4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 53:4–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
5 Most commentators—even those who deny the presence of penal substitution elsewhere in the OT—agree that it is the meaning of this passage, though some argue against this (see, e.g., Whybray, in loc.).
5 Again, as in v. 4, the independent pronoun preceded by a disjunctive waw, But, emphasizes the contrast between him and us. We had thought God was punishing this man for his own sins and failures, but in fact he was pierced through as a result of our rebellion; he was crushed on account of our twistedness. The images have now shifted from illness to injury and have become more severe. While “pierced through” is not always specifically said to result in death, it is typically used in contexts with death (22:2; 51:9; 66:16; Ps. 69:27 [Eng. 26]). Delitzsch goes so far as to say that it is the strongest term for violent and excruciating death in the language. Similarly, “crushed” is stronger than that which Eng. “bruised” implies. It suggests at least breaking into pieces and in some cases even pulverizing (19:10; Job 22:9; Jer. 44:10; Ps. 90:3 [dakkāʾ, “dust,” a noun form of medukkāʾ, “crushed,” here]).
This effect in the Servant is the measure of how seriously God takes our rebellion and crookedness. We typically wish to make light of our “shortcomings,” to explain away our “mistakes.” But God will have none of it. The refusal of humanity to bow to the Creator’s rule, and our insistence on drawing up our own moral codes that pander to our lusts, are not shortcomings or mistakes. They are the stuff of death and corruption, and unless someone can be found to stand in our place, they will see us impaled on the swords of our own making and broken on the racks of our own design. But someone has been found. Someone has taken on himself the results of our rebelliousness, and we have been given the keys of the kingdom (2 Cor. 5:21; 8:9; 1 Pet. 2:24).
The metaphors of vv. 4–5 are precisely those of 1:5–6. As a result of its rebellion, the nation is desperately ill, a mass of open sores and unbandaged wounds. What is to be done? Not more hypocritical worship (1:10–15)! No, what is needed is just and righteous living (1:16–20). But can that atone for the past, cleanse the wounds, destroy the infection? No, writing new words over the old ones will not blot out the old ones. Someone must come to wipe the slate clean (4:4). Someone must take the disease and give back health, must bear the blows and give back wealth (in its original sense of “well-being”).
That this is precisely the intention of the first bicolon is shown by the second. If the first is taken alone, one could argue again that substitution is not being talked about, but only sharing in results. But the second bicolon will not permit that interpretation. What the Servant does in bearing the undeserved results of his people’s sin brings about positive results for the people. He is not merely participating in their suffering, he is bearing it away for them so that they may not labor under its effects anymore. He took the punishment that made it possible for us to have well-being, and he has taken the infected welts so that ours could be healed. No Judean prophet did that for sick, broken Israel; and sick, broken Israel did not do that for either itself or the world.
While mûsar does not always imply “punishment,” it frequently does (cf. Job 5:17; Prov. 22:15; 23:13; and the verb yāsar in Ps. 6:2 [Eng. 1]). It is the discipline of a child by a parent up to and including punishment. Here the context demands this understanding. The child has rebelled against the parent; not only has the relationship been disrupted, but justice is offended. There is no šālôm, well-being, because things are out of order, unbalanced. Until punishment has been meted out, all the good intentions in the world cannot restore that broken order. But when the parent’s authority has been recognized, when justice has been done, then both sides of the equation are balanced again, which is what shalom is all about. This is what the Servant has done for us. This is not a matter of a raging tyrant who demands violence on someone to satisfy his fury. It is a God who wants a whole relationship with his people, but is prevented from having it until incomplete justice is satisfied. In the Servant he has found a way to gratify his love and satisfy his justice.
The same point is made by the last colon. The back of the rebel is covered with the bloody welts of the lash. Yet his behavior seems only to ask for more (1:6). How can his back ever be healed? Only if someone takes those welts in his place. The elliptical language only intensifies the point; it is literally: “in his welts it is healed to us.” What can this mean but what it says? The Servant is not suffering with his people—he is suffering for them, procuring for them through his suffering what they cannot procure for themselves. This requires that the Servant does not deserve any welts of his own. Because he does not he can take those of his people and give them healing in return. Can any human do this?
A substitutionary Servant (53:4–6)
Isaiah next helps us to grasp that this ‘man of sorrows’ (53:3) is a substitutionary Servant. That is something the people (Isaiah’s people, hence the ‘we’ in 53:4) couldn’t see. They would see the suffering and draw the orthodox theological conclusion that it must be a judgement from God.
An artist by the name of Steinberg once asked an uneducated gypsy girl to sit for him. At the time he was working on another painting, Christ on the Cross, and the girl saw him working on it. She observed about Christ, ‘He must have been a very wicked man to be nailed to a cross like that.’ Steinberg quickly corrected her: ‘No, on the contrary, he was a very good man, the best man that ever lived. He died for others.’ That is what Isaiah is saying here, four times in two verses: ‘… our griefs … our sorrows … our transgressions … our iniquities’ (53:4–5, emphasis added). The Servant is not being punished for anything he has done; he is there in the place of others. He is a substitute. The gypsy girl’s response to Steinberg’s explanation that the man on the cross had died for others was to ask him a question: ‘Did he die for you?’ It unsettled Steinberg, because he didn’t feel comfortable answering yes. It is said that he carried on thinking about it until he knew in this heart, and could say with confidence, that Jesus had died for him.
This Servant is the substitute we all need, because we have all ‘gone astray’ (53:6). The following story is told about D. L. Moody, the nineteenth-century American evangelist, after he had been speaking at a mission service. He was hurrying away to catch a train when a man from the meeting caught up with him to ask for help, having realized that he needed to be saved. Moody was in danger of missing his train so he kept his words to a minimum: ‘Look up Isaiah 53:6. Go in at the first “all” and go out at the last “all”. Good night.’ The man went home to see if he could work out what Moody was talking about. He saw the first ‘all’—‘All we like sheep have gone astray’—and readily accepted that he was included in that. Then he saw that he could also be included in the last ‘all’—‘the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’; his iniquities could be laid on Christ. That is what enables someone to say with confidence, ‘Yes, Christ died for me.’
53:4–6 / The third incorrect assumption is that this servant was suffering as a consequence of his sin. On the contrary, he was experiencing other people’s suffering when he did not need to. Infirmities and sorrows could suggest illness and the language here could imply that he was stricken by the kind of skin disease that Leviticus 13–14 discusses. But elsewhere (e.g., v. 7) the vision suggests that the servant’s suffering came from the attacks of other human beings, and more likely this is also so here. The servant was maltreated and injured, wounded and crushed, attacked and violated. We assumed that this was God’s punishment of him, but we have come to realize that this was not so.
One aspect of this is that he was sharing in our experience of being wounded and crushed for our wrongdoing—the kind of experience that Jerusalem’s fall and the deportation to Babylon had brought. The implication is that there was no reason for him to do that—he did not deserve it. This in itself does not require that the servant suffered instead of the people. They also suffered, but they deserved it.
But verses 4–6 imply more than an undeserved sharing of the suffering that came to people in general. They imply an undeserved experience of suffering that other people did not experience. For there was another sense in which he suffered because of their rebellion. Their resistance to Yahweh made them attack Yahweh’s messenger, whose message they believed to be false. He thus experienced punishment for the role he had to fulfill. The word “punishment” (musar) is not a legal one but suggests the chastisement of a child or a student by a parent or a teacher in order to teach a lesson. He gets beaten like a child or a student so that other people may learn from it.
The supreme significance of his going through what they went through as well as what they did not go through is thus that this brought us peace and healing (v. 5). We do not yet know how this happens, though the implication may be that watching him go through that somehow brings about a breakthrough of insight and thus a breakthrough of transformation. With the word shalom the prophet takes up the unresolved problem with which 48:22 closed. The speakers know their own transgression and iniquity (or at least the prophet knows it on their behalf). They know that their history up to the state’s fall demonstrates an inclination to go their own way rather than to follow the direction Yahweh lays before them. They know that they are the kind of people for whom there is therefore no shalom, no peace or well-being or wholeness. They (or the prophet) now affirm that this servant is the key to their becoming that sort of people, and that this has come about through his being afflicted just as they were, but without deserving it.
53:4–6. Israel states that He was punished for His own sin. The despised Servant bore our griefs (better translated “suffering”; see comments on 53:1–3) and carried our sorrows. The words may contain the idea of sickness, leading some to believe that faith in the Servant guarantees immediate healing of all diseases. However, this does not mean that all sicknesses will immediately be cured because of the Servant’s vicarious suffering. Rather it is promising that the Servant’s death would ultimately provide deliverance and healing for all who believe in Him. The Servant did indeed take the punishment for sin and therefore would provide immediate forgiveness to someone who trusts in Him. However, removing the penalty for sin will not remove the presence of sin in a believer’s life until after the resurrection. In the same way, the forgiveness of the sins that cause sickness does not guarantee healing from diseases until the presence of sin is removed at the resurrection at the end of days.
Israel now confesses that upon viewing the Servant’s suffering, the nation had concluded that the Servant was undergoing divine punishment. He was stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (v. 4), all terms that indicate punishment for sin. The word stricken, meaning “to smite with disease for sin,” was used when both Miriam (Nm 12:9–10) and Uzziah (2Kg 15:5) were stricken with leprosy for sin.
Penitent Israel now recognizes that while the Servant was indeed being punished for sin, it was not for His sins but theirs. The Servant’s suffering included being pierced through for our transgressions (v. 5). The Hebrew word translated pierced (mekholal) means “wounded to death” and conveys a violent and painful death (Dt 21:1; Is 51:9). The Servant was crushed for our iniquities. Although the word crushed means “broken” or “shattered to pieces,” it is not generally used in a literal way but with a metaphorical sense, as in a “contrite [lit., “crushed”] spirit” (Is 57:15) or “contrite heart” (Ps 51:17). Israel now understood that the Servant took the punishment (chastening) they deserved, that He was flogged (by His scourging) in order to bring their spiritual healing. The substitution of the Servant for the people certainly foretells the sacrifice of the Messiah Jesus as a sacrifice for the sickness of sin (1Pt 2:24).
5–6. It is most blessed and delightful, everlastingly to view Jesus, in all he did and wrought, as the sinner’s surety. Christ is never to be looked at, or regarded as a private person, but as the public head of his redeemed; and to endear this view of Christ still more, it is blessed to trace the hand of God the Father in all that concerns redemption. Did Jesus bear my sins in his own body on the tree? Then he did it, that I might be made the righteousness of God in him. And it was God the Father, not himself, who laid those iniquities upon him. Reader! I know not whether you enter into a rich enjoyment of those precious things; but to see the hand of God the Father in all, is what gives stability and confidence to our trust, and demonstrates that our faith is not found in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God; 1 Cor. 2:5.
Healed by his wounds (53:4–6)
How right, and yet at the same time how terribly wrong, they had been! In this third stanza, the witnesses testify to the completely new understanding of the Servant’s death that they have now arrived at. Yes, it was God, ultimately, who crushed him, but it was not because he deserved it. The original Hebrew is very emphatic in verse 4: ‘Surely, it was our infirmities he took up, our sorrows he bore.’ And it is clear from the context that it is not sickness or sorrow in general that is being referred to. They are the same sufferings and sorrows that have just been referred to in the previous verse. They are the sufferings which were deliberately inflicted on the Servant and which culminated in his death. The witnesses realize that they themselves deserved those sufferings and that death, but that the Servant took their place. Substitution was not a new thought to the Israelites; it was enshrined in the law of Moses. Ever since that law had been given to Israel, lambs and other animals had been sacrificed in the place of sinners. But now the witnesses see that this same principle is at work in the suffering and death of the Servant. Their peace with God, the healing of their broken relationship with him, was secured by the Servant’s death (5). He was pierced for their transgressions and crushed for their iniquities. The comfort they have received, the good news of their pardon, has been provided at tremendous cost.
5. The pronoun he is again emphatic, so as to bring the Servant sharply before us—‘He (and no other)’. Pierced: as in 51:9; when they called on the Arm of the Lord who dealt the monster Rahab a death blow, they did not know they were calling the Arm to his own death. Crushed: used of cruel agonies ending in death (Lam. 3:34). For … for: the preposition min means ‘from’, hence it is used of one thing arising from another, a relationship of cause and effect. Our transgressions were the cause, his suffering to death the effect. Like verse 4, this verse cannot be understood without the idea of substitution to which, here, the adjective ‘penal’ must be attached. Transgressions (peša’), wilful rebellions (1:2, 28; 43:25; 44:22; 46:8; 50:1); iniquities (‘āwōn), the pervertedness, ‘bentness’, of fallen human nature (1:4; 5:18; 6:7; 40:2; 43:24; 50:1). Punishment (mûsār): ‘correction’ by word or act, ‘chastisement’. Just as ‘covenant of peace’ (54:10) means ‘covenant which pledges and secures peace’ so (lit.) ‘punishment of our peace’ means punishment which secured peace with God for us. This peace was lost (48:18) by disobedience, and, since it cannot be enjoyed by the wicked (48:22), the Servant stepped forward (49:1) to bring us back to God (49:6). This is what he achieved by his substitutionary, penal sufferings. Upon: the same preposition as used in Leviticus 16:21–22. By: the particle of price, ‘at the cost of’. Wounds (ḥabbûrâ): used in 1:6 of open, untreated lacerations, hence the actuality of blows inflicted and experienced. Healed: (lit.) ‘there is healing for us’, the accomplished reality of restored wholeness.
5 This verse expresses over and over again the truth that the servant not merely shares our griefs but actually suffers in our place as sinners. Four times the contrast between ‘he/him’ and ‘we/us’ appears.
He is pierced … our transgressions.
He is crushed … our iniquities.
The chastisement of our peace … upon him.
His wounds … we are healed.
On account of our transgressions he is ‘pierced through’ (i.e. mortally wounded), while for our iniquities he suffers under incalculable emotional and spiritual pressures (cf. the use of the verb dâkâ’ in Ps. 51:17, ‘a broken and a crushed heart’). Moreover, ‘the chastisement that makes us whole’ (RSV) is part of the redemptive judgment that he vicariously bears, while our healing is at the cost of his wounds. In this context ‘wounds’ implies death. The healing effected is spiritual, for the Messiah’s death brings believers into a new relationship with God. The verb ‘to heal’ (Heb. râfâ’) is used here as in 6:10; 19:22; and 30:26, since diseases and sorrows ultimately flow from sin. All these references probably go back to the promise, ‘I the Lord am your healer’ (Heb. ’anî yhwh rof’ekâ, Exod. 15:26). The servant is to suffer not simply as a consequence of sin but as an efficacious remedy for guilt.
Vers. 5. But He was wounded for our transgressions.—The sufferings of Christ:—
Three things suggest themselves as requiring explanation to one who seriously contemplates the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ.
- 1. An innocent man suffers.
- 2. The death of Jesus is the apparent defeat and destruction of one who possessed extraordinary and supernatural powers.
- 3. This apparent defeat and ruin, instead of hindering the progress of His work, became at once, and in all the history of the progress of His doctrine has been emphatically, the instrument whereby a world is conquered. The death of Jesus has not been mourned by His followers, has never been concealed, but rather exulted in and prominently set forth as that to which all men must chiefly look if they would regard Christ and His mission right. The shame and the failure issue in glory and completest success. What is the philosophy of this? Has any ever been given which approaches the Divinely revealed meaning supplied by our text? “He was wounded for our transgressions, etc. We learn here—
- I. The sufferings of Jesus Christ resulted from our sins.
- II. The sufferings of Jesus were related to the Divine law.
III. The sufferings of Jesus became remedial of human sinfulness. (L. D. Bevan, D.D.)
A short catechism:—
- 1. What is man’s condition by nature?
(1) Under transgression.
(2) Under iniquities.
(3) At feud with God.
(4) Under wounds and most loathsome diseases of a sinful nature.
- 2. How are folks freed from this sinful and miserable condition?
(1) In general, before the quarrel can be taken away, and their peace can be made, there must be a satisfaction.
(2) More particularly there must be a satisfaction, because there is the justice of God that hath a claim by a standing law; the holiness of God, that must be vindicated; the faith of God, that must cause to come to pass what it hath pledged itself to, as well in reference to threatening as to promise.
- 3. Who maketh this satisfaction? The text says, “He” and “Him.” The Messiah.
- 4. How does He satisfy justice?
(1) He enters Himself in our room.
(2) Christ’s performance and payment of the debt according to His undertaking, implies a covenant and transaction on which the application is founded.
(3) Our Lord Jesus, in fulfilling the bargain, and satisfying justice, paid a dear price: He was wounded, bruised, suffered stripes and punishment.
- 5. What are the benefits that come by these sufferings?
(1) The benefits are such that if He had not suffered for us, we should have suffered all that He suffered ourselves.
(2) More particularly we have peace and pardon. Healing.
- 6. To whom hath Christ procured all these good things?
(1) The elect;
(2) who are guilty of heinous sins.
- 7. How are these benefits derived from Christ to the sinner?
(1) Justly and in a legal way;
(2) freely. (J. Durham.)
Verses 5 and 6 are remarkable for the numerous and diversified references to sin which they make. Within the short compass of two verses that sad fact is referred to no less than six times, and on each occasion a different figure is used to describe it. It is transgression—the crossing of a boundary and trespassing upon forbidden land. It is iniquity—the want of equity: the absence of just dealing. It is the opposite of peace—the root of discord and enmity between us and God. It is a disease of the spirit—difficult to heal. It is a foolish and wilful wandering, like that of a stray sheep. And it is a heavy burden, which crushes him on whom it lies. So many and serious are the aspects of sin. (B. J. Gibbon.)
The sufferings of Christ:—
- I. Attend to the sufferings of the Son of God, as described in the text. The sufferings of the Saviour are described in the Scriptures with simplicity and grandeur combined. Nothing can add to the solemnity and force of the exhibition.
- 1. The prophet tells us that the Son of God was “wounded.” The Hebrew word here translated “wounded,” signifies to run through with a sword or some sharp weapon, and, as here used, seems to refer to those painful wounds which our Lord received at the time of His crucifixion.
- 2. The prophet tells us that the Son of God was “bruised.” This expression seems to have a reference to the labours, afflictions, and sorrows which our blessed Lord sustained, especially in the last scenes of His life.
- 3. The prophet tells us that the Son of God bore chastisements and stripes.
- II. Consider the procuring cause of the sufferings of the Son of God. “Our transgressions.” “Our iniquities.”
III. Attend to the gracious design and happy effects of the sufferings of the Son of God. “The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.”
- 1. One gracious design and blessed effect of the sufferings of the Son of God was to procure for us reconciliation with God.
- 2. The renovating of our nature. ( Dickson, D.D.)
There is no more remarkable language than this in the whole of the Word of God. It is so clear a statement of the doctrine of the substitution of the innocent for the guilty, that we do not hesitate to say, no words could teach it if it be not taught here. We are distinctly told—
- I. That there belongs to us a sad and grievous weight of sin. There are three terms expressive of what belong to us: “our transgressions,” “our iniquities,” “gone astray.” These three phrases have indeed a common feature; they all indicate what is wrong—even sin, though they represent the wrong in different aspects.
- 1. “Transgressions.” The word thus translated indicates sin in one or other of three forms—either that of missing the mark through aimlessness, or carelessness, or a wrong aim; or of coming short, when, though the work may be right in its direction, it does not come up to the standard; or of crossing a boundary and going over to the wrong side of a line altogether. In all these forms our sins have violated the holy law of God.
- 2. “Iniquities.” This word also has reference to moral law as the standard of duty. The Hebrew word is from a root which signifies “to bend,” “to twist,” and refers to the tortuous, crooked, winding ways of men when they conform to no standard at all save that suggested by their own fancies or conceits, and so walk “according to the course of this world.”
- 3. The third phrase has reference rather to the God of Law, than to the law of God, and to Him in His relation to us of Lord, Leader, Shepherd, and Guide. There is not only the infringement of the great law of right, but also universal neglect and abandonment of Divine leadership and love; and as the result of this, grievous mischief is sure to follow. “Like the sheep,” they find their way out easily enough; they go wandering over “the dark mountains,” each one to “his own way,” but of themselves they can never find the way home again. And so far does this wandering propensity increase in force, that men come to think there is no home for them; the loving concern of God for the wanderers is disbelieved, and the Supreme Being is regarded in the light of a terrible Judge eager to inflict retribution. And all this is a pressure on God. He misses the wanderers. And through the prophet, the Spirit of God would let men know that the wanderings of earth are the care of Heaven. Nor let us fail to note that in these verses there is an entirely different aspect of human nature and action from that presented in the verse preceding. There, the expressions were “our griefs,” “our sorrows.” Here, they are “our transgressions,” etc. Griefs and sorrows are not in themselves violations of moral law, though they may be the results of them, and though every violation of moral law may lead to sorrow. Still they must not be confounded, though inseparably connected. Grief may solicit pity: wrong incurs penalty. And the sin is ours. The evil is wide as the race. Each one’s sin is a personal one: “Every one to his own way.” Sin is thus at once collective and individual. No one can charge the guilt of his own sin on any one else. On whom or on what will he cast the blame? On influences? But it was for him to resist and not to yield. On temptation? But temptation cannot force. In the judgment of God each one’s sin is his own.
- II. This Servant of God being laden with our sins, shares our heritage of woe. How remarkable is the antithesis here—Transgressions; iniquities; wanderings, are ours. Wounds; bruises; chastisements; stripes, are His. There is also a word indicating the connection between the two sides of the antithesis, “wounded for our transgressions”—on account of them; but if this were all the explanation given, it might mean no more than that the Messiah would feel so grieved at them that they would bruise or wound Him. But there is a far fuller and clearer expression: “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This expression fixes the sense in which the Messiah was wounded and bruised on our account. In pondering over this, let us work our way step by step.
- 1. The inflexibility of the moral law and the absolute righteousness and equity of the Lawgiver in dealing with sin are thoughts underlying the whole of this chapter. The most high God is indeed higher than law; and though He never violates law, He may, out of the exuberance of His own love, do more than law requires, and may even cease to make law the rule of His action. But even when that is the case, and He acts χωρὶς νόμου (“apart from law,” Rom. 3:21), while He manifests the infinite freedom of a God to do whatsoever He pleaseth, He will also show to the world that His law must be honoured in the penalties inflicted for its violation. This is indicated in the words, “The Lord hath laid on Him,” etc. Nor ought any one for a moment to think of this as “exaction.” Exactness is not exactingness; it would not be called so, nor would the expression be tolerated if applied to a judge who forbade the dishonouring of a national law, or to a father who would not suffer the rules of his house to be broken with impunity.
- 2. It is revealed to us that in the mission of this servant of Jehovah, the Most High would act on the principle of substitution. When a devout Hebrew read the words we are now expounding, the image of the scapegoat would at once present itself to him.
- 3. The Messiah was altogether spotless; He fulfilled the ideal typified by the precept that the sacrificial lamb was to be without blemish. Being the absolutely sinless One, He was fitted to stand in a relation to sin and sinners which no being who was tainted with sin could possibly have occupied.
- 4. The twofold nature of the Messiah—He being at once the Son of God and Son of man, qualified Him to stand in a double relation;—as the Son of God, to be Heaven’s representative on earth—as the Son of man, to be earth’s representative to Heaven. Thus, His offering of Himself was God’s own sacrifice (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:19), and yet, in another sense, it was man’s own sacrifice (2 Cor. 5:14, 21; Gal. 3:13).
- 5. By His incarnation, Christ came and stood in such alliance with our race, that what belonged to the race belonged to Him, as inserted into it, and representative of it. We need not use any such expression as this—“Christ was punished for our sin.” That would be wrong. But sin was condemned in and through Christ, through His taking on Himself the liabilities of a world, as their one representative Man who would stand in their stead; and by the self-abandonment of an unparalleled love, would let the anguish of sin’s burden fall on His devoted head. Paul, in his Epistle to Philemon pleads for Onesimus thus, “If he hath wronged thee or oweth thee ought, put that to my account.” So the Son of God has accepted our liabilities. Only thus can we explain either the strong language of the prophecy, or the mysterious sorrow of Christ depicted in the Gospel history. On whatever grounds sin’s punishment was necessary had there been no atonement, on precisely those grounds was an atonement necessary to free the sinner from deserved punishment. This gracious work was in accord with the appointment of the Father and with the will of the Son.
- 6. Though the law is honoured in this substitution of another for us, yet the substitution itself does not belong to law, but to love! Grace reigns; law is not trifled with; it is not infringed on: nay, it is “established.”
III. Christ having accepted our heritage of woe, we receive through Him a heritage of peace. (C. Clemance, D.D.)
In a large family of evil-doers, where the father and mother are drunkards, the sons jail-birds and the daughters steeped in shame, there may be one, a daughter, pure, sensible, sensitive, living in the home of sin like a lily among thorns. And she makes all the sin of the family her own. The others do not mind it; the shame of their sin is nothing to them; it is the talk of the town, but they do not care. Only in her heart their crimes and disgrace meet like a sheaf of spears, piercing and mangling. The one innocent member of the family bears the guilt of all the rest. Even their cruelty to herself she hides, as if all the shame of it were her own. Such a position did Christ hold in the human family. He entered it voluntarily, becoming bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh; He identified Himself with it; He was the sensitive centre of the whole. He gathered into His heart the shame and guilt of all the sin He saw. The perpetrators did not feel it, but He felt it. It crushed Him; it broke His heart. (J. Stalker, D.D.)
With His stripes we are healed.—The disease of sin:—
- I. It is a wasting disease; it bringeth the soul into a languishing condition, and wasteth the strength of it (Rom. 5:6). Sin hath weakened the soul in all the faculties of it, which all may discern and observe in themselves.
- II. It is a painful disease, it woundeth the spirit (Prov. 18:14). Greatness of mind may support us under a wounded body, but when there is a breach made upon the conscience, what can relieve us then? But you will say, They that are most infected with sin feel little of this; how is it then so painful a disease?
- 1. If they feel it not, the greater is their danger; for stupid diseases are the worst, and usually most mortal.
- 2. The soul of a sinner never sits so easy but that he has his qualms and pangs of conscience, and that sometimes in the midst of jollity; as was the case of Belshazzar, while carousing in the cups of the temple.
- 3. Though they feel not the diseases now, they shall hereafter.
III. It is a loathsome disease.
- IV. It is an infectious disease. Sin cometh into the world by propagation rather than imitation: yet imitation and example hath a great force upon the soul.
- V. It is a mortal disease, if we continue in it without repentance. ( Manton, D.D.)
Recovery by Christ’s stripes:—
- 1. None but Christ can cure us, for He is the Physician of souls.
- 2. Christ cureth us not by doctrine and example only, but by merit and suffering. We are healed by “His stripes.”
- 3. Christ’s merit and sufferings do effect our cure, as they purchased the Spirit for us, who reneweth and healeth our sick souls (Titus 3:5, 6). ()
Healed by Christ’s stripes:—
“With His stripes we are healed.” We are healed—of our inattention and unconcern about Divine things. Of our ignorance and unbelief respecting these things. Of the disease of self-righteousness and self-confidence. Of our love to sin, and commission of it. Of our love to the riches, honours and pleasures of this world. Of our self-indulgence and self-seeking. Of our lukewarmness and sloth. Of our cowardice and fear of suffering (1 Pet. 4:1). Of our diffidence and distrust, with respect to the mercy of God, and His pardoning and accepting the penitent. Of an accusing conscience, and slavish fear of God, and of death and hell. Of our general depravity and corruption of nature. Of our weakness and inability; His sufferings having purchased for us “the Spirit of might.” Of our distresses and misery, both present and future. (J. Benson, D.D.)
This chapter is not mainly an indictment. It is a Gospel. It declares in glad while solemn language that, terrible as sin is, it has been dealt with. The prophet dwells purposely upon the varied manifestations of the evil in order to emphasize the varied forms and absolute completeness of its conquest. He prolongs the agony that he may prolong the rapture.
- I. Our need of healing. There is no figure which more aptly represents the serious nature and terrible consequences of sin than this one of bodily sickness. We know how it prostrates us, takes the brightness out of life, and, unless attended to, cuts life short. Sickness in its acutest form is a type in the body of sin in the soul. Sin is a mortal disease of the spirit. A common Scriptural emblem for it, found in both Old and New Testaments, is leprosy—the most frightful disease imaginable, loathsome to the observer and intolerably painful to the sufferer, attacking successively and rotting every limb of the body, and issuing slowly but certainly in death.
- 1. It is complicated. It affects every part of the moral being. It is blindness to holiness, and deafness to the appeals of God. There is a malady known as ossification of the heart, by which the living and beating heart is slowly turned to a substance like bone. It is a type of the complaint of the sinner. His heart is hard and impenitent. He suffers, too, from the fever of unhallowed desire. The lethargy of spiritual indifference is one of his symptoms; a depraved appetite, by which he tries to feed his immortal soul on husks, is another; while his whole condition is one of extreme debility—absence of strength to do right. In another part of the book our prophet diagnoses more thoroughly the disease of which he here speaks (chap. 1:5, 6). No hospital contains a spectacle so sickening and saddening as the unregenerate human heart.
- 2. The disease is universal. “There is none righteous; no, not one.” What the Bible declares, experience confirms. The ancient world, speaking through a noble literature that has come down to us, confesses many times the condition expressed by Ovid, “I see and approve the better things, while I follow those which are worse.” Christendom finds its mouthpiece in the apostle Paul, who, speaking of himself apart from the help of Christ, mournfully says, “When I would do good, evil is present with me.” And modern culture reveals its deepest consciousness in the words of Lowell, the ambassador-poet, “In my own heart I find the worst man’s mate.” It is a feature of the malady that the patient is often insensible to it. But from every lip there is at least occasional confession of some of its symptoms. There is discomfort in the conscience; there is dissatisfaction at the heart; and there is dread in the face of death and the unknown beyond. The Scriptures are the Röntgen rays of God, and their searching light reveals behind an uneasy conscience, behind a dissatisfied heart, behind the fear of death, behind all the sorrows and evils of life, that which is their primary cause—the malady of sin.
- 3. This disease is incurable—that is, apart from the healing described in the text. “The end of these things is death”—spiritual death; insensibility to God, and absence of the life of fellowship with Him which is life indeed—physical death, in so far as that natural process is more than mere bodily dissolution, and is a fearful and hopeless leap into the dark; for “the sting of death is sin”—and eternal death. Men are great at quack remedies, and the world is equally flooded with nostrums for the disease of sin. And what is the result of these loudly-hawked specifics? They are as useless as the charms which our grandmothers used to scare away diseases. The Physician is He who gave His back to the smiters; the balm is the blood which flowed from “His stripes.”
- II. Our means of healing. “With His stripes.” “Stripes” does not mean the lashes that fell on His back, but the weals which they left. We remember how He “suffered under Pontius Pilate” before He “was crucified, dead and buried.” His back was bared, His hands were tied to a low post, and a coarse, muscular giant flourished a whip above Him. It was a diabolical instrument, that Roman whip—made of leather with many thongs, and in the end of each of them a piece of iron, or bone, or stone. Every stroke fetched blood and ripped open the quivering flesh. The Jewish law forbade more than forty stripes being given, but Christ was scourged by Romans, who recognized no such merciful limit. But as we know that Pilate intended the scourging to be a substitute for crucifixion, and hoped that its severity would so melt the Jews to pity that they would not press for the worse punishment—which end, however, was not reached—we may infer that He was scourged until He could bear no more, until He could not stand, until He fell mangled and fainting at His torturer’s feet. Nearly two thousand years have passed since that awful affliction, but its significance is eternal. But how can the sufferings of one alleviate the sufferings of another?
- 1. Because the sight of them moves us to sorrow. There are certain maladies of the mind and heart for which there is hope if the emotions can be stirred and the patient made to laugh or cry. There is hope for the sinner when the thought of his sin melts his heart to sorrow and his eyes to tears. Sorrow for sin—repentance of wrong-doing—is the first stage in recovery. And there is nothing that will cause penitence like a sight of the Saviour’s wounds.
- 2. The sight of them relieves our consciences. For as we look at those livid weals we know He did not deserve them. We know that we did merit punishment direr far. And we know that He endured them, and more mysterious agonies of which they were the outward sign, in our stead. Then, gradually, we draw the inference. If He suffered for us, we are free. If our load was laid on Him, it is no longer upon us. Conscience accepts that logic.
- 3. The sight of them prevents further outbreaks. This cure is radical. It not only heals, it also strengthens. It gradually raises the system above its tendency to sin. For the more we gaze upon those livid stripes, the more intolerable and hateful sin, which caused them, appears, and the more difficult it becomes for us to indulge in it. Our medicine is also a strong tonic, which invigorates the spiritual nature and fortifies its weaknesses. Stanley, in one of his books on African travel, tells of the crime of Uledi, his native coxswain, and what came of it. Uledi was deservedly popular for his ability and courage, but having robbed his master, a jury of his fellows condemned him to receive “a terrible flogging.” Then uprose his brother, Shumari, who said, “Uledi has done very wrong; but no one can accuse me of wrong-doing. Now, mates, let me take half the whipping. I will cheerfully endure it for the sake of my brother.” Scarcely had he finished when another arose, and said, “Uledi has been the father of the boat boys. He has many times risked his life to save others; and he is my cousin; and yet he ought to be punished. Shumari says he will take half the punishment; and now let me take the other half, and let Uledi go free.” Surely the heart of the guilty man must have been touched, and the willing submission by others to the punishment he had merited must have restrained him from further outbreaks as the strict infliction of the original penalty never could. By those stripes he would be healed. Even so, the stripes of our Lord deliver us from the very tendency to sin. For the disease to be healed the medicine must be taken. Our very words “recipe” and “receipt” remind us of this. They are related, and signify “to take.” The selfsame word describes the means of cure, and commands that it be used. Look upon His wounds! And let those of us who have looked for our cure, still look for our strengthening. We should not have so many touches of the old complaint if we thought oftener of the stripes by which we are healed. Look all through life, and you will grow stronger and holier. ( J. Gibbon.)
The universal remedy:—
Not merely His bleeding wounds, but even those blue bruises of His flesh help to heal us. There are none quite free from spiritual diseases. One may be saying, “Mine is a weak faith;” another may confess, “Mine is distracted thoughts;” another may exclaim, “Mine is coldness of love;” and a fourth may have to lament his powerlessness in prayer. One remedy in natural things will not suffice for all diseases; but there is a catholicon, a universal remedy, provided in the Word of God for all spiritual sicknesses, and that is contained in the few words—“With His stripes we are healed.”
- I. The medicine itself which is here prescribed—the stripes of our Saviour. By the term “stripes,” no doubt the prophet understood here, first, literally, those stripes which fell upon our Lord’s shoulders when He was beaten of the Jews, and afterwards scourged of the Roman soldiery. But the words intend far more than this. No doubt with his prophetic eye Isaiah saw the stripes from that unseen scourge held in the Father’s hand which fell upon His nobler inner nature when His soul was scourged for sin. It is by these that our souls are healed. “But why?” First, then, because our Lord, as a sufferer, was not a private person, but suffered as a public individual, and an appointed representative. Our Lord was not merely man, or else His sufferings could not have availed for the multitude who now are healed thereby. He was God as well as man. Our Saviour’s sufferings heal us of the curse by being presented before God as a substitute for what we owe to His Divine law. But healing is a work that is carried on within, and the text rather leads me to speak of the effect of the stripes of Christ upon our characters and natures than upon the result produced in our position before God.
- II. The matchless cures wrought by this remarkable medicine. Look at two pictures. Look at man without the stricken Saviour; and then behold man with the Saviour, healed by His stripes.
III. The maladies which this wondrous medicine removes.
- 1. The mania of despair.
- 2. The stony heart.
- 3. The paralysis of doubt.
- 4. A stiffness of the knee-joint of prayer.
- 5. Numbness of soul.
- 6. The fever of pride.
- 7. The leprosy of selfishness.
- 8. Anger.
- 9. The fretting consumption of worldliness.
- 10. The cancer of covetousness.
- IV. The curative properties of the medicine.
- 1. It arrests spiritual disorder.
- 2. It quickens all the powers of the spiritual man to resist the disease.
- 3. It restores to the man that which he lost in strength by sin.
- 4. It soothes the agony of conviction.
- 5. It has an eradicating power as to sin.
- V. The modes of the working of this medicine. The sinner hearing of the death of the incarnate God is led by the force of truth and the power of the Holy Spirit to believe in the incarnate God. The cure is already begun. After faith come gratitude, love, obedience.
- VI. Its remarkably easy application.
VII. Since the medicine is so efficacious, since it is already prepared and freely presented, I do beseech you take it. Take it, you who have known its power in years gone by. Let not backslidings continue, but come to His stripes afresh. Take it, ye doubters, lest ye sink into despair; come to His stripes anew. Take it, ye who are beginning to be self-confident and proud. And, O ye who have never believed in Him, come and trust in Him, and you shall live. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A simple remedy:—
- I. These are sad words. They are part of a mournful piece of music, which might be called “the requiem of the Messiah.”
- 1. These are sad words because they imply disease.
- 2. There is a second sorrow in the verse, and that is sorrow for the suffering by which we are healed. There was a cruel process in the English navy, in which men were made to run the gauntlet all along the ship, with sailors on each side, each man being bound to give a stroke to the poor victim as he ran along. Our Saviour’s life was a running of the gauntlet between His enemies and His friends, who all struck Him, one here and another there. Satan, too, struck at him.
- II. These are glad words.
- 1. Because they speak of healing.
- 2. There is another joy in the text—joy in the honour which it brings to Christ.
III. These are suggestive words. Whenever a man is healed through the stripes of Jesus, the instincts of his nature should make him say, “I will spend the strength I have, as a healed man, for Him who healed me.” (Ibid.)
- I. God here treats sin as a disease. Sin is a disease—
- 1. Because it is not an essential part of man as he was created. It is something abnormal.
- 2. Because it puts all the faculties out of gear.
- 3. Because it weakens the moral energy, just as many diseases weaken the sick person’s body.
- 4. Because it either causes great pain, or deadens all sensibility, as the case may be.
- 5. Because it frequently produces a manifest pollution.
- 6. Because it tends to increase in the man, and will one day prove fatal to him.
- II. God here declares the remedy which He has provided.
- 1. Behold the heavenly medicine.
- 2. Remember that the sufferings of Christ were vicarious.
- 3. Accept this atonement and you are saved by it.
- 4. Let nothing of your own interfere with the Divine remedy. Prayer does not heal, but it asks for the remedy. It is not trust that heals; that is man’s application of the remedy. Repentance is not what cures, it is a part of the cure, one of the first tokens that the blessed medicine has begun to work in the soul. The healing of a sinner does not lie in himself, nor in what he is, nor in what he feels, nor in what he does, nor in what he vows, nor in what he promises. It is in His stripes that the healing lies.
III. The remedy is immediately effective. How are we healed?
- 1. Our conscience is healed of every smart.
- 2. Our heart is healed of its love of sin.
- 3. Our life is healed of its rebellion.
- 4. Our consciousness assures us that we are healed. If you are healed by His stripes you should go and live like healthy men. (Ibid.)
Healed by Christ’s stripes:—
Mr. Mackay, of Hull, told of a person who was under very deep concern of soul. Taking the Bible into his hand, he said to himself, “Eternal life is to be found somewhere in this Word of God; and, if it be here, I will find it, for I will read the Book right through, praying to God over every page of it, if perchance it may contain some saving message for me.” The earnest seeker read on through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and so on; and though Christ is there very evidently, he could not find Him in the types and symbols. Neither did the holy histories yield him comfort, nor the Book of Job. He passed through the Psalms, but did not find his Saviour there; and the same was the case with the other books till he reached Isaiah. In this prophet he read on till near the end, and then in the fifty-third chapter, these words arrested his delighted attention, “With His stripes we are healed.” “Now I have found it,” says he. “Here is the healing that I need for my sin-sick soul, and I see how it comes to me through the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be His name, I am healed!” (Ibid.)
Self-sufficiency prevents healing:—
I saw a pedlar one day, as I was walking out; he was selling walkingsticks. He followed me, and offered me one of the sticks. I showed him mine—a far better one than any he had to sell—and he withdrew at once. He could see that I was not likely to be a purchaser. I have often thought of that when I have been preaching: I show men the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, but they show me their own, and all hope of dealing with them is gone. Unless I can prove that their righteousness is worthless, they will not seek the righteousness which is of God by faith. Oh, that the Lord would show you your disease, and then you would desire the remedy! (Ibid.)
Sin deadens sensibility:—
It frequently happens that, the more sinful a man is, the less he is conscious of it. It was remarked of a certain notorious criminal that many thought him innocent because, when he was charged with murder, he did not betray the least emotion. In that wretched self-possession there was to my mind presumptive proof of his great familiarity with crime; if an innocent person is charged with a great offence, the mere charge horrifies him. (Ibid.)
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