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THE PASSIONAL, OR THE GREAT PROPHECY OF THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, AND OF HIS LATER EXALTATION. Polycarp the Lysian calls this chapter "the golden passional of the Old Testament evangelist." Delitzsch says of it, "It is the centre of this wonderful book of consolation (ch. 40-66), and is the most central, the deepest, and the loftiest thing that the Old Testament prophecy, outstripping itself, has ever achieved". Mr. Urwick remarks on it, "Here we seem to enter the holy of holies of Old Testament prophecy—that sacred chamber wherein are pictured and foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow".
The Messianic interpretation of the chapter was universally acknowledged by the Jews until the time of Aben Ezra. It was also assumed as indisputable by the Christian Fathers. Almost all Christian expositors down to the commencement of the nineteenth century took the same view. It was only under the pressure of the Christian controversy that the later Jews abandoned the traditional interpretation, and applied the prophecy
(1) to Jeremiah;
(2) to Josiah;
(3) to the people of Israel.
In the present century a certain number of Christian commentators have adopted one or other of the late Jewish theories, either absolutely or with modifications. It is impossible to examine and refute their arguments here. We must be content to repeat what was urged in the introductory paragraph to Jeremiah 42:1-24.42.22; namely:
(1) that the portraiture of "the Servant of the Lord" in this place has so strong an individuality and such marked personal features that it cannot possibly be a mere personified collective—whether Israel, or faithful Israel, or ideal Israel, or the collective body of the prophets; and
(2) that it goes so infinitely beyond anything of which a mere man was ever capable, that it can only refer to the unique Man—the God-Man—Christ. It is, moreover, applied directly to Christ in Matthew 8:17; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37; John 12:37, John 12:38; Acts 8:32, Acts 8:33; Romans 10:16; and 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 2:25. The Messianic interpretation is maintained, among moderns, by Hengstenberg, Keil, Umbreit, (Ehler, Delitzsch, Kay, Cheyne, Henderson, Alexander, Urwick, and others.
Who hath believed? Isaiah felt that he spoke, mainly, to unbelieving ears (see above, Isaiah 28:9-23.28.15; Isaiah 29:10-23.29.15; Isaiah 30:9-23.30.11; Isaiah 42:23, etc.). The unbelief was likely to be intensified when so marvellous a prophecy was delivered as that which he was now commissioned to put forth. Still, of course, there is rhetorical exaggeration in the question, which seems to imply that no one would believe. Our report; literally, that which has been heard by us. But the word is used technically for a prophetic revelation (see Isaiah 28:9, Isaiah 28:19; Jeremiah 49:14). Here it would seem to refer especially to the Messianic prophecies delivered by Isaiah. To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? The "arm of the Lord," which has been "made bare in the eyes of all the nations" (Isaiah 52:10), yet requires the eye of faith to see it. Many Jews would not see the working of God's providence in the victories of Cyrus, or in the decision to which he came to restore the Jews to their own country. Unbelief can always assign the most plainly providential arrangements to happy accident.
For he shall grow up; rather, now he grew up. The verbs are, all of them, in the past, or completed tense, until Isaiah 53:7, and are to be regarded as "perfects of prophetic certitude." As Mr. Cheyne remarks, "All has been finished before the foundations of the world in the Divine counsels." Before him; i.e. "before Jehovah"—under the fostering care of Jehovah (comp. Luke 2:40, Luke 2:52). God the Father had his eye ever fixed upon the Son with watchfulness and tenderness and love. As a tender plant; literally, as a sapling, or as a sucker (comp. Job 8:16; Job 14:7; Job 15:30; Psalms 80:12; Ezekiel 17:4, Ezekiel 17:22; Hosea 14:6). The "branch" of Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 11:10—a different word—has nearly the same meaning. The Messiah will be a fresh sprout from the stump of a tree that has been felled; i.e. from the destroyed Davidic monarchy. As a root (so Isaiah 11:10; Revelation 5:5). The "sapling" from the house of David shall become the "root" out of which his Church will grow (comp. John 15:1-43.15.6). Out of a dry ground. Either out of the "dry ground" of a corrupt age and nation, or out of the arid soil of humanity. In the East it is not unusual to see a tall succulent plant growing from a soft which seems utterly devoid of moisture. Such plants have roots that strike deep, and draw their nourishment from a hidden source. He hath no form nor comeliness; rather, he had no form nor majesty. It is scarcely the prophet's intention to describe the personal appearance of our Lord. What he means is that "the Servant" would have no splendid surroundings, no regal pomp nor splendour—nothing about him to attract men's eyes, or make them think him anything extraordinary. It is impossible to suppose that there was not in his appearance something of winning grace and quiet majesty. but it was of a kind that was not adapted to draw the gaze of the multitude. And when we shall see him. Some connect this clause with the preceding, and translate, "He hath no form nor comeliness, that we should regard him; no beauty, that we should desire him" (Lowth, Vitringa, Gesenius, Ewald, Knobel, Henderson, Urwick. But Stier, Delitzsch, Kay, and Mr. Cheyne prefer the construction found in the Authorized Version). No beauty; literally, no sightliness; i.e. nothing to attract the eye or arrest it. The spiritual beauties of holy and sweet expression and majestic calm could only have ben spiritually discerned.
He is despised; rather, was despised (comp. Isaiah 49:7 and Psalms 22:6). Men's contempt was shown, partly in the little attention which they paid to his teaching, partly in their treatment of him on the night and day before the Crucifixion. Rejected of men; rather, perhaps, forsaken of men—"one from whom men held themselves aloof" (Cheyne); comp. Job 19:14. Our Lord had at no time more than a "little flock" attached to him. Of these, after a time, "many went back, and walked no more with him" (John 6:66). Some, who believed on him, would only come to him by night (John 3:2). All the "rulers" and great men held aloof from him (John 7:48). At the end, even his apostles "forsook him, and fled" (Matthew 26:56). A Man of sorrows. The word translated "sorrows" means also pains of any kind. But the beautiful rendering of our version may well stand, since there are many places where the word used certainly means "sorrow" and nothing else (see Exodus 3:7; 2 Chronicles 6:29; Psalms 32:10; Psalms 38:17; Ecclesiastes 1:18; Jeremiah 30:15; Jeremiah 45:3; Lamentations 1:12, Lamentations 1:18, etc.). Aquila well translates, ἄνδρα ἀλγηδόνων The "sorrows" of Jesus appear on every page of the Gospels. Acquainted with grief; literally, with sickness; but as aeger and aegritudo are applied in Latin both to the mind and to the body, so kholi, the word here used, would seem to be in Hebrew (see Jeremiah 6:7; Jeremiah 10:19).The translation of the Authorized Version may therefore be retained. We hid as it were our faces from him; literally, and there was as it were the hiding of the face from him. Some suppose the hiding of God's face to be intended; but the context, which describes the treatment of the Servant by his fellow-men, makes the meaning given in our version far preferable. Men turned their faces from him when they met him, would not see him, would not recognize him (comp. Job 19:13-18.19.17; Job 30:10). Despised. A repetition very characteristic of Isaiah (see Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 6:11; Isaiah 14:25; Isaiah 15:8; Isaiah 17:12, Isaiah 17:13, etc.).
Surely he hath borne our griefs; or, surely they were our griefs which he bore. The pronouns are emphatic. Having set forth at length the fact of the Servant's humiliation (Isaiah 53:2, Isaiah 53:3), the prophet hastens to declare the reason of it. Twelve times over within the space of nine verses he asserts. with the most emphatic reiteration, that all the Servant's sufferings were vicarious, borne for him, to save him from the consequences of his sins, to enable him to escape punishment. The doctrine thus taught in the Old Testament is set forth! with equal distinctness in the New (Matthew 20:28; John 11:50-43.11.52; Romans 3:25; Romans 5:6-45.5.8; Rom 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:18-47.5.21; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 2:24, etc.), and forms the hope, the trust, and the consolation of Christians. and carried our sorrows. The application which St. Matthew makes of this passage to our Lord's miracles of healing (Matthew 8:17) is certainly not the primary sense of the words, but may be regarded as a secondary application of them. Christ's sufferings were the remedy for all the ills that flesh is heir to. Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God. They who saw Christ suffer, instead of understanding that he was bearing the sins of others in a mediatorial capacity, imagined that he was suffering at God's hands for his own sins. Hence they scoffed at him and reviled him, even in his greatest agonies (Matthew 27:39-40.27.44). To one only, and him not one of God's people, was it given to see the contrary, and to declare aloud, at the moment of the death, "Certainly this was a righteous Man" (Luke 23:47).
But he was wounded for our transgressions. This verse contains four asseverations of the great truth that all Christ's sufferings were for us, and constituted the atonement for our sins. The form is varied, but the truth is one. Christ was "wounded" or "pierced"
(1) by the thorns;
(2) by the nails; and
(3) by the spear of the soldier.
The wounds inflicted by the nails caused his death, He was bruised; or, crushed (comp. Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 19:10; Isaiah 57:15.Psalms 72:4; Psalms 72:4). "No stronger expression could be found in Hebrew to denote severity of suffering—suffering unto death" (Urwick). The chastisement of our peace was upon him; i.e. "the chastisement which brought us peace," which put a stop to the enmity between fallen man and an offended God—which made them once more at one (comp. Ephesians 2:15-49.2.17, "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the Law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off;" Colossians 1:20, "Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself"). With his stripes we are healed; rather, we were healed. Besides the blows inflicted on him with the hand (Matthew 26:27) and with the reed (Matthew 27:30), our Lord was judicially scourged (Matthew 27:26). Such scourging would leave the "stripe-marks" which are here spoken of.
All we like sheep have gone astray. "All we" means either the whole nation of Israel, which "went astray" in the wilderness of sin (Psalms 107:4; Psalms 119:176; Ezekiel 34:6), or else the whole race of mankind, which had wandered from the right path, and needed atonement and redemption even mere than Israel itself We have turned every one to his own way. Collectively and individually, the whole world had sinned. There was "none that did good" absolutely—"no, not one" (Psalms 14:3). All had quitted "the way of the Lord" (Isaiah 40:3) to walk in their "own ways" (Isaiah 66:3). The Lord hath laid on him; literally, the Lord caused to light upon him. God the Father, as the primary Disposer of all things, lays upon the Son the burden, which the Son voluntarily accepts. He comes into the world to do the Father's will. He prays to the Father, "Let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39). So St. John says that the Father "sent the Son to be the Propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). And St. Paul tells us that God (the Father) "made him to be sin for us who knew no sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21). It does not lessen the Son's exceeding mercy and loving-kindness in accepting the burden, that it was laid upon him by the Father. The iniquity of us all (compare the initial "All we"). The redemption is as universal as the sin, at any rate potentially. Christ on the cross made "a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice … for the sins of the whole world."
He was oppressed. As Israel under the Egyptian taskmasters (Exodus 3:7). The cruel ill usage in the high priest's house, and before Herod is, perhaps, specially pointed at. He was afflicted; rather, he abased himself (comp. Isaiah 31:4 and Exodus 10:3). The position of the emphatic pronoun (hu') between the first participle and the second detaches the second clause from the first and conjoins it with the third. Otherwise the rendering of the Authorized Version might stand. Translate, He was oppressed, but he abased himself and opened not his mouth. The silence of Jesus before his judges (Matthew 26:22, Matthew 26:23; Matthew 27:14), when he could so easily have vindicated himself from every charge, was a self-abasement. It seemed like an admission of guilt. He opened not his mouth (comp. Psalms 38:13, Psalms 38:14; Psalms 39:2, Psalms 39:9). The contrast of the Servant's silence and passivity with men's ordinary vehemence of self-assertion under ill usage is most striking. Who was ever silent but he under such extremity of provocation? He is brought as a lamb; rather, as the lamb. The Paschal lamb is, perhaps, intended, or, at any rate, the lamb of sacrifice. The prophet has often seen the dumb, innocent lamb led in silence to the altar, to be slain there, and thinks of that touching sight. It was probably the use of this imagery here which caused the Baptist to term our Lord "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). As a sheep before her shearers. A second image, a reflex of the first, somewhat weaker, as so often in Isaiah (Isaiah 1:22, Isaiah 1:30; Isaiah 5:18, Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 10:24, Isaiah 10:27, Isaiah 10:34; Isaiah 11:8; Isaiah 13:14; Isaiah 24:13; Isaiah 25:7, etc.).
He was taken from prison and from judgment; rather, by oppression and a judgment was he taken away; i.e. (us Dr. Kay says) "by a violence which cloaked itself under the formalities of a legal process." The Septuagint Version, which is quoted by Philip the deacon in the Acts (Isa 8:1-22 :33), must have been derived from quite a different text. It preserves, however, the right rendering of the verb, "was he taken away," i.e. removed from the earth. Who shall declare his generation? literally, his generation who considereth? The meaning is obscure. Dr. Kay understands by "his generation," his lifetime or his life, comparing Isaiah 38:12, "Mine age is departed," where the same word is used and accompanied by a pronominal suffix. Mr. Urwick suggests that it includes
(1) his origin;
(2) his earthly life; and
(3) his everlasting reign in heaven.
Others (Delitzsch, Gesenius, Cheyne) take "his generation'' to mean "the men of his generation," and join the clause with what follows: "As for those of his generation, which of them considered that he was cut off," etc.? He was cut off; i.e. taken away before his time, cut down like a flower (comp. Job 14:2; Lamentations 3:54; Ezekiel 37:11). The land of the living. The present world, the earth (see Isaiah 38:11; and comp. Job 28:13; Psalms 27:13; Psalms 52:5; Psalms 116:9; Psalms 142:1-19.142.7 Psalms 142:2; Jeremiah 11:19). For the transgression of my people was he stricken. The sentiment is the same as in Isaiah 38:5, but with the difference that there it was suffering only, here it is death itself, which the Servant endures for man. "My people" may be either "God's people" or "the prophet's people," according as the speaker is regarded as Isaiah or Jehovah. Jehovah certainly becomes the Speaker in verses 11, 12.
And he made his grave with the wicked; rather, they assigned him his grave with the wicked. The verb is used impersonally. Those who condemned Christ to be crucified with two malefactors on the common execution-ground—"the place of a skull"—meant his grave to be "with the wicked," with whom it would naturally have been but for the interference of Joseph of Arimathaea. Crucified persons were buried with their crosses near the scene of their crucifixion by the Romans. And with the rich in his death; or, and (he was) with a rich one after his death. In the preceding clause, the word translated "the wicked" is plural, but in the present, the word translated "the rich" is singular. The expression translated "in his death" means "when he was dead," "after death". The words have a singularly exact fulfilment in the interment of our Lord (Matthew 27:57-40.27.60). Because. The preposition used may mean either "because" or "although." The ambiguity is, perhaps, intentional. He had done no violence; or, no wrong (see Genesis 16:5; 1 Chronicles 12:17; Job 19:7; Psalms 35:11 (margin); Proverbs 26:6). The LXX. give ἀνομία while St. Peter renders the word used by ἀμαρτία (1 Peter 2:22). The sinlessness of Christ is asserted by himself (John 8:46), and forms the main argument in the Epistle to the Hebrews for the superiority of the new covenant over the old (Hebrews 7:26-58.7.28; Hebrews 9:14). It is also witnessed to by St. Peter (1 Peter 2:22), by St. Paul (2 Corinthians 5:21), and by St. John (1 John 3:5). As no other man was ever without sin, it follows that the Servant of the present chapter must be Jesus.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him (see the comment on Isaiah 53:6, ad fin.). The sufferings of Christ, proceeding from the "determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23), and being permitted by him; were in some sort his doing. It "pleased him," moreover, that they should be undergone, for he saw with satisfaction the Son's self-sacrifice, and he witnessed with joy man's redemption and deliverance effected thereby. He hath put him to grief; rather, he dealt grievously—a sort of hendiadys. "He bruised him with a grievous bruising." When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin. It is proposed (Ewald, Cheyne), by the alteration of a letter, to make the passage run thus: "When he shall make his soul an offering," etc; and argued that "he who offers the Servant's life as a sacrifice must be the Servant himself, and not Jehovah" (Cheyne). No doubt the Servant did offer his own life (see Matthew 20:28," He gave his soul a ransom for many"); but that fact does not preclude the possibility of the Father having also offered it. "Believest thou not," said our Lord to Philip, "that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14:10). This perienchoresis, as the ancient theologians called it, makes it possible to predicate of the Father almost all the actions which can be predicated of the Son—all, in fact, excepting those which belong to the Son's humanity, or which involve obedience and subordination. As the Father had "laid on Christ the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6), as he had "bruised him and put him to grief," so he might be said to have "made his soul an offering for sin." All was settled in the Divine counsels from all eternity, and when the ideal became the actual, God the Father wrought with God the Son to effectuate it. "Offerings for sin," or "guilt offerings," were distinct from "sin offerings." The object of the former was "satisfaction," of the latter "expiation." The Servant of Jehovah was, however, to be both. "As in Isaiah 53:5 the Divine Servant is represented as a Sin Offering, his death being an expiation, so hero he is described as a Guilt Offering, his death being a satisfaction ". He shall see his seed. The "seed" of a teacher of religion are his disciples. St. Paul speaks of Onesimus as one whom he had "begotten in his bends" (Philemon 1:10). He calls himself by implication the "father" of his Corinthian converts (1 Corinthians 4:15). Both he and St. John address their disciples as "little children" (Galatians 4:19; 1 John 2:1, John 2:18, John 2:25; John 3:7, John 3:18; John 4:4; John 5:21). It had long previously been promised that "a seed should serve" Messiah (Psalms 22:30). Our Lord himself occasionally called his disciples his "children" (Mark 10:24; John 21:4). He has always "seen his seed" in his true followers. He shall prolong his days. A seeming contradiction to the statement (verse 8) that he should be "cut off" out of the land of the living; and the more surprising because his death is made the condition of this long life: "When thou shalt make his soul an offering [or, 'sacrifice'] for sin," then "he shall prolong his days." But the resurrection of Christ, and his entrance upon an immortal life (Romans 6:9), after offering himself as a Sacrifice upon the cross, exactly meets the difficulty and solves the riddle (comp. Revelation 1:18). The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. "In his hand" means "by his instrumentality." The "pleasure of the Lord" is God's ultimate aim and end with respect to his universe. This would "prosper"—i.e. be advanced, wrought out, rendered effectual—by the instrumentality of Christ. "Taking the verse as a whole, it sets forth
(1) the origin,
(2) the nature, and
(3) the result of the Saviour's sufferings.
Taking the last clause by itself, we have
(1) the Divine complacency in the purpose of human salvation; and
(2) the successful issue of that purpose as administered by the Messiah".
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; rather, because of the travail of his soul he shall see, and be satisfied (comp. Philippians 2:7-50.2.11, "He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a Name which is above every name: that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"). No cross—no crown. First, suffering, then glory. Because Christ suffered, and was bruised, and put to grief, and made a sacrifice for sin; because of all this "travail of his soul,"—therefore it was given him to see the happy results of his sufferings—the formation of that Church which will live with him for ever in heaven (Revelation 7:4-66.7.17), and therewith to be "satisfied." By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; i.e. "by his knowledge of the Divine counsels and purpose, which he will impart to his disciples, shall my righteous Servant justify many" (literally, the many), or, in other words, "turn them from sin to righteousness" (comp. Daniel 12:3). Nothing is so effectual in turning men to righteousness as teaching them the true knowledge of God—his nature, his purposes with regard to them, his feelings towards them. Christ, from his own knowledge, gave men this knowledge, and so did all that could be done to draw them to his Father. And his efforts were not without result. The fruit of his teaching has been the justification of many—ay, of "the many," as both Isaiah and St. Paul (Romans 5:19) testify. For he shall bear their iniquities; rather, and their iniquities he himself shall bear. The initial part of the clause is not "causal," but merely connective. There are two main things which Christ does for his people—he makes them righteous by infusing into them of his own righteousness; and he bears the burden of their iniquities, taking them upon himself, ,and by his perpetual intercession obtaining God's forgiveness of them. As Delitzsch says, "His continued taking of our trespasses upon himself is merely the constant presence and presentation of his atonement, which has been offered once for all. The dead yet living One, because of his one self-sacrifice, is an eternal Priest, who now lives to distribute the blessings which he has acquired".
Therefore (see the comment on Isaiah 53:11, sub init.). Will I divide him a portion with the great; i.e. "I will place him among the great conquering ones of the earth"—an accommodation to human modes of thought analogous to the frequent comparison of Christ's kingdom with the kingdoms of the earth (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:9-27.7.14. etc.). The apostle goes deeper into the true nature of things when he says, "Therefore also hath God highly exalted him, and given him a Name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9). He shall divide the spoil with the strong. A repetition of the thought in the preceding clause (comp. Proverbs 16:19). Because he hath poured out his soul unto death. Christ not only died for man, but, as it were, "poured out his soul" with his own hand to the last drop. The expression emphasizes the duration and the voluntariness of Messiah's sufferings. And he was numbered with the transgressors; rather, and he was reckoned with transgressors (see Luke 22:37, Μετὰ ἀνόμων ἐλογίσθη where our Lord applies the words to himself). Christ was condemned as a "blasphemer" (Matthew 26:65), crucified with malefactors (Luke 23:32), called "that deceiver" (Matthew 27:63), and regarded generally by the Jews as accursed (Deuteronomy 21:23). And he bare the sin of many; rather, and himself bare the sin of many (compare the last clauses of Isaiah 53:6 and Isaiah 53:11; and see also Hebrews 9:27). And made intercession for the transgressors. The future is used, with van conversive, instead of the preterite, to mark that the act, though begun in the past, is inchoate only, and not completed. The "intercession for transgressors" was begun upon the cross with the compassionate words, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). But it has continued ever since, and will continue until the last day (see Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).
The sufferings of Jesus.
It is the great object of Isaiah, in this chapter, to declare to his countrymen
(1) that the Messiah would be a suffering Messiah;
(2) that his sufferings would be vicarious; and
(3) that they would have a propitiatory or atoning character.
I. THE MESSIAH A SUFFERING MESSIAH. Hitherto Isaiah had looked upon the promised Redeemer on the side of his glories and his triumphs. His names were to be "Immanuel," or "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14), "Wonderful," "Counsellor," "The Mighty God," "The Everlasting Father," "The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). "Of the increase of his government and peace there was to be no end, upon the throne of David, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever" (Isaiah 9:7). "The Spirit of the Lord was to be upon him … and with righteousness was he to judge the poor, and to reprove with equity for the meek of the earth, and to smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips to slay the wicked" (Isaiah 11:2-23.11.4). He was to "bring forth judgment to the Gentiles" (Isaiah 42:1); he was not to "fail nor be discouraged" (Isaiah 42:4); he was to be "upheld ever by God's hand" (Isaiah 42:6); "the isles were to wait for his Law" (Isaiah 42:4). But now the prophet has to speak in another strain. Psalms probably written before his time (as Psalms 2:1-19.2.12; Psalms 22:1-19.22.31; Psalms 31:1-19.31.24; Psalms 40:1-19.40.17; Psalms 49:1-19.49.20; etc.) had partially drawn aside the veil, and given indications that the career of the Deliverer would not be all glory or all triumph. But it was difficult to determine how far they were historical, how far prophetic. It was a part of Isaiah's mission to reveal, in language that could scarcely be mistaken, the darker aspect of Messiah's coming, the "contradiction of sinners" which he would encounter, and its consequences. Messiah was to be "despised," "forsaken" (verse 8), "pierced," "crushed," made sore with "stripes" (verse 5), "oppressed" (verse 7), "cut off" before his time, "stricken" (verse 8), "dealt with grievously" (verse 10). He was to be condemned by an iniquitous "judgment" (verse 8), to be "brought as a lamb to the slaughter" (verse 7), to be "assigned his grave with the wicked" (verse 9), and "reckoned with transgressors" (verse 12). His earthly life was to be such as would be best summed up in the brief phrase, "A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (verse 3).
II. THE SUFFERINGS OF MESSIAH VICARIOUS. Men make a difficulty about vicarious suffering; but half the suffering in the world is of this nature. Who that watches by a sick-bed, and supports and props the sufferer, and stays unmoved in a cramped position not to disturb the sick one's snatch of slumber, but suffers to assuage or remove another's pain? Who that, hungry himself, passes on to another the food that he might eat himself, but does the same? What mother but bears a thousand discomforts to shield her child from them? What soldier but tries to take himself the blow which he sees must otherwise prostrate his chief? How are the young, who rush into ruinous extravagance which would cripple them for life, saved but by a father or a guardian taking on him the grievous trouble of paying the debts incurred? What do not refined ladies undergo to rescue and recover those among their sisters who have fallen? Men's and women's kindness of heart is continually leading them to undergo vicarious suffering; nor is there often any other way by which the sufferings of our fellow-creatures can be removed. If I take the load that is galling another's back and put it on my own, I do it with the full knowledge that my back will soon ache. If I transfer my wraps to a sick fellow-traveller on a wintry day, I am quite aware that the cold will clutch me instead of him. The vicarious character of Messiah's sufferings is the direct subject of seven distinct assertions:
(1) "He hath borne our griefs;"
(2) "He hath "carried our sorrows;"
(3) "He was wounded for our transgressions;
(4) "He was bruised for our iniquities;"
(5) "The chastisement of our peace was upon him;"
(6) "With his stripes we are healed" (verses 4, 5);
(7) "For the transgression of my people was he stricken" (verse 8).
It is indirectly implied in four others:
(1) "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all;"
(2) "Thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin;"
(3) "He shall bear their iniquities;"
(4) "He bare the sins of many" (verses 6, 10-12).
III. THE SUFFERINGS OF MESSIAH PROPITIATORY. The idea of propitiation is implied in the three passages where Messiah is said to have borne the sins of men. No otherwise can one man bear the sin of another than by doing something which propitiates him whom the sin has offended. But it is further distinctly asserted in verse 10, when it is said that the soul of the Servant should be "made an offering for sin." As the whole notion of offering for sin was grounded on the idea of expiation, so it was now made plain that the real expiation, the real atonement, the real propitiation, to which the entire ritual system of the Israelitish nation pointed, was the offering up of that "righteous Servant" of the Lord, who, "having done no wrong," having been guilty of no "guile," nevertheless was made sin for man, and became a willing and meritorious Sacrifice. "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin" (Hosea 10:4). It is impossible for sinful man to redeem his fellow-man (Psalms 49:7, Psalms 49:8). Only One who was without sin, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Hos 7:1-16 :26), could make atonement for others' sins; only One who was perfectly pure himself could purify them; only One who needed none to intercede for him could intercede for his brethren. It is strange how men dislike, and kick against, and endeavour to explain away, the doctrine of vicarious suffering and substitution, and of atonement made for man by the blood of Christ. Yet why should this be? "The doctrine," as Mr. Urwick says, "is in perfect keeping with all that the Jewish ceremonial embodied, and with the teaching alike of the Redeemer himself (Matthew 20:28; John 10:11; Luke 22:20) and his apostles, St. Paul (Romans 3:24-45.3.26), St. Peter (1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 2:25), and St. John (1 John 2:2). It satisfies the Divine holiness, and the demands of the sinner's own conscience. It fully recognizes the reality of sin and its exceeding sinfulness, whereas all other attempted explanations tend to make light of sin, or at least to represent it more or less as a matter of human weakness, which a good-natured God will readily pass over and forgive without a ransom. It presents the way of salvation as simple and straightforward; all can understand it; whereas other attempted explanations of the efficacy of Christ's redemptive work are cloudy, indefinite, mystified, abstruse, and difficult of apprehension even by the learned".
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The suffering Servant of Jehovah.
I. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE SUFFERING. It depicts, by simple force of language, its extreme intensity—not a suffering springing from internal weakness of nature, and so withering and dying like a lamp for want of oil, but "like a torch in its full flame bent and ruffled, and at length blown out by the breath of a north wind." It was a diffused suffering, according to the expression of the psalmist, "like water in his bowels, or oil in his bones." "In his person we may see grief in its height and supremacy, triumphant, crowned and arrayed in purple, grief reigning and doing the utmost that it was able." In proportion to the fineness of the nature is the sensitiveness, and in proportion to the sensitiveness, the capacity for suffering. In these words, "stricken, pierced, afflicted, crushed, beaten with stripes," we have a cumulation of strong touches in the picture. Add to this, "smitten of God." The allusion is said to be to leprosy, regarded as a punishment for grievous sin (Numbers 12:9, Numbers 12:10; 2 Kings 15:5; Psalms 51:7). "The measure of every passion is the operation of the agent. We must not measure the Divine strokes by the proportion of those blows which are inflicted by the greatest and most exasperated mortal. Every blow inflicted by the fiercest tyrant can reach no further than the body, and the body is but the dwelling-place, not any part, of the soul. None can reach the conscience but he who made it. God is able, merely by letting a few drops of his wrath fall upon the guilty conscience, so to scald with a lively sense of sin, that the man shall live a continual terror to himself. His own breast shall echo peals of vengeance to him every hour. Suffering must needs be grievous when infinite justice passes sentence, and infinite power does execution" (South). An "unparalleled greatness" of suffering is, then, here indicated.
II. THE VICARIOUS NATURE OF THE SUFFERING. He bore our sicknesses; "the first of twelve distinct assertions in this one chapter of the vicarious character of the sufferings of the Servant." They are "because of our rebellions" and of "our iniquities." The punishment which is the means of "our peace" and welfare fell upon him; we have been healed through his stripes. The iniquity of all has been made to light upon him. "As the avenger of blood pursues the murderer, so punishment by an inner necessity overtakes the sinner (Psalms 40:12; Numbers 32:23; cf. Deuteronomy 27:15). And inasmuch as the Servant, by Jehovah's will, has made himself the Substitute of the Jewish nation, it follows that the punishment of the latter must fall upon him." After all that has been written for ages upon this difficult subject of vicarious suffering or punishment, there remain difficulties not to be surmounted by our reason. How can punishment be transferred? How can the suffering due to the sinner be imposed upon an innocent person? How can any honest mind admit such a confusion of relation, even were it offered, as a means of escape from penalty? The answers to these questions are given in poetic metaphors, and analogies which do not reach to the heart of the matter, and forensic quibbles which are not lovely in connection with spiritual matters. For all that, there is something the heart of all men fixes upon as lovely, Divine, adorable, in the idea of a man laying down his life for his brethren, a patriot for his country. Much of this deep feeling enters into the old legends, often of a woman—an Alkestis, a Makaria, an Hesione; often of a man—a son of Mesa, King of Moab, a Menoikeus, a Curtius. If we begin to criticize, we lose the sense and spirit of these sweet stories. So with the great tradition of the Servant of Jehovah, and with the still greater tradition by which our lives and hearts have been formed.
III. APPLICATION. Every Christian thinks of Christ when he reads these beautiful words. Who but he can inspire us with the willingness to "crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts"? "Nature, indeed, cannot, will not, prompt it; but Christianity, which rises many strains above nature, must and will. The best sacrifice to a crucified Saviour is a crucified lust, a bleeding heart, and a dying corruption. Let the ambitious man lay his pride in the dust, the covetous man deposit his treasures in the banks of charity and liberality, and let the voluptuous epicure renounce his cups and his whores,—and this will be a present to Heaven better than a whole hecatomb; nor could the fruit of his body fall so grateful a sacrifice upon God's altar as the sin of his soul" (South).—J.
Patience and the Divine purpose.
In the picture of the Servant of Jehovah we have an exemplification of the force of quiet endurance which prevails over violence, even to victory.
I. AN EXAMPLE OF SUBMISSION TO WRONG. The slave-driver (Exodus 3:7; Job 3:18), or the exactor of a tax or a debt (Deuteronomy 15:2, Deuteronomy 15:3; 2 Kings 23:35), is the image of oppression in its urgency and its contumely· And the silence of the suffering One eloquently speaks of his resignation (Psalms 38:14; Psalms 39:9). The gentle uncomplaining lamb may well set him forth "with power at his disposal, yet as meek as if he had no power; with consciousness of impending fate, yet calm as if ignorant of it" (cf. Jeremiah 11:19; 1 Peter 2:23). The idea of the Lamb of God in the New Testament rests in part upon this passage "The two or three who can win it may be called victors in life's conflict; to them belongs the regnum et diadema tutum." His was the lot represented by our great poet as tempting in its extreme anguish to thoughts of suicide. But from another source the Servant obtains his quietus. He was not supported by the thought that the meaning of his sufferings was understood and laid to heart by his contemporaries. They did not see that for the rebellion of the people he was stricken. And even after death insult pursued his memory (cf. Jeremiah 26:23). They buried his body, not amidst the remains of his departed friends, but with the wicked and the criminal, the proud deniers of God, or with the rich and haughty Gentiles. This was the last mark of an ignominy (Isaiah 14:19), and it was all undeserved. How mighty the contrast of appearances and results! The despised of men is in reality the eternally honoured of God.
II. THE DIVINE PURPOSE AND DECREE. There was no cruel accident or misunderstanding in all this; it was the result of Divine deliberate will—the pleasure of Jehovah. The Servant was to lay down his life as a guilt offering. He was to fulfil and crown the idea of all sacrifice in his own Person. Restitution was to be made for injured rights of property. Israel had become de-consecrated. Her life had been forfeited, and satisfaction must be rendered. And this is provided in the self-dedication of the Servant. And the result will be that he will become the Head of a spiritual posterity (cf. Psalms 22:30). His piety will be rewarded by length of days. Both these are figures of highest blessing among the Hebrews (Genesis 12:2; Deuteronomy 6:2; Psalms 91:16; Psalms 127:5; Psalms 128:6; Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 17:6). He will be promoted to a scene of high spiritual employment (Isaiah 52:13), the "pleasure of Jehovah" prospering under his conduct. His former spiritual agony and toil of spirit, his travail (Psa 110:1-7 :10; Job 3:10; Jeremiah 20:18; Ecclesiastes 2:11-21.2.20; Ecclesiastes 4:4-21.4.6 for the word), will be abundantly compensated by the joy of contemplation of the progressing work of salvation, as the husbandman is satisfied with the sight of the harvest, for which he has "sown in tears." On the foundation of his sacrifice and his teaching many will be redeemed from sin and become a righteous and a holy people. And so, without bloodshed and the din of battle, he will become a glorious Conqueror, and the spiritual kingdom of the Eternal will be among the world-subduing powers. All this because he humbled himself, because he was devoted, because he loved.
III. LESSONS. How mighty the power of patience! The hero of God is not clothed in purple, nor fed on sweets; "daily his own heart he eats." His hope sets not with the setting of suns; his faith is earlier in its rising than the stars. Amidst all his seeming weakness he cannot be crushed; and the blows of his adversaries miss their aim. The spiritual element is immortal, indefeasible, finally victorious.
"They say, through patience, chalk
Becomes a ruby stone;
Ah, yes! but by the true heart's blood
The chalk is crimson grown."
Who was originally meant by the servant of Jehovah may remain obscure. We at least cannot but apply the representation to the Captain of salvation, the Leader and Finisher of faith, who endured the cross for the joy set before him. And also to every true servant of the Eternal, who feels that he was brought into the world to witness for the truth and devote himself in the cause of love.
"This is he who, felled by foes,
Sprang harmless up, refreshed by blows;
He to captivity was sold,
But him no prison-bars would hold;
Though they sealed him in a rock,
Mountain-chains he can unlock;
Thrown to lions for their meat,
The crouching lion kissed his feet;
Bound to the stake, no flames appalled,
But arched o'er him an honouring vault.
This is he men miscall fate,
Threading dark ways, arriving late,
But e'er coming in time to crown
The truth, and hurl wrong-doers down."
HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM
The depraved eye.
"No beauty that we should desire him." In this prophetic picture of the Christ the question arises, "Who hath believed our report?" What wonderful attestation history gives to this!—"He came unto his own, and his own received him not." Whether the words, "he hath no form nor comeliness," apply to the physical features of Christ, we cannot say; for the Jews had no "art." They interpreted the words, "Thou shalt not make to thyself … the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath," not as an injunction against "idols" alone, but against all statuary and all art. So, though we have the likenesses of the emperors on the Roman coins, and the Greek statues of Socrates and their wise men, we have no likeness of Christ or his apostles. But we do know the meaning of this, "There is no beauty that we should desire him."
I. THE EYE ADMIRES ONLY WHAT THE HEART LOVES. The beauty that eye desired was quite different. It was superficial and carnal, not inward and spiritual.
II. THE WORLD DOES NOT ALTER ITS TASTE. The classic virtues of paganism—pride, self-reliance, honour—are more prized by men of the world than patience, gentleness, pity, forbearance, and charity. Christ is not beautiful to the proud, nor to the selfish, nor to the ambitions and the vain. Only the pure in heart admire and love him!—W.M.S.
The rejected Saviour.
"He is desvised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." He! Who? The incarnate Lord, who has grown up in childhood as a "tender plant;" who is the one "living root," while all others are the dry soil of a decrepit and degenerate humanity.
I. THIS REVEALS TO US WHAT THE HEBREW CHURCH WAS. Christ was the "touchstone" of that Church. Its conduct to him made manifest to what a condition they had come. Think of the contrast. Pharisaism was triumphant—Christ was despised. The outward, the formal, the ritual, was preferred before the holy, the inward, and the spiritual. Christ was "rejected." They had the first opportunity of welcoming the "Lord from heaven." "To the Jew first." How learned men may be in tradition! how well acquainted with the 'Mishna' and the 'Gemara,' and yet know ail of ancient revelation except its meaning! The great gates of prophecy open wide to lot the true King through; and then treat him as a Pretender, and crown him with thorns.
II. THIS REVEALS TO US WHAT CHRIST WAS ON THE HUMAN SIDE. "A Man of sorrows." Think of his exquisite moral sensitiveness in a world of sin. Think of his tender human sympathies in a world of sorrow. "Acquainted with grief." Not in one special form, but in all its spheres, that he might be a Brother born for adversity. Acquainted with it. So that he had daily fellowship with it; not passing through its transient experiences, but familiar with it as the companion of his life.—W.M.S.
The Divine atonement.
"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities." We shall never understand the atonement. From Anselm's day to our own there have been ever-changing theories of it. But the fact remains; and, mysterious as it is, we learn that there was a Godward aspect of it, as well as a manward aspect. But into "the cup which my Father hath given me to drink" no man, no angel, can look.
I. THIS IS THE REVELATION OF DIVINE SACRIFICE. "He gave himself." But he was more than wounded by the treatment of his character, and by the contempt of his claims, and by the forsakings of his own disciples. It is not enough to say that the pride of the Jew and the scorn of the Greek and the power of the Roman crucified him. He was "delivered up for our offences." So here "the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
II. THIS IS THE SUBJECT OF ETERNAL SONG. Heaven rings with the grateful acclaim, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,… to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." And the presence of the redeemed there at all is distinctly stated to rest upon the sacrifice of Christ. Because "they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, therefore are they before the throne of God." This, at all events, has been the Catholic teaching of Christendom in all ages; and fill the hymnology of the Church in all its various branches. Roman and Anglican, Lutheran and Puritan, have united in a common adoration of the cross and passion, thus antedating the praises of eternity.—W.M.S.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
The attractive and the unattractive in Jesus Christ.
The whole passage is exceedingly remarkable in that it ascribes to one man qualities and surroundings which are so opposed to one another that they seem to be positively inconsistent with each other. And the difficulty has been to find a reconciliation. But all perplexity disappears when they are referred to Jesus Christ; for in him were combined features of character and changes of circumstance which could not be united in any other child of man. We have here a very strong statement as to the unattractive and unpromising appearance of the Servant of Jehovah, and this has to agree and does agree with the power and the dignity which are afterwards predicted of him (Isaiah 53:10, Isaiah 53:12), and with the attractive power he has exercised in all ages of the world. We look at both.
I. THE UNATTRACTIVE IN JESUS CHRIST. He grew up as a tender twig or as a sprout that struggles for life in a dry ground; he lacked the beauty that draws attention, the comeliness which wins regard, in that:
1. He came of a fallen family.
2. He was a native of a despised and detested nation, probably the moat hated and contemned of all nations.
3. He was brought up in a disreputable village, and the reproach of its dishonour fell on him.
4. He was untrained in the learning which is held in the highest regard among men.
5. He made no pretence to be a deliverer of the kind popularly desired; he dispensed with military arms, officers, honours; he made no attempt to effect a political revolution; he disregarded and even shunned mere popular favour.
6. He taught truth which was above the appreciation and against the prejudices of his hearers; his thought was too profound for their understanding, his aims were too broad and liberal for their liking. His truth still cuts across the prejudices, passions, and lowest interests of men; and his purpose is to establish a kingdom which is far too spiritual to meet the sympathies of the selfish and the worldly. Nevertheless, he accomplished his purpose. That little shoot has become a strong tree, the strongest and fairest that has ever grown, the leaves of which are for the healing of all the nations. That One in whom was no beauty that men should desire him is proving to be "altogether lovely."
II. THE ATTRACTIVE IN JESUS CHRIST. What is there in him that draws the eyes and wins the hearts of men?
1. Elements of attraction in his character. His patient dignity in moments of trial and provocation; his gentleness toward the young and the feeble; his interest in the unworthy and unbefriended; his magnanimity toward his enemies, his stainless purity of heart and life; his compassion for the suffering and the sorrowful, etc.
2. Elements of attraction in his gospel. He offers forgiveness of sin to those burdened with a sense of guilt; rest of heart to those who are spiritually weary; holy and fruitful activity to the earnest and energetic; an unfailing friendship to the troubled and the lonely; a heavenly home to the tired travellers along the path of life.—C.
The Man of sorrows.
We feel that there is but One of our race to whom this title properly belongs; One who may wear it as a crown upon his brow, inasmuch as his sorrows do him higher honour than the most conspicuous success ever conferred on human spirit. It does belong to him, not in virtue of the fact that his outward career involved more cruel hardships than those ever borne before; but in virtue of the fact that his spirit was such as to make his endurance more grievous than that ever experienced by man. It was Jesus Christ's capacity of sorrow that made all the difference. Capacity to endure rises with the greatness of the spiritual nature; the larger the nature, the greater the possibility and likelihood of suffering. When, therefore, we remember that Jesus Christ, as a perfect Man, had the fullest and keenest possible sensibility of nature, and when we remember that the Divine was so associated in him with the human as immeasurably to deepen and enlarge every faculty of his soul, we shall see that his capacity of sorrow was almost boundless.
I. THE SOURCES OF HIS SORROW. These were, among others:
1. The failure on the part of his own best friends to understand and appreciate him. "They who knew him best could hardly be said to know him;" they entered only a very little way into his purpose, and could not sympathize with him in his deeper disappointments; "he trod the wine-press alone." But for his Father's presence he often was absolutely alone (John 16:32).
2. The frailty and even the treachery of his disciples. Those who followed him and called him Master had but little care for his truth or love for himself. In a moment of simple perplexity of mind they fell away from him, and abandoned his cause (John 6:66). One of his disciples grieved his spirit by distinct denial, and another pierced his heart by utter and open treachery.
3. The malignity of his enemies. There are men who do not care that their brethren whose confidence they have tried to win are cherishing toward them the bitterest hatred; not such was he of the tender heart and loving spirit.
4. The rejection of the people. He was rejected of men. Several men and women, in most places whither he went, may have flocked to hear him; and the common people heard him gladly, we know. But he had to acknowledge to himself that his principles made no way, that his truth was not apprehended and loved, that citizens did not enrol themselves in his spiritual kingdom.
5. The near presence of human suffering and sorrow. By partaking of our humanity as he did, Jesus came into the closest contact with the pains, the privations, the deformities, the diseases, and the sorrows of mankind. And by the power of an intense and living sympathy he made these his own (Matthew 8:17; John 11:33, John 11:35). He bore them on his own heart; they weighed upon his spirit as a heavy burden.
6. A deep sense of human sin,culminating in a sacrifice for it. If the near presence of sorrow grieved and troubled him, how much more that of human sin in all its forms! With our lesser purity, we cannot tell how painful to his heart was the sight of all the selfishness, hypocrisy, greed, worldliness, malignity, corruption which he beheld, most of it affecting the language and the bearing of devotion. Yet with all these sources of sorrow, there were not wanting—
II. SPRINGS OF SACRED JOY IN THE HEART AND LIFE OF OUR LORD.
1. Unbroken communion with the heavenly Father.
2. The sincere attachment of many who, though they were imperfect disciples, yet trusted and loved him as their Teacher and Friend.
3. The gratitude of many whom he healed, and the deeper gratitude of many whom he saved.
4. The consciousness of faithful fulfilment of his great mission.
5. A calm, profound assurance of victory through death and shame (John 12:24, John 12:32). In the heart of the Man of sorrows were deep springs of joy, such as they who wounded him and triumphed over him knew not of. In our case, as in his, there may be the light of a blessed peace and even of heavenly joy in a soul that moves under darkest skies through a clouded life.—C.
Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 53:5
The Divine account of the sufferings of Christ.
In these words, which remain ever fresh and sacred, though they are so familiar to our hearts, we have—
I. A SAD AND STRIKING PICTURE. It is the picture of the Servant of the Lord, wounded, bruised, chastened, stricken. We cannot fail to see in it the sufferings of the holy Saviour. We see him:
1. Wounded in body; not only a-hungered and athirst, not only weary with long-continued labours and without the promise of the soft pillow. of rest when the day was done, but suffering, beyond this, the laying on him the hard, rough hand of a brutal soldiery, the cruel smiting and scourging, the piercing of hand and foot with the remorseless nail, the pains and pangs of crucifixion. But beyond this, immeasurably more serious and more severe than this, we see him:
2. Wounded in spirit; bruised in soul by the shortcoming, the inconstancy, even the treachery of his own friends, by the superficiality and frailty of the outer band of his disciples, by the intense and inappeasable malignity of his enemies, by the sight of sickness and sorrow, by the pressure and burden of human sin; all this weight of evil crushing his holy and tender spirit.
II. A NATURAL BUT A FALSE CONCLUSION. "We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted," i.e. on account of his own sins. It was natural that men should think thus; there are facts which go to support though they do not justify it.
1. It is true that sin and suffering are very closely and causally connected. All sinners are, as such, sufferers.
2. It is true that, as a rule, great sinners are great sufferers. It was not accidental that Antiochus Epiphanes, Herod the Great, Philip II. of Spain, and other men, who, like them, committed enormities of wrong-doing, endured terrible pains of body and fearful remorse of spirit. But it does not follow that a very great sufferer is a very great sinner. For it is also true
(1) that some of the purest and saintliest of mankind have been visited with severest bodily pains, or have passed through most trying troubles, or been called to endure heaviest afflictions.
(2) And that the great Teacher warned us against pushing this doctrine to a perversion of the truth (Luke 13:3).
(3) And we know that it was wholly inapplicable to the Lord himself. He who suffered mere than any other of the children of men was that one Son of man who "did no sin, and in whose mouth no guile was found;" he was the innocent, the pure, the just, the righteous One.
III. THE DIVINE ACCOUNT OF IT. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows … he was wounded for our transgressions," etc. But is it credible or is it even possible that the innocent One would or could suffer for us the guilty ones? Why not? Being such a One as he is—the pitiful, compassionate, magnanimous One, it is exactly what we might expect he would do.
1. Involuntarily, we are continually bearing one another's griefs. One sins and another suffers, beneath every sky and from generation to generation.
2. Voluntarily we suffer in one another's stead. The father willingly suffers and strives that his son may not endure all the threatened consequences of his guilty folly; the mother eagerly endures greatest privations that her daughter may be spared the dishonour which is her due; the friend gladly shares, halves the trouble, the anxiety, the loss, into which his old companion has fallen. Just as men are magnanimous and noble-minded, so do they carry the sorrows of their fellows, so are they willingly wounded and bruised for the transgressions of their kindred and their friends. And if we, being evil, will do this, how much more our Father who is in heaven! if we, whose thoughts and ways are so comparatively low, how much more he whose thoughts and whose ways are as much higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth! It is just the very thing we should look for from the heavenly Father.
IV. THE PRACTICAL CONCLUSION. That we should, by a living faith in the Divine Redeemer, avail ourselves of the work he wrought when he suffered for us. Otherwise we shall not know the peace and rest of heart which he came to secure us.—C.
Departure and distance from God.
These words, though very pictorial and poetical, indicate with great clearness the cardinal truths of religion and even of Christianity, and they express for us the thought and feeling common to all devout spirits. We see in them—
I. THE HOME WHENCE WE HAVE DEPARTED. It is not stated, but it is clearly implied, that the fold or home whence we have gone astray is.
1. That of God, our Creator, our Father, our Divine Friend; it is that where he dwells, where he rules, where he sheds the sunshine of his presence and favour.
2. It is that of righteousness; of gratitude, of love, of reverence, of obedience, of submission.
3. It is that of peace; of spiritual order, rest, joy.
II. THE DIFFERENT PATHS WE HAVE PURSUED. "We have turned every one to his own way." Sinful error takes many directions. Sometimes it wanders into unbelief and denial; sometimes into rebelliousness of spirit, disdainful rejection of Divine claim; at other times into a sinful indulgence, in one or other of its various forms; or again into a guilty negligence and unconcern, or a criminal procrastination of sacred duty; or yet again into a hollow and worthless formalism, which has the show of piety without the substance of it. But in these various paths of sin there is one thing which is common to all, viz. the setting up of the human will against the will of God. Every one of us has gone his own way. We have "followed the devices and desires of our own hearts." We have determinately set our own inclination against the will of God. And herein we have—
III. THE GUILT WHICH WE HAVE ALL INCURRED. "All we … have gone astray." Some men have wandered farther away from God than others; some have gone in an opposite direction to that of others; but all men have guiltily preferred their own way to the home and the fold of God. All have forsaken and disregarded and grieved him. And thus all have sinned; all, without exception; not only those who have fallen into gross and most shameful enormities, but they also who have kept to the proprieties of outward behaviour, and have observed the decencies and requirements of the religious life t—all have withheld from God what is his due, and reserved to themselves what was not theirs to keep.
IV. THE PROVISION GOD HAS MADE FOR OUR RETURN. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." This does not signify that Jesus Christ bore the penalty due to all human sin—a part of that penalty it was absolutely impossible that the Innocent One should beat: It means that the redemptive work he wrought, and wrought by his submission to sorrow and death, avails for every child of man who will accept it; it means that in Christ is forgiveness of sin, acceptance with God, entrance into life eternal to every one who humbly but heartily receives him as Saviour and Lord.—C.
The submissive spirit.
Those who have a high appreciation of the more minute scriptural correspondences will naturally find a reference here to the fact recorded in Matthew 27:14. But we prefer to dwell on the submissiveness rather than the silence of our Lord, on the inward spirit rather than the outward incident.
I. THE SUBMISSIVENESS OF OUR SAVIOUR'S SPIRIT. The unspoken word of repining or reproach was of real value, because, in him, it indicated the unquestioning spirit, the unresentful heart.
1. The spirit of acquiescence. There is a silent, sullen acceptance of fate which is removed from the spirit of obedient acquiescence as far as evil is distant from good. Our Lord's was the obedient spirit, that which cheerfully and heartily consented to the ordination of God. With willing hand he raised the bitter draught to his lips, and in the spirit of filial readiness he uttered those strengthening words," The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" And in his attitude toward man there was not only the unresisting hand, but also:
2. The unresentful heart. He did indeed declaim against the conduct of the scribes and Pharisees in uncompromising language (Matthew 23:1-40.23.39 but we detect no note of personal vindictiveness; he is affected and inspired throughout by pure indignation. When he is illegally and shamefully smitten there is no touch of unholy resentment in his reply, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?" (John 18:23). And who, in this connection, can fail to remember the magnanimous prayer, breathed in the midst of the most excruciating pain, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"?
II. THE SUBMISSION WHICH CHRIST ASKS OF US. He demands of us:
1. Absolute trust in the wisdom and goodness of God: not only the thankful acceptance of what is pleasant and prosperous, and the unhesitating acceptance of what is mysterious and insoluble by our human understanding, but also the willing acceptance of what is painful, grievous, distressing to the heart—the cherishing in our soul of an absolute assurance that, however dark and troublous be the hour that is passing over us, God is leading us by the right way to the heavenly city.
2. A magnanimous attitude toward our fellow-men.
(1) The absence of a vindictive spirit, and of resentful action: "Love your enemies;" "Resist not evil," etc. Proceedings taken against a viotation of human law in the spirit of justice are not inconsistent with the unrevengeful spirit of Christ.
(2) The exercise of the broadest charity; in our judgment of men, giving credit for the pure rather than the impure, the worthy rather than the unworthy, the public rather than the personal motive.
(3) The practice of peacemaking; interposing on all occasions that offer in the interest of peace.
(4) The readiness to forgive. "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (Matthew 18:35).—C.
The shortness but sufficiency of human life.
"Who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living." "He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days." Here is a paradox in connection with our Master which finds a close correspondence in another connected with ourselves.
I. THE BREVITY AND PERPETUITY OF OUR LORD'S CAREER. It was indeed true, as the prophet foresaw, that "he was cut off," etc.; his days were few; his ministry was brief—counted by months rather than by years. There did not seem to be time enough in that short span, in a course so quickly run and so suddenly concluded, to accomplish anything great and far-reaching. But how wide has his influence proved! how long has his Name been known and his power been felt! How has he "prolonged his days" in the institutions he has founded which are existing now, in the truth he announced which is triumphing to-day over all other theories, in the spirit he communicated which is breathing still in the laws, the literature, the habits, the language of mankind! Who shall declare his generation? Does he not "see his seed" in the countless children of his grace who flock to his standard, who bless his Name, who call him Lord and Saviour and Friend! He who was so soon cut off from the land of the living is proving himself to be the One who hath immortality as no other son of man has had or ever will have.
II. THE SHORTNESS BUT THE SUFFICIENCY OF OUR MORTAL LIFE.
1. Our life below is very brief. Scripture abundantly asserts it; observation is continually confirming it; experience is painfully proving it. It is not only brief, so far as the actual number of our years is concerned when compared with some animal life or with angelic existence, or when contrasted with God's eternity; but it is brief so far as our own consciousness is concerned. Its conclusion seems to come with great rapidity and unexpectedness. In the curiosity of childhood, the eagerness of youth, the ambition and activity of early manhood, the cares and anxieties of prime and of declining days, our life hurries on and passes away, and, before we are looking for it, there comes the last summons and the day of departure.
2. But, short as it is, it is sufficient. It is long enough for us to store our minds with heavenly wisdom; to become reconciled to God and to take our stand with the wise and holy; to grow into the likeness of our Divine Exemplar; to bear witness to the truth of Christ; to exert an influence which will never die. Our truest and best "seed" are not found in the children and grandchildren who are born to us, but in the spiritual results we have accomplished. We die and disappear, and the stone on which our name is carved is overthrown, and no man will speak of us again; but we, too, "shall prolong our days" in the holy and beautiful characters men will be forming and the useful lives they will be living, because of the witness we are bearing here and the work we are doing now.—C.
The false accusation.
"He was numbered with the transgressors." The fact that he who was the Author of all law and the Judge of all moral agents was himself classed with transgressors is most suggestive; it calls our attention to the truth—
I. THAT A RIGHTEOUS MAN, though he is righteous, MAY BE CHARGED WITH WRONG. If Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, was accused of sin, how much more may we, who are only comparatively and imperfectly righteous, be so charged!
II. THAT A RIGHTEOUS MAN MAY, in virtue of his righteousness, BE ACCUSED OF WRONG. Jesus Christ was charged with blasphemy because he said what he said and acted as he did in pursuance of his great and beneficent mission; he was accused of fellowship with sin because he was bent on carrying his gospel of grace to the very worst of mankind (Luke 15:2). In the same way, a good man may lay himself open to the charge of transgression in virtue of his very excellency; a devout man, because of his devotion, to the charge of pietism or hypocrisy; a zealous man, because of his ardour, to the charge of fanaticism; a courageous man, to the charge of rashness; a trustful man, to the accusation of presumption, etc.
III. THAT THE FALSELY ACCUSED HAVE THREE GREAT CONSOLATIONS.
1. The approval of their own conscience.
2. The knowledge that they take rank with their great Leader, who was himself numbered with the transgressors, and with all the best of the good in every age and land (Matthew 5:11, Matthew 5:12).
3. The assurance that they have the commendation and the sympathy of their Divine Lord. Enemies may accuse us; brethren may fail us; notwithstanding, "the Lord stands with us, and strengthens us" (2 Timothy 4:16, 2 Timothy 4:17).—C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Strange reception of Divine messages.
Cheyne translates, "Who believed that which we heard? and the arm of Jehovah, unto whom did it become manifest?" Immediate reference is to the attitude of the people towards Isaiah's assurances of God's restoring mercies, and towards his call to prepare themselves for returning to their own land. Further and fuller reference is to the failure of Messiah to win the general acceptance of the people, to whom he brought the glad tidings of God's "so great love." Divine messages are never widely welcomed. Only the few are ever found open-hearted, willing to heed when he is pleased to speak. Effort may be made to recognize the reasons for so strange a fact. They lie in men's moral dispositions, and hindering circumstances or prejudices. The mention of two or three hindrances may suggest a complete analysis of men's motives.
I. SOME MEN ARE SCEPTICAL. Their sphere is the strictly natural, and they find instant objection to every claim belonging to the supernatural. They are born doubters, and too often foster and culture their infirmity, as if it were a dignity or a gift. The special mistake such men make is to demand too much evidence—evidence of unsuitable character, and evidence such as they may be pleased to think would satisfy them. They want natural evidence for supernatural truths or facts, and wonder that no sign can be given them, and fancy themselves justified in refusing to believe. There is one very easy thing, that even a child can accomplish; it is this—find excuses when we do not want to obey.
II. SOME MEN ARE MASTERFUL. They like to have life in their own control, and cannot do with God's interfering by messages and commandments. Such men are sure to resist God's messengers and ministers. The response to pastors, who point out to such men the will of God concerning their daily life, is still what it has ever been' 'Talk on your abstract things, but leave my life alone." God's messages always, in one form or another, humble the pride of self: and this few men can bear, so they resist the messenger.
III. SOME MEN ARE EASYFUL. God calls to some doing, some duty. It may be putting away sin; it may be rendering some witness; it may be going the long journey back to Jerusalem, and helping to build the old wastes and raise the former desolations. And men prefer the comforts of Babylon, even if they are in slavery and know the defiling contacts of idolatry. Only meek, open, willing, and obedient souls "believe that which they hear, and see the arm of the Lord made manifest to them." The best things are ever kept for meek souls.—R.T.
Man's disposition to reject his best blessings.
Philip the evangelist, from this, and the connected passage, preached unto the eunuch Jesus. This is sufficient reason for our associating it with Messiah. The chapter concerns the human life, the sorrowful experience, the shameful death, and the eternal triumph of the Son of God. The story of the Christ can be gathered up and expressed in a sentence," He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." The personification of heathen pride and fear, Herod sought to slay him as a babe. Representatives of the wealth and learning and religion of their age, scribes and Sadducees and Pharisees rejected him, that they might cleave to their traditions. The common people, moved sometimes by the goodness of his words and the graciousness of his deeds, heard him gladly, cast their garments in his way, and waved palm branches with hosannahs; but at another time they hurried him away to cast him headlong from an overhanging cliff, and shouted, "Crucify him!" Even the few who seemed to see his glory, on whom some beams of his Divine splendour rested, even they forsook him in the hour of his need, and fled, or sold him for mere silver, or denied him with oaths and curses. He passed on to Calvary amid rabble-shouts, "His blood be on us and on our children!" and there he hung, despised in the shame of the cross; despised as they passed him by, wagging their heads. Rejected as they cried, "We have no king but Caesar. and chose instead of him a murderer and thief. Now, the world has never known anything so passing strange as that despising and rejecting of God's greatest and best gift to men. To realize the strangeness or' this tact, consider—
I. THE PERSON AND THE CREDENTIALS OF THE REJECTED ONE. The world has had many impostors, men with a genius for making claims which there were no facts to support. In the spheres of medicine, education, politics, and religion, there have been many who were found out at last, and rejected of men as untrue and unworthy. No man ever claimed such a position and such rights as Jesus did; but no man ever gave such abundant and satisfactory proof of his claims. He was a Divine Messenger, the appointed Agent for securing the reconciliation of man with God; he was even God himself, manifest in the flesh. But these claims were duly supported. Christ came at a time and in a manner which fitted precisely into the fore-given prophecies, which the people believed. There was perfect accordance between the claims he made and the life he lived, the spirit he manifested and the work he did. His character was so attractive as to win respect, yet so perfect as to excite wonder. He had the power over nature in its various moods, over disease in its various forms, and over death in its various stages, which can be associated only with the Divine Being. And yet he is "despised and rejected of men." Divine, with Divine blessings to bestow; putting forth Divine power, doing a Divine work, and bringing down to men the Divine glory; yet, nevertheless, despised and rejected. Those times have passed away, but the credentials of Christ have only multiplied with the advancing ages. The moral miracles of conversion are far stronger proofs of Divine power than any physical miracles can be; and yet it is still true of many, "He is despised and rejected;" "They hide their faces from him."
II. THE FITNESS OF CHRIST TO MEET THE DEEPEST HUMAN NEEDS. The needs of man as man; and the needs of man as fallen, sinful man. There are two things we can think of as left in our nature, relics of the old Eden-glory—the wish to know God, and the desire to find what is good. Wherever there is the conception of God there is the inquiry, "Who is he? What is he? Where is he?" The gods many of heathen lands are attempted answers to man's cry after God. Christ met this want, and he alone has met it. In his Person he brings God down to the sphere of our human scenes, human thoughts, human language, He offers his earth-life to men and says to them, "Behold your God!" You see men pursuing all kinds of ends; they are seeking the supply of the great want of their nature, they are trying to find what is good. But the pure, the true, the self-denying, was never so set before men as in the earthly life of the Lord Jesus. Virtue then clothed herself in human garb. It is only half a truth to say, "He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth," for he was the positive embodiment of all truth and grace and goodness. And, further than this, Christ also met the conditions and needs of man as fallen and sinful. The "Fall" has left on man a sense of separation from God. We have not, now, a consciousness of near relations and happy fellowship with God; Christ came to restore it to us, by taking away the hindrances outside us and in us. When Jesus came to our world, the needs of fallen sinful man were being felt more pressingly than ever before; the world was anxiously looking for a Revealer and Redeemer. Jew and Gentile united in the out-looking: Jews from the helplessness of a ceremonial out of which the life and meaning had gone; Gentiles from the dissatisfaction of multiplying senseless idols. And yet, though Christ brought the supply of the deepest need men knew, the fact remains, "he was despised and rejected of men." Humanity is usually keen in its endeavour to secure its own interests, but here it strangely, sadly fails. It it be asked why it fails here, we can only say, because Christ brings the humbling conviction of sin, and the pride of men resists. We are all willing to have our needs met and supplied; but we resist the idea that, as guilty, helpless sinners before God, we must ask for mercy, free, sovereign mercy.—R.T.
Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 53:5
Man's thoughts of God's Sufferer.
The prophet sets before us an unusual Sufferer, and bids us think what can be the explanation of such sufferings.
1. It might be punishment for sin; as was David's bitter trial in the matter of Absalom.
2. It might be discipline of character; as was the suffering of Job. Neither of these will suffice for the case that Isaiah presents.
3. It might be vicarious, a burden-bearing for others. This only will suffice to explain the unusual woes of Messiah. Treating the subject more fully, we note—
I. MAN'S EXPLANATIONS OF THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS. "We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."
1. Take the case of a man who was told of our Lord's sufferings and death, but had no knowledge of his personal innocence. Such a man would know that God has established a direct connection between sin and suffering. Suffering is the universal and necessary consequence of sin. The association is plain in regard to our bodily nature. Disregard of the rules of health, exposure to changing seasons, or indulgence in unwholesome food, are certainly followed by bodily suffering and peril. Adam sinned, and at once suffering came, in the upwelling of passion, the hiding of God's favour, and the loss of Eden. Cain sinned, and suffering came, as remorse and disgrace. David sinned, and his "bones waxed old through his roaring." Such a man, then, would have good grounds for suspecting sin wherever he found suffering, and for arguing that there must be unusual sin if there is unusual suffering. Job's friends argued thus; and, so far as surface-truth is concerned, they argued fairly enough. We cannot wonder if the man should say that Christ's sufferings must be explained on the ground that Christ has sinned, and is bearing the natural and necessary consequences of his transgressions. To the casual observer there was nothing so extraordinary about Christ's sufferings as to make his an exceptional case, requiring an exceptional explanation. He was condemned after trial by Pilate; he was only treated in accordance with the custom of the age; he made high pretensions, he called himself "King of the Jews," and so, when he was condemned, the Roman soldiers taunted him, and Jewish fanatics insulted him. And such a man would have a further right to say that God's hand of judgment was in his sufferings. Human laws, if they are to gain the respect of men, must be regarded as applications and adaptations of God's law. When a man is convicted and punished by human law, we ought to feel that he is punished by God. Then, as Christ was delivered up to death by Pilate, the administrator of law, a man may fairly infer that Christ was "smitten of God." Thus Jewish bigots seem to have thought of the Nazarene malefactor. As they looked on that crucified group, why should they think differently of the central Sufferer? Why may they not say of all the three what the one robber said to the other, "We indeed suffer the due reward of our deeds"?
2. Take the case of a man who has some knowledge of Christ's life, and some impression of his personal innocence. Such a man would regard Christ as strangely "afflicted;" his sufferings were calamities. The more he knew of the "blessed life" Jesus had lived, the more would he feel that such an early and such a humiliating death was inconceivably sad—something to be mourned over, as was that death of Ulric Zwingle, when in the fulness of his power and influence. Calamity, that is, suffering of which the sufferer's sin is not the immediate cause, is no uncommon thing in this world. The tower of Siloam fell, and buried beneath its ruins some of the people; but our Lord reminds us that those who perished were not sinners above all that dwelt at Jerusalem. The fall was, to them, a "visitation of God." In this way the man might fairly look upon the innocent Jesus, and say he fell a victim to the cruelty of his enemies. He attacked national vices, he aroused national hatred; he, like Socrates, fell through the wicked schemes of vile men. If the man knew that he was the Son of God, co-equal with the Father, then that life of humiliation and death of shame must take place among the mysteries that baffle human intelligence. It is the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations—a mystery which God must unfold, or it never can be unfolded.
II. GOD'S EXPLANATION OF THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST.
1. God maintains man's view that the sufferings were his appointment. The special connection between Christ and God, in the work of human redemption, may be argued on these lines.
(1) Christ claimed to be a commissioned Agent (John 4:34; John 6:38; John 8:42).
(2) God himself bore witness to Christ as his Son and Messenger, expressing his relation to and interest in the work which Christ came to do (see testimonies at our Lord's baptism and transfiguration).
(3) The witness of both the previous and the subsequent revelation is in favour of the connection (see Psalms 40:7; 1 John 4:14).
2. The sufferings of Christ bore no relation to his own personal guilt (see 2Co 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).
3. God distinctly affirms that Christ suffered as a Substitute, in place of guilty men, and that on him the burden and penalty of our transgressions rested. This is God's answer to the supremely important question, "How can man be just with God?" (see Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 9:28).—R.T.
Where shall iniquity be laid?
Some chapters and verses of the Bible are so sacred to us that we almost fear to open and examine them; and yet those are the very portions that best reward a loving and reverent examination. This chapter is the gem of Isaiah's writings. This verse is the conclusion to which the prophet comes, as he here views the long sad story of the Saviour's sufferings. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." We consider—
I. MAN'S INIQUITY. The word means "unequalness;" man is never quite the same, never quite steady, he does not keep the straight line, and this indicates a wrong state of mind and heart. Man's iniquity is:
(1) Affirmed in Scripture. "All flesh has corrupted his way; Who can say, I have made my heart clean?" (see Romans 3:1-45.3.31.).
(2) Universally acknowledged, both by individuals and nations in moments of alarm (see Nineveh, when alarmed by the preaching of Jonah). St. Paul, in Romans 1:1-45.1.32; apart from the special Divine revelation, convicts men of iniquity in view of the great, universal, natural laws of their own being and of human society. Personally, we are not prepared to deny this fact of human iniquity; though, to so many of us, it is only an intellectual conception without any moral power in it. We resort to various devices in order to keep off personal applications and convictions.
(1) We charge the evil on the race.
(2) We try to think of it as a mere disease or calamity.
(3) We procrastinate over the consideration of it.
It would be altogether wiser to face it, and try to realize it and deal with it.
(1) Observe that suggestive figure of the text, "sheep gone astray." It brings to mind ignorance, wilfulness, helplessness, foolishness, as characteristics of the unrenewed man.
(2) Estimate the aggravations of human iniquity. If God were severe or unreasonable, bravery might half excuse rebellion; but our God is righteousness and love.
(3) Sin finds such manifold and dreadful forms in which to express itself (see list in Galatians 5:19-48.5.24).
(4) Human iniquity has one dreadful root. It is wilful self-love and self-pleasing. "God is not in all their thoughts;" "Turned to his own way;" "The God in whom thy breath is … thou hast not glorified." Face, then, the fact of your own iniquity before God. Be true to yourself about it. Ask—On whom can it be laid?
II. MAN BEARING HIS OWN INIQUITY. For a man may seriously and thoughtfully say—Why cannot I bear my own iniquities, the burden of their penalty, and the work of securing deliverance from their power? Fairly consider, then, such things as these.
1. Iniquity grows, involving ever-increasing physical and spiritual penalties.
2. Iniquity sets going a train of evils by which even your best treasures may be consumed. Do what you will, can you stop them?
3. Iniquity, in its effects, is now seen only in part, and day by day; in the eternity we shall have to see it at once, and as a whole. Illustrate by the vision of a life of sin that comes to the drowning. Unless utterly blinded by pride and self worship, no man would ever dare to say, "I can bear my own burdens." "Though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much sope, yet is thine iniquity marked before me, saith the Lord."
III. GOD BEARING MAN'S INIQUITY FOR HIM. The person who bore was God's Christ, and so it was really God bearing. This expression should be viewed in the light of the figure used in the text—the figure of the shepherd laying on the under-shepherd the duty of fetching the wandering sheep back, and setting it, free of evil, self-willed propensities, in the fold again. That work was the "burden" which he was called to bear. So God laid on Christ the work of delivering men from their iniquity, from its consequences, and from itself. "Himself bare our sicknesses, and carried our sorrows." He took on him man's deliverance from sin, and spent his time in illustrative healings of men's bodily infirmities, and gave his life in the endeavour to save men from their sins. Illustrate by showing how the burden of the slave-woe was laid on Wilberforce; and that of the prison-woe was laid on Howard and Fry. Any man who is actively concerned for a degraded class really bears their sins. In giving Christ, God proposed the saving of men from their sins, and therefore his Son was named the significant name of Jesus. God laid the sin on Christ, as if he had said, "I charge you now with this supremely difficult, but most blessed work, of saving, everlastingly saving, sinful, wilful, ruined men." Plead, in conclusion, with each one rims: Do you feel your iniquity? Is it your burden? Are you asking—What can be done with it? where can it Toe laid? Then see, the living Christ is charged of God with that very burden; it has been laid upon him: it is laid upon him; he can be the living, delivering, saving Friend even to you.—R.T.
The triumph of silence.
"Opened not his mouth." A careful study of the fivefold examinations of our Lord, before Annas, before the Sanhedrin, before Pilate, before Herod, and before Pilate again, will bring very impressively to view the remarkable silences of our Lord. Sometimes he spoke, never more than brief sentences. But sometimes no word could be drawn from him, and the silence was either convincing or aggravating. It was, however, always the sign that our Lord had supreme command of himself, never for one brief moment, amid all those terrible scenes, losing his self-control. We notice two things.
I. WHEN A MAN'S WORK IS TO ENDURE, THERE IS NO NEED FOR SPEECH. The enduring is the speech; and it can seldom be helped by any spoken words. Suffering for God has its own voice, and does not want any utterance by the lips. Illustrate from sufferers in our spheres who "possess their souls in patience." "They also serve who only stand and wait." Show that our Lord's active work was now done; he was called to bear, endure, suffer,
II. WHEN A MAN MAY NOT SPEAK, HIS WORK IS DONE BY SILENCE. He shows to men an example of self-control, in the triumph he has won, which enables him to keep silence; and there are reproaches and convictions and humiliations in simple silence, that pierce to the dividing asunder of our souls as no spoken words can do. Sometimes we find absolutely unendurable the silence of those whose silence we feel to be reproof. Illustrate Christ's power on Peter, on Herod, and on Pilate. There are many occasions, even in our lives, when we may "say nothing," and so best serve God.—R.T.
This prepares us to see that the real sacrifice for sin, which our Redeemer offered, was the full surrender of his will, his self, to God, which found expression, for us to apprehend it, in his bodily sufferings on the cross (see Hosea 9:14).
I. SIN IS A SOUL-THING. It is not an act; it is a man acting.
II. PENALTY IS A SOUL-THING. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."
III. SALVATION IS A SOUL-THING. Christ bore the soul-penalty; Christ brought life for dead souls. The infinite depth of Christ's suffering lay hidden—in behind—in the Redeemer's soul, finding only once what seemed a suitable utterance in human language, and that a cry of immeasurable distress, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"—R.T.
Satisfied for sore travail.
When the sufferings of our Lord are spoken of in Scripture, they are usually connected with his exaltation and glory. "When they testified of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow;" "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God;" "Ought not Messias to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory? For the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour! A witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed." But the idea of this text is not so much the glory which our Lord himself shall reach through his work, as the benefits and blessings which, through him, shall come to men. Both may be included in the treatment of this theme.
I. OUR LORD'S SATISFACTION IN THE PERSONAL RESULTS OF HIS WORK. He has, through it, the "Name which is above every name;" and the power which he can use for larger blessings, "giving repentance to Israel, and remission of sins."
II. OUR LORD'S SATISFACTION IN THE RESULTS OF HIS WORK IN ITS RELATION TO GOD. To see the lest, prodigal sons and daughters of God turning yearning eyes homewards, and saying "Abba, Father!" must be satisfaction indeed to him who came that, in his sonship, he might honour the Father.
III. OUR LORD'S SATISFACTION IN THE DIRECT RESULTS OF HIS WORK FOR MEN. He came to save. He rejoices in every saved one: every "brand plucked from the burning."
IV. OUR LORD'S SATISFACTION IN THE INDIRECT RESULTS OF HIS WORK FOR MAN. To save a man from sin is to raise and ennoble a life, to give new tone to a family, to purify all the relationships of society, and to redeem a nation, and to save the world. Illustrate from what Christianity has done and is doing. But Christianity is an abstraction. The real blessing of humanity is the thousandfold varied influence of the men and women whom Christ has saved from wrath and sin. He has present satisfaction in a heaven full of white-robed saints, in a Church striving to keep its white garments unspotted from the world; and in the expectation of the time when the "creature also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 53". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany