Isaiah’s Servant Songs: Isaiah 53

In this final article of the series, we will be considering the first two verses of Isaiah 53. Notice the language of Isaiah in this final servant song: “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” (Isa 53:1-2).[1] There are four realities which governed His life that we, too, should emulate. My headings are meant to challenge us to follow in His steps.

We Need to Live in the Consciousness of God’s Presence

We need to live like Christ – always aware of God’s presence. The word “before” in verse two means “face,” or “presence.” The thought is profound and beautiful that the Servant grew up in the presence of His God. He felt the face of God upon Him all through life. The Lord Jesus was always in this place of nearness to His God. He had a unique place with His God. John said He lived his life there, “in the bosom of the Father” (Joh 1:18 KJV). The NLT puts it nicely, “The unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart.” This is a place of true intimate nearness.

What about you? Do you live near to the heart of God? Do you live in His presence? We know that when Jesus died, the veil of the temple was rent and through Christ we have full access to the Father. This access is not an “on and off” type of thing; it is permanent. Once saved, we do not leave His presence, but are we living in the conscious reality of it? The Lord Jesus emphasized this in the upper room to His disciples, “ABIDE in me, and I in you” (Joh 15:4).

We Need to Live for the Satisfaction of God’s Heart

We need to live like Christ – for the delight of God’s pleasure. Isaiah said, “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground” (53:2). To His God, He was like a tender green shoot in the midst of brown, withered deadness. His life brought pleasure, delight and satisfaction to the heart of His God. He was alive to His God. The ground of Israel was dry in many ways. It was politically dry: the kingly line of David replaced by Roman rule. It was scripturally dry: the Word of God had been abandoned. It was morally dry: godly manhood and virtuous womanhood had been replaced by corrupt, sinful behavior. It was spiritually dry: empty, barren and nothing for God. The Lord Jesus’ appearing and growing up in this dry land was nothing short of a miracle, like a beautiful flower growing out in a wasted desert.

Your life can be that beautiful, fragrant plant that delights God’s heart. Paul reminds us that as we look at Him and center our lives around His, we become more like Him. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2Co 3:18).

We Need to Live from the Resources that God Provides

We need to live like Christ – from the fulness of God’s provision. Where did the Lord Jesus get His supply of strength? How did He manage to survive in such a hostile environment? It was certainly not from the dry, barren soil that surrounded Him. His source of growth, His sustenance and His strength came alone from His God.

A tender plant is weak and vulnerable, unless, of course, it is before Him, that is, before the LORD God. In God’s presence, that which is weak becomes strong. If the plant is before Him, it doesn’t even matter that the ground is dry. God will sustain it with His presence. In John 4, He said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (v34). He was sustained by feeding on God’s Word and fulfilling God’s will. Everything He did reflected His value for and His honor of the One He served. His God and Father filled His focus, so that everything He did was an act of worship to His God.

It is no different today. This barren world has nothing that appeals to the heart of God, but in this dry, empty wasteland, He desires you to be a tender shoot in His presence. He wants you to find your strength in Him. This is what Paul was getting at when he wrote to the Corinthians. God spoke to him and said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2Co 12:9 NKJV). It’s all of God and none of me. The Lord Jesus said in the desert, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mat 4:4 NKJV).

We Need to Live with the Values of God’s Character

We need to live like Christ – with the consciousness of God’s principles; heaven’s values were His values. The majesty of God’s servant was not that of outward human beauty: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” This verse tells us that the manner in which the Savior came to Israel was not what they expected. They were looking for a mighty man of war, a man of great influence and of significance, a man of might and power. While He was all of these, the qualities that He chose to display were those God-like attributes – humility, meekness, tenderness, gentleness, kindness and pity. We don’t know what He looked like physically, but the beauties that marked Him were things that God greatly values.

We need to be careful not to think the Lord Jesus as unattractive or unkempt, as some would say, but rather His focus was not on outward, earthly, worldly standards; it was on those beautiful inward characteristics that qualified Him to be our Savior.

Are you focused on what God values or on what man values? We need to be very careful not to allow ourselves to be swallowed up by this present culture that has gone crazy over the physical and outward appearance. This extreme obsession can easily creep into our personal lives and consume us to the point that we lose our eternal focus. As we live before our God and serve Him in faithfulness, as we allow His values to become ours, may we seek to emulate the Master-Servant, our Lord Jesus Christ.


[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.