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. 6. Take notice that all the verbs, unless otherwise noted, are in the perfect tense, which means a past completed action with continuing results.
“All we like sheep have gone astray.” Like sheep without a shepherd, we tend to wander into danger and sin. We all stray from the correct way of life.
“We have turned—every one—to his own way.” Additionally, all sinners have turned away in rejection of the LORD and His Word. Instead, everyone goes his own way. It is a way of rebellion and wickedness (Ephesians 2:1-3).
“And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Therefore, because God is just and He must punish sin, He laid or interceded on behalf of sinners by having the Servant bear the iniquity, guilt and sin of all of God’s people.
Dr. John Walvoord wrote that, “The essence of sin is going one’s own way, rather than God’s way. That iniquity had to be punished, so the Lord … laid the punishment for that iniquity (cf. Isa. 53:11) not on the “sheep” (Israel and other sinners) that deserved it, but on the Servant who died in their place.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul wrote, “In Isaiah 53:4–6, we have atonement language. The terms for carrying sorrows and bearing griefs are used for the bearing of sin by animals and people under the old covenant (Lev. 5:1, 17; 10:17; 16:22; 17:16). Our Messiah does not carry a vague sadness that afflicts the human condition, but the grief and sorrow resulting from our guilt before the Lord. In God’s plan of salvation, the righteous Messiah provides a substitutionary sacrifice, dying in place of His people and receiving divine wrath for their sin.”
Believers in Christ were once God’s enemies. We once were also in bondage to our sin, guilty before the LORD and having a spiritual debt we could not pay, except in hell for eternity. Thanks be to God for the Servant, Jesus Christ, who paid and the debt, set us free, removed our guilt and reconciled us to God the Father.
Soli deo Gloria!