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A Personal Revelation
I believe that it would be appropriate for me to begin by quoting a verse from a hymn that I don’t believe I’ve ever heard sung. I don’t know where the verse came to me, it must have been at least 40 years ago or more, but for some reason or other this verse has stayed in my mind. And I think in a way it expresses what I want to be able to communicate to you which is the completeness and the totality of the victory that was won by Jesus on the cross. This is the verse: “The winds of hell have blown, the world its spite has shown. The cross is not our throne. Hallelujah for the cross.”
I trust that by the time these studies end, every one of us will say with a new emphasis “hallelujah for the cross.” I probably should begin by explaining what I mean by the cross because particularly for people from a Catholic or a liturgical background there’s room for misunderstanding. I do not mean a piece of metal or wood that is suspended around a person’s neck or hung on the wall of a church. In no sense am I criticizing that but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about what was accomplished in the purposes of God by the death of Jesus on the cross. I just used a simple phrase, the cross, to cover that whole meaning.
One of the words that’s often used in this connection is the word atonement. It’s a familiar word to most people with a Christian background but I think many don’t really know what the meaning of the word is. I would just like to demonstrate it by writing it up in three parts. At-one-ment. So the atonement is what makes us at one with God. It’s what breaks down every barrier between God and man and makes it possible for a sinner to be brought into a place where he is at one with God. I think it’s perhaps as expressive as any word that’s used.
By way of a scriptural introduction I want to turn to Hebrews 10:14, one very simple verse that says a tremendous amount. This is speaking about what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf through his death on the cross. We need to bear in mind all the way through that the death of Jesus was a sacrifice. The word used here in the version I’m reading is offering but we need to bear in mind it always means a sacrifice. When Jesus died on the cross he was two things: he was the priest that offered the sacrifice and he was the sacrifice himself. And his death was a sacrifice in the proper Biblical sense of that word. And concerning that sacrifice, the writer of Hebrews says:
For by one offering [but let’s say by one sacrifice] he [that’s Jesus] has perfected for ever those who are being sanctified.
That’s about as emphatic as any words could be. By one final, all sufficient sacrifice he has perfected for ever. He has done all that ever would be necessary at any time to meet the needs of every believer. And I want to emphasize that right from the beginning. I believe that every need of every human being in time and eternity whether it’s spiritual or emotional or physical or material or in any other realm, every single need of every human being has been supplied through the sacrifice of the cross. There is no other basis ultimately upon which God will meet our needs and do what needs to be done for us other than the cross.
That is why it is so tremendously important that we learn to appropriate what was accomplished for us through the death of Jesus on the cross because we only have in our experience as much as we receive through the cross. The extent of what you are able to appropriate through the cross will be the extent of your spiritual experience and riches. I want to say this most emphatically. God has no other basis upon which he will supply our needs and do what needs to be done for us other than the cross.
Sometimes when I’m teaching in the Third World I try to use simple little examples or patterns to express these things. Actually, they work just as well in America or Britain but the British and the Americans tend to think of themselves as a little more sophisticated. So if I present it from the Third World you may be better able to receive it.
My mind goes back to a situation in Pakistan just about two years ago or a little less where I had gone with a team to preach. The first meeting was held in Karachi and I had never met the brother that invited us until we arrived. The whole scene was entirely unfamiliar to me and I really didn’t know what to expect. The atmosphere was by no means friendly. I said to him, “Where are we going to hold the meeting tonight?” He said, “In our church.” Well, having seen the abysmal poverty of Pakistani Christians I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. So I said, “How many people do you think your church will hold?” He said about 300. I said, “How many people are you expecting at the meeting.” He said about 600. So I didn’t understand that but I wasn’t going to try to reason it out. So they put us in a van and drove us there and true to Pakistani time we arrived an hour late where the church was. We never saw the church because when we got near it the entire intersection was totally crammed with people. And by conservative estimate there were about 3,000 people there. They had come for this meeting. They had come for one reason: Because they had heard we were going to pray for the sick. That was what brought them. They got me up on a platform and I was surrounded by people so close that I could have touched them on every side, there was no room for anyone to move. I looked at them and I thought, “What am I going to say to them?” And then God gave me this little parable.
I had determined to speak to them about what Jesus had done on the cross, what they could receive. So I said to them, “Now if you people were all hungry and I were the owner of an orange grove, I could do two things. I could go to my orange grove, take an orange, bring it to you and say, “Here, eat that.” And it would temporarily satisfy your hunger. Or, the other thing I could do would be to invite you to the orange grove, show you the orange grove with all the fruit on the trees, invite you to walk around and help yourself. I said, “That’s what I’m going to do tonight. I’m not going to offer you an orange, I’m going to take you to the orange grove.”
That’s what I’m going to do during these studies. I’m going to take you to the orange grove. It’ll be up to you to help yourself.
I was in Africa a little while earlier in Zambia and I had a whole series of meetings each morning with African leaders. I wanted to follow basically the same theme that I’ll be following here and I thought, “How can I awaken their interest?” So I said, “I want you all to know that God has a wonderful storehouse. You have no idea how big the storehouse is and it contains everything you’ll ever need. There’s nothing you’ll ever need that isn’t in that storehouse. But, the storehouse has a keeper, a person who is in charge of the storehouse. You can’t get anything out of the storehouse unless you make friends with the storehouse keeper.”
Now they were all professing Christians, at least most of them. So I said, “What is the name of the keeper of the storehouse?” And of course some of them said Jesus. I said, “I appreciate the answer but it’s not what I want. The keeper of the storehouse is the Holy Spirit. He is in charge of all the treasures of the Godhead.”
Let me show you that in John 16:14–15. Jesus is speaking about what the Holy Spirit will do for his disciples and he says:
“He will glorify me; for he will take of what is mine, and declare it [or reveal it or unfold it] to you.”
And then he goes on:
“All things that the Father has are mine; there I said that he [the Holy Spirit] will take of mine, and declare it to you.”
Notice everything that the Father has he has imparted to the Son. And everything that the Father and the Son have is under the charge of the Holy Spirit. The only one who can impart it and reveal it is the Holy Spirit. He is the keeper of the storehouse.
Then I said to them, “When you come to know who the keeper is then you need to know that there’s a special key that he uses. And there’s only one key that will open that storehouse. And that key has a very special shape.” I would let them offer me a few guesses as to the shape of the key. I don’t recall that anybody gave the answer that I wanted. I said, “The shape of the key is a cross and the cross is the only key that will open the storehouse that contains all the treasures of God.” You can be a child of God, born again, believing the Bible, but you can live like a beggar unless you make friends with the keeper of the storehouse and unless you allow him to use the key which is the cross to open up all the treasures of God.” There is no other key ultimately to all the treasures of God but the key of the cross.
Now I say this on a background of personal experience. I have observed in my own life over many years that I hardly ever teach anything that is just an abstract theory. Actually, I am not interested in theories. I was, before I became a preacher, a professional philosopher, I dealt in theories. I had all I wanted of theories at that time, I want no more.
Almost everything that I consider of any significance that I’ve discovered in the Bible has in some way been related to experience. God seems to use experience to motivate me to find truth. When you’re in need you are motivated to look for an answer. I want to tell you briefly this morning how my experience opened up the truths that I’m going to try to share with you.
I was drafted into the British Army in World War II, a professor of philosophy without any knowledge of God. I had been a member of the Anglican Church, I had done all that the church required of me and I have to say without any criticism of anybody I had not met God. I am not questioning that God is in the Anglican Church somewhere but I have to say he and I never met. When I went up to Cambridge University at the age of 18 I felt I had done all of the churchgoing I needed to do in the early years of my life because we used to have to go to church eight times a week. So I thought that’s the end of Christianity. I viewed Christianity as a kind of crutch that weak minded people used to hobble through life with and I decided I wasn’t that weak minded, I didn’t need the crutch and so I threw the crutch as far as I could throw it and set out to find my own answer to life’s problems.
That’s why I became a philosopher. I felt somewhere must be a meaning and a purpose to life and if it wasn’t in Christianity the obvious place to look was philosophy. I was successful academically but I hadn’t found the answer when World War II came. When I was drafted into the British Army I was faced with the fact that I would no longer have access to a large library right at my back door and books were really the central thing in my life. I was faced with the question what will I take to read when I go into the Army? I sat down in a philosophic way and reasoned it out and I said to myself, “Here you are, you’re supposed to be a teacher of philosophy but there’s one book of philosophy in the world which is more widely read and more influential than any other book and you know very little about what’s in that book. It’s your philosophic duty to study it.” You have probably guessed that the book I had in mind was the Bible. I’m glad that I was sensible enough to recognize its unique influence.
So I bought myself a nice new black Bible and took it with me into the Army. I had no idea how to study the Bible so I said to myself, “How do you study the Bible?” I said, “Like any other book, start at the beginning and read it through to the end.” My first night in an Army barrack room with about 24 other soldiers I sat down on the bed, opened my black Bible and started reading at Genesis 1:1. I didn’t realize that reading a Bible in public in the Army made you very conspicuous! I still recall the uneasy hush that fell on the whole barrack room when they saw somebody reading a Bible.
However, when I wasn’t reading the Bible I didn’t live the least bit like people who read the Bible. I don’t want to go into all my many sins. Let me say two things: I was a heavy drinker of whiskey and I was a hopelessly confirmed blasphemer. Being in the Army made that much worse. I was incapable of speaking without using some kind of blasphemous word. I always remember that with shame but that was the way it was.
So there I was for nine months reading my Bible, drinking my whiskey, blaspheming, baffling everybody including myself. The Bible was the first book I’d read that defeated me. I had always been able to say this is where the book is right and this is where it’s wrong and this is where I agree. I couldn’t do that with the Bible, I couldn’t classify it, I didn’t know what it was. Was it philosophy, was it mythology, was it poetry, was it history, what was it?
And at that point God put in my way some people unlike any I had ever met in my life. My religious background was very staid, I mean, I had grown up in the Anglican Church. I knew there were Roman Catholics and you ought to stay away from them! I had two friends who were Jews and I knew there were Methodists; some people who had made trouble in British history way back! Believe it or not I had never heard of Baptists. I didn’t know there were such people. It’s difficult for Americans to believe that. The people I met were not Anglicans, they were not Methodists, they were not Baptists, they were not Jewish. They were Pentecostals. Now, if they had told me that it wouldn’t have meant anything to me. I had never heard of Pentecostals.
But, I can’t go into the details, being together with them I realized they had something I didn’t have. First of all, the Bible was meaningful to them. They talked about the Bible as if it was the morning’s newspaper, as if everything in it had just happened. I said to myself, “This isn’t reasonable, these people—actually they were people of very humble origin and very limited education. I said, “They have never even been to a university. I’ve spent seven years at Britain’s largest university, they understand it and I don’t.” And they tried to explain it to me and I could not understand the language that they used. Actually, if they had spoken Greek I would have understood it better.
I came to a point of desperation. I’m not going to go into the background but I decided one night in the Army barrack room, which I shared with one other soldier, to pray until something happened. So I let him go to sleep and about 11 P.M., a fine night in July I started to pray. I discovered I couldn’t pray. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know who to pray to, I was totally baffled. I spent probably about one hour just trying to say something that could be called prayer. And then something changed in a way that I was not able to account for and I found myself saying to some unknown person, “Unless you bless me I will not let you go.” And when I started to say I will not let you go I couldn’t stop. I went on saying, “I will not let you go, I will not let you go, I will not let you go.” And then some strange power began to take control of my body and my arms started to go up in the air and I noticed that the palms were upwards. One part of me was analyzing this experience all the time. In the middle of everything the analytical philosopher was still there. Why were the palms upward? And I got an immediate answer without reasoning: power from on high. And I saw in a way that I could have never reasoned that there were two sources of power: one from on high and one from below. And I knew that I had been in touch with the one from below because I had been heavily involved in the occult but I had never been in touch with the one from above.
That power came over me cast me on my back on the floor and I spent more than one hour on the floor with my arms still up in the air which is not possible naturally. And I had a total transformation in my whole being. I don’t want to try to describe it in detail but from that day to this, and that is now 46 years ago, there are two things that have been absolutely clear to me. One is that Jesus Christ is alive. The other is that the Bible is true. And so I concluded that I was wasting my time studying philosophy when the Bible was the book with the answers. So at that moment I ceased to be a philosopher and I decided I would give myself to studying the Bible. Later the Lord called me to teach the Bible.
Very shortly after that experience the British Army sent me overseas with my unit and I spent the next two years in the deserts of North Africa in Egypt and in Libya. During that time I became sick with a condition of the skin which was called by all sorts of long medical names, ultimately was diagnosed as chronic eczema. And I spent one year on end in a military hospital in Egypt—which is not the place to spend a year in the hospital, believe me.
As I lay there in that hospital bed I knew God, I was baptized in the Spirit, I believed the Bible but I didn’t have an answer. I kept saying to myself, “If I had faith I know that God would heal me.” But the next thing that I always said was, “But I don’t have faith.” And when I said that I was in what John Bunyan calls the slough of despond, a long, deep, dark valley of despair.
But one day through a book by a former medical doctor, ?Lillian Yoman?, a piercing ray of light penetrated that valley and the light came from Romans 10:17 which says in the version that I was then reading:
So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
And the word that I laid hold of was this: Faith cometh. If you don’t have it you can get it. I want to tell you, each one of you, that’s true. Faith comes. You don’t need to be without faith. You may be without faith right now but you don’t need to stay that way. Faith comes how? By hearing. Hearing what? The word of God.
So I decided that I would devote myself with new intensity to studying my Bible which was the only book I had with me except that little book by ?Lillian Yoman?. So I was very simple. Having been a philosopher I appreciated simplicity. I armed myself with a blue pencil and I said, “I’ll read through the whole Bible and underline in blue everything that relates to four themes: healing, health, physical strength and long life.” Well it took me quite a number of months to do that but I worked all the way through the Bible and at the end do you know what I had? A blue Bible. But I was still not healed.
And then when I was in a hospital at a place called ?Abala? on the Suez Canal a most unusual lady came to visit me. I had met her briefly before. She was a brigadier in the Salvation Army. She was a brigadier because her husband had been a brigadier, he died and she automatically took his rank. But she was a very unusual Salvationist, especially in those days, because she was an ardent tongue speaker. She had heard about this Christian soldier in this hospital in ?Abala? and, Lord, may her memory be honored, she was 76 years old at the time. She got hold of a small four-seater car, a British soldier to drive her and took her American coworker with her, a young woman from the State of Oklahoma and they made this rather tiresome journey to the hospital where I was. She marched into the hospital ward fully attired as a brigadier of the Salvation Army: bonnet, ribbons and all the other things, overawed the nurse and obtained permission for me to go out and sit in the car with them in the hospital compound. So I found myself sitting in the back seat of this very small four-seater car. The British soldier was in the driver’s seat, the Salvation Army brigadier was next to him. Beside me in the back seat was this young woman from Oklahoma. There was no preliminaries, the brigadier said let’s pray. So we started to pray. After a little while the young lady from Oklahoma began to shake all over. I wasn’t frightened, I knew it was the Holy Spirit. Then I began to shake. Then all of the people in the car began to shake. Then the car began to shake. The engine was not running but it was vibrating and rattling as if it was going about 50 miles an hour over a rough road. Now I knew that was the presence and power of God. And what humbled me was I knew God was doing it for my sake.
Then this young lady from Oklahoma spoke in a very clear, articulate, beautiful tongue. Then she gave what I understood to be the interpretation. Now you have to know in those days I was far more British than I am now. I had a background in the classics, I was a student of Shakespeare and I spoke very articulate English. I hardly need to tell you Americans that people from the State of Oklahoma are somewhat different! But when this young lady gave this interpretation it was in the most beautiful, articulate English. And it was absolutely designed for me because it contained things in it that other people wouldn’t appreciate.
Now I do not remember all of it but there’s one part I never will forget. It’s as vivid to me today as it was then. It said this: “Consider the work of Calvary. A perfect work, perfect in every respect, perfect in every aspect.” Now that is elegant English by anybody’s standard. But it was particularly meaningful to me because I had grown up studying Greek and instantly my mind went to the Greek New Testament and one of the last utterances of Jesus on the cross when he said, “It is finished.”
The Greek word is just one word tetelestai. But it’s the perfect tense of a verb that means to do something perfectly. I have said sometimes you could translate it this way: It is perfectly perfect or it is completely complete. I realized that the Holy Spirit was interpreting that statement of Jesus and applying it to what had been accomplished by his death on the cross at Calvary. I realized that the Holy Spirit was showing me if I could receive it, the answer to my need was there provided by the sacrifice of Jesus.
Now I got out of the car just as sick as when I got into it but I had direction, I knew where to look. I understood that I was to study what the Bible teaches about what was accomplished by the death of Jesus on the cross, the work of Calvary. That was 44 years ago. I have to say I’m still studying today. I have never exhausted that theme. I just thank God that he was so gracious and so merciful early in my Christian walk to direct me to the work of Calvary.
As I studied this I was confronted with what seemed a clear statement that on the cross Jesus not merely took our sins but he took our sicknesses and our pain. And partly because of my background as a philosopher which is essentially analytical and partly because of my background in the Anglican Church where I had formed the impression—and I’m not saying it was the correct impression but I had formed that impression that if you were going to be a Christian you had better expect to be pretty miserable and a failure. And here I was looking at something that seemed to say something totally different, that the Lord had provided complete healing and success.
As I went through the words I’d underlined in blue I couldn’t find anything negative. There was never a suggestion that God wanted his people to be sick or to fail or to be defeated. There was no suggestion anywhere. And in particular it seemed to me very clear that the Bible said Jesus, on the cross, bore our sicknesses just as much as he bore our sins. And he bore our sicknesses that we might be healed just as much as he bore our sins that we might be forgiven. I tell you, I searched the pages of the Bible, went backwards and forwards because it was totally contrary to my way of thinking to come to that conclusion.
So then I decided that I was going to believe this and I entered a period of spiritual conflict that would be hard to describe. The conflict was in my mind. You see, the more you have trusted in your mind the more struggles you’re going to have in your mind. My whole strength and my life was my mind. And I somehow felt God had provided this sacrifice, it’s for me. But I don’t believe there was a single objection to divine healing that wasn’t brought to my mind supernaturally because I didn’t discuss it with people. Every possible objection against the teaching of divine healing came to my mind in those months.
I found myself doing something that I saw patterned by Abraham and I want to just read one verse in Genesis 15. We’ll come back to this later on in these studies, it’s a covenant that God made with Abraham. The covenant was based on certain animals that Abraham had to sacrifice. After they had been sacrificed and the bodies had been exposed, the vultures came down to feed on those carcasses. Abraham was responsible for driving the vultures away and keeping the carcasses of the sacrifice intact. And in Genesis 15:11 it says:
When the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abraham drove them away.
I felt myself like that. Here was the sacrifice but there were all these dark vultures assailing my mind and trying to take away what had been provided by the sacrifice. I would speak of doubt and fear and depression and discouragement. I was particularly subject to depression. And I cannot in words describe the conflict that went on inside. You could look at me from outside and you wouldn’t know that anything was happening. But there was this turmoil in my mind. Every time a doubt was insinuated I would turn to the word of God and drive the vulture away with a scripture.
I now believed that Jesus had provided my healing, that it was there for me but I wasn’t apprehending it. I wasn’t appropriating it. And then the blessed Holy Spirit gave me the verses that got me out of the hospital. They can do no less for each one of you. If you need them they’re found in a book that you might not expect to find them in, the book of Proverbs. Chapter 4.
It’s interesting as a matter of just objective fact that when I had my Bible outlined in blue there were two books that had more blue than any other. One was the book of Proverbs and the other was the gospel of Matthew. If you really want a treatise on healing you can find it in the book of Proverbs.
So, it was in Proverbs 4:20–22. Now I’ll quote them, I’m reading the New King James, I’ll quote them in the Old King James because they’re so deeply imbedded in my mind I can never say them any other way.
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those who find them, and health to all their flesh.
When I got to that final sentence I said to myself, “That settles it. If God has provided something for me that can give me health in all my flesh, I’m enough of a logician to know that health and sickness are opposites. Where you have health there is no room for sickness. If I can have health in all my flesh then there will be no room for sickness.”
Then I looked in the margin of the particular Bible I had and I saw that the alternative translation for health was medicine. Well, I said, “That’s even better. If I’m healthy they’ll keep me healthy but if I’m sick they’ll be my medicine.” I saw that they was God’s word and got saved.
So once again I chose to be simple. How I bless the times in my Christian life when I’ve chosen to be simple. And what problems I’ve gotten into when I decided to be complicated. I said to myself, “I happen to be what the British Army calls a medical orderly.” That’s one person who helps the doctor. I said, “I’m going to take God’s word as my medicine.” I said, “I’m going to do it literally.” Well, when I did that the Lord communicated to my mind this. He said, “When the doctor gives the person medicine, the instructions for taking it are on the bottle. And unless the person takes it according to the instructions no cure is guaranteed.” God said, “This is my medicine bottle and the instructions are on it, you better read them.”
So I went back again and I read them and saw there were four instructions. Number one: attend to my word. Give careful undivided total attention to what God is saying. He’s worth listening to.
Number two: Incline thine ear. That means bow your head down and be teachable. Don’t try to tell God what he ought to have said because he’s said a lot of things you’d never think he would have said.
Let them not depart from thine eyes. Focus your whole attention on what God is saying in his word. Don’t have a spiritual squint.
And, keep them in the midst of thine heart. When you receive God’s word by attention through your ears and through your eyes, they meet in your heart. And the heart is the center of all human life and experience. The very next verse of Proverbs says:
“Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
Everything in your life is settled by what you have in your heart. I want to leave that thought with every one of you. The course that your life will take depends on what you have in your heart.
So I said, “Well, that’s it. I’m going to take God’s word as my medicine according to the directions.” So I renounced all further medication. I want to say very emphatically I’m not against doctors or medicine. But they had done everything they could do and I was no better. So I said, “From now on I’m going to take God’s word as my medicine.” I can’t go into all the details because it’s a long story but for about three months in one of the worst climates in the world which was the Sudan, I took God’s word three times daily as my medicine. That’s how people take it, three times daily after meals. After each main meal I went away, bowed my head, opened my Bible and said, “God, you said that these words will be medicine to all my flesh, I’m taking them as my medicine now in the name of Jesus.” I didn’t experience any miracle, there was no particular moment of a dramatic change but within three months I was totally well. There wasn’t any sickness anywhere in my body. Other soldiers who were healthy were getting sick in the same climate.
Furthermore, when I look back now over the years that have passed it seems to me that somehow I got an injection of divine life and strength which is still with me today. I am well over 70 today and I am more active, I preach more, travel more, work more than at any previous time in my life. To God be all the glory but let me say it pays to take the medicine.
That’s just an introduction to my own experience. I will mention one other thing that happened that was significant. About l947, for the first time I went to the country of Norway and I was in a Pentecostal conference there and I stayed in the home of some people. They talked to me about a certain preacher whom I had never met but what they said about this preacher was when he teaches about the atonement two hours pass like ten minutes. That staggered me. I thought to myself, “Two hours! How could anybody spend two hours talking about the atonement? I would find it hard to spend ten minutes.” But it stirred something in me. I saw here is a mind. If only I can get into that mind, its treasures are limitless.
And so that experience in the hospital and then the testimony of that Norwegian preacher placed in me a determination to find out for myself about the atonement. That’s what I’m going to be sharing with you in these ensuing lessons.
Now before this session closes I’d just like to focus for a few moments on Isaiah 53:4–6. We’ll probably not have time to complete this but we’ll begin. All the New Testament writers agree that this is a prediction of Jesus though he’s not named.
Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows [But the correct literal meaning are sicknesses and pains] yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by 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 by his stripes [or his wounds] we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Now I want to study those verses together with you but I want to take just the remaining minutes of this particular session to analyze the structure of Isaiah. I believe you’ll find it very illuminating. The prophet Isaiah contains 66 chapters. And by all agreement there is a tremendous break at the end of chapter 39. So it’s divided up into 39 chapters plus 27 chapters. And that, coincidentally, is the number of books in the Old Testament, 39 and in the New Testament, 27.
Now if you take the last 27 chapters of Isaiah, that is, 40 through 66, you’ll find that they fall naturally into three groups of nines. The first group of nine is 40 through 48. The second group of nine is 49 through 57. The third group is 58 through 66. Now what divides them is at the end of each group of nine there is a specific warning of God’s judgment on the wicked. If you turn for a moment to the end of 48, verse 22:
There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.
Then you turn to the end of chapter 57 and it says:
There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
You turn to the end of chapter 66, verse 24:
“And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
Every one of those three sets of nine ends with a specific warning of God’s judgment on the wicked. That’s the dividing line.
So you now take the middle set of nine which is 49–57 and you take the middle chapter. It is which? 53. So 53 is the middle chapter.
Now look for a moment at 53 and you’ll see—and I think almost all Bibles with a verse division will indicate this—it’s made up of four sets of three verses. Verses 1–3, verses 4–6, verses 7–9 and verses 10–12. So you got four sets of three verses.
Now if you go back to the end of chapter 52 you find there are three verses at the end which are an introduction to chapter 53. I’ll read them for a moment. Isaiah 52 beginning at verse 13:
“Behold, my servant...”
And that’s the introduction to all that follows. It’s the revelation of God’s servant.
“...shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee, his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: so shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them they shall see; and that which they had not heard they shall consider.”
You’ll see that is, in a way, a kind of summary of 53. It speaks of the humiliation and the suffering of Jesus, the exaltation of Jesus and the cleansing of his sprinkled blood that comes promised. So the last three verses of 52 are the introduction to 53 which contains four sets of three verses.
Now if you add in the end verses of 52 to the four sets of three in 53 you get five sets of three verses. Is that clear? All right. You don’t have to have a computer to work that.
Now if you take five sets, what’s the middle set? Three. All right. So the middle set is verses 4–6. That is the middle of the middle. It’s in the middle of the middle nine, it’s in the middle chapter and it’s in the middle three verses. Now that is no accident. What the Holy Spirit is telling us is here is the center of the revelation of the New Testament. What does it consist in? The substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus. And it concludes with verse 6 which we will return to in our next session.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him [that is on his suffering servant revealed in history as Jesus of Nazareth] the iniquity of us all.
So in our next session we’ll go on to consider the full significance of that critical verse, Isaiah 53:6.