Isaiah 53:1-3

THE SERVANT SONGS SERIES: Who Has Believed Our Report?

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Please Read Isaiah 53:1-6

Northlake’s Reformed Baptist Church is an evangelistic Church, seeking to take the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world. We have just begun our third letterbox drop in the suburbs surrounding Teralba, and thousands will be contacted with a short evangelistic-like message. Our church has indeed gone out to the world with a report or message of hope. There is no need for any person to perish in their sin, for a way of escape is available to all who will believe it, and exercise faith in the Deliverer proclaimed in it. We have posted on the World Wide Web this very message of life in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a message that has been heard from this very pulpit for almost two years, and still we find ourselves here this morning as such a small group, with the thousands that have heard the message from this church having rejected the Gospel of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. So we indeed ask, 'Who hath believed our report? (Is 53:1a)?

Ours is a message that has been sent into the world not only by us, for it has also been sent forth for centuries, and has been embraced by thousands and indeed millions in the past. Even great rulers and kings have embraced this same message that we have proclaimed seemingly with so little effect in these almost two years as a church. Yet some do believe, and some will believe.

'So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider (Is 52:15).’

The gospel has gone out to sinners and they have embraced it and found deliverance in the One of whom they had heard nothing previously. A great hope has been discovered by them in the Lord Jesus Christ. Though people the world over have come to Christ for salvation upon hearing this wonderful message of hope, the church has always been in the minority, with so few true believers aligned to it - even though the message has been proclaimed for so long a period of time.

Such great men of God as the apostle Paul, as Peter, as Polycarp and as Augustine, as John Huss and as John Wycliffe, as John Calvin and as Hugh Latimer, as George Whitefield, as Charles Haddon Spurgeon and as Martyn Lloyd-Jones, men who have been used of God to challenge their generation, have believed and taken this report of a Saviour and of salvation from sin to the world across the centuries. Many have declared, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?(Rom 10:15b,16)?’

What a fantastic message is brought to sinners by such people as preach the gospel, yet still so few believe the message they convey. Those who do so rejoice in the message and in the Saviour of sinners, with hearts full of gratitude, not only for the Lord Himself, but also for the ones who dared speak to them of the Gospel. Yet how few a number it is of that great number that have heard the message, that have actually taken heed to it.

Even the Lord Jesus Christ has gone to this world of sinners with the Gospel message and was rejected by those of His own race. ‘But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed (Jn 12:37,38)?’ The message of Jesus was even attended by supernatural happenings called signs, events that clearly pointed to His divine origin and infallible witness, yet He and His message was still rejected by the unbelieving masses of His own people. How few believed even when the Lord of glory proclaimed the life-giving message!

Perhaps never before in the history of the world have we seen so many professing Christians and such a variety of churches, denominations and missionary endeavours, yet we are still left asking the same question, ‘Who hath believed our report (Is 53:1a)?’ So little seems to have been accomplished in our day. Is there anyone that has believed our report, is there anyone that has heeded the gospel message and believed unto salvation?

Have you heeded the message of salvation in Jesus Christ alone? You have heard it, but have you embraced it? Has the gospel message and the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ been embraced by you in faith and have you been left amazed at the crucified One and what He has done for you? Have you found peace with God through this wonderful message that has gone out into the world?

The world moves closer to that final day when the Lord ‘who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom (2 Tim 4:1b)’, yet the great mass of humanity continues on its well trod path to perdition, seemingly with so little concern for their place in eternity. With such calamity and horror at its very doorstep, we ask the world, ‘Who hath believed our report (Is 53:1a)?’ Will this world of Hell-bent sinners never flee from the wrath of God that is to come? Will no one turn to Christ and live? Will you continue to reject the Lord Jesus Christ and His free offer of forgiveness and life eternal while Hellfire approaches at such increasing speed?

The message has been so clearly portrayed before this world of sinners over the centuries, yet still the great mass of humanity refuse to bow before Almighty God, desiring it seems everlasting destruction rather than everlasting life. Yes, many have embraced religion, and many have embraced a church and the people in it, but how few have truly believed the message of the church, and the report of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ? Many have willingly embraced a celebration that has just been celebrated in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation that He brought to sinners through His birth and eventual death, yet still they have no place for the message of salvation that came into being as a result of his coming to earth as a baby boy 2000 years ago? You embrace Christmas but still perish in everlasting destruction because you have refused to embrace the Christ of the so-called Christmas celebration. Happy you are to have nothing, yet indifferent to loose everything.

We live in a world where there is such an abundant supply of light shining upon it of the Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation that comes by Him, yet never before has there been so much of the world dwelling in darkness. The world lives in darkness, while shining upon them is the risen sun of the gospel, and the rays of light beaming upon them from God’s candles. But how few believe? How few have drawn the curtains and let the light in? Very few.

This rhetorical question that Isaiah gives in His prophecy concerning the Servant of God draws attention to the precious few that have believed, and that from among a people drowning in a sea of religion, a nation that had its very beginnings in the truths of the gospel. How small a number of these people have truly trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour from sin and from eternal punishment to come? It is such a small number that we may very well ask with Isaiah if any have actually believed at all? Where is the evidence of any having believed?

Yes we have seen that people from many nations would believe, and that even kings would believe, but what of Israel - ‘Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen (Rom 9:4,5).’ From this nation that has had so many advantages over the centuries, who has believed?

Where is the evidence today of a people believing unto the salvation of themselves from sin? Where is the success of the Gospel message? Oh religion is alive and well, but we ask - ‘Who hath believed our report (Is 53:1a)?’ The western powers have had all the advantages in recent centuries, yet like Israel of old we have despised these wonderful blessings and rejected the Saviour of whom we have heard so much. Who will believe our report and our message of the Lord Jesus Christ? Who will turn from sin and enter into life eternal?

Well it is the second rhetorical question of Isaiah here in Isaiah 53:1 that gives the answer to our questions, ‘and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed (Is 53:1b)?’ Who is it that will believe the message that we proclaim - it is those, and those only that have seen the arm of the Lord. ‘The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God (Is 52:10).’ In other words, those who have experienced the work of God in their lives will be the ones who believe our report. That is the answer to our question - there is no other answer.

It is the nations of the world that will respond to the gospel message, as we learnt in Isaiah 52:13-15, for these would see what had not been told to them before. Never before did they hear this message of hope, yet when they do hear it they will see it and embrace it. It is the Servant of God who will sprinkle them with the blood of His sacrifice, astonishing the kings with His great mercy and grace. They sought Him not, but He will seek them and wash away their sin, bringing them into a place of acceptance and righteousness before God.

It is only those who exercise faith in the Subject of our message, as a gift given to them by God, that will believe our report or message of salvation. We have seen clearly enough through the Gospel of John that this is so, and only a deliberate rebellion against the clear testimony of Scripture will say otherwise, for we have considered even last week this very principle in the teaching of Jesus - ‘And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father (Jn 6: 65)."’

No one will ever believe our report of salvation freely given in the Lord Jesus Christ until such time as the Lord reveals His power within them, bringing the sinner from death unto life, and granting the gift of faith to him/her. Then will someone believe our message. Then will some sinner read or hear the message that we bring them of the Lord Jesus Christ and see for the first time a salvation so real, so free, so certain, and embrace it so fully. Then we will see a sinner respond to our outreach efforts, perhaps to a letterbox drop or a one-on-one confrontation with the gospel from your very own mouth. Christian, to see a sinner exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is proof that there goes a sinner in whom the arm of the Lord or the power of God has been revealed.

In Isaiah’s day this message of salvation in the promised One to come went out and few believed it. In Jesus’ own day that message went out and few believed it. In our own day the message goes out and few believe it. As in the times of both Isaiah and Jesus, so our message is going out to a people who have religion but yet have not Christ - yet all the experience of religion profits a person nothing if it be devoid of the Spirit of God. If the arm of flesh or human strength is used to bring a person into the possession of some alleged salvation, and not the arm or power of the Lord to true salvation, it is certain that no matter what the outward appearance, no man/woman will be saved - None!

Think about that for a moment - with what do we go to the world with? What is our message? Is it not the message of Isaiah 53? Is it not the report of a suffering Servant slain in the place of sinners? What foolishness is this message to anyone outside of the Lord Jesus Christ? There is nothing convincing in the message itself - yet it is the very power of God unto salvation, for it is this message that God uses with His Spirit to work salvation in the heart of man.

Think for a moment on the message we proclaim - is it really a message that of itself will convince anyone? What do the people think of when they hear this message without the arm of the Lord going with it? Hear what Isaiah says:

‘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 (Is 53:2).’

What does the sinner who looks upon the Lord Jesus Christ without the work of God within Him see in the Gospel message? All that sinners see is something that fails to capture their hearts and minds. He is as nothing to them. It is a matter of ridiculousness. There is nothing in the Lord Jesus Christ that captures their imagination or their desires. Here at best was just another Jewish child, who somehow managed to avoid the persecution of King Herod not long after his birth, exposed to all the difficulties and trials that a child of that early first century age faced, with the possibility that death would soon arrive as it did for so many First Century Jewish children. He was just another kid that could have died so easily if circumstances were different.

He came from a family line that had seemingly run its course - sure he could trace his family tree back to King David and others of the past Jewish greats, but His family’s greatness had run its course. He was now born to a young girl of perhaps 14 or 15, into a marriage that was typically Jewish and into a family of nobodies and eventually moved into the obscure family business as a carpenter. His family was nothing and He was somebody who struck it lucky in early manhood, being followed by the easily misled of society.

There was no stand out features in this Jesus. He was just another Jew in a land that had grown tired of its significant religious past - indeed a land that was as a barren place as far as true religion was concerned. Yes there were a few that waited for the consolation of Israel, but for the vast majority religion was just that, religion - something that needed to be done on a certain day and was soon forgotten until the next certain day came along.

There were no outstanding external features with Jesus. He was no especially handsome or strong individual, no naturally gifted leader of men, but an obscure carpenter from a fairly ordinary place (Jn 1:46). He was just a nobody that nobody noticed until He started to cause a fuss.

‘and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him (Is 53:2c).’ But what a tragedy for the Jewish people here, for what they couldn’t and didn’t see the Gentile nations did, and they would embrace Him for their salvation. Here is the Lamb of God that removes the sin of the world, the Bread of heaven that when eaten satisfies the greatest of spiritual needs, and that when understood stops the mouths of kings that look on in astonishment at such a display of grace, love and mercy for a people that deserve it not. Yet Israel rejected all this, for this is not what they saw in Jesus.

And this is still what is missed by the great religious masses of our day, the western world having grown accustomed to Christianity, so that western sinners no longer recognize the Lord Jesus Christ for what He truly is, the Saviour of the world. Western sinners will perish in ignorance, for all they now see is what their Jewish brethren saw, an insignificant nobody that for a moment captured the interest of those that didn’t know any better.

Yet Isaiah’s description of Jewish reaction goes on:

‘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 (Is 53:3).’

Not only did the Jewish people think of Jesus as a nobody, but He was actively despised and rejected by them. He was not merely passed by as a non-event, but was deliberately opposed and rejected by the people. He had a following at the beginning, but at the end they agreed together that He should be killed.

Jesus was a Man of sorrows, afflicted with the grief of loneliness, of having no earthly home, of being rejected by those to whom He brought a message of forgiveness and hope, of being persecuted by those of His own nation, of being constantly ridiculed, of being held in low opinion by the religious leaders and of being betrayed and abandoned by His friends. Even His own Father turned His back on Him for a time and unleashed the judgment of heaven upon Him.

Here was the Saviour of the world, ‘He came unto his own, and his own received him not (Jn 1:11).’ How He grieved and sorrowed over a people that would not come to Him, the One so long promised in their Scriptures of the Old Testament and in the many patterns and types of their very own religious ritual. With what sadness He observed their continual rejection of the only way of salvation from sin. With what pain he noted their incessant falsehood and hypocrisy.

Yet it is still the same today. Countless masses of people very openly reject the Lord and His salvation, pouring scorn upon the messengers of the suffering Servant of God, and therefore indirectly upon Him. The very religious celebrations and rituals that the western world so rigidly stick to, Christmas, Easter, baptisms, funerals, marriages and the like, all connected to, and highlighting something of the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for a sinful world - yet still He is rejected of men, even when they go through the motions of that which speaks of Him.

May it not be so of you my brethren as we meet together for the Lord’s Supper. Here is a ritual, and here is a celebration that speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ and His mission as the Servant of God - let us remember Him in truth and bear witness to the world of the reality of the salvation we enjoy in Him through what the world has rejected, through that which appears as foolishness to them, yet is the power of God unto salvation for we who believe.

Here indeed was a Man of sorrows that died upon the cross, not as a mere victim of Roman cruelty as observed in the world, or as some helpless fool that could do little to save Himself, but as the Servant of God about His Father’s business. In the great grief of the cross we see a salvation wrought for all that believe, and this we both see and embrace, as even kings and others have done throughout the Gospel age.

Here was Jesus suffering more than mere human inflicted pain, for ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 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 (Is 53:4,5).’

What the world does not see in the Lord Jesus Christ we see by faith. We see the Servant of God actually accomplishing our salvation there upon the cross, while His Jewish persecutors only saw God punishing Him for His alleged blasphemy, a deserved victim of Roman justice.

But it was the salvation of sinners that was being accomplished through the Servant’s earthly mission. This then is what really occurred at the cross, and it is this that we will continue to consider in more detail when next we turn to Isaiah 53. We look more closely at just what was happening at the cross for our salvation.

But this morning, remember the Lord Jesus Christ as you take part in the Lord’s Supper. Remember what He endured in this world, rejected by the masses, yet working to achieve the salvation of the elect.

Sinner, believe our report, for this is the message and power of God unto salvation. What may appear as foolishness to many is the only means of deliverance from sin that you will find - do not reject it.

 

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UPDATED: 19 April 2014

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