Dear Beloved in Christ,
“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)
Isaiah 53 is one of those chapters in the Bible where we can trace the whole Gospel story from beginning to end. It begins with the question of whether anyone will believe the report and testimony of a believing remnant who look with hope to the promises of God to provide a sin-bearing, suffering Servant (cf. Isaiah 52:13-15). It continues by speaking of the origins of this Servant, origins which did not seem very promising at all. He would come as a root out of dry ground and He would possess no outward beauty that we should desire Him. His life would be characterized by sorrows and grief and He would be despised by men. He would not be the champion who enters the arena of this world to the shouts and acclamations of an adoring crowd. Not only would He be rejected by men, He would be smitten by the Holy One of Israel. Jehovah God would afflict Him and He would pour upon this despised and forsaken One the full measure of His wrath—not for anything He had done, but He stands as a substitute, wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities! When this One came in the fullness of time, we read of Him setting His face like flint towards Jerusalem. His disciples were troubled as they watched His purposeful, steady, determined and quickened pace. But He knew what He was doing—He was being led by the same Spirit Who led Him into the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry. But now He was being led as a lamb to the slaughter. No one was going to take His life—He was going to freely give it for His people and He would not feel compelled to open His mouth to explain these things to mere human authorities. He would be silent before men, but bold before His Father Who was pleased to crush Him even as He committed His spirit unto Him with His final breath. But this One Who was put to grief would see the labor of His soul and He would be satisfied. The spoils of His victory would be forever enjoyed by our triune God—they will sing forever over this ransomed people justified through the labors of this Suffering Servant (cf. Zephaniah 3:16-20). And so, we have in one chapter the glorious story of our salvation! But why was it all necessary?
We find the answer to that question right in the middle of this chapter: “all we like sheep have gone astray, every one, to his own way.” The objects of God’s everlasting love happened to be wanderers. Like their first parents, they did not like the home He so graciously gave them and preferred instead to roam. The story of His people throughout the book of Isaiah is a story of a people who did not love His voice—for they persecuted and killed His prophets. It has always seemed strange to me that the Lord would set His love upon a people so disagreeable and so prone to wander. What a stubborn and ungrateful people they seemed to be—what a stubborn man I so often seem to be!
Horatius Bonar authored a hymn which so beautifully captures the story of redemption from beginning to end. We usually sing “I Was A Wandering Sheep” here at Grace with the music written by Roy and Nancy Costa, and it is a beautiful reminder of our Father’s love and our Savior’s sacrifice. Two weeks ago in morning worship we sang this great hymn together. I remember thinking as we sang those verses, that they so aptly describe what my wife and I are seeing in our son, Luke:
I was a wand’ring sheep, I did not love the fold;
I did not love my Shepherd’s voice, I would not be controlled.
I was a wayward child, I did not love my home;
I did not love my Father’s voice, I loved afar to roam.
As a father, it is hard to know how to help a child who simply will not be controlled, who does not love his father’s voice and does not love his home. I am so grateful that through the words of this great hymn I was able to remember two things: first, that I was no different spiritually than my son. Before my conversion to Christ, I was one who hated my Father’s voice and I did not love His home or His ways. I loved to roam and to wander far from Him and I would never be controlled by anyone! I was lost—and so were you. But secondly, I was reminded and brought to tears as we sang those words that the hope of every lost sheep is to be found in a “Shepherd Who sought His sheep and a Father Who sought His child.” They followed me over every vale and hill and through deserts waste and wild; they found me nigh unto death, famished and faint and alone. And they did not leave me in that place, but they bound me with the bands of love and they saved the wandering one. Is this not the hope we proclaim to every lost sinner? Is this not the only hope we carry for every child of ours who has wandered far from home and who will not be controlled? Dear friends, let us rejoice that we have a Shepherd, Who is also the Lamb of God, Who seeks and saves the lost and wandering ones! And when He saves them, He works in them powerfully to love the Shepherd’s voice, to love the Father’s voice, and to love His home! Such is the grace of our God in Christ and the story of our lives!
As you prepare to come to the Lord’s Table this week, consider this all too familiar story and one I trust you know well. Rejoice in your Savior, the Suffering Servant and Seeking Shepherd.
Looking unto Him, the faithful Shepherd of prone-to-wander sheep,