The Burdened Servant

Isaiah 53:4-6

The Golden Passional of the Old Testament - The Burdened Servant

Is it possible in a short sentence to present our faith? That question has been asked of late. We might point to that wonderful compendium of faith as expressed in the Apostle's Creed, but then it occupies more space than a sentence. When Robert Taylor asked Spurgeon, in his last illness, if he could state his faith in a sentence, without hesitation he gave it in four words: "Jesus died for me." Dr. Fullerton tells of a Church sister who, in visiting a hospital was asked by one of the nurses to speak to a dying boy, who was as much a heathen in Central London as if he had been born in Central Africa. Evidently guided by the Holy Spirit, she said: "Sonny, God made you; God loves you; God came down from Heaven and died for you; and now He is going to take you home to be with Him for ever." "Say it again, lady," he pleaded, so she said it again twice over: "Sonny, God made you; God loves you; God came down from Heaven and died for you, and now He is going to take you home to be with Him for ever." Pulling himself up by the rope hanging over the bed, the boy, who seemed to have gained new vitality, said: "Then thank Him for me," but before she could respond he fell back lifeless, and proved it all for himself, and gave his own thanks face to face with the Eternal. Any preaching or teaching that does not centre on, and radiate from, the substitutionary death of Christ, is doomed to failure, and has no Gospel in it. Is it possible in a short sentence to present our faith? Most certainly. Here is the inspired word: "The Gospel- Christ died for our sins" (1Co 15:1-3).

In the third stanza of the Golden Passional which is before us at this moment we have presented to us the Burdened Servant. The speakers are the penitent people of God in the future. In outline we have:

1. An Assumption. "Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isa 53:4).

2. A Confession. "Yet we did esteem Him stricken," etc. (Isa 53:4).

3. A Declaration. "But He was wounded," etc (Isa 53:5 and Isa 53:6). We find ourselves contrasting His burden with ours, as shown in Psalm 68:19.

4. God Burdening His People with Blessings. "Blessed be the Lord who daily loadeth us with benefits." Here in the Golden Passional God's Servant is seen with a load of sins laid upon Him by God.

5. God Sharing His People's Burdens. "Blessed be the Lord, who daily beareth our burden" (R.V.). But in the Golden Passional He had to bear His crushing load alone.

Examining very closely this third stanza, we find two burdens.

I. THE BURDEN OF SYMPATHY. The Bleeding Sympathy of the Servant. On the surface of these verses we have a declaration of Christ's true sympathy. "And Jesus, moved with compassion." That last word is an exceedingly strong one. "Passion"- that is a word descriptive of the sorest of suffering. "Come" -together, a suffering with another, a sharing of the sorrow because of the most intimate and closest affinity. Two harps, if perfectly tuned together, though at either end of a room, if one be struck the other will respond. We have not a High Priest who is not touched with the feeling of our infirmity. His manhood was, and is, so perfectly attuned to ours, that when we suffer, He suffers with us. A truly sympathetic sick-visitor will, when in the sick room beholding the gasping sufferer, involuntarily have the same sensation, and for the moment feel as if he or she were struggling for breath. Our Lord's sympathy is a heart sympathy. He not only speaks the consoling word, but shoulders our burdens, getting right under our sorrows. True sympathy always means this. Let all Christian workers pray for grace to retain their tender and sympathetic touch, and to be preserved from those dulling and hardening effects of daily routine and constant contact with suffering.

But there is infinitely more suggested here than the sympathetic identification with the sorrows of others: we have


The Vicarious Suffering of the Servant. That is to say, we have here declared an active bearing of those consequences of sins which He had not committed. It is here we part from much, very much of the preaching and teaching of to-day. So-called "Modernism" sees only in the death of Christ the bleeding sympathy of Jesus with us. We, too, see that-but we go very much further. If words mean anything at all, Psalm 68:5 and Psalm 68:6, do clearly and emphatically declare the Saviour's death as substitutionary.

There is a close connection between Psalm 68:3 and Psalm 68:4. They supposed He was suffering on account of some great sin of His own. But they had erred. It was for sin-but not His own actual transgressions. It was our sin imputed unto Him, and in that sense, and only in that way, made His own. This third stanza is an acknowledgment that they had erred.

Of course this is prophecy yet to be fulfilled so far as the Jewish nation is concerned. Even up to the present day they persist in their cruel and erroneous mistake. To-day, the orthodox Jew considers our Lord suffered for His own sins, and He is called Poshe-the Transgressor. "In the Talmud Jesus of Nazareth is placed in hell alongside of Titus and Balaam, and as undergoing not only the severest, but the most degrading form of punishment." But they will alter their view. May that day be hastened!

A very eminent Jewish authority, himself a converted Jew, known and beloved by me in my own Mildmay days, but now with his Lord in the Glory, on Psalm 68:4-6, declared that no plainer or stronger words could be used to express the thought of vicarious suffering than those employed in the original of this verse. The verb "to bear," is continually used in Leviticus of the expiation effected by the appointed sacrifices, as, for instance, Lev 16:22. Both the verbs used in Isa 53:4, "borne," "carried," are to be understood in the sense of an expiatory bearing, and not merely of taking away. "The meaning is not merely that the Servant of God entered into the fellowship of our sufferings, but that He took upon Himself the suffering which we had to bear, and deserved to bear, and bore them in His own person, that He might deliver us from them."

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