“THE MAN OF SORROWS”
Sermon by Mr. G. J. Collier (Pastor), (Bethel Chapel, Linslade, Bucks., 1966).
Lamentations 1,12. Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.
We have words here that draw our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ, which have reference to His sufferings on the Cross, and are is it were His own spoken words spoken from the very Cross itself. The question He asks is one of extreme solemnity and importance. Â“Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” How solemn, how great with importance this question is! It not only lies at the centre of all God’s purposes, but is the most weighty of matters for our own consideration. It will make very little difference to us what others think of this all important matter, the question is, what is the effect upon our own hearts and lives. The philosopher with his natural wisdom sees little glory in the work of redemption, and often builds around it some vain theory of human reasoning, speaking swelling words yet never perceiving the glorious accomplishment of Christ’s death.
The formalist is satisfied with an outward representation of the Cross, and thinks that to behold with the natural sight a gilded cross is all that is needed; yet he knows by these things nothing of the preciousness of the Cross of Christ.
The materialist, so wrapped up in the things of time which to Him are of the greatest value, passes by without scarcely a thought. The natural man receiveth not the things of God and with all such, the answer to this question is, that it is nothing. But should the Holy Spirit bring the question and apply it to our hearts this evening, we shall undoubtedly be brought to points over the reality of our religion, and it will be good if we shall see what the Lord makes his people see, what a blessed thing, what a precious thing the death of Christ is, and that all real religion flows from those tremendous sufferings.
Tonight I want more especially to look at the words “Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow”.
“Behold and see”. In their connection in this verse these words are very wonderful indeed. They are the command of heavenÂ—they are words that we should take heed unto, and lay in our hearts, seeking help from God to follow the Divine direction with all our hearts. “Behold and see”. The spirit of these words is to be found in all the promises of God. The precious promises all point to Christ, and a great many point us to His death. The very first promise spoken to our first parents by God, said that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. Satan’s overthrow then was to be accomplished by the death of Christ, and indeed all God’s promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus.
The overwhelming direction of the Old Testament Scriptures is to Calvary rather than to Bethlehem. There was no complete redemption at Bethlehem, but it was necessary for the Son of Man to come in the likeness of human flesh to fulfil the wondrous purpose of redemption. His first sermon at Nazareth was an unfolding of this subject. His life was in everything an anticipation of the culmination of His great work that was to be completed on the Cross. There is this therefore, in every promise, “Behold and see” and I would say to any who have had experience of the sweetness of God’s promises in their heart, have you not found your soul brought to esteem and humbly prize the precious sufferings and sacrifice of a dear Redeemer? If we have no heart, no mind, for those things, no sweet meditation at times upon His death, how can we really claim to have had a promise, or felt the Spirit’s sacred work upon the heart. The Lord directs every sinner that He speaks to by His word, and touches with His grace, to Jesus Christ, not merely to know Him as a man, or as a great example, or as one who made a supreme sacrifice, as He certainly did, but to Him as the Redeemer who bears the sins of all His saints, who satisfied the demands of His Holy Father, and who so completed the work that all the sins of His own people are blotted out for ever. This is set forth by a scripture in the Prophecy of Isaiah where the Lord says: “I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins” (Isaiah 44, 22). We are convinced that such figures in that word are not lightly used, but have rather a great significance; for instance, how striking is the use of the term “Cloud” to set forth transgressions. Natural clouds like our sins can never be blotted out by any but God, and how visible a cloud is to all who have human sight. There are things of great wonder that we possibly may never see, but we cannot help seeing almost every day the cloud. To a convinced sinner there is nothing more visible to the eye of the soul than the cloud of sins. What a blessing indeed to such sinners when the Lord says: “Behold I have blotted out thy sins” which means completely annihilated, put them into everlasting oblivion by the sacrifice and sufferings of the dear Son of God.
“Behold and see”. Perhaps one of the most effective of all preachers was John the Baptist who was sent to prepare the way before the Lord. He had but one theme, but what a theme! “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world”. Another great servant, the Apostle Paul, who, unlike the other Apostles, never knew the Lord in the days of His flesh, never knew what it was to walk with Him, to hear Him, and see His daily administrations to the poor and needy, yet who had such a comprehension of His Person, and Character, that he says; “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” I Cor. 2, 2. It was Christ and Him crucified, that in all his epistles he sought to make men behold and see.
A Gospel without redemption is an empty gospel indeed, it is no gospel, and God’s curse will rest upon such. Man despises,
human nature cannot receive, human wisdom cannot understand, the Gospel of Redemption. The poor and needy bless God for it, they by blessed experience know how it reaches their need, and touches their case, and answers all problems of heart and mind. There is no other remedy, no other message from heaven but the Gospel of the Cross of Christ. In all right preaching there will be stamped upon it these words “Behold and seeÂ”.
The word of command in our text is not that men should take a passing glance, but to comprehendÂ—to fix the soul’s attention, and God gives the power to behold. There are numbers that talk about what they can see, and about revelations, and some may see more than others, but only they truly see who see Him with the eye of Faith suffering on that Cross, such a sight beholds and sees the beauty and glory of the Lord. A sight of this is a saving sight, what faith sees it also believes.
The seeker after GodÂ—all seekers, all to whom the Lord says “Behold and see”Â—find mercy. Such come with all their wretchedness and woe, and none can truly come in any other way; law breakers and those that have incurred the wrath of God, and are self-condemned, are not turned away by God, but to such He says “Behold and see”. Oh the grace, the wonderful grace. The Lord Jesus said “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me”. This is how the Lord the Redeemer shows His grace by saying to the coming sinner “Behold”. The look of faith is a vital look. There is profound simplicity in God’s method of salvation, so opposite from what natural man thinks. Creature works and creature merits are the chief things that natural man thinks will afford salvation, and even believers cling to good works. These things are ingrained in our very nature, we inherit this from our first parents, who were created under a covenant of works. They miserably failed, but their posterity still retain a mind that resides all trust in works. But there are no works of ours that will ever be acceptable to an Holy God. The only work God accepts on behalf of the sinner is the work of His dear Son.
“See if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow”. The sorrows of the Lord are unfathomable, vastly beyond those sufferings that He endured when He received such contradiction of sinners against Himself, or those sorrows that He had when He wept over Jerusalem and said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets and stones them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Nor was it the sorrow He must have felt when men rejected the Truth that He spake, and when many professed disciples went back and walked no more with Him. No, it was sorrow that far outweighed all this. It was the sorrow when His Father’s face was turned away from Him, because the awful charge of all His people’s sins were imputed to His holy soul. This broke the dear Redeemer’s heart, and brought forth that cry, “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani”. “My
God, My God”, twice repeated, because perhaps He was speaking both as God and as Man. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” In that awful moment the Father could not look upon His Son as He bore away the sins of the whole Church of God. “Can there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow?”
When we read in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah those wordsÂ—”A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” we have the Father’s description. My dear friends, you and I will have many sorrows, but none, and all put together, will never approach the sorrows of the Lord. When we are called to walk in a path of deep sorrow, it will be a wonderful help if we are able to compare His with those which we experience. “His way was much rougher and darker than mine”. “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”.
“Behold and see”. We see if the Lord reveals it, thisÂ—The great doctrine of the atonement in the substitutionary death of Christ. That means that He died in the place of another. Sometimes we may see on monuments recognition of those who laid down their lives that men might be free, and that is a great sacrifice. But the substitutionary death of the Lord is vastly deeper and far removed from all such sacrifices, because His people were with Him when He died. Their sins were accredited to the innocent Son of God, and by Him were fully remitted. We shall never extract any benefit, never feel the great release from guilt if Jesus Christ did not bear away our sins. But He did bear the sins of His people, and was the sinless victim: He was the sin bearer. By His substitutionary death on the Cross He removed their guilt forever. He brought back from the depth of the fall fallen sinners whom He loved. He stood on their behalf between them and the awful stroke of justice, receiving that terrible sword into His Holy Soul. That indeed was a substitutionary death. There is nothing more comforting to a sinner when it is known. Is it this that we want to behold and see? Do we not long to behold by faith these wonders, and see inscribed our names upon the heart of this suffering Son of God?
“Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce anger”. The Lord had afflicted Him because of the sins of His people. In order that God can be just and the justifier of him that believeth. He must afflict His only begotten Son. To see this by faith is to see what is beyond the highest expectation, and far more than now can be comprehended. Paul says, “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known”. What a sight will be the glorious consummation! All the seekings ended in a blaze of glory. The sight of the King being crowned. “The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now”.
Finally; let us return for a moment to the question at the beginning of the text. “Is it nothing?” What is our answer? May we have it in our consciences, and may we bless the Lord,
adoring His wondrous grace who suffered for our sake, then we shall say: This is everythingÂ—this is all my salvation, and all my desire.