We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished Him
for the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
I don’t have much to write this evening, for personal fatigue and household matters have occupied most of my time tonight, but I wanted to zero in on this verse from the great “Suffering Servant” song of Isaiah 52 and 53. “We all went astray like sheep…”
Now I’m no shepherd but I did once spend a summer chasing my neighbor’s chickens off my property. Let me tell you, wrangling those foul fowl was no simple task. They scattered like… well, sheep, I guess, and went every which way. I threw rocks, ran at them in a friendly but serious gesture, and did everything I could to send them back across the street to their rightful home. They just came right back a few minutes later — after I went inside my cabin to rest.
Sheep were the chickens of the biblical world. Err… umm… they were really common in that ancient world as a source of wool and meat. They were even traded as currency back before the advent of coinage. Comparing humanity to those creatures was a communication certainty. Everyone knew how sheep acted! A sheep that is not in fellowship with its flock would often find itself in a terrible predicament. Steep rocks, cliffs, wolves… danger sometimes awaited sheep who strayed.
So it is with mankind. Us! From the Garden of Eden and humanity’s first sin, we spiraled into deeper and deeper wandering from God’s holy ways. Instead of following our creator (and shepherd), we followed ourselves, turning to our own ways to navigate this complex life. I once worked under a newspaper editor who sincerely believed that only he had the right answers for how to live his life. Only he could be trusted, so he trusted himself. Three divorces and a Scroogian existence later, I knew pretty clearly how his wandering had gone. It was really sad. Yet still he kept trusting himself and no one else.
But Jesus Christ stepped from eternity into time and took the penalty for our wandering when He went to the cross. He made it possible to stop wandering and to come back to God the Father as a reconciled creation, no longer as wandering sheep but now as dearly loved children. Read these words from Peter to the Church, found in his first general letter.
“For you were like sheep going astray,
but you have now returned
to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
Isn’t it great to be able to rest secure in the loving care of our Creator? Even more, the Guardian of our souls! A secure soul brings great peace and a found soul can find rest. By peaceful waters, preferably! (Psalm 23) Isn’t that wonderful?
Side Note — One of the things I love about the Servant Song of Isaiah 52/53, composed more than 750 years before Jesus went to the cross, is how it seems to look backward on a future event. In Isaiah’s eye, the cross has already happened. There are past tense phrases like “he didn’t have” and “he was despised” and “he bore our sickness and carried our pains.” Past tense, as if Isaiah was there 750 years later, or, even cooler, one of us reflecting on the cross today. Neat, huh?