We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
I. THE HOME WHENCE WE HAVE DEPARTED. It is not stated, but it is clearly implied, that the fold or home whence we have gone astray is.
1. That of God, our Creator, our Father, our Divine Friend; it is that where he dwells, where he rules, where he sheds the sunshine of his presence and favour.
2. It is that of righteousness; of gratitude, of love, of reverence, of obedience, of submission.
3. It is that of peace; of spiritual order, rest, joy.
II. THE DIFFERENT PATHS WE HAVE PURSUED. "We have turned every one to his own way." Sinful error takes many directions. Sometimes it wanders into unbelief and denial; sometimes into rebelliousness of spirit, disdainful rejection of Divine claim; at other times into a sinful indulgence, in one or other of its various forms; or again into a guilty negligence and unconcern, or a criminal procrastination of sacred duty; or yet again into a hollow and worthless formalism, which has the show of piety without the substance of it. But in these various paths of sin there is one thing which is common to all, viz. the setting up of the human will against the will of God. Every one of us has gone his own way. We have "followed the devices and desires of our own hearts." We have determinately set our own inclination against the will of God. And herein we have -
III. THE GUILT WHICH WE HAVE ALL INCURRED. "All we... have gone astray." Some men have wandered farther away from God than others; some have gone in an opposite direction to that of others; but all men have guiltily preferred their own way to the home and the fold of God. All have forsaken and disregarded and grieved him. And thus all have sinned; all, without exception; not only those who have fallen into gross and most shameful enormities, but they also who have kept to the proprieties of outward behaviour, and have observed the decencies and requirements of the religious life t - all have withheld from God what is his due, and reserved to themselves what was not theirs to keep.
IV. THE PROVISION GOD HAS MADE FOR OUR RETURN. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." This does not signify that Jesus Christ bore the penalty due to all human sin - a part of that penalty it was absolutely impossible that the Innocent One should beat: It means that the redemptive work he wrought, and wrought by his submission to sorrow and death, avails for every child of man who will accept it; it means that in Christ is forgiveness of sin, acceptance with God, entrance into life eternal to every one who humbly but heartily receives him as Saviour and Lord. - C.
I. OUR MISERY BY SIN.
I. LOOK AT THE SHEEP THAT HAVE GONE ASTRAY. The text implies they were once in the fold. You cannot go astray except you have been in the right place first.
All we like sheep have gone astray.I. The first part of my text is AN INDICTMENT. "All we like sheep have gone astray." Says some one, "Can't you drop the first word?" And some one rises and looks off and says, "There is a man who is a blasphemer, he is astray. Yonder is a man who is impure, he is astray. Yonder is a man who is fraudulent, he is astray." Look at home, for the first word of the text takes you and me as well as the rest.
1. I have studied the habits of sheep, and I know they lose their way sometimes by trying to get other pasture. There are many of you who have been looking for better pasture. You have wandered on and on. You tried business successes, you tried worldly associations, you tried the club-house. You said that the Church was a short commons, and you wanted to find the rank grass on the bank of distant streams, and to lie down under great oaks on the other side of the hills. Have you found the anticipated pasture that was to be so superior?
2. I have noticed also that the sheep get astray by being frightened with dogs. Oh, man, that is the way you got astray. You said, "Where is God, that He allows an honest man to go down, and thieves to prosper?" You were dogged by creditors; and some of you went into misanthropy, and some of you took to strong drink, and some of you fled from all Christian associations; and in that way the sheep got astray.
II. But the last part of my text OPENS A DOOR WIDE ENOUGH TO LET US ALL OUT, and wide enough to let all heaven in. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Says some one, "That is not generous. Let every one bear his own burden." And there is something in that. If I owe a debt, and I have money to pay it, and I come to you and ask you, to cancel my obligations, you will be right in saying to me, "Pay your own debts." If I am walking along the street with you, and we are both hale and hearty, and I want you to carry me, you are right in saying, "Walk on your own feet." But suppose you and I were in a regiment together, and I was fearfully wounded in the battle, and I fell unconscious at your feet with gunshot fractures and dislocations, five bullets having struck me at once — you would say to your comrades, "Here, this man is helpless. Let us carry him to the ambulance; let us take him out to the hospital. Would It have been mean to let you carry me then. You certainly would not have been so unkind as not to carry me. Now, that is Christ to the soul If we could pay our spiritual obligations we might go up to God and say, "Lord, there is so much debt, and here I have the menus with which to cancel it. Now cross it all out." But the fact is we are pierced through and through with the sabres of sin. We have gone down under the hot fire, and we are helpless and undone. We will die on the field unless some help comes to us. God sends His ambulance, yea, He dispatches His only Son to carry us out, and bind up our gashes, and take us home. Is there any man who is under the delusion that he can carry his own sins? You cannot. You might as well try to transport a boulder of the sea, or carry on one shoulder the Alleghanies, and on the other shoulder Mount Washington. Then let us shift the burden.
(T. de W. Talmage, D.D.)
II. EACH SHEEP WALKS ITS OWN PATH. There is almost an infinite variety in sinning. Some go along a path of licentiousness; others the money-making road; others the gamester's path; others take the Christless morality road.
III. WHAT IS GOD'S WAY OF SALVATION? "The Lord laid on Him," etc. Who is that "Him"? The One described in the previous verses. Let Christ be the object of your trust, and you shall be saved.
(A. G. Brown.)
1. Our sin is charged upon us collectively in common: we have all gone astray.
2. Distributively. "Every one to his own way." We all agree in turning aside from the right way of pleasing and enjoying of God; and we disagree, as each one hath a by-path of his own, some running after this lust, some after that, and so are not only divided from God, but divided from one another, while every one maketh his will his law.
II. OUR REMEDY BY CHRIST. "The Lord hath laid," etc.
( T. Manton, D.D.)
1. That we are brutish in our sin and defection from God: it could not be expressed but by a comparison fetched from the beasts.
2. Proneness to err. No creature is more prone to wander and lose his way than a sheep without a shepherd.
3. Our inability to return, or to bring ourselves into the right way again.
4. Our readiness to follow evil example. Sheep run one after another, and one straggler draweth away the whole flock. Austin saith, "I could wander by myself, and could not return by myself." And God saith as much (Hosea 13:9).
5. The danger of straying sheep, which when out of the pasture are often in harm's way, and exposed to a thousand dangers (Jeremiah 50:6, 7).
( T. Manton, D.D.)
We have turned every one to his own way
1. Because of the activeness of man's spirit. It is always a-devising wickedness.
2. It happeneth through diversity of constitution.
3. It happeneth from their business and occasions in the world. Many men are engaged to ways of sin because they suit best with their employments, the sin of their calling, as vainglory in a minister.
4. Custom and education.
5. Company example.
( T. Manton, D.D.)
1. A defect or want of Divine guidance.
2. A rejection of the ways of God when made known to us.
( T. Manton, D.D.)
I. CAIAPHAS is the president of the High Ecclesiastical Court then assembled, and no judge ever could produce higher credentials than he. The Gospels all acknowledge him, without the slightest apparent doubt, as the legitimate successor of Aaron. He is descendant of a priestly dynasty some 1,500 years old, whose origin was confessedly Divine. Besides, the highest power of all had owned his legitimate position, by giving to him the spirit of unconscious prophecy. Now the priesthood of Aaron, which he bore, had never been a bloodthirsty one. There are, I think, only two examples of that priesthood shedding blood. One of these was the stroke of the spear of Phinehas — an act of wild justice, suited to the times, which received praise and blessing from above; and the other, the just punishment by Jehoiada of Athaliah, who had murdered all the royal family but one. Whatever other faults they may have had, the priests, the sons of Aaron, had never erred before on the side of intolerance and cruelty. And Caiaphas himself was no fanatic. Like all the family to which he belonged, he was a Sadducee. He had the views of a politician rather than of an ecclesiatic; and, having coolly judged, several weeks before, that the proceedings of Jesus of Nazareth were politically dangerous, he had determined that it would be well to put Him out of the way. But, in the council that surrounded him, there were many, and perhaps a majority, of strong religious belief and feelings. So, for their sakes, he affected a horror which he could hardly have felt himself. The high priest asked Him, "Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"And Jesus said, "I am; and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest rent his clothes — the original word in St. Mark seems to imply that one of these was the seamless tunic of the high priest — in sign of a horror, which can hardly have been otherwise than hypocritical in a cool man of the world like him, and said, "What need we any further witnesses. Ye have heard the blasphemy. What think ye?" And then the question being thus put, they all — the whole council, all the scribes, all the elders, all the chief priests, the whole representative body of the universal Church of God — condemned Him to be guilty of death. What a lesson for us arises out of this fact, that our Lord's death was wholly a sin of the religious world under the guidance of their Divinely-appointed leaders. And in that religious world we may distinguish all the chief tendencies both of that time and of all times — the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the liberal and the orthodox, the men with the minimum of belief in the supernatural, and those with the maximum of that belief, the traditionists and the anti-traditionists — in fact, the High Church, and the Broad Church, and the Low. The lesson is for our times. In those days authority and tradition utterly failed those who relied upon them, while the light within the heart lighted those who possessed it to the cross and to the glory of the Lord of Truth.
II. Let us turn our eyes away now from Caiaphas and the splendid array around him to the lower end of the courtyard near the door, where the lower classes are collected. All these are within sight of the proceedings at the upper end of the hall, which no doubt is well lighted. Perhaps they are also near enough to hear. Amongst them is one whose speech betrays him to be a Galilean. We know his name (though those around him do not) to be SIMON, SON OF JONAS, who has also the surname Cephas. He is thrice recognized as a follower of the accused, and thrice denies the charge. Then the cock crows at early morning, and the Master turns on him with a glance which he feels to single him out, even in the darkness and the crowd; and he goes out at the door, weeping bitterly. This strange character, so made up of contradictions as to have been pronounced by that Being who knew him best, at one moment a "rock," and at the next a Satan, full of boldness and full of cowardice, the first to confess and the first to deny; this picture of the weakness of all human strength, of the frailty of all earthly goodness, is now at the very depths of his weakness and shame. He stands there a sinner who has just committed a sin — a very mean and cowardly sin. Yet there is an eye upon him, searching for him, busied with him. We who have betrayed Him and denied Him, the Lord hath turned and looked on. He is seeking, let Him find.
III. We see JESUS in the midst of all this crowd of representative sinners, amongst whom a little honest search will soon enable each of us to detect himself. Betrayed by covetous Judas, forsaken by unwatchful, unprayerful, and therefore easily tempted disciples, denied by self-confident, self-willed Simon, condemned by worldly-minded, unscrupulous Caiaphas, condemned again by timid time-serving Pilate, persecuted to the death by sanctimonious, theologically-hating Scribes and Pharisees, shouted at by a rude, ignorant multitude, tortured in cruel sport by barbarous soldiers — what species of human sin is absent there? Let us consider the exceeding beauty of the figure presented to us, and also how that figure is produced. Compare for one moment any character in a work of fiction. These, too, are beautiful, but how is their beauty produced? By word-painting of the most exquisite kind. But in the narratives of the Gospels there is no word-painting at all, except perhaps a little in St. John. It is not the narratives that are sublime, but the Being who becomes known to us through their simple inartificial language. And now the end of this should be, that every one of us should bring the matter as closely as possible home. It was all done for me; it was I that created the necessity. Let Him, in each of us, see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied.
The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all1. The verse opens with a confession of sin common to all the persons intended in the verse.
2. The confession is also special and particular.
3. This confession is very unreserved. There is not a single syllable by way of excuse; there is not a word to detract from the force of the confession.
4. It is, moreover, singularly thoughtful, for thoughtless persons do not use a metaphor so appropriate as the text: "All we like sheep have gone astray." I hear no dolorous wailings attending this confession of sin; for the next sentence makes it almost a song. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." It is the most grievous sentence of the three; but it is the most charming and the most full of comfort. Strange is it that where misery was concentrated mercy reigned, and where sorrow reached her climax there it is that a weary soul finds sweetest rest. The Saviour bruised is the healing of bruised hearts.
1. It may be well to give the marginal translation of the text, "Jehovah hath made to meet on Him the iniquity of us all." The first thought that demands notice is the meeting of sin. Sin I may compare to the rays of some evil sun. Sin was scattered throughout this world as abundantly as light, and Christ is made to suffer the full effect of the baleful rays which stream from the sun of sin. God as it were holds up a burning-glass, and concentrates all the scattered rays in a focus upon Christ. Take the text in our own version, "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all;" put upon Him as a burden is laid upon a man's back all the burdens of all His people; put upon His head as the high priest of old laid upon the scapegoat all the sin of the beloved ones that he might bear them in his own person. The two translations are perfectly consistent; all sins are made to meet, and then having met together and been tied up in one crushing load the whole burden is laid upon Him.
2. The second thought is that sin was made to meet upon the suffering person of the innocent Substitute.
3. It has been asked, Was it just that sin should thus be laid upon Christ? We believe it was rightly so.(1) Because it was the act of Him who must do right. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."(2) Remember, moreover, that Jesus Christ voluntarily took this sin upon Himself.(3) There was a relationship between our Lord and His people, which is too often forgotten, but which rendered it natural that He should bear the sin of His people. Why does the text speak of our sinning like sheep? I think it is because it would call to our recollection that Christ is our Shepherd. It is not that Christ took upon Himself the sins of strangers. Them always was a union of a most mysterious and intimate kind between those who sinned and the Christ who suffered.(4) This plan of salvation is precisely similar to the method of our ruin. The fall which made me a sinner was wholly accomplished long before I was born by the first Adam, and the salvation by which I am delivered was finished long before I saw the light by the second Adam on my behalf.
4. Lying upon Christ brought, upon Him all the consequences connected with it. God cannot look where there is sin with any pleasure, and though as far as Jesus is personally concerned, He is the Father's beloved Son in whom He is well pleased; yet when He saw sin laid upon His Son, He made that Son cry, "My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?'
5. Think of the result of all this. Sin meets on Christ and Christ is punished with sin, and what then? Sin is put away.
6. The "us" here intended.
II. APPLICATION. There is a countless company whose sins the Lord Jesus bore; did He bear yours? Do you wish to have an answer? Let me read this verse to you and see if you can join in it. If there be in you a penitential confession which leads you to acknowledge that you have erred and strayed like a lost sheep; if there be in you a personal sense of sin which makes you feel that you have turned to your own way, and if now you can trust in Jesus, then a second question is not wanted; the Lord hath laid on Him your iniquity.
III. CONTEMPLATION. I will give you four things to think of.
1. The astounding mass of sin that must have been laid on Christ.
2. The amazing love of Jesus which brought Him to do all this.
3. The matchless security which this plan of salvation offers.
4. What, then, are she claims of Jesus Christ upon you and me?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)1. The sheep is a creature exceedingly quick-witted upon the one matter of going astray.
2. The sheep goes astray, it is said, all the more frequently when it is most dangerous for it to do so; propensities to stray seem to be developed in the very proportion in which they ought to be subdued. Whereas in our own land a sheep? might wander with some safety, it wanders less than it will do in the Oriental plains, where for it to go astray is to run risks from leopards and wolves.
3. The sheep goes astray ungratefully. It owes everything to the shepherd, and yet forsakes the hand that feeds it and heals its diseases.
4. The sheep goes astray repeatedly. If restored to-day it may not stray to-day if it cannot, but it will to-morrow if it can.
5. The sheep wanders further and further, from bad to worse. It is not content with the distance it has reached, it will go yet greater lengths; there is To limit to its wandering except its weakness. See ye not your own selves as in a mirror!
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE MEETING-PLACE OF SIN IS THE CROSS OF CHRIST. In the margin these words are rendered, "The Lord hath made to meet on Him the iniquity of us all." The Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Persian, and Egyptian tongues were spoken about that cross. The inscription was in different languages that all might read. This is the representation of the world now looking upon the Crucified. His embrace encircled the race of man.
1. The cross was the focus of sins.
2. The burdens of sin here meet.
3. Here the responsibilities of the sinner are assumed by one competent to discharge them.
4. The sufferings of the sinner are gathered in the agonies of the cross.
II. THE MEETING-PLACE OF SIN IS THE MERCY-SEAT OF SINNERS. Conclusion:
1. The imperative claim Christ has upon the soul.
2. If you will not consent that your iniquities shall meet on Christ, bear them you must yourself.
(S. H. Tyng, D.D.)1. It has been suggested that there was injustice in the sacrifice of One who had never sinned in the place of sinners, and that it involved the idea that God liked suffering for its own sake. This statement is one-sided: it forgets mercy, it shuts its eyes to the truth that the power of any sacrifice is in its voluntary and representative character. Facts must be respected, and what is the fact which is before us all? Pain and sorrow!
2. The vicarious sacrifice of Calvary is the work of the Three Persons of the Trinity. Men speak as if the Son devised the plan of His own death to save man from the Father's wrath. It was the work of the whole Three Persons in the Godhead. If the justice of the Divine life demanded the atonement, the mercy of the Divine love devised the means of pardon and the sacrifice on Calvary.
3. There is yet another thought which illuminates the gloom. We know the power of sin which, like some mysterious shape, some wild and wandering shadow in a forest, stands or flits about the portals of the opening life of man. Nature brings us within its reach, our own will places us in its iron grasp, it paralyzes the spiritual power, it chills our desires for better things; we cannot rise up as once we could when we are lying under the weight of unforgiven sin. This sense of the awfulness of sin illuminates the power of the atonement, for the sacrifice of the Son of God must at least be commensurate in its awfulness with what we know of human sin.
4. If the awfulness of sin and the majesty of God bring home the sense of what vicarious sacrifice is, and we are able in its power to raise our hearts to God and to feel renewed life and holier aspirations, how about the past? Florence rose and wept over the grave of Dante, but Florence could not then undo the edict which banished the man, and Dante's ashes rest beside the pinewoods and the Adrian Sea, and Florence is undone. And for each of you there was a day when you told your first lie, a day when you acted your first pretence, a day when you did your first act of dishonesty, when you first degraded yourself with some burning vice and destroyed the innocency which God had given you. In your better moments you look back to such a day, and you feel as if you were standing by an open grave, as you remember the hard words, the unkind looks, the want of sympathy, to him or her who lies beneath. The past is gone beyond recall. How will you meet it? With scorn? Will you turn away and drown its memories in pleasure? You cannot. You have a spirit born for eternity. But there is one other way. Christ on the Cross bore man's sin in all its intensity, gave Himself as a sacrifice, and purchased for the race complete forgiveness. No sorrow is so deep but He can assuage it, no memory so black but He can cleanse it.
(W. J. Knox-Little, M.A.)
I. CONSIDER THE UNIVERSAL BURDEN. Of course the speakers in my text are primarily the penitent Jewish nation, who at last have learned how much at first they had misunderstood the Servant of the Lord. But the "we" and the "all" may very fairly be widened out so as to include the whole world, and every individual of the race, and iniquity is the universal burden of us all. I believe that almost all of the mistaken and unworthy conceptions of Christianity which have afflicted and do afflict the world are directly traceable to this — the failure to apprehend the radical fact affecting men's condition that they are all sinful, and therefore separated from God. The evil that we do, going forth from us as deed, comes back upon us as guilt. And so, we are all staggering under this burden. The creatures that live at the bottom of the doleful sea, fathoms deeper than plummet has ever sounded, have to bear a pressure upon their frames all inconceivable by the men that walk upon the surface of the earth. And the deeper a man goes in the dark ocean of wrongdoing and wrongbeing, the heavier the weight of the compressed atmosphere above him, crushing him in. And, yet, like those creatures that crawl on the slime, miles down in the dreary sea, where no light has come, they know not the weight that rests upon them, and never have dreamed of how blessed it is to walk in the lighter air with the sun shining above them. There are some of you, grovelling down at the bottom of the ocean, to whom the liberty and illumination, the lightness and ligntsomeness of the pure life which is possible, would seem miraculous. If these things be at all true, then it seems to me that the fact of universal sinfulness, with all its necessary, natural, and inevitable consequences, must be the all-important fact about a man. What we think about sin will settle all our religious ideas.
II. LOOK AT THE ONE BEARER OF THE BURDEN. "The Lord has made to light upon Him the iniquity ,of us all."
III. MARK THE MEN THAT ARE FREED FROM THE BURDEN. "Us all. And yet it is possible for a man included in the "all" to have to stagger along through life under his burden, and to carry it with him when he goes hence. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked," says the foremost preacher of the doctrine that Christ's death takes away sin. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Every man shall bear his own burden." So your sins, taken away as they are by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, may yet cling to you and crush you. There is only one way by which the possibilities open to all men by the death of Jesus Christ may become the actual .experience of every man, or of any man — and that is, the simple laying your burden, by your own act of quiet trust, upon the shoulders of Him that is mighty to save.
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
(Life of R. W. Dale.)
(R. J. Campbell, M.A.)
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