Project 119: Isaiah 52:13-53:12


It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And beauty is objective, isn’t it? Our definitions of beauty and attractiveness vary by culture and time period. What people considered beautiful in sixteenth century England is very different than what is considered beautiful today in America. And yet I’ve found that, in my own life, the people I love, value, and cherish are attractive to me because of their kindness and character and because of the joy and meaning they bring to me. 

We learn something new about God’s servant today in this final servant song, and it’s a hard truth: He is a
servant we wouldn’t expect. He isn’t the flashiest or more glamorous. In fact, Isaiah forewarns us that He
would have “no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire
Him” (Isaiah 53:2). This despised and rejected suffering servant will be familiar with sorrow and grief. Our 
eyes wouldn’t linger on Him if we met Him on the street - we would turn our faces, perhaps in
embarrassment and shame (Isaiah 53:3). 

What does this mean specifically? Did he have some sort of scar or other deformity? While we really don’t
know the exact nature of his physical appearance, the text is clear to remind us that he wouldn’t be the
handsome and dashing Savior we expected. But again, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? To see the
beauty of Christ, we must see the ugliness of our sin. For some, this servant and His suffering would be
grotesque and offensive, because in their self righteousness and pride, they wouldn’t see any need for a savior. 

But for others, this servant’s suffering will be beautiful, because through His suffering, He will bring us
peace with God by bearing our griefs, sorrows, and sins (Isaiah 53:4-6). When we see our depravity and our
need for a savior, the suffering of this servant is beautiful, especially when we consider the fact that He
Himself had no iniquity or sin. Though perfect, He will be acquainted with our grief, carry our sorrows, and
die the death we deserve in payment for our sin (Isaiah 54:9-10).

The name of Jesus is horrifying to Satan’s empires. The kingdoms of the world want nothing to do with this
suffering, disfigured servant. But for those of us who see our sin and our need for a savior, the cross and the
work of Jesus is beautiful. And the rest of Isaiah points us forward to the day when we will see the most
beautiful sight: Christ, the exalted servant, reigning over the new heavens and the new earth. 

Oh Father, help me to never lose wonder when I consider your suffering servant - because of His stripes, I
am healed. Help me see the ugliness of my sin, repent of my wicked ways, and treasure the beautiful work
of Christ. 

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (ESV):

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;

he shall be high and lifted up,

and shall be exalted.

14 As many were astonished at you—

his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,

and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

15 so shall he sprinkle many nations.

Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,

for that which has not been told them they see,

and that which they have not heard they understand.

1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

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,

and no beauty that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

6 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.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;

and as for his generation, who considered

that he was cut off out of the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people?

9 And they made his grave with the wicked

and with a rich man in his death,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for guilt,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,

and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,

because he poured out his soul to death

and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,

and makes intercession for the transgressors.