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Does that question bring an image to your mind?
Maybe an image of a great American president that you have admired? Someone with a keen intellect? Someone who exudes charm, wit, charisma? Someone who’s handsome? Someone whose brilliance lights up the room? Who has “it”?
Here’s a picture of what scientists and historians now believe is an accurate likeness of George Washington in his youth. They used descriptions of him in his younger years written by those who knew him, portraits, measurements of his clothes, and 3-D software to design this wax statue of George Washington as a young man.
|Wasn’t he a looker? Click to Super Size him. Image from here.|
Historians who conducted further research into Washington’s life and physical body type suggest that, as a young man, Washington was a strapping 6ft 3in athlete, with a slim build, gray-blue eyes and flowing auburn hair worn which he probably wore in a ponytail.
Back in the good old days of his youth, he was a square-jawed dentist’s dream, with all his teeth and, as one historian described him, “something of a ladies’ man”.
In America, in general, we like our leaders to have “it”, don’t we? We want to believe in that handsome man with the likable smile who stands head and shoulders above the rest, who greets others with a direct gaze and a warm, firm handshake – we WANT to believe that man has what it takes to lead and direct our country.
In the Bible study that I’ve been doing in Isaiah, Isaiah has written several different poetic pieces that describe SOMEONE who is coming. He calls that “someone” the Servant of the Lord, and the study that I’m reading calls these poetic pieces “Servant Songs”. And I’ve been thinking about the promise of the Messiah. Much of the old Testament points toward him, sometimes in somewhat veiled ways, but often, in very direct prophesies. Moses says very clearly that God will raise up from among the Israelites a prophet. And so there was this expectation among the Jews that Messiah (the anointed one of God) WAS coming. They just didn’t know WHEN, exactly.
So, in the Servant Songs, in the book of Isaiah, we hear what Isaiah has to say about the Servant of the Lord. But what Isaiah has to say is so very, very counter-intuitive to what you and I might expect. The Servant that Isaiah describes is, in fact, radically paradoxically different from what many of us might be looking for as our leader.
I know when we read blogs, sometimes we tend to skim, quickly, looking for sound bites, and to be entertained.
But I invite you today to read this passage, slowly, even meditatively, with the care it deserves. And as I type this paragraph, I am praying that God’s Holy Spirit will bring something fresh and new for each person who takes the time to read this beautiful passage of scripture.
And consider the contrast between the toothpaste commercial model of a man that we often look for to become our leader, and the Servant of the Lord, the One chosen by the Lord, as described by Isaiah.
See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
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.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52:13-53:12, New International Version, ©2011)
I have asked myself the question before: “How did so many in Israel miss out on recognizing that their Messiah had come to them?”
But as I read what Isaiah prophesied, 700 years before Jesus ever walked this earth as the carpenter’s son from Nazareth, it’s very plain why they missed him. It’s very plain why WE missed him.
He didn’t have the outward trappings that turn us on.
But what He DID have! So much more, real, better and deeper than all the fleeting glory of man. Better than the shiny stuff that captures our ADD minds for a few brief seconds, before we get distracted and turn away.
I have so much more I want to share with you about this. In fact, my heart is about to burst, I have so much more to say.
But most of you felt your eyes glaze over when you got to that long scripture passage.
So, for now, I’ll save it.
Watch for future updates.
Got any thoughts you’d like to share with me about this?