1. The Christ Foretold
Isaiah wrote, “Who has believed what he has heard from us?” (53:1). In this portion of the prophecy, it’s clear that Isaiah’s purpose is to show that the Redeemer would be greatly exalted. Isaiah 52:13 says, “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” But in order to show the extent of His exaltation, Isaiah wanted to show the depth of the Savior’s humility and sorrow, and that He was hated by men. Here, he breaks from his discourse to lament over the fact that what he has just said and was about to say was scarcely believed. Before the Savior would be exalted and glorified, He would first be ridiculed, despised, and forsaken.
The phrase translated, “what he has heard“, denotes news, a message. It refers to the announcement and the message of the Messiah.
The speaker, here, is Isaiah. But he says, “us“. He is referring to what he and all of the other of God’s prophets have said about the Redeemer.
Isaiah makes this statement in the form of a rhetorical question for emphasis. His conclusion is that almost nobody has believed the message of the Messiah.
He continues in verse 1, “And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” The arm is a part of the human body by which we execute our purposes and often reveal our power. Here, it refers to the powerful will of God that would be shown in the Messiah. The meaning is, “Who has perceived the will of God regarding the Messiah? Who has known the power of the Redeemer in the rescuing of many sinners from destruction?”
In the New Testament, the gospel is not infrequently referred to as “the power of God” (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18). It is the gospel by which God shows His power in saving sinners.
Isaiah sees Him as a suffering servant, despised and rejected. He sees that few come to Him and embrace Him as their Savior. He remembers the report and announcement that he and other prophets have made of Him. He remembers the records written centuries before regarding the Messiah. Once the Savior would present Himself on this earth, most would reject Him, even though the prophecies would point precisely to Him. This passage had its fulfillment in the ministry and rejection of Jesus up to the point of His crucifixion. The mass of the nation of Israel despised Him, and the prophecies about Him were ignored.
I have to pause here and be amazed at the foreknowledge and sovereignty of God. The prophet Isaiah, written seven hundred years before the Savior’s birth, wrote of Him and His suffering and His exaltation. We are reminded that the cross was in no way God’s contingency plan. Ephesians 1:3-10 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Salvation was planned even before the creation of the universe. If you are saved, it was God’s plan to save you even before the stars were formed, even before light was created, even before life.
Behold your God. He is not living day to day wondering about what’s happening next or doing damage control. He is in complete control, and in His complete sovereignty, He has chosen to save sinners like you and me.