Isaiah 53 is called the "Suffering Servant" chapter, in which Isaiah prophetically describes the suffering of the coming Messiah for the sins of his people. Although crucifixion had not yet even been invented, Isaiah describes what Jesus was to experience some four hundred years later. What interests me today about this text is not the description of Jesus' experience, but the explanation of it. In verses 5, 6, 8, 11, and 12, the reason for this particular man's suffering and death is revealed: he suffers for our sins. It is an amazing declaration: our estrangement from God is so severe that it can be overcome only by a sacrificial death.
In our increasingly secular culture we have all but lost what most of the ancient cultures understood, that not only is there something radically wrong with life (two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, and our current conflicts with radical Islam have dispensed with any illusions we may have that humanity is improving), but also that we as human beings somehow bear responsibility for what has gone wrong. Isaiah, along with the sages of other ancient religions, knows that what is dreadfully wrong bears a human stamp, and that to correct it requires more than minor adjustments of trajectory. Chapter 53 exposes the depth of the problem.
Additionally, in a variety of ways the verses mentioned state clearly that the remedy for this disconnect between God and mankind is found only in the substitutionary death of this chosen Man whom we know to be Jesus Christ. He was pierced for our transgressions (v.5), bears our iniquities (v.11), bore the sin of many (v.12). Isaiah doesn't draw the conclusion, but it is certainly implied: if he bore our sin and guilt, our doing so is a denial of the provision God has made for us. How often have I lived in guilt, accepting the condemnation and accusation brought by the Accuser of the Brethren, the Enemy of our souls? Any time I allow guilt to take root in my heart and mind (even when by my sin it could be considered justifiable), I am denying the provision God has made for me. It's one thing to sin; it's something even more serious to reject the provision for that sin, especially when it was made at such a great cost. Isaiah repeatedly affirms the sacrificial provision. It is up to me to believe in it, to put my trust in it, to reject the accusations of the devil, and to rebuke his lies. Tonight I am grateful for this Scripture, for the truth that God's provision for my sin, past, present, and future, is sufficient enough to enable me to live without guilt in the grace and love of Christ.