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Isaiah Chapter Fifty-three                           

 

Isaiah 53

Chapter Contents

The person. (1-3) sufferings. (4-9) humiliation, and exaltation of Christ, are minutely described; with the blessings to mankind from his death. (10-12)

Commentary on Isaiah 53:1-3

(Read Isaiah 53:1-3)

No where in all the Old Testament is it so plainly and fully prophesied, that Christ ought to suffer, and then to enter into his glory, as in this chapter. But to this day few discern, or will acknowledge, that Divine power which goes with the word. The authentic and most important report of salvation for sinners, through the Son of God, is disregarded. The low condition he submitted to, and his appearance in the world, were not agreeable to the ideas the Jews had formed of the Messiah. It was expected that he should come in pomp; instead of that, he grew up as a plant, silently, and insensibly. He had nothing of the glory which one might have thought to meet with him. His whole life was not only humble as to outward condition, but also sorrowful. Being made sin for us, he underwent the sentence sin had exposed us to. Carnal hearts see nothing in the Lord Jesus to desire an interest in him. Alas! by how many is he still despised in his people, and rejected as to his doctrine and authority!

Commentary on Isaiah 53:4-9

(Read Isaiah 53:4-9)

In these verses is an account of the sufferings of Christ; also of the design of his sufferings. It was for our sins, and in our stead, that our Lord Jesus suffered. We have all sinned, and have come short of the glory of God. Sinners have their beloved sin, their own evil way, of which they are fond. Our sins deserve all griefs and sorrows, even the most severe. We are saved from the ruin, to which by sin we become liable, by laying our sins on Christ. This atonement was to be made for our sins. And this is the only way of salvation. Our sins were the thorns in Christ's head, the nails in his hands and feet, the spear in his side. He was delivered to death for our offences. By his sufferings he purchased for us the Spirit and grace of God, to mortify our corruptions, which are the distempers of our souls. We may well endure our lighter sufferings, if He has taught us to esteem all things but loss for him, and to love him who has first loved us.

Commentary on Isaiah 53:10-12

(Read Isaiah 53:10-12)

Come, and see how Christ loved us! We could not put him in our stead, but he put himself. Thus he took away the sin of the world, by taking it on himself. He made himself subject to death, which to us is the wages of sin. Observe the graces and glories of his state of exaltation. Christ will not commit the care of his family to any other. God's purposes shall take effect. And whatever is undertaken according to God's pleasure shall prosper. He shall see it accomplished in the conversion and salvation of sinners. There are many whom Christ justifies, even as many as he gave his life a ransom for. By faith we are justified; thus God is most glorified, free grace most advanced, self most abased, and our happiness secured. We must know him, and believe in him, as one that bore our sins, and saved us from sinking under the load, by taking it upon himself. Sin and Satan, death and hell, the world and the flesh, are the strong foes he has vanquished. What God designed for the Redeemer he shall certainly possess. When he led captivity captive, he received gifts for men, that he might give gifts to men. While we survey the sufferings of the Son of God, let us remember our long catalogue of transgressions, and consider him as suffering under the load of our guilt. Here is laid a firm foundation for the trembling sinner to rest his soul upon. We are the purchase of his blood, and the monuments of his grace; for this he continually pleads and prevails, destroying the works of the devil.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Isaiah

 

Isaiah 53

Verse 1

[1] Who hath believed our report and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

Who — Who, not only of the Gentiles, but even of the Jews, will believe the truth of what I say? And this premonition was highly necessary, both to caution the Jews that they should not stumble at this stone, and to instruct the Gentiles that they should not be seduced with their example.

The arm — The Messiah, called the arm or power of God, because the almighty power of God was seated in him.

Revealed — Inwardly and with power.

Verse 2

[2] For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

As a root — And the reason why the Jews will generally reject their Messiah, is, because he shall not come into the world with secular pomp, but he shall grow up, (or spring up, out of the ground) before him, (before the unbelieving Jews, of whom he spake verse 1, and that in the singular number, as here, who were witnesses of his mean original; and therefore despised him) as a tender plant (small and inconsiderable) and as a root, or branch, grows out of a dry, barren ground.

No form — His bodily presence shall be mean and contemptible.

No beauty — This the prophet speaks in the person of the unbelieving Jews.

We — Our people, the Jewish nation.

Verse 3

[3] He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

We hid — We scorned to look upon him.

Verse 4

[4] Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

Yet — Our people believed that he was thus punished by the just judgment of God.

Verse 5

[5] But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Wounded — Which word comprehends all his pains and punishments.

For our iniquities — For the guilt of their sins, which he had voluntarily taken upon himself, and for the expiation of their sins, which was hereby purchased.

The chastisement — Those punishments by which our peace, our reconciliation to God, was to be purchased, were laid upon him by God's justice with his own consent.

Healed — By his sufferings we are saved from our sins.

Verse 6

[6] All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

We — All mankind.

Astray — From God.

Have turned — In general, to the way of sin, which may well be called a man's own way, because sin is natural to us, inherent in us, born with us; and in particular, to those several paths, which several men chuse, according to their different opinions, and circumstances.

Hath laid — Heb. hath made to meet, as all the rivers meet in the sea.

The iniquity — Not properly, for he knew no sin; but the punishment of iniquity, as that word is frequently used. That which was due for all the sins of all mankind, which must needs be so heavy a load, that if he had not been God as well as man, he must have sunk under the burden.

Verse 7

[7] He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

He opened not — He neither murmured against God, nor reviled men.

Verse 8

[8] He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

Taken away — Out of this life.

By distress and judgment — By oppression and violence. and a pretence of justice.

His generation — His posterity. For his death shall not be unfruitful; when he is raised from the dead, he shall have a spiritual seed, a numberless multitude of those who shall believe in him.

Cut off — By a violent death. And this may be added as a reason of the blessing of a numerous posterity conferred upon him, because he was willing to be cut off for the transgression of his people.

Verse 9

[9] And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

With the wicked — This was a farther degree of humiliation. He saith, he made his grave, because this was Christ's own act, and he willingly yielded up himself to death and burial. And that which follows, with the wicked, does not denote the sameness of place, as if he should be buried in the same grave with other malefactors, but the sameness of condition.

Verse 10

[10] Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

He — God was the principal cause of all his sufferings, tho' mens sins were the deserving cause.

When — When thou, O God, shalt have made, thy son a sacrifice, by giving him up to death for the atonement of mens sins. His soul is here put for his life, or for himself.

Shall see — He shall have a numerous issue of believers reconciled by God, and saved by his death.

Prolong — He shall live and reign with God for ever.

The pleasure — God's gracious decree for the salvation of mankind shall be effectually carried on by his ministry and mediation.

Verse 11

[11] He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Shall see — He shall enjoy.

The travel — The blessed fruit of all his labours, and sufferings.

Satisfied — He shall esteem his own and his father's glory, and the salvation of his people, an abundant recompence.

By his knowledge — By the knowledge of him.

Justify — Acquit them from the guilt of their sins, and all the dreadful consequences thereof. And Christ is said to justify sinners meritoriously, because he purchases and procures it for us.

Many — An innumerable company of all nations.

For — For he shall satisfy the justice of God, by bearing the punishment due to their sins.

Verse 12

[12] Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

I — God the father.

A portion — Which is very commodiously supplied out of the next clause.

With the strong — God will give him happy success in his glorious undertaking: he shall conquer all his enemies, and set up his universal and everlasting kingdom in the world.

Because — Because he willingly laid down his life.

Transgressors — He prayed upon earth for all sinners, and particularly for those that crucified him, and in heaven he still intercedes for them, by a legal demand of those good things which he purchased; by the sacrifice of himself, which, though past, he continually represents to his father, as if it were present.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Isaiah

 

53 Chapter 53

 

Verses 1-12

Isaiah 53:1-12

Who hath believed our report?
--

The Messiah referred to in Isaiah 53:1-12

By some it has been supposed, in ancient times and in modern, that the prophet was referring to the sufferings of the nation of Israel--either of Israel as a whole or of the righteous section of the nation--and to the benefits that would accrue from those sufferings to the surrounding peoples, some of whom were contemptuous of Israel, all of whom may be described as ignorant of God. But to defend that opinion it is necessary to paraphrase and interpret some of the statements in a way that no sound rules of exposition will allow. Even Jewish historians are wont to represent the sufferings of their people as the consequence of sin, whereas these verses speak repeatedly of sufferings that are vicarious. St. Paul says in one place that the fall of the Jews “is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles;” but he is so far from meaning that the Jews suffered in the stead of the Gentiles, that he proceeds at once to argue by implication: If the world has been blessed notwithstanding the unfaithfulness of the Jew, how much more would it have been blessed if Israel had been true? It is quite possible that the great figure of the Servant of Jehovah, standing in the front of all these verses, was designed to have more than a single interpretation, to be reverently approached from many sides, to be full of appeals to the patriotism and to the piety of the Israelite; but at the same time it is no mere abstract conception, but the figure of a living and separated Person, “more perfect than human believer ever was, uniting in himself more richly than any other messenger, of God everything that was necessary for the salvation of man, and finally accomplishing what no mere prophet” ever attempted. And some of the authorities of the synagogue even might be quoted in favour of the almost universal Christian opinion, that the Man of Sorrows of this chapter despised, and yet triumphant, is no other than the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world, who over-trod the lowest levels of human pain and misery, and who hereafter will sit enthroned, on His head many crowns, and in His heart the satisfaction of assured and unlimited victory. (R.W. Moss, D.D.)

The Jewish nation a vicarious sufferer

Isaiah 53:1-12 has been supposed by many to refer to the Jewish nation as a whole, and not to Christ or any other individual. And, in truth, it is in many ways singularly applicable to Israel as a nation. As a nation Israel was “despised and rejected,” and “bore the sins of many.” This people was the chief medium through which the Eternal was made manifest on earth. Hence came the peculiarities and deficiencies of the Hebrew nature. The Jews were haunted by the Infinite and Eternal; and therefore they knew not the free and careless joyousness of Greece. The mountains are scarred and rent by storms and tempests almost unknown in the valleys. The deepest religion necessarily involves prolonged suffering. The near presence of the Infinite pierces and wounds the soul. To Greeks or Romans Israel was a sort of Moses, veiling even while revealing the terrific lineaments of Jehovah. The face of Israel did indeed shine with an unearthly glory after communing with God on the mountain; but it was a glory utterly uncongenial to the gaiety of joyous Athens. Most truly might Greeks and Romans say of the devout Jew, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Yet was Israel a mighty benefactor to the human race. “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Salvation came by the Jews. They had more genuine moral inspiration than any others of the sons of men. To them alone was clearly disclosed the true Jacob’s ladder connecting earth with heaven. To the Greeks the Infinite was a mere notion, a thing for the intellect to play with, or a kind of irreducible surd left after the keenest philosophical analysis. To the Hebrews, on the other hand, the Infinite was an appalling and soul-abasing reality, an ever-menacing guide, as the fiery flaming sword of the cherubims “which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” “It pleased the Lord to bruise” Israel for the sake of the whole world. By being “numbered with the transgressors,” Israel found out the real righteousness. (A. Crawford, M.A.)

The Jewish nation was a type of Christ

The Jewish nation was a type of Christ, and of all natures at once spiritual and sympathetic throughout the ages. All real prophets in every age have in them much of the true Hebrew nature, with its depths and its limitations. (A. Crawford, M.A.)

The servant and Israel

“Who believed what we heard, and to whom did the arm of the Lord reveal itself?” Who believed the revelation given to us in regard to the Servant, and who perceived the operation of the Lord in His history! The speakers are Israel now believing, and confessing their former unbelief. (A. B. Davidson, D.D.)

Christ in Isaiah

As an artisan, laying a mosaic of complicated pattern and diverse colours, has before him a working drawing, and carefully fits the minute pieces of precious stone and enamel according to it, till the perfection of the design is revealed to all, so do the evangelists and apostles, with the working-drawing of Old Testament prophecy, and Old Testament types and shadows in the tabernacle services and ceremonies, in their hands, fit together the details of Christ’s life on earth, His atoning death and His resurrection, and say, “Behold, this can be none other than the long looked-for Messiah.” The central knop, or flower pattern, of the mosaic, from which all other details of the design radiated, was the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. (F. Sessions.)

The suffering Saviour

I. We are led to THE ANTICIPATED LOWLINESS OF GOD’S RIGHTEOUS SERVANT, the Messiah. He would be low in the esteem of men, even of those He comes to serve.

The Jews and Messianic prophecy

From the Jews wresting this text, observe--

1. That there is an evil disposition in men to turn off upon others that which nearly concerns themselves.

2. That it is no new thing in persons to vouch that for themselves which makes most against them. Thus the Jews do this chapter against the Gentiles.

3. When God, for the wickedness of a people, hardeneth their hearts, they are apt to mistake in that which is most plain.

4. From the prophet’s great admiration, observe, that when we can do no good upon a people, the most effectual way is to complain of it to God.

5. Those that profess the name of God may be much prejudiced against the entertainment of those truths and counsels that He makes known to them for their good.

6. It is a wonder they should not believe so plain a discovery of Christ, though by the just judgment of God they did not.

7. The first believing of Christ is a believing the report of Him; but afterwards there are experiences to confirm our belief (1 Peter 2:3; John 4:42). (T. Manton, D.D.)

Christ preached, but rejected

I. JESUS CHRIST MAY BE CLEARLY REPRESENTED TO A PEOPLE, AND YET BUT FEW WON TO BELIEVE IN HIM.

II. THE GOSPEL IS THE ARM AND POWER OF GOD.

III. SO FEW BELIEVE, BECAUSE GOD’S ARM IS NOT REVEALED TO THEM the power of the Word is not manifested by the Spirit. (T. Manton, D. D. )

Jewish prejudice against Christ

At the time of Christ’s being in the flesh there were divers prejudices against Him in the Jews.

1. An erroneous opinion of the Messiah.

2. A fond reverence of Moses and the prophets, as if it were derogatory to them to close with Christ (John 9:29).

3. Offence at His outward meanness (that is the scope of this chapter), and the persecution He met with. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Gentile prejudice against Christ

1. Pride in the understanding (1 Corinthians 1:23).

2. The meanness of the reporters--poor fishermen.

3. The hard conditions upon which they were to entertain Christ. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Christ rejected in our time

The hindrances to believing in Him are these:

1. Ignorance. Men hear of Christ, but are not acquainted with Him.

2. An easy slightness; men do not labour after faith.

3. A careless security. They think themselves well enough without Him.

4. A light esteem of Christ. As we do not see our own needs, so not His worth.

5. A presumptuous conceit that we have entertained Christ already. Many think every slight wish, every trivial hope, will serve the turn.

6. Hardness of heart.

7. Self-confidence.

8. Carnal fears. These hinder the soul from closing with that, mercy that is reported to be in Christ. They are of divers sorts.

9. Carnal reasonings from our sins.

10. Carnal apprehensions of Christ. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The credibility and importance of the Gospel report

I. WE WILL CONTEMPLATE THIS REPORT, AND INQUIRE WHETHER IT IS NOT WORTHY OF OUR ATTENTION AND BELIEF.

1. The report which we hear, is a most instructive report. It brings us information of many things which were before unknown, and which, without this information, never could have been known to the sons of men. “That which had not been told us, we see.” The Gospel for this reason is called a message, good tidings, and tidings of great joy. The leading truths of natural religion are agreeable to the dictates of reason; and perhaps might be, in some measure, discovered without revelation. At least they were known among those who had never enjoyed a written revelation, though, indeed, we cannot say how far these might be indebted to traditional information. But certainly those truths, which immediately relate to the recovery and salvation of sinners, human reason could never investigate.

2. The Gospel is a report from heaven. It was, in some degree, made known to the patriarchs, and afterwards more fully to the prophets But “God has in these last days, spoken to us by His Son.”

3. the Gospel is a credible report. Many reports come to us without evidence: we only hear them, but know not what is their foundation, or whether they have any. And yet even these reports pass not wholly unregarded. But, if any important intelligence is brought to us which is both rational in itself, and at the same time supported by a competent number of reputable witnesses, we may much rather judge it worthy of our attention and belief. With this evidence the Gospel comes. It is credible in its own nature. The doctrines of the Gospel, though beyond the discovery and above the comprehension of reason, are in no instance contrary to its dictates. They are all adapted to promote real virtue and righteousness. Besides this internal evidence, God has been pleased to give it the sanction of His own testimony. Errors have sometimes been introduced and propagated by the artful reasoning of interested men. But Christianity rests not on the basis of human reasoning, or a subtle intricate train of argumentation: it stands on the ground of plain facts, of which every man is able to judge. The life, miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are the facts which support it. If these did really take place, the Gospel is true. Whether they did or not, men of common abilities were as competent to judge, as men of the profoundest learning. We, who live in the present age, have not, in every respect, the same evidence of the truth of the Gospel as they had, who were eye-witnesses of those facts. But we have their testimony, in the most authentic manner, conveyed to us. Some advantages we have, which they had not. We have the examination of preceding ages. We see Christianity still supporting itself against all the opposition of the world. We see the unwearied attempts of its enemies to subvert it, rendered fruitless and vain. We see many of the predictions contained in these records, already verified; and others, to all appearance, hastening on towards an accomplishment.

4. It is an interesting report. From the Gospel we learn that the human race have, by transgression, fallen under the Divine displeasure. This report corresponds with our own experience and observation. The Gospel brings us a joyful message.

5. This is a public report. It is what we have all heard, and heard often.

II. WE WILL CONSIDER THE COMPLAINT. “Who hath believed our report?” (J. Lathrop, D..D.)

Do the prophets believe?

“Who hath believed our report?” This inquiry has been read in various ways. Each of the ways has had its own accent and good lesson.

1. For example, the figure might be that of the prophets gathered together in conference and bemoaning in each other’s hearing that their sermons or prophecies had come to nothing. We have preached all this while, and nobody has believed; why preach any more? If this thing were of God it would result in great harvests: it results in barrenness, and we are disappointed prophets. That is one way. Many excellent remarks have been made under that construction of the inquiry.

2. But that is not the meaning of the prophecy. The Revised Version helps us to see it more clearly, by reading the word thus:--“Who hath believed that which we have heard?” The idea is that the prophets are not rebuking other people; the tremendous idea is that the prophets are interrogating themselves and saying, in effect at least, Have we believed our own prophecy? is there a believer in all the Church? is not the Church a nest of unbelievers? That puts a very different face upon the interrogation. We shall now come to great Gospels; when the prophets flagellate themselves we shall have some good preaching. We might put the inquiry, if not literally, yet spiritually and experimentally, thus:--Which of us, even the prophets, have believed? We have said the right thing; people might listen with entranced attention to such eloquence as ours: but is it red with the blood of trust, has it gone forth from us taking our souls with it? If not, we are as the voice of the charmer; men are saying of each of us, He hath a pleasant voice, what he says is said most tunefully, but the man himself is not behind it and in it and above it: it is a recitation, not a prophecy.

3. Who can find fault with the prophets? Not one of us, least of all myself. They had some hard things to, believe; men do not willingly believe in wildernesses and barren rocks, and declarations that have in them no poetry and on them no lustre from heaven, hard and perilous sayings. Who can believe this, that when the Anointed of the Lord shall come, the Chosen One, He shall be “as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him?” It is incredible; if He is God’s own Son He will be more beautiful than the dawn of summer. But God will not flatter His servants; He says to each of them, even the loftiest in stature of soul, Go out and proclaim a Cross. It is always so with this Christ; He is all Cross at the first: but what a summer there is hidden in the clouds! and it will come as it were suddenly. The prophets worked their own way under the guidance of the Holy Spirit out of this darkness. Having: dwelt more largely upon the tragical aspect of the life of this great One, they say towards the close, “He shall see His seed.” That is a new tone; “He shall prolong his days,” that is a new tone; “and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” Why, they have turned the corner; they are getting up into the sunshine, they are unfurling the flag on the mountain-top. “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: His blood shall buy the universe. This is the other end; this the other aspect of the Gospel. You will never profitably read the Scriptures until you take the darkness with the light.

4. What is the application of this? Why are you wondering that other people do not believe? The voice says, Friend! didst thou believe thine own sermon? Was it alive with thine heart? (J. Parker, D.D.)

A heavy complaint and lamentation

I. TO WHOM IT WAS MADE. We find from parallel Scriptures that it is made to the Lord Himself (John 12:38; Romans 10:16).

II. WHOM IT RESPECTS. It respects the hearers of the Gospel in the prophet’s time, and in after times too.

III. THE MAKER OF THIS HEAVY LAMENTATION.

1. The unsucessfulness of the Gospel, and prevailing unbelief among them that heard it. Consider--

2. The great withdrawing of the power of God from ordinances. “To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” This implies

The little success of the Gospel matter of lamentation

I. WHAT IS THAT SUCCESS WHICH THE GOSPEL SOMETIMES HATH? It is successful--

1. When sinners are thereby brought to faith in Christ (Romans 1:17).

2. When they are thereby brought to holiness of life (2 Corinthians 3:18).

II. WHAT IS THAT DIVINE POWER WHICH SOMETIMES COMES ALONG WITH GOSPEL-ORDINANCES?

1. A heart and life discovering power (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). The word comes, and the Lord’s arm comes with it, and opens the volume of a man’s heart and the life, and it is as if the preacher were reading the secret history of a man’s thoughts and actions (Hebrews 4:12).

2. A sharp, convincing power, whereby the sinner does not only see his sin, but sees the ill and danger of it, and is touched to the heart with it (Acts 24:25).

3. A drawing and converting power (John 12:32; Psalms 19:7).

4. A quickening power (Psalms 119:50).

5. A clearing power, resolving doubts, removing mistakes and darkness in certain particulars, whereby one is retarded in their spiritual course Psalms 19:7-8).

6. A comforting power (Psalms 119:49-50).

7. A strengthening power. The Spirit, with the Word blowing on the dry bones, makes them stand on their feet like s great army.

8. A soul-elevating and heart-ravishing power (Luke 24:32).

III. THE REASONS OF THE DOCTRINE.

I. It must be a matter of lamentation to the godly in general. For--

2. Particularly to godly ministers.

Evidences of non-success

1. The slighting of Gospel ordinances that so much prevails.

2. Little reformation of life under the dispensation of the Gospel.

3. Much formality in attendance on ordinances.

4. Little of the work of conversion or soul-exercise. (T. Boston, M. A.)

The Gospel-report

I. CONSIDER THE GOSPEL AS IT IS A REPORT. View it--

1. In the nature of a report in general.

2. In the nature of a report to be trusted to, for some valuable end. And so it is--

II. CONSIDER FAITH AS IT IS A TRUSTING TO THIS REPORT. Faith is--

1. A trusting of the Gospel-report as true.

2. A trusting to the Gospel-report as good. It implies--

III. CONSIDER THE REPORT OF THE GOSPEL, AND THE TRUSTING TO IT, CONJUNCTLY. The Gospel is a report from heaven--

1. Of salvation for poor sinners, from sin (Matthew 1:21), and from the wrath of God (John 3:16), freely made over to you in the Word of promise. Faith trusts it as a true report, believing that God has said it; and trusts to it as good, laying our own salvation upon it.

2. Of a crucified Christ made over to sinners, as the device of Heaven for their salvation. The soul concludes, the Saviour is mine; and leans on Him for all the purchase of His death, for life and salvation to itself in particular 1 Corinthians 2:2).

3. Of a righteousness wherein we guilty ones may stand before a holy God Romans 1:17). And by faith one believes there is such a righteousness, that it is sufficient to cover him, and that it is held out to him to be trusted on for righteousness; and so the believer trusts it as his righteousness in the sight of God, disclaiming all other, and betaking himself to it alone Galatians 2:16).

4. Of a pardon under the great seal of Heaven, in Christ, to all who will take it in Him (Acts 13:38-39). The soul by faith believes this to be true, and applies it to itself, saying, This pardon is for me.

5. Of a Physician that cures infallibly all the diseases of the soul. The soul believes it, and applies it to its own case.

6. Of a feast for hungry souls, to which all are bid welcome, Christ Himself being the Maker and matter of it too. The soul weary of the husks of created things, and believing this report, accordingly falls a-feeding on Christ.

7. Of a victory won by Jesus Christ over sin, Satan, and death, and the world. The soul trusts to it for its victory over all these, as already foiled enemies (1 John 5:4).

8. Of a peace purchased by the blood of Christ for poor sinners, and offered to them. Faith believes it; and the soul comes before God as a reconciled Father in Christ, brings in its supplications for supply before the throne. (T. Boston, M. A.)

The rarity of believing the Gospel-report

I. CONFIRM THIS POINT.

1. Take a view of the Church in all ages, and the entertainment the Gospel has met with among them to whom it came. It has been a despised and disbelieved Gospel.

2. Take a view of the Church, setting aside those whom the Scripture determines to be unbelievers; and we will soon see that but few do remain. Set aside--

II. THE REASONS WHY SO FEW BELIEVE THE REPORT OF THE GOSPEL.

1. There is a natural impotency in all (John 6:44). Believing the report of the Gospel is beyond the power of nature, Yea, everything in nature is against it, till the Spirit of the Lord overcome them into belief of the report of the Gospel.

2. The predominant power of lusts, to which the Gospel is an enemy. There our Lord lodges it (John 3:19).

3. There is a judicial blindness on many (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). (T. Boston, M. A.)

Divine power necessary for believing the Gospel report

There is no true believing or trusting to the report of the Gospel, but what is the effect of the working of a Divine power on the soul for that end.

I. EVINCE THE TRUTH OF THE DOCTRINE. Consider for it--

1. Express Scripture testimony (John 6:44).

2. The state that by nature we are in, “dead in sin” (Ephesians 2:1). Faith is the first vital act of the soul, quickened by the Spirit of life from Jesus Christ.

3. There can be no faith without knowledge: and the knowledge of spiritual things man is by nature incapable of (1 Corinthians 2:14).

4. Man is naturally under the power of Satan, a captive of the devil, who with his utmost efforts will hinder the work of faith (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Such a case the Gospel finds men in; and it is the design of the Gospel to bring them out of it (Acts 26:17-18).

5. Man’s trust is by nature firmly preoccupied by those things which the Gospel calls them to renounce. He is wedded to other confidences naturally, which therefore he will hold by, till a power above nature carry him off from them--self-confidence, creature-confidence, law-confidence.

6. Man has a strong bias and bent against believing or trusting to the Gospel (John 5:40; Romans 10:3).

7. It is the product of the Holy Spirit, wherever it is.

II. WHAT IS THAT WORKING OF DIVINE POWER WHEREBY THE SOUL IS BROUGHT TO TRUST TO THE GOSPEL REPORT? There is a twofold work of Divine power on the soul for that end.

1. A mediate work, which is preparatory to it; whereof the Spirit is the author, and the instrument is the law.

2. An immediate work, whereby faith is produced in the soul; whereof the Spirit is the author, and the Gospel the instrument. It is--

The Monarch in disguise

There are four distinctive features predicted--

1. The lowliness, obscurity and sorrow of the coming Servant of God.

2. The putting forth of “the arm of the Lord” in Him and in His work.

3. The setting forth of this in a message or “report.”

4. The concealing, as it were, of the “arm of the Lord,” owing to the lowly appearance of this Servant. (C. Clemance, D.D.)

Preaching and hearing

I. THE GREAT SUBJECT OF PREACHING, and the preacher’s great errand, is to report concerning Jesus Christ--to bring good tidings concerning Him.

II. THE GREAT DUTY OF HEARERS is, to believe this report and, by virtue of it, to be brought to rest on Jesus Christ.

III. THE GREAT, THOUGH THE ORDINARY, SIN OF THE GENERALITY OF THE HEARERS OF THE GOSPEL is unbelief.

IV. THE GREAT COMPLAINT, WEIGHT AND GRIEF OF AN HONEST MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL is this--that his message is not taken off his hand; that Christ is not received, believed in and rested on. (J. Durham.)

The offer of Christ in the Gospel

I. The offering of Christ in the Gospel is WARRANT enough to believe in Him. Otherwise there had been no just ground of expostulation and complaint for not believing. The complaint is for the neglect of the duty they were called to.

II. They to whom Christ is offered in the Gospel are CALLED to believe. It is their duty to do it.

III. Saving faith is THE WAY AND MEANS by which those who have Christ offered to them in the Gospel come to get a right to Him, and to obtain the benefits that are reported of to be had from Him. (J. Durham.)

The necessity of faith

1. Look to all the promises, whether of pardon of sin, peace with God, joy in the Holy Ghost, holiness and conformity to God--there is no access to these, or to any of them, but by faith.

2. Look to the performance of any duty, or mortification of any lust or idol, and faith is necessary to that.

3. Whenever any duty is done, there is no acceptation of it without faith Hebrews 4:2; Hebrews 11:6). (J. Durham.)

A faithful minister’s sorrow

It is most sad to a tender minister to see unbelief and unfruitfulness among the people he hath preached the Gospel to. There is a fourfold reason of this--

1. Respect to Christ Jesus his Master, in whose stead he comes to woo souls to Christ.

2. The respect he hath to people’s souls.

3. The respect he hath to the duty in hand.

4. Concern for his own joy and comfort (Philippians 2:16). (J. Durham.)

The prevalence of unbelief

I. THE CHARACTER HERE GIVEN OF THE GOSPEL. A “report.” Let us see--

1. In what respects it resembles a report. A report is the statement of things or facts done or occurring at some distance of time or place; of things which we ourselves have not seen, but of which an account has been brought to us by others, and to which our belief is demanded in proportion to the degree of credibility which attaches to those who bring us the account. Such is the Gospel.

2. In what respects this report differs from all other reports. This difference may be traced in the importance of the truths which it professes to communicate, no less than in the evidence by which it is confirmed.

II. THE QUESTION WHICH THE PROPHET ASKS IN REFERENCE TO IT, “Who hath believed our report?” This question is evidently the language of complaint, of surprise, and of grief. And has there not been always occasion for such language as this? (E. Cooper.)

Ministerial solicitude

Every minister of Jesus Christ, imbued with the spirit of his office, is anxious--

I. THE REPORT WHICH THE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL MAKE. The “report” of Isaiah is the “saying” of Paul (1 Timothy 1:15).

1. It demands and deserves your attention, for we bring it from heaven.

2. It is a report of universal interest, for it is to be made to all the world.

3. Our report is of the very highest importance, for it refers to the state of the soul.

4. It is a report of the strictest veracity, being confirmed by many credible witnesses.

II. The ANXIETY WHICH THE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL FEEL.

1. This report is very generally neglected.

2. This neglect is the result of unbelief.

3. This neglect is, to those who make it, a subject of devout solicitude and of deep regret.

4. When this report is believed, it operates with Divine efficiency. What think you of our report? (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?--

The arm of the Lord revealed

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY “THE ARM OF THE LORD.”

II. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE REVEALING OF THE ARM OF THE LORD.

III. THE SCOPE AND DEPENDENCE OF THESE WORDS ON THE FORMER. (J. Durham.)

The arm of the Lord

“To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” It has been made bare these many centuries, and how few have seen it, or recognized it, or called it by its proper name! We have had continuity, and succession, and evolution, and development, and progress, and laws of nature; but not “the arm of the Lord. (J. Parker, D.D.)

The might of the saving arm, and how to obtain it

(with John 11:40):--A lawyer whom I know took me to see the fire-proof strong-room inwhich he keeps valuable deeds and securities. It is excavated under the street, and a passage leads far into the interior, lined on either side with receptacles for the precious documents. On entering, he took up what appeared to be a candle, with a cord attached to it; the other end he deftly fastened to a switch at the entrance, by means of which the electricity which was waiting there poured up the wire hidden in the cord, glowed at the wick of the china candle, and we were able to pass to the end of the passage, uncoiling cord and wire as we went. That unlighted candle resembles the Christian worker apart from the power of the Holy Ghost. Faith may be compared to the switch by means of which the saving might of God pours into our life and ministry. It cannot be too strongly insisted on, that our faith is the absolute condition and measure of the exertion of God’s saving might. No faith, no blessing; little faith, little blessing; great faith, great blessing. The saving might of God’s glorious arm may be waiting close against us; but it is inoperative unless we are united to it by faith. The negative and positive sides of this great and important truth are presented in the texts before us: one of which complains that the arm of God is not revealed, because men have not believed the inspired report; the other affirms from the lips of the Master, that those who believe shall see the glory of God. (F. B. Meyer, B.A.)

The arm of God and human faith

(with John 11:40):--

I. THE ARM OF GOD. This expression is often used in the older Scriptures, and everywhere signifies the active, saving energy of the Most High. We first meet with it in His own address to Moses: “I will redeem them with a stretched-out arm.” Then, in the triumphant shout that broke from two million glad voices beside the Red Sea--and frequently in the book of Deuteronomy--we read of the stretched-out arm of Jehovah. It is a favourite phrase with the poets and prophets of Israel--the arm that redeems; the holy arm; the glorious arm; the bared arm of God. The conception is that, owing to the unbelief of Israel, it lies inoperative, hidden under the heavy folds of Oriental drapery; whereas it might be revealed, raising itself aloft in vigorous and effective effort. All that concerns us now is the relation between faith and the forth-putting of God’s saving might.

II. THE LIFE OF THE SON OF MAN. AS this chapter suggests, it seemed, from many points of view, a failure. The arm of the Lord was in Him, though hidden from all save the handful who believed.

III. A SPECIMEN CASE. Even though our Lord went to Bethany with the assurance that the arm of the Lord would certainly be made bare, yet He must of necessity have the co-operation and sympathy of some one’s faith.

1. Such faith He discovered in Martha. Her admissions showed that faith was already within her soul, as a grain of mustard-seed, awaiting the summertide of God’s presence, the education of His grace. There are many earnest Christians whose energies are taxed to the uttermost by their ministry to others. They have no time to sit quietly at the feet of Christ, or mature great schemes of loving sympathy with His plans, as Mary did when she prepared her anointing-oil for her Lord s burial. And yet they are capable of a great faith. Christ will one day discover, reveal and educate that faith to great exploits.

2. He put a promise before her--“Thy brother shall rise again.” Faith feeds on promises.

3. He showed that its fulfilment might be expected and now. Jesus said, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” Here and now is the power which, on that day of which you speak, shall awaken the dead; do but believe, and you shall see that resurrection anticipated. Ponder the force of this I AM. It is the present tense of the Eternal.

4. He aroused her expectancy. For what other reason did He ask that the stone might be rolled away? She believed, and she beheld the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The one aim for each of us should be to bring Christ and the dead Lazarus together. Let us ask Christ, our Saviour, to work such faith in us; to develop it by every method of education and discipline; to mature it by his nurturing Spirit, until the arm of God is revealed in us and through us, and the glory of God is manifested before the gaze of men. At the same time, it is not well to concentrate our thought too much on faith, lest we hinder its growth. Look away from faith to the Object of faith, and faith will spring of itself. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)


Verses 1-12

Isaiah 53:1-12

Who hath believed our report?
--

The Messiah referred to in Isaiah 53:1-12

By some it has been supposed, in ancient times and in modern, that the prophet was referring to the sufferings of the nation of Israel--either of Israel as a whole or of the righteous section of the nation--and to the benefits that would accrue from those sufferings to the surrounding peoples, some of whom were contemptuous of Israel, all of whom may be described as ignorant of God. But to defend that opinion it is necessary to paraphrase and interpret some of the statements in a way that no sound rules of exposition will allow. Even Jewish historians are wont to represent the sufferings of their people as the consequence of sin, whereas these verses speak repeatedly of sufferings that are vicarious. St. Paul says in one place that the fall of the Jews “is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles;” but he is so far from meaning that the Jews suffered in the stead of the Gentiles, that he proceeds at once to argue by implication: If the world has been blessed notwithstanding the unfaithfulness of the Jew, how much more would it have been blessed if Israel had been true? It is quite possible that the great figure of the Servant of Jehovah, standing in the front of all these verses, was designed to have more than a single interpretation, to be reverently approached from many sides, to be full of appeals to the patriotism and to the piety of the Israelite; but at the same time it is no mere abstract conception, but the figure of a living and separated Person, “more perfect than human believer ever was, uniting in himself more richly than any other messenger, of God everything that was necessary for the salvation of man, and finally accomplishing what no mere prophet” ever attempted. And some of the authorities of the synagogue even might be quoted in favour of the almost universal Christian opinion, that the Man of Sorrows of this chapter despised, and yet triumphant, is no other than the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world, who over-trod the lowest levels of human pain and misery, and who hereafter will sit enthroned, on His head many crowns, and in His heart the satisfaction of assured and unlimited victory. (R.W. Moss, D.D.)

The Jewish nation a vicarious sufferer

Isaiah 53:1-12 has been supposed by many to refer to the Jewish nation as a whole, and not to Christ or any other individual. And, in truth, it is in many ways singularly applicable to Israel as a nation. As a nation Israel was “despised and rejected,” and “bore the sins of many.” This people was the chief medium through which the Eternal was made manifest on earth. Hence came the peculiarities and deficiencies of the Hebrew nature. The Jews were haunted by the Infinite and Eternal; and therefore they knew not the free and careless joyousness of Greece. The mountains are scarred and rent by storms and tempests almost unknown in the valleys. The deepest religion necessarily involves prolonged suffering. The near presence of the Infinite pierces and wounds the soul. To Greeks or Romans Israel was a sort of Moses, veiling even while revealing the terrific lineaments of Jehovah. The face of Israel did indeed shine with an unearthly glory after communing with God on the mountain; but it was a glory utterly uncongenial to the gaiety of joyous Athens. Most truly might Greeks and Romans say of the devout Jew, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Yet was Israel a mighty benefactor to the human race. “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Salvation came by the Jews. They had more genuine moral inspiration than any others of the sons of men. To them alone was clearly disclosed the true Jacob’s ladder connecting earth with heaven. To the Greeks the Infinite was a mere notion, a thing for the intellect to play with, or a kind of irreducible surd left after the keenest philosophical analysis. To the Hebrews, on the other hand, the Infinite was an appalling and soul-abasing reality, an ever-menacing guide, as the fiery flaming sword of the cherubims “which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” “It pleased the Lord to bruise” Israel for the sake of the whole world. By being “numbered with the transgressors,” Israel found out the real righteousness. (A. Crawford, M.A.)

The Jewish nation was a type of Christ

The Jewish nation was a type of Christ, and of all natures at once spiritual and sympathetic throughout the ages. All real prophets in every age have in them much of the true Hebrew nature, with its depths and its limitations. (A. Crawford, M.A.)

The servant and Israel

“Who believed what we heard, and to whom did the arm of the Lord reveal itself?” Who believed the revelation given to us in regard to the Servant, and who perceived the operation of the Lord in His history! The speakers are Israel now believing, and confessing their former unbelief. (A. B. Davidson, D.D.)

Christ in Isaiah

As an artisan, laying a mosaic of complicated pattern and diverse colours, has before him a working drawing, and carefully fits the minute pieces of precious stone and enamel according to it, till the perfection of the design is revealed to all, so do the evangelists and apostles, with the working-drawing of Old Testament prophecy, and Old Testament types and shadows in the tabernacle services and ceremonies, in their hands, fit together the details of Christ’s life on earth, His atoning death and His resurrection, and say, “Behold, this can be none other than the long looked-for Messiah.” The central knop, or flower pattern, of the mosaic, from which all other details of the design radiated, was the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. (F. Sessions.)

The suffering Saviour

I. We are led to THE ANTICIPATED LOWLINESS OF GOD’S RIGHTEOUS SERVANT, the Messiah. He would be low in the esteem of men, even of those He comes to serve.

The Jews and Messianic prophecy

From the Jews wresting this text, observe--

1. That there is an evil disposition in men to turn off upon others that which nearly concerns themselves.

2. That it is no new thing in persons to vouch that for themselves which makes most against them. Thus the Jews do this chapter against the Gentiles.

3. When God, for the wickedness of a people, hardeneth their hearts, they are apt to mistake in that which is most plain.

4. From the prophet’s great admiration, observe, that when we can do no good upon a people, the most effectual way is to complain of it to God.

5. Those that profess the name of God may be much prejudiced against the entertainment of those truths and counsels that He makes known to them for their good.

6. It is a wonder they should not believe so plain a discovery of Christ, though by the just judgment of God they did not.

7. The first believing of Christ is a believing the report of Him; but afterwards there are experiences to confirm our belief (1 Peter 2:3; John 4:42). (T. Manton, D.D.)

Christ preached, but rejected

I. JESUS CHRIST MAY BE CLEARLY REPRESENTED TO A PEOPLE, AND YET BUT FEW WON TO BELIEVE IN HIM.

II. THE GOSPEL IS THE ARM AND POWER OF GOD.

III. SO FEW BELIEVE, BECAUSE GOD’S ARM IS NOT REVEALED TO THEM the power of the Word is not manifested by the Spirit. (T. Manton, D. D. )

Jewish prejudice against Christ

At the time of Christ’s being in the flesh there were divers prejudices against Him in the Jews.

1. An erroneous opinion of the Messiah.

2. A fond reverence of Moses and the prophets, as if it were derogatory to them to close with Christ (John 9:29).

3. Offence at His outward meanness (that is the scope of this chapter), and the persecution He met with. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Gentile prejudice against Christ

1. Pride in the understanding (1 Corinthians 1:23).

2. The meanness of the reporters--poor fishermen.

3. The hard conditions upon which they were to entertain Christ. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Christ rejected in our time

The hindrances to believing in Him are these:

1. Ignorance. Men hear of Christ, but are not acquainted with Him.

2. An easy slightness; men do not labour after faith.

3. A careless security. They think themselves well enough without Him.

4. A light esteem of Christ. As we do not see our own needs, so not His worth.

5. A presumptuous conceit that we have entertained Christ already. Many think every slight wish, every trivial hope, will serve the turn.

6. Hardness of heart.

7. Self-confidence.

8. Carnal fears. These hinder the soul from closing with that, mercy that is reported to be in Christ. They are of divers sorts.

9. Carnal reasonings from our sins.

10. Carnal apprehensions of Christ. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The credibility and importance of the Gospel report

I. WE WILL CONTEMPLATE THIS REPORT, AND INQUIRE WHETHER IT IS NOT WORTHY OF OUR ATTENTION AND BELIEF.

1. The report which we hear, is a most instructive report. It brings us information of many things which were before unknown, and which, without this information, never could have been known to the sons of men. “That which had not been told us, we see.” The Gospel for this reason is called a message, good tidings, and tidings of great joy. The leading truths of natural religion are agreeable to the dictates of reason; and perhaps might be, in some measure, discovered without revelation. At least they were known among those who had never enjoyed a written revelation, though, indeed, we cannot say how far these might be indebted to traditional information. But certainly those truths, which immediately relate to the recovery and salvation of sinners, human reason could never investigate.

2. The Gospel is a report from heaven. It was, in some degree, made known to the patriarchs, and afterwards more fully to the prophets But “God has in these last days, spoken to us by His Son.”

3. the Gospel is a credible report. Many reports come to us without evidence: we only hear them, but know not what is their foundation, or whether they have any. And yet even these reports pass not wholly unregarded. But, if any important intelligence is brought to us which is both rational in itself, and at the same time supported by a competent number of reputable witnesses, we may much rather judge it worthy of our attention and belief. With this evidence the Gospel comes. It is credible in its own nature. The doctrines of the Gospel, though beyond the discovery and above the comprehension of reason, are in no instance contrary to its dictates. They are all adapted to promote real virtue and righteousness. Besides this internal evidence, God has been pleased to give it the sanction of His own testimony. Errors have sometimes been introduced and propagated by the artful reasoning of interested men. But Christianity rests not on the basis of human reasoning, or a subtle intricate train of argumentation: it stands on the ground of plain facts, of which every man is able to judge. The life, miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are the facts which support it. If these did really take place, the Gospel is true. Whether they did or not, men of common abilities were as competent to judge, as men of the profoundest learning. We, who live in the present age, have not, in every respect, the same evidence of the truth of the Gospel as they had, who were eye-witnesses of those facts. But we have their testimony, in the most authentic manner, conveyed to us. Some advantages we have, which they had not. We have the examination of preceding ages. We see Christianity still supporting itself against all the opposition of the world. We see the unwearied attempts of its enemies to subvert it, rendered fruitless and vain. We see many of the predictions contained in these records, already verified; and others, to all appearance, hastening on towards an accomplishment.

4. It is an interesting report. From the Gospel we learn that the human race have, by transgression, fallen under the Divine displeasure. This report corresponds with our own experience and observation. The Gospel brings us a joyful message.

5. This is a public report. It is what we have all heard, and heard often.

II. WE WILL CONSIDER THE COMPLAINT. “Who hath believed our report?” (J. Lathrop, D..D.)

Do the prophets believe?

“Who hath believed our report?” This inquiry has been read in various ways. Each of the ways has had its own accent and good lesson.

1. For example, the figure might be that of the prophets gathered together in conference and bemoaning in each other’s hearing that their sermons or prophecies had come to nothing. We have preached all this while, and nobody has believed; why preach any more? If this thing were of God it would result in great harvests: it results in barrenness, and we are disappointed prophets. That is one way. Many excellent remarks have been made under that construction of the inquiry.

2. But that is not the meaning of the prophecy. The Revised Version helps us to see it more clearly, by reading the word thus:--“Who hath believed that which we have heard?” The idea is that the prophets are not rebuking other people; the tremendous idea is that the prophets are interrogating themselves and saying, in effect at least, Have we believed our own prophecy? is there a believer in all the Church? is not the Church a nest of unbelievers? That puts a very different face upon the interrogation. We shall now come to great Gospels; when the prophets flagellate themselves we shall have some good preaching. We might put the inquiry, if not literally, yet spiritually and experimentally, thus:--Which of us, even the prophets, have believed? We have said the right thing; people might listen with entranced attention to such eloquence as ours: but is it red with the blood of trust, has it gone forth from us taking our souls with it? If not, we are as the voice of the charmer; men are saying of each of us, He hath a pleasant voice, what he says is said most tunefully, but the man himself is not behind it and in it and above it: it is a recitation, not a prophecy.

3. Who can find fault with the prophets? Not one of us, least of all myself. They had some hard things to, believe; men do not willingly believe in wildernesses and barren rocks, and declarations that have in them no poetry and on them no lustre from heaven, hard and perilous sayings. Who can believe this, that when the Anointed of the Lord shall come, the Chosen One, He shall be “as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him?” It is incredible; if He is God’s own Son He will be more beautiful than the dawn of summer. But God will not flatter His servants; He says to each of them, even the loftiest in stature of soul, Go out and proclaim a Cross. It is always so with this Christ; He is all Cross at the first: but what a summer there is hidden in the clouds! and it will come as it were suddenly. The prophets worked their own way under the guidance of the Holy Spirit out of this darkness. Having: dwelt more largely upon the tragical aspect of the life of this great One, they say towards the close, “He shall see His seed.” That is a new tone; “He shall prolong his days,” that is a new tone; “and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” Why, they have turned the corner; they are getting up into the sunshine, they are unfurling the flag on the mountain-top. “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: His blood shall buy the universe. This is the other end; this the other aspect of the Gospel. You will never profitably read the Scriptures until you take the darkness with the light.

4. What is the application of this? Why are you wondering that other people do not believe? The voice says, Friend! didst thou believe thine own sermon? Was it alive with thine heart? (J. Parker, D.D.)

A heavy complaint and lamentation

I. TO WHOM IT WAS MADE. We find from parallel Scriptures that it is made to the Lord Himself (John 12:38; Romans 10:16).

II. WHOM IT RESPECTS. It respects the hearers of the Gospel in the prophet’s time, and in after times too.

III. THE MAKER OF THIS HEAVY LAMENTATION.

1. The unsucessfulness of the Gospel, and prevailing unbelief among them that heard it. Consider--

2. The great withdrawing of the power of God from ordinances. “To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” This implies

The little success of the Gospel matter of lamentation

I. WHAT IS THAT SUCCESS WHICH THE GOSPEL SOMETIMES HATH? It is successful--

1. When sinners are thereby brought to faith in Christ (Romans 1:17).

2. When they are thereby brought to holiness of life (2 Corinthians 3:18).

II. WHAT IS THAT DIVINE POWER WHICH SOMETIMES COMES ALONG WITH GOSPEL-ORDINANCES?

1. A heart and life discovering power (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). The word comes, and the Lord’s arm comes with it, and opens the volume of a man’s heart and the life, and it is as if the preacher were reading the secret history of a man’s thoughts and actions (Hebrews 4:12).

2. A sharp, convincing power, whereby the sinner does not only see his sin, but sees the ill and danger of it, and is touched to the heart with it (Acts 24:25).

3. A drawing and converting power (John 12:32; Psalms 19:7).

4. A quickening power (Psalms 119:50).

5. A clearing power, resolving doubts, removing mistakes and darkness in certain particulars, whereby one is retarded in their spiritual course Psalms 19:7-8).

6. A comforting power (Psalms 119:49-50).

7. A strengthening power. The Spirit, with the Word blowing on the dry bones, makes them stand on their feet like s great army.

8. A soul-elevating and heart-ravishing power (Luke 24:32).

III. THE REASONS OF THE DOCTRINE.

I. It must be a matter of lamentation to the godly in general. For--

2. Particularly to godly ministers.

Evidences of non-success

1. The slighting of Gospel ordinances that so much prevails.

2. Little reformation of life under the dispensation of the Gospel.

3. Much formality in attendance on ordinances.

4. Little of the work of conversion or soul-exercise. (T. Boston, M. A.)

The Gospel-report

I. CONSIDER THE GOSPEL AS IT IS A REPORT. View it--

1. In the nature of a report in general.

2. In the nature of a report to be trusted to, for some valuable end. And so it is--

II. CONSIDER FAITH AS IT IS A TRUSTING TO THIS REPORT. Faith is--

1. A trusting of the Gospel-report as true.

2. A trusting to the Gospel-report as good. It implies--

III. CONSIDER THE REPORT OF THE GOSPEL, AND THE TRUSTING TO IT, CONJUNCTLY. The Gospel is a report from heaven--

1. Of salvation for poor sinners, from sin (Matthew 1:21), and from the wrath of God (John 3:16), freely made over to you in the Word of promise. Faith trusts it as a true report, believing that God has said it; and trusts to it as good, laying our own salvation upon it.

2. Of a crucified Christ made over to sinners, as the device of Heaven for their salvation. The soul concludes, the Saviour is mine; and leans on Him for all the purchase of His death, for life and salvation to itself in particular 1 Corinthians 2:2).

3. Of a righteousness wherein we guilty ones may stand before a holy God Romans 1:17). And by faith one believes there is such a righteousness, that it is sufficient to cover him, and that it is held out to him to be trusted on for righteousness; and so the believer trusts it as his righteousness in the sight of God, disclaiming all other, and betaking himself to it alone Galatians 2:16).

4. Of a pardon under the great seal of Heaven, in Christ, to all who will take it in Him (Acts 13:38-39). The soul by faith believes this to be true, and applies it to itself, saying, This pardon is for me.

5. Of a Physician that cures infallibly all the diseases of the soul. The soul believes it, and applies it to its own case.

6. Of a feast for hungry souls, to which all are bid welcome, Christ Himself being the Maker and matter of it too. The soul weary of the husks of created things, and believing this report, accordingly falls a-feeding on Christ.

7. Of a victory won by Jesus Christ over sin, Satan, and death, and the world. The soul trusts to it for its victory over all these, as already foiled enemies (1 John 5:4).

8. Of a peace purchased by the blood of Christ for poor sinners, and offered to them. Faith believes it; and the soul comes before God as a reconciled Father in Christ, brings in its supplications for supply before the throne. (T. Boston, M. A.)

The rarity of believing the Gospel-report

I. CONFIRM THIS POINT.

1. Take a view of the Church in all ages, and the entertainment the Gospel has met with among them to whom it came. It has been a despised and disbelieved Gospel.

2. Take a view of the Church, setting aside those whom the Scripture determines to be unbelievers; and we will soon see that but few do remain. Set aside--

II. THE REASONS WHY SO FEW BELIEVE THE REPORT OF THE GOSPEL.

1. There is a natural impotency in all (John 6:44). Believing the report of the Gospel is beyond the power of nature, Yea, everything in nature is against it, till the Spirit of the Lord overcome them into belief of the report of the Gospel.

2. The predominant power of lusts, to which the Gospel is an enemy. There our Lord lodges it (John 3:19).

3. There is a judicial blindness on many (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). (T. Boston, M. A.)

Divine power necessary for believing the Gospel report

There is no true believing or trusting to the report of the Gospel, but what is the effect of the working of a Divine power on the soul for that end.

I. EVINCE THE TRUTH OF THE DOCTRINE. Consider for it--

1. Express Scripture testimony (John 6:44).

2. The state that by nature we are in, “dead in sin” (Ephesians 2:1). Faith is the first vital act of the soul, quickened by the Spirit of life from Jesus Christ.

3. There can be no faith without knowledge: and the knowledge of spiritual things man is by nature incapable of (1 Corinthians 2:14).

4. Man is naturally under the power of Satan, a captive of the devil, who with his utmost efforts will hinder the work of faith (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Such a case the Gospel finds men in; and it is the design of the Gospel to bring them out of it (Acts 26:17-18).

5. Man’s trust is by nature firmly preoccupied by those things which the Gospel calls them to renounce. He is wedded to other confidences naturally, which therefore he will hold by, till a power above nature carry him off from them--self-confidence, creature-confidence, law-confidence.

6. Man has a strong bias and bent against believing or trusting to the Gospel (John 5:40; Romans 10:3).

7. It is the product of the Holy Spirit, wherever it is.

II. WHAT IS THAT WORKING OF DIVINE POWER WHEREBY THE SOUL IS BROUGHT TO TRUST TO THE GOSPEL REPORT? There is a twofold work of Divine power on the soul for that end.

1. A mediate work, which is preparatory to it; whereof the Spirit is the author, and the instrument is the law.

2. An immediate work, whereby faith is produced in the soul; whereof the Spirit is the author, and the Gospel the instrument. It is--

The Monarch in disguise

There are four distinctive features predicted--

1. The lowliness, obscurity and sorrow of the coming Servant of God.

2. The putting forth of “the arm of the Lord” in Him and in His work.

3. The setting forth of this in a message or “report.”

4. The concealing, as it were, of the “arm of the Lord,” owing to the lowly appearance of this Servant. (C. Clemance, D.D.)

Preaching and hearing

I. THE GREAT SUBJECT OF PREACHING, and the preacher’s great errand, is to report concerning Jesus Christ--to bring good tidings concerning Him.

II. THE GREAT DUTY OF HEARERS is, to believe this report and, by virtue of it, to be brought to rest on Jesus Christ.

III. THE GREAT, THOUGH THE ORDINARY, SIN OF THE GENERALITY OF THE HEARERS OF THE GOSPEL is unbelief.

IV. THE GREAT COMPLAINT, WEIGHT AND GRIEF OF AN HONEST MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL is this--that his message is not taken off his hand; that Christ is not received, believed in and rested on. (J. Durham.)

The offer of Christ in the Gospel

I. The offering of Christ in the Gospel is WARRANT enough to believe in Him. Otherwise there had been no just ground of expostulation and complaint for not believing. The complaint is for the neglect of the duty they were called to.

II. They to whom Christ is offered in the Gospel are CALLED to believe. It is their duty to do it.

III. Saving faith is THE WAY AND MEANS by which those who have Christ offered to them in the Gospel come to get a right to Him, and to obtain the benefits that are reported of to be had from Him. (J. Durham.)

The necessity of faith

1. Look to all the promises, whether of pardon of sin, peace with God, joy in the Holy Ghost, holiness and conformity to God--there is no access to these, or to any of them, but by faith.

2. Look to the performance of any duty, or mortification of any lust or idol, and faith is necessary to that.

3. Whenever any duty is done, there is no acceptation of it without faith Hebrews 4:2; Hebrews 11:6). (J. Durham.)

A faithful minister’s sorrow

It is most sad to a tender minister to see unbelief and unfruitfulness among the people he hath preached the Gospel to. There is a fourfold reason of this--

1. Respect to Christ Jesus his Master, in whose stead he comes to woo souls to Christ.

2. The respect he hath to people’s souls.

3. The respect he hath to the duty in hand.

4. Concern for his own joy and comfort (Philippians 2:16). (J. Durham.)

The prevalence of unbelief

I. THE CHARACTER HERE GIVEN OF THE GOSPEL. A “report.” Let us see--

1. In what respects it resembles a report. A report is the statement of things or facts done or occurring at some distance of time or place; of things which we ourselves have not seen, but of which an account has been brought to us by others, and to which our belief is demanded in proportion to the degree of credibility which attaches to those who bring us the account. Such is the Gospel.

2. In what respects this report differs from all other reports. This difference may be traced in the importance of the truths which it professes to communicate, no less than in the evidence by which it is confirmed.

II. THE QUESTION WHICH THE PROPHET ASKS IN REFERENCE TO IT, “Who hath believed our report?” This question is evidently the language of complaint, of surprise, and of grief. And has there not been always occasion for such language as this? (E. Cooper.)

Ministerial solicitude

Every minister of Jesus Christ, imbued with the spirit of his office, is anxious--

I. THE REPORT WHICH THE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL MAKE. The “report” of Isaiah is the “saying” of Paul (1 Timothy 1:15).

1. It demands and deserves your attention, for we bring it from heaven.

2. It is a report of universal interest, for it is to be made to all the world.

3. Our report is of the very highest importance, for it refers to the state of the soul.

4. It is a report of the strictest veracity, being confirmed by many credible witnesses.

II. The ANXIETY WHICH THE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL FEEL.

1. This report is very generally neglected.

2. This neglect is the result of unbelief.

3. This neglect is, to those who make it, a subject of devout solicitude and of deep regret.

4. When this report is believed, it operates with Divine efficiency. What think you of our report? (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?--

The arm of the Lord revealed

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY “THE ARM OF THE LORD.”

II. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE REVEALING OF THE ARM OF THE LORD.

III. THE SCOPE AND DEPENDENCE OF THESE WORDS ON THE FORMER. (J. Durham.)

The arm of the Lord

“To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” It has been made bare these many centuries, and how few have seen it, or recognized it, or called it by its proper name! We have had continuity, and succession, and evolution, and development, and progress, and laws of nature; but not “the arm of the Lord. (J. Parker, D.D.)

The might of the saving arm, and how to obtain it

(with John 11:40):--A lawyer whom I know took me to see the fire-proof strong-room inwhich he keeps valuable deeds and securities. It is excavated under the street, and a passage leads far into the interior, lined on either side with receptacles for the precious documents. On entering, he took up what appeared to be a candle, with a cord attached to it; the other end he deftly fastened to a switch at the entrance, by means of which the electricity which was waiting there poured up the wire hidden in the cord, glowed at the wick of the china candle, and we were able to pass to the end of the passage, uncoiling cord and wire as we went. That unlighted candle resembles the Christian worker apart from the power of the Holy Ghost. Faith may be compared to the switch by means of which the saving might of God pours into our life and ministry. It cannot be too strongly insisted on, that our faith is the absolute condition and measure of the exertion of God’s saving might. No faith, no blessing; little faith, little blessing; great faith, great blessing. The saving might of God’s glorious arm may be waiting close against us; but it is inoperative unless we are united to it by faith. The negative and positive sides of this great and important truth are presented in the texts before us: one of which complains that the arm of God is not revealed, because men have not believed the inspired report; the other affirms from the lips of the Master, that those who believe shall see the glory of God. (F. B. Meyer, B.A.)

The arm of God and human faith

(with John 11:40):--

I. THE ARM OF GOD. This expression is often used in the older Scriptures, and everywhere signifies the active, saving energy of the Most High. We first meet with it in His own address to Moses: “I will redeem them with a stretched-out arm.” Then, in the triumphant shout that broke from two million glad voices beside the Red Sea--and frequently in the book of Deuteronomy--we read of the stretched-out arm of Jehovah. It is a favourite phrase with the poets and prophets of Israel--the arm that redeems; the holy arm; the glorious arm; the bared arm of God. The conception is that, owing to the unbelief of Israel, it lies inoperative, hidden under the heavy folds of Oriental drapery; whereas it might be revealed, raising itself aloft in vigorous and effective effort. All that concerns us now is the relation between faith and the forth-putting of God’s saving might.

II. THE LIFE OF THE SON OF MAN. AS this chapter suggests, it seemed, from many points of view, a failure. The arm of the Lord was in Him, though hidden from all save the handful who believed.

III. A SPECIMEN CASE. Even though our Lord went to Bethany with the assurance that the arm of the Lord would certainly be made bare, yet He must of necessity have the co-operation and sympathy of some one’s faith.

1. Such faith He discovered in Martha. Her admissions showed that faith was already within her soul, as a grain of mustard-seed, awaiting the summertide of God’s presence, the education of His grace. There are many earnest Christians whose energies are taxed to the uttermost by their ministry to others. They have no time to sit quietly at the feet of Christ, or mature great schemes of loving sympathy with His plans, as Mary did when she prepared her anointing-oil for her Lord s burial. And yet they are capable of a great faith. Christ will one day discover, reveal and educate that faith to great exploits.

2. He put a promise before her--“Thy brother shall rise again.” Faith feeds on promises.

3. He showed that its fulfilment might be expected and now. Jesus said, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” Here and now is the power which, on that day of which you speak, shall awaken the dead; do but believe, and you shall see that resurrection anticipated. Ponder the force of this I AM. It is the present tense of the Eternal.

4. He aroused her expectancy. For what other reason did He ask that the stone might be rolled away? She believed, and she beheld the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The one aim for each of us should be to bring Christ and the dead Lazarus together. Let us ask Christ, our Saviour, to work such faith in us; to develop it by every method of education and discipline; to mature it by his nurturing Spirit, until the arm of God is revealed in us and through us, and the glory of God is manifested before the gaze of men. At the same time, it is not well to concentrate our thought too much on faith, lest we hinder its growth. Look away from faith to the Object of faith, and faith will spring of itself. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)


Verse 2

Isaiah 53:2

For He shall grow up before wire as a tender plant

God accomplishes great things by unlikely means

1.
God prosecuteth and accomplisheth His greatest designs by the most unlikely and despised means. Jesus Christ, the great Saviour of the world, was but a tender plant, which a man would be more apt to tread upon and crush, than to cherish.

2. God cometh in for the deliverance of His people in times of greatest despair and unlikelihood. For when the branches of Jesse were dried up, and had no verdure, even then sprung up the greatest ornament of that stock, although a root out of a dry ground.

3. Mean beginnings may grow up to great matters and glorious successes. Christ, the tender plant, was to be a tall tree. (T. Manton, D. D.)

God to be trusted

You have no cause to distrust God; though He doth not find means, He can create them. The root of Jesse, though there be no branches, it can bear a sprig. God, that could make the world out of nothing, can preserve the Church by nothing. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Christ a tender plant

1. Christ in His humiliation appeared in great feebleness; born a helpless babe, He was in His infancy in great danger from the hand of Herod, and though preserved, it was not by a powerful army, but by flight into another land. His early days were not spent amid the martial music of camps, or in the grandeur of courts, but in the retirement of a carpenter’s shop--fit place for “a tender plant.” His life was gentleness, He was harmless as a lamb. At any time it seemed easy to destroy both Him and His system. When He was nailed to the Cross to die, did it not appear as if His whole work had utterly collapsed and His religion would be for ever stamped out? The Cross threatened to be the death of Christianity as well as of Christ; but it was not so, for in a few days the power of the Divine Spirit came upon the Church.

2. At its first setting up, how feeble was the kingdom of our Lord! When Herod stretched out His hand to vex certain of the Church, unbelief might have said, “There will he an utter end ere long.” When, in after years, the Roman emperors turned the whole imperial power against the Gospel, stretching forth an arm long enough to encompass the entire globe, and uplifting a hand more heavy than an iron hammer, how could it be supposed that the Christian Church would still live on? It bowed before the storm like a tender shoot, but it was not uprooted by the tempest; it survives to this day; and although we do not rejoice at this moment in all the success which we could desire, yet still that tender shoot is full of vitality, we perceive the blossoms of hope upon it, and expect soon to gather goodly clusters of success.

3. Christianity in our own hearts--the Christ within us--is also a “tender plant.” In its upspringing it is as the green blade of corn, which any beast that goeth by may tread upon or devour. Oftentimes, to our apprehension, it has seemed that our spiritual life would soon die: it was no better than a lily, with a stalk bruised and all but snapped in twain. The mower a scythe of temptation has cut down the outgrowth of our spiritual life, but He who cometh down like rain upon the mown grass has restored our verdure and maintained our vigour to this day. Tender as our religion is, it is beyond the power of Satan to destroy it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Growth before God

There is one word which marks the difference between the work of God and the work of man. It is the word “growth.” No human work can grow. For though we speak of a picture growing under the brush of the painter, or of a statue growing under the chisel of the sculptor, this is only a figure of speech.

1. But there is no work of God that cannot grow. This world itself grew into being. It grew up before God as the wild flower does--grew out of chaos, into order and beauty, and we can read on the rocks the story of its growth. There is a greater world than this--the world of Divine truth. And this also has been a growth from the beginning.

2. No wonder, then, that the Son of God grew up before the Lord--that the Lord of nature conformed to the law of nature. The sacred historian is not to be found tripping here, like the medieval romancist. He does not outrage the order of nature by a single story of monstrous precocity. There is not a part of the being of Jesus which he excludes from the order of growth. In body, mind and spirit he declares the child grew up before the Lord.

3. What hope is there here for man! The Son of God had to grow, and the meanest child of man can grow. If we had no power of growth but that which we possess in common with the animal and the tree, then were we of all creatures the most miserable. Because we have in us the power of an endless growth in all that is great and good, we are creatures of the Most Blessed. And we must grow. That is our destiny. Our Christianity is not a piece of mechanism that was finished off at the date of conversion. It is a life that has been born within the soul. We are growing, either upwards or downwards, either better or worse, either to honour or to shame.

4. But how may a noble and Divine growth be ensured? It is a question that is not left unanswered in my text. For we are told that the plant of which it speaks grew up before the Lord. It was the fondest desire of the Hebrew mother’s heart that her son should grow up before the Lord. She would rather have him grow up before the Lord in the temple than before the king in the palace. There can be no higher position or nobler prospect for a man than to grow up before his God. The child Samuel and the child Jesus grew up before the same God, but how differently. The former under the very shadow of the altar, under the wing of the old, blind priest, utterly secluded from the common ways of men; but Jesus, at His mother s knee in the village home, in the midst of His little relatives and playmates, among the workmen at the bench, and the old familiar faces in street and synagogue. And so it has become a Christian commonplace that you can grow up before the Lord anywhere.

5. But we are further informed of the special fashion in which Jesus grew up before the Lord. “As a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground,” we read. But the Hebrew contains a more explicit meaning. It is this: “He grew up before God like a fresh sucker from a root springing out of a dry ground” The old plant is the house of David, once so glorious in flower and fruitage, at last cut down and withered. The dry soil is the barren religious life of Israel. The fresh young sucker is the Son of Man. That it did grow to what we see is the supreme miracle of Christianity. Its principal evidence is in its own marvellous growth. This is the dilemma in which Christianity still keeps its foes, and to which all additional thought and investigation can only add strength. From such a root, in such a soil, how did Jesus grow to be the Christ of history? It must either be acknowledged to be the supreme miracle or the supreme mystery of time. And this is the one Christian miracle which keeps repeating itself century after century. From the withered plant, and out of the desert soft, God is evermore producing His plants of renown. How was it, for example, that Luther grew to be the man he was, and to wield the power he did? Was it from the withered root of the mediaeval Church or the desert soil of the monastery that he derived his power? Or was he right when he declared the conviction of his heart that it was all by the grace of God through faith? History discloses to us nothing so glorious as these Divine developments of the soul of man. The grace that has achieved these things is in the world as much as ever.

6. Why is it, then, that so many young men are excluding from their ambition in life that of growth in Christ? Why is it that so many of them murmur that the old creeds are dry, and the old Bible and the old familiar Church service, and that even the fountain of private devotion has ceased to water the wilderness? It is because they are not rooted in God and His truth, but are, many of them, like plants thrown out of a country nursery, which lie bleaching in the sun or are blown about by the wind. No wonder that religion seems dry to those who are not rooted in it. Young men! see to it that you go down into the truth which you profess to stand by, whether of creed, of catechism, or Bible, and you will find as much good in it as your fathers did. Thus settled and grounded, seek to grow in everything; put on nothing. All pretence is worse than waste of time and strength. And abjure all forced and unnatural growth, all ambition to fill rapidly a large space. Be content to occupy the ground that God has allotted to you, according to the nature that God has given. (P. J. Rollo.)

As a root out of a dry ground

The root out of a dry ground

Owing to their geographical position, the central and western regions of South Africa are almost constantly deprived of rain. They contain no flowing streams, and very little water in the wells. The soil is a soft and light-coloured sand, which reflects the sunlight with a glaring intensity. No fresh breeze cools the air; no passing cloud veils the scorching sky. We should naturally have supposed that regions so scantily supplied with one of the first necessaries of life, could be nothing else than waste and lifeless deserts: and yet, strange to say, they are distinguished for their comparatively abundant vegetation, and their immense development of animal life. The evil produced by want of rain has been counteracted by the admirable foresight of the Creator, in providing these arid lands with plants suited to their trying circumstances. The vegetation is eminently local and special. Nothing like it is seen elsewhere on the face of the earth. Nearly all the plants have tuberous roots, buried far beneath the ground, beyond the scorching effects of the sun, and are composed of succulent tissue, filled with a deliciously cool and refreshing fluid. They have also thick, fleshy leaves, with pores capable of imbibing and retaining moisture from a very dry atmosphere and soil; so that if a leaf be broken during the greatest drought, it shows abundant circulating sap. Nothing can look more unlike the situations in which they are found than these succulent roots, full of fluid when the surrounding soil is dry as dust, and the enveloping air seems utterly destitute of moisture; replete with nourishment and life when all within the horizon is desolation and death. They seem to have a special vitality in themselves; and, unlike all other plants, to be independent of circumstances. Such roots are also found in the deserts of Arabia; and it was doubtless one of them that suggested to the prophet the beautiful and expressive emblem of the text, “He shall grow up before him as a root out of a dry ground.” (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

Christ’s growth before God

Commentators usually connect these words with the next clause of the verse, and regard them as implying that the promised Messiah would have no form or comeliness in the estimation of men, no outward beauty, that they should desire Him. This, I think, is a wrong interpretation. The words of the text are complete and separate. They speak not of the appearance of Christ to men, but of His growth in the sight of God. They refer not to His attractiveness, but to His functions; and the point that seems to be most insisted upon is, that His relation to the circumstances in which He should be placed would be one of perfect independence and self-sufficiency. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

The root out of a dry ground

In the light of this explanation let us look at the three ideas which the subject suggests to us--

1. The living root.

2. The dry ground.

3. The effect of the living root upon the dry ground. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

Christ the living root

1. This emblem is peculiarly appropriate when applied to Christ. He is called the “Branch,” to show that He is a member of the great organism of human life, in all things made like unto His brethren, yet without sin. He is a branch of the tree of humanity, nourished by its sap, pervaded by its life, blossoming with its affections, and yielding its fruits of usefulness. But He is more than the Branch. “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots,” is the spiritual language of prophecy relative to the coming of the Messiah; but the figure is speedily changed, and the Branch is also called “the Root of Jesse.” This language is most strange and paradoxical. It reveals the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh. Jesus is at one and the same time the Branch and the Root, the root of Jesse and the offspring of Jesse, David’s Lord and David’s son, because He is Emmanuel, God with us, God and man in two distinct natures and one person for ever; deriving His human life by natural descent from man, and possessing Divine life in Himself, and the author of spiritual life to others. The root of plants growing in a dry ground is the most important part of their structure. It lies at the basis of, and involves the whole plant. The whole growth of a lily, for instance, lies folded up within its bulb. And so Christ lies at the basis of, and involves the whole spiritual life.

2. It is assuredly the most precious, as it is the most distinguishing, feature of the Christian religion, that it places the foundation of eternal life in living relations with a living Person, rather than in the profession of a creed or the practice of a duty.

The unfoldings of the Root of Jesse

All the individual life of the Christian, with its blossoms of holiness and its fruits of righteousness; all the Christian life of society, with its things that are pure, and honest, and lovely, and of good report, is but a development and a manifestation of the life of Christ in the heart and in the world; a growth and unfolding of the power, the beauty, and the sweetness that are hid in the Root of Jesse. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

The dry ground

There is usually a very intimate connection between a plant and the circumstances in which it grows. Modifications of specific character are produced by varieties of soil; and the wide difference between a wild flower or fruit, and a garden flower or fruit, is entirely owing to the difference between rich cultivated soil and the poor untilled soil of nature. The plants of a dry ground, however, are less dependent upon the nature of their soil than others; they receive from it, in most cases, mere mechanical support and room to expand in, while their means of growth are derived entirely from the atmosphere. Looking at the emblem of the text in this light, we may suppose the “dry ground” here to mean--

I. THAT HUMANITY OUT OF WHICH CHRIST SPRANG. There are many who regard Jesus as the natural product of humanity--the highest development of human nature, the blossom, so to speak, of mankind. But we look upon Him as a Divine germ planted in this wilderness, a Divine Being attaching Himself to men, wearing their nature, dwelling in their world, but still not of them--as distinct from humanity as the living root is distinct from the dry ground in which it grows. The soil of humanity is indeed dry ground. Sin has dried up its life, its fertility, turned its moisture into summer’s drought, and reduced it to perpetual barrenness. By the law of natural development, mankind could never have given birth to a character in every way so exceptional as that of Christ. It is true indeed that a few individuals have ever and anon emerged from the dark chaos of fallen humanity, and exhibited a high type of intellectual and moral worth; but such individuals have been completely identified with the human race, and have shared in its sins and infirmities. In Jesus, on the contrary, there was a remarkable remoteness and separateness from men his life ran parallel with man’s, but it was never on the same low level. He was independent of worldly circumstances, and superior to worldly conventionalities. He had no joys on earth save those He brought with Him from heaven. He was alone, without sympathy, for no one could understand Him; without help, for no mortal aid could reach the necessities of His case. Like a desert well, He was for ever imparting what no one could give Him back.

II. THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE JEWS REGARDING THE MESSIAH. There are scientific men who believe in the doctrine of spontaneous or equivocal generation. And so there are theologians who assert that Christ was merely the natural product of the age and the circumstances in which He lived; the mere incarnation, so to speak, of the popular expectation of the time. In all their attempts to account for His life, without admitting Him to be a Divine person, they bring prominently into view whatever there was in Jewish history, belief, and literature, to prepare for and produce such a personality and character as those of Jesus; they endeavour to show that the condition of the Jewish world, when Christ appeared, was exactly that into which His appearing would fit; and that all these preparatory and formative conditions did of themselves, by a kind of natural spontaneous generation, produce Christ. In reply to these views, it may be admitted as an unquestionable historical fact, that the expectation of a Messiah ran like a golden thread throughout the whole complicated web of the Hebrew religion and polity. The expectations of the Jews did no more of themselves produce the Saviour, than the soil and climate produce, of their own accord, any particular plant. There was nothing in the age, nothing in the people, nothing in the influences by which he was surrounded, which could by any possibility have produced or developed such a remarkable character as He exhibited. There was no more relation between Him and His moral surroundings, than there is between a succulent life-full root and the arid sandy waste in which it grows. The counterfeit Messiahs were not roots out of a dry ground, but, on the contrary, mushrooms developed from the decaying life of the nation. There was a complete harmony between them and their moral surroundings. They were really and truly the products of the popular longing of the time; they agreed in every respect with their circumstances. The prevailing notions concerning the Messiah were worldly and carnal.

III. THE CHARACTER OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE. Nothing can be more marked and striking than the contrast between the character of Christ and the general character of the Jewish nation--between the excellences which He displayed and those which they held in most esteem. It is said that a man represents the spirit and character of the age and the race to which he belongs. He seldom rises above their general level. But here we have a man who not only rose high above the level of his age and nation, but stands out, in all that constitutes true moral manhood, in marked and decided contrast to them. He was descended from the Jewish people, but He was not of them. He was rooted in Jewish soil, but His life was a self-derived and heavenly life. This is a great and precious truth. Something has come into this world which is not of it. A supernatural power has descended into nature. A man has lived on our earth who cannot be ranked with mankind. A Divine Being has come from God, to be incarnate with us, and to lift us up to God. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

Christ binds humanity into a brotherhood

The roots of the desert, by their extensive ramifications, fix the constantly shifting sands, and prevent them from being drifted about in blinding clouds by every wind that blows. So the Root of Jesse binds the dry ground of humanity by its endless fibres of benevolence and love. The despised and apparently feeble Jesus of Nazareth was lifted up on the Cross, and then followed--according to His own prophecy--the drawing of all men to Him and to one another. Sin is selfishness and isolation; the love of Christ is benevolence and attraction. Jesus unites us to the Father, and therefore to one another. The love of Christians is not to be confined to their own society and fraternity. In Christ they have received expansion, not limitation--universal benevolence, not mere party spirit. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

A root out of a dry ground

I. THE HISTORICAL MEANING OF THIS METAPHOR. It applies to the person of the Lord, and also to His cause and Kingdom: to Himself personally and to Himself mystically. A root which springs up in a fat and fertile field owes very much to the soil in which it grows. Our Saviour is a root that derives nothing from the soil in which it grows, but puts everything into the soil.

1. It is quite certain that our Lord derived nothing whatever from His natural descent. He was the Son of David, the lawful heir to the royal dignities of the tribe of Judah; but His family had fallen into obscurity, had lost position, wealth, and repute.

2. Nor did our Lord derive assistance from His nationality; it was no general recommendation to His teaching that He was of the seed of Abraham. To this day, to many minds, it is almost shameful to mention that our Saviour was a Jew. The Romans were peculiarly tolerant of religions and customs; by conquest their empire had absorbed men of all languages and creeds, and they usually left them undisturbed; but the Jewish faith was too peculiar and intolerant to escape derision and hatred. After the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, the Jews were hunted down, and the connection of Christianity with Judaism so far from being an advantage to it became a serious hindrance to its growth.

3. Nor did the Saviour owe anything to His followers. Shall a world-subduing religion be disseminated by peasants and mariners? So did He ordain it.

4. Our Saviour is “a root out of a dry ground” as to the means He chose for the propagation of His faith.

5. Neither did the Saviour owe anything to times in which He lived. Christianity was born at a period of history when the world by wisdom knew not God, and men were most effectually alienated from Him. The more thinking part of the world’s inhabitants were atheistic, and made ridicule of the gods, while the masses blindly worshipped whatever was set before them. The whole set and current of thought was in direct opposition to such a religion as He came to inculcate. It was an age of luxury.

6. Neither did the religion of Jesus owe anything to human nature. It is sometimes said that it commends itself to human nature. It is false: the religion of Jesus opposes unrenewed human nature.

II. OUR KNOWLEDGE OF ITS TRUTH EXPERIMENTALLY. You remember your own conversion. When Jesus Christ came to you to save you, did He find any fertile soil in your heart for the growth of His grace?

III. This whole subject affords much ENCOURAGEMENT to many.

1. Let me speak a word to those who are seeking the Saviour, but are very conscious of your own sinfulness. Christ is all--does that not cheer you?

2. The same thought ought also to encourage any Christian who has been making discoveries of his own barrenness. When at any time you are cast down by a sense of your nothingness, remember that your Lord is “a root out of a dry ground.”

3. The same comfort avails for every Christian worker. When you feel you are barren, do not fret or despair about it, but rather say, “Lord, here is a dry tree, come and make it bear fruit, and then I shall joyfully confess, from Thee is my fruit found.”

4. Ought not this to comfort us with regard to the times in which we live? Bad times are famous times for Christ.

5. And thus we may be encouraged concerning any particularly wicked place. Do not say, “It is useless to preach down there, or to send missionaries to that uncivilized country.” How do you know? Is it very dry ground? Well, that is hopeful soil; Christ is a “root out a dry ground,” and the more there is to discourage the more you should be encouraged.

6. The same is true of individual men; you should never say, “Well, such a man as that will never be converted.

IV. THE GLORY WHICH ALL THIS DISPLAYS. Christ’s laurels at this day are none of them borrowed. When He shall come in His glory there will be none among its friends who will say, “O King, Thou owest that jewel in Thy crown to me.” Every one will own that He was the author and the finisher of the whole work, and therefore He must have all the glory of it, since we who were with Him were dry ground, and He gave life to us but borrowed nothing from us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ not the product of Palestine

According to Renan, the excellence of Jesus was due to the climate and soil of Palestine! But he forgets to ask how it is that the climate and soil of Palestine have never produced such another! (C. Clemance, D.D.)

He hath no form nor comeliness

Christ’s humble appearance

While we see no necessity for the Saviour of the world appearing in pomp and splendour, we can point out many important ends that may be answered by His having been made humble and of no reputation.

1. In this state His all-perfect example was of the most extensive benefit. He could exhibit virtues more in number, more difficult to practise, and more generally necessary, than there could have been room for in a higher rank and in less trying circumstances. And the virtues which such a state required from Him, as they are the most difficult to practise, so are they those which are universally useful. The virtues which belong to sovereign power and regal dignity a few only have occasion to exercise. The virtues of that station which He assumed are useful for all to acquire.

2. By His appearing in the humble, suffering state He teaches us how very insignificant in the sight of God, and in the eyes of true wisdom, are all the possessions of this world and all the flattering distinctions of a present state.

3. By appearing in a humble, suffering state He shows us that earthly distress is no proof of a bad character; that suffering is no sure intimation of God s displeasure at the sufferer.

4. By appearing in this state He shows us that it was only the force of truth that engaged and influenced His followers. So strongly are men impressed by the circumstances of high birth, of eminent rank, of great power, the splendid acts of a monarch or a conqueror, that wherever these are found they are eager to show deference and respect. But Jesus had none of these worldly attractions. (R. Bogg, D.D.)

The real character of the Messiah

I. AS TO THE OBJECTION, that Jesus was not the true Messiah, because He did not answer the universal expectation which the Jews had of His being a mighty temporal prince. Considering the natural temper of mankind, and how strongly addicted they are to their worldly interests, and how jealous of everything that thwarts and opposes them, we must allow it to be a prejudice not easy to overcome. It requires a greater zeal for the honour of God and religion than most men are possessed of, to adhere to truth when we are likely to be losers by it. Few there are that have resolution enough to abide by a religion in which they have been educated, when once it comes to be opposed by the secular powers, and the profession of it to be attended with nothing but poverty and affliction: how much more courage then, and firmness of mind, is necessary to make men enter into a religion newly set up, and that is attended with the like disadvantages? But can any one seriously think this excuse of any force? Let him urge it in its true light, and thus must he plead when arraigned at the tribunal of God for unbelief: “I would willingly have embraced the religion of Jesus Christ had it been made more suitable to my carnal inclinations and interests; had the rewards it promises been temporal instead of eternal, none should have more industriously and cheerfully sought after them; but when He told me that His ‘kingdom was not of this world,’ and that I could not follow Him without ‘taking up the cross;’ without losing, or being in danger of losing, everything that was valuable in life, nay, life itself, for His sake--my flesh trembled at the thought, and human nature, directed me to take care of myself, and to run no hazards for the sake of religion.” What sentence can such an one expect but this: “Thou hast preferred thy temporal to thy eternal interest, thou hast had thy reward on earth, and canst therefore expect no other in heaven”? But the Jew perhaps thinks he has somewhat further to say in behalf of his unbelief--that he was persuaded, from the predictions of the prophets, that the Messiah would really be, what the Gentiles might only wish Him to be, a temporal prince; and, finding Jesus not to be so, they thought it a good reason for rejecting Him. But was this (supposing it true) the only mark by which the Messiah was to be known? How often do we read of His sufferings and ill-usage in the world? Did anybody appear that answered the character of the Messiah, in any one instance, so exactly as Jesus did? The Jews made another objection against Him of much the same kind: that He was brought up, and, as they supposed, born at Nazareth, in Galilee; a country much despised by the Jews, as if there was anything in the nature of the soil or air of the country that rendered the inhabitants of it less acceptable to God than they might otherwise be, and He could not, if He would, produce eminent and bright spirits out of the most obscure parts of the world. The Chaldees were an idolatrous people, and yet God made choice of Abraham, a man of that country, with whom to establish an everlasting covenant, and in whose seed to bless all the nations of the earth. The prophet Jonah, a type of Christ, was born at a place called Gath-hepher, a town of the tribe of Zebulon, in Galilee itself, though no prophet is said by the Jews to come from thence: and Isaiah moreover plainly declares to us, in the description he is giving of the universal joy and comfort that will be occasioned by the birth and kingdom of Christ, that “in Galilee of the nations” this shall be seen. “The people (says he) that walked in darkness, have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” So that this objection is as groundless as it is weak and foolish.

II. APPLICATION to ourselves.

1. It greatly behoves us to take care that worldly interest and advantage be not the principal motive that engages us to perform our duty; lest, after the example of the Jews, we fall away from it, when that motive fails; lest, being disappointed of the hopes we had conceived from our attachment to religion and religious men, we become enemies instead of friends.

2. How hard it is for truth to prevail over the prejudices and settled notions of men. (C. Moore, M. A.)

Religion a weariness to the natural man

Putting aside for an instant the thought of the ingratitude and the sin which indifference to Christianity implies, let us, as far as we dare, view it merely as a matter of fact, after the manner of the text, and form a judgment on the probable consequences of it.

1. “Religion is a weariness;” alas! so feel even children before they can well express their meaning. Exceptions, of course, now and then occur. I am not forgetful of the peculiar character of children’s minds: sensible objects first meet their observation; it is not wonderful that they should at first be inclined to limit their thoughts to things of sense. A distinct profession of faith, and a conscious maintenance of principle, may imply a strength and consistency of thought to which they are as yet unequal. Again, childhood is capricious, ardent, light-hearted; it cannot think deeply or long on any subject. Yet all this is not enough to account for the fact in question--why they should feel this distaste for the very subject of religion.

2. “Religion is a weariness” I will next take the case of young persons when they first enter into life. Is not religion associated in their minds with gloom and weariness? This is the point that the feelings of our hearts on the subject of religion are different from the declared judgment of God; that we have a natural distaste for that which He has said is our chief good.

3. Let us pass to the more active occupations of life. The transactions of worldly business, speculations in trade, ambitious hopes, the pursuit of knowledge, the public occurrences of the day, these find a way directly to the heart; they rouse, they influence. The name of religion, on the other hand, is weak and impotent.

4. But this natural contrariety between man and his Maker is still more strikingly shown by the confessions of men of the world who have given some thought to the subject, and have viewed society with somewhat of a philosophical spirit. Such men treat the demands of religion with disrespect and negligence, on the ground of their being unnatural. The same remark may be made upon the notions which secretly prevail in certain quarters at the present day, concerning the unsuitableness of Christianity to an enlightened age. The literature of the day is weary of revealed religion.

5. That religion is in itself a weariness is seen even in the conduct of the better sort of persons, who really on the whole are under the influence of its spirit. So dull and uninviting is calm and practical religion, that religious persons are ever exposed to the temptation of looking out for excitements of one sort or other, to make it pleasurable to them.

6. Even the confirmed servants of Christ witness to the opposition which exists between their own nature and the demands of religion. Can we doubt that man’s will runs contrary to God’s will--that the view which the inspired Word takes of our present life, and of our destiny, does not satisfy us, as it rightly ought to do? That Christ hath no form nor comeliness in our eyes; and though we see Him, we see no desirable beauty in Him? “Light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light.” If our hearts are by nature set on the world for its own sake, and the world is one day to pass away, what are they to be set on, what to delight in then? What are to be the pleasures of the soul in another life? Can they be the same as they are here? They cannot; Scripture tells us they cannot; the world passeth away--now what is there left to love and enjoy through a long eternity? It is then plain enough, though Scripture said not a word on the subject, that if we would be happy in the world to come, we must make us new hearts, and begin to love the things we naturally do not love. “He hath no form nor comeliness,” etc. It is not His loss that we love Him not, it is our loss. (J.H. Newman, B.D.)

The love of beauty (in art)

Let us fix our thoughts on one example of that contrast which inspired prophecy and the life of Christ have agreed to reconcile. It is decisively expressed in the contradictory words of Zechariah and Isaiah: the former heralding the King of Sion as one whose beauty should surpass the utmost praise of human words or thoughts Zechariah 9:7); the latter declaring that those who should see that self-same Christ should find in Him no beauty that they should desire Him. I would try to suggest something in regard to the actual fulfilment of both prophecies in the claims addressed to our sense of beauty, by the revelation of Christianity; believing that there is a deep meaning in that strange and blended force of stern restraint and irresistible charm which this sense has so often owned in the presence of the Crucified; and hoping to show that this too is an instinct of our human nature, which, if we suffer it to act in sincerity and truth, will find its rest for ever in the Person of its Redeemer. Let us, then, notice first that the prophecy of Isaiah is, if we take it alone and superficially, in accord with much that has been written or implied about the influence of Christianity upon the genius of Art. For we are sometimes told, and more often made to feel, that there is something irksome and hindering to the free appreciation and enjoyment of beauty, in those dogmas about the conditions and issues of human life, which are inseparable from the work of our Lord. In various ways it is suggested or proclaimed that Christianity has unduly and too long presumed to thrust its doctrines between the human soul and the beauty which is about it, and disturbed that free entrance into the pleasures of sight and sound, through which every energy might go out to find its satisfaction and its rapture. And so some have already returned feed and foster their sense of beauty by the works and thoughts of those who lived before this tyrannous restraint was preached; others are looking forward to a time when Art may avail itself of the triumph of scepticism, and renounce all hindering allegiance and regard to the discredited formulae of religion; while many more are conscious of a vague expectation that the life of passion henceforward will and should be fleer and fuller than it has been: that hitherto we have been unnecessarily cautious and sober in our pleasures, and timidly patient of undue restrictions; but that now all is going to be much more passionate and unfettered and absorbing, and that, by the pursuit of Art for Art’s sake, we enter into an earthly paradise, which has at length been relieved from certain gloomy and old-fashioned regulations, and in which it may now be hoped that our sense of beauty will be a law unto itself. And in this temper very many who little know the consistent significance of their choice are falling in with a course of life and thought which has, as a whole, turned away from the Cross of Jesus Christ: turned away to seek elsewhere the full desire of their eyes, because He hath, as He dies for us, no form nor comeliness, and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. For in truth there is a challenge and a law with which Christianity must ever meet the lover of beauty as he goes out to seek by whatever way the gratification of this sense. The Church of Christ cannot, while she remembers His message, her Master, and her trust, consent to be dismissed from the sphere of taste, or let it be thought that she has no counsel for her sons, as they turn to those high and thrilling pleasures, no means or right of judging the tone and the ideals of contemporary Art. (J. H.Newman, B. D.)

Christianity and the sensuous

We were going to throw ourselves without reserve into this or that enthusiasm of beauty, to steep our souls in the excitement of music, or poetry, or art, to forget all else in the engrossing delight of their eager sympathy, to lay aside every hindering thought, to trust the strong desire of our heart, and measure our interests by their intensity: and Christianity recalls us to ourselves. It sets before us, in the compass of a single life, the full expression of that deep and marring discord which has broken up the harmony of this world, and it urges us to seek within ourselves for the secret of the disturbance and misery. It shows us the Perfect Love rejected, Perfect Purity reviled, Perfect Holiness blasphemed, Perfect Mercy scorned; God coming to His own and His own receiving Him not; the righteous Judge condemned; the Lord of Life obedient unto death; and it says that the cause of this anomaly, the condition which made this the earthly life of the Incarnate Son of God, is to be found within our own souls; and we know that them is something them which seems at times as though it would crucify the Son of God afresh: something which would distort our choice from the high and spiritual to the bestial and mean: something which has often made us cruel and unjust to other men, and contemptible to ourselves. And as before the Cross which mankind awarded to its Redeemer we feel the havoc and tumult which sin has brought upon the order and truthfulness of our inner life, we must surely hesitate before we say that no restraint shall rest upon our sense of beauty, that there is no need, whatever adversaries may be moving about us, to be sober and vigilant in the world of Art. But for those who humbly take the yoke upon them, who, as they turn to the manifold wealth of beauty, do not thrust away the knowledge of their own hearts and the thought of Him whose death alone has saved them, and whose strong grace alone sustains and shelters them--for those the best delights of Art and Nature appear in a new radiance of light and hope, and speak of such things as pass man’s understanding. The moments of quickened and exalted life which music and painting stir within them, the controlling splendour of the sunset, the tender glory of the distant hills, the wonder of a pure and noble face--these no longer come as passing pleasures, flashing out of a dark background, which is only the gloomier when they are gone, half realized and little understood: for now all are linked and held together as consistent tokens of the same redeeming, sanctifying Love; they see the Hand, the pierced Hand, which holds the gift; they know the Love which fashioned and adorned it; they have read elsewhere the thought which is embodied in the outward beauty; for it is He who spared not His own Son who with Him freely gives them all things. And all that He gives them prophesy of Him. (J. H. Newman, B. D.)

Christ’s beauty

It was not a beauty of form, it was the beauty of expression. It was not the beauty of statuary, it was the beauty of life. It is the purpose of God to disappoint the senses. He has victimized the eyes, and the ears, and the hands of men. (J. Parker, D. D.)

No beauty in Christ

Look not on the pitcher, but on the liquor that is contained within. (J. Trapp.)

Christ’s meanness on earth no objection against, but confirmation of, Christianity

I. Show against unbelievers, that THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE PROPHECIES WHICH CONCERNED THE MESSIAH ARE A CONVINCING ARGUMENT OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION. It is agreed on all hands that there can be no human or natural reason assigned for such future and remote events as have no visible or natural cause to produce them; but are of a contingent nature, and many times depend on the free choice and will of man; and therefore the prediction of such events must be supposed to proceed from some supernatural revelation. It is the argument whereby God proves Himself to be the Lord, and that there is no other Saviour beside (Isaiah 43:11-12). By the same reason, he proves the gods of the nations to be idols, and no gods (Isaiah 41:21-22; Isaiah 41:29). The prophecies of Scripture, which referred to the Messiah, were of things at such a distance, and of such a nature, that there could not be any probable reason assigned, or tolerable conjecture made of them. And yet there was not one tittle of all the prophecies which relate to the manner or design of Christ’s appearance in the world that fell to the ground.

II. Show against the Jews, that THE MEAN APPEARANCE OF CHRIST IN THE WORLD IS NO GOOD ARGUMENT AGAINST THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, OR OF ANY FORCE TO PROVE THAT JESUS OF NAZARETH WAS NOT THE CHRIST and that upon the two following accounts--

1. As the grounds upon which the Jews expected a temporal Messiah, were false and impracticable; false with respect to the spirituality of His kingdom; impracticable with respect to the extent and universality of its blessings and privileges.

2. As the state and condition of life which our Saviour chose in the world was most agreeable to the great ends and design of His coming into it.

III. PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.

1. If the accomplishment of the prophecies concerning our Saviour be an evident proof of His being the great Prophet that was to come into the world, then whatever doctrines He taught are, certainly true and Divinely revealed.

2. From the circumstances of our Saviour s appearance in the world let us learn the duties of patience, charity and humility.

3. In order to humble the pride of our hearts, when we are tempted to bear ourselves high upon any worldly advantages, which give us a superiority above our brethren, let us consider how Jesus Christ, the best and wisest, judged of these things. (R. Fiddes)

Christ uncomely and yet beautiful

How can it be said of Christ that He had neither comeliness nor beauty, since it is said (Psalms 45:2), that “He is fairer than the children of men,” or “than the sons of Adam”? And in Song of Solomon 5:10-16 He is described by the spouse to be well-coloured, and likewise well-featured, and she goeth on from part to part, from head to feet; and then concludeth, “He is altogether lovely.” To this I answer--

1. It is one thing what, Christ is to the spouse, another what He is to the unbelieving Jews Christ’s beauties are reward, seen of none but those that are inwardly acquainted with Him. The spouse speaketh of Him in a spiritual sense.

2. We must distinguish between Christ’s humiliation and exaltation, His Godhead and His manhood. In His Godhead He is “the brightness of His Father’s glory, and the express image of His person,” and consequently full of beauty. In His humiliation He is not only a man, but a mean man Philippians 2:9).

3. In Christ’s humiliation we must distinguish as to what He is in Himself and as to what He is in the eye of the world. (T. Manton, D.D.)

The mean not necessarily despicable

Do not despise things, for their meanness, for so thou mayest condemn the ways of God. (T. Manton, D.D.)

God’s use of the mean

As there was meanness in the outward habitude of Christ’s person, so there is now in the administration of His kingdom; as appears by considering--

1. That the ordinances are weak to appearance; there is nothing but plain words, plain bread and wine, in one ordinance, and only water in another. The simple plainness of the ordinances is an obstacle to men’s believing; they would fain bring in pomp, but that will mar all.

2. These ordinances are administered by weak men. Our Saviour sent fishermen to conquer the world, and made use of a goose-quill to wound Antichrist. Moses, the stammering shepherd, was commissioned to deliver Israel; God makes use of Amos, who was a herdsman, to declare His will. So Elisha the great prophet was taken from the plough. And many times God made use of young men, such as Paul, whose very person causeth prejudice; young Samuel, young Timothy, men of mean descent, low parentage, and of no great appearance in the world.

3. The manner how it is by them managed, which is not in such a politic, insinuating way as to beguile and deceive, and as if they were to serve their own ends (2 Corinthians 1:12).,

4. The persons by whom it is entertained, the poor (James 2:5). Usually God s true people are the meanest, not being so noted for outward excellency as others. This has been always a great prejudice against Christ’s doctrine (John 7:48).

5. The general drift of it is to make men deny their pleasures, to overlook their concernments, to despise the world, to hinder unjust gain, to walk contrary to the ordinary customs and fashions of the world. (T. Manton, D.D.)

Christ assumed an appearance of meanness

This meanness of Christ was willingly taken up by Him.

1. In His birth.

2. In His life and manner of appearance in the world. He was altogether found in fashion as a man; to outward appearance just as other men, for His growth was as other, men’s, by degrees: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” His life was spent in much toil and labour, etc. (T. Manton, D.D.)

Poverty

1. Poverty and meanness are not disgraceful. Christ Himself was a carpenter, Paul a tent-maker, and the apostles fishermen. Christ, you see, scorned that glory, pomp and greatness which the world doteth upon.

2. Poverty should not he irksome to us. Christ underwent it before you; His apostles were base in the world’s eye (1 Corinthians 4:13). Poverty is a great burden, and layeth a man open to many a disadvantage--scorn, contempt and refusal. But consider, Christ hath honoured it in His own person, and He honoureth it to this very day. (T. Manton, D.D.)

Missing Christ’s beauty

There have been two traditions respecting Christ’s person. Some of the Fathers of the Church have declared that He was, Divinely beautiful, “the fairest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely.” Others have spoken of Him in the words of Isaiah, “He hath no form nor comeliness.” For my own part I like to think of Him as Divinely beautiful. If in all things He is to have the pre-eminence, why not here as well as there? Certain it is that there must have shone through Him some transfiguring splendour, that awed and fascinated. Men were conquered as much by His look as by His word. If, however, these descriptions of Isaiah refer to His person, and are to be taken literally, then they are very far from being attractive. “As a root out of a dry ground.” “He hath no form nor comeliness.” “There is no beauty that we should desire Him.” “We esteemed Him not,” or, as Luther translates, “We thought Him nothing.” The picture seems to be that of a mean and miserable life, tragic, unsettled, menaced, lined with grief, disfigured with wounds. I say “seems.” For, after all, the fault may not be so much in Him as in us. Beauty may be all about men, yet they may never perceive it, because their foolish hearts are darkened; because they are short-sighted, blind, impure. Ruskin’s dictum is that joy, affection, veneration are necessary to the beholding of beauty. If that be so, and men know nothing of “the joy that rises in one like a summer s morn;” if they have never experienced the “love that greatens and glorifies all things;” if they know nothing of that reverence which recognizes and bows before the highest, it is no wonder that they miss the spirit of the beautiful. Men may have missed Christ’s beauty from many causes, as men are missing it to-day. Let us seek to discover what these things are that blind us to the holiest, the highest, the loveliest.

I. THE SPIRIT OF CONTEMPT BLINDS TO BEAUTY. Jesus came into this world a Galilean peasant, poor, obscure, straitened in every way. And judging Him by the measure of the scale on which He appeared, men treated Him with disdain, contempt, scorn, remarking, “Is not this the carpenter.?” How many there are who live continually in the spirit of contempt. They continually look down. They seem to forget that some,of the choicest spirits of earth have dined on “homely fare” and worn “hodden grey,” and that the millionaires of ideas have frequently been bankrupts in pocket. How contemptuously the great spirits of the world have been treated by those who were not worthy to unloose their shoe-latchets! Think of Mozart being sent by an archbishop in whose retinue he was to dine with the servants in the kitchen. Think of that same Mozart occupying a nameless grave, for “no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” “Odd world, is it not, that will send its Bunyans to prison and give its jockeys ten thousand a year?” Aristotle paints his magnanimous man as “not apt to admire, for to him there is nothing great.” What number of these magnanimous men there must be; men so held in the grip of contempt that, standing in a world crammed full of the rich glories of creation, they see nothing to admire. Now contempt springs from two things: lack of understanding and lack of love. The wise man never despises. “God is great, yet He despiseth not any,” and those who are great after the greatness of God have ever felt their smallness beside the humblest and poorest of men. They see that behind the dullest life there may be angelic light. Where true wisdom is there contempt is not. Charles V was truly great when, picking up the brush of Titian which the painter had dropped, he remarked that he was “proud to wait on so supreme a genius.” Men see no beauty in Christ because they have been too ready to despise Him. Contempt springs from lack of love. “They thought Him nothing” because they never looked at Him with the heart. If you want to discover all that is brightest and best in men you must look at them with the look of love; then will God become “aglow to the loving heart in what was mere earth before.” Love is wonderful always. There is a magic power about it which can make plain faces shine as the faces of angels. It can fill with light and radiance a cottage home as no gold can do. It can convert worthless trifles into precious heirlooms. So if men would only look at Christ with the supreme look of the soul they would discover that He who seems to have no form nor comeliness will then be crowned with glory and honour.

II. MEN MISS THE BEAUTY, TOO, BY THE CRITICAL TEMPER. Some men there are who start out always with a disposition to criticize rather than to admire. When a young lady once expressed the wish to Hogarth that she might be able to draw caricature, the great satirist replied, “It is not a faculty to be envied; take my advice and never draw caricature. By the long practice of it I have lost the enjoyment of beauty. I never see a face but distorted, and have never the satisfaction to behold the human face divine.” The great caricaturist had so accustomed himself to look for faults that he could see nothing else. Criticism blinds to beauty. Was not that true with regard to Christ? Look for the beauty in Him and you will discover a loveliness that cannot be chiselled in marble or expressed in colour, but a beauty which, when the soul sees it is ravished for ever, and rapt into an ecstasy of admiration and love.

III. WE MAY MISS THE BEAUTY THROUGH ENVY. Did not men miss His beauty in that way in the days of His flesh? Pilate was keen enough to perceive that behind the seeming air of justice assumed by His traducers the fires of envy burned. “He knew that for envy they had delivered Him.” The artist who portrayed Envy as a man of mean and misshapen figure, with crouching shoulder, craning neck, distended ears, and serpent tongue, was endowed with a more than ordinary gift of insight. Where envy exists there can be no vision of the beautiful. For it blinds the mind and poisons the heart, and lifts not to a throne, but to a cross. How it blinded the eyes of those Scribes and Pharisees! They saw the beautiful deeds of the Man, how He succoured the weak, the suffering, the sad; they heard His words, flagrant, uplifting, strengthening; they beheld a life spent in doing good; yet so blinded were they by the spirit of envy that this supreme vision of loveliness did not dawn upon them. The penalty of envy is blindness, and until those scales fall from the eyes, all things true and beautiful and of good report, everything of worth in the character and conduct of our fellow-men, all the charm and sweetness of the Son of Man, will remain undiscovered by us.

IV. PREOCCUPATION MAY BLIND TO BEAUTY. Men are so feverishly busy in these days, they live at such express speed, that they often miss the angel at the door. When men are busy here and there they miss the charms of the Eternal. A little more quiet, a little abiding in one’s own room, and it would be discovered that Christ is lovelier than painter’s sublimest dream, and that finding Him one finds a joy for ever. (Cecil H. Wright.)


Verses 3-7

Isaiah 53:3-7

He is despised and rejected of men

The mean appearance of the Redeemer foretold

I.
THE WISDOM AND GOODNESS OF GOD IN DETERMINING TO SEND HIS SON INTO THE WORLD IN A STATE OF POVERTY AND AFFLICTION.

1. With regard to His being a teacher, His sufferings set Him above the reach of suspicions. What ends could He have to serve by His doctrine, who met with nothing but misery and affliction, as the reward of His labour?

2. With regard to our Lord’s being an example of holiness and obedience set before us for our instruction and imitation. His sufferings render the pattern perfect, and show His virtues in their truest lustre, and at the same time silence the pleas which laziness or self-love would otherwise have suggested.

3. With regard to His Divine mission. His sufferings were an evident token that the hand of God was with Him. He only can produce strength out of weakness, and knows how to confound the mighty things of the world by things which are of no account. Add to this the evidence of prophecy, which is so much the stronger by how much the weaker Christ was: so admirably has the wisdom of God displayed itself in this mystery of faith.

II. THE EVIDENCE OF PROPHECY CONCERNING THE MEAN APPEARANCE OUR LORD WAS TO MAKE.

III. THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE WE HAVE FOR THE COMPLETION OF THESE PROPHECIES. (T. Sherlock, D.D.)

Christ despised and rejected of men

I. IN WHAT RESPECTS IT MAY STILL BE SAID THAT CHRIST IS DESPISED AND REJECTED OF MEN.

1. Men may be said to despise Christ when they do not receive Him as their alone Saviour, the true and only way to the Father.

2. When they practically deny His authority by breaking His Commandments.

3. When they do not give Him the chief room in their hearts, nor prefer Him in their choice to everything else.

4. When they do not publicly, confess Him before men.

II. THE CAUSES OF THIS CONTEMPT.

1. The main cause is a secret unbelief.

2. Love of this would.

3. Ignorance of their own condition.

4. An opinion that they may obtain His aid at what time soever they shall choose to ask it.

III. THE MALIGNITY OF THIS SIN.

1. To despise and reject such a Saviour, is the blackest ingratitude that can possibly be imagined.

2. Your ingratitude is heightened by the most insolent contempt both of the wisdom and goodness of God.

3. By despising and rejecting Christ, you openly proclaim war against the Most High, and bid Him defiance. (R. Walker.)

Designed and rejected

I. CHRIST WAS AN OBJECT OF SCORN AND CONTEMPT.

1. He was despised as an impostor.

2. Despised in His teachings.

3. In his work.

4. In His claims to a righteous judgment at the national tribunal.

II. NOT ONLY WAS JESUS AN OBJECT OF CONTEMPT AND SCORN BUT OF ABSOLUTE REJECTION. If the word had read “neglected,”--deserted, coldly passed by--this would have revealed an indifference that would have covered His nation and age with reproach, and would have stood out a lasting monument of their base ingratitude. But here is a word conveying the idea of the most inveterate and active hatred. But why this active hostility to Christ? (J. Higgins.)

Despised and rejected of men

In the Gospel we see this rejection in actual occurrence.

I. HE WAS DESPISED AND REJECTED BY THE WORLDLY-MINDED (John 6:1-71). Following Christ for the sake of bread may lead to much enthusiastic and self-denying exertion. Here, the very meanest view of Christ is preferred to those lofty and spiritual truths by which He tried to allure and save their souls. In his presence, before His face, while listening to His voice, and with the splendour of the miracle before them--all are passed by for the bread. Is not this the essence of worldly-mindedness? Christianity is the religion of many, not for the sake of the Lord Himself, nor His gracious words, nor even His miracles, but for the bread, for reputation’s sake, and social character and respectability.

II. HE WAS DESPISED AND REJECTED BY THE RATIONALIST (Matthew 13:54-57). It was in “His own country.” There men thought they knew Him; His family had long dwelt there. Parents, brothers, sisters were all familiarly known--all, down to their very trade: “Is not this the carpenter?” The facts of the case, as the rationalist is so fond of saying, were all clearly apprehended, and stood forth in their true dimensions. “Whence hath this man this wisdom and these mighty works?” Is it real? is it not on the face of it absurd, this mere carpenter’s son? This is the inmost spirit of rationalism. It rejects everything above the level of visible and tangible fact, everything that cannot be weighed and measured, everything spiritual in Scripture doctrine and supernatural in Scripture history.

III. HE IS DESPISED AND REJECTED BY THE ECCLESIASTIC (Matthew 21:15-23). The ecclesiastical temper is not found solely or chiefly amongst those who are ecclesiastics by profession. The religious spirit may be crushed--indeed, has often been; rigid and severe forms may take the place of the easy and graceful motions of vital Christianity. “This” is “the rejection of Christ in the freedom by which His Holy Spirit “distributes to every man severally as He will.”

IV. HE IS DESPISED AND REJECTED BY MEN OF BRUTE FORCE (Luke 23:11). To some the tenderness of the Gospel religion is an offence. Humanity is a peculiarly Christian virtue, and meekness and resignation. The calm tranquillity of meditation, the tearful eye of compassion, the sublime courage of patience, the dating heroism of forgiveness, excite no sympathy or admiration in some breasts. Theirs is the rejection of Christ; through a false manliness.

V. CHRIST IS DESPISED AND REJECTED BY HIS OWN (John 1:11). Some, from a natural sweetness and amiability of disposition, seem in a certain degree adapted to be Christians. The restraining effects of home discipline and generous education have restrained them from open transgression. Yet their rejection of Christ as a Saviour from sin is often most decided and even disdainful. They think the charge of sin inappropriate, for they have no consciousness of it, and no felt need of a Saviour. The sinfulness of rejecting Christ is seen in its being a rejection of the Father (Luke 10:16). It is not possible to reject Christ, and be right with God. (S. H. Tindall.)

Failure

In a life that is lived with the thoughts of eternity, in one aspect failure is inevitable: in another aspect failure is impossible.

1. Failure is inevitable. If I accept for myself an ideal which is beyond the limits of here and now, then manifestly it is impossible that I can here and now realize it. There must be always with me, so long as I am faithful to that ideal, a sense of incompleteness, a ceaseless aspiration, an effort that only the grave can close. He knows if he is faithful that he has before him an eternal career, that the end to which he is moving is likeness to Jesus Christ; that he has to pass into the unveiled presence of God and hold communion with Him. If that be the end, can it be otherwise than that, in the meanwhile, there should be failure, humiliation, penitence, and ceaseless and unwearied discipline of self?

2. Failure, in another aspect, is impossible. Only be sure that deep down at the root of life there is loyalty to God, and then begin where we are placed--in the effort to find Him He will fulfil the search. The miracle of the failure of Calvary is our assurance of that truth. It is this living for the Eternal, as a venture of faith, which has always appealed to the eternal God, which His own nature is pledged to meet. Do we stumble? It is only that we may realize His readiness to help. Are we bewildered? It is only in order that we may find how sure He guides. Are we humiliated by our confessions? It is only that we may realize the readiness of His pardon. Are we conscious and stricken with the sense of our weakness? It is only that we may find His strength perfected within us. If we have only taken sides with Him in the great issues of human life, then He will justify our choice. (C. G. Lang.)

Failure may be welcomed

Our failure in the light of the Cross, our spiritual failures, are things to be welcomed; they prevent the torpor of dull assurance creeping over us like a poison; they prevent our falling under imperfect standards of life, they prove, so long as their are constant with us, that the energy of the Spirit of God has not left us to ourselves; they witness to us that we recognize the truth that our souls can find their rest and satisfaction only in God. (C. G. Lang.)

The despised Saviour

To all God grants some dim vision of what He intends man to be. The holiest men have had the clearest glimpses of that character. One nation was separated to keep the ideal before the world. The majority corrupted the representation, but some prophets saw it clearly.

I. GOD’S IDEAL FOR MAN, AND ITS REALIZATION IN CHRIST. The majority thought He would be another Solomon, David’s greater son. The prophet saw that He would be a Sinless Sufferer; what it had been intended that the nation should be, that the Suffering Servant would be. The voice of God, which set forth the ideal by the lips of prophets, now speaks through our own highest desires.

II. THE WORLD’S RECEPTION OF THE REVEALED IDEAL. Pilate has brought Him forth that His suffering may excite their pity, but His pure and loving life has made them relentless in their hate. There is no beauty that they should desire Him. Barabbas, the bold and reckless, is the people’s choice. While boon companions crowd round him, cold looks and scornful smiles are reserved for Christ. Christ had headed no revolt against the powers that be, and therefore He was not popular. Political emancipation is more popular than spiritual. The path of righteousness ends on Calvary; its crown is one of thorns, its throne a cross.

III. THE MEANING OF THE REVELATION OF THIS IDEAL. The world says, Blessed are the wealthy, the powerful, the great, and the wise. Christ says, Blessed are the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, the meek, the mourners, the persecuted. At first we pity Christ, and reserve our indignation for His persecutors. But He was the least pitiable of all that group. Pilate was a pitiable victim, the people were pitiable because carried away by passion, and the priests by desire for revenge. The greatness of apparent weakness is here revealed. Yet we despise weakness. Here is a dramatic representation of weighty decisions made every day in human hearts. When we choose ease and worldly glory in preference to holiness and self-denial, we despise and reject Christ. Here our choice is seen worked out to the bitter end. This is a revelation of the meaning of sin.

IV. THE EFFECT OF THIS REVELATION. The world can never forget that spiracle. In the dark ages, when the Bible was a hidden book, a representation of this scene was to be found in every church. Though obscured by superstition, the ideal was still held up, and was still moulding the minds and stimulating the holy endeavours of men. In an open Bible we have the ideal more truthfully set forth. The love there revealed has been the constraining motive which moved apostles to preach, martyrs to suffer, missionaries to forgo the joys of home, and humble men and women to labour in countless ways to advance the interests of Christ. His patience shames our murmuring: His burning love to us kindles our love to Him. (R. C. Ford, M.A.)

The world’s regard for the outward

The great cause assigned by the prophet for the astonishment of men at the Messiah and for their rejection of Him is, that His real glory is hidden beneath humiliation and sorrow. The world, that is, which always looks at the outward appearance of things, judges them according to their material splendours; having a carnal eye, it can but dimly discern moral beauty. It renders homage to thrones and crowns, and wealth and power, and does not care to see the moral iniquity and the spiritual repulsiveness there may be behind them; it feels pity and contempt for suffering and poverty and obloquy, and does not care to see the moral grandeur that these may cover or indicate. There are few of us so reverent to a poor, godly man, as to a rich godless one. We may not refuse to utter words commending the one and condemning the other, but we utter them very tenderly; the goodness of a rich man causes us to exhaust our expletives, and almost ourselves, in admiring praise; the wickedness of a poor man is denounced by us without mercy; but when the conditions are reversed we have a great deal more reserve. Our praise is a concession that we cannot withhold. We blame “with bated breath, and whispering humbleness.” The ragged garments of poverty have a wonderful transparency when vice lies behind them; while riches usurp the powers of charity, and “hide the multitude of sins.” (H. Allen, D.D.)

The art of seeing the spiritual

The Jews did not look for spiritual meaning in their dispensation, but simply at material and mechanical ordinances, and they became Pharisees--regarding religion as a thing of phylacteries and tithes and street prayers: they did not look for spiritual glory in their expected Messiah, or for spiritual blessings in His coming, and they became absorbed in the conception of a temporal prince, and were incapable of seeing anything else in Him; and, because He was not this, in their astonishment and anger, they rejected and crucified Him. The lesson is a universal one; it affects the spiritual education of every soul, our own daily habits of interpreting things. We may look at God’s world until we see nothing of God’s presence in it; nothing but mechanical forces. A scientific or philosophical eye may soon educate itself to see nothing but science and philosophy; a material eye, to see nothing but materialism. We may look upon creation, and see no Creator; upon providence, and see no Benefactor. So we may read the Bible, and see nothing but sacred history, or scientific philosophy--the letter and not the spirit. So we may look at Christian things on their material rather than their spiritual side. We may speculate upon a millennium coming of Christ, until we forget His spiritual presence--even upon heaven itself, until we forget the inward grace, and holiness and Divine communion that chiefly make it heaven. Let us carefully cultivate the Divine art of seeing spiritual aspects and meanings in all things, of judging of all things by their spiritual importance, of valuing them for their spiritual influence, of applying them to spiritual uses. “The pure in heart see God;” spiritual things are spiritually discerned.” (H. Allon, D.D.)

Christ rejected

I. The first reason assigned for the rejection of the Messiah by the Jews was THE GRADUAL AND UNOSTENTATIOUS MANNER OF HIS MANIFESTATION. “He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground,” etc. The general reference is, no doubt, to His parentage, and His manner of entering the world--so contrasted with the probable expectations of the Jews. Not like a cedar of Lebanon did the world s Messiah appear; not as a scion of a noble and wealthy house; not as the son of a Herod or a Caiaphas--but “as a “tender plant,” as “a root, out of a dry ground.” It is a repetition of the figure in the eleventh chapter, “There shall come forth a Shoot out of the stem of Jesse; and a Scion shall spring forth from his roots.” Just as the descendants of the Plantagenets are to be found amongst our English peasantry, the glory of the family had departed. Nothing could be farther from the thought of the carnal Jews than that Messiah the Prince should be a scion of such a forgotten house. How wonderful in its obscurity and helplessness was His childhood; not hastening towards His manifestation, not hastening even towards His ministry to the perishing, but waiting until “the fulness of time was come;” growing into the child, the youth, the man; for more than thirty years giving scarcely a sign that He was other than an ordinary son of humanity; at first helplessly dependent upon His parents for support and direction, then obediently “subject to them,” fulfilling all the conditions and duties of childhood, a child with children as well as a man with men; then a youth labouring as an artisan, fulfilling His great mission to the world in a carpenter’s shop. And then fulfilling His ministry, not amongst the rich, but amongst the poor; not in acts of rule and conquest, but in deeds of beneficence and words of spiritual life; and consummating it by a death on a cross.

II. The second reason for the rejection of the Messiah by the Jews, which the prophet assigns, is HIS UNATTRACTIVE APPEARANCE WHEN MANIFESTED. This he puts both negatively and positively.

1. Negatively, He was destitute of all attractions; He had “no form nor comeliness;” He was without “beauty” to make men “desire Him”.

2. But there were positive repulsions; everything to offend men who had such prepossessions as they had. A Messiah in the guise of a peasant babe--the Divine in the form of a servant and a sufferer. Chiefly, however, weare arrested by the phrase, which, because of its touching beauty, has almost become one of the personal designations of the Messiah--“A Man of sorrows”--literally, a Man of sufferings, or of many sufferings--One who possesses sufferings as other men possess intelligence, or physical faculty--One who was “acquainted with grief,” not in the casual, transient way in which most men are, but with an intimacy as of companionship; the utmost bodily and mental sorrow was endured by Him. The emphasis of the description lies not in the fact that one who came to be a Prophet and Reformer was subjected to martyr treatment, for such men have ever been rejected and persecuted by the ignorance, envy and madness of their generation. It is that He who was the Creator and Lord of all things should have submitted to this condition, borne this obloquy, endured this suffering; that the Lord of life and blessedness should appear in our world, not only as a Man, but as so suffering a Man, as that He should be known amongst other suffering men as pre-eminently “a Man of sorrows”--a Man whose sorrows were greater than other men’s sorrows. Now, we cannot think that this designation is given to Him merely because of the bodily sufferings, or social provocations, that were inflicted upon Him. We shall touch but very distantly the true heart of the Redeemer’s sorrows, if we limit the cause of them to the mere stubbornness of His generation, or to the mere physical agonies of His death. It is doing no wrong to the pre-eminence of the Saviour’s agonies to say, that many teachers of truth have been opposed and persecuted more than He was, and that many martyrs have endured deaths of more terrible physical agony. If this were all, we should be compelled, I think, to admit that the prophetic description is somewhat exaggerated. How, then, is it to be accounted for? Only by the fact of His having also endured transcendent inward sorrow; sorrow of mind, sorrow of heart, of which ordinary men have no experience; only by His own strange expression in His agony, when no human hand touched Him--“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” Then comes the mystery of such a pure and perfect soul experiencing such a sorrow. If He were only a prophet and martyr for the truth of God, why, as distinguished from all other prophets and martyrs, should He have endured so much inward anguish? Here we touch the great mystery of atonement, and we are bold to say that this alone interprets Christ’s peculiar sorrow. (H. Allon, D.D.)

Lessons from the manner of Christ’s appearing

1. Great things may be found in very lowly forms. We judge of things by material magnitudes; the spiritual God judges them by moral qualities. The great forces that have ruled the world have mostly been born in lowly places; they have been moulded to greatness in the school of necessity; trained to greatness in the school of endurance. He who has not to endure can never be great. Let us cultivate the spiritual eye, that can recognize spiritual qualities, everywhere, and neither in others nor in “ourselves disparage” the day of small things, the germs of virtue and strength; for we know not what they may achieve. The acorn becomes an oak; the “solitary monk shakes the world;” the Babe of Bethlehem becomes the Christ of Christianity. Your solitary scholar may be the nucleus of a great system of education; your solitary convert may evangelize a nation (Matthew 13:31-32).

2. The power of Divine patience. God waits, even in His great redeeming purpose, until “the fulness of time is come,” and then until the “tender plant grows up before Him.” We, in our impatience, wish to do all things at once, to convert the world in a day. Our zeal becomes fanaticism the more difficult to check because it takes so holy a form. (H. Allon, D.D.)

Aversion to Christ

The reason for this aversion to Christ may probably be found in the fact of--

1. His sorrowful face.

2. His serious manner.

3. His spiritual teaching.

4. His consecration to His Father’s business.

5. His single walk with God, His habits of retirement and prayer.

Men hate and reject Christ for these characteristics. The world’s spirit and all worldly religion resent these aspects of spiritual life. (G. F, Pentecost, D. D.)

Handel’s Messiah

Of Handel, it is said, that when composing his “Messiah,” and he came to these words, he was affected to tears; and well might he weep, for history furnishes no parallel to this case. (J. Higgins.)

A man of sorrows

The causes of Christ’s sorrows

I. THE DAILY CONTACT OF HIS PURE AND PIOUS SOUL WITH SINFUL AND SINNING MEN. And who may conceive the constancy and intensity of the anguish that would spring from this? There would be the sense of human relationship to a race that had sinned and fallen; they were men, and He was a Man too: “He likewise took part of the same;” they were His proper brothers; He was allied in blood to men so guilty and degraded. It was as if a vicious brother, a prodigal son, were guilty of nameless and constant crime. The sense of men’s guilt, degradation, misery, ingratitude, would bow down His pure soul with unspeakable sorrow and shame. Then there was His daily practical contact with acts and hearts of sin; the touch on every side, and wherever He felt humanity, of what was unloving and unholy; the sight of their hate to His loving Father; of their rebelliousness against His holy law; a sinfulness and unspiritualness that led them to reject and hate Him; to turn away with dislike and determination from His holy words and deeds. His great human love, His perfect human holiness, would wonderfully combine to wring His soul with anguish. The apostle intimates how great this sorrow was, when he says that “He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself;” that He “resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” And we can understand the mysterious agony of His soul in Gethsemane only by supposing that it was the sense of the world’s guilt that lay upon it: that made His soul so exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. We have only to think of His pure nature; that He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners;” and to remember the men that He came into contact with; the world in which He lived; the treatment which His message of holiness and mercy received: to understand how sore the sorrow of His soul would be.

II. THE TEMPTATIONS OF THE DEVIL. He, the pure and perfect Son of the Father, was doomed to listen to polluting and hateful thoughts of distrust and sin: He who so loathed evil was plied with evil.

III. THE GREAT BUT INEXPLICABLE SORROW OF WHATEVER CONSTITUTED HIS ATONEMENT--of whatever is meant by its “pleasing the Father to bruise Him”--to “put Him to grief”--to “make His soul an offering for sin’--to “lay upon Him the iniquity of us all”--to “forsake Him” on His cross. These were the chief elements of His sorrow--a sorrow that has had no equal, and that, in many of its ingredients, has had no likeness. (H. Allon, D. D.)

Christ a Man of sorrows

I. IT IS HERE PREDICTED THAT CHRIST SHOULD BE A MAN OF SORROWS, and acquainted with grief. This prediction was literally fulfilled. It has been supposed that His sufferings were rather apparent than real; or, at least, that His abundant consolations, and His knowledge of the happy consequences which would result from His death, rendered His sorrows comparatively light, and almost converted them to joys. But never was supposition more erroneous. His sufferings were incomparably greater than they appeared to be. No finite mind can conceive of their extent. His sufferings began with his birth, and ended but with His life.

1. It must have been exceedingly painful to such a person as Christ to live in a world like this.

2. Another circumstance which contributed to render our Saviour a Man of sorrows was the reception He met with from those He came to save.

3. Another circumstance that threw a shade of gloom over our Saviour s life was His clear view and constant anticipation of the dreadful agonies in which it was to terminate. He was not ignorant, as we happily are, of the miseries which were before Him. How deeply the prospect affected Him is evident from His own language: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!”

II. We have in this prophetic passage AN ACCOUNT OF OUR SAVIOUR’S CONDUCT UNDER THE PRESSURE OF THESE SORROWS. “He was oppressed,” etc. “He was brought as a Lamb,” etc. Never was language more descriptive of the most perfect meekness and patience; never was prediction more fully justified by the event than in the case before us. If His lips were opened, it was but to express the most perfect submission to His Father’s will, and to breathe out prayers for His murderers. Christian, look at your Master, and learn how to suffer. Sinner, look at your Saviour, and learn to admire, to imitate, and to forgive. But why is this patient, innocent Sufferer thus afflicted? “He was wounded for our transgressions,” etc.

III. Our text describes THE MANNER IN WHICH CHRIST WAS TREATED when He thus came as a Man of sorrows to atone for our sins. “Despised and rejected of men.” “We hid, as it were, our faces,” etc. He has long since ascended to heaven, and therefore cannot be the immediate object of men’s attacks. But His Gospel and His servants are still in the world; and the manner in which they are treated is sufficient evidence that the feelings of the natural heart toward Christ are not materially different from those of the Jews. His servants are hated, ridiculed and despised, His Gospel is rejected, and His institutions slighted. Every man who voluntarily neglects to confess Christ before men, and to commemorate His dying love, must say, either that He does not choose to do it, or that he is not prepared to do it. If a man says, I do not choose to confess Christ, he certainly rejects Him. (E. Payson, D. D.)

The human race typified by the Man of sorrows

I. THE LOT OF HUMANITY IN THIS WORLD. This is the portrait of the species--“A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

II. THE TREATMENT WHICH DEPRESSED HUMANITY COMMONLY EXPERIENCE: “We hid, as it were, our faces from Him.” (F. W. Robertson, M.A.)

The Man of sorrows

I. “A MAN.” He who was God, and was in the beginning with God, was made flesh, and dwelt among us. Remembering that Jesus Christ is God, it behoves us to recollect that His manhood was none the less real and substantial It differed from our own humanity in the absence of sin, but in no other respect. This condescending participation in our nature brings the Lord Jesus very near to us in relationship. Inasmuch as He was man, though also God, He was, according to Hebrew law, our goel--our kinsman, next of kin. Now it was according to the law that if an inheritance had been lost, it was the right of the next kin to redeem it. Our Lord Jesus exercised His legal right, and seeing us sold into bondage and our inheritance taken from us, came forward to redeem both us and all our lost estate. Be thankful that you have not to go to God at the first, and as you are, but you are invited to come to Jesus Christ, and through Him to the Father. Then let me add, that every child of God ought also to be comforted by the fact that our Redeemer is one of our own race, seeing that He was made like unto His brethren that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest; and He was tempted in all points, like as we are, that He might be able to succour them that are tempted. The sympathy of Jesus is the next most precious thing to His sacrifice.

II. “A MAN OF SORROWS.” The expression is intended to be very emphatic; it is not “a sorrowful man,” but “a Man of sorrows,” as if He were made up of sorrows, and they were constituent elements of His being. Some are men of pleasure, others men of wealth, but He was “a Man of sorrows.” He and sorrow might have changed names. He who saw Him, saw sorrow, and he who would see sorrow, must look on Him. “Behold, and see,” saith He, “if there was ever sorrow like unto My sorrow which was clone unto Me.”

1. Our Lord is called the Man of sorrows for peculiarity, for this was His peculiar token and special mark. We might well call Him “a man of holiness;” for there was no fault in Him: or a man, of labours, for He did His Father’s business earnestly; or “a man of eloquence,” for never man spake like this man. We might right fittingly call Him “The man of love,” for never was there greater love than glowed in His heart. Still, conspicuous as all these and many other excellencies were, yet had we gazed upon Christ and been asked afterwards what was the most striking peculiarity in Him, we should have said His sorrow. Tears were His insignia, and the Cross His escutcheon.

2. Is not the title of “Man of sorrows” given to our Lord by way of eminence? He was not only sorrowful, but pre-eminent among the sorrowful. All men have a burden to bear, but His was heaviest of all. The reason for this superior sorrow may be found in the fact that with His sorrow there was no admixture of sin. Side by side with His painful sensitiveness of the evil of sin, was His gracious tenderness towards the sorrows of others. Besides this our Saviour had a peculiar relationship to sin. He was not merely afflicted with the sight of it, and saddened by perceiving its effects on others, but sin was actually laid upon Him, and He was himself numbered with the transgressors.

3. The title of “Man of sorrows,” was also given to our Lord to indicate the constancy of His afflictions. He changed His place of abode, but He always lodged with sorrow. Sorrow wove His swaddling bands, and sorrow spun His winding sheet.

4. He was also “a Man of sorrows,” for the variety of His woes; He was a man not of sorrow only, but of “sorrows.” As to His poverty. He knew the heart-rendings of bereavement. Perhaps the bitterest of His sorrows were those which were connected with His gracious work. He came as the Messiah sent of God, on an embassage of love, and men rejected His claims. Nor did they stay at cold rejection; they then proceeded to derision and ridicule. They charged Him with every crime which their malice could suggest. And all the while He was doing nothing but seeking their advantage in all ways, As He proceeded in His life His sorrows multiplied. He preached, and when men’s hearts were hard, and they would not believe what He said, “He was grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” His sorrow was not that men injured Him, but that they destroyed themselves; this it was, that pulled up the sluices of His soul, and made His eyes o’erflow with tears: “O Jerusalem! Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered thy children together,” etc. But surely He found some solace with the few companions whom He had gathered around Him? He did; but for all that He must have found as much sorrow as solace in their company. They were dull scholars; they were miserable comforters for the Man of sorrows. The Saviour, from the very dignity of His nature, must suffer alone. The mountain-side, with Christ upon it, seems to me a suggestive symbol of His earthly life. His soul lived in vast solitudes, sublime and terrible, and there, amid a midnight of trouble, His spirit communed with the Father, no one being able to accompany Him into the dark glens and gloomy ravines of His unique experience. In the last, crowning sorrows of

His life, there came upon Him the penal inflictions from God, the chastisement of our peace which was upon Him.

III. “ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF.”

1. With grief he had an intimate acquaintance. He did not know merely what it was in others, but it came home to Himself. We have read of grief, we have sympathized with grief, we have sometimes felt grief: but the.Lord felt it more intensely than other men in His innermost soul. He and grief were bosom friends.

2. It was a continuous acquaintance. He did not call at grief’s house sometimes to take a tonic by the way, neither did He sip now and then of the wormwood and the gall, but the quassia cup was always His, and ashes were always mingled with His bread. Not only forty days in the wilderness did Jesus fast; the world was ever a wilderness to Him, and His life was one long Lent. I do not say that He was not, after all, a happy man, for down deep in His soul benevolence always supplied a living spring of joy to Him. There was a joy into which we are one day to enter--the “joy of our Lord”--the “joy set before Him” for which “He endured the Cross, despising the shame;” but that does not at all take away from the fact that His acquaintance with grief was continuous and intimate beyond that of any man who ever lived. It was indeed a growing acquaintance with grief, for each step took Him deeper down into the grim shades of sorrow.

3. It was a voluntary acquaintance for our sakes. He need never have known a grief at all, and at any moment He might have said to grief, farewell. But He remained to the end, out of love to us, griefs acquaintance. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ as a Sufferer

1. Jesus suffered from what may be called the ordinary privations of humanity. Born in a stable, etc. We may not be able to assert that none ever suffered so much physical agony as He, but this is at least probable; for the exquisiteness of His physical organism in all likelihood made Him much more sensitive than others to pain.

2. He suffered keenly from the pain of anticipating coming evil.

3. He suffered from the sense of being the cause of suffering to others. To persons of an unselfish disposition the keenest pang inflicted by their own weakness or misfortunes may sometimes be to see those whom they would like to make happy rendered miserable through connection with themselves. To the child Jesus how gruesome must have been the story of the babes of Bethlehem, whom the sword of Herod smote when it was seeking for Him! Or, if His mother spared Him this recital, He must at least have learned how she and Joseph had to flee with Him to Egypt to escape the jealousy of Herod. As His life drew near its close, this sense that connection with Himself might be fatal to His friends forced itself more and more upon His notice.

4. The element of shame was, all through, a large ingredient in His cup of suffering. To a sensitive mind there is nothing more intolerable; it is far harder to bear than bodily pain. But it assailed Jesus in nearly every form, pursuing Him all through His life. He was railed at for the humbleness of His birth. The high-born priests and the educated rabbis sneered at the carpenter’s son who had never learned, and the wealthy Pharisees derided Him. He was again and again called a madman. Evidently this was what Pilate took Him for. The Roman soldiers adopted an attitude of savage banter towards Him all through His trial and crucifixion, treating Him as boys torment one who is weak in the mind. He heard Barabbas preferred to Himself by the voice of His fellow-countrymen, and He was crucified between thieves, as if He were the worst of the worst. A hail of mockery kept falling on Him in His dying hours. Thus had He who was conscious of irresistible strength to submit to be treated as the weakest of weaklings, and He who was the Wisdom of the Highest to submit to be used as if He were less than a man.

5. But to Jesus it was more painful still, being the Holy One of God, to be regarded and treated as the chief of sinners. To one who loves God and goodness there can be nothing so odious as to be suspected of hypocrisy and to know that he is believed to be perpetrating crimes at the opposite extreme from his public profession. Yet this was what Jesus was accused of. Possibly there was not a single human being, when He died, who believed that He was what He claimed to be.

6. If to the holy soul of Jesus it was painful to be believed to be guilty of sins which He had not committed, it must have been still more painful to feel that He was being thrust into sin itself. This attempt was olden made. Satan tried it in the wilderness, and although only this one temptation of his is detailed, he no doubt often returned to the attack. Wicked men tried it; they resorted to every device to cause Him to lose His temper (Luke 11:53-54). Even friends, who did not understand the plan of His life, endeavoured to direct Him from the course prescribed to Him by the will of God--so much so that He had once to turn on one of them, as if he were temptation personified, with “Get thee behind Me, Satan.”

7. While the proximity of sin awoke such loathing in His holy soul, and the touch of it was to Him like the touch of fire on delicate flesh, He was brought into the closest contact with it, and hence arose His deepest suffering. It pressed its loathsome presence on Him from a hundred quarters. He who could not bear to look on it saw it in its worst forms close to His very eyes. His own presence in the world brought it out; for goodness stirs up the evil lying at the bottom of wicked hearts. It was as if all the sin of the race were rushing upon Him, and Jesus felt it as if it were all His own. (J. Stalker, D.D.)

The Man of sorrows

I. THE LANGUAGE DOES NOT DESCRIBE THE CASE OF ONE WHO ENCOUNTERED ONLY THE ORDINARY OR THE AVERAGE AMOUNT OF THE TRIALS WHICH BELONG TO HUMAN LIFE. There is implied in it a pre-eminence in sorrow, a peculiarly deep experience of grief.

II. OF ALL THE MANY GRIEFS OF THE DIVINE REDEEMER IN HIS HUMAN LIFE, THERE WAS NOT ONE WHICH HE HIMSELF EITHER NEEDED OR DESERVED TO BEAR. When the apostle tells us that He was made perfect through suffering, the meaning is that He was by this means made officially perfect as a Saviour, as the Captain of salvation, and the High-Priest of His redeemed, and not that He lacked any moral excellence, to acquire which suffering was needful. So again, when it is said that He learned obedience by the things which He suffered, the meaning obviously is, that by putting Himself in a state of humiliation, and in the condition of a servant under law, He came to know by experience what it was to render obedience to the law, and not at all that He was ever defective in the least, as to the spirit of obedience to the Father’s will. As He had no need of any improvement of His virtues, He had no faults, no sins, which called for chastisement.

III. ALL THE SUFFERINGS OF THE LORD JESUS WERE ENDURED WITH UNWAVERING FORTITUDE.

IV. IN ALL THE GRIEFS AND SORROWS WHICH THE BLESSED SAVIOUR SUFFERED, HIS MIND WAS CHIEFLY OCCUPIED WITH THE GOOD RESULTS IN WHICH HIS SUFFERINGS WERE TO ISSUE. He deliberately entered on His singular career of humiliation and self-sacrifice for the good of man and the glory of God. Practical lessons:

1. If even the Son of God, when on earth, was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, we certainly should not think it strange that days of trial are appointed unto us.

2. If our blessed Lord felt keenly what He suffered, and was even moved to tears, we need not reproach ourselves because we deeply feel our trials, and cannot but weep in the fulness of our grief.

3. If Christ was a willing sufferer, deliberately choosing to suffer for the good of others, we surely should consent to suffer for our own advantage.

4. If our blessed Lord and Saviour made less account of what He suffered than of the good results that were to follow, it is wise at least in us to do the same. (Ray Palmer, D.D.)

Christ the Man of sorrows

While on earth He was surrounded by many sources of pleasure. The earth teemed with every form of life, and the air was melodious with music. The sceneries of His native country suggested the sublimest imagery, and inspired poetry of the highest kind: and had He possessed none of these, He would have been perfectly happy; for He was the Infinite; His sorrows arose from--

I. THE FELT RELATION OF A LOVING BEING TO A RUINED RACE.

II. THE CRUSHING PRESSURE OF HIS MEDIATORIAL WORK.

III. HIS CERTAIN KNOWLEDGE THAT THE RESULT OF HIS MISSION WOULD NOT BE EQUAL TO THE BENEVOLENCE OF HIS WILL. (Evan Lewis, B.A.)

The mystery of sorrow

I. CONSIDER ITS RELATION TO MAN. There are facts which know no frontiers. In the inner life of thought and feeling such is sorrow. It is a universal language, it obliterates space, it annihilates time; it is the great leveller, it ignores rank, it stands head and shoulders above any dignity. Think again, it is too sacred to be only universal. It is also an intimate fact. None can comfort. There may be sweet help, deep and real sympathy, not comfort, no, for none can undo the tragic truth. Yes, there is One. One can come nearest to the feeling, mad, in our eternal life, in a sense He can undo. One, only One, has gathered up the representative experiences of all.

II. The thought gains precision when we remember that IT BEARS A WITNESS FOR GOD. Let Love meet death or trouble, and the result is sorrow. This noblest human sorrow so begotten is a witness to the Source of its being. Love, the love of the creature, is his highest endowment from the Love of God.

III. SORROW GAINS A CLEARER OUTLINE TO ITS FRAIL AND MISTY FORM AS SEEN IN ITS RELATION TO WHAT IS CALLED THE “SCHEME OF REDEMPTION” seen, that is, in its place in the awakening and restoring of the human spirit, great though fallen. Sorrow here is a power. It takes varying tints.

1. At the darkest, it is a power of warning, of prophecy. It warns of a stern reality in this world--the dreadfulness of sin.

2. Better, it is a power to transfigure. Repentance is the one path to pardon, and it is a certain path. Whence comes true repentance? It comes from God’s love seen in fairest, saddest image in “the Man of sorrows “

3. It is a power to purify. Sorrow sends you in on self. Godless sorrow would make self more selfish, working death; not so sorrow from the Cross of Christ. A life searched out, repented of, is a spirit purified. (W. J. KnoxLittle, M.A.)

The suffering Christ

I. THE MATTER, what He suffered.

II. THE MANNER, how He came to suffer.

III. THE REASONS and ends why, for our good. Here are three chief lessons for a Christian to learn:--

1. Patience and comfort.

2. Humility.

3. In the end, love. All this was for you. What will you do for God again? (T. Manton, D..D.)

Sir Noel Paton’s “Man of Sorrows”

To the painter ere he sat down to produce this work of art many questions would suggest themselves. Among them, doubtless, would be these:--

1. What shall be the scene? Of course, the artist would naturally think of many scenes in our Lord’s life more or less appropriate for such a representation. The painter seems to have recognized the great truth which we all must have proved to some extent, that man tastes deepest of sorrow in loneliness, that the cross which weighs heaviest on any shoulder is not the cross which the world can see, but which is borne out of sight, when the heart, and no one else save God, knoweth its own bitterness. Thus Sir Noel Paton has represented “The Man of Sorrows” as isolated from His fellows, far away from the habitations of men and shut out of the world. The whole picture is one of desolation. In its centre and foreground is represented “The Man of Sorrows sitting upon a jagged rock. And, oh, what sorrow is depicted there! Those large, full, liquid eyes brim over with tears; every expression of the countenance is charged with grief; the lips are wan, and a deep furrow crosses that young, manly brow. The swollen veins in the neck and temple, the powerful muscular action in the right hand, as with open fingers it rests heavily upon the rocks and in the left clenched tightly as it presses upon the thigh, and in the feet as they press the earth convulsively underneath--for the Man of Sorrows is represented with head uncovered and feet unsandalled--all these tell the story of an awful tension of a withering sorrow.

2. Closely and inseparably connected with the question of scene is that of the period in our Lord s life in which He can most appropriately be represented as the Man of sorrows. The artist chooses the eve of the Temptation, and thus selects the greatest transitional period of our Saviour’s life--that beginning with the Baptism and closing with the Temptation. The time of day chosen is the twilight of morning. There is something in the twilight that is consistent not only with solemn, but also with sad thoughts and feelings.

3.