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WHO HATH BELIEVED OUR REPORT
LESSON V., JANUARY 31, ISAIAH 53:1-12
Golden Text—”The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”—Isa. 53:6
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In the midst of his vivid and striking prophecies of the Millennial glory of Christ’s Kingdom in the earth, and of the overthrow and destruction of Great Babylon preparatory thereto, the Prophet here predicts, and particularly describes, that one great event which was to be the foundation upon which the whole superstructure of the plan of salvation and the hope of future glory should rest.
That one central or pivotal truth, is briefly expressed in our golden text—”The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The one referred to we readily recognize by the prophetic description to be the Christ of the New Testament history. The prophecy and the fulfilment both stand out prominently on the pages of divinely-attested truth. But notwithstanding the importance of this great truth to the whole human race, the Prophet, speaking from a then future standpoint when the fulfilment of his prophecy had been accomplished, inquires, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”—thus calling attention to that which we now realize, viz. that only a very few understand or appreciate the good tidings. And when we remember that faith in this message is necessary to the receiving of its benefits, it is disheartening, unless we know some of the further steps of the divine plan, to realize how few believe it. Daily there are thousands and tens of thousands, in both civilized and uncivilized lands, going down into the grave without faith, and without the least ray of hope from this precious truth. In view of these things, many seem to think that God’s arm is shortened that it cannot save—except the very few who now believe.
But let such observe the second inquiry of the Prophet—”And to whom is the arm of Jehovah revealed?”—intimating that his arm, his power, has not yet been revealed to many that they might believe. But his arm, his power, will be fully revealed to all in due time in the final accomplishment of his plan. But that plan is one which requires ages for its complete accomplishment; hence the “arm of Jehovah” is revealed now, to those only who can receive the revelation of it by faith. The household of faith may therefore comfort themselves with this blessed assurance, that “God our Savior will have all men to be saved [out of the Adamic death], and to come to the knowledge of the truth; for there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:3-6.) To this end, a resurrection, “both of the just and the unjust,” is promised: “The hour is coming when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth.” (Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29.) They will come forth in due time to have the truth fully testified to them, and to profit by it; and if they are obedient to it, they may go on unto perfection and live forever.
Verses 2 and 3 describe “the man Christ Jesus,” saying, “For he shall grow up before
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him [Jehovah] as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.” All humanity under the condemnation of death was reckoned dead; and this one alone, like a new, fresh, living root out of the barren soil, grew up from infancy to manhood. But, in the estimation of men, he had no desirable form nor comeliness, nor beauty. His glorious perfection made manifest their deformity; and when he declared himself the Messiah and the King of the Jews, they had no desire for such a king. They were looking for a king like Alexander the Great, or like the Caesars; one who, with military skill and carnal weapons, should deliver them from the Roman yoke. They had no faith therefore in the meek Nazarene and his claims: they saw no beauty such as they were looking for in him. Consequently, he was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was despised, and men esteemed him not. And because men lightly esteemed and even despised him, “he hid as it were his face from them.” [See margin. Because of their unbelief and hardness of heart, they therefore lost the benefit of his wisdom and teaching and many of his mighty works.—Rom. 11:20; Matt. 13:58.]
Verse 4. “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.” As a perfect man, apart from the condemned race, and having no sin nor any cause of death in him, he voluntarily bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. Though he was rich before he became a man, and though as a man he had all the talent necessary to secure earthly riches, he voluntarily became poor and remained poor—so poor that often he had not where to lay his head. Thus he was able to sympathize with the poor of this world. And though as a perfect man, without sin, and consequently without the consequences of sin, he had perfect health, yet during the three years of his ministry he was continually imparting his vitality—vigor, strength—to the suffering ones around him, thus impoverishing himself and so being “touched with a feeling of our infirmities,” as it is written: “And the whole multitude sought to touch him, for there went virtue [vitality, strength] out of him, and healed them all;” “And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me, for I perceive that virtue [vitality, strength] is gone out of me.” He felt the consequent weakness.—See Luke 6:17-19; 8:46-48; Mark 5:30-34.
But while he thus, from exhausting labor and daily sacrifice for the good of others, endured weakness and weariness, so that at the end of the three and a half years of his ministry he was unable to bear his cross to the place of execution (Luke 23:26), men did not recognize the real cause of his physical weakness, but esteemed him stricken and smitten of God, as though he were a sinner like other men, and therefore, like them, subject to physical decline and death. But no, “In him was no sin:” he was generously and sympathetically bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows, while we ungratefully “esteemed him smitten of God and afflicted.”
Verse 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.” The dreadful tragedy of Calvary was not for his own sins, but for ours, as also saith the Prophet Daniel (9:26)—”Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself.” “He suffered for sins,” says Peter, “being put to death in the flesh, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Pet. 3:18.) And Isaiah continues—verses 6 and 7—”All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord [Jehovah] hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And meekly and willingly he bore our burden; for, though “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.” See Mark 15:3-5.
Verse 8. “Through oppression and through judicial punishment [by means of false accusations which secured a legal condemnation to death] was he taken away; but his generation—who shall declare it? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.”
“His generation.” This expression may be understood in three ways truthfully, and hence properly. (1) Who of his day and generation would admit the facts?—only the very few who became his despised followers. (2) How few knew of his generation, of his divine lineage! how few believed or confessed that the despised, rejected and crucified one was the only begotten son of God, made flesh for the very purpose of thus giving himself a ransom for all! (3) But “his generation” is specially to be understood (see following verses) in the sense of his posterity. Who would suspect that he who was thus cut off childless would ever become “The Everlasting Father?” (Isa. 9:6.) Yet “he shall see his seed” (verse 10) in Jehovah’s appointed season. At his second advent, times of restitution shall come (Acts 3:19-21), when, as the great Life-giver [father], he will give life and health and strength to all of Adam’s
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race who will accept them under the conditions of the New Covenant. It is a gross mistake, however, to suppose that the Gospel Church is the “seed” of Christ, whether reckoned by the millions (including the black, the speckled and the ring-streaked, a worldly class, as Bishop Foster describes them) or merely the “little flock” of consecrated and faithful believers. The Church is never spoken of as the children of our Lord Jesus, either in symbol, or in type, or in literal statement. The Church “he is not ashamed to call his brethren.” The bride, the Lamb’s wife and joint-heir, are the honorable titles given to the little flock whom the Father, Jehovah, draws to Christ, and gives to him, as it is written, “Behold I and the children [of God] which God hath given me.” (Heb. 2:11-13.) Our Lord Jesus enunciated this clearly when he said, “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” (John 20:17.) But after the “little flock” of the Gospel age has become the Bride and joint-heir of the Lamb, the glorified body of Christ, the new dispensation, the Millennium, will open, when the glorified Christ—Head and body—will become the Life-giver or Father to the world in general, restoring to them the human life and privileges lost in Adam but redeemed for them by the sacrifice of Christ’s human life. That will be the time in which the glorified Christ in kingdom power will draw ALL MEN toward righteousness and life, even as the Father now draws the elect truth-hungry ones to Christ—as it is written, “No man can come unto me unless the Father which sent me draw him. And he [thus drawn by the truth—by the promises of God] that cometh unto me [Christ] I will in no wise reject.” But as many who are now drawn or called to Christ by the Father fail to profit by the drawings of the truth, and hence to make their calling and election sure, so during the Millennial age, when Christ shall bring the whole world to a knowledge of the truth and
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thus influence or draw ALL MEN toward righteousness, it will still be for each to decide the matter for himself. Such as accept the gracious offer will receive everlasting life from Christ and his glorified Church, and will thus become the children of the Christ, and the Christ becomes to such the Everlasting Father. Thus He shall see his seed [his children] and shall prolong their days everlastingly; and thus the pleasure [will, plan] of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand.—Verse 10.
Verse 9. “And they made his grave with the condemned [Heb. rasha, condemned or guilty—i.e., with the race of condemned sinners], and with the rich in his death [in the tomb of the rich man—Joseph of Arimathea—Matt. 27:57-60], although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”
Verse 10 declares that all this violence that befell our blessed Lord and Redeemer was in exact accordance with the plan of Jehovah, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to redeem their life from destruction by the sacrifice of his own—”Although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth [and therefore no cause of death in him], yet it pleased the Lord [Jehovah] to bruise him: He hath put him to grief.”
Verse 11. “He shall see [the fruits] of the travail of his soul [in the grand restitution of the redeemed race] and shall be satisfied.” And here the Prophet interjects the statement that it was our Lord’s knowledge of the divine plan or purpose to redeem and then restore the fallen race that enabled him to thus carry out that purpose in the sacrifice of himself, thus justifying many by bearing the penalty due for their iniquities—”By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”
Verse 12 points to the great personal exaltation of our blessed Lord Jesus, because of his obedience to the Father’s will, even unto death.—”Therefore will I [Jehovah] divide him a portion with the Great [Rab—the Lord, the Chief, the Master of the whole universe, Jehovah himself].” Because of his faithfulness he was highly exalted, made a partaker of the divine nature, and was associated with his Father in his throne. (See Phil. 2:9; Rev. 3:21.) And not only so, but he has been permitted of God to carry out another feature of his plan in the selection, training and final exaltation of a faithful few from among the redeemed race to share his great reward—to become likewise “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4) and “joint-heirs” of his kingdom and glory (Rom. 8:17; Luke 12:32)—Thus “he shall divide the spoil [the great reward] with the strong”—the overcomers. In accordance with this privilege granted him by the Father he left the gracious promise on record for us—”To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne.”—Rev. 3:21.
— January 15, 1892 —