Posts tagged Christmas
The Humblest and Highest One, Isa. 53:4 | Out of Tomes

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”



As I await Christ’s glorious second coming, I do not miss the greater difficulty and, in a sense, the superior grandeur of His first mission. God was not esteemed. God was not esteemed? And yet, the humblest has been most highly exalted (Matt. 23:12; Phil. 2:9).

All that we might witness in Jesus’ first coming—all of the peace He brought, the sorrows He bore, the friendship toward mankind! Can I look at God’s awe-inspiring character and step forward asking Him to bring peace to my life on my terms? When I look to this God and what He has done, I think: He is beautiful. May I become more like Him, the epitome of humility and service.

Now, have you come to Christ for peace and left wanting?

Perhaps that is because you have not yet known that God defines mankind’s needs, in addition to mankind’s way to peace; perhaps you do not yet agree with God about your needs. John Calvin reflects that Christ came not merely to cure bodies, but to cure souls. Through faith in Christ, the eternal penalty for sin is removed and the soul is able to esteem the Baby we celebrate at Christmastime as Lord. All people are born in sin—all people are born needing to make a transfer of allegiance from serving self to serving Christ.

He came to give Himself up for all who would come to Him so that we might have the privilege of giving ourselves up to this humblest and highest One. Be reassured that peace can be found on these terms—the Lord’s terms—and that it is free to all who would come.



…Christ cured various diseases; though it is certain that he was appointed not to cure bodies, but rather to cure souls; for it is of spiritual disease that the Prophet intends to speak. But in the miracles which Christ performed in curing bodies, he gave a proof of the salvation which he brings to our souls. That healing had therefore a more extensive reference than to bodies, because he was appointed to be the physician of souls; and accordingly Matthew applies to the outward sign what belonged to the truth and reality.

—John Calvin

The passages in which Christ is represented as a sacrifice for sin, are too numerous to be here specially considered. The New Testament, and particularly the Epistle to the Hebrews, as before remarked, declares and teaches, that the priesthood of the old economy was a type of the priesthood of Christ; that the sacrifices of that dispensation were types of his sacrifice; that as the blood of bulls and of goats purified the flesh, so the blood of Christ cleanses the soul from guilt; and that as they were expiations effected by vicarious punishment, in their sphere, so was the sacrifice of Christ in the infinitely higher sphere to which his work belongs. Such being the relation between the Old Economy and the New, the whole sacrificial service of the Mosaic institutions, becomes to the Christian an extended and irresistible proof and exhibition of the work of Christ as an expiation for the sins of the world, and a satisfaction to the justice of God.

The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah.

It is not however only in the typical services of the old economy that this great doctrine was set forth in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah this doctrine is presented with a clearness and copiousness which have extorted assent from the most unwilling minds. The prophet in that chapter not only foretells that the Messiah was to be a man of sorrows; not only that He was to suffer the greatest indignities and be put to a violent death; not only that these sufferings were endured for the benefit of others; but that they were truly vicarious, i.e., that He suffered, in our stead, the penalty which we had incurred, in order to our deliverance. This is done not only in those forms of expression which most naturally admit of this interpretation, but in others which can, consistently with usage and the analogy of Scripture, be understood in no other way. To the former class belong such expressions as the following, “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” Our griefs and our sorrows are the griefs and sorrows which we deserved. These Christ bore in the sense of enduring, for He carried them as a burden.

Charles Hodge

At this point let us speak of His healings. Isaiah says thus: He took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses: (Isa. liii. 4) that is to say, He shall take, and shall bear. For there are passages in which the Spirit of God through the prophets recounts things that are to be as having taken place. For that which with God is essayed and conceived of as determined to take place, is reckoned as having already taken place: and the Spirit, regarding and seeing the time in which the issues of the prophecy are fulfilled, utters the words (accordingly). And concerning the kind of healing, thus will He make mention, saying: In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and in darkness and in me the eyes of the blind shall see. 


He had not come on earth to take a kingdom, but to die. He had not come to reign and be ministered to; but to shed his blood as a sacrifice, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

It is almost impossible for us to conceive how strange and incomprehensible these tidings must have seemed to his disciples. Like most of the Jews, they could form no idea of a suffering Messiah. They did not understand that  Isaiah 53 must be fulfilled literally; they did not see that the sacrifices of the law were all meant to point them to the death of the true Lamb of God. They thought of nothing but the second glorious coming of Messiah, which is yet to take place at the end of the world. 

J. C. Ryle

In the Hebrew for "borne," or took, there is probably the double notion, He took on Himself vicariously (so Isa 53:56812), and so He took away; His perfect humanity whereby He was bodily afflicted for us, and in all our afflictions (Isa 63:9Heb 4:15) was the ground on which He cured the sick; […] Messiah's time of darkness was temporary (Mt 27:45), answering to the bruising of His heel; Satan's is to be eternal, answering to the bruising of his head (compare Isa 50:10).

—Jamieson, Faust, and Brown

Break forth, O beauteous heav'nly light,
and usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with affright,
but hear the angel's warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
our confidence and joy shall be;
the pow'r of Satan breaking,
our peace eternal making.

Break forth, O beauteous heav'nly light,
to herald our salvation;
He stoops to earth–the God of might,
our hope and expectation.
He comes in human flesh to dwell,
our God with us, Immanuel;
the night of darkness ending,
our fallen race befriending.

Johann von Rist, “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light”

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The Saddest Fulfillment of Prophecy, Isa. 53:3 | Out of Tomes

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”



Christ may not have been the Savior many of the Jewish people were expecting. A. W. Pink wrote, “For more than fifteen centuries the Coming of the Messiah had been the one great national Hope of Israel. From the cradle the sons of Abraham were taught to pray and long for His advent. The eagerness with which they awaited the appearing of the Star of Jacob is absolutely without parallel in the history of any other nation. How then can we account for the fact that when He did come He was despised and rejected?” Christ did not come in the desired glory of kingship—this is reserved for His second coming. He was glorified after His display of ultimate servanthood.

Isaiah foretold that the Lord would come humbly to experience sorrow, and this has been called the saddest fulfillment of prophecy. Do you not mourn too when reading about the coming of the precious Lord to suffer? One way to think about Christmas is to dwell upon what the Lord was willing to undertake for His people—and allow those thoughts to lead to worship.

Because of how He first came—to suffer—He can be praised as our humble Savior, in addition to our mighty King. J. C. Ryle wrote: “It is impossible to conceive a Saviour more suited to the wants of man’s heart than our Lord Jesus Christ—suited not only by His power, but by His sympathy—suited not only by His divinity, but by His humanity.” For us He came as a servant—if not for removal of all of this earth’s present afflictions in a grand display of kingship, then certainly for all of what He has deemed our dearest wants and needs. He came in order to save us from ourselves and then out of this world.


If you know what it is to apply to the Lord Jesus for spiritual comfort in earthly troubles, you should well remember the days of His flesh, and His human nature.

You are applying to One who knows your feelings by experience, and has drunk deep of the bitter cup, for He was “a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Isa. liii. 3.) Jesus knows the heart of a man—the bodily pains of a man—the difficulties of a man, for he was a Man Himself, and had flesh and blood upon earth. He sat wearied by the well at Sychar. He wept over the grave of Lazarus at Bethany. He sweat great drops of blood at Gethsemane. He groaned with anguish at Calvary.

He is no stranger to your sensations. He is acquainted with everything that belongs to human nature, sin only excepted.

(a) Are you poor and needy? So also was Jesus. The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of man had not where to lay His head. He dwelt in a despised city. Men used to say, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John i. 46.) He was esteemed a carpenter’s son. He preached in a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed ass, and was buried in a borrowed tomb.

(b) Are you alone in the world, and neglected by those who ought to love you? So also was Jesus. He came unto His own, and they received Him not. He came to be a Messiah to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and they rejected Him. The princes of this world would not acknowledge Him. The few that followed Him were publicans and fishermen. And even these at the last forsook Him, and were scattered every man to his own place.

(c) Are you misunderstood, misrepresented, slandered, and persecuted? So also was Jesus. He was called a glutton and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans, a Samaritan, a madman, and a devil. His character was belied. False charges were laid against Him. An unjust sentence was passed upon Him, and, though innocent, He was condemned as a malefactor, and as such died on the cross.

(d) Does Satan tempt you, and offer horrid suggestions to your mind? So also did he tempt Jesus. He bade Him to distrust God’s fatherly providence. “Command these stones to be made bread.” He proposed to Him to tempt God by exposing Himself to unnecessary danger. “Cast Thyself down” from the pinnacle of the temple. He suggested to Him to obtain the kingdoms of the world for His own, by one little act of submission to himself. “All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matt. iv. 1-10.)

(e) Do you ever feel great agony and conflict of mind? Do you feel in darkness as if God had left you? So did Jesus. Who can tell the extent of the sufferings of mind He went through in the garden? Who can measure the depth of His soul’s pain when He cried, “My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matt. xxvii. 46.)

It is impossible to conceive a Saviour more suited to the wants of man’s heart than our Lord Jesus Christ—suited not only by His power, but by His sympathy—suited not only by His divinity, but by His humanity. Labour, I beseech you, to get firmly impressed on your mind that Christ, the refuge of souls, is Man as well as God. Honour Him as King of kings, and Lord of lords. But while you do this, never forget that He had a body and was a Man. Grasp this truth and never let it go. The unhappy Socinian errs fearfully when he says that Christ was only Man, and not God. But let not the rebound from that error make you forget that while Christ was very God He was also very Man.

Listen not for a moment to the wretched argument of the Roman Catholic when he tells you that the Virgin Mary and the saints are more sympathizing than Christ. Answer him that such an argument springs from ignorance of the Scriptures and of Christ’s true nature. Answer him, that you have not so learned Christ as to regard Him only as an austere Judge and a being to be feared. Answer him, that the four Gospels have taught you to regard Him as the most loving and sympathizing of friends, as well as the mightiest and most powerful of Saviours. Answer him, that you want no comfort from saints and angels, from the Virgin Mary or from Gabriel, so long as you can repose your weary soul on THE MAN CHRIST JESUS.

J. C. Ryle

Who has believed thy word,
Or thy salvation known?
Reveal thine arm, Almighty Lord,
And glorify thy Son.

The Jews esteemed him here
Too mean for their belief;
Sorrows his chief acquaintance were,
And his companion, grief.

They turned their eyes away,
And treated him with scorn;
But 'twas their grief upon him lay,
Their sorrows he has borne.

'Twas for the stubborn Jews,
And Gentiles then unknown,
The God of justice pleased to bruise
His best-beloved Son.

"But I'll prolong his days,
And make his kingdom stand;
My pleasure," saith the God of grace,
"Shall prosper in his hand."

["His joyful soul shall see
The purchase of his pain
And by his knowledge justify
The guilty sons of men.]

["Ten thousand captive slaves,
Released from death and sin,
Shall quit their prisons and their graves
And own his power divine.]

["Heav'n shall advance my Son
To joys that earth denied;
Who saw the follies men had done,
And bore their sins, and died."]

Isaac Watts, The Humility and Exaltation of Christ”

For more than fifteen centuries the Coming of the Messiah had been the one great national Hope of Israel. From the cradle the sons of Abraham were taught to pray and long for His advent. The eagerness with which they awaited the appearing of the Star of Jacob is absolutely without parallel in the history of any other nation. How then can we account for the fact that when He did come He was despised and rejected? How can we explain the fact that side by side with the intense longing for the manifestation of their King, one of their own prophets foretold that when He did appear men would hide their faces from Him and esteem Him not? Finally, what explanation have we to offer for the fact that such things were predicted centuries before He came to this earth and that they were literally fulfilled to the very letter? As another has said, “No prediction could have seemed more improbable, and yet none ever received a sadder and more complete fulfillment.”

A. W. Pink

They expected a pompous Messiah, one that should come with state and glory, becoming the king of Israel. But when they saw him in the form of a servant, coming in poverty, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, they utterly rejected him: “We hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not,” Isa. 53: 3. Nor is it any great wonder these should be scandalised at his poverty when the disciples themselves had such carnal apprehensions of his kingdom, Mark 10: 37, 38.

John Flavel

Christ came down from heaven (John 3:13), but the Anti-christ comes up out of the Bottomless Pit (Rev. 11:7). Christ came in Another’s name (John 5:43), but the Anti-christ will come in his own name (John 5:43). Christ came to do the Father’s will (John 6:38), but the Anti-christ will do his own will (Dan. 11:36). Christ wrought in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14), but the Anti-christ will be energized by Satan (Rev. 13:4). Christ submitted Himself to God (John 5:30), but the Anti-christ will defy God (2 Thess. 2:4). Christ “humbled” Himself (Phil. 2:8), but the Anti-christ will “exalt” himself (Dan. 11:36). Christ honored the God of His fathers (Luke 4:16), but the Anti-christ will refuse to do so (Dan. 11:37). Christ cleansed the Temple (John 2:14–16), but the Anti-christ will defile the temple (Matt. 24:15). Christ ministered to the needy (Luke 4:18), but the Anti-christ will refuse to do so (Zech. 11:16). Christ was rejected of men (Is. 53:3), but the Anti-christ will be accepted by all the world (Rev. 13:4). Christ “leadeth” His flock (John 10:3), but the Anti-christ will “leave” his flock (Zech. 11:17). Christ was slain for the people (John 11:51), but the Anti-christ will slay the people (Dan. 11:44). Christ glorified God (John 17:4), but the Anti-christ will blaspheme God (Rev. 13:6). Christ was received up into Heaven (Luke 24:51), but the Anti-christ goes down into Hell (Rev. 19:20).

A. W. Pink

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Growth in Dry Ground, Isa. 53:2 | Out of Tomes

“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”



For us, Christmastime is a season of bright hope—but for Christ, it was the beginning of His “errand of suffering,” as Jonathan Edwards wrote. Because the Lord was willing to be born to “dry ground” (Isa. 53:2)—to a place that added nothing to Him—believers’ lives can be filled with joyous expectation of all light. Starting this week, I am dwelling in Isaiah 53:2-4 through a series of three Out of Tomes posts. These posts are filled with rich quotations from Christian classics for the purpose of worshiping the Lord, born to die, whose suffering started even in His infancy. For not only was He born in a stable, He was also the subject of an assassination plot: “…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’” (Matthew 2:13). This is how Jesus began His earth days—indicative of what was to come.


A root which springs up in a fat and fertile field owes very much to the soil in which it grows. We do not wonder that some plants thrive abundantly, for the earth in which they are planted is peculiarly congenial to their growth. But if we see a root or a tree luxuriating upon a flinty rock, or in the midst of arid sand, we are astonished and admire the handiwork of God. Our Savior is a root that derives nothing from the soil in which it grows, but puts everything into the soil. Christ does not live because of His surroundings, but He makes those to live who are around Him—and Christianity in this world derives nothing from the world except that which alloys and injures it, but it imparts every blessing to the place where it comes.

Note, then, this Truth of God—that Christ is always "a root out of a dry ground"—He derives nothing from without, but is self-contained and self-sustained in all the strength and excellence which He displays. Let us dwell on that Truth.


Poor, helpless, hopeless, stripped, and emptied one, you need not look for, nor desire anything in yourself to prepare you for Jesus! He delights to come into empty hearts to fill them with His love—into cold hearts to warm them with His sacred flame—and into dead hearts to give them life. Now, the same thought which may thus comfort the seeker, and I pray it may, ought also to encourage any Christian who has been making discoveries of his own barrenness.

Charles Spurgeon

He hath no form nor comeliness. This must be understood to relate not merely to the person of Christ, who was despised by the world, and was at length condemned to a disgraceful death; but to his whole kingdom, which in the eyes of men had no beauty, no comeliness, no splendor, which, in short, had nothing that could direct or captivate the hearts of men to it by its outward show. Although Christ arose from the dead, yet the Jews always regarded him as a person who had been crucified and disgraced, in consequence of which they haughtily disdained him.

—John Calvin

…it is said, “He shall grow up 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,” Isa. liii. 2. Can we see no goodness, no excellency in Christ, in the grace of Christ, in his ways, in his people, why he should be desired? Believers can, 1 Cor. ii. 7–10. The Spirit of God discovers to them the excellent things of Christ, whereby they find them to be good; whereas to strangers from Christ they seem absurd and foolish things, and no way to be desired. Men of carnal wisdom, that have attained to the highest pitch of reason and ability in the world, they can see neither form nor comeliness in Christ, or the things of Christ; but when God opens the things of Christ by the Spirit, then they see that there is a goodness and an excellency in them.

John Owen

“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.” Thus, as Christ’s principal errand into the world was suffering, so, agreeably to that errand, he came with such a nature and in such circumstances, as most made way for his suffering; so his whole life was filled up with suffering, he began to suffer in his infancy, but his suffering increased the more he drew near to the close of his life. His suffering after his public ministry began, was probably much greater than before; and the latter part of the time of his public ministry seems to have been distinguished by suffering. The longer Christ lived in the world, the more men saw and heard of him, the more they hated him. His enemies were more and more enraged by the continuance of the opposition that he made to their lusts; and the devil having been often baffled by him, grew more and more enraged, and strengthened the battle more and more against him: so that the cloud over Christ’s head grew darker and darker, as long as he lived in the world, till it was in its greatest blackness when he hung upon the cross and cried out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me! Before this, it was exceedingly dark, in the time of his agony in the garden; of which we have an account in the words now read; and which I propose to make the subject of my present discourse. The word agony properly signifies an earnest strife, such as is witnessed in wrestling, running, or fighting. And therefore in Luke xiii. 24. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able;” the word in the original, translated strive, is Greek. “Agonize, to enter in at the strait gate.” The word is especially used for that sort of strife, which in those days was exhibited in the Olympic games, in which men strove for the mastery in running, wrestling, and other such kinds of exercises; and a prize was set up that was bestowed on the conqueror. Those, who thus contended, were, in the language then in use, said to agonize. Thus the apostle in his epistle to the Christians of Corinth, a city of Greece, where such games were annually exhibited, says in allusion to the strivings of the combatants, “And every man that striveth for the mastery,” in the original, every one that agonizeth, “is temperate in all things.” The place where those games were held, was called Greek, or the place of agony; and the word is particularly used in Scripture for that striving in earnest prayer wherein persons wrestle with God: they are said to agonize, or to be in agony, in prayer. So the word is used Rom. xv. 30. “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me:” in the original Greekthat ye agonize together with me. So Coloss. iv. 12.“Always labouring fervently for you in prayer, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God:” in the original Greek, agonizing for you. So that when it is said in the text that Christ was in an agony, the meaning is, that his soul was in a great and earnest strife and conflict.

Jonathan Edwards

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