Sermon — Isaiah 53:6

11 May

Isaiah 53:6  All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray

           There’s not much worse than losing your child in a crowd. When you have four kids, it’s easier than you think to have one of them get away. I always tell parents that parenting is a breeze until you get outnumbered. If you have one or two, you can handle it most of the time, but three or more, it gets difficult. Children like to wander. A shiny toy, that place that sells cookies at the mall, look away a minute too long and they’re gone. 99% of the time this turns out just fine. Kids getting away for a minute for the most part is just a rite of childhood. But what most of the time is not a big deal with kids is a really big deal with our souls. This is what our text is about this morning . . .

 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.

           We are prone to wander spiritually. In fact, this Bible teaches that we will inevitably wander, it is in our very nature in a fallen world. And this wandering is not an innocent indulgence of curiosity, it is deadly . . . 100% of the time. Spiritual wandering is not a search for meaning. When we turn to our own way, we turn away from God’s way. Thus we are living in rebellion to Him, whether we are rebelling through pleasure seeking or money or even religion. Spiritual wandering is deadly. But God, in His grace, has forgiven our rebellion through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. That is what Isaiah 53:6 is all about.

There are two truths that will guide our meditation this morning: Our PROBLEM – All have gone astray, Each to his own way and God’s REMEDY – The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Let’s consider first this morning what this passage says about OUR PROBLEM.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;

Note first here the point of comparison. What a comparison Isaiah lays out here. We are like sheep. This is a common comparison in the Bible. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel are often viewed as a flock and their priests and other leaders as shepherds. In the prophets the criticisms are particularly pointed toward the shepherds, how they are not serving the sheep well and are filled with corruption. The sheep are usually looked at favorably. But here in Isaiah, the focus is on a fault in the sheep; their tendency to wander. Sheep are of all creatures likely to stray without supervision. But the straying of a sheep is slow. They don’t bolt into the woods never to be heard from again. They just drift away. It is a slow process.

The focus of this passage is on how we are like sheep. We are like sheep in that we are led by our sensual desires. We are like sheep in that we are prone to error. We are like sheep in our inability to return. We are like sheep in that we follow the crowd. We are like sheep in that we are prone to dangers. But most of all, we are like sheep because we have gone astray.

All have gone astray. There are no truly good people. We have gone astray because we are sinners in Adam. From the time we are formed we are accounted sinners in God’s eyes because of the sin of Adam. As genes are passed down physically from parents so we all are sinful by virtue of being human. Romans 5:12, “Therefore as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin, so that death passed upon all men, for all have sinned.” We see in this verse not only a sin by lineage but also by practice. We live in accord with what we are. We follow in the steps of Adam. Our natures are corrupted, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We give in to the flesh, to self-serving. Our minds are hostile to God (Romans 8:7). We are not neutral, not blank slates. We are turned against God, “alienated and enemies in your minds by wicked works” (Co. 1:21). Sin has a way of infecting us. You can catch a disease, but you cannot catch health. Our minds are sharp to worldly things, we can remember song lyrics from 10 years ago but our minds are dull to spiritual things, so that we struggle to memorize a well-known passage of Scripture.

And this is true of all people. Every person has gone astray. This means that it is not only Adam’s fault but we are all at fault, because we are sinners not only by nature but in practice. The number one way we stray is through unbelief. Hebrews 3:12, see to it that there is not in any of you an evil heart of unbelief causing you to depart from the living God. We stray because we trust in our plans more than in God’s promises and long for our selfish desires more than God’s design for us. We do not yield our hearts and submit to the Lord, we trust in ourselves. And the result is a heart far from God. I often hear parents speak of their hopes to raise strong, independent children. There is a sense in which this is good. We hope to raise children who grow into responsible adults who can work and make a way in life. But I would urge you parents, to also raise submissive children. Train your children to submit to the Lord God Almighty in all things. Teach them that self-giving love is the highest virtue. Show them that unmerited suffering is redemptive. Model for them the truth that faithfulness is better than flashiness, that character is better than outward beauty, and that the fruit of the Spirit is always to be preferred to the fruit of the flesh. There are lots of strong, independent people who are not free. Freedom only comes from turning away from our own way and throwing up the surrender flag to our Lord.

God’s path for us is narrower than the path we would make for ourselves, but God’s path leads to life. We often don’t see it that way, but it is true. Jesus says it is a way that leads to life, whereas Paul says of the path of the sinner in Romans 3:16, “Destruction and misery are in their way, and the way of peace they have not known.”

Yet, as we think about these things, we must realize that even those of us who are Christians who are seeking to walk the path God has for us, have like sheep gone astray. In other words, we are sinners by choice and by nature. Like sheep, we are born with a nature that prompts us to go astray; and, like sheep, we foolishly decide to go our own way. By nature, we are born children of wrath (Eph. 2:3); and by choice, we become children of disobedience (2:2).

And we each do it in our own unique way. we have turned—every one—to his own way;

Everyone has his or her own unique struggles. Background, personality, interests, the company we keep, these can all have an impact on those sin areas which are uniquely difficult for us. Each has turned to his own way. In turning to our own way, we reject God’s way. And as the well-known verse from Proverbs tells us, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” We need to recognize what Isaiah is telling us here. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, each and every one of us. And at the core of our rebellion is a turning to our own way, the inward turn, the turn to a self-centered life rather than a God-centered life. That was the key to the first rebellion and it is the key to every subsequent rebellion, big and small, in our lives. The thing is, I have different struggles than you. One person might really struggle with honesty in speech, another with pride, still another with lustful thoughts. Some might watch totally inappropriate things on TV while others just watch way too much TV and fritter away life that could be spent on godly pursuits. Still others might overeat or have a spirit of complaining while others are alcoholics or drug addicted. We tend to do something with the kinds of things I just listed that Isaiah here prevents us from doing. We categorize these things and tend to minimize the ones that apply to us. We think, “Yes, I like to talk about people behind their back but at least I’m not a drunk like that guy.” Or we excuse our complaining spirit because of all the hardship we are going through. Or we explain that our anger is due to our uncooperative children and our inattentive spouse. Meanwhile, we are very aware of how other people are sinning. So there is even in our rebellion a tendency to pretend that it is less a rebellion than it is a minor character flaw. And Isaiah comes in and says, no, this is a universal problem and this is an individual problem. Look at the river of humanity down through the centuries. Look at the wickedness, the evil, the revolt against God. But don’t forget to look in the mirror. Because staring back at you is the face of one who has turned to his or her own way. Every morning when you wake up you are looking at a naturally selfish person. This is why, when Paul describes love, he doesn’t describe warm feelings or emotional fireworks, he just says, “love does not seek its own way.”

Matthew Henry, the great old commentator, sums it up well: “It is certain that we are all guilty before God. We have all sinned, and have come short of the glory of God (v. 6): All we like sheep have gone astray, one as well as another. The whole race of mankind lies under the stain of original corruption, and every particular person stands charged with many actual transgressions. We have all gone astray from God our rightful owner, alienated ourselves from him, from the ends he designed us to move towards and the way he appointed us to move in. We have gone astray like sheep, which are apt to wander, and are unapt, when they have gone astray, to find the way home again. That is our true character; we are bent to backslide from God, but altogether unable of ourselves to return to him. This is mentioned not only as our infelicity (that we go astray from the green pastures and expose ourselves to the beasts of prey), but as our iniquity. We affront God in going astray from him, for we turn aside every one to his own way, and thereby set up ourselves, and our own will, in competition with God and his will, which is the malignity of sin. Instead of walking obediently in God’s way, we have turned wilfully and stubbornly to our own way, the way of our own heart, the way that our own corrupt appetites and passions lead us to. We have set up for ourselves, to be our own masters, our own carvers, to do what we will and have what we will.”

We have seen our problem. So what is God’s REMEDY?

and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. This is one of the clearest statements of the gospel in the Old Testament. We see in this phrase first the author of this benefit – the Lord. Then we see the nature of this benefit – he laid our iniquities on him. Finally, we see the persons concerned – us all.

It is the Lord’s design to provide a way for us to get out from under the iniquity which sets us on a course of wandering and selfishness. Notice here how wandering and selfishness in the first part of the verse are connected to iniquity in the second part of the verse. This makes clear again that solid biblical theme that our problem is not genetics or upbringing or economics: our problem is sin. Your sins have separated you from God. God’s design was to lay our iniquity on Him. We will get into the significance of that when we get to verse 10, but for now just remember that Jesus was offered up by the definite foreknowledge and plan of God. It was all planned by God for our good and His glory.

The Lord blessed us by laying our iniquities on Him. The Suffering Servant,  who alone was sinless, was uniquely qualified to bear the sins of others, and all people contributed to his pain. Under the Law of Moses, the sheep died for the shepherd; but under grace, the Good Shepherd died for the sheep.

Hear the words of our Good Shepherd in John chapter 10 . . . So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

The Old Testament spiritual shepherds constantly let the people of Israel down, because they were men of sin just as the rest. And even today, the shepherds of God’s people let the people down. But there is a Good Shepherd who will never let you down. Pastors come and go, if you cling to men you will always end up disappointed. If you cling to the Good Shepherd, you will be satisfied. In the Old Testament the shepherds wander and the sheep scatter. With the coming of Jesus, the sheep wander and the shepherd is slain for their wandering. John Calvin said, “In ourselves we were scattered; in Christ we are collected together; by nature we wander, driven headlong to destruction; in Christ we find the way to the gate of life.”

One commentator I read, I think it was Wiersbe, noted in verses 4 through 6 the contrast between the word “our” and the word “he” . . .





























The emphasis in verses 4–6 is on the plural pronouns: our griefs and sorrows, our iniquities, our transgressions. We have gone astray, we have turned to our own way. He did not die because of anything He had done but because of what we had done. This is our Savior and King. Here is our God.

And what does this one who bore our sins then do in us when He saves us? He turns us from our own way into His way. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, This is what it is to follow Jesus.

John MacArthur says, “There’s only one way to understand the death of Christ and that is under the principle of penal substitution.  He was our substitute to take the penalty for our sins, to satisfy the justice of God.  The New Testament affirms this, doesn’t it?  Second Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”  Peter puts it this way, “He bore in His own body our sins.”  And Paul says in Galatians 3, “He was a curse for us.”  That’s the New Testament affirmation of the truth of Isaiah 53.  God has then not dealt with us according to our iniquities, He has not dealt with us according to our transgressions.  But nor has He overlooked our sins, rather He has punished His Son, the Servant, the Messiah in our place and grace reigns over righteousness.”

Father, we thank you for your great design. You sent your Son to bear our iniquities, to be our substitute. We thank you that you save wandering sheep through the blood of the Good Shepherd. We praise you that in trusting the Good Shepherd are made like Him. We are being turned away from our turn to self to a life of self-giving love. We thank you for the time this morning to reflect on this verse and we thank you for these weeks to go verse by verse and line by line through this great chapter of Scripture. Thank you Lord. We pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen



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