The Silence of the Lamb

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he opens not his mouth.” Isaiah 53:6-7

As any shepherd will tell you, sheep wander. Their need is to go from pen to pasture to feed. There is a clear, straight path set before them. All they have to do is stay on the path and they will shortly be feeding on the greenest of grass. But they veer off of the path. They stray. They make left and right turns wherever they please. This is something they should not be doing, and so the shepherd now resorts to using the rod, to drive them back on the path. This is a picture of us: we are sheep who are going astray.

God has perfectly set the boundaries for our success and safety—boundaries in which we would prosper if we’d stay within. Yet we cannot, because on our own we are weak, dumb, and blind. G.K. Chesterton said, “Whenever you remove any fence always pause long enough to ask why it was put there in the first place.” We not only remove the boundaries, but never pause to ask why the Shepherd put them there. We go astray and rush headlong into “our own way,” saying to the Shepherd His ways are not good enough. Our straying off of God’s path insults, saddens, and angers God. It is wrong. It is sin. It is an injustice for dumb sheep to think they can feed themselves instead of staying on the Shepherd’s path and following his lead. And where there is injustice, there is a cry for justice. Punishment must prevail.

Leviticus sixteen (verses 10, 21, and 22) tells us about the scapegoat. The high priest was to lay his hands over the head of the scapegoat, and confess the sins of the people before God. This was an act of transference. The sins of the people were now upon the head of the scapegoat. This is precisely what happened with Jesus Christ. The sins of the whole world—our going astray and thereby sinning against God—were laid upon the sacred head of Jesus. As our Scapegoat, God transferred all our sins to His head, to be carried to that “land of separation” (Lev. 16:22), where He was “oppressed and afflicted.”

About His oppression and affliction, I needn’t say more than what Isaiah has said in the rest of his stark portrayal of the suffering Shepherd and Servant, Christ, in Isaiah 53. He was esteemed sick and sinful. He was pierced through and crushed to buy our peace. Now I ask you to notice His obedience and silence in all of this. A child who is asked to do something does not always obey. He may sometimes even open his mouth, talking back to his parents. When someone verbally assaults you, you may open your mouth with the choicest of words in retaliation. Many of our present world leaders when confronted with their crimes, in a sheer display of their power and arrogance, react with threats of war and nuclear destruction to their enemies.

Here is Jesus in contrast. Mocked, whipped, spat upon, painfully pierced, and crushed to death, He did not utter a word in retaliation. Had he opened His mouth, He who created the whole world by the word of His mouth, could have obliterated all His enemies with one word. At His command He had the host of heaven’s armies to come and reduce His enemies to smithereens. Yet He remained silent. It is one thing to suffer, but when one suffers in silence, without anything to say, without having a fair hearing, it is suffering magnified to proportions only the sufferer can imagine. This silence of Jesus at the hands of His tormentors is the greatest display of utter humility and unlimited power the world has ever witnessed. Unlike us and those who rule over us in the world, this Ruler, “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Friend, for straying sheep like you and me, Jesus became the obedient Lamb of God. For turning to our “own way”, and thinking we are self-sufficient, per justice, we rightfully deserve to be punished with death and hell. But where punishment should have prevailed, the great pardon of God prevailed instead, in Christ. That pardon is available to you today.

If you are straying and you know it, God is speaking to you and saying, “Come to Jesus. Receive the pardon He has purchased for you.” Are you already in Christ and have been back sliding? Then there is pardon again. The suffering and silent Savior offers the forgiveness to you and to me that no one else can offer. It is forgiveness that sets us free, and sets us on the path that the Shepherd has marked out for His sheep to walk into green pastures.

© Kenny Damara, 2011 and 2015

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