is one of the most profound messianic prophecies
because of its list of details that were unquestionably fulfilled in Jesus Christ. One of those details is found in verse 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.”
Isaiah uses the metaphor “a root out of dry ground” to emphasize the unfavorable conditions in which the Messiah would appear and the lack of physical attractiveness He would possess. He would not fit the stereotype of previous Jewish leaders: He was not handsome like David (1 Samuel 16:12) nor tall and imposing like Saul (1 Samuel 9:2). A dry root in the barren ground does not appear to have much of a chance; it doesn’t appear to have life in it at all. However, God can make a dormant bulb produce incredible beauty. That is the point Isaiah is making when he compares the coming Messiah to a root springing out of dry ground.
The Lord came to earth “in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5–8). He did not arrive in a palace or make His appearance among the religious elite. He came without pomp and circumstance; rather, His coming was like the slow growth of an overlooked plant. God sent His Son to a peasant woman (Luke 1—2) in a region of Galilee that was not known for producing greatness (John 1:46). The Son took on the form of a common man in order to identify with us in our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus was largely overlooked by His own people (John 1:11–12), as disregarded as a root out of dry ground. Even when He began His teaching ministry, those who heard Him were perplexed because He was thought to be only the “carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55).
The Jewish nation anticipated a Messiah who would display God’s glory, rally the people, and, by demonstrating of His power, lead them to magnificent victory over the Romans to usher in an age of prosperity and peace. But that’s not what they got. To borrow from Isaiah’s metaphor, the Messiah did not come like a luxurious, well-watered plant, springing from rich and fertile soil; rather, He came like a scrubby, withering plant struggling up from the arid desert sands. Their expectations went unmet. Once they saw Him face to face, the Messiah seemed to them rather stunted and fruitless.
Jesus had not come to be honored and to set up the kingdom. Jesus came to be humbled and to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He had to take care of the sin problem before He could bring people into the kingdom. His own people rejected Him (John 1:11), yet, like so many roots that appear dead and useless, Jesus had life within Him (John 11:25), and He brought new life to everyone who believed in Him (John 14:6). He provided the kind of life people cannot obtain on their own. The “root out of dry ground” proved to be the most beautiful, most glorious, and most life-giving Root. All who abide in Him bear fruit of their own (John 15:1–8).
Isaiah also writes of the Messiah’s future glory: “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10). The root out of dry ground seemed worthless, and they killed Him (Luke 24:20). Yet, when He rose from the dead, He proved that He contained more life than anyone had imagined, and He continues to offer that same life to all who trust in Him (John 3:16–18).
“Stripes,” (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24) in the language of the King James Version of the Bible, and in some others, means “wounds,” as seen in more modern translations such as the New International Version. These stripes were administered by whipping the bare backs of prisoners whose hands and feet were bound, rendering them helpless. The phrase “by His stripes we are healed” refers to the punishment Jesus Christ suffered—floggings and beatings with fists that were followed by His agonizing death on a cross—to take upon Himself all of the sins of all people who believe Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The whips used were made of braided leather, with pottery shards and sharp stones affixed to the ends, which tore open the flesh of the prisoner with each cruel swing of the whip. When we picture this terrible, inhumane form of physical punishment we recoil in horror. Yet the physical pain and agony were not all Jesus suffered. He also had to undergo the mental anguish brought on by the wrath of His Father, who punished Him for the sinfulness of mankind—sin carried out in spite of God’s repeated warnings, sin that Jesus willingly took upon Himself. He paid the total price for all of our transgressions.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter wrote, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.” In Isaiah 53, Jesus’ future life on earth was foretold in the clearest of terms, to include his eventual torture and death: “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 (stripes) we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).
Although these two verses are central to the topic of healing, they are often misunderstood and misapplied. The word “healed” as translated from both Hebrew and Greek, can mean either spiritual or physical healing. However, the contexts of Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2 make it clear that they are referring to spiritual healing, not physical. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). The verse is referring to sin and righteousness, not sickness and disease. Therefore, being “healed” in both these verses is speaking of being forgiven and saved, not being physically healed.
Matthew uses Isaiah 53:5 and speaks of its fulfillment in the context of Jesus’ healing ministry: “Many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases’” (Matthew 8:16–17). Jesus was not actually bearing sin in Matthew 8, but He was bearing some of the consequences of sin; thus, Jesus showed Himself to be the true Messiah prophesied by Isaiah. In healing the multitudes of their physical ailments, Jesus proved His power to also heal them of their spiritual ailments (cf. Mark 2:8–12). Matthew finds in Jesus’ healing miracles a foretaste of Jesus’ atonement for sin: the bearing of the diseases was emblematic of the removal of sin. The ultimate cause of sickness, the sin of the world, would be borne later on the cross, and our ultimate physical healing, with resurrection, will come at the end (1 Corinthians 15:42).
In Isaiah 61:1, the prophet announced the good news of God’s restoration for the people of Israel: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).
Seven centuries later, Jesus Christ began His public ministry in the synagogue of Nazareth by opening up the scroll of Isaiah and applying this passage to Himself (Luke 4:18–21). “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” Jesus concluded, identifying Himself as the anointed Servant-King who would announce “the good news” of salvation and bind up the brokenhearted.
The “brokenhearted” are people who are weakened, crushed, or destroyed in spirit. The term describes those who feel spiritually bankrupted, needy, and helpless. They yearn for the Lord’s help, comfort, and salvation. The verb translated “bind up” in the original language means “to inspire with confidence, give hope and courage to, to encourage, to bandage, to dress by covering, wrapping, or binding.”
Both in Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18, the focus of the message of good news is spiritual restoration and healing. As a physician would “bind up” or bandage a wounded arm, so the Messiah would bandage a wounded spirit. Brokenhearted people—the spiritually ruined—are in the right condition to be met and saved by God (Psalm 51:17). David says in Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Jesus Christ brought the good news of salvation to the poor, the needy, and the spiritually barren, that is, all who were corrupted by sin. Before salvation, sin separated us from God (Ephesians 2:1–3). Without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we were all destined for death (Romans 6:23; 7:5). But Jesus came to set us free from the power of death and the fear of death (Romans 8:1–2; Hebrews 2:14–15). The corruption of sin that had left us spiritually crushed was overcome by the work of Christ on Calvary (Romans 4:25).
Christ’s redeeming sacrifice opens the way for us to experience His glorious resurrection life (Romans 6:8). Accepting His salvation is our greatest spiritual need, and that is why it is such good news: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). We were all brokenhearted, helpless, and separated from God before we received Christ’s gift of salvation. But now we have peace with God (Romans 5:1–2). Now we have fulness of joy (Psalm 16:11; Isaiah 35:10; Acts 13:52; John 15:11).
How does Jesus bind up the brokenhearted? The Bible explains, “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed” (1 Peter 2:24, NLT).
Christ understands what it means to be brokenhearted: “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” (Isaiah 53:3–5).
Some of us are brokenhearted because we’ve fallen back into sin. Maybe we’ve regressed in our Christian walk, we’ve compromised our stand, or we’ve allowed our hearts to grow cold and indifferent. The solution is to return to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness (Hosea 14:1–2). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
In Psalm 51, David sought the Lord’s forgiveness after He had sinned with Bathsheba. He felt broken, crushed, unclean, and in need of renewal from within. He longed for God to purge him thoroughly: “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you” (Psalm 51:7–12, NLT).
David understood that no earthly sacrifice could atone for His sin: “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:16–17, NLT).
Only God’s unfailing love and compassion could save David. The only thing he had to offer God was a broken, humble heart—but that was enough. God will not reject us when we come to Him in brokenhearted repentance.
Jesus Christ knows our troubles, temptations, and sorrows (Hebrews 4:15). He experienced them throughout His life and His death on the cross. Yesterday, today, and forever, our brokenhearted Savior is the healer of spiritually bankrupt sinners. He meets the deepest needs of broken people—He covers their sins (John 3:16; 1 John 1:9, Colossians 1:14); He gives them hope, courage, and abundant, eternal life (John 10:10; 17:3; Romans 8:23–24; 15:13; 1 John 2:25). “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).