The Sinner's Ruin and Recovery
William Nicholson, 1862
"For thus says the Lord, You have sold yourselves for nothing; and you shall be redeemed without money." Isaiah 52:3
In verses 1, 2, the state of the Jews in Babylon is compared to that of a female captive sleeping in the dust, and in that degraded condition bound by her enemies. But Jehovah appears as her triumphant Deliverer. The Deliverance of Israel from Babylonish captivity made a deep impression on the mind of the prophet; and his attention was immediately turned to that great salvation, of which this from Babylon was but a figure. The whole chapter is replete with interest, pointing to man's state of spiritual captivity, and his deliverance by the intervention of the Son of God, whose countenance was "marred more than any man's," etc., (5, 15) and who shed his precious blood that man might reign in bliss forever.
I. The Solemn Statement."You have sold yourselves for nothing."
The fact itself is undeniable, for had not man been in a state of captivity, there would have been no necessity for redemption from it.
Man's original state was one of perfect happiness and freedom. Then he bore the image of God, and wore the robe of righteousness. Then he enjoyed uninterrupted communion with his Maker. To serve and love God was his natural element, and the source of his exquisite bliss. Then he was no slave to Satan, the great enthraller of souls; nor to his lusts, nor to the world. Then he was spiritually minded, which was life and peace. But, alas! this happiness was interrupted; this freedom was destroyed, by man's voluntary yielding himself to the temptations of the great Adversary.
This captivity is universal. "By one man sin entered the world," etc. The conscience of every man must bear witness that he is not as he ought to be; in fact, that he has fallen into the snare of the Evil One — that the mainspring of moral action is broken — that he is alienated from the life of God, etc.
1. That the Being to whom sinners have sold themselves, is Satan! He is an enemy to God and man. His great business is to enslave souls. He is the "Spirit who works in the children of disobedience." All sinners have been enticed by him, and they are "his servants." They have fallen into "his snares." 2 Timothy 2:26. See the case of Ananias, Acts 5:3; also, the case of Judas, Luke 22:3. See 2 Timothy 2:26; Ephesians 2:1, 2.
2. That which is sold to Satan, is inestimably precious. "You have sold yourselves." It is the soul of man with all its noble powers. The soul is the offspring of God, formed for God and eternity. It is capable of inconceivable happiness, and of yielding a revenue of glory to God. It is the most precious gem in creation. The "fine linen of Egypt," the "gold of Sheba," and the topaz of Ethiopia," are but dust on the balance compared with the soul of man. Its precious worth is described by Christ, Mark 8:36, 37.
Yet this precious jewel, the sinner has undervalued — and sold himself to the great Deceiver!
3. The purpose for which the sinner has sold himself. Like Ahab, to work wickedness. To be the emissary of Satan; and to execute his ungodly deeds. The powers of the mind, and the members of the body, become the inventors and perpetrators of evil.
The great object of the sinner's anxiety, and that for which he has surrendered his soul, is to gratify his sensual appetites. Hence he loves the world — the creature — evil pleasures and habits, etc. Sinners are called the servants of sin, and are said to "yield their members as slaves to sin, and to iniquity unto iniquity." Romans 6:17, 19.
4. The miserable price for which the sinner has sold himself. "For nothing." A sinner may say like Solomon, "Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun!" Ecclesiastes. 2:11. "What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" Romans 6:21. He "spends his money for that which is not bread," Isaiah 55:2. He "sows the wind — and reaps the whirlwind!" etc. Hosea, 8:7.
This language implies,
(1.) Deception. Satan told our first parents that they would "be as Gods" — when his design was to degrade them "below the beasts that perish." Hence the "deceitfulness of sin," which attracts by flattery — and destroys by delusion! The sinner is deceived. He expects a great price — but he gets nothing.
Sin comes to him with fascinating smiles — but hides the cloven foot!
Sin presents the gilded bait — but conceals the hook!
It promises liberty and pleasure — but pays damnation! When once admitted, it binds the soul in chains, and dooms it to eternal misery!
The language may be regarded,
(2.) As a correct estimate of such conduct. "For nothing." It is really so. Nothing has been gained by it. Sinner, has sin promoted your welfare? What has it done for your body, for your property, for your reputation, for your family, and for your precious soul? What benefit have you gained? What happiness have you realized? What has . . .
intoxication done for the drunkard,
lust for the sensualist,
extravagance for the profligate,
oaths for the profane, etc., etc.?
You have gained nothing, and worse than nothing. What does your conscience say? Frequently have you returned from the commission of sin, and your conscience has said, "Is this all? If this is pleasure — then how short-lived, how worthless, how base and degrading!"
(3.) It implies immense loss and great evil. The loss . . .
of the Divine regard,
of precious time,
of precious privileges,
of Christ, and
of the eternal soul.
You have sold yourself for nothing, and procured for yourself a fearful looking for of judgment, etc. You have made a bad bargain. You have taken a miserable price for your immortal soul, even captivity to sin and Satan — and the result of that bad bargain must be painful eternal disappointment, ruin, death and damnation. "The soul that sins, shall surely die." "The wages of sin is death." "Sin when it is finished brings forth death." This is great evil. The curse of the law will fall upon all sinners, if they repent not.
II. A Joyful Promise:"And you shall be redeemed without money!"
1. This redemption could not be effected by human means. Sin has not only brought man into a state of captivity, but reduced him to a state of total inability and depravity. He cannot break his fetters; he cannot pay the price of his ransom. Nothing that the whole universe could offer, would be accepted as a price of it; the cattle upon a thousand hills would have bled, the gold of a thousand treasuries would have been piled up in vain. See Micah 6:6, ; Isaiah 55:1, 2; Luke 7:42.
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ!" 1 Corinthians 3:11. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12. Sin forever excludes all human attempts to liberate from spiritual captivity.
2. Nor is this redemption provided by the Law which the sinner has transgressed. It is not according to the ordinary course of distributive justice, but an extraordinary expedient devised by the great Lawgiver of the world. The Law did not provide any forgiveness for people, but required that the soul that sinned should die — and we all must have died the death, if the Law had taken its course. The provision for human redemption must, therefore, be all of grace. John 3:16.
3. It must be effected in a way that will secure the honor of the Divine Law, as well as the salvation of the sinner. There is redemption by price, and redemption by power — and each is suited to our state. Where the dominion over us is usurped, no peace is to be made with the enemy, nor price offered for deliverance, but power must be opposed to power. See Genesis 14:14-16
But where the power to hold in captivity is just, deliverance must be effected by price, or appeasement made. See Genesis 44:32, 33; Philemon 18. Our obligation to God's law is just, and our liability to its curse is equally so; no violence therefore can be offered to the Divine government; but satisfaction must be made to offended justice by him who becomes our ransomer. Hence originated the sacrifices under the law, which continually pointed to the Redeemer's atonement.
4. The redemption of man was effected by Christ at a great price! "You shall be redeemed without money;" that was ineffectual. As the misery to which the sinner was exposed was infinite, so his deliverance required infinite means.
Christ the ransomer was Divine, the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, etc. etc. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. John 1:14. Thus constituted, he came into the sinner's place. Jesus was bound as a criminal — that the sinner might be free; he was put to death in the flesh — that the sinner might live and reign forever. 1 Peter 3:18.
"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect!" 1 Peter 1:18-19. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law," etc. Galatians 3:13. He was made "a curse for us," an outcast from Heaven and earth.
The only immaculate individual that ever lived in the world since the fall of man, was treated as if he had been the only sinner! His soul was made an offering for sin, in such a way as to proclaim to the universe that sin was condemned in the flesh. See Isaiah 53:5,10; Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Job complained that his stroke was heavier than his groaning; and Jeremiah, that he was the man who had seen affliction. But what were all their sufferings, compared with Christ's agony in the garden, and on the cross!
Christ endured the misery for chosen multitudes. The wrath distributed in all their vials, was collected into his cup!
In Hell impatience writhes, and impiety blasphemes; but in yonder garden, how meek, how resigned is the sufferer! What painter can represent the expression in that countenance, on which we see the strongest indications of resignation and love Divine, amidst all the traces of agonizing sorrow? Christ raises his eye in hope to the black cloud, from which God's fury was rushing down, and cries for mercy to those who merited none. His heart breaks, but his faith is unshaken; and "My God, my God!" was the language of Jesus while made a curse for us.
5. The effect of these sufferings is our redemption from captivity, and deliverance from the curse of the law. Justice was satisfied, and God can be just — and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus. In saving sinners, through Christ, God appears as much the friend of righteousness, and the enemy of sin — as if the whole world had been condemned to perdition. Romans 3:24-26.
By faith, therefore, in the sacrifice of the Savior, deliverance may be obtained, and all the blessings promised in the Gospel realized. As an ordinary prisoner goes forth from his dungeon to enjoy his former liberty, privileges, and friendship. Just so, does the spiritual captive quit his prison-house to enjoy the liberty of the sons of God, to share in their privileges, and realize their eternal joys!
1. Behold the riches of Divine Grace! "Where sin has abounded — grace did much more about!" etc.
2. See the happiness and security of believers. "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32.
3. Let the life of the ransomed be one of praise to their great Deliverer.