Isaiah 53:6 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.
This is perhaps the first verse I can remember having to memorize as a Royal Ambassador (a Southern Baptist boys group/club). However familiar it might be, it is vitally important. The image of a bunch of sheep wandering off in every direction is easy for most people to grasp, even if they’ve never seen an actual sheep. These days the term “sheeple” (combining “sheep” and “people”) is used for people who blindly follow whatever they are told, instead of exercising any sort of critical thinking. That too isn’t much wrong. Few animals make as many, and as important, metaphors for the human condition as sheep, so we’ve got a lot of them in the language. At least one – lambs to the slaughter – comes directly from this chapter. Comparing people to sheep makes it very clear that we need a Savior, and God provided what we need, out of His great love for us. Not only that, He told us about it centuries before Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, so that we would have it very clearly that it was His plan, and not some coincidence. Isaiah wrote so much about the coming Messiah that his book has been called, not unreasonably, the Gospel According to Isaiah, with this chapter being one of the clearest examples of that. It all comes back to the fact that God loves us, as weak and as foolish as we are. We have such trouble grasping the magnificence of God’s plan, because it is so beyond anything we could have come up with. God never says that sin is OK; He requires payment, absolution for it. However, He knew that we could never atone for our own sin, so He provided His Son to do that for us. Getting that into our minds and hearts is the essence of salvation, but it is so huge that we spend a lifetime applying it to all the details of our lives.
On the human scale I am considered intelligent,and it took decades for me to really grasp that God’s smart and I’m not. A sheep is as good an analogy for me as it is for anyone else. I have made so many absolutely boneheaded errors, wandering off from God and refusing to listen to Him, but He in His incredible love and grace has drawn me back each time. You would think that by this time I would trust Him absolutely, but as we used to say in my family, “That’s what you get for thinking.” I get stressed out over all sorts of things, as though my Shepherd were not capable of taking care of every detail. He has told me in so many words to rest, relax, and rejoice, but I so often deviate from that. He’s got more patience with me than I do!
Father, thank You for Your overwhelming grace. Thank You for all that You brought me through, all You have enabled me to do, and that You will bring me through each future event as well, enabling me to do Your will in Your way for Your glory. I do pray for this morning’s service and for the City Carol Sing this afternoon. I pray that many would be drawn to participate and that Your Spirit would be in complete control of every detail. Help me be available enough to You to not get in Your way, even – and especially – when You want to use me to accomplish Your will. Thank You. Hallelujah!