Brethren Archive
Isaiah 52,53

Who Hath Believed Our Report

by W.T.P. Wolston

Read Isaiah 52:7, 13, 14, 53:1-12

There was a man once seated in a chariot crossing a sandy desert, and as he went, reading Isaiah 53, he was startled as a voice rang into his ears, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” That was the eunuch of Acts 8, and the man who spoke to him was Philip, the only man that I know of in Scripture who is called an evangelist. I should like to be an evangelist, above all things under the sun, because the Scripture above quoted gives us God’s estimate of an evangelist, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation.”

The seventh verse of Isaiah 52 closes, you notice, with “that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.” We cannot say that yet—the day is not come for Jerusalem to hear the good tidings, and God does not reign in Zion yet. I wonder whether He reigns in your heart. Has the One of whom this wonderful Scripture speaks got the right place in your heart yet? Of whom does it speak? you may say. Philip told the eunuch that it was Jesus. This man had gone a thousand miles—all the way from Abyssinia—to the ordered condition of religion at Jerusalem, but he did not find peace there. He found formalism and ritual in abundance, but that did not meet the need of his soul. You too, my reader, will not find rest in creeds, kirks, congregations, or ritual of any kind. Life, rest, peace, and joy are wrapped up in the Person of the living Man, who was once dead, but now is at God’s right hand.

I can quite understand the eunuch saying as he read Isaiah 53, “Of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?” The Spirit of God opened Philip’s mouth and furnished the answer, as he preached unto him Jesus. Everything is wrapped up in Jesus; if you have not got Him, you may be what you like, bear what name you like, but you are still a sinner on the road to an eternal hell. You say, “That is plain speaking”—yes, and that is what men need today. Am I going to address you as a saint if you are not one? That would be wrong and unkind to you. But indeed I have glad tidings for you. These are lovely words, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace.” That is the kind of publishing business I like to be a partner in—publishing salvation. You say, “What do you mean by that?” Telling everybody that there is salvation for them in Christ. If you have not got it, you need it, and thank God, what you need His love furnishes in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now get hold of that, I pray you, for it is only in Him.

This remarkable seventh verse of Isaiah 52 Paul quotes in Romans 10, where he says, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (v. 1). He then unfolds the way of salvation: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (v. 9). God has a way of saving man, and you cannot be saved except in God’s way, i.e., believing in your heart, and confessing with your mouth. Why the heart? Because I get right with God in my heart. Not my mind—no, it is in the affections. And how do I get right with man? With my mouth. If I have not confessed before men it is no use saying I believe, for I am a liar. The apostle puts the two together, and then he goes on to say, “For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed . . . for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (vv. 11-13). You turn to the Lord, and you will be saved. There is only one way of getting saved, and that is by turning to the Lord. And when you have turned to the Lord you will confess Him. People generally do not know that they are lost, and that Christ came to seek and save the lost. The reason you have not yet known salvation is that you have never cared to hear, been prepared to own, or been driven to the point of owning—I am a downright lost sinner.

Paul says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? (You would not call upon a person in whose existence you did not believe.) And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (vv. 13-14). God sends the preacher, and what does he preach? Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch; he heard, turned to the Lord, and was saved. I should like you to do the very same just now.

Notice now the quotation: It is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (v. 15). Paul applies, in the energy and power of the Spirit of God, this lovely Old Testament scripture. Oh that you, my reader, may receive the application. What does God send to you? Peace. On what ground? Your doings? No; they are deadly, they will bring you into judgment. You may get peace through the life and death of Another. The tale of Jesus and His love, His atoning death and glorious resurrection, are glad tidings and good news for weary, sin-burdened, self-condemned men. The question is, who will believe this news, for Paul adds, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?” (v. 16). Now I am going to ask you, Have you believed the report? If not, let me give you the report once more, and if you believe it you will say, like the Queen of Sheba, “The half was not told me.”

What I have found in Jesus is infinitely better than what was told me. The report comes to you in your condition of darkness and distance, as a sinner before God, in which you have lived to this very hour. The report is of Jesus, of His love, His grace, and the atoning efficacy of His death. If that report affects and moves your heart, you will come to His feet, you will get into contact with Him, and you will get what the eunuch got—salvation on the spot. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (v. 17). I have great faith in God’s Word, hence I love to face a company of people if I can only bring before them God’s Word, for the entrance of His Word brings light, and you will never forget it.

Now look at Isaiah 53 and see the importance of listening to God’s testimony. The end of chapter 52 is intimately connected with chapter 53. I want you to notice that there are two speakers—Jehovah, and the voice of a believing company, a company that have had their eyes opened—Israel really. It is the voice of Jehovah on the one hand, and Israel on the other, but they are both talking of His servant. The dialogue in these beautiful chapters begins with one of the ringing “Beholds” that calls attention—it is God speaking of His blessed Son. “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high” (52:13). That is what the Holy Ghost is doing today. God has exalted Him, and the Holy Ghost, in the Christians upon earth, is extolling Him. Then God describes what was to take place, “As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” Why were they astonished? Men could not understand Jesus. There never was anybody in this world who had outwardly so little of the expressed favour of God as He. Born in one man’s stable, nailed to another man’s cross, and buried in a third man’s tomb, He, who made everything, had not a penny to call His own. If it was a question of paying the tribute money He must needs say, “Show me a penny.” Why? Because He did not possess one. The Son of God was a penniless stranger in the world that He had made.

Men were very astonished when they saw Him down here in lowly grace; they shall be yet more astonished when they see Him in glory. The Man that died on Calvary’s cross, crowned with thorns, is yet to wield the sceptre of the whole world, and from pole to pole shall His name be acknowledged, for to Him shall every knee bow, and every tongue confess. God, speaking in Isaiah 45:23, affirms this of Jesus as God, but what is His due as God shall be rendered to Him as Man, and because He has been the humbled man. “God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). Every knee shall bow to Him, angelic beings, men, and demons shall all, by-and-by, bow at the name of Jesus. Did you hear what Paul said, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”? If I were you I would anticipate that day, and confess Him now.

Then the Spirit of God leads the prophet to put this question, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (53:1). That is a very serious question. Paul said, “They have not all obeyed the gospel.” Are your sins forgiven? If not, you have not obeyed the gospel, for to all believers the arm of the Lord is revealed, and if He gets you in His arm, there is no fear of you. It is an arm of salvation. “Who hath believed our report?” says God’s Spirit. Who has doubted it? might also be said. There are plenty of doubters. Perhaps you have been a doubter—religious, but unsaved; respectable, but unpardoned; having a name to live all this time, and yet all the while dead in sins. Unsaved reader, it is high time you were aroused.

“To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” is the second query of the prophet. I will tell you—to the people whose voices are heard in the next five verses of Isaiah 53. These verses reveal the feelings of a certain company of people, who unmistakeably are believers. They describe what once was their condition, and how they were delivered from it. “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” (v. 2). This is the language of those who had been unbelievers in days gone by, and been indifferent to Christ. They are describing what were their thoughts and feelings when they were in darkness. You say, That is rather like me. Yes, the words, “And when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him,” describe your past. I have no doubt that a yellow-backed novel has more interest for you than Christ, and if I were to draw near and talk to you about Christ in the middle of your novel, you would feel very uncomfortable, and wish I would leave you alone. The man of the world does not see beauty in Christ. The man that loves money sees beauty in it, but not in Christ. You have only to carry Christ into the world, and you will soon find out what it thinks of Him. If you are having a gospel meeting in the open air, you may be asked by a policeman to move to another spot. He does not interfere with the German band, however. The world likes music, but not Christ. There is no beauty in Jesus to any of us at first, but by-and-by, when God comes and works in your soul, and you see you are a sinner in His sight with a lost eternity before you, things begin to alter, and then you do desire Him.

But our chapter continues: “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (v. 3). Who can deny it? “A man of sorrows”—that is what Jesus was. Now why and to what end was He such?

Have you a grief? Many, you may reply. Have you learned how to turn to Jesus in them? Have you had the support of His arm, have you learned the love of His heart? Good for you is it if you have. But for long we all “hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not,” for then we had not learned that “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” What that exactly means the Spirit of God tells us in the Gospels, where we read—“When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Matt. 8:16-17). Notice there is no mention of sins in these verses. He never bore sins in His life—in His earthly pathway—till He was on the cross, and not even then till the sixth hour. It was on the cross He bore our sins, and on the cross He died for sinners, and was cast off by God for sin. During His life He bore the sorrows of others, and their sins in His death. He took up all my sorrows in His life, that He might sympathise; and then in His death He bore all my sins, that He might save me. Blessed Jesus! What a Saviour! Who would not have Him? Who would go on longer without Him? You are never right till you get to Him, and know Him.

So blind and perverse were Israel that they thought the sorrows He carried in His spirit were from God’s hand, saying, “Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (v. 4). No, He was bearing the sorrow of the human heart that He might sympathise with those who were in sorrow; hence now He is able to succour (Heb. 2:18), to sympathise (Heb. 4:15), and to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25).

And now the question of sin is touched on as the speakers say—“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” (v. 5). All this involves sin-bearing. Did not we hear a moment ago, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him . . . that publisheth peace”? How could God send out people to preach peace if peace had not been made? Who made it? Christ! You never could make it, for you cannot meet God’s claims. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him,” that is how peace with God was made.

“And with his stripes we are healed,” not hope to be healed. That may do for you: it did not do for Isaiah, or for Peter. Hear what he says as he quotes this very Scripture: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree . . . by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). This is not the healing of the body, but the healing of the soul. Matthew speaks, of the healing of the body, Peter of the healing of the soul. The terrible wounds sin has made, the blood of Jesus alone can heal. The atoning death of the Saviour, meeting all God’s claims, alone can make peace, “and with his stripes we are healed,” is the glorious result. How much the Spirit of God makes of Jesus, and how He loves to extol Him. Is He not worthy of your confidence?

And now particularly notice the next allegation beginning with “all,” and closing with “all.” “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (v. 6). I remember a man once telling me that after long soul-exercise and difficulty he got deliverance through this verse. Said he, “I got into one end of a verse of Scripture with all my sins on me, and I got out at the other end with them all gone. ‘All we like sheep have gone astray,’ I saw, took me in with all my sins, and ‘the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,’ showed me that Jesus had borne them all and put them all away.” That man was simple. You had better imitate him. He took God at His word. “Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” is a wonderful statement. Many souls have been brought into peace by understanding verse 6. May you be another, my reader.

The speakers in verses 2 to 6 tell us much about Jesus, and of the blessed effect of the work He did, and in verses 7, 8, and 9 Jehovah again speaks of the One who has done the work. He affirms, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” That was the verse which arrested the eunuch. Then follows, “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living.” If He be cut off, if He die, who will declare His generation. The Spirit of God has come down and brought light, liberty, and joy to the hearts of countless thousands, and they are busy declaring His generation. He is no more dead, He is alive. “For the transgression of my people was he stricken,” says God, telling us that His death was atoning, and though men “appointed his grave with the wicked, yet he was with the rich in his death, because be had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (v. 9) (N.Tr.). You will remember that when the blessed Lord had died, Joseph begged His body, and buried it in a new tomb, “wherein never man before was laid.” Thus Scripture was fulfilled. I have no doubt the Jews thought they would cast the body of the blessed Lord into the common malefactors’ grave. But God said, No, “He shall be with the rich in his death;” and the moment He was dead, the man who had been half-hearted before, one who was a disciple secretly for fear of the Jews, went in boldly and craved the body of Jesus, and put Him in his own new tomb.

God has been very careful to tell us thrice over that His Son was laid in “a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid” (see Matt. 27:60; Luke 23:3; John 19:41), and for this reason. We read in 2 Kings 13 that they were burying a man, when a band of Moabites came in sight, “and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha; and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha he revived, and stood up on his feet” (v. 21). That is what happened then, and if God had not arranged and declared that Jesus was put into a “new tomb,” the devil was quite clever enough to have told the Jews to say, when He rose from the dead, that His body had touched the bones of some prophet, and that was nothing new. It was love that rolled a stone to the door of His sepulchre, but it was fear that sealed it and set a guard round it to keep Him in. Vain hope! When they opened it He was gone. Thank God for a risen, victorious Saviour. Christianity is inaugurated by an empty tomb—death annulled, a victory won, and the Victor risen, and ascended to God’s right hand.

In the tenth verse of our chapter Israel’s voice is again heard, saying—“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—(yes, there shall be wondrous fruit of all his sorrow) he shall prolong his days—and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” And then God speaks once more, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant (not “justify many,” but) instruct the many in righteousness.” That was the ministry of His life—He preached righteousness in the great congregation (see Ps. 40:9). The Sermon on the Mount is the expression of this, i.e. instruction in righteousness. “And he shall bear their iniquities.” That was his death. In His life He ministered the truth; and in His death He atoned for our iniquities. Now the Spirit of God has come and told us that the Saviour who thus lived and died is at God’s right hand, after having died for sins and for sinners. Thus we get righteousness proclaimed in His life, and sin put away by His death.

Further we read in verse 12, “He bare the sin of many”—how many? I do not know, but I know I am one of them. Will that “many” let you in? If He does not bear your sin and put it away, you will bear it, and never put it away. If He has not borne those sins of yours He never will do it, because He will not die again. Have you ever in faith stood at the cross, where the Son of God died, crowned with thorns? Can you not detach yourself from the turmoil of the world sufficiently long to listen to His words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?” There it was that He “made intercession for the transgressors.” What a Saviour! “Who hath believed our report?” Have you? See to it before you put your head on your pillow tonight, that you believe God’s report of His Son. Then will the arm of the Lord be revealed to you, and you will say, “He has saved me.”


The Gospel Messenger 1904, p. 234

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