We come again to these prophecies of Isaiah, and this morning we are very definitely moving onto the other side of the Cross, on from chapter 53. As we pointed out last night, chapter 53 sees the way opened and cleared for God by the Cross and a new day, a new prospect breaking forth after all that tragedy. And when we come into chapter 54 we have what we may call a sample chapter of resurrection. There is very much, as we have indicated, in the remaining chapters of these prophecies which indicates what the new day is and what the Lord would have it to be. And this very next chapter is a very good example of that new day of resurrection. There are eight features or characteristics of this new day in this very chapter. Eight, as you know, is the number of resurrection and you can just cast your eye down through the chapter, and take account of these things.
In verse 1, there is the movement from barrenness to fruitfulness. A first feature of resurrection.
In verses 2 and 3: movement from straitness to enlargement. "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations; spare not: lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes. For thou shalt spread abroad on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall possess the nations, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited." How true of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus!
Number 3: verses 4 and 5 - the movement from shame to honour. "Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth..." and so on. From shame to honour.
Verses 6 to 7: from forsakenness to fellowship. "For the Lord hath called thee as a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even a wife of youth, when she is cast off, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee." From forsakenness to fellowship
Verse 8: from wrath to mercy. "In overflowing wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy redeemer." You see the look back to the Cross, in which all those things were true; and now it's resurrection, and they've passed. And it is a mighty and wonderful change.
Next in verses 11 and 12: from affliction and desolation, to comfort and glory. "O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will set thy stones in fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy pinnacles of rubies, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy border of pleasant stones." From affliction and desolation to comfort and glory.
Then verses 14 to 16: from oppression to security. "In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression, for thou shalt not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near thee. Behold, they may gather together, but not by Me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall because of thee. Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the fire of coals, and bringeth forth a weapon for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy."
That leads to the last, verse 17: from reproach to vindication: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness which is of Me, saith the Lord."
Surely a wonderful sample of resurrection Life, power and glory! As in other connections, so in this, we carry the whole thing over from Old Testament history into New Testament, and into this very dispensation in which we live - the Day of Resurrection. How true all this was - and is - of the Lord Jesus, in the first place.
There was the negative side - all those things that we have mentioned, the stripping, barrenness, and desolation of the Cross; the straitness of which He spoke: "How am I straitened, how am I straitened until it be accomplished!" Shame and reproach; forsakenness, forsakenness - even of His very Father and God, the wrath of God resting upon Him. He was afflicted, afflicted, oppressed and reproached. All those things were true in chapter 53. Now the whole scene has changed. And how very true the change is for the Lord Jesus in resurrection; what fruitfulness has taken the place of barrenness! Yes, the 'corn of wheat, falling into the ground and dying', has indeed borne very much fruit - we are only a very small representation of that today here - fruit out of many nations, but representing so many more. It's a great joy to us, is it not, to know, and to know personally in so many cases, the fruitfulness of His sufferings, in the 'seeing of His seed'. Out of barrenness into fruitfulness; out of His straitness, against which He groaned, into the great enlargement that has come to Him - what enlargement! Out of the shame into the honour: the multitudes and multitudes ever since and today, all over the world, are just heaping honour upon Him. And so we go on.
How true all this is of the Lord Jesus Himself in resurrection, but you can see also how true this became of that little band of disciples. You could say that, in a certain sense, at the time of the Cross, these negative and dark things were true of them. Yes, everything was gone, the trees were stripped bare; it was barrenness indeed. In their hearts they were saying: "What has it all been for? Why did we give up everything? We have lost everything; it's all gone." But see the change from the Day of Pentecost and from then onwards. From barrenness to fruitfulness and again you go through all this list of characteristics - from straitness, as a little band, a handful of men, straitened in a few miles of Jerusalem, and Judaea, and Palestine, a little country - but: "Their sound went into all the earth, unto the ends of the earth"! What enlargement, the lengthening of cords, the strengthening of stakes in resurrection. From their aloneness - the terrible, terrible loneliness that came over them when He, as they thought, was dead - but now the marvellous fellowship that has sprung up and been established in relationship with a growing and ever-growing company of fellow-believers. Yes, it was true for the disciples, all these things came about: this wonderful change-over in their experience.
But does it stop there? Does it stop there? No! The same thing we find in the New Testament became true of every new believer; and on and on until now. These are the things that are the true characteristics of the believer's life if the believer's life is a true believer's life - a believer's life! If you are living on the other side of the Cross, or even if you are living in the day of His death and just living with Christ dead, well, it's not true. But if we are living, as true believers, on the ground of His resurrection, this, all these things are true. They are true! It is a very blessed thing for us here this morning to be able to say, without any hesitation, without our tongue in our cheek, as we say, these things are true! He has changed us from barrenness to fruitfulness; He has changed our life from straitness to enlargement; oh, what enlargement! Yes, He indeed has given us a large place, a very large place. He has changed our lot from shame to honour; from forsakenness and aloneness to fellowship; and so on. This is the heritage of every true believer.
In the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, this wonderful note is struck and sounds forth: a new life, a new hope, a new assurance! Well, so it is in the New Testament, you see the effect of Christ's resurrection. Just note, and sometime you can, the marvellous effect that His appearing, or appearances, had upon the people concerned. As far as we can see, there were about ten appearances of the Lord after His resurrection. Five of them took place on one day, between sunrise and perhaps a little after sunset; the other five were scattered over a period, in different places. But it's most interesting, it's most impressive, it's most instructive just to notice the change that took place between the time before He appeared, and the time when He disappeared - the tremendous change that came over the people concerned, and over everything. Run through those ten appearances.
The first, undoubtedly, was to Mary Magdalene, who came early to the tomb, with spices to anoint His body. You remember the story, we can't, this morning describe every occasion, but what a poor, sad, desolate, barren sort of person she was then, that morning! What a plaintive note there is as she beholds Him without recognising Him, and calls Him the gardener: "Sir, if you have borne Him away, tell me where you have laid Him". Jesus only spoke her name - "Mary" - and the whole situation is transformed, transfigured! She hurries from the tomb - hurries away to tell His disciples. And it would seem that there were other women nearby, and as they were going, she and they, to tell the disciples, Jesus met them on the way - and another transforming scene and experience.
Then, we are told, He appeared unto Simon. It doesn't want very much imagination to see what kind of Simon he was when Jesus appeared to him. Well, he was not a very happy sort of man! No, if ever there was a man who felt he was bereft - bereft of everything, stripped, stark, and in utter despair - aloneness, forsaken, it must have been Simon Peter. And Jesus appeared to him - gave him a private appearance, a private interview! Ah, yes, and it changed the whole situation, didn't it? It completely changed and transformed the whole outlook for Simon.
And then to two disciples on their way to Emmaus. What miserable men they were; what sad men they were, what desolate men they were! As they walked and were sad, it was the longest three miles that ever the two men had walked! But then Jesus appeared... their eyes were opened, they saw... He went... and it was the shortest three miles that ever men had run! I don't know whether they did three miles or four miles in a minute - but I am quite sure that they were not conscious of those three miles! Distance and time lost all its meaning as they simply hurried back, fleet of foot, to Jerusalem, to tell the others. Oh, the whole scene was changed! They came in, came in and before they could say anything about what had happened to them, they were met with this from some of those in Jerusalem: "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon"! It was a changed scene into which they came in Jerusalem.
And then to the apostles themselves, and to some others - will I, shall I go through every instance? To the about five hundred brethren in Galilee, His appearance - that is, His coming in resurrection - everywhere and every occasion just brought about a marvellous change in the whole situation. Yes, Isaiah 54 has a very real fulfilment in their case - it's resurrection, it's resurrection!
What we really are concerned with here, dear friends, is that this should become something for us. We might again say, "Yes, long ago and far away", but no, no. The big question that arises with us is: have we any ground for believing that this can be our right-up-to-date experience? And I want to say that the New Testament presents us with very solid ground for that. There is very much, in the New Testament after the Lord had gone to glory, in the experience of men and women that had this effect. Again I should have to start and take you through the New Testament, I've only to take you through the book of the Acts, and look. What about that Ethiopian on his way home, disappointed and desolate, sorrowful and perplexed. Yes, we may say that through His servant Philip and through the word of Isaiah 53 in the mouth of Philip, the risen Lord met that man. And the whole thing was changed. The last we hear of him is: "he went on his way rejoicing". It's a transfigured life, and a transfigured situation, because he has come into touch with the risen Lord.
And so again you could go on, you see, every one of these wants a series of meetings, doesn't it? You go on like that! The marvellous transformation by a touch of the risen Lord after He'd gone to glory. The change that took place when the Spirit of the Lord touched people, came into their lives, came into their midst. They met sometimes in much perplexity and oppression, and suffering and affliction with the threats of the rulers, they met; and they went away changed people, full of joy, full of confidence. It's like that!
Well, has the dispensation ended with the book of the Acts? The book of the Acts has never had a conclusion; it's just broken off. The Holy Spirit never intended Luke to write the end of that story, because it had got to go on and on and on to the end of the dispensation. What was true then is to be true in our experience now. Yes, there's plenty of evidence and ground for this. But then, you say, you say: "On what ground can this experience be mine? How can this be true of me if the Scripture really gives that which justifies an expectation that it should be true in our case?" If we really have got it in the Word that it ought to be like that in our case, then of course the question arises, "How can it be? How can it be?" Is that your question? Well, I want to say as quickly as I can, as concisely as possible, how it can be - how we really can know this.
First of all, we must, we just must most positively take our stand on that ground which God has provided for us through the Cross of the Lord Jesus. That is, we pass, we must take all the values of Isaiah 53, as provided for us and take our stand upon that ground. What I mean, dear friends, is this: Isaiah 53 tells us all that has been done for us. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him... He bare the sin of many". Our whole state and condition, under condemnation and judgment, was put on Him by God Himself. "He, He made His soul an offering for sin" - the Divine side. If you and I still will linger on that ground of question or doubt as to whether the Lord Jesus has done that, for our sins past, present and future, for us as men and women, if we linger on the ground of doubt or question about that, there's no hope of this transforming experience of resurrection! If you are still nursing condemnation, still opening your heart or your mind to accusations, you are, in effect, denying the work of the Lord Jesus on the Cross, and God cannot show you His mighty arm.
"To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" Never to any man or woman who brings a question upon the work of the Lord Jesus in His Cross! Never! Oh no, you've got to get off of that ground, right off of that ground in every way. If you are so fond of doubting and questioning, and if you will so tenaciously hold on to condemnation, can't you swing right over the other way, and put all that capacity for doubting and unbelieving round the other way, and say about your condemnation: "I don't believe it! Isaiah 53 says that He took all that for me. I definitely do not believe it, I won't believe it - the Cross of the Lord Jesus forbids me to believe that there is condemnation." Yes, put your strong and mighty capacity for unbelief round the other way - let it be converted! And now put it over against all this work of the accusing spirits, and the accusing conscience and the accusing heart. Meet the whole thing in the reverse!
Mark you, you will never, you will never know this mighty, many-sided transformation and transfiguration of life, until you positively, positively take your stand on the values which have been secured for you in Isaiah 53. You will again, in the very simplicity of a beginner, have to sit down with that chapter, and as has been so often said, put your name in there: "He was wounded for my iniquities; He was bruised for my transgressions; it was the chastisement of my peace that was upon Him; with His stripes I am healed." You'll never get into resurrection glory until you really do stand firmly on that ground. You see, we are the ground of death - it's in us, it's not in Christ - we are the ground of death, we must therefore repudiate our own ground. "Yes, I know it well, and thousands more; but, but there is One that died in my place." Faith, faith must credit God and Christ with the full meaning of the Cross. It must!
Then in the next place, we must take a positive attitude at all times to "the power of His resurrection" it must be this attitude and this position of faith in God that "raiseth the dead". We must really reckon upon that extra, and that other, which is represented by the power of His resurrection. It is all true that we are this and that is that, and things are as they are; it's all true. We are not putting on blinkers, and trying to make believe that we are not as bad as we are, or things are not as bad as they are: they are just as bad as they can be, inside and out. But... there's something more than that - there's an extra and there is another, and that is the power of His resurrection. And we must really take a positive attitude at all times, all times toward the power of His resurrection.
And then, we must, while of course avoiding breaking the laws of God, (I have to put that in because I've been doing it myself lately) we must, while avoiding breaking the laws of God, definitely draw upon His risen Life. You wonder what I mean by that little parenthesis. Well, if you go on for something like eleven weeks, with three, four or five meetings a day without one day's rest, you are breaking the law of God, and God cannot protect you. And that is exactly what happened. Oh, how long it takes us to learn these lessons - it takes us a long lifetime to learn them! We get drawn by need and appeal and so on. I think the Lord is very sympathetic, but, nevertheless, He does not set aside His laws, but that's by the way. That's by the way, nevertheless, learn the lesson! So I have to say that, while avoiding breaking Divine laws, the laws of our bodies (and you can never speak of the laws of nature without meaning God, you see, the laws of nature are God, and God is the Law of Nature: that is not Pantheism that I'm preaching, but you see what I mean. The law of nature brings you right into touch with God). So, while not violating God in His laws, in the body and so on, we must deliberately at all times draw upon His resurrection Life. We must do it; we must do it. We must keep a tight hold, so to speak, on the risen Life of the Lord, and draw upon it; make a very practical thing of it.
When I was a little fellow, I remember, I remember something that my mother said to me. She was telling me, describing the death of my grandfather, an old man of eighty-four and she was sitting by his bed as he was slowly, slowly passing away, a very strong man, physically. And she told me, she said, "He had hold of my hand in a tremendous grip: I was praying for him, but he was gradually sinking away." And I don't know what the science of this is, whether there's any truth in it at all, but I remember what she said. She said, "I felt that he was drawing the very life out of me; I felt my vitality being sapped; he was pulling something out of me, to hold on to life. And at last I could stand it no longer - I just had to wrench my hand out of his; and when I did so, he went."
Well, I don't know what that means at all, whether that really is a true thing, but to me it's an illustration. We have literally got to draw vitality out of our Lord. See? It's an attitude, a grip of faith that we must lay hold on Life, as Paul said to Timothy. Lay hold on Life, draw on this Life, it must be something that we do.
Yes, we, I fear, dear friends, are far too indefinite in this matter of our relationship to our risen Lord. Too indefinite. We believe in the resurrection; we believe in resurrection Life; and we believe that it is for us: but we are not definite enough about it. Now, again, by saying: "Do I need resurrection Life? Do I? Am I in need of the power of His resurrection?" Of course, if you have no sense of need, then you won't be definite about it, but if you have, in any way, if you really feel your need of the power of His resurrection, that the arm of the Lord should be revealed to you in that way to you, do you sense your need? Secondly: "Is there Scripture, is there that in the Word of God, which justifies me in believing that that Life is for me?" Then the third thing will be: "Let me get to the Word, and find out what the Word says about this; let me gather up, search out, all that the Word of God says about this matter of resurrection Life - for me!" It's an exercise, not just some random texts, but what does the Word of God really say about this?
Get a strong foundation of Scripture under your feet."If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead be in you, He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal body by His Spirit that dwelleth in you". That's in the Bible! "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus... that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our mortal flesh". That's Scripture! Now, get to it, gather it all up, all that you can find, and take it to the Lord, and say: "Lord, your Word clearly says, and here it is," you can quote Scripture to the Lord, if you like: it's a very healthy thing to quote the Word to Him, remind Him of His Word and say, "Now, Lord, You have said, You have said that the power of the resurrection is to be now known in Your people, in believers. You've said it, here is Your Word about it!" Present it to Him, all that you can find; be very definite on this matter. Bring it to the Lord.
We are far too indefinite, we might see marvellous things, wonderful things, have a far greater testimony of resurrection Life, if only we would be more definite about Life. That is the way of it, it's not going to be casual, it's not just going to happen. Any dilly-dallying about this thing is not coming into the good of it. But here we must be positive; we must be definite; we must make this a very real matter because it's not just personal, for our private good; the whole testimony of our risen Lord is bound up with this. And this applies in many ways, of course. It applies to ourselves individually, and spiritually - spiritually - let's get hold of the Word for ourselves spiritually as to Life, as to resurrection for our spiritual life.
Many of you are no doubt in real spiritual need of Life, a new accession of Life spiritually, it may be physically and it can be physically, blessed be God, that we can take Life for our bodies. We may know the resurrection Life of God carrying us on through impossible physical situations, making a marvellous testimony. Yes, physically! It may be in relation to our ministry, we may need a new accession of Life in our ministry, the baring of His arm through our ministry. Well, it's the same principle, you see, for, after all, all ministry has to be fulfilled in the power of His resurrection, or true spiritual ministry; there is no other.
It may apply to the company of the Lord's people of which we are a part, or in which perhaps we have some responsibility and we are very burdened. The great need is, "Oh, that the arm of the Lord might be revealed! Oh, that the power of resurrection should be manifested!" Things are going down, down to death, straitness, and dishonour and so on. This is not glorifying to the Lord, what are you going to do about it? Well, the same exercise. This resurrection of the Lord Jesus is for every aspect of the life of the believer and the Church.
But! It does not just happen. I say again: we have got to take a very definite and positive attitude to this matter. If we will, if we do, and some of us do know with a long history, that this really does work - this really does work: miracles of sustenance and enablement and supply, and carrying on and raising up again and again and again, result from a definite faith laying hold on the fact that Christ is risen for us. He died for us - He is risen for us. He died in our place - He lives in our stead. He is the Living One!