"Just as many were appalled at you" ....... Isaiah 52:14a
Following the beginning of the servant song summation that the Servant of the Lord would act wisely be raised, lifted up and highly exalted, the prophet switches gears and gives us a shocking introduction "Just as many were appalled at you..." This is a very curious statement, lets break it down a little.
So who is speaking here and who is the "you" in the verse? Well, in the greater context of the chapters before and after its clear this is the LORD speaking, but who is the YOU? Who is the LORD speaking too? Well, it seems that the best answer is that He is speaking to the prophet Isaiah. Some might say that He is speaking to corporate Israel. But what fits the best here? Well, what has happened to corporate Israel in this point in history that would be a preface to the sufferings of the Messiah? Israel had not been exiled yet; sure she had many moments of suffering or grief but what would cause those who witnessed the event to be appalled? Maybe I am missing something but nothing is coming to mind...
This is why I feel like the prophet Isaiah is a better fit. Here is why...
2 during that time the Lord had spoken through Isaiah son of Amoz, saying, "Go, take off your sackcloth and remove the sandals from your feet," and he did so, going naked and barefoot- 3 the Lord said, "As My servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and omen against Egypt and Cush, Isaiah 20:2-3Isaiah years before was commanded to walk around naked and barefoot before the eyes of Israel as a shocking prophetic statement of their soon exile. This act in the Jewish culture was shocking and certainly an appalling act. Isaiah is portraying the socking shame of exile. This is a warning that the circumcised Jews would have to go naked before the uncircumcised gentile invaders which would have evoked unbelievable ridicule and mockery from the Assyrians about the "look" of the Jewish circumcision. Believe it or not this type of ridicule happened much in Israels history especially from the Romans. Apart from un-necessary details the main point here is a warning of the most shameful possible event imaginable. There could be nothing worse in the Jewish mind then loosing the promise land and going into exile naked. At first glance it would seem that Isaiah is portraying Egyptians and Ethiopians going into exile but the overall context is Jews who flee to these nations for help will also go naked into exile just as they do... those who trust in other nations to save them instead of trusting in the LORD will be put to shame. (Remember the Book of Isaiah is written to the Jews not to Egypt and Cush).
So what is the significance of this verse... "Just as many were appalled at you"? Basically, the Lord is telling the prophet to recall a historic example from Isaiah's life. He is calling Him to recall how He walked naked as if going into exile as a preface to the sufferings of the Messiah.
Isaiah, by doing this prophetic act of going into exile naked was actually participating in the sufferings of the Messiah. All prophetic lives will either foreshadow the coming of Messiah or be a witness of His life lived. King David is a perfect example of a man who also partook in the sufferings of Christ 1000 years before His life... this is portrayed all through the Psalms.
It is as if the LORD is saying to Isaiah, "Isaiah, Remember when I told you to go naked and barefoot to bear the reproach of a coming exile? Remember how horrible that was for you? Remember how you felt when the people scorned and mocked you? Remember the looks on peoples faces as they saw you? Remember the shame you felt? Remember the shock and horror that was in the heart of Israel when you did that? ... Isaiah that's a good starting point of meditation for you, that's a real life example that you went through to give you a grid for what will happen to the Messiah!!!"
During Roman crucifixions it was customary for the soldiers to crucify the individual stark naked to increase the horror and shame of the punishment. Now, no one really knows if Jesus was crucified naked but what we can be sure of is that whatever covering (if any) would have been more shameful than we can possibly imagine in the context of a culture that would never ever show skin in public. Some hold to the roman customs that Jesus must have been crucified naked - and I think there is good chance that He was. And there is good argument that since it was so close to the city and to keep people ceremonially clean for the Passover that the Jewish authorities would have persuaded the soldiers to let Jesus keep a small rap around His genitals. Either way it is a horrific thing to even discuss and even writing about it makes me sick to my stomach.
But I think that Isaiah going naked "into exile" was a prophetic act to foreshadow the Messiah "going into exile". Exile ending in eternal punishment was framed up from the Torah and the Prophets as the chief punishment for the astray children of Israel. So here we see the the sufferings of Christ are first framed up typologically as Isaiah's naked and barefoot journey. Its notable that Isaiah went naked for 3 years the same time as Christs ministry. Jesus took the wrath that we deserve naked on a roman cross for all to see bearing our shame and spent a 3 day exile in hell away from fellowship with the Father so that we might be saved. I think about the shame of every prostitute and every sexually exploited individual in history that Jesus is identifying with and bearing their shame.
Just as many were appalled at you Isaiah so will the Messiah"s final march to Golgotha be that appalling and more....... Just as many were appalled at you.... Just as many were appalled at you.... (Oh the memories in Isaiah's mind this would have evoked) This is so horrific to ponder; may our meditations always be framed up in the prayer .... "this is how much you love me; this is what you were willing to do for me!!!!"
Jesus how low you came so that I might be saved!!!!!!