For sheep who strayed from the shepherd, danger awaited! All sorts of harm, even death, could be the consequence of one who wandered. So if the Lord is not our shepherd, what’s the consequence of choosing not to follow Him? Terrifyingly, there is only one consequence—death. Scripture compares those who trust in themselves to sheep who are “destined to die; death will be their shepherd” (Ps. 49:12–14).
Because of sin, death is humanity’s common fate. Isaiah’s statement of our sinful condition is clear: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray” (v. 6). Sin and death have been universal ever since Adam and Eve chose disobedience and left God’s path, the only true and right path. On our own, as each of us surely knows, we, like sheep, are prone to wander. “Each of us has turned to our own way” or we act as our own god.
Despite our sinfulness, God loved us so much that He “laid on him [the Messiah] the iniquity of us all” (v. 6). Verses 4 and 5 describe in graphic detail how Christ bore our sins and paid the punishment of death in our place. In the Mosaic Law, the sins of the nation were symbolically transferred to one of a pair of sacrificial goats. The designated “scapegoat” was then sent away from the community into the wilderness (Lev. 16:7–10). In the same way, the sins of the world were put on the perfect Messiah; He was executed as a criminal on our behalf (see 1 Peter 2:21–25).
The other goat was sacrificed as a sin offering. The Messiah accomplished this symbolism as well. He “was led like a lamb to the slaughter” (v. 7). He went willingly, without argument or complaint. He didn’t protest the flagrant injustice. These prophecies were fulfilled during the trials of Jesus recounted in the Gospels (see Mark 14:53–65).
>> Today’s reading is a somber one. It emphasizes not only our own depravity and tendency to do what we believe is right but also details the heavy price Jesus paid on our behalf.
We lived in quest of gratuitous evil, hating truth and shunning shame. Jesus came, “a man of suffering, familiar with pain” (Isa. 53:3), to endure the punishment we deserved. We worship You for Your unfathomable mercy.