The Shoulders of Jesus
May 25th, 1975 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-25-75 10:50 a.m.
I turned over in my heart what I should preach at this hour. I have delivered many, many baccalaureate sermons. And I am preaching through the Book of Isaiah. So it seemed to me, rather than turn aside and deliver an address on a baccalaureate occasion, that God might be more pleased if in this sacred service, I followed through an exposition of this prophecy of Isaiah, one of the greatest books in the Bible, one of the greatest pieces of literature in human speech.
So the title of the message this morning is, The Shoulders of Jesus. And we welcome you on radio and on television who share the hour with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas and listen to the pastor as he expounds this incomparably glorious prophecy.
We have come to chapter 9 in the Book of Isaiah, and I read not the context, but just the text:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall rest upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it.
And the text: "and the government shall rest upon His shoulder" [Isaiah 9:6]; The Shoulders of Jesus.
In preparing the message, I was astonished to learn that you can tell the story of the whole Bible from the shoulders of men. In the Book of Genesis, the two sons of Noah, Shem and Japheth, covered their shoulders with a garment and walked backward to cover the nakedness of their drunken father, Noah [Genesis 9:23]. Ham had looked upon the shame unabashed [Genesis 9:21-22], but the sons, Shem and Japheth, covered his nakedness and his drunken shame with a garment from their shoulders, for which the descendants of Shem and Japheth were to be blessed forever [Genesis 9:26-27].
In the story of Abraham as he dismissed Hagar and her child Ishmael from the home, he laid upon her shoulder bread and water [Genesis 21:14]. In the story of Eliezer, in Mesopotamia to find a bride for Isaac – he stood at the well and saw a beautiful damsel come with a pitcher of water on her shoulder [Genesis 24:15].
In the story of the Exodus of God’s people out of the darkness of Egypt, that Passover night, they stood ready, bearing each one on his shoulder, the kneading trough [Exodus 12:34]. In the Spirit of God that fell upon Aholiab and Bezaleel, he made garments of glory and of beauty for the high priest, and on either side of the shoulder an onyx stone engraved with the children [Exodus 39:6-7], the tribes of the people of God.
In the instructions from heaven bearing the sacred tabernacle, all of the accouterments were placed upon wagons and carried upon wagons except the ark of the covenant and the golden altar of incense and the seven-branched lampstand and the golden table of showbread. They were to be borne on the shoulders of the children of Kohath [Numbers 3:29-31].
Do you remember when the Philistines put the ark upon a wagon, and Uzzah touched it? The wrath of God smote him [2 Samuel 6:3-6], for the ark was to be carried sacredly upon the shoulders of men [1 Chronicles 15:14-15]. In the story of the Book of Joshua, as they entered in, a representative from each one of the tribes where the Jordan had parted was to pick up a stone on his shoulder and deposit it in Canaan’s land [Joshua 4:5], "What mean ye by these stones?" [Joshua 4:6]. It’s a visitation of God from heaven, borne on the shoulders of the men [Joshua 4:7-18].
In the story of Samson, one of the saddest, most tragic, dramatic stories in life, the great, strong man bore on his shoulders the gates of Gaza, carrying them all the way to Hebron. And with his eyes put out, grinding at the mill, presented as a spectacle of the impotence of Jehovah God, in the house of Dagon, he prayed, "Lord, just this one time stand with me" [Judges 16:28]. And he bowed his shoulders and pulled down the temple of the false God [Judges 16:29-30].
Samuel begins, in the story of the kings, with a presentation of the first king of Israel, Saul. And when the prophet presented him, the people looked, and he stood shoulders upward, taller, higher than any man, in the land of Israel [1 Samuel 10:23], And the story of David, beginning with Goliath, who is described as a great giant, and the target of brass between his shoulders [1 Samuel 17:6]. So on through the Bible, you can tell the story with the shoulders of men.
So coming to the prophet Isaiah, and going beyond my text, in the twenty-second chapter of the book, the prophet is sent to say to Shebna [Isaiah 22:15], who is the prime minister, because of his pride and iniquity, God has disowned him and discharged him. He is in disfavor with the Almighty [Isaiah 22:16-19]. And God says, "I have given the leadership of the kingdom to Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah." And God says, "I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder" [Isaiah 22:20-22] – the godly Eliakim.
I turned that over in my mind. God says, "Upon that wonderful man Eliakim I will lay the key of the kingdom of David" [Isaiah 22:23]. I suppose in that time there must have been something like what I saw last week, delivering the address at the commencement of a college, the conferring of degrees at a college. I was preceded as I walked into the auditorium, with the beautiful marching throng behind me – I was preceded by a young man with a mace. It was a sign of the dignity and significance and power of the occasion. So there must have been something like that, a sign of the power and authority of the kingdom. "The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder" [Isaiah 22:22].
When I come therefore to the prophecy – "Unto us a Child is born . . . whose name is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Prince of Peace . . . and I will lay upon His shoulder the government of the universe" [Isaiah 9:6-7] – there must be a marvelous significance in that. On the shoulders of Jesus someday God shall lay the entire government and administration of the universe. For you see, it is such a vast change from the god of this world [2 Corinthians 4:4], to the administration and sovereignty of Christ. As the prophecy in chapter 22, God took the administration from Shebna and gave it to godly Eliakim [Isaiah 22:15-23]. So the prophecy avows that someday God will take the government of the universe from the god of this world [2 Corinthians 4:4], Satan, and shall give it to Christ [Revelation 11:15].
How sad is the portrayal of the life of this world unto the prince of the darkness of the air! Satan has sown the world down with tears and suffering and death. The world is nothing other than one great planet for the burying of God’s created people, God’s creatures. Death is everywhere reigning supreme, suffering and trial and tears and disappointment and frustration and hurt are everywhere – the god of this world. But the prophecy says the day is coming when there shall be an investiture of the administration and government of the world out from the hands of a Shebna, seized from the hands of Satan, and placed in the hands of the Lord God.
We shall have a new King, a new prime minister, a new government, a new administration, and it will be in the hands of the Lord God Christ [Revelation 11:15]. There will be no more death [Revelation 21:4]. The dead shall be raised from the heart of the earth. All of us shall be immortalized, translated in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17], and God shall make us kings and priests under the Lord [Revelation 5:10]. There are caricatures in cartoons that I see of men who are translated to the other life. Usually, they are pictured as on a cloud with a halo and with wings and with a harp, just seated on a cloud. There could not be a thing of greater travesty or caricature on the truth than that.
God has shown us that in the life to come we shall be intensely active. In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, for example, the Lord says to this man, "Because you have been faithful, I will make you administrator over ten cities" [Luke 19:17]. And to this man, "Because you have been faithful, I will make you administrator over five cities" [Luke 19:16]. When God recreates the whole universe – all of the heavens, the starry spheres, the sidereal universes, the Milky Ways, this planet [Revelation 21:1-5] – it will be full of intensest life, and its government will be given to the saints of the Lord [Revelation 22:3-5]. The king shall be King Jesus Himself, and all of us shall be fellow heirs and fellow administrators under Him. "The government shall rest upon His shoulder" [Isaiah 9:6].
Our capital city will be the New Jerusalem, and from that capital city, we shall go out to administer the whole creation of God. And there shall we live in that capital city, the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:3]. Someone said, "I hope my address is by some Glory Square on some Hallelujah Boulevard where I can see the King in His glory come in and out, walking before the people."
Could such a thing be, that we could look upon the great King? Could it be that He would know us, that He would speak to us? Could it be that He could call me by my name [Luke 10:20; John 10:3] – the great King of the universe? Ah, yes. You see, He is Jesus, our friend and our Savior. They are one and the same.
The golden sun and the silvery moon and all the stars that shine
Were made by His omnipotent hands, and He is a friend of mine.
When He shall come with trumpet sound to head the conquering line,
The whole world will bow before His feet, and He is a friend of mine.
It is unimaginable that the Lord God and King of the whole universe should be the same Lord Jesus who died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3]. The government upon His shoulders [Isaiah 9:6], the insignia of the King of the House of David on His shoulders, the great administrator of all time and all creation, the blessed Lord Jesus – is the same Jesus upon whose shoulders the cross was laid when He went forth to die for our sins [John 19:16-18]. It is the same Jesus. The shoulders that bear the government of the universe are the shoulders that bore the cross to Calvary, to die for us. Isn’t that unbelievable? His heart hasn’t changed. He is just the same [Hebrews 13:8]. Whether here in the days of His flesh, walking in our midst, or there on the throne of God, He is just the same. The shoulders that bear the government of the universe are the same shoulders that bore the cross for our sins.
In the first chapter of the Revelation, there is a description of the immortalized, glorified Christ. His countenance is like the sun shining in its strength [Revelation 1:16]. His feet are as if they burned in a furnace, brass beyond the brilliance that one could look upon, even His feet [Revelation 1:15]. And yet, when John fell at His feet as dead, the Lord reached forth His hand and put them on his shoulder [Revelation 1:17].
I would think the Lord had done that a hundred times as He talked to John – put His hand on his shoulder, maybe pointing to the world in giving the Great Commission for the evangelization of all the people [Matthew 28:16, 19-20], maybe encouraging John in an hour of disappointment and despair, maybe lovingly touching him as they walked through a wheat field or down a road, putting His hand on John’s shoulder. It was the same Lord Jesus, glorified, immortalized, and He put his hand on the shoulder of John lying at His feet as dead [Revelation 1:17]. His heart hasn’t changed.
Not only that, but His sympathy and His compassion for us is just the same. The government upon His shoulder, the Lord God of the universe, and yet, in loving compassion, those are the same shoulders that bear us in pity and in sympathy, in forgiveness and in understanding.
"How do you know that, pastor?" He said, "I am the good shepherd" [John 10:11]. And He said:
There were ninety and nine safe in the fold, and one was lost. And he searched for it until he found it,
And when he found the sheep that was lost, he layeth it upon his shoulders rejoicing.
And when he cometh home, he calleth the people saying, Rejoice, I have found my sheep which was lost
Likewise, there is joy in the presence of the angels of heaven over one sinner who is saved.
Isn’t that a remarkable thing? The sheep that was lost, and he searches for it till he finds it. And when he finds it, he rejoices and calls his friends and neighbors together and says, "Rejoice with Me. Look. I have found the sheep which was lost." Why did he not find his heart full of recrimination and judgment? "You senseless and stupid sheep! You erring and ignorant animal. Don’t you know better than to drift away from the flock? Don’t you know you will be lost in this kind of a journey, this kind of a turn?" How the Lord could have said, but He didn’t. No stupidity and no recrimination and no judgment – He just searched for the lost sheep till He found it, and He put it on His shoulders, rejoicing. Aren’t you glad?
When I think of that, I think how different I am, for example, when people act stupid, and especially my staff. And when they do crazy things and they don’t do it right – oh, I just feel so judgmental. Our Lord, not that way with us at all; just sympathetic, full of kindness and understanding in finding the erring, stupid, wandering lost sheep – just rejoices, and puts it on His shoulders and brings it home. How pitiful God is with us; the great God of the universe on whose shoulders rest the government of heaven, yet those same shoulders, bearing us in deepest sympathy and understanding.
Our time is gone. I cannot close without one other thing here; He lays it on His shoulders rejoicing and brings it home, and brings it home [Luke 15:5-6]. "Pastor, do you think you will get to heaven?" Yes. "Do you think Satan will get you before you get there?" No. "Will you fall by the way?" No. I do not know of a doctrine in this Book that is more blessedly emphasized and repeated than the doctrine of the eternal security of the saints [John 3:16; John 10:27-30; Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:11]. We will make it. "He brought it home" [Luke 15:5-6]. I may be full of weakness and error and misjudgment and a thousand ways disappoint my Lord, but when the roll is called, I will be there answering to my name. And He brought it home, rejoicing [Luke 15:5-6].
That’s what God is going to do for us. We have found refuge and salvation in Jesus. He will see us through. He will bring us home. Would you like to sing a song of that assurance with me? Sing it with me.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
["Blessed Assurance," Fanny Crosby, 1873]
"And He layeth it upon His shoulders and brought it home" [Luke 15:5-6]. That, God will do for us. He will take us home some day, some glorious day for the shoulders that bear us in love, and in mercy are the same shoulders that bear the government of the universe [Isaiah 9:6].
We stand now in a moment to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, somebody you to give himself in faith to the Lord Jesus; a family you to come into the fellowship of the church; a couple you, or just one somebody you, while we sing this appeal, wait, standing before God, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, down a stairway, down one of these aisles, "Here I come, pastor. Here I am. I am on the way. I have made the decision in my heart and I am coming now." Do it. Do it, while we stand and while we sing.
SHOULDERS OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The story of the Bible following the shoulders of men
A. Shem, Japheth; Hagar, Ishmael; Rebekah, Eleazar (Genesis 9:23, 21:14, 24:15, 45)
B. Kneading trough, onyx stones, Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 12:34, 28:12, Numbers 2:9)
C. Stones out of Jordan, Samson, Saul, Goliath (Joshua 4:5, Judges 16:3, 30, 1 Samuel 9:2, 10:23, 17:6)
D. From Shebna to Eliakim (Isaiah 22:20-25)
II. The government upon His shoulders
A. From the god of this world (Satan) to Jesus our Lord
B. A new kingdom and government
1. We shall be active (Luke 19)
III. Our King and Friend
A. The cross on His shoulders (Revelation 1:13-17)
B. The lost sheep on His shoulders (John 10:11, Luke 15:4-7)