One of my daily chores when I lived with my grandfather in northern Ghana was taking care of sheep. Each morning I took them out to pasture and returned by evening. That was when I first noticed how stubborn sheep can be. Whenever they saw a farm, for instance, their instinct drove them right into it, getting me in trouble with the farmers on a number of occasions.
Sometimes when I was tired from the heat and resting under a tree, I observed the sheep dispersing into the bushes and heading for the hills, causing me to chase after them and scratching my skinny legs in the shrubs. I had a hard time directing the animals away from danger and trouble, especially when robbers sometimes raided the field and stole stray sheep.
So I quite understand when Isaiah says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way" (53:6). We stray in many ways: desiring and doing what displeases our Lord, hurting other people by our conduct, and being distracted from spending time with God and His Word because we are too busy or lack interest. We behave like sheep in the field.
Fortunately for us, we have the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us (John 10:11) and who carries our sorrows and our sins (Isa. 53:4-6). And as our shepherd, He calls us back to safe pasture that we might follow Him more closely.
Shepherd of my soul, I do wander at times. I’m grateful that You’re always seeking me to bring me back to Your side.
If you want God to lead you, be willing to follow.
Isaiah 53 is part of a “servant song” that includes Isaiah 52:13–53:12 and focuses primarily on the Servant’s suffering, which would be fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus. The Old Testament provides several foreshadowings of that suffering, and each brings its own perspective. In the Passover (Ex. 12), we see the cross from the Father’s perspective as Christ becomes our Passover Lamb. In Psalm 22, we see the cross from the perspective of Jesus Himself as David describes Christ’s suffering experience. Isaiah 53, however, describes the cross from the perspective of humanity. It tells us what they saw, what they failed to see, and what they desperately needed to see—the depth and passion of God’s rescuing love.