Isaiah 53 is one of the most famous Messianic texts in the Old Testament. I'm going to write in these final days leading up to Easter from these Messianic texts. They are not just for Christmas time! So I'm going to do a close reading of Isaiah 53, meaning I may do one verse in one post and stay in the chapter through many posts.
Let's start with the situation. We don't know whether Isaiah 53 was written before, during, or after the exile in Babylon, but we are pretty sure the people being addressed and this rhetorical question being asked in 53:1 is people in exile or returning from exile in Babylon and coming back to Israel to rebuild the city destroyed by the superpowers of the day.
God had disciplined Israel and Judah. They had been in exile 70 years, a lifetime. Now they were starting over.
But it was important for them to start preparing for a future kingdom. While most of Isaiah is about the very times in the 700s and 600s B.C., it's very clear that texts such as Isaiah 53 really are about the coming Messiah centuries later. The New Testament writers often used these texts as proof of the Messiah, showing how uncanny were the resemblances. For example, look at both Isaiah 53:9 and John 8:46, the claim of sinlessness of Jesus.
OK, so back to this rhetorical question: Who could believe it?
Lord, like the exiles who came back from Babylon and couldn't believe they would be part of the new wave of preparation for the coming Messiah. They would be the preparers for this coming, but it's hard to believe. It's hard to believe we are the continuers of the Messianic kingdom Jesus initiated when he came, that he will consummate when he comes back. We live in between times! We live between the already of God's coming in Christ and the return to restore all things for good. Give us new eyes to see what we often find difficult to believe.
Fast from abhoring history as repugnant because of the strangeness. Dig deeper in learning God's version. We've been socialized into America's version of history, and it's a short one. Many of us have been raised in a history-less church tradition, that claims we have no history other than the AD 33 beginning of the church, no traditions, no human error, just pure Christianity. It's not true. Fast from living so much in the present and future that you refuse to understand the past that is God's story just as much as today is God's story.
How does living between the times, between God's already work and his not yet coming and restoring all creation affect how we live and give to the poor, the mistreated, the broken-hearted?