So many fond memories come from verses in these chapters today. The Almighty God, lover of our souls, calls out to us through Isaiah with great words that get beyond the suffering, the temporary pain of today. Soak up the words. Know that the Lord of all loves his people deeply.
Therefore hear this, you afflicted one,
made drunk, but not with wine.
This is what your Sovereign Lord says,
your God, who defends his people:
“See, I have taken out of your hand
the cup that made you stagger;
from that cup, the goblet of my wrath,
you will never drink again.
I will put it into the hands of your tormentors,
who said to you,
‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’
And you made your back like the ground,
like a street to be walked on.”
The Lord will redeem his people, no longer to be walked all over again. Don’t dwell on the pain that afflicts us in this present day and in this current circumstance, it will not last.
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Here we come to one of the most quoted passages from Isaiah, one I can remember reading for the Christmas program as a teenager (a very long time ago!):
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
My guess is nearly every church will include this as part of their Christmas program and several parts of this chapter are presented in the Gospel accounts as well as other places in the New Testament. Apparently, we should pay attention to Isaiah 53!
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
This verse is the text of Handel’s Messiah #26, “All We Like Sheep.” I remember learning this challenging piece as part of a production (full choral and orchestral ensemble) where we performed the entire work of Handel. The beginning is playful and provides of cacophony of sounds that seem disparate, even random, until the piece suddenly comes together and changes from the first part of the verse to the second, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Suddenly, the playful piece moves from a jovial chorus to a surreal and very serious theme. This is the nature of our battle to lead others to Christ. We, like sheep, are bouncing around doing our own thing, happy and content, having fun until the reality of life catches up with us and we are faced with a decision: will we continue on our own self-centered path or will we recognize that God sent Christ to atone for our sins? Have we come to the place that we recognize we need a shepherd?
When we lived in England I learned firsthand that sheep are not very intelligent. Our house was next to a farm and one literally walked into the adjacent stream. The shepherd somehow found out and raced down the lane in his Range Rover, stopped in the middle of the street, stripped his trousers off and jumped into the stream to grab the sheep, load it in the Rover the off he went! It was surreal and funny, to say the least. Later we came to understand that they will drown themselves because they are not smart enough to turn around. Sheep get lost, they wander, they are senseless. This alarmed me because Jesus compared us to sheep way too often. So “we all, like sheep,” really? We are so ignorant that we would just wander off? Yes. We are all like sheep. *sigh*
Peter includes this reference:
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.1 Peter 2:24-25
Peter the headstrong apostle that denied Jesus after his arrest, who felt the great guilt of this huge transgression was redeemed by Jesus after his resurrection. Three times in John 21:15-18 Jesus tells Peter to take care of the sheep. Peter learned his lesson well, he knew what it was like to go astray.
The Good News is this: God knows we are like sheep and he sent his son, the Good Shepherd to draw us back. Lord, help us to see the sheep in us and turn back to you. Help us to see the sheep in others and have compassion.