God The Shepherd Rescues His Lost Sheep

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“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” (KJV, Is. 53:6).


Isaiah opens up with a word that does not require much attention but must be highlighted. The words that he would soon convey apply to all. Not just some but all people must pay close attention to what he will soon share.


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“we like sheep”

The sheep imagery is used throughout Scripture often. In the context of Israel, God was their faithful Shepherd leading and guiding them by the hand. David spoke of the intimacy of his relationship with God when he spoke of God as His shepherd. He says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul…” (Ps. 23:1-3). Nevertheless, Isaiah’s words were not meant to depict following sheep but straying ones.

“have gone astray”

One major problem the people faced was not that God was failing in His role as a Shepherd. God had appointed under shepherds to care for His flock, but they failed in their positions. Scripture says, “My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place” (Jer. 50:6). All the people had gone astray. Even the Psalmist said, I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commands” (Ps. 199:176). While the Psalmist remembered the commands of God, he nevertheless was like a straying sheep.


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Isaiah touches upon the universal nature of sin many times in Isaiah 53:6. He started by saying, “All we like sheep have gone astray….” Likewise, Paul would use the exact words in the book of Romans when he taught that all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

To go astray is to be lost. The Israelites were lost, and they needed to be rescued. Likewise, the people of the earth are lost and need to be saved. Even though the sheep of God have gone astray, the Christian has a Good Shepherd Who has come to seek and save the lost.

Scripture says, “How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray” (Matt. 18:12). The words of Isaiah set the tone for the Good Shepherd to come and rescue His lost sheep.

“we have turned”

But Isaiah has not yet gotten to one of the crucial elements of the Good Shepherd’s work. Instead, Isaiah has merely touched upon the universal nature of sin and the straying sheep. Repentance requires a turning to God, and in the words of Isaiah, we can see the importance of repentance in the Christian life. If the nature of man is that they have turned from God, the logical conclusion is that they must turn back. Isaiah speaks of sheep that have turned from the Shepherd. Thus, he tells of people who have turned from God.

The people in Isaiah’s mind had become worthless. Jeremiah tells of a similar situation when he says, “Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your father’s found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain” (Jer. 2:5). The people of Jeremiah’s prophecy had also turned from God, and the ultimate conclusion is that they had become vain, worthless, and unproductive. They were unlike the worthy vessel fit for the master’s use.

“every one”

The words of Isaiah set the tone for the remarkable work of God. All have gone astray like sheep. Now the reader encounters Isaiah’s second declaration concerning the universal nature of sin. Everyone has turned from God and become unproductive, useless, and vain. The wording causes the reader to sink low before Isaiah brings him up.

But where did the people turn?

“to his own way”

Isaiah tells the reader that everyone has turned to their own way. In one sense, Isaiah was not in a unique time period where things were really bad. For example, during Noah’s day, the Bible says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). But surely that was a reality reserved for Noah’s and Isaiah’s day, right?

Unfortunately, the Bible continues to tell of the effects of the fall. One can read the last verse in the book Judges to read a summary of it. It says, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). God wanted to be the King of His people, but the people rejected God’s reign in their lives. Instead, they did as Isaiah spoke of and did what was right in their own eyes.

Later one can read Solomon’s words when he says, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Eccl. 7:20). Even Solomon recognized during his time that sin was prevalent in the land.

“and the Lord”

Although man turned from God to seek His own way, God was not done with man. Isaiah does not tell the reader yet what God did, but the reader is now made keenly aware that God acted. This must be realized, cherished, and appreciated. In man’s lost state, God moved. In man’s running, God pursued. The words of John ring true that man did not love God first. God loved man and had a plan to rescue His lost sheep.

“has laid on him the iniquity of us all”

Isaiah tells the reader that God the Father laid man’s iniquity upon His Servant. Herein one can see Isaiah’s third application of the “all” reference. God has placed upon the shoulders of His Son the guilt of humanity. The Bible bears out this reality time and time again.

The Old Testament sacrifices were not enough, so God sent His Son to be the propitiation of the world. Scripture says, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:5-6). Isaiah looked ahead to a day when the sin of man would be atoned for. There is only one Mediator between God and men, and it is the God-man, Christ Jesus.

Christ came to stand in the gap between two parties. On one side was God, and on the other was man. Nobody Who had ever lived could adequately fill the role of mediator. Moses did a decent job but fell short. He was not even able to see the Promised Land. Joshua also fell short and did not drive out all the land’s inhabitants. Nevertheless, these men could not adequately unite God and man.

But God sent His Son to take on flesh. He was one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. Therefore, He can fulfill the role of mediator perfectly. He stands in between God and man and draws the two together.

But how did Jesus accomplish unity? First and foremost, He accomplished unity through the blood of His cross. Scripture says, “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of flesh through death…” (Col. 1:21-22). Jesus Christ has done it. God has laid on the Son the iniquity of us all.

Final prayer

Father, I thank You for not giving me over to sin. You came and got me when I was seeking out my own agenda. I pray that You would never let me go but instead keep me in the palms of Your hand. Thank you for sending Your Son to die in my place and laying on Him my iniquity. You have been gracious beyond measure. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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