Posts Tagged 'Isaiah 53'

God and Iniquity, Part 4

Iniquity is an awful thing. Sure, it’s sin, but it’s the worst possible of all sins. We all sin. We may be redeemed, but we still struggle with sin. We live in it. It’s all around us. In a million different ways, every minute of every day of our lives we are exposed to sin. Whether we hear it or see it. And whether we like it or not, it influences how we think, feel, and act. That’s why we most of the time we aren’t ever aware that we are sinning until it’s too late. It’s as though we can’t help ourselves – that’s not an excuse, just an explanation. Iniquity is different. You have to out of your way to commit an iniquity. You plan to do it. You scheme to do it. And when at last you’ve done the deed, you hide it; you do your best to make sure nobody finds out. Unlike your run-of-the-mill, garden variety sin, you have the power to not commit an iniquity.

But of course, God knows all about your iniquities. As we’ve discovered, He not only knows about them, He reveals them. They are always right in front of Him. And you are stained with the guilt of your iniquities.

Is there any hope? Fortunately for us, there is.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:5, 6, 11 | TNIV)


As far as the majority of Bible scholars is concerned, the content of Isaiah 53 really begins back in 52:13.

See, my servant will act wisely ; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. (Isaiah 52:13 – 15 | TNIV)

This is God the Father talking about “his servant.” We Christians view all the “Servant” passages in Isaiah as finding their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. In these verses here, we get a glimpse into how the Father viewed His Son and His Son’s mission on earth.

God’s view

The first thing God draws attention to is the Son’s wisdom; His belief that Jesus Christ will act wisely. And He did. The wisdom of the Son was completely self-denying. He made all the right decisions that would put Him on the Cross. But Jesus Christ possesses all the wisdom needed to deal with man’s greatest problem: Sin. And what looked like foolishness to onlookers, was in fact wisdom on display.

He was beaten beyond recognition. People who saw Him were appalled and disgusted with the appearance of this so-called Messiah. And yet, as the Lord says, Jesus Christ “sprinkled many nations.” That’s an interesting phrase that is probably lost most of us today. It has the idea of a Jewish ceremony involving purification and the forgiveness of sins. Even as it appeared as though the Son of God was dying and helplessly nailed to a cross, He was acting in complete wisdom and in complete harmony with His Father’s will, obtaining the forgiveness of sins for people that hitherto was never available to them.

We don’t talk a lot about the wisdom of the Son of God, but a long time after Isaiah wrote what he did about the issue, the apostle Paul tackled it like this:

Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:20 – 25 | TNIV)

Christians would do well to remember what both Isaiah and Paul wrote. It applies to our time as much as it did to theirs. Too many believers don’t have the confidence they should have in their faith, their Scriptures, or their Savior. There is no equivalence at all between man’s wisdom and God’s.

Man’s view

From God, we move to the astonishment of those who came to believe in the Savior. But it was hard fought belief.

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1 | TNIV)

Bible scholars love to debate who the “we” here is. Jews or Gentiles? Maybe both, since “the arm of the Lord” has embraced all people. Anybody who found Jesus has wondered in astonishment of a couple of things. First, we who love Jesus find hard to believe why so many don’t! “Who has believed our message,” indeed! Apparently few have!  Yet God in His great love and compassion has embraced all sinners who need saving. Why do so many people miss Jesus? It’s because He’s the unexpected Savior. Just read how Isaiah described Him in these verses.

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:2 – 3 | TNIV)

Jesus didn’t come in power and glory. He came as one of us. Just an average guy who could feed 5,000 people with almost no food, walk on water, raise the dead, and change the weather. But Jesus wasn’t what people were looking for and He isn’t what people are looking for today. The great sadness is that people of every generation are looking for the same things: peace, happiness, contentment, security, love, and acceptance. But what they don’t know is that all those things are found only in once person: Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ became a “man of suffering” because He became one of us, and suffering marks the human condition. Living the life He did and hanging on the Cross, Jesus experienced, if only for the briefest moments in eternity, what it is like to be one of us: lonely, sad, abandoned, betrayed, and suffering alone.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4 | TNIV)

We tend to focus on the first part of that verse, but it’s the second half that is the most telling: “…we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.” In other words, we saw everything Jesus went through, but we got it wrong. We didn’t understand what we were seeing. And most people today still don’t. People today still don’t understand Jesus. They don’t get what He did for them, which is why when you share your faith them, more times than not you get a blank stare for your efforts.

But you understand what Jesus did for you. He didn’t have any pain, until He felt yours. He never suffered, until He began to feel your suffering.

The facts

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5, 6 | TNIV)

The first four verses are basically what believers think about Jesus. Beginning with verse 5 are the facts. Let’s take a closer look.

Pierced for our transgressions. This simple phrase is really the basis of a wonderful theological doctrine: vicarious expiation. The English “pierced” comes from a Hebrew term meholal which means “pierced,” “transfixed,” or “bored through.” He was nailed – nailed for our pesha, our transgressions, which were our devious, deviant rebellions. The pain was all His, because of the sin that was all ours.

Crushed for our iniquities. Jesus Christ was shattered for our “inborn crookedness.” The Hebrew, medhukkdh, means “pulverized,” “crushed,” or “shattered,” and awonoth means not only “iniquities” but “twisted and perverted crookedness.” Our iniquity is basically our perverse, persistent, hopeless addiction to doing the things that hurt God, ourselves, and others. Our secret sins.

Punishment that brought us peace. The word “punishment” means “disciplined.” Can you imagine? That Man on the cross was being disciplined so that we could experience peace! What a wondrous thing that Jesus did for us. All that He went through on the cross – all the violence and pain resulted in peace for you and me.

By his wounds we are healed. This phrase is far more controversial than it should be. The natural way to read this is that what Jesus went through on the cross provided physical healing for us. I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but there was physical healing before Jesus was crucified. Peter, over in the New Testament, gives us a divinely inspired interpretation of this phrase:

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:23, 24 | TNIV)

It seems that Peter links this healing to the wounds caused by sin. And while you and I get all get all hung up on the notion that cancer or heart disease or a broken bone are the worst things that can befall a human being, the Bible teaches something very different. Sin, and what sin does to people – individuals and their relationships with others – is far worse than any physical problem you could think of. That’s not that we shouldn’t pray for sick people; the Bible says we should! But we shouldn’t minimize the devastating effects sin has on us. Your iniquities and sins are what put Christ on the Cross. He dealt decisively with sin, in wisdom and in full possession of all of His faculties, and once and for all freed man from his enslavement to sinning day after day, after relentless day, so that potentially every human being could enjoy peace with God, with his fellow man, and with himself.

Unfortunately, rarely do we human beings ever do what’s best for us.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 | TNIV)

Again, these are the facts. Man prefers his own way to God’s way. He has transferred his allegiance to a god of his own making, fulfilling his own will and desires, leaning on his own intellect and innate talents, proving he is wholly selfish. This is sinful man’s ongoing iniquity. This is humanity’s common guilt.  That’s the folly of the human race.

As we wrap up this study, the last phrase of verse 6 is haunting and continues to reverberate down the corridor of time: “…the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Understand what that means, and you’ll understand the depth of God’s love. Ross Price, in his wonderful commentary on Isaiah, sums it up perfectly:

God became the Suffering Servant, provided the vicarious atonement, and bore, in His Son, the iniquities of the world. Since then, vicarious pain has been life’s highest decoration. God does not punish the righteous with the wicked (Gen. 18: 25). He accepts the suffering of the righteous for the wicked (Mark 10: 45).








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