Isaiah 52:15


Whatever may be the immediate and historical reference of this term "servant," of this we may feel quite sure - the full reference must be to Messiah, and to the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah. Now, it is certainly singular that no trustworthy traces of the appearance of our Lord have come down to us. Everybody may imagine for himself what were the features and expression of his Divine Master; and it is better that our free imaginations should have no limitations to the representation of any artistic genius. We remember in an exhibition observing a number of paintings of the thorn-crowned head. The faces of our Lord precisely differed according as the artist was Spanish, Italian, or English, or had made the uncertain attempt of creating a face of Jewish type. All that Scripture asserts is that, so far as face and form were concerned, there was nothing arresting about Christ; you might have passed him by as a common man. It is even suggested that, as with his servant Paul, men might have rudely said that his "bodily presence was contemptible." Dean Plumptre remarks, "These words (of ver. 14) conflict strangely with the type of pure and holy beauty with which Christian art has made us familiar as its ideal of the Son of man. It has to be noted, however, that the earlier forms of that art, prior to the time of Constantine, and, in some cases, later, represented the Christ as worn, emaciated, with hardly any touch of earthly comeliness; and that it is at least possible that the beauty may have been of expression rather than of feature or complexion"

I. WHAT MESSIAH WAS - IN FACT. In no way striking. Not aristocratic-looking, or handsome, or big. Just a man, simple, undistinguished-looking. Dekker, one of our early English poets, says -

"The best of men that e'er wore earth about him was a sufferer,
A soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit,
The first true gentleman that ever breathed."

II. WHAT MESSIAH WAS - CONTRARY TO EXPECTATION. Jewish hopes fashion a hero-king, a patriot like Judas Maccabaeus, a restorer of David's line of kings. Instead, he was a simple Man, who lived a life; a Sufferer who bore a burden of peculiar sorrows; a Man who seemed to end his life in failure and shame.

III. WHY WAS MESSIAH THUS DIFFERENT TO ALL EXPECTATION OF HIM? Because men are so enslaved to the literal, the temporal, the earthly. There was nothing in the Man to attract, because God would have us feel the attractions of the Divine Saviour. - R.T.









So shall He sprinkle many nation.
"Sprinkle;" possibly "startle," cause to rise up in wonder and reverence. The nations were familiar with the afflictions and abjectness of the Servant; suddenly, and without intimation of it, they see His elevation and stand up in reverential silence, before Him.

(A.B. Davidson, D.D.)

I. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THIS PROPHECY IN GENERAL. This prophecy hath been in part already accomplished, in the diffusive spread of the Gospel throughout the world: many nations whereof have been plentifully sprinkled with its Divine doctrines, and made nominal Christians; and many individuals in those nations been made real converts, by virtue of that "blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel."

II. SOME OF THOSE PECULIAR DOCTRINES OF CHRISTIANITY WHICH WE MAY SUPPOSE TO BE HERE REFEREED TO, most of which were in a great measure, and some of them altogether, unknown to the world, before the Messiah came.

1. The doctrine of man's apostacy, and the way wherein moral evil made its first entrance into the world.

2. The method of man's recovery from the miseries of his apostate state, by the mediation and redemption of Christ.

3. The renovation of our natures by the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit.

4. The doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity.

5. The incarnation of the Son of God.

6. The doctrine of grace.

7. The gracious and effectual operations of the Holy Spirit on the heart of man.

8. The resurrection of the body.

9. Several particular circumstances relating to the final judgment are the peculiar discoveries of the Christian revelation, that Christ will be the Judge, etc.

10. The undoubted certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments.

(A. Mason, M.A.)

Christian Age.
Bishop George Augustus Selwyn was a splendid type of the muscular Christian. As a missionary he was a mighty force, and as a friend he was universally beloved. An incident in his career as Missionary Bishop of New Zealand well shows what manner of man he was. Governor Grey and Bishop Selwyn were out together on a walking expedition, and it was Easter Sunday. "Christ has risen!" Selwyn reverently welcomed the day, and his companion joined, "He has risen indeed!" They were communing in that spirit when a bundle of letters was brought into the tent. One to Selwyn the news of the death of Siapo, a Loyalty Islander, who had become a Christian under his teaching, and who was being educated with other natives at his seminary in Auckland. The Bishop, overcome with grief, burst into tears; then he broke some moments of silence with the words, "Why, you have not shed a single tear! "No," said the Governor, "I have been so wrapped in thought that I could not weep. I have been thinking of the prophecy that men of every race were to be assembled in the kingdom of heaven. I have tried to imagine the wonder and joy prevailing there at the coming of Siapo, the first Christian of his race. He would be glad evidence that another people of the world had been added to the teaching of Christ." "Yes, yes," said Selwyn, drying his tears, "that is the true idea to entertain, and I shall not weep any more."

(Christian Age.)

The kings shall shut their mouths at Him
I. THE UNIQUE SPECTACLE WHICH CHRIST PRESENTS. All that is great in this spectacle gathers round what this Servant is to be and do. We observe five distinguishing features —

1. Wondrous wisdom. "My Servant shall deal prudently." Jesus was filled with the spirit of Wisdom and understanding; with a keen and piercing glance He saw men through and through. But it was not only in confounding His enemies that His superhuman wisdom was shown; it was also in the means He used for establishing that kingdom which He came to found. Means on which the world would have relied He forbade and abjured. Means never tried before were the only ones He would use. He would have no sword employed either to defend Himself, or. to, extend His sway, but equipped His warriors only with "power from on high" !

2. Wondrous sorrow (ver. 14). He was "a man of sorrows "

3. Wondrous elevation. "He shall arise, and be lifted up, and be glorified exceedingly." These words exactly indicate the resurrection, the ascension and the exaltation to mediatorial glory.

4. Wondrous redeeming efficacy. "So shall He sprinkle many nations." As His sorrow was intense, so shall His redeeming power be large, as if the one were a recompense for the other. There were (among others) two kinds of sprinkling enjoined by the Mosaic law, to either or to both of which a reference may be intended here. The sprinkling of blood, being towards and on the mercy-seat, was God-wards; the sprinkling of water, as on the Levite or leper, was on the person, manwards. So the work of Christ has this double aspect. The blood-shedding was God's own atoning act in Him, for us; the cleansing grace is God's purifying act, through Him, in us.

5. Wondrous uniting power. "So shall He sprinkle many nations." He would absolve and sanctify, not the Jew only, but also the Greek, "and thus abolish the wall of partition between Israel and the heathen, and gather into one holy Church with Israel, those who had hitherto been pronounced unclean. How vividly is the fulfilment of this portrayed in Acts 10.

II. WHAT IS THERE HERE THAT SHOULD LEAD KINGS, IN PARTICULAR, TO DO THIS? Is it that though kings and princes know all that earth has to give of luxury and splendour, they see here a pomp that outshines all beside? That may be so, but we think the mason lies deeper still. It is evidently on account of something before unknown that they are to "shut their mouths," for the text goes on to say, "That which had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Around what do the thoughts and associations of kings gather? Do they not gather round the sceptre, crown and empire? Do they not naturally weigh in the balance one monarchy against another? Surely. Well, here is such a monarchy as earth had never known before, and one that will ever stand absolutely alone.

1. In this monarchy alone right and might are entirely equal.

2. This monarchy is based on the King s own self-sacrifice.

3. How did He set up this kingdom? A few poor fishermen undertook to instruct and convert the world. The success was prodigious.

4. This monarchy was based on the King's own priesthood.

5. The power of love is the only power that gathers men round the Cross

6. This monarchy was inaugurated by the issue of a royal pardon offered to the worst of sinners, "beginning at Jerusalem."

7. This is a monarchy that, uniting men under its sceptre, creating a new power of love towards itself, creates also a new power of love for man towards man, as well as of man for Jesus; and, strange as it may seem, in gathering men of every tribe and tongue under its sceptre, it makes them forget their diversity, and brings them to feel their oneness in one common God and Father; and by the pulse-beat of a common life in all the nations, solves the long-vexed problem of the unity of the human race! Nor is this all.

8. Everywhere the one force which holds together the subjects of this Monarch is love! — not fear, not constraint, but love. Is there nothing in such a monarchy as this to give a clue to the meaning of the expression, "Kings shall shut their mouths at Him"? The expression evidently denotes the effect which the report or the sight of such a monarchy should produce upon them. Some take it as meaning that they should shut their mouths in silent fear. Others, that they should withdraw the edicts against Christianity. We rather, with Mr. Urwick, take it as indicating "the awe-inspiring power" of Christ. There may be yet a deeper meaning in the expression, "shall shut their mouths" — a meaning which applies only to Christian kings, and not to them simply as kings, but rather as Christians in common with others. The words may indicate the silence induced by deep emotion.

(J. Culross, D.D.).

Who hath believed our report?
Isaiah 53:— By some it has been supposed, in ancient times and in modern, that the prophet was referring to the sufferings of the nation of Israel — either of Israel as a whole or of the righteous section of the nation — and to the benefits that would accrue from those sufferings to the surrounding peoples, some of whom were contemptuous of Israel, all of whom may be described as ignorant of God. But to defend that opinion it is necessary to paraphrase and interpret some of the statements in a way that no sound rules of exposition will allow. Even Jewish historians are wont to represent the sufferings of their people as the consequence of sin, whereas these verses speak repeatedly of sufferings that are vicarious. St. Paul says in one place that the fall of the Jews "is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles;" but he is so far from meaning that the Jews suffered in the stead of the Gentiles, that he proceeds at once to argue by implication: If the world has been blessed notwithstanding the unfaithfulness of the Jew, how much more would it have been blessed if Israel had been true? It is quite possible that the great figure of the Servant of Jehovah, standing in the front of all these verses, was designed to have more than a single interpretation, to be reverently approached from many sides, to be full of appeals to the patriotism and to the piety of the Israelite; but at the same time it is no mere abstract conception, but the figure of a living and separated Person, "more perfect than human believer ever was, uniting in himself more richly than any other messenger, of God everything that was necessary for the salvation of man, and finally accomplishing what no mere prophet" ever attempted. And some of the authorities of the synagogue even might be quoted in favour of the almost universal Christian opinion, that the Man of Sorrows of this chapter despised, and yet triumphant, is no other than the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world, who over-trod the lowest levels of human pain and misery, and who hereafter will sit enthroned, on His head many crowns, and in His heart the satisfaction of assured and unlimited victory.

(R.W. Moss, D.D.)

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

(A. Crawford, M.A.)

and of all natures at once spiritual and sympathetic throughout the ages. All real prophets in every age have in them much of the true Hebrew nature, with its depths and its limitations.

(A. Crawford, M.A.)

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

(A. B. Davidson, D.D.)

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

(F. Sessions.)

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

From the Jews wresting this text, observe —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

( T. Manton, D.D.)

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

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

III. SO FEW BELIEVE, BECAUSE GOD'S ARM IS NOT REVEALED TO THEM; the power of the Word is not manifested by the Spirit.

( T. Manton, D. D. .)

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

1. An erroneous opinion of the Messiah.

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

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

( T. Manton, D. D.)

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

2. The meanness of the reporters — poor fishermen.

3. The hard conditions upon which they were to entertain Christ.

( T. Manton, D. D.)

The hindrances to believing in Him are these:

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

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

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

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

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

6. Hardness of heart.

7. Self-confidence.

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

(1)Fear of God's anger, as if He were so displeased with us that certainly He did not intend Christ for us.

(2)Fear of being too bold with the promises.

(3)Fear of the sin of presumption.

9. Carnal reasonings from our sins.

10. Carnal apprehensions of Christ.

( T. Manton, D. D.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. WE WILL CONSIDER THE COMPLAINT. "Who hath believed our report?"

(J. Lathrop, D.D.)

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

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

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

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

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

(J. Parker, D.D.)

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

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

III. THE MAKER OF THIS HEAVY LAMENTATION.

1. The unsucessfulness of the Gospel, and prevailing unbelief among them that heard it. Consider —(1) What the Gospel is. A "report." The word signifies a "hearing," a thing to be heard and received by faith, as a voice is received and heard by the ear. Hence that expression, "the hearing of faith" (Galatians 3:2).(2) What faith is. It is a giving credit to the Gospel, and a trusting our souls to it, as on a word that cannot fail.(3) How rare that faith is. "Who hath believed!" The report is brought to multitudes; but where is the man that really trusts it, as news from heaven, that may be relied on?

2. The great withdrawing of the power of God from ordinances. "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" This implies(1) That there is a necessity of the mighty power of God being exerted on a man, to cause him to believe (John 6:44).(2) That few, very few, felt this power.(3) That hence so few believed.

(T. Boston, M.A.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. A comforting power (Psalm 119:49, 50).

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

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

III. THE REASONS OF THE DOCTRINE.

I. It must be a matter of lamentation to the godly in general. For —(1) The honour of Christ is thereby overclouded.(2) The glory of the glorious Gospel is thereby veiled.(3) Souls are thereby lost, while salvation is come to their door.(4) The godly themselves suffer loss, the thronger Christ's family is, the better thriven are the children; and contrariwise. If there were more converting, there would be more confirming work too.

2. Particularly to godly ministers.(1) Thereby their care and pains are much lost, and in vain.(2) Their work is rendered more difficult and wearisome.(3) The seals of their ministry are but small.

(T. Boston, M. A.)

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

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

3. Much formality in attendance on ordinances.

4. Little of the work of conversion or soul-exercise.

(T. Boston, M. A.)

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

1. In the nature of a report in general.(1) There is the subject of a report, or the thing that is reported, some design, action, or event, true or false. The subject of the Gospel-report is, a love-design in God for the salvation of sinners of mankind (2 Timothy 1:9, 10). It is the report of an act of grace and kindness in God, in favours of them, whereby He has given them His Son for a Saviour (John 3:16; Isaiah 9:6), and eternal life in Him (1 John 5:11). The report of the event of Christ's dying for sinners.(2) There is the place whence the report originally comes. And the place here is heaven. Hence the Gospel is called "heavenly things" (John 3:12), revealed from the bosom of the Father.(3) The matter of a report is something unseen to them to whom the report is made. And so is the matter of the Gospel-report. It is an unseen God (John 1:18); an unseen Saviour (1 Peter 1:8); and unseen things (2 Corinthians 4:18), that are preached unto you by the Gospel. So the Gospel is an object of faith, not of sight (Hebrews 11:1). We receive it by hearing, not by seeing (Isaiah 55:3).(4) There is a reporter or reporters. And in this case the report is made by many. The first-hand reporter is an eye-witness, Jesus Christ. Christ Himself was the raiser of the report of the Gospel (Hebrews 2:3). And who else could have been so? (John 1:18). What He reported He saw, and gives us His testimony of the truth of it on His eyesight (John 3:11). Hence He is proposed to us as "the faithful and true Witness" (Revelation 3:14), who was from eternity privy to the whole design revealed to us in the Gospel. The prophets and apostles, and ministers of the Gospel. They are the second-hand reporters.(5) There is a manifestation of the thing by the report, to the parties to whom the report is made. So is the grace of God to poor sinners manifested to them by the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:9, 10).

2. In the nature of a report to be trusted to, for some valuable end. And so it is —(1) A true and faithful report, that one may safely trust (1 Timothy 1:15).(2) An infallible report. A report may be true where there is no infallibility: but the report of the Gospel is an infallible truth (Acts 1:3), for it is "the Word of God that cannot lie" (1 Thessalonians 2:13). And the Spirit of the Lord demonstrates it to believers, as Divine truth (1 Corinthians 2:4).(3) A good and comfortable report.(4) A weighty report, even of the greatest weight, as concerning man's greatest possible interest (Isaiah 61:6).

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

1. A trusting of the Gospel-report as true.(1) In the general, with respect to the multitude whom it concerns. "It is a faithful saying, Christ came to save sinners."(2) In particular, with respect to oneself. Faith believes that there is a fulness in Christ for poor sinners, and for oneself in particular. Hence it appears — That there is an assurance in the nature of faith, whereby the believing person is sure of the truth of the doctrine of the Gospel, and that with respect to himself particularly (1 Thessalonians 1:5). That there is a necessity of an inward illumination by the Spirit, in order to the faith of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 2:10-14).

2. A trusting to the Gospel-report as good. It implies —(1) Not only a willingness, but a sincere desire to be delivered from sin, as well as from wrath.(2) A renouncing of all other confidence for his salvation.(3) A hearty approbation of the way of salvation manifested in the report of the Gospel (Matthew 11:6).(4) A betaking one's self entirely to that way of salvation, by trusting to it wholly for our own salvation.(5) A confidence or trust, that He will save us from sin and wrath, according to His promise (Acts 15:11).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(T. Boston, M. A.)

I. CONFIRM THIS POINT.

1. Take a view of the Church in all ages, and the entertainment the Gospel has met with among them to whom it came. It has been a despised and disbelieved Gospel.(1) Under the patriarchal dispensation, from Adam to Moses. By Adam and Eve it was believed, and Adam preached it; but Cain slew Abel and headed an apostasy, etc.(2) Under the Mosaic dispensation, they had the Gospel, though veiled with types and figures. But the body of the generation that came out of Egypt, believed not, but fell in the wilderness (Hebrews 4:2).(3) Under the Christian dispensation (John 12:37, 38; Romans 10:16). At the Reformation the Gospel had remarkable success; yet believers were but few comparatively; and there have been but few all along since that time.

2. Take a view of the Church, setting aside those whom the Scripture determines to be unbelievers; and we will soon see that but few do remain. Set aside —(1) The grossly ignorant of Christ, and of the truths of the Gospel. How can they believe the Gospel, that know not what it is?(2) The profane, who are Christians in name, because they live in a Christian country; but have not a shape of Christianity about them. Surely these do not believe the Gospel (Titus 1:16).(3) The carnal and worldly, who make the world their chief good, mainly seeking that, and favouring it only. These undoubtedly are unbelievers (Philippians 3:19, 20).(4) Mere moralists, all whose religion is confined to some pieces of the second table (Matthew 5:20).(5) Gross hypocrites. That Gospel that cleanses not a man's hands from unjust dealing, his mouth from lying, swearing and filthy speaking, is certainly not believed.(6) Close hypocrites, whose outward conversation is blameless in the eye of the world, but in the meantime are inwardly strangers to God and Christ (Revelation 3:1).(7) All unregenerate persons; for they are certainly unbelievers, as believers are regenerate. Set aside then all these, few remain who trust to the Gospel report.

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

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

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

3. There is a judicial blindness on many (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4).

(T. Boston, M. A.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. A mediate work, which is preparatory to it; whereof the Spirit is the author, and the instrument is the law.(1) An awakening work.(2) A humbling work, whereby the proud sinner is brought low to the dust: not only finding a need of salvation, but an absolute need of Christ for salvation. So he is broken off from self-confidence, creature-confidence, law-confidence.

2. An immediate work, whereby faith is produced in the soul; whereof the Spirit is the author, and the Gospel the instrument. It is —(1) A quickening work, whereby the dead soul is called again to spiritual life (Ephesians 2:1).(2) An illuminating work. There is a knowledge in faith.

(T. Boston, M. A.)

There are four distinctive features predicted —

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

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

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

4. The concealing, as it were, of the "arm of the Lord," owing to the lowly appearance of this Servant.

(C. Clemance, D.D.)

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

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

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

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

(J. Durham.)

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

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

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

(J. Durham.)

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

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

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

(J. Durham.)

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

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

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

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

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

(J. Durham.)

I. THE CHARACTER HERE GIVEN OF THE GOSPEL. A "report." Let us see —

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

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

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

(E. Cooper.)

Essex Congregational Remembrancer.
Every minister of Jesus Christ, imbued with the spirit of his office, is anxious —

(1)To make a faithful report;

(2)Then, in many living witnesses, to behold the illustration of an apostle's assertion, "Faith cometh by hearing, etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. This report is very generally neglected.

2. This neglect is the result of unbelief.

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

4. When this report is believed, it operates with Divine efficiency. What think you of our report?

(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY "THE ARM OF THE LORD."

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

III. THE SCOPE AND DEPENDENCE OF THESE WORDS ON THE FORMER.

(J. Durham.)

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

(J. Parker, D.D.)

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

(F. B. Meyer, B.A.)

(with John 11:40): —

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

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

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

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

2. He put a promise before her — "Thy brother shall rise again." Faith feeds on promises.

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

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

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

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