All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.

—Isaiah 53:6

The crux of your life lies right there. It doesn’t matter whether you know this little wisp of systematic theology or not; that isn’t the point. The point is that it’s either got to be God’s wisdom or yours. It’s either God’s way or yours. All that you and I have lived for, hoped for and dreamed over in our heart of hearts—life, safety, happiness, heaven, immortality, the presence of God—hinges on whether you’re going to accept the ultimate wisdom of the Triune God, as revealed in the Scriptures and in His providential working in mankind. Or are you going to go your own way?

The most perfect definition of sin that I know of is given by Isaiah in 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Turning to our own way is the essence of sin. I turn to my way because I think it is wiser than God’s way….

This is the crux of our life. This is the difference between revival and a dead church. This is the difference between a Spirit-filled life and a self-filled life. Who’s running it? Who’s the boss? Whose wisdom is prevailing—the wisdom of God or the wisdom of man? AOGII135-136

Lord, how foolish I am when I trust in my own limited knowledge instead of Your infinite wisdom. Take over and be the Boss today. Amen. [1]

53:4–6 The remnant now knows and acknowledges the truth about Him. They confess: “It was our griefs He bore, our sorrows He carried, yet as we saw Him on the cross, we thought He was being punished by God for His own sins. But no! It was for our transgressions, for our iniquities, and in order that we might have peace, in order that we might be healed. The truth is that we were the ones who went astray and who walked in self-will, and Jehovah placed our iniquity on Him, the sinless Substitute.”

Until that time when the remnant acknowledges Him, we who are Christians can confess:

He was wounded for our transgressions,

He bore our sins in His body on the tree;

For our guilt He gave us peace,

From our bondage gave release,

And with His stripes, and with His stripes,

And with His stripes our souls are healed.

He was numbered among transgressors,

We did esteem Him forsaken by His God;

As our sacrifice He died,

That the law be satisfied,

And all our sin, and all our sin,

And all our sin was laid on Him.

We had wandered, we all had wandered,

Far from the fold of “the Shepherd of the sheep”;

But He sought us where we were,

On the mountains bleak and bare,

And brought us home, and brought us home,

And brought us safely home to God.

Thomas O. Chisholm

Our Lord Jesus suffered all five kinds of wounds known to medical science: contusions—blows by a rod; lacerations—scourging; penetrating wounds—crown of thorns; perforating wounds—nails; incised wounds—the spear.[2]

4–6 This central stanza of the fourth Servant Song has a number of general characteristics. The first is the frequency of the first person plural. This occurs of course several times in vv. 1–3 as well. Who are the speakers here? Probably the amazed onlookers of the first stanza, who appear from 52:15 to be predominantly, if not exclusively, Gentiles. Then there is in vv. 4 and 5 the use of the emphatic pronoun “he,” normally reserved in chs. 40–55 for God, again strongly suggestive of the incarnation (see comment on 52:13). Note also the frequency of nouns and verbs suggesting both pain and punishment.

The passage also emphasizes the sins of the onlookers, with one of the most vivid analogies—even in this illustration-saturated book—given in v. 6. Here is a picture of the willful and yet purposeless waywardness of sin, with probably a suggestion that this is an offense against love as well as holiness, for the divine shepherd is a tender, loving image in the Bible (cf. esp. 40:11). This aimless yet determined wandering is marvelously conveyed in the music of Handel’s Messiah, with its jerkily wandering melody, and likewise, in total contrast, the deeply moving affirmation of atonement at great cost with which the verse ends.

It is that costly atonement that provides the dominant theme of this stanza. Verse 4a views our punishment figuratively in terms of the visitation of disease (see comments at v. 3), while v. 4b shows the onlookers coming to the grievously wrong conclusion that the Servant is suffering for his own sins at the hand of God. Verse 5 shows that they have now accepted for themselves the objective fact declared in v. 4a. Piercing and crushing are both appropriate terms for the crucifixion, the first literal and the second figurative; and both are aptly summed up as “wounds” later in the verse.

Oswalt (in loc.) points out the significant fact that the metaphors of vv. 4 and 5 are precisely those of 1:5 and 6. Peace and healing view sin in terms of the estrangement from God and the marring of the sinner that it causes. Verse 6 may well derive its language from the Day of Atonement ritual (cf. Lev 16:21–22); for as God was the author of the ritual (cf. Lev 17:11), the high priest was simply his agent for transferring the sins of the people symbolically to the scapegoat. So there is a divine smiting of the Servant (cf. v. 4) but this is for our sins, not his.

Whybray’s view that the Servant does not suffer vicariously for the sins of others is dependent in large part on his identification of the Servant with Deutero-Isaiah. Certainly on the basis of such an identification the idea that he is punished instead of his fellow exiles seems quite ridiculous. Once this identification is challenged, however, much of Whybray’s argument loses its force.

Finally, we should note the element of conversion conveyed in vv. 4–5. The onlookers put aside their premature judgment on the matter and accept that the sufferings of the Servant are not only penal but also substitutionary. Kidner (in loc.) notes “the expressions, all we … we all, which give the verse an identical beginning and end in the Hebrew; grace wholly answering sin” (emphasis his).[3]

53:6 All of us … Each of us … us all. Every person has sinned (Ro 3:9, 23), but the Servant has sufficiently shouldered the consequences of sin and the righteous wrath deserved by sinners (cf. 1Ti 2:5, 6; 4:10; 1Jn 2:2). The manner in which God laid our iniquity on Him was that God treated Him as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe, though He was perfectly innocent of any sin. God did so to Him, so that wrath being spent and justice satisfied, God could then give to the account of sinners who believe, the righteousness of Christ, treating them as if they had done only the righteous acts of Christ. In both cases, this is substitution. See notes on 2Co 5:21.[4]

53:6 All we … every one. The servant, who alone was sinless, was uniquely qualified to bear the sins of others, and all people contributed to his pain. like sheep. Stupid and helpless. the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. See Lev. 16:21–22; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:25.[5]

53:6 All of us have wandered about like sheep The metaphor of wayward Israel as a flock of sheep without a shepherd is a common motif used in prophetic literature (see Isa 56:11; Jer 13:20; 23:1; 49:20; Ezek 34:1–10; Zech 10:2).

This imagery emphasizes Israel’s willful wandering from Yahweh, their punishment of scattering through exile, and the future hope of the ingathering under a new divinely appointed shepherd (see Isa 40:11 and note, and note on Ezek 34:11).


have wandered about Sheep tend to get lost and be unaware of the consequences of their actions. Israel (and by extension all humanity) have wandered away from God.

let fall on him the iniquity of Rather than people suffering the consequences for their own sinful actions, their iniquities are placed upon the Servant. He bears the punishment for their mistakes.[6]

53:6 All we. Even as we sinned, so He died for us (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). See theological note “Definite Atonement” on p. 1875

sheep … astray. See 1 Pet. 2:25.

laid. The guilt of our sins was transferred to Jesus, and He offered Himself as a sacrifice in our place. As Paul wrote, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21).[7]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 979–980). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 800–801). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 53:6). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1338). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 53:6). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1224). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.


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