Australian Christadelphian Central Standing Committee
Unity In Australia

Address: “Isaiah, Chapter 53” (John Carter)

(Delivered in Regent Hall, 1958)

Dear Brethren and Sisters, may we regard this evening’s study as being in the nature of an exposition or meditation. Let us first consider, through the eyes of the prophet Isaiah, what was fulfilled in him who was the servant of God; and realise how closely his work is connected with ourselves. We may then, through the very word that God has given to us, feel something of that, which those men felt who accompanied with the Lord; when out of the wealth of his understanding of the Word of God, he opened up unto them the scriptures. They were able to say: “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way.” So may it be that the Word of God will have a like effect of that on us tonight, as we study it together; that our appreciation of it may be enlarged, our spiritual understanding deepened and our hearts more aglow in response to the wonderful things that God has done in Jesus Christ our Lord.


The prophet Isaiah, as we know, ministered in the days of Uzziah, Jotham Ahaz and Hezekiah. Uzziah was that king who entered into the holy place daring and presuming upon the office of priesthood, only to withdraw himself hurriedly as he was smitten by God, with the leprosy mounting up on his face. Perhaps we can solve something of the chronology of this period by recognising that Jotham would reign as co-ruler with his father Uzziah, who must have been withdrawn from public service because of the leprosy which came upon him. But leprosy was not limited to King Uzziah. We are told of Hezekiah himself, that he was smitten with something for which the word boil is used, in what the prophet told him to do, by way of healing. But it is generally considered that Hezekiah himself at this time was suffering from what is known as elephantiasis, a form of leprosy in which the limbs swell and blacken and thus resemble the legs of an elephant, from which the name of ‘this particular form of leprosy is taken.

There were circumstances in Hezekiah’s life which provided a kind of background (I use the words, a kind of background, advisedly) to what the prophet had to say. The king was smitten— smitten with leprosy, and the words that are used in this prophecy, “We esteemed him stricken” — “For the transgression of my people was he stricken” are words that are used peculiarly in the 13th and 14th chapters of Leviticus, in which sanitary regulations governing skin diseases are provided; wherein the priest had to diagnose what were infectious diseases. It is a word that is peculiarly applied to leprosy. But when a case was healed of leprosy, it was the province of the priest to pronounce the man healed, and the very word that occurs in those chapters concerning leprosy is the word that occurs here: “with his stripes we are healed.”

Here then in the circumstances of the king’s life, was something which provided the language of this chapter in these respects, but not only so, the king himself was the subject of a prolonging of days, even as the prophet speaks of the greater than Hezekiah. He shall prolong his days for there was an extension of life given to him. But at the time his malady afflicted him he was not married. He hadn’t taken the necessary steps for ensuring a succession to the throne and immediately after his recovery he married Hephzibah and the marriage is commemorated in the words of Isaiah in a later chapter where he speaks of the land being Beulah and Hephzibah. “The Lord delighteth in thee and thy land shall be married,”—playing upon the name of the one who became the wife of Hezekiah. Then sometime afterwards Manassah was born and he saw his seed and there alas the parallel breaks down very sadly indeed. But here were circumstances which did suggest somewhat, the meaning of the words of the prophet.


But there is one further point which I think is interesting in connection with this parallel and that is found in the second book of Kings, Chapter 20. In the 5th verse we read, where God is speaking, to the prophet: “Turn again and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, thus saith the Lord the God of David thy father; I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears, behold I will heal thee. On the third day thou shall go up unto the House of the Lord.” You will remember that Paul, in opening the 15th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians said: that the first things he preached to them was that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. (Suppose we put to ourselves the exercise of finding how many passages there are in the Old Testament, that Christ would rise the third day according to the scriptures.) Paul tells us that he demonstrated to the Corinthians from the scriptures that Christ would rise the third day. Well there was one in connection with the offering of the first sheaf to which Paul himself alludes in the same chapter, where he says: “Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming, then the end.” A clear reference to the three feasts of Israel. He tells us that in the parable of the calendar, the cycle of the agricultural ingathering in Israel’s life was a prefiguration of God’s ingathering by resurrection from the dead. But the first sheaf was offered on the morrow after the sabbath on the third day. May not one of the references to the third day be found in the experience of Hezekiah, whose prolonging of days in entering into the House of the Lord was on the third day.

Be that as it may, I think it is evident that there were, in the circumstances of Hezekiah’s life, that which did provide a kind of parallel to what the prophet is speaking about.


Now, and much more importantly, we turn to what the prophet had to say concerning the greater servant of God, the Lord Jesus. Now we must notice that this prophecy is one of what are known as the servant prophecies of Isaiah. They begin with the 42nd chapter. “Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth.” and the important thing in connection with that verse is that word for word for the Greek translation of those words in Isaiah, they are what we are told in the gospels, what the Almighty said when Jesus was baptised: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Here we have the first identification of the servant from the Almighty Himself. But as we read on in these servant prophecies we observe that there is an ever clearer recognition of the fact that the servant must suffer. He shall not fail nor be discouraged is a mere suggestion, but the reference that he should be cut off for the covenant of the people is more than a hint that, through his death, the covenants of God would be confirmed.

In the 50th chapter, verse 6. we are told however, that “he would set his face like a flint and hide not his face from shame and spitting”. The one to whom that had come was the pattern student, the one whose ear was always open to hear God’s word and to attend upon His word. More than that it was one who could say, and say it in his own right: “He is near that justifieth me.” Those words imply that the servant of God would be the sinless one: for he is the only one of whom it could be said in his own right that God would justify him. For to justify is to pronounce righteous and God could look upon His Son and recognise that there were no hidden motives or secrets, away from Him.

Therefore God could exalt him and vindicate him and justify him. It is written in this chapter that by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities. It is on the basis of our sins forgiven for Christ’s sake that we are justified or esteemed by God as righteous, but that, by the forgiveness of sins. But it is written concerning the servant of God, “that he would be near.” who would justify him and the particular bearing of that upon the Lord’s own life and experience we shall see bye and bye.


The word “servant” is one that comes out in the Lord’s own utterances, hidden a little by the variant usage of language in our Authorised Version. In the context where he speaks of brethren serving one another he tells us that the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto or using the same word, came not to be “served” but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. So speaking the Lord identified his work with that of a servant and the very word “many” comes from this chapter. As it does also in another reference when he said, taking the wine which was one of the cups at the Jewish passover, and transforming it into the memorial of his own work, he said, “This is the blood of the new covenant shed for many for the remission of sins.” The use of that word “many” by Jesus in those two passages and others too. turn our minds back to these phrases in this prophecy of Isaiah and I believe are a clear allusion to them. That is to say, the very phrasing of the prophet so permeated the mind of the Lord Jesus that his very language echoes the words of the prophet Isaiah. That word “many” should never be read without thinking of its background in this chapter.

But there are other specific allusions, as for example in Acts chapter 4, verse 27. The disciples are assembled and are in prayer to God: “For of a truth against thy holy child. Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” Then the last sentence of verse 30: “signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child, Jesus.” The word “child” there is the translation of a word that means “boy” and just as in the colonial sense, where white people have coloured servants and they have a house boy, or so many boys on their staff, so the Greek word here translated “child” which means “boy” is used in the sense of “servant”. That is to say it wasn’t used in the sense of a descendant from a parent, but in the sense of being one of the domestics or servants. The revisers recognising that, they have here given us the word servant “of a truth against thy holy servant, Jesus”. “By the name of thy holy servant, Jesus.” That too is a distinct allusion to the servant prophecies of Isaiah.


There are one or two others that we shall more specifically look at when we come to them. But just as we have turned to these phrases in the New Testament, to find linkage with this prophet, so the prophet’s words himself will turn us elsewhere, in order that we might catch the allusion that he is making. Now we will turn to verse 13 of chapter 52 and continue along, stopping here and anon to turn to other passages which throw light upon the statements of the prophet: trying to understand his meaning, trying to fathom the connection between the various statements he makes, so that we can see the development of a theme, and a purpose through the chapter.

“Behold,” he says, “my servant shall deal prudently” (or “prosper” as the margin has it) the word that is used when Joshua had to lead them into the inheritance. If you do this, said God, “thou shalt prosper in all thy ways,” and here is another Joshua to lead them into an inheritance. “He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.” Now in the 6th chapter of Isaiah: In the very year that Uzziah, the leprous king, died, the prophet had a vision of the king-to-be. “In the year that Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne; high and lifted up and his train filled the temple.” When John quotes some later words of this chapter in his gospel, he says, “These things spake Isaiah when he saw his glory and spake of him” (John 12:41). So John tells us in his gospel that Isaiah was speaking of the glory of Christ here and that “the Lord high and lifted up.” (6:1) is the manifestation of the Eternal in the one who would sit upon David’s throne. He saw him sitting upon a throne. He was not only a king upon his throne but in contrast to this king who had presumed upon the office of priesthood, this one is not only king but also priest, by virtue of Divine appointment. His train, or as the margin has it, “his skirts,” filled the temple. The words “his skirts” are priestly robes, for the king here “high and lifted up” is not only the King of the age to come, but being after the order of Melchisedec he is a king upon his throne and a priest upon his throne. That it refers to the Millennial age is clear, because the third verse tells us:

“One cried unto another and said, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

When then, Isaiah says (52:13), concerning this servant of God, that “he shall be exalted and lifted up,” he is telling us that this servant is none other than the one who is going to be king, whom he saw enthroned, when the earth shall be filled with the Glory of God and that threefold description of Holiness will ascend to the Almighty. But how, and in what way, is there going to be this manifestation of the Almighty? The answer comes in a surprising way and the surprise deepens as we go through the chapter. “As many,” says the prophet, “were astonied at thee,” and just as the word “as” implies as a counter point the word “so”; just to that extent must our minds travel on until we find that word “so”. “As many were astonied at thee” and the “so” comes in the opening words of verse 15. If any of you mark your Bibles I suggest you put parenthesis marks around, “His visage was so marred more than any man and his form than the sons of men,” because they are a parenthetic explanation of why men were astonied at him. The prophet says: “as many were astonied so shall he sprinkle many nations.” There is a contrast quantitatively; as many (individuals) so shall he sprinkle many nations.


But why were the many astonied at him. The answer comes in that parenthetic explanation: “His visage was so marred more than any man and his form more than the sons of men.” This, as I have said, comes as a surprising piece of information here, and we have to ask how, and in what way, was it fulfilled. First of all I think we must recognise that the Lord normally must have been a healthy person. He had a goodly heritage. He lived according to the laws of life and we may be sure there were no abuses whatever in his life We may think of him as being in the fullness of healthy manly vigour when he began his ministry. But we are not left just to that inference. I think that the very fact that the women were so ready to bring their children to him shows that there must have been a charm and a comeliness and a graciousness about him. In fact we are told they wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth, in fulfilment of the prophetic Psalm: “Grace is poured into thy lips.” So we can think of him as winsome and attractive; one that won the confidence of men and women by his grace and his kindness and the general character that beamed out of him.

How then must we understand these words. I think against that background, and remembering what the prophet has to say as his theme develops, we are made to understand how they were fulfilled. The prophet is dealing with the closing hours of the life of the servant of God and in those closing hours these words were fulfilled. We can begin to trace their fulfilment when we think of him leaving the city after he had instituted his supper; after he had spoken the words of those (13th onward to the 17th) chapters of John. We think of him lingering a while maybe in the temple courts, for they were opened at midnight at the passover season; and perhaps that was the very safest place after they had arisen and gone in to speak the other chapters (the 16th and 17th) of John. Then the journey down into the valley, dark with shadows, and John points out in the 18th chapter in a picture that he draws; that there, was a picture of the Lord going down into the darkness.

The other gospel writers tell us of the agony when he sweats, as it were, great drops of blood. The writer to the Hebrews gives a little item of information which the gospel writers do not. He tells us that “with strong crying and tears, he made supplication to Him, who was able to save him out of death and was heard in that he feared.” Men have gone through a crisis in life and have come out of it with lined faces, sometimes with bleached hair and an impress has been left upon them that has never left them. But who has gone through a crisis like that which the Lord went through in Gethsemane. Reverence demands that we do not seek to penetrate too far. But surely it was something outside the ordinary experience of ordinary men, that it produced such an effect upon him. It was bound up with his work which was to be consummated on the morrow, for there the battle was won. There the determination was reached that the cup must not pass from him for it was not the Father’s will that it should be.

It was, incidentally (and perhaps this helps along the explanation) the anniversary of that dark night of the Lord when the passover lamb was slain. The anniversary was not on the morrow of that. It was when he was in Gethsemane that there was the anniversary, day for day. for that dark night in Egypt when the passover lamb was slain. May it not be that even there, was the beginning of his sufferings, which were only consummated on the day afterward. Sufferings bound up, inscrutable though it may be, with the work that he had to do as the Lamb of God that beareth away the sin of the world. When we think of how God views sin, and here in him is going to be provided the way whereby sin can be removed, can we possibly think that in some way the full horror of what sin meant and of the tremendous burden that lay upon him, as he was meeting the cross, met there, in the Lord’s consciousness, as he pleaded with the Father. We cannot think for a moment that he came out of Gethsemane without the effects of the struggle being present upon his countenance. Yet the determination was made that enabled him, with that wonderful composure, to go through all that followed on the day afterwards.

But even there things were done that added to his appearance, when that crown of thorns was pressed upon his head. It wasn’t done gently and the thorns were really thorns, if the traditional plant of the crown of thorns was correct. For it had spikes an inch long which would leave their scars upon his brow. Then when we remember that he hid not his face from spitting, we can well see how the words of the prophet were fulfilled: “that his visage was so marred more than the sons of men” (Isa. 52:14).

It may be from this point of view, that we need not think of Pilate as jesting or mocking or many other words which have been used. in an attempt to define Pilate’s feeling, as he led Jesus out of the Judgment Hall and put him there before the Jews. Wasn’t there something possibly of wonder and pathos in his words. What a sad and sorry spectacle this man of sorrows must have then presented after all he’d gone through, as Pilate said, “Behold the man.” There was no compassion in their hearts towards him, because it had been written that they had to esteem him stricken and smitten, of God. But there he was and there is the appeal of Pilate to behold him and to behold the man, as he was bearing the sorrows that came upon him.


But that this work was bound up with the work of Jesus as “the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world” is apparent when we go on to the next verse and take up that word “so”. As many were astonied at this which was done in connection with him, “so shall he sprinkle many nations.” The word “sprinkle” has given occasion to discussion, but here again the scriptures themselves help us. The word is used again and again in the book of Leviticus. It is used for example, in connection with the work of the day of Atonement, when the high priest had to sprinkle the blood of the atoning sacrifice upon the mercy seat. Following that, we can see, that just as in that sprinkling, there was the application of the atoning sacrifice in type; so here, in regard to this servant of God. When we are told, “So shall he sprinkle many nations,” we must not follow the words in their literal connotation. It means to say, he will bring to bear upon them, the effects of his work, which will be for the reconciliation of them towards God, for their atonement with God. The sprinkling was the application of the sacrifice in the appointed way, in whatever form it may have taken in the various symbolic ordinances of the law. Here, this one has to sprinkle many nations and the “many” in the one case is the contrast to the “many” in the other. But the fact that it is nations, enlarges the scope beyond the Jewish nation and in fact takes us back to the Abrahamic promises, where God said, “In thee and in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.” So shall he sprinkle many nations and that that is the correct interpretation, is borne out by the use by Paul of the subsequent words of this verse, in his letter to the Romans.

The prophet says, “Kings shall shut their mouths at him; for that which had not been told them they shall see; and that which they had not heard, shall they consider.” We turn to Romans chapter 15 and note Paul’s application of these verses at verse 20. “So have I strived,” says Paul, “to preach the Gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation. But as it is written, to whom he was not spoken of, they shall see; and they that have not heard shall understand.” So the Apostle uses the words of the prophet in his own preaching and for bringing to the knowledge of men, the Gospel of Christ.

Now that being Paul’s usage of them, we turn back to the prophet and find that, with the interpretation of the word sprinkle, we have given, the chapter and the verse is in perfect harmony throughout. He shall bring to bear the effects of his sacrificial work upon nations, for the word of the Gospel of Christ will be preached to kings and to all that live and that which they have not heard, they shall consider; in the proclamation of the Gospel of their salvation at that time.

We see then from these opening verses, that the prophet is dealing with one who is going to be exalted and enthroned; who is going to be a King and a Priest; who will go through dire sufferings in the process of his work. But the outcome of it will be that many nations will come within the scope of his redeeming work.

Now from that background we move on to a consideration of chapter 53, which continues the theme. In view of the largeness of what the prophet has indicated, he asks the question, “Who hath believed our report.” You see he has just said at the end of verse 15 of Chapter 52 that kings will hear it. All nations will hear it.


Now he turns back to the circumstances of the servant, as he was manifested at first. Was he then going to receive such a reception. If ultimately kings will shut their mouths at him, if ultimately nations will receive of the benefit of his work; what would be his reception, when he appeared? So he asks, “Who hath believed our report and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (verse 1). Is it to be to nations then; is it to be to the one nation? Or when he comes will there be a failure to understand and a failure to appreciate him? Well, says the prophet, consider. He won’t come as men expect such a one to come. It is expected that those who are heirs to royal thrones will be born in kings’ palaces. Was this one to be born in high estate? Was the attention of all nations concerned with the birth? Not at all. “He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground” (verse 2). So God arranges His schemes, that no flesh should glory in His presence.

The Apostle tells us that the Jews looked for a sign and the Greeks sought after wisdom. Supposing the one whom God raised up to be a Redeemer had come in the way the Jews looked for him, marked by wondrous signs and displays of power. He would have attracted to him those who loved such display; those who were questing for powers themselves. It would have appealed to a certain type of men and women. Suppose he had come as the Greeks looked for him; in the world of intellectual achievement; in the schools of dialectics in which the Greek delighted. He would then have come to a still more limited group of people.

God’s intention was that the appeal, bound up with the work of this servant, should be universal and it could only come to low and high alike, by the servant coming in the lowliest of estates; so that those that were high might be humbled; that the humble might receive him with glad hearts. That, in all the working of the purpose, God alone might be glorified. For it is God’s purpose that no flesh should glory in His presence. So it was that a maiden, living in the remote parts of Galilee, in a little village of Nazareth, tucked away among the hills above the plain of Ezdraelon; that such a maiden was chosen to be the mother of the Lord. The child was born in David’s royal city, but so much was he a tender plant and a root out of a dry ground, that there was no room for them in the inn. The kahn or the inn consisted of two levels of floor, the lower level where the animals rested and fed, and a slightly raised level, say three or four feet above the ground, where the people who lodged at the inn (or the Kahn) lay down, using their outer clothes for covering for the night to sleep. Along the edge of that raised level was the trough in which the food of the animals was placed, and there the new born child was laid;

No reception in kings’ palaces. No acclaim as is to be expected of a royal personage. But as one out of a dry ground.

From another point of view, a story which is told about a Roman Emperor, who, hearing of the fame of Jesus, asked that all of that line should be brought before him; still illustrates the point from another aspect. For there were gathered to the emperor as many as could be found of David’s descendants and they were so manifestly of the peasant class, that it was so clear that they could not be possible claimants to royalty, and that they wouldn’t in the least way be likely to raise the standard of revolt, or lead any agitation or revolution; that the emperor dismissed them from his presence. “A root out of a dry ground.”


In that sense we interpret the words, “He hath no form nor comeliness, no beauty that we should desire him” (verse 2). There were not those features about him that men looked for as desirable elements from a human point of view in connection with the offices to which this man will some day ascend. Now in contrast, “he is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (verse 3). While he was the Arm of the Lord and the Servant of God, men hid their faces from him, and esteemed him not. We might, to see the full significance of that, ponder for a moment or two, what is implied in that word, the Arm of the Lord. The arm of a man is, of course, a part of his body. The arm of a man is that which he stretches out to help and the Arm of the Lord is what God has done to help. But just as the arm of a man is connected with the man, so pursuing the figure, we must see that there is some intimate connection between the Lord Jesus and the Almighty, to justify the term, “the Arm of the Lord” in connection with Jesus. Although not explicit, we believe it is fully implicit in the use of that figure, that Jesus was the Son of God. It is indeed indicated in the 52nd chapter, that this manifestation of God’s power in His holy Arm, was for men’s salvation. Listen to the 10th verse of chapter 52: “The Lord hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” That is, of course, a beautiful illustration of the parallelism that characterises Hebrew speech. “He has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations and all the ends of the earth shall see” and parallel with the holy arm is “the salvation of God”, for here was the Saviour.

God has stretched out His arm in raising up a Son to be a Saviour, because we could not have been provided with a saviour apart from it, because no human being could have possibly lived the life of perfect obedience, that would ensure resurrection from the dead; and so provide one in whom could be vested the power to raise others also.

When the Arm of the Lord was revealed and the Son of God came this is how men treated him. We might stop for a second to think of the evidential value to the truth of the record in this fact. You can’t imagine any prophet, looking forward and speaking of one to come, who would be the Son of God, who of himself would depict such a treatment as is here described. Would he not naturally have described him as being in some way recognised and acclaimed and approved and exalted by men. I think we should. How comes it that the prophet has delineated such an opposite reception. It was as the prophet foretold, but the message could only be of God, who would reveal this which was so contrary to what would naturally have happened, as men would view it. But there was a Divine reason and that reason has already emerged from what we have considered in connection with his work, of sprinkling many nations. He was to be the one through whom redemption would come. So it is said, He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.


Yet men looked upon him as an outcast and a leper. Not as a leper in fact but like as a leper as being an outcast. A leper was an outcast and yet in fact we were; not literally lepers but such as were leprous by sin, in that our sins were as a leprosy. “By his stripes we are healed.” You will remember, as we pointed out, that word was taken from that figure of leprosy. But we are healed because of him, because “he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). There was no iniquity in him. There were no transgressions in him. Why should the Lord have to suffer in the way that he did? Because God appointed that in him there should be declared His righteousness. And it could only be by one who was there, just where we are, in respect of our inheritance from Adam who could declare God’s righteousness (but we are involved in that) and so provide the way so that our sins could be forgiven. But the prophet doesn’t enter into that explanation. He states the simple fact that he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. Not that they were transferred to him as such, but that as a result of his work they are taken away. But we would make a sad mistake if, while we have said that they were not, and could not be literally transferred to him that there was no burden upon him, in providing the condition for their removal.


Let us look at two passages in the New Testament. One in Matthew 8:17: Jesus had been healing and “when the evening was come they brought to him many that were possessed with devils and he healed all that were sick; that it might be fulfilled that was spoken by Esias the prophet, Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.” Was there no sense of labour, no welling up of compassion for these people, that led him to do it? Of course there was. Since we are told that on one occasion he perceived that virtue had gone out of him, perhaps we may infer that his toilsome healing work was not without a sense of giving of himself as he did the work. Not only in the welling up of his large compassionate heart, as he looked upon them as sheep having no shepherd and as he entered into the feeling of their sufferings; but in the very giving of something in the physical power involved in doing this work of healing as he perceived that virtue had gone out of him.


The other passage is in Peter’s first epistle, chapter 2. At verse 20, he says, “What glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? If, when you do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even here unto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who when he was reviled, reviled not again; (and Peter is looking back at Isaiah 53 here). When he suffered he threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” (We will refer to this passage a little later.) “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on (or to) the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” You will observe how Peter is quoting that. Then he quotes again, “ye were as sheep going astray,” and since we are sheep, he is the shepherd although he is the Lamb of God by a beautiful introversion of Divine figures. “Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” “Who, his own self, bare our sins in his own body to the tree” and that explains how it was done, that when his body was nailed to the tree, there was a declaration of a Divine purpose, as a condition upon which our sins are forgiven. It was because, Son of God as he was, that the Lord’s body was a body belonging to the Adamic race, dying because of sin, Adam’s sin. There is the inheritance, there is the entail.

There in that voluntary going to the cross, (this is the nerve of it, brethren and sisters), he declared the righteousness of God. So then in a figure (just as it is in a figure that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin for blood can cleanse nothing in itself), he bore our sins in his body to the tree. But it was because his body could rightly go there and that he could go there voluntarily, that he could bare our sins, and our sins could be forgiven for his sake. That is Peter’s explanation of what we are reading in this prophecy. The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. “We have turned,” he says, “everyone to his own way, like sheep.” What does it mean to say that we have turned, everyone to his own way. Adam chose his own way at the beginning and we have all repeated Adam’s mistake of going our own way.

What’s the alternative to going our own way? There’s the Lord’s way and who alone chose the Lord’s way, but the Lord’s anointed himself. That’s the contrast; we’ve chosen our own way; he chose the Lord’s way. “Not my will but thine be done.”


Now since this is to happen to the servant of God; how could it be arranged, that this could be done in such a way, that the Divine objects could be brought to men. The Lord could have retired to the wilderness and in the presence of the Angels, say, have laid down his life. Would that have achieved the Divine purpose? So far as the offering of himself. But that was not the whole of the purpose, because this, you see; what the Son was doing: this that the servant of God was doing, was something that dynamically concerned men and women and therefore it had to be done in such a way, that the very fact of it, as well as the effects of it, were brought to bear on men and women. Now how could that be done? Only by some publicity attaching to the way our Lord laid down his life. There must be some publicity. Paul gets the idea when writing to Galatians, after he has been speaking. “I am crucified with Christ,” he says, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that you have so soon turned away, before whom Christ was evidently set forth—and the word is “placarded”, that expresses the word “placarded” like the placards in the street that are designed to force themselves upon your attention. They’re there to attract your attention, to bring to bear with all that power, that the person who has the placard put there, wishes you to notice. It was just so here. It was necessary that, in some way the Lord should die; that the facts of his death were so evident that men were constrained to look at them. But how could it be accomplished? Well the prophet indicates how God did accomplish it.

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment” (Isa.. 53:7,8). So the death of the Servant had to be associated with judicial forms, a procedure of judgment; and there is perhaps no other way that can so focus attention upon the issues as a judicial procedure. How our papers publicise the decisions of the courts. How interested the people of ancient times were, as they gathered around the open space of the market, within the gates, to hear the decisions of the judges. How the oral decisions of the judges in ancient times were impressed upon the minds of the people and became, as it were, unwritten laws, for their social life. When the judgment assumed more detailed forms, still more was the floodlight of publicity on what was done. So in the eyes of the whole nation of Israel, the facts connected with Jesus were brought to bear in an inescapable way.

We have mentioned the multitudes that assembled in Jerusalem for the passover. Josephus says two million people. I’m not concerned” whether this figure is accurate or not. The fact that he can name such a figure impresses us with the fact that the place must have been crowded; and all that crowd knew of the judicial procedure. But it was a judicial procedure that was a scandal to justice. He is afflicted and he opened not his mouth, for the procedure of justice was wrong. The jurisprudence of Israel had built up a series of regulations to safeguard the interests of the prisoner, the charges had to be made by witnesses; no trial should be by night; no trial should be clandestine and a host of other details, everyone of which _ was disregarded, as the whole system was torn to tatters by the attitude of the rulers of Israel. When the Lord stood before Pilate, who confessed that he found no fault in him, he had him scourged, which. was a crime, for an innocent man to be subjected to. Still more was it a crime, that Pilate should pronounce him innocent and then allow him to be condemned to the gallows.

“He was taken from prison and from judgment” (verse 8) and vet Peter tells us that while he was there, he wasn’t stood before Pilate or Annas or Caiaphas. “He committed himself,” says Peter, who saw the Lord in the judgment hall and didn’t know what the Lord was doing, unless it had been revealed to him, “he committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” The Lord’s mind was not centred on Herod or Pilate, Annas or Caiaphas, it was centred on his Father in heaven and he knew that He would vindicate him. Surely at that time, the words must have been in his mind, “He is near that justifieth me” and how abundantly the Father justified him when presently he was “raised from the dead and exalted to His own right hand.”

“Who shall declare his generation?” A question that suggests that he, being cut off, there would be a termination of his life and a termination of all succession with him. “He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he smitten” (verse 8). Here then is going to be a seedless man apparently without a posterity. Yet we shall be told presently “he shall see his seed” but we’ll wait till we get there, noting merely the fact the question asked.


But now there is another problem. If it was by judicial procedure that the Lord had to meet his death, in order that there might be this publicity attaching to it, that God required for His purposes and since it was the custom in the New Testament times, that the body of one crucified should be cast out into Gehenna; how could the Lord’s purpose, that His holy one should not see corruption, but should he raised from the dead, be accomplished again, with due regard, not only of the decorum of the matter, but also the facts to be established? The answer is in the prophet. It is wonderful, brethren and sisters, when we face these issues and look at these problems, how the answers come in the prophecy of Isaiah. “He made his grave with the wicked,” crucified with malefactors, and “with a rich man was his tomb”. The prophet tells us why that and it may seem at first obscure why! “Because he had done no violence, neither was there deceit in his mouth.” Why was it, because of his sinlessness, he had to share a rich man’s tomb? Because if there hadn’t been a man of sufficient influence and with that rare courage at that time, to go to Pilate and beg the body of Jesus, there would have been no honourable burial for the Son of God. But God foresaw its need and provided for it. Thus it was that two men were there who summoned up their courage and came out of their secret discipleship. The one to go and buy what was a princely amount of, spices.


“When he shall be made an offering for sin, he shall see his seed (his seed) (verse 10), and who shall declare his generation?’’ Jesus said before Pilate, knowing that his work would go on, “he that is of the Truth heareth my voice.” What a sublime declaration that was in such a crisis. “What is Truth?” said Pilate, and Jesus answered, “he that is of the Truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37). But this isn’t the end, there is going to be a succession of men who hear the Truth, the Truth for which I’m standing, the Truth which is being illustrated and embodied in me. There will be adherents of this. The contemporary writer with Isaiah in the Psalms (45:16) says, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” “He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (verse 10). Then we get another word that is rather significant: “He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied” (verse 11). “Travail” is distinctly the woman’s lot in life. “I will multiply thy sorrow and thy conception.” How strangely that the figure of travail should be used here, and yet it’s right. For travail is the toil from which comes the new birth, the new order or the new being as the case may be. Here out of this man’s sufferings is going to emerge new things, a new creation and therefore it’s travail.

But since we are looking at this by meditation as well as devotion, might we think also that the word leads us to this. Here he was suffering the effects of what had come by sin, dying; “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee” (Gen. 3:17). There were thorns upon his brow and to complete the cycle pertaining to the consequences that came by sin, here is the travail too, the travail of soul. Thus from his sufferings emerges a new creation and he will be satisfied when he sees it. This is the practical effect that, “by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many for he shall bear their iniquities” (verse 11).

Now we must stop for a moment, for “bear their iniquities” takes us back to the day of Atonement when two goats were taken, both for the Lord, one slain and then the priest confessed all the sins and iniquities and transgressions upon the head of the live goat. Then by a fit man it was taken away into a land that was uninhabited, the land of forgetfulness. As is the offering for sin so is the goat that bears away to forgetfulness our sins. “For he shall bear their iniquities.”


So God will divide him a portion with the great, the immortal great, because of his work. The strong who are immortally strong seeing they have been exalted because of him; and that because he has poured out his soul unto death, because he had been numbered with transgressors and because he has borne the sin of many. “He poured out his soul unto death.” Do you recall the expression in Philippians where Paul harks back to this. It is lost in our Authorised version. But another version is so common that it ought to suggest it to us at once. Here it is in Philippians 2, verse 5, “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God (as the arm of the Lord) thought it not a thing to be grasped at (R.V.) to be equal with God.” “Ye shall be as gods” was said at the beginning and they grasped at it. But he emptied himself, a reference to “he poured out his soul unto death” (Isa. 53:12). “He emptied himself and took upon him the form of a servant,” as these servant prophecies required, “and was made in the likeness of men and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, the death of the cross wherefore God has (and mark again how Paul gathers up the words of the prophecy) “Highly exalted him.” “He shall be lifted up” and “very high” and that because he has poured out his soul unto death. The offerer for sin is the priest. “He made intercession for the transgressors.”

Well, brethren and sisters, perhaps we have been able to suggest a few lines of thought in connection with this very very wonderful prophecy. If it humbles our pride as we see God’s work in Christ Jesus; if it makes our hearts glow at the wonder of His grace, in providing such a one for our sins, surely the Word of God has not been written in vain.

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