The Lord was pleased to bruise him;
he has put him to grief;
when he makes himself an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring,
he shall prolong his days;
the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment in all the world is that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength (Mark 12:30). I take this to mean at least that every one who claims to be a Christian should have a great zeal for the glory of God.
If I love God with all my heart, nothing should make me more glad than when the cause of God prospers and when the name of God is the boast of more and more hearts and more and more people. And nothing should trouble me more than when the glory of God is cheapened and the name of God is despised.
In other words, when Jesus commands us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, he is commanding us to have a radically God-centered heart and a radically God-centered soul and a radically God-centered mind and radically God-centered strength. And God-centered people are troubled by the eclipse of God's glory, and they rejoice when it shines forth in full strength.
God's Pleasure in His Name and Love for His People
Now if this is true, then something very troubling has emerged in this series of messages on the pleasures of God. We have seen that God has pleasure in his Son: he delights in the glory of his own perfections reflected back to him in the countenance of his Son.
We have seen that God has pleasure in his own name: he aims to make a name for himself in all the world and win a reputation for the glory of his grace from every people and tribe and tongue and nation.
And we have seen that as a means to that end, God has pleasure in election: he delights to reveal the glory of his Son to babes and hide it from the wise. He delights to call out for himself an unlikely people who will make their boast only in the Lord.
And then last week we saw that God virtually casts off all restraint in his exuberance over his people and takes most pleasure of all, it seems, in doing them good: "He will rejoice over you with gladness . . . he will exult over you with loud singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).
Something Troubling Arising from This Series
Now what is troubling about all this for the God-centered person?
The troubling thing is that all these people God is saving and singing over are sinners. And what is sin? Romans 3:23 says that it is a falling short of God's glory. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Paul means that sinners have fallen short of prizing the glory of God. We have exchanged the glory of God in our affections for something else: for images of glory, like a new home or car or VCR or computers or vacation days or impressive resumes or whatever makes your ticker tick more than the wonder of God.
That's what sin is. And that is what all those people are like that God has chosen to save. And even after he makes them his own, they often bring disgrace upon his name by their inconsistency and half-hearted response to Jesus' command to love God with their whole heart.
So the troubling thing is that God is so enthusiastic about being good to people whose sinfulness is a blight on his name. It seems schizophrenic. The Bible makes God out to love his name and his glory with omnipotent energy and unbounded joy. And then it pictures him rejoicing with loud singing over people who have despised his glory and cheapened his name.
Resolving the Symphony of Redemptive History
I really don't believe it is possible to grasp the central drama of the Bible until we begin to feel this tension. Up until the coming of Jesus Christ, the Bible is like a piece of music whose dissonance begs for some final resolution into harmony. Redemptive history is like a symphony with two great themes: the theme of God's passion to preserve and display his glory; and the theme of God's inscrutable love for sinners who have scorned his glory.
Again and again all through the Bible these two great themes carry along the symphony of history. They interweave and interpenetrate, and we know that some awesome Composer is at work here. But for centuries we don't see the resolution. The harmony always escapes us, and we have to wait.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the resolution of the symphony of history. In the death of Jesus the two themes of God's love for his glory and his love for sinners are resolved.
As in all good symphonies there had been hints and foretastes and suggestions of the final resolution. That is what we have in Isaiah 53, and that is what I want us to look at briefly this morning.
Translating Isaiah 53:10
God's pleasure in his name and his pleasure in doing good to sinners meet and marry in his pleasure in bruising his Son. Before I direct your attention to verse 10, I want to show you two texts that affect the way I translate this verse.
First, look with me at Isaiah 1:11.
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in [or: have no pleasure in] the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats.
That word for "delighting in" or "having pleasure in" is the same Hebrew word used in the first line of Isaiah 53:10, "The Lord was pleased to bruise him." Or: "The Lord had pleasure in bruising him." Or: "The Lord delighted to bruise him."
Then look with me at Isaiah 62:4. The Lord says to his people,
You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My delight is in her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you and your land shall be married.
When God says, "My delight is in her," the noun used for "delight" is the same Hebrew word used in the last line of Isaiah 53:10, "The delight [or: pleasure] of the Lord shall prosper in his hand." It is the same Hebrew word in the first line of the verse and in the last line, only the verb form is used in the first line and the noun form is used in the last line.
So here is my translation of verse 10:
The Lord was pleased to bruise him; he has put him to grief [or: caused his pain]; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the pleasure [picking up on the first line] of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
This is a prophecy and picture of Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead hundreds of years before it happens. The bruising is the crucifixion and death of Jesus, making himself an offering for sin. The prolonging of his days is a reference to his resurrection to eternal life after death. And when it says he will see his offspring, it means that the fruit of his suffering will be many people saved from sin and death.
The Son Was Bruised by the Father
But the thing I want us to focus on is that this is all the work of God—even the pleasure of God the Father. Jesus was not swept away by the wrath of uncontrolled men. He was bruised by his Father. Why? To resolve the tension between the Father's love for his glory and his love for sinners.
Because God-Dishonoring Sin Could Not Be Ignored
Notice verse 6:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Notice two things. Again (as in verse 10) it is the Lord who is at work: "The Lord—God the Father—has laid on him . . . " And then notice that the issue is iniquity, which is just another word for sin. "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." The bruising of the Son was because God-dishonoring sin could not be ignored. And why couldn't it be ignored? Why couldn't God just let bygones be bygones? Because God loves the honor of his name. He will not act as though sin—which belittles his glory—didn't matter.
The Suffering That Our Sin Deserves
So God the Father makes an agreement with his Son that he will demonstrate to all the world the infinite worth of the Father's glory. How? By taking the punishment and suffering that our sin deserved. Verse 5 makes the substitution even more explicit:
He was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
Verse 9 makes plain that the bruising was not because of the Son's own sin:
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
In other words, it was not for his own sin that the Father bruised him. It was because he wanted to show us mercy. He wanted to forgive and heal and save and rejoice over us with loud singing. But he was righteous. That means his heart was filled with a love for the infinite worth of his own glory. And we were sinners, and that means that our hearts were filled with God-belittling affections. And so to save sinners and at the same time magnify the worth of his glory God lays our sin on Jesus and abandons him to the shame and slaughter of the cross.
How Could It Be the Father's Delight?
And verse 10 says it was the Father's pleasure to do this. It pleased the Lord to bruise him. How could the Father find delight in the sacrifice of his own Son?
What the Son Accomplishes in Dying
One part of the answer must be what is stressed at the end of verse 10, namely, that God's pleasure is in what the Son accomplishes in dying. It says at the end of verse 10, "The pleasure of the Lord will prosper in his hand." I take that to mean that God's pleasure is not so much in the suffering of the Son considered in and of itself but in the great success of what the Son would accomplish in his dying.
For example, in verse 10 there would be many spiritual offspring and the lengthening of the days of the Son—which clearly means resurrection from the dead and life beyond the grave. And in verse 11 there would be the satisfaction that the Son will have in the fruit of his suffering and in the justification of many sinners.
He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous;
This is the pleasure of God that prospers in the hand of the Son, and surely part of the reason why the Father is pleased to bruise the Son.
The Measure of God's Love for His Own Glory
But I think another part of the answer must also be that the depth of the Son's suffering was the measure of his love for the Father's glory. It was the Father's righteous allegiance to his own name that made recompense for sin necessary. And so when the Son willingly took the suffering of that recompense on himself, every footfall on the way to Calvary echoed through the universe with this message: the glory of God is of infinite value!
And so when the Father forsook the Son and handed him over to the curse of the cross and lifted not a finger to spare him pain, he had not ceased to love the Son. In that very moment when the Son was taking upon himself everything that God hates in us, and God was forsaking him to death, even then the Father knew that the measure of his Son's suffering was the depth of his Son's love for the Father's glory, and in that love the Father took deepest pleasure.
Jesus said in John 10:15, 17, "I lay down my life for the sheep . . . For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again." And he prayed in John 17:4, "Father, I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do."
In other words, when Jesus died, he glorified the Father's name and saved his Father's people. And does not the Father have pleasure in his name? And does he not rejoice over his people with loud singing? How then shall he not delight in the resolution of these two joys in the bruising of his Son?
A Closing Story
I close with a story.
Once there was a land ruled by a wicked prince. He had come from a foreign country and enslaved all the people of the land and made them miserable with hard labor in his coal mines across the deep canyon. He had built a massive trestle for the trains that carried his slaves across the canyon to the mines each morning, and it was heavily guarded.
Two men were still free in this land—one old and the other young. They lived on an inaccessible cliff overlooking the trestle. They hated the trestle, and they resolved together to blow it up. They planned and they prayed and they reminded themselves of the reality of heaven.
The night for the deed came. Their hearts were pounding with joy. It was a hard plan. It would be possible to time the guard's trek so that the explosive could be carried quickly to the vulnerable spot on the trestle. But it is certain that the man would be seen on the way back. To make sure the trestle blew up the young man would detonate it by hand on the trestle.
But they believed in heaven and they loved the people of the land. And so even this sacrifice made their hearts leap with joy. The hour came. They folded their map, stood from the table, and embraced each other. When the young man got to the door, he turned with the explosive on his back, looked at the old man, and said, "I love you, Father." And the old man took a deep breath—with joy—and said, "I love you too, Son."