Isaiah speaks of many things in chapters 50 – 53, but the messages all revolve around the atonement of Christ. The lesson points out that messages in Isaiah’s day were delivered by messengers who ran from place to place to deliver their messages. How beautiful are the feet of them who swiftly bear the good news of God’s plan of happiness. How sweet to the ear is the message, and sound of the voice that brings such glad tidings to us.
The Savior’s Confidence in His Father
In Isaiah 50:5 – 7 the Savior speaks of his absolute conviction that God will support him and justify his work. As a result of this conviction he is willing to undergo any and all suffering and trials required of him in order to do his Father’s will. Just a historical note about verse 6 – to have your beard shaved off was a huge source of shame to a Jewish man. If someone shaved your beard off you couldn’t show your face in public until it had grown back.
5 The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
7 For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
“Therefore shall I not be confounded … and … I shall not be ashamed.” One of the sources of strength of our Savior is his absolute trust in his Father’s support. Now take this one step further. Do we have this kind of trust in our Savior? Can each of us say that because of our love and trust in the Savior that “I shall not be confounded … and … I shall not be ashamed?” To set our face like a flint is to stand firm in our resolve to do what we have determined to do. It means to not let anyone or anything turn us from our chosen course. When we have this kind of testimony of God’s love and support for us, we can move ahead with faces set like a flint, unafraid of what might happen because we know in whom we trust.
The Cup of Trembling
Let’s talk about Isaiah 51:22. There are a few terms or circumstances that refer to the atonement that show up repeatedly in the scriptures. The first one in this verse is “the cup of trembling.” This refers to the act of suffering Christ endured on our behalf in Gethsemane. The act of suffering is compared to having to drink something unbearably awful. Many different terms are used in the scriptures to try to demonstrate to us that the suffering of our Lord was more than we can comprehend. The visual of this phrase shows us that his pain was so exquisite that his whole body shook.
22 Thus saith thy Lord the Lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again:
To the house of Israel Christ gave this promise, that if they rejected him they would have to suffer excruciatingly for centuries. At one point in the distant future he would take that cup, that suffering away from them when they turned back to him as their God.
Dregs are the grinds, the gritty bits that sink to the bottom of a cup of some drinks when you have brewed something that has been ground up. The dregs are nasty to the taste, and are generally thrown out. To be made to drink the bitter dregs is to be told that you have to suffer to the greatest extent possible. Christ had to drink from this bitter cup, and had to suffer to the most extreme degree. In this verse Isaiah is telling Israel that at some point, after their suffering the Lord will remove the cup of his fury from them so they no longer have to drink the bitter dregs of that punishment.
All of these references also apply to those who reject Christ’s atoning sacrifice. After all that he suffered, if we refuse to repent of our sins then his suffering can do us no good. We will have to suffer for our own sins, and just as exquisitely as Christ had to suffer. We will have to drink from the cup of trembling, wrung out – or in other words, until the cup is empty, dregs and all. We will have to suffer until ALL of the sins are paid for, not just some of them. that is why it is far easier to repent now and take advantage of the suffering Christ experienced so that we don’t have to do it all by ourselves. Even if we suffer all by ourselves, it will still not be enough to satisfy the eternal demands of justice. That is why we needed a Savior in the first place.
With His Stripes We are Healed
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
In Isaiah 53:5 we are told that Christ was wounded, bruised, and chastised because of our sins and transgressions. The weight of our wrongdoings was laid on his shoulders and he was made to bear the burden of the required eternal payment for breaking all of those laws. This alone fills me with personal shame. But what overrides that shame is a mixture of sorrow that he had to do that for me, and overwhelming gratitude that he was willing to do this for me. It is because of his stripes, the punishment he willingly took upon himself on our behalf, that we are able to be healed or made spiritually whole again.
Christ’s punishment was a complete payment made in behalf of those who could not pay the penalty for their weaknesses themselves. All of us are in that category. His payment covered all of us who are willing to repent and follow the commandments Christ has given us from the Father. It is precisely because he was willing to bear this burden of suffering for us that we are enabled, through repentance, to become whole and spiritually strong. This sacrifice, this atonement, opens the door to celestial glory. It comes without price. It is freely offered to all. We have only to submit to Christ’s commandments to receive these wonderful blessings.