The Heartbreak Of Isaiah
April 6th, 1998 @ 12:00 PM
THE HEARTBREAK OF ISAIAH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-6-98 12:00 p.m.
The theme for the week, “God’s Witness to the World”: tomorrow, The Baptism of John; Wednesday, The Preaching of Simon Peter; Thursday, The Tears of Paul; and Friday, The Blood of the Cross; and today, The Heartbreak of Isaiah.
She sang of the marvelous and incomparable prophecies throughout the years and the centuries of the Old Testament, about the coming of our Lord. And even Isaiah picks it up and reflects that glorious, victorious appearance in the last verses of the fifty-second chapter of Isaiah: “Behold, My Servant shall be exalted and extolled on high. He shall be glorified…And the nations shall stand in His presence; and the kings shall shut their mouths: and what had not been seen before shall be revealed then” [Isaiah 52:13,15]. That closes the fifty-second chapter of Isaiah. And the title of the message today is The Heartbreak of the Prophet.
The next verse and the next chapter describes the unbelievable suffering and death of that marvelous King. “He is despised and rejected by men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He is led as a lamb to the slaughter. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief” [Isaiah 53:3, 7, 10].
There are two things that we experience in this world: the tragedy and the sorrows and the sadnesses of life that characterize every one of us, and finally, our death. No one of us shall escape those judgments of Almighty God. We shall surely and certainly die. And our blessed Lord Jesus, according to this prophecy, shall come in the flesh, and shall experience all of the sorrows and tragedies of our life, and finally die. Unthinkable that the great God of glory should be made like one of us and experience all of the tears and tragedies of our life.
When He was born, He was born in a cattle shed and as a baby was laid in a feeding trough on the hay that the cattle ate [Luke 2:10-16]. As a baby, they fled to Egypt; and when they returned, settled down in a, at that time, little insignificant village in Galilee called Nazareth [Matthew 2:13-23]. Then when He was presented to the world as the King that is coming, instead of riding a stallion of glory, He came riding on a donkey [Matthew 21:1-11]. In His life and ministry He was rejected by His own people [John 1:11]. The citizens of Nazareth took Him to the brow of their hill to cast Him down to death [Luke 4:29]. And His own disciples forsook Him, and fled [Matthew 26:56]. John the Baptist, to my most unbelievable amazement, sent to Him his disciples and asked Him, “Did I make a mistake in presenting You to the world? Do we look for somebody else, and not You?” [Matthew 11:2-3; Luke 7:19]. And do you remember one of the disciples, Cleopas, said, “We supposed it had been Him who was to deliver us to Almighty God” [Luke 24:18-21].
And the contempt that the people had for the presence of Jesus is unthinkable to me. “So You are a king,” they said, and they made a crown of thorns and pressed it upon His brow [Matthew 27:29]. “So You are a king,” they said, and in the palace they found a dirty cast-off robe and put it on Him and bowed down and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” [Matthew 27:28]. And they said, “So You are a king,” and they took a piece of a stick of a reed and put it in His hand for a scepter [Matthew 27:29]. And the contempt they poured upon Him is beyond my thinking. They covered Him with spittle [Matthew 27:30]. And one of the men who spat upon Him, said, “Tell me, what is my name? You are a prophet.” [Luke 22:64]. And another said, “So You are a prophet? Who is it that hits You? What’s my name?” [Luke 22:64-65]. And one of them that plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6], said, “So You are a prophet? Who am I?”
But the decease, the death of our Lord, was indescribably sorrowful. First was the flagellation [Matthew 27:26]. In the Roman Empire those who were crucified were first made naked, and a Roman soldier took a cat-o’-nine-tails—at the end of each nine, a piece of steel fastened—with all his might he beat the one who was to be crucified. And many of them died from that flagellation. And our Lord was so bruised, He couldn’t carry the cross [Matthew 27:32]. And His death, I can hardly realize it. The eyes were not to look upon it. Our Lord said to John, standing there at the foot of the cross, “See My mother—take her away, lest she look upon My misery, My suffering, and My death.” And John took her away [John 19:26-27]. God in heaven prevented the angels from being close by. The angels were there at His temptation [Matthew 4:11]. The angels were there in Gethsemane [Luke 22:43]. And the angels were there at His birth [Luke 2:9-14]. But when He died on the cross there were no angels: they were prohibited in heaven.
And over the entire earth there was an impenetrable darkness from high noon until three o’clock [Matthew 27:45-46; Mark 15:33]. When Jesus was suffering, the eyes of the world were not to see it. And God Himself turned His face away. And our Lord cried, “Eli, Eli, My God, My God, lama, why, sabachthani, hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27:46] And when the sun came back, a Roman soldier, who had not been able to experience the sight of His suffering, took his spear and thrust it into His heart; “and there flowed out blood and water” [John 19:34]. And Jesus died [John 19:30]. He came to be one of us. He came to suffer for us. And He came to die for us [Hebrews 10:5-14]. And that is the experience all of us have in our lives: suffering, tragedy, disappointment, and finally death.
I heard of a family, had two wonderful boys; the elder in college, four-letter man, an athlete and a scholar. But his younger brother, like one of you, his younger brother in grade school, promised to outshine his older brother, brilliant, athletic. And upon a day, he got tangled up in the wheels of a great, heavy truck. And when they untangled him from the wheels of the truck, and when they untangled him from the crushing of the bicycle, the doctor made the announcement, saying, “I have no other choice: I must amputate his right arm at the shoulder, and I must amputate his left leg at his thigh.” The sorrows of human life.
I used to sing a song about a beautiful Indian maid, who loved a brave in her tribe, and they were to be married. An Indian war called him away, and he was slain, and he died. And the choruses of the song ended always in this chorus:
Now the moon shines tonight on pretty Red Wing,
The breeze is sighing, the night bird’s crying,
Far away beneath the sky her brave is sleeping,
While Red Wing’s weeping her heart away.
[from “Red Wing,” Thurland Chattaway]
The sorrows of life—and all of us shall experience them; and finally, our death.
When I was your age—I was seventeen—I was pastor of a little country church. And I’ll never forget my first funeral. On a big cotton farm was a tenant, living in a shack, with his wife and a little baby. The baby was ill; and I went to pray for them. And as I was there, the little baby had one convulsion after another, and died. In the little crackerbox of a church house, with a few, I conducted the service. I had at that time a little coupe. They took the little homemade casket and put it at the bottom of a flatbed truck; and I put the sweet couple in my car. And as I began to drive away, following that truck out of the churchyard, the young mother seated there by my side began to cry piteously. And as she sobbed, her young husband put his arm around her, and said, “There, there, sweetheart, don’t you cry. Jesus has taken our little baby boy, and He will hold him in His arms in heaven. And when we get there, He will give us back our little boy, well and strong again.”
And that is the hope of our lives: after the sorrows of age and death, Jesus will welcome us into glory; and we’ll be with Him and one another forever and forever. He said, “I am the resurrection, and the life” [John 11:25]. He said, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold . . . I have the keys of Death and of the Grave” [Revelation 1:18].