By Horatius Bonar
"By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many." Isaiah 53:11
OF whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man?" said the Ethiopian ruler (Acts 8:34). Of some other man doubtless; of one greater than himself; higher, and yet lower than any of the sons of men. For only of one, in all earth's histories from the beginning could these things be said. Is not his name "Wonderful"? Here we have,
I. The Father's righteous servant. "My righteous servant," says God, as if he had never had another. My servant! My righteous servant! Servant is a name of subjection and obedience, yet also of honour, according to the rank of him whom he serves. As servant he is the doer of the Father's will; the Father's servant for us, and in this sense our servant: "I am among you as he that serveth"; "the son of man came not to be served, but to serve." As servant he is the fulfiller of the law; the obedient One in all things; not pleasing himself, nor doing his own will. "My righteous servant," says God, as delighting in him; for never before had he got such service and such righteousness; divine, yet human service; divine, yet human righteousness. It is of this righteous servant that the whole chapter speaks. It is he who grows up before him as a tender plant, as a root out of a dry ground. It is he in whom men saw no beauty; whom they despised and rejected. It is he who was the man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. It is he from whom men hid their faces; who was brought as a lamb to the slaughter; who was taken from prison and from judgment; who was cut off out of the land of the living. O wondrous servant! O gracious service! What or where should we be without such a servant and such a service! All we need is ministered to us by thee, freely, liberally, lovingly! Why should we be so slow to own thee as the servant, and to accept thy service in our behalf. Thy life on earth was one of service for us; and thy life in heaven is still the same. For is not thy intercession, thy advocacy, service of the best and truest kind?
II. This righteous servant justifies. He is no common servant. He is the great Judge of all; the Justifier of the sinner; he who acquits and pardons the guilty. He acted as such on earth, when he said, "Neither do I condemn thee,"--"thy sins be forgiven." He acts as such in heaven. Our justification is in his hands; we go to him to be justified. In one aspect it is the Father that justifies; in another, it is the Son. He "justifies many." All power is given him; judicial power, royal power, priestly power. We get acquittal and acceptance from his priestly-royal hands. Let us then come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy. He sits there to receive sinners. He takes up the case of the condemned,--as such he justifies them, He recognises all their sin and guilt, and then he delivers. They come to him as condemned; he owns the sentence as just; but cancels it,--cancels it for evermore. His justifying sentence reverses the law's condemning sentence. It is with the condemned that he deals; it is them that he pardons. There was justice in the condemnation; there is no less justice in the pardon. The Justifier is the Father's servant; the Word made flesh; the Son of God, who came in the name of the Lord to save us. Grace and righteousness in all their fullness are to be found in him.
III. This righteous servant justifies by his knowledge. The knowledge is the link between the many and justification. He justifies them by giving them the knowledge of himself as the Justifier, and of his work as the justifying thing. Knowledge is not here used in the sense of wisdom or understanding. It means that which he teaches them to know. We are justified by knowing the righteous servant. It is not by working, or praying, or suffering, but by knowing, that we enter on the state of acceptance: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." This is one of the simplest aspects in which the gospel is presented to us. There is no mystery or darkness here. To know Jesus is to be justified! The justified man can say nothing in his own behalf; nothing good has he found in himself, in his works, or his feelings, or his character. All is evil, only evil. He is utterly unfit for pardon, according as men judge of fitness. All that he can say for himself is, that he knows Jehovah's righteous servant, and in that knowledge has found deliverance from the wrath and curse. That knowledge has brought him into the state of "no condemnation." Satisfied with that knowledge (though satisfied with nothing about himself) he can say with certainty and gladness, "Who is he that condemneth? "
IV. This righteous servant justifies by bearing the iniquities of those whom he justifies. He justifies as a judge; as a judge giving righteous judgment; righteous judgment in acquitting the unrighteous. The ground on which he justifies is not mere grace; it is also righteousness.
Not that sin is trivial; but that he has borne iniquity in room of the unrighteous. This bearing of iniquity was his great work on earth, from his cradle to his cross. It was laid on him. He took it willingly. He was able to bear it. He has borne it. The sin-bearer has triumphed. The sin-bearing work is done. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. The work is done! Iniquity is borne. That which pacifies has been completed. To all this God himself has borne witness.
It is on divine testimony that we rest our belief; and from the promise annexed to this divine testimony we draw the blessed conclusion that, in believing, we shall enter on that peace which has been made. God has given us a testimony to the work of his Son; and he has added the promise, that whosoever believes that testimony is straightway justified. We believe, and are justified. We know that we are so because of the sure word of promise to him who receives the testimony. This is what is called "appropriation." It is the simple conclusion we draw from our believing the testimony. He that believeth hath everlasting life. We believe, and we know therefore, that all this life is ours: "For God is not a man that he should lie."
We shall know when He comes again how much we lost by not crediting this true testimony; how much more peaceful, and holy, and successful would have been our life had we believed that testimony in its simplicity and fullness.