The beautiful imagery painted within this passage nourishes the deepest parts of my soul; can we not all relate to this message? Let these words settle around you like a comforting, healing embrace and know--not only are you never alone, you are never alone within the shadows and the suffering.
1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 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.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Oh, dear friends . . .can we not identify with every word?
Despised. Rejected. Of sorrows. Familiar with suffering. Like one from whom others hide their faces!
What a paradox; often we are taught that victorious Christian living is marked by peace and happiness. How often do we condemn ourselves for feeling incredible sorrow, depression, and sadness; thinking--if only I were stronger, or a better Christian; then the rejections and hurtful words wouldn't matter. The world has a popular saying. . . Fake it til you make it. While deceptive, how many believers subconsciously promote a form of this? If I read the Bible more, or prayed more, or smiled more, everything would become better, and joy will follow! How often do we apologize for our hormones--it's just PMS . . .these feelings don't matter--forgetting that God created us with wisdom, and that we are not a mistake? I don't say these things to lay burdens upon you, but to illustrate how subtle are the messages of shame which lurk among every facet of our being!
Regardless of the source of your sufferings, dear one, do not discount the things you endure. The God who knows when a sparrow falls also knows the private agonies that tear at your heart. The victorious Son of God, who was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, despised, and rejected, is the same Jesus who said: “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Luke 12, Matthew 10
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
In an admittedly controversial book, written by pastor and psychologist David Seamands entitled "Healing for Damaged Emotions", his chapter The Wounded Healer illuminates this verse in a way that has helped me tremendously throughout my own personal journey. He writes:
[Hebrews 4:14-16 KJV 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.]
If we were to rephrase Hebrews 4:15 to a positive statement, it would read: "For we have a High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities." In the Old Testament, the infirmity is connected with the sacrifices offered by the priests. An infirmity was primarily a physical spot, a blemish. It was a defect or a deformity either in a man or in an animal. If a man had an infirmity, even though he was a member of the priestly family of Aaron, he could not function as a priest. His infirmity disqualified him from entering the holiness of God (Lev. 21:16-24). In the same way, offerings and sacrifices had to be "without spot or blemish." Scores of references in the Book of Leviticus make plain that no infirm animal could be offered to God. Both the offering and offerer had to be free from infirmities.
In the New Testament we begin to see a figurative use of the word infirmity. It is a metaphor, a figure of speech. The common New Testament word for infirmity is sthenos which means "strength." Now when you put the letter a in front of something, that negates it. A theist is one who believes in God; you put an a in front of the word and it becomes athiest, one who does not believe in God. If you put an a in front of sthenos, which means strength, you get the root word for infirmity, asthenia, "a want of strength, a weakness, an infirmity, a crippling."
The word is hardly ever used in a purely physical sense in the New Testament. Rather, it refers to mental, moral, and emotional weaknesses, to lack of strength. Infirmities in themselves are not sins, but they do undermine our resistance to temptation. In the New Testament, infirmities are qualities in human nature which may predispose or incline us to sin, sometimes without any conscious choice on our part.
. . .Because He never sinned, because He never yielded to the temptation . . .He never had to make a sacrifice on His own behalf. But since He was tempted, since He was tested at every point as we are, we have a great High Priest who understands the feeling of our infirmities. If He merely understood the fact of our infirmities, that would be good enough. But I've got better news for you. He even understands the feeling of our infirmities--not just the cripplings, not just the weaknesses, not just the emotional hangups and inner conflicts, but the pain that comes from them. He understands the frustration, the anxiety, the depression,the loneliness and isolation and rejection. He who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities experiences the whole ghastly gamut of emotions which goes along with our weaknesses and our cripplings. [Heb. 5:7,8 NKJV]
. . . Discover what it cost our Savior to be Emmanuel, God with us. Listen to His prayers. Can you hear them, as if for the very first time? He "began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" Matt. 26:37, 38 KJV
. . . If you have battled terrible loneliness, or pathological emptiness, if you have experienced the blackest bouts of depression, if you know that when you are in the pits, the hardest thing to do is pray, because you do not feel God's presence. I want to assure you He knows, He understands, He feels your infirmity. He shares all your feelings because He has been through them.
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 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 her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
I would like to pause briefly and mention a thought upon the lines: "And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living." I am not a Hebrew scholar by any means but I believe that part of the depth of this verse demonstrates another element of sacrifice . . the man Christ Jesus would not know the blessing of marriage and family. His purpose was sacrifice and salvation, but as fully human, it is likely that He could have contemplated the beautiful nature of fatherhood while receiving the little children who yearned to be near Him. I do not mean this concept for anything other than mere conjecture; however it is one more piece of evidence of His obedience.
9 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.
10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul,
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.
1 Peter 3 and 4 reveals a beautiful mystery:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God . . . Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.
. . .Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. . . .Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
Oh my friend, consider the implications of this! We have studied the sufferings of our beloved Christ; although not many of us will experience the torture of the crucifixion, as hurting women we have struggled and suffered through sorrows and rejection and grief. It is my humble belief that to these things Peter admonishes: do not be ashamed! Glorify God, commit your soul to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator! For God's ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Trust Him with your soul . . .the soul that grieves and aches with agony that often has no words.
I know that it can be difficult when well-meaning Christians tell you what you should and should not feel, what you should and should not do; these reproachings sadly do very little to edify and exhort. Often, they further heap shame and condemnation upon the heart of a woman who already feels inadequate as a daughter of God, much less as a human being. Scripture admonishes us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep . . .it does not counsel the weeping to dry their tears.
However, let me testify that the gift His joy and grace is exquisite beyond words!
12 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.
What a beautiful fulfillment of the dreams of God! Moreover, He has perfected us:
. . .there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies:
“ You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”
For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
“ The LORD has sworn and will not relent,
‘ You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’”),
by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.
Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him,
since He always lives to make intercession for them.
For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.
Healing for the broken-hearted
I would like to conclude with the calling of Jesus. I know that my words cannot pretend to assuage the depth of aching and sorrow that you have borne throughout your life, but I pray that you will truly find comforting healing through the nearness of God, through the obedience of the rejected one familiar with suffering.
Isaiah 61“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 brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 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.”
"Come to Me," says the Man of Sorrows, "all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."