Sufferings and Glory
Norman T. Golledge, Romford
Every true believer acknowledges gratefully the supreme importance of the cross. Almost every Biblical writer points to it and none more clearly in the Old Testament than Isaiah. Best of all, he speaks of the atonement in his well-known fifty-third chapter, this being a wonderful declaration of the sufferings and glory of the Saviour. How often this peerless passage is quoted by other Biblical writers as Matthew, Mark, John, Peter and Paul! Philip the evangelist preached Christ from it and many others have done so since. It has been well said that if Psalm 23 is the pearl of Psalms then Isaiah 53 is the pearl of prophecies.
The whole chapter deals with our Lord’s sufferings and glory, with His travail and His triumph. How often both are linked together in the Scriptures. Peter tells us that the Spirit of Christ in the prophets testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, 1 Pet. 1. 11. It was the same subject on which our Lord instructed the two disciples who walked with Him to Emmaus, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself”, Luke 24. 26, 27. The writer to the Hebrews brings both together when he says, “we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour”, Heb. 2. 9. We consider both His sufferings and His glory whenever we remember Him in the breaking of bread; the Lord’s supper links together His cross and His coming.
Isaiah 53. 10 seems to be an epitome of the whole chapter and contains the essential theme of the passage - the suffering and the glory of the Lord. The first three statements in the verse deal with His suffering and the remaining three with His glory.
“Yet it Pleased the Lord to Bruise Him.” At first sight this is a strange statement. Are we pleased when we see our children suffer or for that matter anyone suffer? The Amplified Old Testament says that it was the will of the Lord to bruise Him and Peter gives further light when he states in Acts 2. 23 that included in the cross is man’s responsibility, “Him ... ye have ... by wicked hands crucified and slain”, and also the divine initiative for our salvation, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”. Here is the Godward aspect of the cross - the work of atonement which only God could do. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself . . . For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”, 2 Cor. 5. 19-21. “The cross of Christ not only justifies man to God but justifies God to men for it clears the divine character from all appearance of indifference to sin in the ages before Christ came” (Griffith Thomas). But our Lord was not forced into this as an unwilling agent. He voluntarily endured this suffering for our salvation; “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many”, Mark 10. 45. We bow in spirit at the cross as those who owe everything to God’s grace and join with Paul in acknowledging, “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”, Gal. 2. 20.
The whole chapter tells us again and again (e.g., v. 5) that His sufferings were vicarious and substitutionary. This is beautifully depicted in the children’s hymn:
“He knew how wicked we had been
He knew that God must punish sin;
So out of pity Jesus said
I’ll bear the punishment instead.”
“He (God) hath put Him (Jesus) to Grief.” The word “bruise” in the earlier part of the verse would suggest more particularly our Lord’s physical sufferings which were intense. We speak of excruciating pain and this word springs from the word “crucifixion”. But this second statement referring to our Lord’s “grief” brings before us His even greater sufferings - His mental and spiritual agony. Grief is a deep inward sorrow. This refers to the time when He who knew no sin was made sin for us, 2 Cor. 5. 21, when the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all, Isa. 53. 6. Truly “the sufferings of His soul were the soul of His sufferings”. “What He endured no tongue can tell, to save my soul from death and hell”. He bare the penalty of sin expressed in His cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, Matt. 27. 46. Our conception of His grief is at the most very limited. But what we cannot understand we accept by faith and bow reverently before Him in adoration and thanksgiving.
The third statement of our verse brings before us the divine initiative for our salvation:
“When Thou shalt make His Soul an Offering for Sin.” Let us notice this initiative as expressed in the phrases “It pleased the Lord . . . he hath put him to grief . . . when thou shalt make his soul. . .”. Here is the glory of Christianity: God at work for our blessing. In all religions of the world men seek to appease and placate their gods, but the message of Christianity is that the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost. Eleven times at least we are told in this chapter that He bare our sins or words to that effect. The cross shows us the heinousness of sin; what sin does to man and how sin appears to God. How terrible must sin be if nothing less than the offering of the Lord Jesus was necessary for its atonement. How the cross ought to beget in us a holy hatred of that which made His crucifixion necessary.
We have thought of His sufferings; we pass now to His glory. If His sorrow was unique, Lam. 1. 12, then His glory is also unique, Phil. 2. 10, 11; Eph. 1. 20-23. We are told
“He shall see His Seed.” This is His spiritual offspring: the travail (the fruit) of His soul, v. 11. “Behold I and the children which God hath given me”, Heb. 2. 13. He Himself spoke of a grain of wheat falling into the earth and dying, and then producing many others and yielding a rich harvest, John 12. 24. He was that corn of wheat; He died alone. None else could die a vicarious death like His. But a great harvest has resulted and we are part of it. Indeed He shall see His seed and this will show that all the suffering of the cross was worthwhile.
“He and I in that bright glory
One deep joy shall share;
Mine to be forever with Him
His that I am there.”
“He shall Prolong His Days.” Earlier the prophet has told us that “he was cut off out of the land of the living”, Isa. 53. 8. Such was the violence of His death, cut off at thirty-three years of age in the full strength and vigour of manhood. But He shall prolong His days; nevermore will He suffer and die. He lives now in the power of an endless life, Heb. 7. 16; “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore”, Rev. 1. 18.
“The Pleasure of the Lord shall Prosper in His Hand.” During His life down here He said, “I do always those things that please the Father”. He always does this and always will. It is His pleasure to be the agent of the Godhead. He cannot fail: He always prospers. It was said of Him during His earthly ministry, “He doeth all things well”.
“We see Jesus . . . crowned with glory and honour”. God has crowned Him as a fitting conclusion to His sufferings. Ours is the privilege and duty in this scene of His rejection to crown Him Lord of our lives. But He is also our Example. We too must be willing to suffer for His sake and as glory has followed His sufferings so we too shall know the same, Rom. 8. 18. “This is the way the Master went; should not the servant tread it still?”