The construction of the Heart of the Book:
We are now standing on the very threshold of the Holy of Holies of our book, and we do well to fear lest a carnal touch should make its defiling mark on this sanctuary, the walls of which are surely whiter than any fuller on earth could whiten them. Is there not at least one of my readers who will join with me in supplication that the Spirit, whose holiness alone accords with that of this scripture, will guard us from error, lead us into truth, and so take of the things of Christ and show them to us, as to attract our wandering hearts to Him, and bind them there forever. Amen.
The section is the very heart of Isaiah, and we must bear in mind the meaning of that name, and say the very heart of "the Salvation of Jehovah"—the very Bosom of our God here lies exposed to reverent faith and responsive affection, and whom should we expect to find there but Him whose abode has ever been in that Bosom, and who came forth from it to express its tender grace to sinful man? (John 1:18).
Before entering, let us go round about our scripture a little, tell the towers thereof, mark well its bulwarks, consider its palaces, enjoy both the beauty and strength of its very structure, and this shall introduce us to its subject, our Lord Himself!
We can all discern one soiling human fingerprint in the division between the chapters, for it evidently breaks into the construction in a way that damages and obscures its significance.
But remembering that the division of the verses in Hebrew poetry is as much by divine inspiration as the text itself, we note that there are just fifteen verses, which a little pondering will show to be divided into five threes. But, as we have already seen, "three" and "five," when in this relation to one another, tell out in themselves the vital union of God (3) and man (5). But at once we ask of whom must such a union speak if not of that "Word who in the beginning was God" (John 1:1), and yet who was "made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). That can speak of no other than of Immanuel, which being interpreted is "God with us"; or to give that same name, Immanuel, another form, JESUS, which, being interpreted, means "Saviour," and therefore equally means both Man and God over all, blessed forever, for it is God who says, "Beside Me there is no Saviour" (Jesus).
Here, then, in these five sections we have again a Pentateuch, whose parts have a striking correspondence with the first Pentateuch of the Bible; and thus the first three verses form what is the Genesis of this prophecy, for it has in it, as has that first book of our Bible, the seed of all that follows.
But as we go round about our Scripture and mark the impregnable bulwarks it presents to all forms of infidelity—the towers with which it defends our faith—we see another tower, stern and rough indeed, yet those very features are its beauty to us, for they and they alone are in full accord with the solemn theme. "There are only two passages in which the language becomes more harsh, turbid and ponderous, namely, chapters 53 and 57. In the former it is the emotion of sorrow that throws its shadow upon it; in the latter the emotion of wrath" (Delitzsch). If that be the case, we must not expect to find here that smooth joyous musical note that we have recently heard, and which lends itself to a metrical rendering with little change. Here it is, and must remain, uneven and rugged, even as the subject of which it speaks.
13: Behold My Servant, He shall act wisely,The Speaker giving this command is evidently God, the very God who in the opening words of Genesis appears as the Creator of the heavens and the earth. It is He who here tells us to "behold," that is, to consider with deepest, most concentrated attention One whom He terms His Servant.
Who then can that Servant be? Where shall we find Him that we may consider Him? In this prophecy that word "servant" (as we have seen in chap. 42) has three different applications: first, to the mass of Israel, then to the Remnant of faith, and finally to Messiah. To which of these is it to be applied here? The mass of the Jewish people, scattered in its sorrow as it is, have always insisted that that afflicted nation itself must be seen as the object of the prophecy, and we must understand Israel to be referred to as the Servant all through. Let us test that by so applying one or two sentences. "The Lord hath laid on that people the iniquity of us all"; "That people was taken from prison and from judgment, and who shall declare its generation?" "They appointed the grave of that people with wicked men and with the rich man in its death." Do we need to go further? It is not worthy of refutation—it refutes itself.2
The lowly "remnant" would never even make the claim, so that we are forced to the simple clear truth that it is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, the true Messiah of Israel, our own Redeemer, of whom we here read. Indeed, so clear, so simple, so marvellous are the correspondences in every detail, that the strange thing is that anyone who has the normal power of thought should raise one single question as to its application. There can be no explanation of any man gifted with the faculty of reason, refusing all reason, except in that strange enmity of the carnal mind to all that is of God, and which is under the control of a more powerful and malignant enemy.
The very first words reveal to us that it has been this same One who has been in the Mind of the Spirit in these later chapters that have led up to this as a climax. It was He whose ears had been opened morning by morning; it was He who had thus been taught the path of suffering and shame that lay before Him, and who submissively addressed Himself to it. It was He who had been taught to refuse the evil and choose the good, who now is seen here acting very wisely even in making that choice; and walking in that clear light of the volume of the book that pointed Him to the Cross and the glory following it.
He ever acted so wisely as to insure success, hence the very word rendered "act wisely" comes to mean, as in the Authorized Version, to "prosper," and both meanings may well be seen in it here: His wisdom and its prospering are united in the one word. His wisdom led Him to infinite suffering, and by that suffering His purpose was attained. This first line then takes us to that "wise" path of suffering only terminated by the Cross.
Then in the next three lines we have the three steps resulting from that wise-doing. First, He is raised up from the depths of humiliation, to which that path had led Him, the tomb: then still higher does He rise, as from Olivet His feet leave this earth, and the cloud hides Him from sight; till finally to Him is given the highest place in all the universe, or, as a very literal rendering of these last words would be, "High, Very." Thus are we told in these few words the whole path of the Messiah, till He reaches, as Man, the Throne He had left as the divine Son. Is it not the Genesis of this Pentateuch?
Verse 14 now goes back to the depths of His humiliation: "As many were astonished at Thee"; and then intervenes a parenthetical "aside," telling the cause of the astonishment. "His visage was more marred than that of any man, either of high or low degree." But here we must definitely part company with many a commentator (and among them Delitzsch), for they refer this marring to our Lord in His life; as if His appearance was so distorted as to be "no longer really human." Such an application is to be rejected with horror. Little children, whose simple intuition is unerring, in their willing approach, and resting on His knee, or nestling in His breast, tell another story, for they were attracted, not repulsed by His visage, or appearance. How could it, then, at that time, be so distorted as to be no longer human?
Yet the words point beyond all question to some unparalleled depth of suffering, and its effect on that blessed Face and Form. Up to the stroke of noon on that fatal day in April, A.D. 32,3 the thieves on either side of Him may have equally suffered, or with only such difference as was due to the greater sensitiveness of the perfect human organism of His body. But then for three hours, and for three hours only, did He so suffer "more than any of the sons of men," as to mar His visage more than any. It is quite true that God drew a veil over those sufferings, thus telling, in a most solemn symbol, that none could really "see," or enter into their profundities; but here the holy silence of the Gospels is supplemented by the inspired words in our prophet; and in that unequaled agony, God, who is here the Speaker, tells us what He saw in that great darkness. Oh, the suffering to Himself that this tells, for that Sufferer was His beloved Son!
For note carefully His visage has been marred; that is, it is not as it was by birth. Something has occurred to disfigure that face, so gracious, so winsome to little children, and to penitent sinners always. It would not seem just to limit the scope of the first line, and make those who were astonished to be solely the wretched men who were blind to His divine dignity; for angels who desire to look into these sacred mysteries would not be absent from that awful scene, and these might well be struck with deepest marvel that He—their own Creator—should voluntarily endure such vicarious agony.
Verse 15 takes up the conclusion of the first line of verse 14: "As many were astonished at Thee" (because of that unparalleled humiliation of One so perfect) "so shall He cause many to spring up with astonishment." Even kings shall be struck dumb at such a report as utterly transcends anything that they have ever heard.
Our first, or Genesis, section has closed with the prophecy of a report going out to those who had never seen or heard of such a marvel, and that must be the Gentiles, to whom no revelation—no oracles of God—had been given as to Israel. Now the second, or Exodus, section begins with the prophet taking his place among his own people, and musing sorrowfully and penitently over their blind unbelief with which he identifies himself in his lowly confession. Thus this section has the clearest correspondence with both the Exodus of the Old Testament and that of the New, called The Acts of the Apostles, for in both, as here, a salvation is announced to Israel, and in both there is the same rejection of it, as it is written: "This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge, the same did God send to be a ruler and deliverer." "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye" (Acts 7:35, 51). Thus history ever repeats itself. But now we see the prophet himself standing like that publican with bowed head, or like that other beloved man, Daniel, identifying himself with his people in confessing their sin and mourning thus:
1: Who hath believed the report4 that is ours?We must retain the close connection this first section has with the last of the preceding chapter, to get the force of the confession. There, Gentiles and their kings received with amazement some report; but that report was, says the prophet of Israel, ours first. It was intended for us, it was sent to us, and yet, alas, who among us believed it? The Arm is the member of the body by which work requiring strength is accomplished. It carries out the dictates of the will. Could any figure be more fitting for Him who was indeed Jehovah's Arm? And who, as that Arm, delighted to do His Will, in work so mighty that though heaven, earth, and the infernal regions be searched, not one single individual could be found who could do it (cf. Rev. 5:3). Yet to whom was that Arm revealed? Who discerned in that lowly Man the mighty Arm of Jehovah? Israel has cried and repeated the cry of, "Awake, awake, O arm of the Lord!" but when that Arm came who recognized It? Can He—that son of the carpenter (as supposed)—can He be the Arm of Jehovah? Can He, who dwells hidden, unknown in that humble home in despised Galilee, can He be the Arm of Jehovah? Never a good thing comes out of Nazareth (John 1:46), can the Arm of Jehovah come thence? And when He did come forth from that home He was rejected by all up to whom we had looked as being the respectable, the wise, the reputable, the religious of our nation. Is it possible that He, despised of all these, can be the very Arm of Jehovah?
We expected quite a different sight! Our vain gaze was in quite a different direction. We were looking for one who should come with,
"Royal banner, and all quality,
and thus leading Israel's host, as did that Captain of the Lord's Host in the days of old (Josh. 5:14), deliver us from the Roman yoke by victory after victory. Great beauty would such have had in our eyes! Joyously would we have gathered about such an One! But with such expectations, with our eyes thus lifted upward, what beauty could we see in One whom we could but overlook entirely at our feet, as it were, in His lowly estate, weeping with those who wept, a Man of many sorrows, and of few short moments of rejoicing with those who rejoiced.
But the veil is falling from the eyes of our hearts, and we remember that our paschal lamb is never marked out and set apart until the tenth day of the month. For the first ten days of our year, that lamb is before Jehovah alone, and His Eye alone rests upon it with delight, but no other knows it! So with our Messiah, He too was hidden, and not marked out as God's Lamb till thirty years had passed. Thus did He "grow up before Him" only.
But the royal House of David has long been as a tree cut down, and centuries have passed since a son of David sat upon his throne; but here, from the roots of that felled tree, has sprung a living sprout which thrives whilst all about it is sere, dry and dead.
Thus He grew, a lovelier human flower than either God or man had ever seen on earth before, and yet when He did come forth, and went about His gracious ministry of doing good, sharing, as well as relieving, the sorrows of mankind, our leaders despised Him, and alas, even we, who now mourn our unbelief, esteemed Him not. We were like men who turn away from an object in which they have no interest.
History, man's sad history, is repeating itself this very day. We are standing on the verge of His coming again, and once more the respectable, the learned, the merely religious, are turning away from Him who is alone the "Power of God unto salvation"—the true Arm of the Lord.
But as a few in that day, with a sense of their deep need clave to Him, so in this too, is history repeating itself. There are a comparative few whom the sense of sin and need has pressed to His feet; and to such He is indeed beautiful, and precious beyond all earth's jewelry. We only mourn that our intimacy with Him is so slight, and (may I speak for others?) it is the thirst of our parched hearts to know Him better, for to Him alone will we owe all our salvation, past, present and future, for He to us is the only "Arm of the Lord."
This brings us to the third section of this prophecy, corresponding to the third book of the Pentateuch, Leviticus; and as that took us into the Sanctuary, with the many offerings connected with it, so here we have the one Offering that has displaced all these shadows, and by which we have access even into the Holiest. Thus the next three verses reveal the secret of those sufferings; and well will it be for us if we listen, not coldly, but with some degree of affection stirred by that revelation, for we each have the deepest personal interest in what is here written.
4: Surely the griefs that He bore were our own;How clear, as well as deeply affecting, are the rays of sanctuary-light that these words throw on those sufferings that were hidden from every human eye by the three hours of darkness on Calvary; so clear that it is difficult to realize that the words were written more than seven hundred years before the fulfilment.
The first word of verse 4 is the "Amen," adopted in the New Testament, and which was so often on the Lips of our Lord Himself. It expresses the strongest affirmation. None must have the slightest question as to the true cause of those sufferings that had no parallel, and most surely that cause could not have existed during that lovely life, which was all spent in the sunshine of His Father's delight. No; one must go to the very last three hours on the cross for what we are here told.
No rod that ploughs His flesh, no thorn that tears His brow, no nail that pierces His hands and feet, can wring from Him one groan:
It needs still deeper agony,
What could inflict that agony?
At the meridian hour man's gibes cease; and then the cloudless sun refuses to send down its light on that most solemn scene, whilst my sins (Will you not join with me, with bowed head, and eye not undimmed?) are on Him, and God, even His own God and Father, forsakes Him therefor, and stripes from His Rod—compared with which, the Roman rods were but as a caressing—are falling on Him. It was from this, and this alone, that His holy soul shrank, so that even in anticipation His sweat was as it were great drops of blood; and yet there too, in that garden, it was but the shadow. What, oh, what, must the substance have been? Surely if we realized this in any slight measure, our hearts would not be as divided as they are: our lives would not be so wasted as, alas, they so largely are, in self-seeking. May I again speak for others in adopting the words of one greatly beloved in the far-off past: "We have heard of Thee with the hearing of the ear, but now our eyes see Thee, wherefore we abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes"—if that sight does not produce self-abhorrence and repentance, nothing can.
We shrink from turning from these affecting meditations to consider a strange and erroneous deduction that has been drawn from these words, but it cannot be passed over without any notice: The first Gospel in the New Testament quotes (chapter 8:16, 17) the closing words of this verse thus:
And when even was come they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.From this it has been deduced that the Lord, then and there, bore in His life the sicknesses that He took from others, and therefore His people should never be sick! But, in the first place, He certainly did not become sick or infirm. He did not bear them in that sense. If He healed a man with a withered arm, no corresponding effect followed on Himself. His holy Body was ever free from any of those afflictions that our "flesh is heir to"; but heir to only because of the introduction of sin. Of all sinless infirmities, as hunger, thirst, weariness, He, in grace, partook, but not one single thing that was the consequence of sin. He was tempted (tried) in all points like as we are—sin apart [yet without sin] (Heb. 4:15).
Why then does Matthew write that He took "our infirmities and bare our sicknesses"? It could not be by merely sympathizing with the sufferers. He sees on all sides the sorrowful consequences of sin: demon-possession, disease, pain, deformities, tears, and He removes them all. But He who had the power and authority on earth (Mark 2:10) to remove the effect, or penalty, thus made Himself responsible for the cause. And who could do that save He who was to bear the sin that caused those sufferings, in His own body on the tree? He could not remove one single twinge of pain without, in due season, bearing the sin that caused the pain. And just as the feeblest groan, or a single tear drop is a testimony to the presence of sin, so the hushing the groan, the drying the tear is in the same way a testimony to the sin being atoned for; and for that, nothing in the whole universe would avail, but those sufferings during the last three hours upon the cross; and as Matthew tells us, He did remove them so that the prophecy of Isaiah might be fulfilled; and fulfilled, as in a shadow then,7 but for the final true fulfilment we must look alone to the Cross.
But if the cause has been thus removed, why has not the effect ceased?—at least in those who, in penitent faith, have availed of the propitiation. Why do believers still suffer sickness, disease and death? Because all God's ways with men are governed by the place occupied by His beloved One. He is still rejected, and not here on His own Throne; and whilst His atoning work is absolutely perfect and finished, Godward, so that, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world," its application to our bodies remains yet to be accomplished, and in those bodies sin is still present, or why are we told to "mortify the deeds of the body" (Rom. 8:13)? We still await the adoption (that is, God owning and revealing us publicly as His beloved sons), to wit, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:23). The Lord Jesus is still rejected, and the Spirit of God ishere on earth, the blessing of God therefore does not consist in the physical healing of those bodies still under the power of death (Rom. 8:10), but "in all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies" (Eph. 1:3), to conform with Christ's present place, and that of the Spirit of God.
Sinless, spotless, not bearing our sins during His life, not bearing them up to, but alone on, the tree, passing His life in the sunlight of God's delight, He, as the spotless Lamb, offered Himself, bearing our sins on the cross, and there alone.
In verse 5 the light of God breaks in on those sufferings, and it reveals (and how affecting the revelation!) that ours was the transgression, His the stroke for it. Ours was the iniquity, His the wound for it. Ours was the sin, His the death, its wages and due! But here we must let our words be few, and even pause in a silence more expressive than speech, for behind the stroke, the wound, the death, we must apprehend something of the LOVE that was to usward!
Here we look at what the highest of created Intelligences consider with profound amazement; and they ever desire to fathom those unfathomable depths still further. That God, the very God from whom every one of us has wandered afar, although in different directions, should Himself cause the iniquities of us all to meet, as myriads of foul black sewers might meet, and in one awful, rushing, roaring, filthy, malodorous flood empty themselves at one spot—on Him, the dearest Object of His own heart! Can any keep away from such a God as that? When it is known that not merely bread, but an embrace; not a servant's place, but the Father's breast; nor a hired-servants's clothing but the best robe await—what prodigal would not hasten to return? I would take the hand of my reader, and say, Join with me in the cry to that same God: "Let, O Father, the remainder of my few days here be Thine, for Thou hast truly bought them at a great cost. O God, my Father, let the love, that even for poor worthless me, did not spare Thy beloved One, bind this heart, alas, still so prone to wander as it is, to Thyself forever. Indeed, not only in unregenerate days did I wander afar, but even since I have known something of Thy love. My soul is bowed with shame, and cries, Oh, let the time past suffice for such wandering. Frail beyond words as I am, Lord Jesus, I am still Thy poor sheep, and Thou art alone my Shepherd who hast even laid down Thy life for me. Keep me near Thee, I beseech Thee, till I am with Thee forever!"
We have been in the sanctuary, considering the Godward side of our Lord's sufferings. We must now turn back, as it were, as in the first Pentateuch of the Bible, for after Leviticus, the Book of the Sanctuary, we have the Book of Numbers, the "Book of the Desert," as it is called in the Hebrew Bible, in which the pilgrim-path of Israel is told with all its desert-testings, and their constant failures under those testings. Here too we come to just that aspect of the Saviour's sufferings, as testings from man, and His perfect bearing under them—He failed never.
7: Hard was He pressed, and deeply afflicted,We are listening to the retrospective meditation on sufferings that are past, and what here strikes those who are thus penitently meditating is the meek self-surrender of the Sufferer. That strange acceptance of unjust sufferings, without a whisper of a protest, is as attractive as it is compelling to responsive affection, and it is an important, a vital, basic element in the whole plan of atonement, for had there been one whisper of protest, that would have denied the voluntariness of His offering, and who can measure the consequence? The charge of injustice in punishing the innocent for the guilty, would have had some basis. You will remember that it was this that struck Pilate with astonishment. Instead of the noisy vociferations of innocence, with which his office had made him so familiar, there stood before him a Man, with that terrifying death threatening Him, yet calm and silent, a Man whose very presence spoke with convincing eloquence, whilst His Lips uttered never a word! Never was there such eloquence in silence! Never did a closed Mouth express such depths of truth! Had He spoken a word of sorrow or protest on the one hand, or of cheerfulness in prospect of sin-bearing on the other, how fatally marred His personal perfections!—how ruined His work of atonement! What mind could conceive, what human hand could depict, such divinely perfect balancings? Never, I say again, was silence so eloquent!
God has evidently made every creature on the earth to aid us in apprehending unseen divine verities; and thus the majestic, the beautiful, the gentle, amongst the animals, tell us of the moral attractions of His Son. The lion speaks His dignity, the ox His patient ministry; shall the lamb be silent? Or if so, shall not that very silence in view of death tell us of the Love that upbore Him to "endure the cross, despise the shame," in order that His God might have the power to save, and He the joy of saving poor sinful men, and share with them those pleasures at the right Hand of God that He might Himself ever have had alone without the suffering?
So in that common hall where they disrobed Him, and in mockery clad Him in the imperial purple, no reviling answered the mockery of the rough Roman soldiery. Then to Golgotha, but ever with that submissive silence that was foretold over 700 years before, and which is here meditated upon by us, thousands of years after the endurance—and shall be the theme of our meditation for all eternity!
Verse 8 takes us further along this Via Dolorosa, and the prophet sees the Sufferer hurried away from bonds and from the parody of a trial, to death. Adam's generations have been declared to us in Gen. 5; who shall declare His? Where is the progeny that shall carry along His line, and with it, His claims to the throne of David, His father "after the flesh"? It expires with Him. That claim is His alone, and falls to the ground with His death. All the nation's hopes appear to be quenched, and sorrowful indeed were those poor disciples during that dark three days, for they "trusted that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel" (Luke 24:21), and their hope lies dead and buried in Joseph's tomb. Then adopting the alternative meaning of these words: Who by meditation discerns the true, the real inner significance, of these sufferings, of that short life, so soon cut off? Who discerns that it was not for His own, but the transgression of God's people He was stricken? And that stroke was really inflicted, not by man, but by God! Ah, who discerned the real secret of those sufferings? But now the sorrow ceases: the shame is forever past. From the time that His death was evidenced by the Roman's spear, not one single mark of indignity shall be permitted, but,
Henceforth Love alone shall pour
As far as the intent and purpose of those who had accomplished His death went, they would have had Him buried with the thieves among whom He had been numbered, but although that death of shame had been permitted as fulfilling the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, there the waves of man's wickedness are stayed—thus far may they go, but no farther. No hand save that of reverent affection may touch that holy Body, and no tomb which any corruptible body has defiled shall be permitted to receive that "Holy Thing" for, as has been said, He who came from a virgin-womb can only be laid in a virgin-tomb. So a rich man comes, and his own tomb shall have this dignity of receiving the Body of the Lord of Glory, and wherever this gospel is preached, shall the name of this rich man be told. Nor can I, when treading such holy ground, believe that we are told that name without its meaning having deep significance: "Joseph of Arimathea."
"Joseph," with its hopeful, cheering meaning of "He shall add," was the name given by Rachel to her own firstborn, for, says the happy mother, shall this precious gift be the last token of God's grace? No, indeed; "The Lord shall add (that is, 'Joseph') to me another son," and He did. So we may ask, Is that cross, is that tomb, the very end? Is nothing to be added? Is there to be no Benjamin, no "son of my right hand"? Let that name, "Joseph," answer, for wherever we find it prophetically used it tells the story of a recovery, as for example (Ps. 81:5), the trumpet's joyful sound is "appointed in Joseph for a testimony"; and tells to an opened ear that as Israel was recovered from Egypt, this shall be added, Israel shall be recovered from the dust of the earth (Dan. 12:2). Just so, there is yet the infinitely mighty work to be added to that burial, a "Joseph" must, however unconsciously, bring his name to tell of it. But what is that mighty work? Let the city whence he comes answer; for he is "of Arimathea," the meaning of which may be found in Chapter 52:13 in "lifted up,"10 and this is what is "added." The tomb, even though it be undefiled, shall not hold Him, He shall be "lifted up" out of it; and that most precious of all truths, the name and city of that timid but true disciple, that honorable counsellor, that rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, shall speak, and it may still be heard where ears are not too heavy.
The perfection of the Saviour's spotless holiness, with neither deceit nor violence, could not meet its due recognition simply in His being laid in an unstained tomb—that would be vain indeed. Monuments, inscribed with the assumed goodness of him whose mouldering bones beneath them are telling a different story, may suit all other sons of Adam, but His perfections can only be evidenced by resurrection, and He who in the days of His flesh offered up strong cries and tears, was "heard for His piety," or "holy fear." That very "fear" that caused Him to shrink with submissive anguish from being made what we are, itself evidenced the perfection of His holiness; and resurrection evidenced that He had been heard for that piety (Heb. 5). So that even here, in this apparent obscurity of two names, we find hidden, as a sweet violet under its leaves that announces its presence only by its fragrance, one of those scriptures that the Spirit appeals to as proving His resurrection, for He was raised the third day "according to the Scriptures." "Joseph of Arimathea" tells us that resurrection must be added to the cross. It is a lovely spot—the more welcome after the storm that bowed that blessed Head, a storm that is hushed forever. But still may its black cloud be seen as it rolls away nevermore to return on Him, and we, standing in the clear sunshine of perfect and eternal acceptance, may and will from time to time, till He come, look back and remember Him in the breaking of the bread, in the drinking of the cup, that tell of His cross and the spear-thrust, the judgment and death, that He bore for us.
Still must we linger here a little longer, for we are not told that the tomb was in a garden without divine purpose. Let us in spirit then visit that first garden planted in Eden by the Hand of the Lord God Himself. Fair as it is, an atmosphere of gloom pervades it, for it has heard the sentence of death passed upon the sinning progenitor of our race, who has passed down that sentence, with the sinful nature that was its cause, to all his posterity (Rom. 5:12). Now let us go to Joseph's garden: it is early in April, A.D. 32,11 and, as the women come to it "very early in the morning" (Mark 16:1), the birds are awaking to song, and on every side, in budding fruit and flower, are tokens of nature's resurrection from the death of winter. All tell the gospel that the gloom of Eden has been dispelled. Death has been made of none effect,12 life and incorruptibility have been brought to light (2 Tim. 1:10). Look within that tomb! It is empty save that linen clothes are still there to bear their double testimony, first to the supernatural Power by which that tomb was emptied, for no hasty "body-snatcher" would wait to disrobe a body, and arrange so perfectly the cerements that they should tell exactly where the Body lay; and then, in the being thus left behind that He would (in contrast with poor Lazarus, who brought his out with him) never need them more.
Further, as a brother in Christ13 reminds me, no tree of knowledge of good and evil appears in the last garden that we may see in Rev. 22. The Tree of Life, however, is there as in the first garden; but now, quite unguarded by Seraph's flaming sword, it lies open to all who, in distrust of their best, wash their robes, thus symbolized, in the Blood of the Lamb that has quenched its fire forever.
The last clause, "For never a violent deed had He done, never deceit had come from His mouth," is another guard thrown about His Holy Person, but at the same time it necessitates an other agent for the burial than for the death. It was the work of wicked men to appoint Him a place with transgressors in death, and that was permitted, nor had they any other purpose than that His grave should evidence the same association. But they had not the final disposal of that holy Body, and the very tomb must evidence that not one touch of either of those two elements of evil, "violence and corruption," could be attributed to Him! Let the rejecters of Christ point their finger at His inconsistent followers, and vainly seek to justify their own choice of eternal perdition by that inconsistency; not one film of shade will they find on Him. Because of that, a far higher Will than that of Chief-priest or Ruler, of Scribe or Pharisee, makes His sepulchre bear its testimony to His perfection, and that it was not for Himself that that bitter cry had rung out: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani." Reader, you and I know for whom that was.
We come to the last and Deuteronomic section of this Pentateuch; and, as Deuteronomy is a summing up of God's ways with Israel, when, with their desert journeys past, they stand on the borders of their inheritance, and see their own fair land across the interposing river, so here, the path of the Servant is reviewed. His wilderness journey is over, and we may see Him standing here looking forward to that long life that is before Him, even length of days forever and ever. But little would even that satisfy the gracious love of His heart; He must have sharers in that unending day to satisfy Him, as we now see.
10: Yet it hath pleased Jehovah to bruise Him,14Of all the words ever written or spoken, surely none can equal, in their amazing depth, their most affecting significance, and the awe-compelling truth they contain, these: "It pleased Jehovah to bruise Him."
With genuine fear and trembling at even touching this holy word, we must yet consider every expression in it. Who then was thus bruised? It was none but He whose pleasure it was to do the will of that very One who here is "pleased to bruise Him"!
If then He was so submissively obedient, why did Jehovah bruise Him—nay more, was actually pleased to bruise Him?
Was He moved to anger by some grievous fall in that beloved Servant? Nay; He Himself could testify that He always did those things that pleased Him (John 8:29); and none could convict Him of the slightest frailty, far less of sin. Indeed, no; for the very floor of heaven must break and break again under the weight of Jehovah's delight in that one sinless, blemishless, spotless human life, and those words at His baptism and on the holy mount witness to a pleasure that was never marred. But still is it written: "Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him"!
What motive could have moved that almighty Arm to strike with blows that brought "grief" indeed to that beloved One? What could have induced Jehovah to inflict such suffering on Himself as a father would have in causing suffering to a son who was dear to him?
His love for poor sinful man was such, that for him He spared not His own beloved Son. Measure that love then, if you can! Is there a trouble or sorrow that life or death can bring us, that we cannot go through rejoicingly if we but take that in?
But what as to the "pleasure" in bruising Him? As that Son delighted to do His will, and yet that will led to such anguish that, even as only its shadow fell upon His soul, He prayed with strong cries and tears that if possible that cup might pass from Him; thus, and only thus, did it please Jehovah to bruise Him, a bruising from which His love shrank from inflicting even as did the beloved Son from suffering, but which His love for us poor sinners led Him to inflict and His Son to endure.
Let us note that it is His soul that is made an offering for sin: the soul that is physically represented by the blood; the soul that is the intermediate link between the spirit above and the body below, putting a hand on both; the soul that, as another has said, "seems to bear the same relation to the spirit as the woman to the man, the one predominant in emotional, as the other in mental activity, each the complement of the other; and as the sin began with Eve's being deceived, so it is the soul that is made the offering for sin."
But what is the result? "He shall see His seed." The corn of wheat has died and now bears much fruit in resurrection. He has suffered, even as the creature in giving birth, and these atoning measureless sufferings are the birth-pangs whence the seed springs. None could declare His generation, for He had no seed according to nature, but spiritually how many. The Psalmist joins his voice with our prophet when he cries, "A seed shall serve Him" (Ps. 22:30).
"He shall prolong His days." "Long life shall be His, even length of days forever and ever" (Ps. 21:4); as having that life from Him, His seed too are in a scene where death is not, and not one of them with that "life indeed," shall ever see "death indeed" (John 8:51).
"The pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in His hand." These words are like a ray of sunshine on a storm-cloud, throwing a bow of promise across it. From that dark scene on Golgotha, where it was Jehovah's pleasure to bruise Him, we see that pleasure carried on, enwrapping in an embrace from which nothing in all creation can sever, such poor guilty, sinful, erring creatures as we are! What a joy that must be to God, since, although naught but the bruising of His beloved Son would permit His having it, He spared Him not! That pleasure shall go on, nor cease till He has made all things new.
And what of Him who suffered? "He shall see His seed," and in seeing them shall be "satisfied." How deep the Love of which those few words tell! He might at any moment during His life have gone back to the Bosom whence He came; but He would not have returned there satisfied. He might have been spared the shame and anguish of the cross; but still He would not have been satisfied. He might have been raised from the dead, and gone alone back to the right hand of God where there are pleasures forevermore; but even there amid even those pleasures He would have been forever dissatisfied. But see those myriads, not one of whom has not known sin and its consequences of sorrow and suffering, not one that was not an heir of wrath, and now not one before whom does not stretch an eternity of joy, all owed to Him—it is these that He sees with Himself, and He is satisfied. Oh, to know the love that indeed passeth knowledge!
"By His knowledge" is not the knowledge that His people may acquire of Him, for the Spirit of God here is focusing our hearts on the Lord alone, and this word attributing knowledge to Him links the last series with the first. For as there it was predicated of that Servant that He would "act prudently," so here it is by that knowledge or prudence acquired "morning by morning" that He learns of the path laid out for Him, culminating in justifying many by bearing their iniquities.
The ordinary reading of verse 12 is, at least, questionable, even though supported by the Revision. It seems an anomaly that as a recompense for those humiliations and sufferings that can have no rivalry, the Sufferer should only share among, and on a level with others who had and could have no part in them. So strongly does the Spirit resent any creature having such a place, that, if the Hebrew words used will justly permit the avoidance of this rivalry, apparently so unseemly, we are strongly attracted to such a rendering, whilst keeping a curb on the slightest deviation from plain Scripture which never needs defence. Now there is precisely the same construction in Job 39:17: "Neither hath He imparted to her understanding." Let us put the two passages side by side and they would read literally thus:
Here there would appear no ambiguity; but just as God has not imparted "understanding" to the ostrich, He has imparted these "many" to His Servant. The ostrich does not divide with understanding—that would be meaningless—but just so our Lord does not divide with the many. The many are not those who share with this unrivaled Servant, but are themselves the objects apportioned to Him, and here the reference would appear to be to the Gentiles.17
As to the second clause, "He shall divide the spoil with (eth)18 the strong," it is by no means as certain that we should follow those who, as Luther, render, "And He shall have the strong for spoil," for the preposition changes, and as we again have a close parallel in another scripture, this must at least have its weight with us. Prov. 16:19 is a construction that closely corresponds, and reads, "Than to divide the spoil with (eth) the proud," and in this light I have felt compelled to translate as above. But who then are these "strong ones"? They must be His "willing people," who, like their ancestors, the Maccabees, "out of weakness were made strong" (Heb. 11:34), and who shall also "do exploits" (Dan. 11:32). He, as once before, identifies Himself with, and takes His place at the head of, that people, with whom He will divide the spoil of His and their enemies: "When I have bent Judah for Me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man" (Zech. 9:13). Of this too we have a God-given illustration in him who was so strong a type of Messiah, David, as we see him dividing the spoil with Israel (1 Sam. 30:26-31). If then I am correct, the earlier allusion would be to the hostile Gentile, the later to the penitent Israel, the believing remnant. The former become His spoil which He divides with the latter.
Once again the text leads us to ask, "Why this exaltation?" and again the answer comes in four reasons:
1. He hath poured out His soul unto death;
How thoroughly Deuteronomic is this in its character of a comprehensive review of all that has been said. Oh, the depth of the love of God to poor mankind! He exalts His Son because of that death that permits Him to pour blessings on the lost race! Every display of Christ's love to man calls out fresh love from His Father's heart. "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again" (John 10:7). Have we not gathered some delight from that? Was there ever a moment when the Father did not love the Son with infinite tenderness? Yet He, that Son, here says that all other love is, as it were, eclipsed in this, that He laid down His life for the sheep, that He might take it again in resurrection, so as to communicate a life free from all condemnation to His poor people! Therefore His Father loves Him. I say again, who can measure the love of God the Father to poor men—aye to us! aye to me! This is the divine motive for true holiness.
Let us not then for one moment do Him the dishonor of thinking that the "intercession for transgressors" is to win for them the favor of a stern, austere God. Not the intercession of Blastus with "highly displeased" Herod (Acts 12) affords the divine illustration to His intercession; rather turn to Queen Esther, who in her own personal beauty, and adorned with her royal splendors, moved the affections of the king, so that when the golden sceptre was held out to her, every single one of her countrymen was as safe as she herself (Esther 5). But what is the poor shadow to the Substance? What can figure the delight of God in His Son, as He returns to Him after pouring out His soul to death, being numbered with transgressors, and bearing the sins of many? Does that beloved Son need to bend the knee and appeal with such earnest supplication as shall even change the attitude of an unwilling God? Far, far from that. Those atoning marks of His beauty that permit longing love to come forth to the poorest of His people, themselves make such an intercession to Him that there is no obstruction to the free-flowing of that love. If there be any such barrier it must be found in cold, suspicious human hearts.
Thus, as we see Him ascending from Olivet with His hands raised in blessing, so do we part with Him here, still interceding for those whose sins He bore; and he who tells us all this is the prophet who is speaking for Israel, "mourning in bitter sorrow, the lateness of its love."
1 The rendering here given to this line demands some explanation. The word "sprinkle" in our A.V. has been a veritable battleground among commentators, and whilst seeking to weigh all that has been urged for the different renderings, I can only give briefly the reason for that conclusion to which I have come. The prime meaning of the root is "to leap, as exulting with joy," hence as applied to liquids, "to spurt," and as here used, "to cause to spurt," and so, "to sprinkle," and it is so rendered in all other places of its use in Scripture, which of course tells weightily for that rendering here. But on the other hand—and now I quote Delitzsch—"The word is never construed with the accusative of the person or thing sprinkled." As for instance, to give one out of many, "He sprinkled thereof upon the altar." It is whatever is sprinkled that is connected with the verb. So here this would necessitate the many nations being sprinkled, and so many do render it "scatter many nations," which must be refused. As Delitzsch justly says, "There would be something very abrupt in this sudden representation of the servant as a priest sprinkling." Thus it would appear certain that its use here differs from all the others. But in the tongue closely kindred to the Hebrew, Arabic, the word is used of persons in its primal sense of leaping up as impelled by some deep emotion, and as this makes a perfect antithesis to the first line of verse 14 I have felt clear in adopting, "make start with astonishment."
2 "Christian scholars," says the Jew, Abravanel, "interpret this prophecy as referring to that man who was crucified in Jerusalem about the end of the second temple, and who according to their view was the Son of God, who became man in the womb of the virgin. But Jonathan ben Uzziel explains it as referring to the Messiah who has yet to come; and this is the opinion of the ancients in many of their midrashim" (commentaries). Well, that at least shows that the ancient Jews knew that the subject of the prophecy was Messiah!
3 By Sir Robert Anderson's chronology, which seems strongly assured.
4 "Report," that which was heard, not what we spoke. See 2 Sam. 4:4, where the same word is rendered "tidings."
5 The word "sorrow" is in the plural, thus giving the idea of intensity, or of more forms of sorrow than one. 6 Heb. nahga, "to strike heavily." It is the word used for the plague of leprosy as in 2 Chron. 26:20. Comp. "The hand of God hath touched me" (Job 19:21).
7 In the same way as His baptism in Jordan was a fulfilling of all righteousness in a shadow or figure.
8 The idea in the word translated "taken," in A.V., is not that of "translation" as Enoch, but of being hurried away.
9 This line is one of acknowledged difficulty, as the divergent renderings show. For instance, the word rendered "declare" is primarily "to bring forth"; if this be applied to words, then it is "to declare or speak"; if to thoughts, it becomes to "meditate," as many insist it should be here. If those thoughts are happy, then the idea of "singing" is introduced (Ps. 45:5); if sad, it becomes "to complain" (Job 7:11). So too the prime meaning of "dohr" (generation) is "to go round in a circle," then from this, "an age" or "generation," as being the circuit of the years of life. Then, into this, a moral element is introduced, and it becomes a race of men, distinguished by some moral trait, as Deut. 22:15, and Matt. 23:36. Nor is the idea of "posterity" excluded, as Num. 9:10 ("If any man of you, of your posterity") shows.
10 It is the word rendered "exalted" in chap. 52:13 of A.V., the first movement in the path of victory.
11 I have adopted Sir. Robt. Anderson's careful chronology.
12 This the is strict meaning of the word rendered "abolished" in A.V.
13 Mr. C. H. Burchell, of Birmingham, England.
14 This word is a very strong one, as Ps. 90:3 shows: "Thou turnest man to crushing." The word for "bruise" in Gen. 3:15 is quite different (here daka, there suph), nor must it be permitted that Satan had any part whatever in this atoning bruising—that was from Jehovah only.
15 The sense of the word is a divinely acquired knowledge.
16 Lit., "I will allot Him a portion in many, and with strong ones He shall allot the spoil."
17 Many Hebraists have adopted this; for instance, the Septuagint reads: "Therefore He shall inherit many"; Luther: "I will give Him a great multitude for booty"; Birks: "I divide Him a portion from the many."
18 The beth, meaning "in," as in the previous clause, is in this turned to eth, meaning "with," which makes the difference, as in text.