“[H]e 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. 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. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:5-7)(NIV).
“The Silence and the Lamb”
Isaiah is one of my favorite books of the Bible because the prophet was the consummate writer. His insight is provocative, his conviction is stunning, and his imagery is tangible and rich, particularly in chapters 49-55, which address the concept of deliverance through a “suffering servant.” This famous “man of sorrows” was revealed in the New Testament (at least 10 times) to be Jesus Christ– a ruler who made His appearance not as a victorious commander, but as a humble teacher, subjected to the most painful of deaths. In fact, specific scenes from Chapter 53 read as eye-witness accounts of his condemnation and crucifixion under Pontius Pilot, though they were written centuries before Christ’s death.
The Bible refers to the Lord as both our “shepherd” (Psalm 23:1), and as a “lamb led to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7); so He is both, as only He can be, the gentlest of leaders and the humblest of servants. He subjected himself to “bear[ing] the sin of many, and [making] intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12), thereby insuring salvation for all.
He knew his death was coming, but he “did not open his mouth.” Indeed, though “He committed no sin, and no insult was found in his mouth[,] [w]hen 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” (I Peter 2:22-23). For to have countered the accusations, to have called forth the armies of Heaven would have interrupted His purpose: to make Himself a sacrifice for our redemption. He pointed the way to the “new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17), and did so with quiet determination.
I was driving home from the dentist the other day, mopping the water from my lap because my Novocain-numbed lips had proven useless for drinking, when I noticed something white in the road. A sheep bearing tidy clipper marks, a likely escapee from a nearby shearing party, stamped the pavement and twitched her tail in fear. I stopped to approach her (though I couldn’t tell you what I’d have done, if I’d caught her), but she darted into the field beyond and was lost among the long grass. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). How poetically perfect that God picked someone so different from us, and yet so familiar in form – a sheep from among the flock – to lead us Home.
Heavenly Father, we are so lost without You – we are tangled in the grass, separated from the Shepherd, wayward. But I can see You on the hilltop, staff in hand, calling us to You through your Son. Thank You for making Him like us in form, so familiar with our suffering (Isaiah 53:3) that we might recognize ourselves in Him and be drawn to You. Thank You that His words were powerful; His silence, even more so. Let us live our lives according to Your great love for us, and to the example of Your Son. Amen.
From the archives. Originally published August 11, 2009.
Jesus himself, in quoting from Isaiah, stated in Luke 4:17-21 that He was the fulfillment of the scripture, and the “servant” to which the prophet had been referring.