He grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.
Its roots are the means whereby a plant is nourished, the channel through which its life is derived. No plant can live without a root-system. Equipped with one it may survive in the most unpromising conditions. Isaiah’s words suggest that Jesus himself did not derive his life and strength from outward circumstances. Nor must we. If necessary we must be able to live without the succor of our brethren in Christ. Even with them around us, we live with our fellow members, we do not live by them. The secret source of our life is God alone.
But to live thus “out of a dry ground” means something more. It means that nothing merely circumstantial can destroy us. No drought can wither God’s tender plants. Amid barren, even hostile conditions his children are equipped to be “more than conquerors.” Their life is Christ himself.
Reactionaries are those who respond to the environment around them, often being controlled by their circumstances. For some, even weather determines their moods- bright sunny days find them happy and enthusiastic while cloudy rainy days leave them almost depressed. We all know how a word, a text, a call can change our outlook. There are many who say they are masters of their own destiny and yet they too find themselves being governed by external circumstances. As you read through the psalms, you find that David was often initially deeply affected by his circumstances. You will also discover that by the end of the psalm he had refocused and allowed God to establish his thinking. Most of the Old Testament believers went through seasons of being heavily influenced by their environment. Indeed it is the easiest thing for any human to do. We are all subject to some degree by our surroundings.
However, when Christ came, He established a new way- one by which we become more affected by the internal work of God rather than the external environment. The shift is one of attitude and focus as we submit to the work of the Holy Spirit. When we read of the life of Christ here on earth, we observe that He lived in an ever-changing and often dangerous environment. From His birth- born in a strange town in a stable- for most it would have caused some psychological issues, He rose above it and there’s no indication it affected His spirit. At two years old, He had to flee to Egypt-another country so that He wouldn’t be executed because of Herod’s fear. Can you imagine growing up as a fugitive, hiding for your life? And then even before you was even a teenager, you moved back to the place you and your parents fled. That could really mess someone up.
As an adult He experienced times of adulation followed by times of intense rejection. Often the very people He blessed turned against Him. The disciples who gazed in wonder at Him and promised faithfulness and loyalty, in the heat of adversity abandoned Him. Coming to the earth to redeem humanity, He experienced punishment and death at their hands.
Isaiah writes of the contrast between the internal purpose and the external circumstances:
“For He [the Servant of God] grew up before Him like a tender shoot (plant),And like a root out of dry ground;He has no stately form or majestic splendorThat we would look at Him,Nor [handsome] appearance that we would be attracted to Him. He was despised and rejected by men,A Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief;And like One from whom men hide their facesHe was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him. But [in fact] He has borne our griefs,And He has carried our sorrows and pains;Yet we [ignorantly] assumed that He was stricken,Struck down by God and degraded and humiliated [by Him]. But He was wounded for our transgressions,He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing];The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him,And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray,We have turned, each one, to his own way;But the Lord has caused the wickedness of us all [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]To fall on Him [instead of us]. He was oppressed and He was afflicted,Yet He did not open His mouth [to complain or defend Himself];Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,And like a sheep that is silent before her shearers,So He did not open His mouth. After oppression and judgment He was taken away;And as for His generation [His contemporaries], who [among them] concerned himself with the factThat He was cut off from the land of the living [by His death]For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke [of death] was due? His grave was assigned with the wicked,But He was with a rich man in His death,Because He had done no violence,Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. Yet the Lord was willingTo crush Him, causing Him to suffer;If He would give Himself as a guilt offering [an atonement for sin],He shall see His [spiritual] offspring,He shall prolong His days,And the will (good pleasure) of the Lord shall succeed and prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul,He shall see it and be satisfied;By His knowledge [of what He has accomplished] the Righteous One,My Servant, shall justify the many [making them righteous—upright before God, in right standing with Him],For He shall bear [the responsibility for] their sins. Therefore, I will divide and give Him a portion with the great [kings and rulers],And He shall divide the spoils with the mighty,Because He [willingly] poured out His life to death,And was counted among the transgressors;Yet He Himself bore and took away the sin of many,And interceded [with the Father] for the transgressors.”
One might could say that Christ turned His circumstances into the purposes of His Father. Rather than His external circumstances dictating His outcome, instead they became the very things that brought about His own plans.
Some of us may say that since Christ was God, that to turn the tide so that we aren’t controlled by our circumstances and that God will use everything around us to bring about His will for us, is something that few if any can experience. We would say that our surroundings are powerful influences far beyond our ability to overcome. The norm in our world today seems to be that we blame everyone and everything for our struggles. Unfortunately this is not only true for non-Christians but Christians as well.
But listen to what the apostle Paul had to say about the matter:
“We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be shown in our body. For we who live are constantly [experiencing the threat of] being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be evidenced in our mortal body [which is subject to death]. So physical death is [actively] at work in us, but [spiritual] life [is actively at work] in you. Yet we have the same spirit of faith as he had, who wrote in Scripture, “I believed, therefore I spoke.” We also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and will present us [along] with you in His presence. For all [these] things are for your sake, so that as [God’s remarkable, undeserved] grace reaches to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of [our great] God. Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]! So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable.”
2 Corinthians 4: 8-18
If your environment feels hostile, challenging, scary, or uncertain, if it’s producing anxiety or worry turn your attention toward your Heavenly Father and hold fast to the promise that Paul writes to us in Romans 8:
“In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes [before God] on behalf of God’s people in accordance with God’s will. And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. For those whom He foreknew [and loved and chose beforehand], He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son [and ultimately share in His complete sanctification], so that He would be the firstborn [the most beloved and honored] among many believers. And those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified [declared free of the guilt of sin]; and those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity]. What then shall we say to all these things? If God is for us, who can be [successful] against us? He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect (His chosen ones)? It is God who justifies us [declaring us blameless and putting us in a right relationship with Himself]. Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us. Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Just as it is written and forever remains written,“For Your sake we are put to death all day long;We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us]. For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8: 26-38
In the words of an old hymn:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full into His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Where you look and what you focus your attention upon makes the difference between drowning in your circumstances or walking above them.
I choose to focus on Jesus- the Solid Rock. Hope you do too.
Dr. John Thompson