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8. Isaiah and the Lamb

The Ethiopian official was reading a difficult portion of Scripture. No wonder he needed help in order to understand it clearly. It was also an important part of the Bible. It is very necessary for us to grasp the meaning of these verses. What do they say?

Fill in the missing words in the following sentences, paying careful attention to the meaning of each word:
(NKJ) The place in the Scripture which he read was this: "He was led as a _________ to the _________; And as a lamb before its shearer is __________, So He opened not His ________. In His humiliation His ___________ was taken away, And who will declare His _____________? For His ___________ is taken from the earth."

Chosen by God

The man from Ethiopia thought he was busy with the Word of God in his search. But all along it was really God who was busy with him!

He still did not know it, but he was chosen by God to hear the gospel and accept it. For this very reason God had sent his special messenger from Samaria.

This is how the Lord uses people in his Service. Nevertheless, He does not abandon them to their own resources. They do not have to rely on their own strength. He goes ahead of them to prepare everything for them. It was no mere chance that the Ethiopian was actually busy reading the words from Isaiah 8. God arranged it like that.

This is What the Good News Sounds Like

The Scripture which the official from Ethiopia was reading is one of the most important passages in the Old Testament. Here the main message of the Bible is briefly summarised. It is, in fact, one of the clearest predictions in the Old Testament concerning the work which the Saviour would do on earth.

Isaiah prophesies. This means that he announces to the nation a message which God has laid in his heart. He makes it clear to them how the Saviour would come to save people from their sins.

He uses the picture of a lamb being slaughtered. People of his day would at once have understood what he wanted so say. If they killed a lamb at one of their religious feasts, it was as if the innocent lamb had died in their place. They were sinful people. They stood guilty before God. Actually they should have received the death sentence. Then the lamb died in their stead. It gave its life so that they could continue living.

Naturally, the sacrificed lamb could not take their sins upon itself. It was but a sheep. But this sacrificed lamb did convey a message to the nation. It told them about the Lamb of God who would come. He would truly be able to take the sins of people upon Himself and die in their stead. He could free us from sin. He could be our Saviour.

Who was this Lamb of God? The Bible itself gives the answer.

Use the contents of these verses to complete the following sentences:
1. A man called ___________ was sent by God to tell the people who the Son of God is.
2. On one occasion he said to the people, "Look, there is the ___________________; it is He who takes away the sins of the world."
3. After that everyone knew that _____________ was the Lamb of God.

Years after Isaiah made this prophecy, the Saviour came into the world. He was Jesus Christ. All the predictions of Isaiah came true in the life and work of Jesus.

Let us take Isaiah's pronouncements one by one and see how they have been literally fulfilled in the life of the Lord Jesus.

* Isaiah says: "He was led like a sheep to be slaughtered." The Lord Jesus knew that He had to give his life as a sacrifice to ransom people from their sins. For this reason He offered no resistance when He was taken prisoner, tried, ill-treated and finally crucified. It was the Father's will for his life. He would obey it to the very end, and give his life to save us. (Read John 1:29.)
* Isaiah writes further: "Like a lamb that is dumb before his shearer, he does not open his mouth." During his suffering Jesus was never rebellious. He endured everything with dignity. Even when falsely accused, He remained silent (Luke 23:1-25.)
* Another prediction of Isaiah's which came true, runs: "He has been humiliated and has no redress." Jesus is the Son of God. That is why it was humiliation for him to come to earth and be made man. Nevertheless, he accepted this willingly, because He had this great saving work to do on earth. Throughout his life, and above all, during the last few days before his crucifixion He was treated very unjustly. He committed no sin. He carried no personal guilt. And yet He was accused of many offences. Even though Pontius Pilate, the judge, said during the trial that he found no fault in Jesus, he still condemned Him to execution on the cross like a criminal. In reality He paid our debt in our place, and took our sins upon Himself. (Read Luke 23:26-49.)
* "Who will be able to speak of his posterity?" Here Isaiah is referring to the great number of followers of Jesus. Millions of people across the years have accepted the message of salvation and truly become the descendants of Jesus. (Read Acts 2:41, 47.)
* The final sentence quoted here from the prophecy of Isaiah reads: "For he is cut off from the world of living men." Jesus had to die on the cross. However, He did not remain dead. He rose again from the grave and ascended into heaven. He is still today the living Lord who saves everyone who believes in Him. (Read Luke 24:1-12.)

What a wonderful message! How privileged we are to be able to understand and accept it in our day!

Touched to The Heart

When the Ethiopian read these words he still did not know that this prophecy applied to the life of Jesus Christ. That is why Isaiah's prophecy was impossible to understand.

It is possible that he knew that the Jews expected a Saviour. However, they expected this Messiah to act with violence and power. He would rescue them from their enemies.

How different is this picture of a lamb being led to the slaughter. No wonder that the Jews did not wish to accept Jesus as their Saviour. What they did not understand was that His kingdom was not only an earthly kingdom. It is above all a kingdom in the hearts and lives of people where victory is achieved over the power of the Evil One.

But what is the meaning of the lamb in this picture? The description of what happened to the lamb, grips the Ethiopian. But what did it mean? He didn't know. That was his problem.

A serious question

Not everybody who reads the Bible understands at once what is the main message in God's Word. And if one fails to grasp the great message of salvation, all one's Bible reading is of no help.

It is very sad that there are so many people who open the Bible and read it - some only once or twice, others very regularly - without ever taking the trouble to try to understand the main message. Fortunately this was not the case with the Ethiopian. He wanted to get to the most important point. And he kept on searching until he found it.

Acts 8:34 tells us what he said:
(NKJ) So the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?"

This gentleman from Africa was an exceptional person. It must have been a pleasant experience for Philip to get to know him. He asked Philip to explain to him the words of Scripture, but he did it in such a courteous way that one is at once impressed. "Now tell me please . . ."

From this it is very clear that he was not proud. The way we behave towards other people very soon shows what sort of people we are. The man from Africa passes this test with distinction! In fact his civilized behaviour towards a humble person proves that he earnestly and honestly meant what he said. He was searching for the living God, and above all alse he wanted to understand the Bible. For this he needed the full co-operation of his fellow-traveller. And so he asked him very politely: "Now tell me, please."

The Name of the Lamb

If the message of the Bible is really to have meaning, the ultimate Person about whom it tells must be named. The Name of the Lamb must be stated. Everyone who reads the Bible must know it is about Jesus Christ. This is God's message for this world, in the Old Testament as well as the New.

There are people who don't care very much if the true message of the Bible ever comes to their notice. It is as if they are completely satisfied to read their own messages in the Bible. They don't bother at all about Jesus Christ.

But the man from Africa was not satisfied! He knew that more was disclosed in that portion of Isaiah than is clear at the first reading. What is more: the Spirit of God, who always and everywhere works with the Word of the Lord, made him search for a clear answer. And so he asked, "Who is it that the prophet is speaking about here?"

Who is the Lamb? That was wat he was so anxious to know. He wasn't satisfied simply to read the Bible as a history book. Nor was it to his mind merely a book of lovely thoughts. He wanted to get to know the Lamb. In this he teaches us all a great lesson. Whatever part of the Bible we read, we must be certain that we see the most important person clearly. We must seek for the message of Jesus Christ throughout. The Old Testament also points us towards Him.

Questions to Answer

1. What message did Isaiah wish to convey to the people when he used  the example of a lamb?
2. Who is the true Lamb of God?
3. What has He done to save us from our sins?
4. Why did Isaiah say, "Like a lamb that is dumb before the shearer,  he does not open his mouth"?

The man who found the truth study guide.