By Nathan Jones
Why is the Messiah compared to a plant's tender shoot?
In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" TWave Radio episode, Pastor Vic Batista of Miami's Calvary Chapel Aventura and I will study the "Suffering Servant" prophecies found in Isaiah 53 that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ.
The Tender Shoot
Vic Batista: Isaiah 53 contains a prophecy about the Suffering Servant. Nathan and I are going to talk about who this is referring to. Is this prophecy about the nation of Israel, or could it be referring to someone else? I find this subject to be a very important subject matter because some people can feel really confused about it, some people will just try to ignore it, and some people will try to disregard the reality of what we find in Isaiah 53. Regardless, it's an incredible passage!
Nathan, would you read Isaiah 53:1-6?
Nathan Jones: Isaiah 53 is chock full of prophecies about the Messiah. Let's start with a little background first. Isaiah was written by the prophet Isaiah who lived about 700 BC during the time of King Hezekiah. Many of the Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ 700 years later God through Isaiah prophesied.
These prophecies were fulfilled in such amazing detail that only Jesus Christ could be the Messiah, the Son of God, and our Savior. As we go through Isaiah 53, I think you will be amazed at just how much Isaiah proves that Jesus is the Messiah. It is uncanny! There are details that people wouldn't ever think were important, but Jesus gets right on through His life. So, you're right, Vic, Isaiah 53 is a very important scripture.
"Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
Vic Batista: Amazing! This passage is just packed with incredible messianic prophecies.
Nathan Jones: Again, the subject matter of Isaiah 53 is about the Suffering Servant — the Messiah — who will come and take away the sins of the world. Remember that in Isaiah's time the Second Coming prophecies, where the Messiah comes as a King to set up His Millennial Kingdom, and the First Coming prophecies, where the Messiah comes to die and be raised back to life and save men's souls, those got all jumbled together. By Jesus' time the people were pretty confused when Jesus came as the Messiah and did all these miracles, but then He didn't overthrow the Roman government. He was killed and crucified and resurrected again, but didn't usher in a physical kingdom. So, they were all quite confused.
After Jesus' resurrection and the ushering of the Church in at Pentecost, followers of Jesus could go back to Isaiah 53 and other Messianic chapters and finally understand that the Messiah first had to die for our sins before He comes into His earthly Kingdom. During Jesus' time the people just didn't understand the prophecies because they'd yet to be fulfilled, but Jesus' life fulfilled so many prophecies that after His resurrection and ascension they finally understood.
Let's look at Isaiah 53:1 in particular. It reads:
"Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
In other words, the people at the time just couldn't comprehend that Jesus was the Messiah. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus even because He didn't think Jesus was living up to the Messiah's profile, especially those verses about Him coming as a king.
Instead, Jesus was fulfilling what we are reading here in Isaiah 53:2 as:
"He [the Messiah] grew up before him like a tender shoot, like a root out of dry ground."
In other words, the Messiah didn't arrive already grown up as an adult to ride in as a king. Instead, He grew up starting as a baby. God gave us His own divine Son who become a powerless little baby and had Him grow up just like the rest of us mortals.
Vic Batista: That earthly birth also fulfilled the prophecies in Isaiah 7 and Isaiah 9.
Nathan Jones: Yes, there are a lot of other similar prophecies. Isaiah 4:2 about the "Branch of the Lord" is another good reference: "In that day the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel." Jesus was the branch of David, but He is also the root of David. In other words, God created the human race and so created David, but then Jesus' birth also makes Him descended from King David.
Isaiah 53:2 has the Messiah growing up like a tender shoot. Some people have tried to interpret the term "dry ground" as meaning it was a spiritual vacuous time period. Or, maybe because Jesus grew up in Nazareth, which was some tiny little hick town of 500 people or so, maybe that is the meaning of "dry ground."
In the second part of our study of Isaiah 53 and the Suffering Servant, Vic and I will look into the face of the Messiah in verse 2.