Today as I was reading in the Psalms, something I read brought Isaiah 53 to mind, so I flipped to the passage and continued my reading there. Isaiah 52:13-54:3 is probably my favorite of the many Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament which speaks of how Christ’s atonement brought gentiles under the covenant blessings alongside Israel (see esp. 54:1-3, where the “barren woman”–think ‘Sarai, Leah, or Hannah’–is told to “stretch out her tent” because more “children” are coming in). What struck me most today in my reading of this passage is how despite the fact that Isaiah never uses the words “Messiah,” “Christ,” or “Jesus,” this passage seems to be screaming all three as you read it! When read this passage, even my youth group—comprised largely of 10-13 year old kids—agreed in unison (and without prompt!) that this passage was about Christ.
Having recently read and studied the Levitical system of sacrifice, I was also overwhelmed by the beautiful, poetic imagery of this passage which depicts Christ as a sacrificial lamb offered as a guilt offering for the sins of the nations. Isaiah 52:14-15a says, “Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men. Thus He will sprinkle many nations…” (See Ex 29:21). The very Son of God was slaughtered as a guilt offering for the sins of His own creation.
Sin is serious. It has serious consequences. So many times I am tempted to believe that my sins are “no big deal,” or that they are just simply “shortcomings” or “slip-ups.” But it seems to me that we don’t call actions which cost the lives of others merely “slip-ups.” If a president utters a rash statement to a foreign dignitary which sparks a war, do we excuse his “slip-up?” How much more serious are those sins which nailed the sinless God of the universe to a cross! I know of few words in the English language which effectively communicate the gravity of sin. Perhaps “wickedness” comes close. But we don’t often like to refer to ourselves as “wicked.” That rubs us the wrong way. But it is the unfortunate truth. I’m reminded of an old, anonymous poem (which I’ve adapted slightly):
Man call is an accident, God calls it abomination.
Man calls it a defect, God calls it a disease.
Man calls it an error, God calls it an enmity.
Man calls it a liberty, God calls it lawlessness.
Man calls it a trifle, God calls it a tragedy.
Man calls it a mistake, God calls it madness.
Man calls it a weakness, God calls it wickedness.
My sin cost my dear Savior an agonizing death. To use the language of Isaiah 52-53, he was “marred, despised, rejected, pierced, crushed, oppressed, and afflicted.” Why? Because I “slipped-up?” Because I made a “mistake?” No. Because I sinned. Because I, in my wicked rejection of my very Creator and God, decided that my way was better than His. And because our sin is against not simply another sinful human, but the infinitely sinless, Almighty God, the penalty is infinitely severe: death (Romans 6:23).
But thank God that isn’t the whole story! Isaiah 53 (and the latter half of Romans 6:23) also tells another side to the story: redemption. God—in His infinite love and mercy—despite my sinfulness, chose to love me and save me anyways, through the sacrificial death of his Son. What a great God I have.
He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.