Isaiah 50:8
He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.
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(8) He is near that justifiethi.e., declares innocent and righteous. Appealing from the unrighteous judges of the earth, the Servant commits himself to Him who judges righteously (Luke 23:46). With that Judge to declare his innocence, what does he care for the accuser? (Comp. Romans 8:33-34.)

Who is mine adversary?—Literally, the master of a law-suit, i.e., the prosecutor.



Isaiah 50:8 - Isaiah 50:9

We have reached the final words of this prophecy, and we hear in them a tone of lofty confidence and triumph. While the former ones sounded plaintive like soft flute music, this rings out clear like the note of a trumpet summoning to battle. The Servant of the Lord seems here to be eager for the conflict, not merely patient and enduring, not merely setting His face like a flint, but confidently challenging His adversaries, and daring them to the strife.

As for the form of the words, the image underlying the whole is that of a suit at law. It is noteworthy that since Isaiah 41:1 - Isaiah 41:29 this metaphor has run through the whole prophecy. The great controversy is God versus Idols. God appears at the bar of men, pleads His cause, calls His witnesses {Isaiah 43:9}. ‘Let them’ {i.e. idols} ‘bring forth their witnesses that they may be justified.’

Possibly the form of the words here is owing to the dominance of that idea in the context, and implies nothing more than the general notion of opposition and victory. But it is at least worth remembering that in the life of Christ we have many instances in which the prophetic images were literally fulfilled even though their meaning was mainly symbolical: as e.g. the riding on the ass, the birth in Bethlehem, the silence before accusers, ‘a bone of Him shall not be broken,’ and in this very contest, ‘shame and spitting.’ So here there may be included a reference to that time when the hatred of opposition reached its highest point-in the sufferings and death of our Lord. And it is at least a remarkable coincidence that that highest point was reached in formal trials before the ecclesiastical and civil authorities, for the purpose of convicting Him, and that these processes as legal procedures broke down so signally.

Keeping up the metaphor, we mark here-

I. Messiah’s lofty challenge to His accusers.

The ‘justifying’ which He expects may refer either to personal character or to official functional faithfulness. I think it refers to both, and that we have here, expressed in prophetic outline, not only the fact of Christ’s sinlessness, but the fact of His consciousness of sinlessness.

The words are the strongest assertion of His absolute freedom from anything that an adversary could lay hold of on which to found a charge, and not merely so, but they also dare to assert that the unerring and all-penetrating eye of the Judge of all will look into His heart, and find nothing there but the mirrored image of His own perfection. I do not need to dwell on the fact of Christ’s sinlessness, that He is perfect manhood without stain, without defect. I have had occasion to touch upon that truth in a former sermon on ‘I was not rebellious.’ Here we have to do not so much with sinlessness as with the consciousness of sinlessness.

Now note that consciousness on Christ’s part.

We have to reckon with the fact of it as expressed in His own words: ‘I do always the things that please Him. Which of you convinceth Me of sin?’ ‘The Prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me.’

In Him there is the absence of all trace of sense of sin.

No prayer for forgiveness comes from His lips.

No penitence, no acknowledgment of even weakness is heard from Him. Even in His baptism, which for others was an acknowledgment of impurity, He puts His submission to the rite, not on the ground of needing to be washed from sin, but of ‘fulfilling all righteousness.’

Now, unless Christ was sinless, what do we say of these assertions? ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us’-are we to apply that canon to Him when He stands before us and asks, ‘Which of you convinceth Me of sin?’ Surely it augurs small self-knowledge or a low moral standard if, from the lips of a religious teacher, there never comes one word to indicate that he has felt the hold of evil on him. I make bold to say that if Christ were not sinless, the Apostle Paul stood far above Him, with his ‘of whom I am chief.’ What difference would there be between Him and the Pharisees who called forth His bitterest words by this very absence in them of consciousness of sin: ‘If ye were blind ye would have no sin, but now ye say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth.’

Singularly enough the world has accepted Him at His own estimate, and has felt that these lofty assertions of absolute perfection were borne out by His life, and were consistent with the utmost lowliness of heart.

As to the adversary’s failure, I need only recall the close of His life, which is representative of the whole impression made on the world by Him. What a wonderful and singular concurrence of testimonies was borne to His pure and blameless life! After months of hatred and watching, even the rulers’ lynx-eyed jealousy found nothing, and they had to fall back upon false witnesses. ‘Hearest thou not how many things they witness against Thee?’ He stood with unmoved silence, and the lies fell down dead at His feet. Had He answered, they would have been preserved and owed their immortality to the Gospels: He held His peace and they vanished. All attempts failed so signally that at the last they were fain, in well-simulated holy abhorrence, to base His condemnation on what He had said in their presence. ‘How think ye, ye have heard the blasphemy?’ So all that the adversary, raking through a life, could find, was that one word. That was His sin; in all else He was pure. Remember Pilate’s acquittal: ‘I find no fault in Him,’ and his wife’s warning, ‘Have thou nothing to do with that just Person.’ Think of Judas, ‘I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.’ Listen to the penitent thief’s low voice gasping out in his pangs and almost collapse: ‘This man hath done nothing amiss.’ Listen to the Centurion telling the impression made even on his rough nature: ‘Truly this was a righteous Man.’

These are the answers to the Servant’s challenge, wrung from the lips of His adversaries; and they but represent the universal judgment of humanity.

There is one Man whose life has been without stain or spot, whose soul has never been crossed by a breath of passion, nor dimmed by a speck of sin, whose will has ever been filled with happy obedience, whose conscience has been undulled by evil and untaught to speak in condemnation, whose whole nature has been like some fair marble, pure in hue, perfect in form, and unstained to the very core. There is one Man who can front the most hostile scrutiny with the bold challenge, ‘Which of you convinceth Me of sin?’ and His very haters have to answer, ‘I find no fault in Him,’ while those that love Him rejoice to proclaim Him ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.’ There is one Man who can front the most rigid Law of Duty and say, ‘I came not to destroy but to fulfil,’ and the stony tables seem to glow with tender light, as of rocky cliffs in morning sunshine, attesting that He has indeed fulfilled all righteousness. There is one Man who can stand before God without repentance or confession, and whose claim ‘I do always the things that please Him,’ the awful voice from the opening heavens endorses, when it proclaims; ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ The lowly Servant of God flings out His challenge to the universe: ‘Who will contend with Me?’ and that gage has lain in the lists for nineteen centuries unlifted.

II. The Messiah’s expectation of divine vindication and acquittal.

Like many another man, Christ had to strengthen Himself against calumny and slander by turning to God, and finding comfort in the belief that there was One who would do Him right, and as throughout this context we have had the true humanity of our Lord in great prominence, it is worth while to dwell for a moment on that thought of His real sharing in the pain of misconstruction and groundless charges, and of His too having to say, as we have so often to say, ‘Well, there is one who knows. Men may condemn but God will acquit.’

But there is something more than that here. The divine vindication and acquittal is not a mere hidden thought and judgment in the mind of God. It is a declaring and showing to be innocent, and that not by word but by deed. That expectation seemed to be annihilated and made ludicrous by His death. But the ‘justifying’ of which our text speaks takes place in Christ’s resurrection and ascension.

‘Manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit’ {1 Timothy 3:16}. ‘Declared to be the Son of God with power, . . . by the resurrection from the dead’ {Romans 1:4}.

His death seems the entire abandonment of this holy and sinless man. It seems to demonstrate His claims to be madness, His hope to be futile, His promises to be wind. No wonder that the sorrowing apostles wailed, ‘We trusted that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel.’ The death of Christ, if it were but a martyr’s death, and if we had to believe that that frame had crumbled into dust, and that heart ceased for ever to beat, would not only destroy the worth of all that He spoke, but would be the saddest instance in all history of the irreversible sway that death wields over all mankind, and would deepen the darkness and sadden the gloom of the grave. True, there were not wanting even in His dying hours mysterious indications, such as His promise to the penitent thief. But these only make the disappointment the deeper, if there was nothing more after His death.

So Christ’s justification is in His resurrection and ascension.

III. The Messiah’s confidence of ultimate triumph.

In the last words of the text the adversaries are massed together. The confidence that the Lord God will help and justify leads to the conviction that all opposition to Him is futile and leads to destruction.

We see the historical fulfilment in the fate of the nation. ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children.’

We have a truth applying universally that antagonism to Him is self-destructive.

Two forms of destruction are here named. There is a slow decay going on in the opponents and their opposition, as a garment waxing old, and there is a being fretted away by the imperceptible working of external causes, as by gnawing moths.

Applied to persons. To opposing systems.

How many antagonists the Gospel has had, and one after another has been antiquated, and their books are only known because fragments of them are preserved in Christian writings. Paganism is gone from Europe, and its idols are in our museums. Each generation has its own phase of opposition, which lasts for a little while. The mists round the sun melt, the clouds piled in the north, surging up to bury it beneath their banks, are dissipated. The sea roars and smashes on the cliffs, but it ebbs and calms. Some of us have seen more than one school of thought which came to the assault of Christianity, with colours flying and drums rattling, defeated utterly and forgotten, and so it will always be. One may be sure that each enemy in turn will descend to the oblivion that has already received so many, and can imagine these beaten foes rising from their seats to welcome the newcomer with the sad greeting: ‘Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?’

We are ‘justified’ in His ‘justification.’

The real connection between us and Christ by faith, makes our justification to be involved in His, so that it is no mere accommodation but a profound perception of the real relation between Christ and us, when Paul, in Romans 8:34, triumphantly claims the words of our text for Christ’s disciples, and rings out their challenge on behalf of all believers: ‘It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?’

Do you trust in Christ? Then you too can dare to say: ‘The Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me?’

50:4-9 As Jesus was God and man in one person, we find him sometimes speaking, or spoken of, as the Lord God; at other times, as man and the servant of Jehovah. He was to declare the truths which comfort the broken, contrite heart, those weary of sin, harassed with afflictions. And as the Holy Spirit was upon him, that he might speak as never man spake; so the same Divine influence daily wakened him to pray, to preach the gospel, and to receive and deliver the whole will of the Father. The Father justified the Son when he accepted the satisfaction he made for the sin of man. Christ speaks in the name of all believers. Who dares to be an enemy to those unto whom he is a Friend? or who will contend with those whom he is an Advocate? Thus St. Paul applies it, Ro 8:33.He is near that justifieth me - That is, God, who will vindicate my character, and who approves what I do, does not leave nor forsake me, and I can with confidence commit myself and my cause to him (see the note at Isaiah 49:4). The word justify here is not used in the sense in which it is often in the Scriptures, to denote the act by which a sinner is justified before God, but in the proper, judicial sense, that he would declare him to be righteous; he would vindicate his character, and show him to be innocent. This was done by all the testimonies of God in his favor - by the voice which spake from heaven at his baptism - by the miracles which he performed, showing that he was commissioned and approved by God - by the fact that even Pilate was constrained to declare him innocent - by the wonders that attended his crucifixion, showing that 'he was a righteous man,' even in the view of the Roman centurion Luke 23:47, and by the fact that he was raised from the dead, and was taken to heaven, and placed at the right hand of the Father - thus showing that his whole work was approved by God, and furnishing the most ample vindication of his character from all the accusations of his foes.

Who will contend with me? - This question indicates confidence in God, and in the integrity of his own character. The language is taken from transactions in the courts of justice; and it is a solemn call, on any who would dare to oppose him, to enter into a trial, and allege the accusations against him before the tribunal of a holy God.

Let us stand together - Before the seat of judgment as in a court (compare the note at Isaiah 41:1).

Who is mine adversary? - Margin, 'Who is the master of my cause?' The Hebrew is 'Lord (בעל ba‛al) of judgment.' The expression means not merely one who has a lawsuit, or a cause, but one who is 'lord of the judgment,' i. e, possessor of the cause, or one who has a claim, and can demand that the judgment should be in his favor. And the call here is on any who should have such a claim to prefer against the Messiah; who should have any real ground of accusation against him; that is, it is an assertion of innocence.

Let him come near to me - Let him come and make his charges, and enter on the trial.

8. (Isa 49:4). The believer, by virtue of his oneness with Christ, uses the same language (Ps 138:8; Ro 8:32-34). But "justify" in His case, is God's judicial acceptance and vindication of Him on the ground of His own righteousness (Lu 23:44-47; Ro 1:4; 1Ti 3:16, with which compare 1Pe 3:18); in their case, on the ground of His righteousness and meritorious death imputed to them (Ro 5:19).

stand together—in judgment, to try the issue.

adversary—literally, "master of my cause," that is, who has real ground of accusation against me, so that he can demand judgment to be given in his favor (compare Zec 3:1, &c. Re 12:10).

He is near; God, though he seem to be at a distance, and to hide his face from me, yet he is in truth at my right hand, and ready to help me.

That justifieth me; that will publicly acquit me from all the calumnies of mine adversaries, who say that I am a transgressor of the law, a false teacher and deceiver, a blasphemer, and a devil, and the like, in which opinion they are confirmed by my death and sufferings. But God will clear up my righteousness, and show by many and mighty signs and wonders that he is well pleased with me, and that I lived and died his faithful servant.

Let him come near to me; I challenge all my accusers to stand and appear before the Judge face to face, and to produce all their charges against me; for I am conscious of mine own innocency, and I know that God will give sentence for me.

He is near that justifieth me,.... His Father was "near" him in his whole state of humiliation; he left him not alone; he was at his right hand, and therefore he was not moved; and "justified" him from all the calumnies of his enemies, or the false charges they brought against him, and from all the sins of his people that were upon him; these he took upon him, and bore them, and made satisfaction for them, upon which he was acquitted; and which is evident by his resurrection from the dead, by his ascension to heaven, and session at the right hand of God; and by the gifts of the Spirit, extraordinary and ordinary, he received for men, and gave unto them; see 1 Timothy 3:16.

Who will contend with me? being thus acquitted; will the law and justice of God litigate the point with him? they are both satisfied; will Satan dispute the matter with him? he is foiled, conquered, and destroyed; or will the wicked Jews enter the argument with him? wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

Let us stand together; face to face, if they dare; let them face me, if they can:

who is mine adversary? let him appear, that he may be known:

let him come near to me: and engage with me, if he has courage or skill. This is bidding defiance to all his enemies, and triumphing over them.

He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.
8. He is near that justifieth me] Cf. ch. Isaiah 49:4 (“my judgement is with Jehovah”); Isaiah 51:5. To “justify” is, as nearly always, to declare in the right; so “condemn” in Isaiah 50:9 is to pronounce in the wrong.

who will contend with me?] cf. Job 13:19.

stand together] stand forth together (as Isaiah 47:12-13).

who is mine adversary?] lit. “the master of my cause” (dominus litis). A similar expression is used in Exodus 24:14.

8, 9. The consciousness of innocence is expressed (as often in the Book of Job) under the conception of a legal process.

Verses 8, 9. - He is near that justifieth me. God, who knows his innocence, is near at hand, and will shortly "make his righteousness clear as the noonday." This was done when God raised up from the dead "the Holy One and the Just" (Acts 3:14). whom cruel men "by wicked hands had crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23). By the resurrection God acquitted Christ of the charge of blasphemy on which he had been condemned, and proclaimed him "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26). Who will contend with me? (compare St. Paul's words in Romans 8:33, 34, "It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?"). God is the sole Judge of all men - of the "Servant" in his human capacity, no less than of others. If he acquits, it is idle for any accuser to stand forth and "contend" or "condemn" (ver. 9). God will help the innocent, whom he has acquitted, and will destroy the accuser by a secret but most sure destruction. The moth shall eat them up (comp. Psalm 39:11, and infra, Isaiah 51:8). Isaiah 50:8In the midst of his continued sufferings he was still certain of victory, feeling himself exalted above every human accusation, and knowing that Jehovah would acknowledge him; whereas his opponents were on the way to that destruction, the germ of which they already carried with them. "He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me?! We will draw near together! Who is my adversary in judgment?! Let him draw near to me! Behold, the Lord Jehovah will help me; who is he that could condemn me?! Behold, they all shall fall to pieces like a garment; the moth shall eat them up." הצדּיו and הרשׁיע are forensic antitheses: the former signifies to set one forth, both practically and judicially, as righteous (2 Samuel 15:4; Psalm 82:3); the latter as guilty, רשׁע (Deuteronomy 25:1; Psalm 109:7). נעמדה, which has lost the principal tone on account of the following יחד (יּהד), has munach instead of metheg in the antepenultimate. Ba‛al mishpâtı̄ means, "he who has a judicial cause of lawsuit against me," just as in Roman law the dominus litis is distinguished from the procurator, i.e., from the person who represents him in court (syn. ba‛al debhârı̄m, Exodus 24:14, and 'ı̄sh rı̄bhı̄ in Job 31:35; compare Isaiah 41:11). מי־הוּא are connected, and form an emphatic τίς, Romans 8:34 (Ewald 325, a). "All of them" (kullâm): this refers to all who are hostile to him. They fall to pieces like a worn-out garment, and fall a prey to the moth which they already carry within them - a figure which we meet with again in Isaiah 51:8 (cf., Job 13:28; Hosea 5:12), and one which, although apparently insignificant, is yet really a terrible one, inasmuch as it points to a power of destruction working imperceptibly and slowly, but yet effecting the destruction of the object selected with all the greater certainty.
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