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.
In verse 4, He carried our sorrows and griefs. In verse 5, He bore the punishment due for our sins. Now in verse 6, He carries our very sin itself, as if He Himself had been the sinner. In the astounding reality of substitutionary atonement, Christ actually and literally took our place on the cross. He truly suffered the just and fierce wrath of God in our stead.
The Image of the Sinner: a Sheep
"sheep" = Heb. צאן tso'n - small cattle, sheep, sheep and goats, flock
Sheep are ignorant and don't know what's good for them. They are irrational and misguided creatures. They wander about in any direction, aimless, easily endangered and vulnerable. Even in our seemingly "innocent" meanderings and missteps, we are SINNING AGAINST GOD.
The Trajectory of Sin: Straying
"gone astray" = Heb. תעה ta`ah - to err, wander, go astray, stagger
For a stray sheep, the world is filled with hazards and dangers. That sheep is a defenseless and helpless thing with no means of protecting itself. The only hope for a lost sheep is that the shepherd pursues him and finds him before calamity strikes.
Psalm 119:176 "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments."
The Nature of Sin: Turning Away
"turned" = Heb. פנה panah - to turn
Sin is the opposite of repentance. It is turning from God. Repentance is turning to Him.
What could be more insulting than to turn away the face, eyes, and ears from the one who is addressing us? What could be more dishonoring than to walk away in a different direction when we have been rightly commanded by legitimate authority? Perhaps a direct attack or assault would be considered more antagonistic; however, we turn away when we know we cannot win in a straightforward battle, and when we realize that we are facing One much greater in strength and we simply do not want to comply.
On the other hand, we turn to those we know are ready to help us. We turn to the authority we acknowledge and accept. We turn to the master we find to be good and wise and excellent.
It is His kindness that leads us to repentance.
Which way are you turning?
The Essence of Sin: Self-Centeredness
"his own way" = Heb. דרך derek - way, road, distance, journey, manner
The straying sheep follows his own path. He doesn't trust the Shepherd and won't walk in His paths. In going his own way, the sinner ironically goes down the well-worn path taken by every other sinner since Adam and Eve. It is "his own way" as opposed to God's way, yet it is the same old way of all sinful humanity. Sin is oddly unoriginal.
The Corrupting Nature of Sin: Iniquity
"Iniquity" = Heb. עון `avon - perverseness
As sinners, we are deeply and inherently corrupted. This is why we must be born again; it is why we must be disciplined by the rod of our Father-Shepherd, and die to self, and later shed this corrupt flesh to be clothed with a new body. Our very planet and universe have been corrupted through sin, and they must be replaced with a new heavens and a new earth where righteousness shall dwell. Sinners can be redeemed from their perversity or they can remain corrupt and perish with all that is corrupt. This is where "our own way" leads us. But God's way is to save the straying sheep whose pitiful bleats are born of faith.
The Extent of Sin: "All We" and "Every One"
We have strayed as a group, and we have strayed individually. All Israel strayed. All mankind strayed. Every person has strayed. You have strayed and I have strayed. Sin is a universal trait of mankind, a very "common" thing.
The Saving Power of Substitution: Our Iniquity was Laid on Him
"Laid on Him" = Heb. פגע paga` - to encounter, meet, reach
Christ bore our iniquities. The sinless Savior carried sin. The animals that were sacrified in the Levitical sin offerings were symbolic substitutes who painted the picture of Christ carrying away the sins of the people. They typified our Lord, who would bear all the iniquity that ever was.
The verse highlights the fact that Christ shared our human nature. He and we, together, are compared to "sheep." We strayed like sheep, while he was sacrificed as a lamb in our place. He died like a sheep for those who are like sheep. Although the animal sacrifices under the Old Covenant could never suffice as actual substitutes for humans, and were merely symbolic, Christ became the perfect and real man who was given to die in the place of sinful man. He became the spotless lamb who died in the place of straying sheep.
Thanks be to God, we straying and perverse fools can be brought to repentance and carried home!