Isaiah 53:10-12; Luke 22:35-38; Hebrews 9:28
Dr. S. Lewis Johnson concludes a sub-series on Isaiah's messianic prophecies by expounding the the final conquest of the suffering servant of Jehovah.
[Message] Will you turn with me now for the Scripture reading to Isaiah chapter 53, and we’re going to read the last section of this great prophecy, which we have undertaken to expound in the five Sundays in the month of June. Isaiah chapter 53, verse 10 through verse 12, and then when we complete this, we shall turn to two short passages in the New Testament to link the Old and the New together. Isaiah chapter 53 in verse 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,” (Now, may I change that? I think the Hebrew text really should be translated, “when his soul shall make an offering for sin.” Never in this section is Jehovah addressed, and therefore it seems to me unlikely that we should read this, “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.” When the Hebrew text may just as well be translated, “when his soul shall make an offering for sin,” so let’s read it that way.) “When his soul shall make 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. Because of the travail of his soul, he shall see and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; and” (Not for.)” And he shall bear their iniquities. 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 bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Now, will you turn with me to Luke chapter 22 and we’re going to read verses 35 through 38, which link this very passage in the Old Testament with the ministry of our Lord Jesus. Luke chapter 22 in verse 35, and Luke the historian writes,
“And he said unto them, when I sent you without purse, and bag, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his bag: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was” (Numbered, or) “reckoned among the transgressors:” (You’ll recognize that as coming from verse 12 of Isaiah chapter 53.) “And he was reckoned among the transgressors for the things concerning me have a fulfillment. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.”
And one final passage, one final verse Hebrews chapter 9 in verse 28, Hebrews chapter 9 verse 28, an you’ll remember in that in that same 12th verse of Isaiah chapter 53, the prophet wrote, “And he bore the sin of many.” And here in Hebrews chapter 9 in verse 28, we read, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him, shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” May God bless this reading of his inspired word. Let’s bow together in prayer.
[Prayer] Father we thank Thee that we are able to read the Holy Scriptures, and we thank Thee too that we have the New Testament, the inspired interpretation of the Old, and that as we look at the Scriptures through the eyes of the New and through the eyes of the apostles, we are guided infallibly into an understanding of the truth that concerns us today.
We thank Thee that the Scriptures were not written for men of old alone, but were also written for us, upon whom the consumption of the ages, has come, and Father we pray that in the days in which we live, we may seek the refuge of Holy Scripture more and more as time goes by. We thank Thee for it’s ministry to us, in bringing us a knowledge of him who has given himself and offering and a sacrifice unto Thee for a sweet smelling savor in our behalf, and we thank Thee that through him we have the Holy Spirit of God, who has come to indwell the heart of all who have believed to guide and direct, and to sustain, and we thank Thee Lord that through him, we have come to know Thee better.
And we pray that in the critical days, in which we live, we may seek the refuge of the Spirit of God, who has come to give us a vital relationship to Jesus Christ. We thank Thee Lord for all his ministry to us, and may we learn to lean upon him more. We remember the apostle’s exhortation, “Walk by the Spirit.” And ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and O Father we pray that Thou wilt enable us to walk by the Spirit.
We thank Thee for this country in which we live, and we pray for it, and for its leadership. We pray for the ministry of the Lord, and wherever it goes forth, and especially, Lord, we pray for those who are troubled and distressed, some who are bereaved and who need the comfort and consultation of the God who has loved us through Jesus Christ. Lord, minister to them. Draw them away from the trials and the tragedies and the struggles of life. To the heart of a loving God, and may they find in Thee that which supplies the emptiness and the lack, and we pray, Lord, for some who may be troubled and disturbed. We pray that the peace of God may garrison their hearts, and minds through Jesus Christ and we pray, Lord, for others who seek divine guidance with regard to the future, wilt Thou lead and direct them, and give them a sure sense of resting and trusting in Thee, knowing that Thou hast promised to guide us as we simply wait, and so, Father, we pray that through the ministry of our Lord and the Spirit and our Father, we may reach the measure, of the statue of the fullness that Thou dost desire that we have in Christ. We commit this meeting to Thee. May it contribute to these ends, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
[Message] This is the final in our series of studies in this great prophecy of Isaiah chapter 52, verse 13 through 53, verse 12, which we have entitled the Golden Passional of the Old Testament evangelists. And we have under the various strophes or sections of this prophecy spoken to you on the subject of the Startling Messiah, the Misunderstood Messiah, the Substitutionary Messiah, The Humble or Submissive Messiah, and today our topic is the Sovereign Messiah, and I think it is very appropriate that the prophecy should conclude on this great note of exaltation because it has been essentially a prophecy that has lead up to the final conquest of the suffering servant of Jehovah, so this morning our subject is the Sovereign Messiah.
The problem of man finds it divine solution in the ministry of God’s servant the Messiah, and it is through him and the work that he has accomplished for us, that we are able to have peace. As Paul put it in Romans chapter 5, in verse 1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God.”
Now, this peace is something that God desires to give to those who believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and it is peace that is available. I think that the ministry of our Lord is the answer to the problems that face us today. About ten years ago in one of our national magazines, there was a statement by Professor Carl Jung the famous Swiss psychiatrist, and in it he said these words, “I have treated many hundred of patients, among those over thirty five,” and he meant to exclude those who were younger who were born with certain physical defects or had certain physical defects, that would exclude them. “Among those over thirty five, there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life.”
Now, what Possessor Jung meant by this was simply, in the final analysis our problems are not emotional, our problems are not psychological, our problems, in the final analysis, are spiritual. And it is through the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ that we have the solution to the problems of life.
Now, if we do not except this solution, it is entirely possible for us to have psychological problems, which need psychological or psychiatric care, and very often if we refuse, and constantly refuse, we shall have tremendous emotional problems, for God has made us to rest in him. And he has given to each one of us, restlessness when we do not rest in him. As Isaiah puts it, there is no peace at my God to the wicked.” And so the answer to the problem of life is a right relationship to God’s servant Jesus Christ. As you read through the prophecy of Isaiah, there are three ministries of our Lord that seem to come forward. They are familiar ones. There is the ministry of our Lord as the prophet. He is the one who brings us the knowledge of God and man. And Isaiah refers to this ministry in his sections of the suffering servant of Jehovah in chapter 42 and chapter 49, for he speaks of the servant as one who shall bring a light to the Gentiles, as well as to the children of Israel. There is also the ministry of the king, who shall rule in righteousness, and Isaiah sets this forth in some of his great sections on the subject of Messiah, such as in the book of Emanuel chapters 7 though 12, for there we are told that the king, who is to come, is to sit upon David’s throne. For example in the great prophecy one of the greatest in all of the Bible concerning the Messiah, Isaiah wrote,
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the prince of peace, and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order and to establish it with justice, and righteous from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of host will perform this.”
So he is prophet. He is priest, and then in the great chapter which is before us, chapter 53, of all the chapters of the Old Testament, this is probably the one that most sets forth God’s servant, the suffering servant, the Messiah as the priest. He is the priest who offers a sacrifice that closes the gap between sinful man and righteous God.
I read a book many, many years ago, on Isaiah chapter 53, and the author entitled this something like this, “A symphony in be saved.” That’s not bad. That’s exactly what it is. It’s a symphony in be saved through the ministry of the great high priest who offers the sacrifice that forever removes our sin. When we think of the 53 rd of Isaiah, we also always think of the cross. There is no chapter in all of the Bible, which more effectively sets forth the suffering of the servant. The term cross is not mentioned. The New Testament of course explains that. We do read that he was bruised or wounded or pierced, as the Hebrew text put it, for our inequities, which of course allows for us to interpret this as the cross, but Isaiah does not strictly speaking mentioned specifically the cross, but he refers to it in almost every text. And it is a passage in which the prophet together with his readers gaze off at Calvary.
Now, this is the month before the month when most of us shall be gazing at the skies quite a bit. In fact every time we leave our house and take a look around, and we look up at the skies, we’ll think about Apollo 11. We’ll think about somebody putting his foot upon the moon for the first time, and a lot of us will be thinking about the stars, and the moon and the sun this next month, but there will be more people who will be thinking about the cross than will be thinking about the moon. You see, all through the Old Testament, men looked forward to the coming to the Messiah, and the saints of God had the cross of God, God the Son, upon their hearts. The time came when the cross did come to pass. Ever since that time, the saints of God have looked back at the cross, but do not forget the Old Testament saints are still looking at the cross too.
When in the Book of Revelation the curtains are opened slightly, and we are given a glimpse of what is happening in heaven, we notice that not only do the saints, but all of the angelic hosts, sing praises to the lamb that was slaughtered, and so all of heaven, at the present moment, is not occupied with the moon, but all of heaven is occupied with cross of Jesus Christ. And so this morning in this audience, we shall look at something which is not just the observation of a few little people, who make up a remnant in the world, we are looking at that which is the adoring subject of the worship of countless multitudes, who are at this moment singing the praises of the one who died upon that cross.
This strophe has to do with Jesus the Messiah, and that is evident from Luke chapter 22. There the Lord refers to the text, “And he was reckoned among the transgressors,” and referred it to him. Paul, in Romans chapter 4, in verse 25 alludes to a section of this section too. And the writer of the Epistle of the Hebrews, when he states that Christ was offered to bear the sins of many, identifies the person who is the subject of Isaiah chapter 53.
Some years ago, I heard a story that Rowland Bingham used to tell about the sending of some Hebrew Bibles to Yemenite Jews. The Naio [phonetic] Press, which was located in Alexandria, and run by Christians, received a request for one hundred Hebrew Bibles from Yemenite Jews, and so there was a man in the packing room, who was a Christian man, and who had a burden upon his heart for the lost, and when the order came to him to pack up, and send one hundred Hebrew Bibles to the Yemenite Hebrew Jews, he lifted his heart and prayer to God, and then went over to the stock and pulled down a Hebrew New Testament. The New Testament has been translated into Hebrew by more than one person, and it is available, and so he went over and took down one of the Hebrew New Testaments, and wrapped it up and sent it with the Hebrew Old Testaments to the Yemenite Jews. A year later, Mr. Bingham said, they received another letter. It went something like this, “Dear Sirs, We thank you very much for sending us a hundred Hebrew Bibles, which we have used. Now, we would like to order another one hundred Hebrew Bibles, and please also send us a number of the little book that explains the big book.” [Laughter]
Now, that is the New Testament. It is the little book that explains the big book. Now, we are looking at the big book, the Old Testament, but the New Testament, the little book that explains the big book has definitely identified the one who suffers here as Jesus of Nazareth. But now lets look at our text, and we will notice, first of all, that as we look at these three verses, there are two themes that predominate. The one theme is the theme of the sufferings of the servant, and it is set forth for us primarily in the opening part of verse 10, and then by retrospect in the latter part of verse 12. And in between those particular verses, we have the glories of the servant of Jehovah in the latter part of verse 10 through the first part of verse 12, so that the subject of these three verses is the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that should follow after.
Now, isn’t that precisely the thing that Jesus said to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, when he drew near to them, and asked them why they were so sad? They said, “Haven’t you heard about the things that happened over the weekend, about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in word and deed, and we thought that it was he who should redeem Israel, but now he’s been crucified and he’s in a tomb.” And then Jesus said to the two men, “Oh, fools and slue of heart to believe all that the prophets have written. Ought not Messiah to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory.” They had forgotten or they had never known that the glories follow the sufferings. It is the sufferings that precede the glory. We do not have glory before suffering, but suffering before glory.
Peter, in his first epistle, has learned that lesson. For he says, concerning the salvation that Jesus has brought, of which salvation the prophets have inquired and sought diligently. Seeking what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories, plural in the Greek text, the glories that should follow after these things, the sufferings and the glories. This is I think an adequate summary of the entire Old Testament, for that is what it sets forth, the sufferings and the glories of the Messiah.
You might have thought, from the reading of the preceding verses of this chapter that since the servant of Jehovah suffers a premature and violent death, you might have thought that perhaps God has finally forsaken the only good man who ever lived. Perhaps, God has allowed the only innocent man who ever lived to suffer death unrighteously. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. Did God do anything in the life of Jesus of Nazareth? One might have asked on that Friday night after the crucifixion. A man who has completely devoted himself to God and what has happened? The conclusion of his life is a cross as the hands of wicked Gentiles, and Jews. Is God alive?
Now, the 10th verse begins with a statement that makes it very certain that God had not forsaken his Son. As a matter of fact, he had been doing a work in the very activity of the men. For the 10th verse begins, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” The death of Jesus of Nazareth is not simply the Roman cruelty of a Pontius Pilate or a Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee. The death of Jesus Christ is not the product of the Jewish malice of the high priest Caiaphas. The death of the Lord Jesus is the work of God. He is the [Latin indistinct] Deus wote — God wished the death of his Messiah. It is God who is the ultimate cause of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Now, I know that the text of Scripture lays a great deal of stress upon the fact that we, by our wicked hands, have taken him and nailed him to a tree, but the Bible also lays a great deal of stress upon the fact that it was by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God that Jesus was nailed to the cross. As David says, speaking of the Messiah in Psalm 22, “Thou hast brought me to the dust of death.” And the same thing is expressed elsewhere in the prophecy of Isaiah. For example the 50th chapter, so we read, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” And of course if you had been a kind of person, who had any spiritual discernment at all, you would have already recognized this. For the death of Jesus Christ, is utterly inexplicable if we do not understand something like this. It was the greatest blunder in the universe, if Jesus did not die for a cause.
Let’s just think for a moment about the death of a martyr, and contrast his death. The martyrs died and the martyrs died gladly. The martyrs died often with songs upon their lips. On the day of their execution or the day of their burning, they were singing the praises of the Lamb of God in their prison cells. When the jailers came to loose them, they said happy words of greeting, and on the way to the burning, they greeted their friends, and greeted their friends in the joy of the Lord. Read the testimony of the martyrs down through the centuries. When the time came for them to stand upon the wood. They stood upon the wood. They said, goodbye to their family. They said, goodbye to their friends. They praised God and as the flames, leapt up about them they shouted out texts of Scripture like, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. We shall not be moved though the mountains be moved into the midst of the sea.” And with the hallelujahs of the God whom they loved, they passed into his presence, but then think of the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth did not die that way. As a matter of fact, as he contemplated his death in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was upon the ground. Bathing the ground in his tears, and shattering the silence of the garden with his shrieks, “Oh, my God if it be possible let this cup pass from me.”
An awful silence seemed to grip our Lord Jesus. At the first Lord’s Supper, the last Passover, he sang a few hymns of praise, because that was the custom as they concluded that supper. And then he went out. You hear no song from our Lord Jesus Christ. You hear no citations of Scripture as if to strengthen others. Oh, true when he was upon the cross, all of his statements are related to the Old Testament, but he is the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His death is so different from the martyrs, and it reaches its climax, when instead of shouting out the happiness and joy of a man who walks in the fellowship of God, Jesus cried out in the midst of his cross, “My, God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” The martyrs speak of how God has stood by them. Jesus speaks of how God has forsaken him. The only explanation of this of course, is that it pleased the Father, to bruise him.
You see the martyrs did not die the death the Jesus died. The martyrs died a death which was their own death, and ultimately because of their own sin. Jesus died a death because of others sins. The martyrs died, and passed immediately into the presence of the Lord. The martyrs died. They did not bear the sins of men, but Jesus dies as an offering. He dies as a sin offering. He dies under the broken law of God. He dies and renders in his death a satisfaction to the justice of God. He bears the hell fire that men deserve to bear. When he dies, his death is of a different kind entirely, and that is why our Lord cries out, “My, God my, God” out of his human nature, “why hast Thou forsaken me?” For there he has become the sin offering. No man ever died like Jesus died. No man could die like Jesus died. There is only one last Adam, and that’s why the Bible speaks of him as the last Adam. For there is only one other person, who could ever be Adam again, and that is Jesus our Lord, and so when he died, he died under the judgment of God. And he died under the judgment of God for me, and oh, how grateful I am that the text of Scripture reads, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him.” Because it was for me, and it is the love of the Father, for you and for me who believe that Jesus died.
Now, that’s the divine side. The text of Scripture states, “When he shall make his soul or when his soul shall make an offering for sin.” That’s the human side. It is the Father’s side to require the Son to die as a sin sacrifice, rendering justice to the law of God. No man goes free, as if God overlooks his sin, but every sin must be paid for to the uttermost farthing. And Jesus has done it, and our salvation which we receive, is a righteous salvation, righteous, just God may, justly give us the forgiveness of sins because the Lord he has offered the satisfaction to the justice of God. As we sing in our meeting on Sunday evenings often “His the curse the wound, the gall. His the stripes. He bore them all. His the dying cry of pain when our sins he did sustain.” It pleased the Lord to bruise him. When he shall make his soul and offering for sin.” It was the Father’s work. IT was the Son’s work, as well as the work of ignorant sinful iniquitous men.
Now then, after having stated the divine and human sides of his suffering, the author hastens on to talk of the glories of this suffering. Here we are now introduced to the consequences of the work of the servant, and the first one is mentioned in verse 10. “He shall see his seed.” Isn’t that an amazing statement? “He shall see his seed.” Men die. They cannot see their seed. One of the blessings that Job received because he ultimately came to understand God as he really was, was the fact that he shall see his seed to the fourth generation. Who doesn’t want to see his seed? A father who doesn’t see his only son, but is killed in Vietnam, what a tragedy As he fights to defend us, he thinks of that little one that has been born since he has left home. He longs to see it. To see the child that is his, and then what father doesn’t like to see his grandchildren.
I have news for you. I am going to be a grandfather again. When Gracie called me this week, I said, “Grace, do you mind if I announce it Sunday morning?” She said, “Announce it to everybody if you like.” A grandfather likes to see his seed. I wish naturally I could live long enough to be a great-grandfather, and actually to tell you the truth, if the Lord should delay his coming, I would like to be a great great-grandfather and a great, great, great-grandfather. I’d like to see them all, countless multitudes. [Laughter] Fill the world with Johnson’s. [Laughter]
“He shall see his seed.” What a tremendous thing, but you see, we cannot see our seed. We are cut off by death. I may never see this child, but our Lord Jesus offered his soul as an offering for sin, and he shall see his seed, and all of the seed of all of the elect, which belong to him. He sees. He’s seen them from Adam, right down through the centuries, until the time of the apostles and on through the centuries of the new covenant days. To this present day, he sees his seed, and the day is coming when he shall gather all of the elect about the throne of God, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and all of the sheep shall be there, and he shall say, “Behold, I am the children whom God hath given me.” He shall see his seed. How can he do this? Well, he can do this because of the next blessing that is stated.
He shall prolong his days. You see in my case, I die. If the Lord does not come, I shall die. There shall be a funeral. No eulogies please. My body shall be placed in the grave and the first day shall pass, and the second day shall pass, and the third day shall pass, and I shall not rise from the dead, except the Lord shall come on that day. The fourth day, the fifth day, a week, a month, a year, years, many years perhaps my body shall still be in the grave, but our Lord is different. He shall prolong his days. For on the third day, he arose from the dead. He is at the right hand of the Father, as the only person of who has ever been resurrected at the present time. With the glory of the resurrection body, and there as he said to John in Isle of Patmos, “I am the living one. I was dead. I died at a point in time, and behold John I am alive forevermore.” He shall prolong his days. And for that reason, he shall see his seed.
Not only that, we read in verse 10, “And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand, the glories of the spiritual seed, the glories of the resurrection, and now the glory of a progressively realized mission. The Lord Jesus shall see the complete success of all of the program of God, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” All of God’s purposes shall reach their final fruition. The day is coming when oh Rome shall shake on her seven hills. When Mohammed’s crescent shall wean to wax no more, when the gods of contemporary theology shall be given to the moles, and to the bats, and the theology of the New Testament shall reign supreme, it is then that the pleasure of the Lord shall reach it’s fruition in the ministry of our Lord Jesus in his second coming, in his kingdom, in all of the all events that surround those great events of the future. God’s perfect will shall be done, and contemporary theology shall be no more. We shall go back to the theology of the apostles, and of our Lord. We shall not have to worry about Professor Bultmann. We shall not have to worry about processed theology. We shall no longer believe in evolution. We shall no longer accept the new morality, nor even be disturbed by it. We shall have the truth of God, and it shall be established in the ministry of our Lord Jesus.
Now, the fourth blessing, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied,” or “Because of the travail of his soul, he shall be satisfied. By his knowledge or by the knowledge of him, my righteous servant shall justify many.” So he reaps the fruit of his self-sacrifice and his priestly activity today of brining to himself, all who have believed and shall believe upon him. Jesus said, “I pray not for the world. I pray for them who shall believe on me.” And so our Lord, at the right hand of the Father, is the great high priest, who is gathering his flock together, and he is brining them to his cross, and he is bringing them to faith in him, and he is bringing them into the family of God. My righteous servant shall justify many.
May I ask you a question this morning? Have you been justified? Are you righteous before God? Have you really put your faith and trust in him? Do you know this morning that you stand in the righteousness of Jesus Christ or a righteousness of God that satisfies our Lord through Jesus Christ? Is it perhaps that you do not understand what God really requires of men?
A friend of mine, a couple of weeks ago, put in my hands a tape, which contains some messages spoken by the man who lead me to the Lord. I don’t have to mention his name. You know it. You’ve heard me speak of him so often. There was one message on total depravity, which interested me. When we say of course a man is totally depraved, we do not mean that there is no good in man. We mean that there is no good in man that pleases or satisfies God. It is not that men do not do good things. They do, do good things, but good in the eyes of men, but good in the eyes of men. There are two different standards. There is the human standard, in which we see much good, but there is the divine standard in which God says, “There is none good no not one. There is none righteous, no not one.” ” Not even up to one.” As Paul puts it, who is able to satisfy God?
And then Dr. Barnhouse told the story, which he had read in the newspaper of a man who grew up in the ghetto of New York, and grew up to be a tremendous success. He wrote a few plays, which were bought, and he became wealthy, and he determined that he would enjoy his wealth, and so he bought himself a yacht, and not only did he buy himself a yacht, but he bought himself a uniform to go with it. It was a beautify uniform. It had all of the gold, and the braid of a captain of the United States navy, and so he went down into the east side of New York, and he got his old immigrant mother, and he said, “Mother, I want to take you on to my boat, so you can see my yacht.” And so he did, and when she came on board, he went downstairs, and he dressed in his beautiful uniform. The uniform of a captain, and he came out and he said, “Look mama, I’ze a captain.” She looked at him and she said, “By me sonny, you is a captain, and by you, you is a captain, but by captains you is no captain.” [Laughter]
Then Dr. Barnhouse went on to make the point that, you see there are different standards of evaluation, and when we talk about goodness, we should remember that the goodness that God requires of men is entirely different from the goodness that we see in men. We have measured the goodness that we see in men. We have measured them by human standards. We say, “This man is a great man. He is a good man because he has benefited humanity by some philanthropy, but you see, God looks into the heart of man, and he sees that that man has given this because of some selfish motivation, and it’s entirely possible for us to give out of selfishness in order to gain glory. In fact, God says that everything that we do is tainted by the fact that we are out of fellowship with him, and it is impossible for us to do anything from purely selfish motive.
That is what that Bible means when it says we are totally depraved. Not that there is no good in man. There is much good in man, and I am thankful for philanthropists, who have benefited humanity, but we must remember that so far as the standards of God are concern, that that goodness is not acceptable to him. It may be a lot better than our goodness, but God’s requirements are perfection. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul.” I might add all thy days, “and thy neighbor as thyself.” And it is that that God requires of us. “By my righteous servant shall justify many through the knowledge of him.”
Now, the amazing truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the utterly astounding fact of divine revelation is that through Jesus Christ’s suffering for us upon the cross at Calvary, bearing all of our sin away, I may stand before this absolutely Holy God in a holiness that satisfies him.
Now, isn’t the amazing? Isn’t that good news? As William Cunningham put it, “God’s righteousness is the righteousness which his righteousness requires him to require,” and that’s what I have. The righteousness which God’s righteousness requires him to require, I have because it pleased the Lord to bruise the servant of Jehovah, and the servant of Jehovah voluntarily offered his soul and offering for sin. And when I believe in him I am declared righteous by a loving God. Do you have that righteousness? If you do no have that perfect righteousness, you shall not stand in the presence of all mighty God. No human goodness can find its way into heaven.
Now, the text says, “And he shall bear their iniquities.” That does not refer to the cross. That refers to his advocacy for those who have believed in the Hebrew text, this is the imperfect, the future. It is not the justification. It is the work of the advocate, who when we sin, dispenses for our benefit, the results, the merits of the work that he did upon Calvary’s cross, so that when we sin after we have come to possess this righteousness, it is our great high priest, who is the satisfaction for our sins. “My little children, I write these things unto you that ye sin not, but if nay many sin, he has an advocate with the Father.” Not with God, with the Father. He belongs to the family. He has an advocate with the Father.
Jesus Christ the righteous and he is the propitiation for our sins. He bears our iniquities, and so the eternal priest lives to distribute the blessings he has acquired, and then in the 12th verse, we read of his victorious dominion. What a tremendous series of glories of the servant. “He shall see his seed, his bodily resurrection, his progressively realized mission, his manifold justification, his continual advocacy, his victorious dominion, the great of the earth shall do obeisance to him.” He is a servant, but he shall conquer. He conquers by falling, he rules by being a slave, and he completes his work after he is cut off.” And then Isaiah concludes with some words, which I can only describe as the banner of the cross. For in order to substantiate and explain all of this, he goes back again to establish it’s foundation in what he did. “Because he hath poured out his soul unto death. He was numbered with the transgressors. He bore the sin of many. He made intersession for the transgressors.”
Now, I wish I had another hour because we could devote at least another hour to these clauses, but I want to say just a word or two before we close, about that last statement, “made intersession for the transgressors.” The reason I want to say something about this is because it has been so often understood. “made intersession for the transgressors.” Unfortunately some have thought that this refers to the advocacy of our Lord Jesus or his priestly intercession at the right hand of the Throne of God. It means nothing of that. This great prophecy is written as if the prophet were standing under Golgotha itself. And I will not go into the technical requirements for this interpretation, and talk about the Hebrew text, but let me hasten to sat that the word that is used here, the word, yethgea, can only refer to the work that Jesus did on the cross. “There he made intercession for the transgressors.” The prophet says.
Now, what is he talking about? Well, you see when he was hanging upon the cross. He made some statements, which could be called intercession. For remember the first statement he made recorded in Luke chapter 23, in verse 34 is, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He made intercession for the transgressors, but what does that text mean? I can still remember about fifteen years ago, when I first studied that text in detail. I’ll tell you the truth; I had been puzzled by it. I think that anyone who knows anything about law of course realizes that ignorance of the law is no excuse. How could Jesus say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Ignorance is no excuse, and then as I pondered that text, I said, well, the thing to do is to study that text in the original. I opened up my Greek Testament and took a look at the word that was used, and then I remembered some usages of he word, and I began to study, and I won’t go into the laboratory with you, but nevertheless this word that is used and translated forgive, is a word that not always means forgive. As a matter of fact, it often means to let go, to loose, to set free. And then it dawned upon me, that this is not an argument for the eternal salvation of those who are about the cross, but it is used as setting forth a basis for the suspension of judgment. Ignorance is no excuse.
We are guilty, but ignorance, at least, may be the basis for the suspension of that judgment, and I realized that what our Lord really prayed was this, “Father, let them go, for they know not what they do. Father, suspend judgment, for they know not what they do. Father, do not execute immediate judgment, for they are ignorant of what they are doing. Oh Father, give them a time in which they may come to their senses, and put their trust in me.” Or more specifically, “Father, Thou hast given to me a people. Oh Father, may there be time for the people to come to Thee. Father, abate the judgment. Postpone the judgment. Suspend the judgment.” And do you know this very moment in which I draw a breath at the present time is the answer of the Father to the prayer of the Son. He did not immediately judge, as he might have done when his Son was crucified upon the cross at Calvary, but now over nineteen hundred years there has stretched out the answer of the Father to the prayer of the Son, and judgment is suspended. Judgment is postponed until all of the redeemed are gathered into the family of God.
Peter, in his second epistle, said that in the last days, there shall raise scoffers. These scoffers shall deny the Second Coming. They shall say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” And Peter says, “This is what we should tell them. Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing. That one day is with the Lord is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Its just as if day before yesterday he made that promise with God, the Lord has not slacked concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, toward us who believe, toward you who believe. This has nothing to do with those who are not believers. Long suffering toward us who believe, not willing that any of us, any of us, who are the sheep of the Great Shepard. Any of us should parish, but that all of us should have time for repentance. Should have room for repentance, the Greek text says, and so nineteen hundred years, Jesus’ prayer for the intercessors, for the transgressors. I am one. You are one, if you have believed I him. That prayer has been offered and God has answered it, and we’re living in the long suffering of God, and oh my dear friend, I plead with you this morning to realize that the time is coming when judgment must be executed. And oh that you might come to Christ before that time, while the prayer of the Son is still being answered in the cessation for a time of the blast of divine judgment.
He made intercession for the transgressors, and out of this there has come a Paul. Out of this there is come an Augustine. Out of this there have come the great company of believers down through the years. There has come a Luther, a Calvin, a Zwingli, a Wesley, a Whitefield, a Spurgeon, a Graham, a Johnson. Not to put myself in that category of them, but every believer, we are the answer to the prayer of the Son. May you come to him. Our time is up.
If I were to be asked to express my desire in the light of the opening statement that I made to you that the problem of man finds its divine solution in the work of the suffering servant, I think I should say something like this. I take the cross of Jesus for my abiding place. I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face. Content to let the world go by to know no gain nor loss. My sinful self. Mine only shame, my glory, all the cross. Who is the person who haunts this chapter? We hear of the servant of Jehovah, but he does not speak. We see the faces of men whom he startles, and the lips of kings, whose mouths he shuts, but himself we see not. Who was he? What was his name? Who is the servant of Jehovah? Well, we really never know, until the New Testament the little book that explains the big book, is finally written, and there in the opening chapters of one of the great gospels of the New Testament we read of a man named Phillip, and he met Jesus of Nazareth, and he rushed out to tell the news, and this is what he said, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did speak Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph.” That’s his name. That’s who he is. And when we listen to his voice, and come to know him as our text said, “By the knowledge of him, when we come to know him, we have his salvation.” May God speak to your heart though the word? Shall we stand for the benediction?
[Prayer] Now, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ the great suffering servant of Jehovah, who offered his soul and offering for sin, the love of God the Father, who was pleased to crush the Son, for our benefit, the fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit who shared in the ministry of the Trinity, and still shares, be in abide with all who have come to know the righteous servant and the life he brings.
And O Father, if there should one person in this auditorium who has not yet turned in faith to Thee, O may at this moment they lift their hearts in thanksgiving for the lamb that was slain. Go with us as we part, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.