Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
Monday: The Saving Arm of the Lord
“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” ~ Isa. 53:1
Our sins are our tomb. Left to ourselves, we are unable to repent and believe the gospel. Free forgiveness and reconciliation with God are the best news we can ever hear, but sin hardens our hearts against the truth. We do not want to come to the light lest our deeds should be exposed (John 3:20).
God must open our eyes to receive his truth. This is what Isaiah means by asking the question, “And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” A thousand sermons may beat upon our ears, but our ears are nailed shut because our hearts are rock hard. Jesus might stand before us and show us his wounds, but it would be unavailing unless God breathes new life into us. His strong arm must smash our stony hearts and give us the love of the truth that we might be saved.
Wonder not that masses of men reject and ridicule a crucified Savior. Rejecting the bitter dose of sin and judgment, they cannot receive the precious balm of the gospel. Christians also are in need of God’s quickening power, for we fall many times, and God must continually raise us up. David had to hear “thou art the man” from Nathan the prophet. Peter had to fall and face his pride before he wept tears of repentance. Every truly repentant man has had a similar moment, many moments when God has revealed his holy arm to him. The waves and billows of conviction’s sorrow must roar before the soothing showers of grace and repentance will fall.
How easily conviction is quenched! We are easily distracted, make many excuses, and compare ourselves to others. When conviction comes, we try to push God’s arm away. Alas, we are afraid to feel its crushing weight, but it is also his healing hand. He does not come to destroy but to heal us. Let us not think, then, that we are perfect in our ways, as most men do, or need but a small reformation. If we are God’s children, he will not leave us in our delusions. We cannot know Jesus’ saving beauty and power until sin’s ghastly ugliness humbles our pride and leads us to cry for healing.
Pray, child of God, for God to reveal his saving arm to you. Better to see the truth and weep unto repentance than to remain deluded and miserable. No disease was ever as painful as the horror of sin dawning upon the soul. David was a godly man, but when God showed him his evil, he was completely broken. When God revealed himself to Job, he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes – and he was one of the godliest men who ever lived! When God reveals his holy arm to you, it is crushing, but joy will come after the night of weeping. Turning to Jesus, you will find rest unto your soul.
Tuesday: Our Lowly Savior
“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and 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.” ~ Isa. 53:2
One of the ways we learn about our sinfulness is by the kind of Savior God sent to us. He did not send a mystical guru, as in the eastern religions, for sin is not caused by our physical nature or environment. Escape from the world of sense will do us no good at all. Nor can we follow the charlatans of moralism, as in Islam and Judaism, as well as the Christian-counterfeit cults, who prescribe salvation by following the rules of their founders. Judgment fell upon us when we broke God’s law; can we be saved by following man’s made-up rules?
There is one common thread uniting all false views of salvation. They focus solely upon the external: keeping up appearances, being religious, following prescribed guidelines, and practicing ritual. When God sent Jesus Christ into the world, he revealed the degrading reality of sin. He sent, if you will, an ugly Savior to show us the ugliness of our sin.
By ugly is not meant so much our Savior’s outward appearance. Rather, he had nothing external to commend him. He grew up like a small plant or root; he became weakness itself for us. He barely survived the statist storms that surrounded this birth. His outward form was not impressive. No Samson did God send to save us, or inspiring moral crusader, or one of respectable earthly connections. No evident beauty was present in him, something to distinguish him from the masses of humanity.
This is not all that can be said about our Savior’s physical appearance or presence. Certainly those who believed beheld the glory of the incarnate Word, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. That glory was not revealed primarily in his human appearance but in his words of wisdom and deeds of power and love, and especially by his death on the cross. Through him, God said to us, I am sending the lowly and suffering Savior because sin has utterly degraded you. I am sending the outwardly weak and unimpressive because men have for too long looked to outward things to save them. I am sending my Son, clothed in the weakness of man’s nature, because in him I want you to see what sin has done to you.
Many still follow and look for the Absalom’s of this world, men of fair and promising appearance, with fawning entourages and vain promises of something new and exciting. We must stand back and let these parades pass. Sin has sunk us too low for them to be of any help to us. We must look to the One who flung himself into the pit of our corruption and baseness. Face yourself, O sinner. Look into your soul and behold the festering filth. Believe upon the name of the lowly Savior who delivered you by taking your sinfulness upon himself. He was made so low because our sins had sunk us into the pit of hell. He went there for us. Should we not utterly love him and run to him for cleansing?
What a relief it is to put away the make-up and fig leaves and to stand before God as we truly are! It is not a pretty sight. It is shocking to see how debased we are by sin. Yet there is no other way to partake of Jesus Christ than to come to him as the broken cripples, the unclean lepers, and the roaring lunatics that we are. He humbled himself for our sake. We must come to him confessing our pride and corruption, as well as the many idols of our hearts. Only he who descended into our hell can raise us up to his heaven.
Wednesday: The Redeemer’s Tears
“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.” ~ Isa. 53:3
The Savior God sent into the world did not come laughing or making humorous quips. He would rejoice later. The joy was set before him. On earth, he had a sober mission. Many are the reasons that he was despised and rejected. He confronted sin and corrected the Jewish mishandling of God’s holy law. He came preaching repentance, not “everyone is basically good.” He said the blessed life is the self-denying one.
There are other reasons, however, for his rejection. None ever came close to entering as fully and deeply as he did into our fallen condition. We read of him grieving over man’s hardness of heart and the missed “day of visitation.” He wept at Lazarus’ tomb. With the cross of our shame looming directly before him, he cried great drops of blood. He was rejected and hated because he would not lightly heal our wound. He would probe it; he would be pierced for it. His soul was besieged until he drank the cup of our judgment.
He was the man of sorrows. This is very different from the professed grief of some who lament the plight of the poor and afflicted of the world, the struggles of the world’s refugee population, and the spread of various diseases. This is weeping over sin’s consequences. There is selfishness in much of this grief, for there is a great deal of money in the politics of guilt and pity, as well as fame and power. Our Savior surely wept over sin’s consequences, but he wept more deeply over the sin that brings the consequences. The gulf between these two is the chasm between heaven and hell. It is the difference between simple regret and true repentance. Any child of this world can regret the consequences of his actions. Only the believer shudders at sin, because Jesus did and took its full weight upon himself.
The reason for the misery and sorrow in the world is that sin has estranged us from God, who is our joy and peace. Horrible can be the consequences of sin; worse yet is the sin itself. It separates us from God. It plagues our souls with guilt. Jesus Christ was despised and rejected because he had to become sin for us. He had to become personally one with our grief – the grief that separates from God’s comfortable presence, the grief we would feel in hell forever. He was despised because our sins had made us despised – under God’s wrath and judgment. We hid our face from him. Sin is too terrifying to face, and he became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21).
This was the cup our Savior saw in the Garden. It was the cup that completely unhinged him. For this reason I have come, he once confessed, but when the time came to drink it, it required the deepest submission of his will to his Father’s will to walk the last mile. Awestruck angels came to support him in that hour. He arose, met his accusers, and resolved to become despised and rejected before the heavenly Judge so that we might be the favored and accepted.
Man did not esteem him then as anything but the vilest offender. Since he endured these sorrows for our salvation, let us esteem him most precious. Our Redeemer’s tears have cleansed us. Let us go to him outside the camp of the world’s approval and sin’s fleeting pleasures, bearing his reproach. Let us kiss his nail-scarred hands and feet. His cross must be our boast. Through the immeasurable expanses of eternity, we shall never forget that we are so blessed here because he was so cursed for us then. Let us not forget it now but adore our Savior, think no sin worth shaming him, no service to him beneath us, no cross too heavy to bear. He thought no shame and suffering beneath him to redeem us.
Thursday: Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” ~ Isa. 53:4
God is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. If he cannot even look at sin, then there is no hope for us, for we all are an unclean thing. The thought expressed by some of making their case when they stand before God is the babbling of fools. There is no case to be made. He is holy; we are sinful. The verdict is hell under his fiery wrath forever.
Instead of striking us down, beating us with blows, and afflicting us for our sins, he did all this to his Son in our place. The tears he shed and the sorrows he endured were also for us. The truth that our Savior suffered in our place is not simply legal. Eternally thankful we shall be that it was a full, legal substitute, for this means that it was lawful and accepted with God. He is the righteous Judge, and his just wrath was upon us for our sins. Jesus Christ was our legal substitute. He suffered everything that was due to us on account of sin: pain, horror, hell, wrath, and judgment.
Substitutionary atonement is precious beyond words to those who have sensed their sinfulness. Who will pay the debt to divine justice? Where is there a covering for sin? God struck down his Son with the sword of his justice (Zech. 13:7). He covered him with the painful and shameful blows that our iniquities deserve. He afflicted his holy soul with the pains of death and sorrows of hell. The substitution was legal; it was sufficient; it was accepted. It was also deeply personal to our Savior.
He was no unfeeling substitute, as those goats and bulls prescribed under the law. His tears were no crocodile tears but expressed the true anguish of his soul. He felt the pain, the blows, and the separation from the Father whom he loved with all his being, with whom he had shared glory before the world was. Those who looked upon that day, as he hung suffering, thought he was cursed of God. He was. “Cursed is everyone who hangs upon a tree.” Remember, O sinner, it was your curse that he bore. He bore every sorrow and stripe that would have been yours in hell forever.
It cannot be wondered, therefore, that every true Christian adores Jesus Christ and wants to adore him more. Yes, the world still mocks him and his followers, but they have no sense of God’s holiness or their sin. God has revealed his arm to us, however, and we sense both. Often sin makes a resurgence in us. We do not fight against the old man. Sin slides from our tongues too easily. Various lusts enflame us. We are rightly terrified when this happens. Guilt and grief flood the heart that would love God and obey him unfettered from the slime of corruption. What are we to do?
Fresh resolve will not atone for God-offending crimes. Even our confession and repentance require repentance. We often go back to the sins we promised to forsake. There is only one help and hope for us. We must look upon the stricken, smitten, and afflicted Savior. We must return to his cross and take refuge in his wounds. We must remember that he, not we, satisfied divine justice. He is the Rock of our salvation, and he was crushed for us. He is now risen and advocating for us before the Father. His blood is ever distilling in its cleansing power before the throne of God. We are forgiven because “by one offering he hath perfected forever those that are sanctified.” Son of David, have mercy upon us, must be our cry. He will. He will never reject those who look upon his sufferings as their cleansing, their badge of honor, their hope of eternal life.
Friday: By His Stripes We Are Healed
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” ~ Isa. 53:5
One day, you will stand before God. This meeting is inescapable. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.” Forget movie reels of your life. God knows you now; he will know you then. There will be no hiding, only penetrating majesty, unsettling holiness, and perfect justice.
Place yourself there. It is no dream or delusion of preachers. What will you say, if there will be an opportunity to say anything? What hope do you have that the holy God will pardon and receive you? Your friends, spouse, children, and preacher cannot plead for you. Any pretense to being a good person will instantly vaporize before the consuming fire. That on earth you did not believe God existed or worshipped something else will not help you then. There are no true atheists on earth; there will be none before God. Heaven shines on the horizon; hell smokes from the abyss.
There stands the Lamb of God, still looking as if it had been slain. He will be your only help in that hour. For him to speak for you then, embrace you then, you must cast yourself upon him now. Your wounds, O my precious Savior, are my only satisfaction. You were bruised on account of my filth. The cost of my peace you have paid by being chastised in my place. Your wounds are my only healing, for your blood cleanses and atones.
Do you remember his wounds, child of God? He does not ask for your sentiment but for your faith and repentance, adoration and consecration. When you think of your sins, are you beating yourself up for them, thinking somehow you might do something to obtain God’s favor? You must trust in the bruises of Jesus Christ. Peace with God is impossible unless you believe in the substitute God has provided. Lay your crimes at his feet. They are many, but his sacrifice is sufficient. You must be healed before you reach heaven, of you will never be received there. Nothing but faith in his whip-striped back, nail-torn brow, and pierced hands and feet can heal you.
The longer you are a Christian, the more precious will be the sufferings of Jesus Christ, and the larger his cross will loom. We must kneel there daily, for there is much filth in us. Do not hesitate to return often. God is more merciful than men and will certainly forgive seventy times seven, and many more, those who look to the Lamb of God. Look and be healed. Look and have peace with God. Look and love the crucified Savior. Look before it is too late. You will stand before God. You stand before him now. All our ways are before him. He accepts only One in your place.