God’s Pleasure in His Son
Drew Craig, Belfast, N. Ireland
‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him’, Matt. 17. 5; 2 Pet. 1. 17.
‘Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief, when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand’, Isa. 53. 10.
The Father’s pronouncement of His pleasure in His Son is a demonstration of unspeakable glory, ‘his face shone as the sun . . . and his raiment was white and glistering’. It caused the watching disciples to fall on their faces. It was not that humans should fall before such glory; it was God, the Father, taking pleasure in the radiance of His Son. He reveals Him in blinding light and says, ’This is my pleasure’.
In measure, as humans, we can understand this revealing of God in His Son, in a scene of resplendent glory. What we find quite beyond us is an explanation of the prophet Isaiah’s word, ‘Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him’! Where do we start in an attempt to interpret the Lord’s heart?
Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, we were given the answer to the great question of how sinful humanity can be reconciled to a holy and righteous God. It was by the bruising and putting to death of His Son. And the staggering thing is that God took pleasure in it! He was not slain by man in an uncontrollable frenzy, He was, as the apostle Peter states, ‘delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God’, Acts 2. 23.
We might ask, why did God do this? He did it to accomplish the task that would bring Him the ultimate pleasure! That we, sinners, might be reconciled to Him! This is the ultimate glory spoken of by the Lord Jesus, ‘Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am that they may behold my glory’, John 17. 24. Why could our sin not be ignored and a merciful God overlook it? Because God loves the honour of His Name! He cannot act as though sin doesn’t matter. So heinous in the sight of God is man’s sin and human guilt that it demanded the death of the Son of God incarnate. What an awesome thought! In Proverbs, we read, ‘He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.’, 17. 15 NKJV. In our day, we are enraged when guilty men go free, yet at the heart of the Christian gospel is the doctrine that God justifies the ungodly, and acquits the guilty! But how can He do that and remain righteous? The answer is, ‘justified, freely, by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’, Rom. 3. 24. Everything the Lord Jesus suffered He suffered for God’s pleasure and glory. He speaks with authority, ‘I do always those things that please him’, the Father, John 8. 29. He also said, referring to His death, ‘Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him’, 13. 31. All the pain, the shame, the humiliation, the dishonour, would bring glory to His Father. He was determined that, through suffering and death, Satan and all hosts would be defeated and ensure that God’s righteous character would not be tarnished. God would justify sinners and retain His glory because He, in the person of His Son, became answerable for our iniquity. This is the gospel, God’s good news! And Paul tells us that the sacrifice of Christ was a fragrant aroma to God, Eph. 5. 2.
Our text goes on to say: ‘He shall see his seed and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand’. Here was an additional way that God would derive pleasure. Despite being ‘cut off out of the land of the living’, unmarried, and without offspring, he would ‘see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied’. In other words, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, ‘For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salva-tion perfect through sufferings’, Heb. 2. 10, and again, ‘Behold I and the children which God hath given me’, v. 13.
And now, finally, we need to ask, ‘Is this justification automatic?’ We find our answer: ‘by faith of Jesus Christ unto all . . . them that believe’, Rom. 3. 22. The apostle goes on to say that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile ‘for all have sinned and come short (missed the mark) of the glory of God’. There we have it again, ‘the glory of God’. This is the beginning and end of the matter. It is this that we are declaring when we preach the gospel. In its proclamation, let us carefully and prayerfully interpret the word, remembering that God’s honour and glory is at stake.