4 “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Isaiah 53:4-6 is the centerpiece of Isaiah’s song of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. This is not only the case grammatically and structurally with this section being the third of five sections in the oracle, but it also the central focus theologically.
God presents the definitive Old Testament text regarding substitutionary atonement. What the Old Testament previously illustrated with the sacrificial system centered in the tabernacle and temple, God now reveals in the person and work of the Servant of Yahweh: Jesus Christ. Today, we examine vs. 4. Take notice that all the verbs, unless otherwise noted, are in the perfect tense, which means a past completed action with continuing results.
“Surely he has borne our griefs.” The primary subject throughout this section concerns Yahweh’s Servant. The secondary subjects are the ones for whom the Servant of Yahweh died therefore providing a substitutionary atonement. The word borne means to take up and to bear. What is borne by the Servant are our griefs. This refers to our sicknesses, illnesses, wounds and afflictions caused by our sins.
“…and carried our sorrows.” The word carried means to bear or to be loaded down with a heavy load. The load which the Servant carried was our sorrows. This refers to our personal pain and anguish caused by our own sin, and by others who have sinned against us.
“…yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” However, even though the Servant bore the sinner’s grief and sorrows caused by sin and carried the resulting anguish and pain, sinners, and Isaiah includes himself in this category, determined, assumed and evaluated the Servant’s suffering as His own.
Isaiah at this point in the oracle employed three passive participles to describe the Servant’s suffering. To be stricken means to be violently touched and damaged. To be smitten means to be struck down, hit, injured and killed. To be afflicted means to be oppressed, wretched and emaciated. These words speak of God’s righteous wrath against sin.
Dr. John MacArthur comments that, “Even though the verbs are past tense, they predict happenings future to Isaiah’s time, i.e., “prophetic perfects” in Hebrew here and elsewhere in this Servant-song. Isaiah was saying that the Messiah would bear the consequences of the sins of men, namely the griefs and sorrows of life, though incredibly the Jews who watched him die thought he was being punished by God for his own sins. Matthew found an analogical fulfillment of these words in Jesus’ healing ministry (see Matt. 8:16–17), because sickness results from sin for which the Servant paid with his life (Isaiah 53:7–8; cf. 1 Peter 2:24).”
Take an opportunity today to thank Jesus for bearing your griefs, carrying your sorrows and enduring God’s wrath on your behalf.
Soli deo Gloria!