Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Isaiah 53:3 - The Discounted Savior

Editor's Note: For awhile now, I've been far too busy arguing (here and on other blogs) for inerrancy, six day creation, divine sovereignty, complementarian gender roles, and other Biblical doctrines that I consider basic and obvious. Meanwhile, the series on Isaiah 53 has been idle for too long. Where does the time go? I have learned at least three things through all of the debating and discussing. First, the deception and theological confusion in mainstream American Evangelical Christianity is so widespread that unbelief has become an accepted, unrestrained epidemic. It is the norm. Bible believers are pejoratively labeled "fundamentalists" and systematically marginalized in some circles. Second, it is God alone who can change the mind and heart of a person bent on disbelieving Scripture (myself included). Third, the Word of God itself holds the greatest potential to benefit sinners (myself included), in whatever state of belief or unbelief they find themselves. With that, I repentantly and deliberately move away from debating with other Christians, and take up the plain study of God's Word once again. I stand by my convictions as articulated, and I won't hesitate to proclaim the truth (and I may continue to selectively engage in some doctrinal discussions), but it's time for a change of focus. I pray that you, dear reader, will be blessed and encouraged by what is written here, and not turned aside to the quagmire of religious controversy that is perpetually fueled by doubt.

He was despised and forsaken of men,

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; 
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised,
And we did not esteem Him.
Humanity's rejection of Christ is on full display here. The Jewish leaders in Jesus' day did not accept Him. The Roman authorities passed a death sentence against Him. The people did not rise up to defend Him, but instead shouted, "Crucify!" Even the more stalwart disciples ran away and hid themselves. A tiny group of women, a condemned criminal and a surprised centurion were His sole supporters during His suffering on the cross (perhaps even they hid their faces in horror at the sight of His torment). He died alone, and He entered the grave without any companions.
Isaiah's words also remind us of His rejection in our day, by unbelievers and by professed believers who are not really believers. By brazen hypocrites who use Christian religion as a means of personal gain. And by sincere and growing Christians who fail to honor Him in many ways as we battle with idols of the heart, pride, selfishness and misdirected worship. We, too, are rejectors of Christ in some measure, and we need the continuous cleansing of the Gospel.
In these words His humanity is emphasized. He is distinctively a man of sorrows. In the incarnation, God presented Himself not as infinite God, but as finite man. His true deity was hidden behind, under, and within His real humanity. In Christ's ministry we see a compassionate gentleness that didn't blast sinful humanity with a divine "shock and awe," and presented truth with the padding of parables. The raw power of His Deity was presented selectively and with great purpose, and primarily to those who believed. Revelation dropped as gentle rain upon the weary, and only rarely did it thunder down over the heads of the stubborn. Jesus had not come to deal out wrath, but to absorb it.
His humility is presented. He is a man of SORROWS, SICKNESS, SADNESS, SOLITUDE, and SCORN.
He was despised, and counted as worthless. It is stated twice in this one verse. Perhaps it is repeated so we can first see the whole world's rejection of Him, and not fail to recognize our own personal rejection of Him as well. The subject of the verse moves from "men" in general to "we" in particular.
He was diseased. He Carried our spiritual sickness in His own body. He felt the weakness of our humanity.
He was depressed. The sad realities of our sin affected Him deeply and personally. Though He had joy in the Father's continuous embrace, He simultaneously apprehended the severity of the Father's displeasure against the sin He would bear in our behalf. The eternal embrace would be temporarily broken at the cross, where fierce wrath fell over Him. Not only men, but God also hid His face.
He was deserted. He was alone in His redeeming work. The Only Man, the One Mediator, the Sole Savior, our Great High Priest who went by Himself into the Tabernacle to make atonement for our sins.
He was disposable. He was considered by most to be little more than an interesting public figure, one of many who would come and go. Like all other men, He would die.
Think of the accusations made against Him by the religious elite, the spiritual leaders and the respected intellectuals of the day. They said He was demon possessed, insane, an alcoholic, not a true Jew, a law-breaker, a troublemaker, and a liar. He was despised.
He felt the pain of the sick, the disenfranchisement of the marginalized, the uncertainty of the poor, and the shame of the outcasts. He grieved over the dullness and doubting of the disciples. He agonized over the world's unbelief. He was crushed by the destructiveness of human sin. He was shattered by the Father's condemnation. Devastated by divine decree, and hated by humanity.
We are among the condemners. We have stood in the crowd shouting "Crucify!" We have not esteemed Him. We have worshiped Him falsely. All of our remaining sin is a result of not sufficiently valuing Him. All of our hypocrisy is a result of rejecting Him in some compartment of our lives. All of our sanctification struggles boil down to a view of Christ that is too low. We simply don't trust Him enough, don't love Him enough, and don't think highly enough of Him. He, for His part, still calls out, "Father, forgive them." He always makes intercession. He invites us to swim out to Him, through the sea of our failures, beyond the foaming waves of doubt, and draws us with the undertow of grace. Our hearts can be purified and are being purified.
We must renew our affection for Christ, revive our trust in Him, repent and return to our First Love. The remedy is to change our values so that nothing is above Him and He is valued above everything else. We must expand the practical boundaries of His Lordship and exaltation. All of life is worship, and the need of every fallen creature is to be restored to the true worship.
When we enter our heavenly rest, our present faith and struggle will culminate in an exclusive, uncompromising and eternal devotion to Him - never contradicted by disobedience, idolatry, or doubt - as we shout "Soli Deo Gloria" forever without ceasing.
In the meantime, we practice.

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