The Mystery Man of Isaiah

The Man and the Message

Ashes is an apt description of so much of life – dreams and hopes that have been burnt to cinders through war, collapse of business, unfaithfulness, illness, or any one of a possible hundred other causes. Every day men and women feed their souls on the ashes of what used to be, and they cry within the wreckage of a life.

To the casual observer such men and women may seem happy, even successful, but when they look in the mirror they see themselves as the Old Testament sufferer called Job. It is recorded in the book bearing his name that he felt that life, his life, had been reduced to dust and ashes. He, in his ignorance of the cause of his calamity, accused God. How this can be a mirror of our own, even if unspoken, thought of God!

"And now my soul is poured out because of my plight; the days of affliction take hold of me. My bones are pierced in me at night, and my gnawing pains take no rest. By great force my garment is disfigured; it binds me about as the collar of my coat. He has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes" (Job 30:16-19).

What can the Mystery Man, revealed by Isaiah as the Servant, do for such ash-covered, ash-eating, ash-obsessed people? Would they listen? Would they simply say, "How would you know? What ashes have you experienced?" But when He showed them His hands and His body, and they beheld the marks of His Passover Lamb experience, then they might at least be willing to listen to His message.

What the Servant has to say is highlighted by the prophet Isaiah in a passage of Scripture that must rank as one of the most glorious promises of transforming power in all writings. It is not sentimental; it isn't simply sympathetic understanding; it is dynamic. It is a declaration of intent. It is a revelation of His ministry. It is an invitation to newness.

"The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God;

"to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified" (61:1-3).

How is this possible? Only God can weave a beautiful creation out of the fine powdery residue of flame-engulfed purity, and hearts and minds burnt out by sin and grief.

The opening statement under consideration says exactly that. It is by the Spirit of the Lord God. The Eternal, Sovereign God has in a special way bestowed not only in the casual sense, but in the permanent sense, His Spirit to His Servant, and this statement is the third use of the term in association with Isaiah's Mystery Man.

In chapter 11:2 this promise is first mentioned. There it embraces His approach to and understanding of people: "The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD."

In Chapter 42:1-3 we have insight into His concern for the Gentiles and the vulnerable and fragile. The Spirit of God expresses Himself with compassion: "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold . . . He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles . . . A bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench . . . He will bring forth justice for truth . . . till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait for his law."

So now in chapter 61 we see a deeper dimension to His work. From out of His identification as the Passover Lamb, and His prevailing over death and judgement, the Servant is able to stand and declare a new and living hope.

When we read this whole Scripture passage we realize that it has special significance to Israel, which is not to deny His redeeming grace to the Gentiles, as Isaiah 42 quoted above and other Scriptures highlight. However, in a unique way, this message is an overture of mercy for the Nation from which the Servant has sprung.

This may have arisen from their need to be assured that God's promise to them through Abraham, Moses and David had not been cancelled out because of events described in Isaiah 52 and 53. For the Nation had brutalized the Servant and made Him the scapegoat for their evil, and that being so, how indescribably beautiful is this message to them as a Nation?

Whether taken literally or spiritually the implications are life-transforming. Actually, both dimensions apply, especially to the Nation in a time to come. It will be the fulfilment of what is pictured throughout the prophets as the Kigdom of God impacting the earth.

However, lest Jewish people or Gentiles want to play fast and loose with the mercy of God and His Messenger, there is a strong warning given. There is a "day of vengeance of our God" coming. So to spurn the Message and the Messenger, for they are inseparable, is to insult God, and insinuate that He has no authority over mankind.

Such can never be the case, and such thinking can never be tolerated. With Almighty God vengeance is not vindictive; it is judicial. Isaiah does not leave us guessing as to the outworking of the "day of vengeance." In our final insight into the Mystery Man we will behold Him as the Warrior of God, and that aspect is to be found in Isaiah chapter 63.