Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Isaiah 53:4 - Stricken of God

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.

In verse 3, we found the Savior acquainted with grief.
Here we find that it is our grief He bears.
In verse 3, we found the Savior a man of sorrows.
Here we find that it is our sorrows He carries.
In verse 3, we found that we did not take account of the Savior.
Here, we find that our account of Him was misguided.

  • "Surely" is the Hebrew word AKEN, אָכֵן, meaning "truly," or, "in reality," or, "but in truth," denoting a strong contrast between this verse and the one before it.
  • "He Himself" is the emphatic Hebrew demontrative pronoun, HUW', הוּא, showing that He personally and voluntarily lifted our burdens when we were not even aware.
  • "We ourselves" is the emphatic Hebrew personal pronoun, 'ANACHNUW, אֲנַחְנוּ, indicating that our own judgment was far from the reality, and when we finally took notice of Him we drew the wrong conclusions. The cross forces us to take account of Jesus Christ - yet we must not only notice Him, but also discover what His work means.
Why Does He Suffer So?

The common belief in Jesus' day was that a person suffered as a result of his own sin or that of his parents. Suffering was not voluntary, it was not in behalf of others, and it was considered to be a well deserved punishment meted out by God against evildoers. Apparently the book of Job had little effect on the thinking of first century Israel.

While He suffered, the people looked at Jesus and concluded He was being punished by God. This far along they were correct. But they failed to apprehend the reasons: that He suffered voluntarily, bearing only the wrath that we deserved for our sins. Christ's motivation and the motivation of the Father were both misinterpreted because the underlying cause of His suffering was not seen for what it was: a substitution for us, due to His representation of us, resulting in an imputation of sin from us . . . with the attending wrath of God pressing down heavily upon Him.

The sorrow and grief of sin are infinitely heavy. Can you feel them in your soul? Have guilt, condemnation and the wounding of conscience trampled you down into the miry mud bog of despair? Are you drowning in the turmoil of a heart that is deeply aware of its sinfulness? It may seem that way at times, but you and I barely know the measure of the weight of our guiltiness. Only Jesus truly knows it. Our finite emotions can hardly sense the true depth of our trouble. Yes, it's worse than you think. Our sin-warped minds are hard pressed to formulate the real implications of our revolt against Almighty Goodness. We have only a slight perception of these things . . . and even what we have is nearly unbearable to our fragile spirits.

Moreover, our perception of our own sin is stretched out over a lifetime and revealed progressively. Jesus carried it all - yours, mine, the whole world's - concentrated together in one small bit of time and space, a mere 3 hours! Imagine the weight He felt in His soul. No wonder His sweat was like great drops of blood in the hours leading to this event, and He uttered the most grave self-assessment: "I am deeply sorrowful to the point of death."

The regenerated righteous are peculiarly aware of their own unworthiness and misery. They feel most pressed down by their corruptions. However, far from leading to hopelessness, this terrible reality causes more dependence on Christ, more humility, more grace, more fleeing to the Word of God for refuge, more pleadings and prayers for deliverance, more sensitivity to the needs of others, more intercession for those who are not blessed with such vast spiritual resources - and all of this builds a sturdiness of character in which hope solidifies us and leads us to an inexplicable joy, peace, and rest! Just as sin is worse than you think, grace is stronger than you realize.

When it comes to our sorrows and griefs, Jesus is the great Carrier. We can - we must - cast our burdens upon Him. We must always remember that those discomfiting revelations of our depravity are but the residual shadows of a condemnation which has already passed. It has been borne by another in our place.

Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

For those who will not cast their burden of sin upon the Lord Christ, the crushing guilt that is felt now is only a shadow of what is to come. But for those who turn to God in faith, trusting Him to bear away their sin, the feeling of condemnation is temporary and ultimately inconsistent with the truth of full redemption in Christ. 

So, in the objective sense, our sin and guilt have already been carried away to judgment. We find nothing but mercy from our self-propitiating Father. But in the subjective sense, we wrestle with sin and guilt and must daily apply the truth of the Gospel against its powerful advances. We also receive God's loving, fatherly discipline, His temporary judgments that are redemptive and spur us on to growth in Christ. While we await the final perfecting of our minds and the redemption of our mortal bodies at the coming of the Lord, we struggle through the process of sanctification. We're on the way to our promised glorification in Christ, but we haven't reached it yet. However, it is so sure and certain that the apostle writes of it as if it is finished: "... whom He justified, He also glorified." (Romans 8:30). He also says we are presently seated with Christ in the heavenlies, though this does not yet appear in our experience. We live between the cross, with its "finished" judgment against our sin, and the ultimate fulfillment of the redemption purchased there. In such a state, we are both wretched justified sinners needing further sanctification, and redeemed saints in the process of being glorified, being made holy, and being changed into His image. This situation itself is only temporary, as we move onward to the culmination in our own experience of God's eternally finished work. It is so finished, and so guaranteed, that we are even now called "holy" and "perfect" and "glorified" in Christ.

He Willingly Bore the Injustice of Bearing our Just Condemnation

"Stricken," "Smitten," and "Afflicted" are each passive participles in the Hebrew, perhaps showing our misapprehension in thinking that Christ was the unwilling recipient of divine justice.

In reality, He was bearing our sins freely and without coercion. He was not merely being acted upon, but was actively and purposefully submitting to the will of the Father. He certainly did not crucify Himself, but He allowed Himself to be crucified. He did not act to stop it, though His agony would have ended with a mere word from His lips or an unuttered prayer for deliverance. And while we stood looking on and misjudged the reasons for His death, He did what we should have been doing: He asked the Father, "My God, My God, WHY . . ." The simple, child-like faith we should have expressed was instead expressed by Him in fulfillment of Job's prophecy: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!" The answer to His question is this: He was forsaken because we are desperate, depraved sinners - and God loves us too much to give us the justice we deserve but cannot bear - so He absorbed His own wrath. And the cross shows us that even for God, this is (to use the human expression) "more easily said than done." There was a price to pay for our lawlessness - a price so costly that God's spoken Word alone was not enough to remedy it - though a Word would have been sufficient to seal our deserved condemnation. For mercy to appear, there needed to be a divine act of bearing sin, and an obedience that answered our disobedience, for the sake of His pure justice. Christ acted, Christ obeyed, and Christ guaranteed the purchase.

The justice He received was the just wrath we were due. There was no sin in Him to elicit any divine judgment or wrath against Him. The inherent virtue in Him merited only praise. He was falsely condemned by the same humanity whose crimes He bore, while at the same time He was rightly condemned by the Father because He stood as our representative receiving the penalty for our crimes. His sufferings were vicarious and substitutionary - in our place.

When you face the darkness of your heart, do you remember His sufferings on behalf of that heart? When you fall into sin, do you believe He suffered to redeem you from that very sin? When you are victorious over temptation, do you thank Him for purchasing that victory? Do you recognize that your obedience in faith is impossible apart from His sacrifice? The cross (including the resurrection) is the flaming core of our faith and the center point of our sanctification. As we live before the cross, bear the cross, gaze upon the cross, meditate upon the cross, sing of the cross, embrace the cross, and love the cross, we grow in newness of life by the same power that raised Him from the dead.

Dear friend, let us pray thus: may the cross of Christ - and the Christ of the cross - ever captivate our hearts!


  1. Amen.
    I really appreciate your meaty posts with sound Biblical teaching. Your photos are great at illustrating your points.
    I pray that God will use your ministry mightily for His glory.
    Thank you.

  2. Bob,

    Thanks for those encouraging words.

    Like you, and all believers, my great need is to live in these truths - so I thank God for making them known to my desperate heart! And I thank Him for any encouragement they bring to others, by His grace. What a blessing to know and cherish the Gospel!



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