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. – Isaiah 53:6
In the early chapters of Genesis—when God took the skin of an innocent, sacrificial animal and covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve–the sun of God’s redemptive revelation concerning Christ and the cross began to rise. Thus, the Old Testament shadows of the cross began to emerge. Among these shadows is the revealing encounter of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac in Genesis 22. Here we see a clear picture of the coming substitutionary death of Christ in the ram that took Isaac’s place on the altar of sacrifice. This rising sun continued its ascent as we arrive at Exodus 12 and are introduced to the revealing story of the Passover Lamb, a sacrifice without blemish and spot. The blood of this sacrifice provided two things for the ancient Israelites: deliverance from death and freedom from slavery. As the sun of this revelation continues to rise, it casts a perfect shadow of the coming Messiah when it arrives at Isaiah 53. This is one of the mountaintops of Scripture and the most perfect shadow, the most vivid and vibrant picture, of the Lord Jesus found in the Old Testament.
Recently, while meditating upon Isaiah 53:6, I was captured by the first phrase, “All we like sheep.” This metaphorical expression is used repeatedly throughout Scripture. One can never come to understand the deep meaning of this passage without gleaning an insight as to how it is that we resemble these woolly creatures, so dependent upon their shepherd for their survival. There are several principles in play here that merit our inquiry.
Sheep Are Dumb
Think about it. Have you ever been to a circus? If so, you most likely saw an array of trained animals. Huge elephants can be trained to stand on their back legs atop tiny stools. Monkeys can be trained to ride bicycles around in a small circle. Lions can be trained to jump through rings of fire. But have you ever seen a trained sheep? No. Sheep are dumb; they cannot be trained to do anything. They tend to wander around and frequently become lost because they simply follow their appetite with their heads down.
It is no wonder the prophet says, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Most people are opinionated. They talk profusely about politics, sports, and the like. However, if you want to hear an unintelligent conversation from the mouths of semi-intelligent people, get them into a conversation about God’s plan of redemption and His remedy for sin. How ignorant are so many when it comes to life’s greatest subject! Yes, we are more like sheep than some of us might want to admit.
Sheep Are Directionless
Sheep tend to simply wander and meander aimlessly along the hillsides. They have no sense of direction. This is not true with other animals. When I was a boy, our family pet was a dog by the name of Penny. One day she followed several older boys in the neighborhood as they rode their bicycles to a lake over ten miles from our home. Late in the afternoon they returned . . . without her. More than three weeks later, while eating dinner in our home, I heard a familiar scratching on the back door. I opened the door, and to my surprise there was my little dog, somewhat mangy and thin, but home at last. Many animals have an inner instinct that enables them to find their way home from great distances. But not sheep. They are directionless.
Yes, “all we like sheep have gone astray.” So many men and women go through life without any real sense of direction, void of any perceived purpose. Many simply exist and have never learned how to live because, like sheep, they have no sense of direction in life.
Sheep Are Defenseless
Almost every animal has some type of defense mechanism. Rabbits can run. Cats can scratch. Dogs can bite. Porcupines can puncture. Bees can sting. Goats can butt. Skunks . . . well, you get the point. But sheep? They are defenseless. They are totally unprepared for fight or for flight. They cannot fight other animals, and they cannot outrun those who seek them for prey. They are virtually helpless.
The man without the Lord Jesus Christ is like a sheep. He is helpless to get to the fold himself. He is on his own against “the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11); ill equipped for fight or flight.
Since we find ourselves like sheep—dumb, directionless, and defenseless–and since “we have turned, every one, to his own way,” God has come to our rescue. “And the Lord has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.” There is no clearer explanation of what transpired on the cross of Calvary than in these words of Isaiah 53:6. On the cross the Lord Jesus took our sin in His own body, bearing the wrath of God’s punishment that we deserved. He suffered the hurt, the humiliation of our sin, the agony and the death we deserved to die. He died our death so that we could live His life. He took our sin so that we could take His righteousness. Not only was His death on the cross voluntary, but it was vicarious. He died in my place and yours. What a Savior!
As you memorize this verse this week, meditate on the fact that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God does not have simply a remedy; He has the only remedy for our sin. “All we like sheep have gone astray . . . we have turned, every one, to his own way . . . and the Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.”
Content drawn from The Joshua Code.