, in consequence of their beholding in him nothing but grief and infirmity. These things needed to be often repeated to the Jews, that they might not form a false conception of Christ and his kingdom; for, in order to know his glory, we must proceed from his death to his resurrection. Many stumble at his death, as if he had been vanquished and overwhelmed by it; but we ought to contemplate his power and majesty in the resurrection; and if any one choose to begin with the resurrection, he will not follow the order laid down by the Prophet, nor comprehend the Lord’s strength and power.

We hid the face from him. Not without reason does he use the first person, we; for he declares that there will be a universal judgment; and no man will ever be able to comprehend it by his own understanding till the Lord correct and form him anew by his Spirit. Although he appears chiefly to censure the Jews, who ought not to have so haughtily rejected the Son of God promised and offered to them, and therefore reckons himself as one of the number, because he was an individual belonging to that nation; yet let us learn from this passage that all men are accursed and condemned for ingratitude in despising Christ, because they do not even consider him to be worthy of being looked at, but turn away their eyes as if from something detestable.

4. Surely he carried our sicknesses. The particle אכן (aken) is not only a strong affirmation, but is likewise equivalent to for, and assigns a reason of something which went before, and which might have been thought new and strange; for it is a monstrous thing that he to whom God has given supreme authority over all the creatures should be thus trampled on and scorned; and if the reason were not assigned, it would have been universally pronounced to be ridiculous. The reason, therefore, of the weakness, pains, and shame of Christ is, that “he carried our sicknesses.”

Matthew quotes this prediction, after having related that Christ cured various diseases; though it is certain that he was appointed not to cure bodies, but rather to cure souls; for it is of spiritual disease that the Prophet intends to speak. But in the miracles which Christ performed in curing bodies, he gave a proof of the salvation which he brings to our souls. That healing had therefore a more extensive reference than to bodies, because he was appointed to be the physician of souls; and accordingly Matthew applies to the outward sign what belonged to the truth and reality.

We thought him to be smitten, wounded by God, and afflicted. In this second clause he shows how great was the ingratitude and wickedness of the people, who did not know why Christ was so severely afflicted, but imagined that God smote him on account of his own sins, though they knew that he was perfectly innocent, and his innocence was attested even by his judge. (Matthew 27:24; Luke 23:4, 14, 22; John 18:38) Since therefore they know that an innocent man is punished for sins which he did not commit, why do they not think that it indicated some extraordinary excellence to exist in him? But because they see him wounded and despised, they do not inquire about the cause, and from the event alone, as fools are wont to do, they pronounce judgment. Accordingly, Isaiah complains of the wicked judgment of men, in not considering the cause of Christ’s heavy afflictions; and especially he deplores the dullness of his own nation, because they thought that God was a deadly enemy of Christ, and took no account of their own sins, which were to be expiated in this manner.

5. And he was wounded for our iniquities. He again repeats the cause of Christ’s great afflictions, in order to meet the scandal which might have arisen from it. The spectacle of the cross alienates many persons from Christ, when they consider what is presented to their eyes, and do not observe the object to be accomplished. But all offense is removed when we know that by his death our sins have been expiated, and salvation has been obtained for us.

The chastisement of our peace. Some think that this is called “the chastisement of peace,” on account of men being careless and stupefied amidst their afflictions, and therefore that it was necessary that Christ should suffer. Others view “peace” as relating to the consciences, that is, that Christ suffered, in order that we might have peaceful consciences; as Paul says that, “being justified by faith through Christ, we have peace with God.” (Romans 5:1) But I take it to denote simply reconciliation. Christ was the price of “our chastisement,” that is, of the chastisement which was due to us. Thus the wrath of God, which had been justly kindled against us, was appeased; and through the Mediator we have obtained “peace,” by which we are reconciled.

We ought to draw from this a universal doctrine, namely, that we are reconciled to God by free grace, because Christ hath paid the price of “our peace.” This is indeed acknowledged by the Papists; but then they limit this doctrine to original sin, as if after baptism there were no longer any room for reconciliation through free grace, but that we must give satisfaction by our merits and works. But the Prophet does not here treat of a single species of pardon, but extends this blessing to the whole course of life; and therefore it cannot be thus undervalued or limited to a particular time, without most heinous sacrilege. Hence also the frivolous distinction of the Papists, between the remission of punishment and the pardon of sin, is easily refuted. They affirm that punishment is not remitted to us, unless it be washed out by satisfactions. But the Prophet openly declares that the punishment of our sins was transferred to him. What, then, do the Papists intend but to be Christ’s equals and companions, and to lay claim to share with him in his authority?

In his wound (or, in his medicine) we have healing. He again directs us to Christ, that we may betake ourselves to his wounds, provided that we wish to regain life. Here the Prophet draws a contrast between us and Christ; for in us nothing call be found but destruction and death; in Christ alone is life and salvation, he alone brought medicine to us, and even procures health by his weakness, and life by his death; for he alone hath pacified the Father, he alone hath reconciled us to him. Here we might bring forward many things about the blessed consequences of Christ’s sufferings, if we had not determined to expound rather than to preach; and therefore let us be satisfied with a plain exposition. Let every one, therefore, draw consolation from this passage, and let him apply the blessed result of this doctrine to his own use; for these words are spoken to all in general, and to individuals in particular.

6. We all, like sheep, have gone astray. In order to impress more deeply on our hearts the benefit of the death of Christ, he shows how necessary is that healing which he formerly mentioned. If we do not perceive our wretchedness and poverty, we shall never know how desirable is that remedy which Christ has brought to us, or approach him with due ardor of affection. As soon as we know that we are ruined, then, aware of our wretchedness, we eagerly run to avail ourselves of the remedy, which otherwise would be held by us in no estimation. In order, therefore, that Christ may be appreciated by us, let every one consider and examine himself, so as to acknowledge that he is ruined till he is redeemed by Christ.

We see that here none are excepted, for the Prophet includes “all.” The whole human race would have perished, if Christ had not brought relief. He does not even except the Jews, whose hearts were puffed up with a false opinion of their own superiority, but condemns them indiscriminately, along with others, to destruction. By comparing them to sheep, he intends not to extenuate their guilt, as if little blame attached to them, but to state plainly that it belongs to Christ to gather from their wanderings those who resembled brute beasts.

Every one hath turned to his own way. By adding the term every one, he descends from a universal statement, in which he included all, to a special statement, that every individual may consider in his own mind if it be so; for a general statement produces less effect upon us than to know that it belongs to each of us in particular. Let “every one,” therefore, arouse his conscience, and present himself before the judgment­seat of God, that he may confess his wretchedness. Moreover, what is the nature of this “going astray” the Prophet states more plainly. It is, that every one hath followed the way which he had chosen for himself, that is, hath determined to live according to his own fancy; by which he means that there is only one way of living uprightly, and if any one “turn aside” from it, he can experience nothing but “going astray.”

He does not speak of works only, but of nature itself, which always leads us astray; for, if we could by natural instinct or by our own wisdom, bring ourselves back into the path, or guard ourselves against going astray, Christ would not be needed by us. Thus, in ourselves we all are undone unless Christ (John 8:36) sets us free; and the more we rely on our wisdom or industry, the more dreadfully and the more speedily do we draw down destruction on ourselves. And so the Prophet shows what we are before we are regenerated by Christ; for all are involved in the same condemnation. “There is none righteous, none that understandeth, none that seeketh God. All have turned aside, and have become unprofitable. There is none that doeth good; no, not one.” (Psalm 14:3) All this is more fully explained by Paul. (Romans 3:10)

And Jehovah hath laid upon him. Here we have a beautiful contrast. In ourselves we are scattered; in Christ we are gathered together. By nature we go astray, and are driven headlong to destruction; in Christ we find the course by which we are conducted to the harbor of salvation. Our sins are a heavy load; but they are laid on Christ, by whom we are freed from the load. Thus, when we were ruined, and, being estranged from God, were hastening to hell, Christ took upon him the filthiness of our iniquities, in order to rescue us from everlasting destruction. This must refer exclusively to guilt and punishment; for he was free from sin. (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22) Let every one, therefore, diligently consider his own iniquities, that he may have a true relish of that grace, and may obtain the benefit of the death of Christ.




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