************ Sermon on Isaiah 53:6-7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 6, 2012
"The Lambs of God"
Did you notice that Isaiah 53 mentions two kinds of sheep? There is the sheep that have gone astray. Black sheep. Sinful sheep. And, there is the sheep that was led to the slaughter. White sheep. The Lamb of God. On this Good Friday service I want to spend some time looking at the two kinds of sheep.
I The Sheep That Have Gone Astray
A Everywhere I go I've been seeing and hearing all sorts of things about "The Hunger Games." I don't like going to the movies because the floor is sticky, the popcorn and drink are too expensive, and the crowd usually is noisy. So, I found an internet special and downloaded all three books onto my Kindle for $7.74.
Let me give you a short description of the book. Sometime in the future a catastrophe hits the U.S. After the catastrophe, the U.S. breaks up into 13 different districts that are ruled by a capitol located close to present day Denver. The sole purpose of the districts is to satisfy the needs and whims of the capitol (kind of sounds like today, doesn't it). When the districts rebel, district 13 is supposedly wiped out and the other 12 districts become virtual prison camps where people work 12 hours a day to produce the goods and food needed by the capitol. As punishment for rebellion, each year the Capitol selects a boy and girl from each of the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television. Everyone is required to watch, including the family and friends of the contestants being killed. The last one left standing is declared the victor and he/she and their family are taken off starvation wages.
By the way, this past week the Los Angeles Times contained an opinion piece stating that present day North Korea is a "real-life Hunger Games" where children are bred like livestock in labor camps, are taught to betray their parents, and are worked to death.
Isn't this an absolutely awful story? The author probably does not realize this, but she is reminding us of mankind's utter depravity. Our sin. The blackness of the human heart. The human condition because of the Fall. She describes in a story what the Bible describes theologically. As Isaiah puts it, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Is 53:6).
B Notice, Isaiah compares us to sheep. He says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Is 53:6). A couple of weeks ago I was cycling up Yokohl Valley. In one of the pastures, about 30 head of cattle were heading to the water trough. One was in the lead and the other 29 or so were in a line behind it. Sheep are the same way. They blindly follow whoever is in the lead. So, if the leading sheep leaves the path because it sees a tuft of grass, usually all the sheep do so. Then it sees another tuft further from the path and goes to it. And then another. And just like that the entire flock is far from the path. Similarly, says Peter, all Israel turned aside from following the Lord and from keeping His commandments (cf 1 Pet 2:25).
"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Is 53:6). Isaiah hits on the essence of sin here. The essence of sin is going one's own way, rather than God's way. Go back to Adam and Eve in the Garden; they chose to go their way rather than God's way when they ate from the forbidden fruit. Think of Cain; filled with jealousy, he chose his way rather than the way of the Lord when he killed his brother. Think of Abraham lying to Pharaoh in Egypt; he chose his way rather than the way of the Lord. Think of Lot; he chose the way of the world rather than the way of the Lord when he picked the well-watered plain and its wicked cities. Think of the revolving door Jacob made of marriage; he chose his way rather than God's way.
"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Is 53:6). Doesn't this also describe you and me? Every time we sin we are choosing our way rather than the way of the Lord. Every time we make something more important than God, we are choosing our own way rather than God's way. Every time we make an idol of something, we choose our way rather than God's way. Every time we fail to live up to the name of Christian, we choose our way rather than God's way. Every time we easily miss worship, we choose our way rather than God's way. Every time we fail to submit to those in authority over us, we choose our way rather than God's way. Every time we belittle, insult, or hate our neighbor we choose our way rather than God's way. Every time we sin sexually – whether it is adultery, pornography, child sexual abuse, sex hot lines, or whatever – we choose our way rather than God's way. Every time we cheat and swindle, fail to pay our bills, or take advantage of people we choose our way rather than God's way. Every time we gossip, slander, lie, deceive, and tell half-truths we choose our way rather than God's way. Every time we wrongly desire what belongs to another, we choose our way rather than God's way. I want you to realize, congregation, we are the sheep that have gone astray; we are the sheep that have turned to its own way.
C Isaiah uses two words to describe how we have gone astray: transgressions and iniquities (Is 53:5). "Transgression" means rebellion against God, it means daring to cross the line that God has drawn. "Iniquity" refers to the crookedness of our sinful nature. In other words, we are sinners by choice and we are sinners 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 (Eph 2:2).
"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Is 53:6). Everyone of us is a sinner. Everyone of us deserves judgment and condemnation. Everyone of us deserves to be punished by the holy God Who hates all sin.
II The Lamb that was Slain
A Thank God and praise God that there is also another kind of sheep: "he was led like a lamb to the slaughter" (Is 53:7). We are the sheep that have gone astray while Jesus is the sheep that suffered and died.
What did the Lamb suffer? First of all, He suffered at the hands of men. As Isaiah tell us,
(Is 53:3) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.The following verses describe what men did to Him. He was "pierced" (Is 53:5): as you know, His hands and feet were pierced by nails (Ps 22:16; Lk 24:39-40) and His side by a spear (Jn 19:31-37; Zech 12:10; Rev 1:7). He was crushed and wounded (Is 53:5): think of the whipping, think of the cross, think of His thirst. He was oppressed and afflicted (Is 53:7): think of the sham trial, the slapping, the spitting. He was cut off from the land of the living (Is 53:8) and He was assigned a grave with the wicked (Is 53:9): think of His death and burial.
In short, Jesus is the Lamb Who was crucified – one of the most painful and humiliating forms of death ever devised by man.
Not only did the Lamb suffer at the hands of men, but the prophet states He also suffered at the hands of God. He was "stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted" (Is 53:4). The New Testament tells us Jesus was forsaken and cursed by God (Mt 27:46; Gal 3:13).
B The Bible teaches us that punishment and suffering is the consequence of sin. However, the Lamb was pure and spotless, unblemished in every way. "He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth" (Is 53:9).
It is a very great mystery that so excellent a person should suffer such things; and it is natural to ask with amazement, "How come? What evil did He do?" His enemies looked upon Him as suffering justly for His crimes because they hated Him. But He never did anything in the least to deserve what happened to Him. He was charged with perverting the nation, and sowing sedition, but that was utterly false; for He had done no violence. He was called the deceiver, but He never deserved that accusation; for there was no deceit in his mouth (Is 53:9). He did no sin. He never offended in word or deed, nor could any of His enemies prove that He did. The judge that condemned Him found no fault in Him, and the centurion that executed Him professed that certainly He was a righteous man.
C So, then, why did He suffer? Listen to what Isaiah says to us on this Good Friday:
(Is 53:5-6) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (6) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.These verses present the heart of the Gospel message: the innocent Lamb dying as the sacrifice for sin. This message was also at the heart of Israel's religious system, the innocent animal sacrifice dying for the guilty sinner (Lev 16).
The emphasis in verses 4–6 is on the plural pronouns: our infirmities, our sorrows, our transgressions, our iniquities. We are the ones who 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. He suffered and died in our place and for our sin. He took on our sin and He took on our punishment.
III The Result
A Do you know the consequence for us? The first consequence of this is our peace. "The punishment that brought us peace was upon him" (Is 53:5). He made peace between man and God by the blood of His cross. Because of sin we are odious to God's holiness and revolting to His justice. But through Christ God is reconciled to us, and not only forgives our sins and saves us from ruin, but takes us into friendship and fellowship with Himself. Christ has become and is our peace (Eph 2:14).
B The second consequence of this is our healing. "By his wounds we are healed" (Is 53:5). You need to realize that sin is not only a crime for which we are condemned to die, but sin is also a disease which causes the death of our souls. "By his wounds we are healed" (Is 53:5). It is only the suffering and death – and resurrection – of Christ which brings healing to our sick and dying souls. It is only the suffering and death of Christ which brings life to souls that otherwise would suffer eternal death.
God has sheep that stray and God has a sheep that never strayed. God has sheep that deserve punishment and God has a sheep that took on the punishment. God has sheep that go their own way and God has a sheep that always submitted to the will of the Father.
On this Good Friday we should be sad that we are the first kind of sheep. And, we rejoice that Jesus is the second kind of sheep – the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.
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