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Smitten by God


Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
Isaiah 53:4–6


Most shockingly, the sufferings described in this passage include the outpouring of God’s wrath in righteous retribution for the sins of those who rebel against him. He was indeed “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (v. 4). In other words, the servant’s wounding and crushing were not merely unintended side effects of our sin. He was no martyr. He was not an accidental victim. His sufferings are not collateral damage somehow caused by a chain of events set in motion by mistake. Isaiah is describing a purposeful act of penal substitution carried out by the sovereign will of his Father, God.

“He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” Both expressions mean his suffering made an atonement for our sins. The language is categorically punitive. “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.” That clearly means he bore the punishment sinners deserve—the full measure of God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). The griefs and sorrows he bore for his people are not merely sin’s temporal consequences or side effects. The servant of Yahweh dies as a substitute and sin bearer for his people, shouldering their guilt and taking the punishment that was due them. This passage cannot be made to mean anything else.

—John MacArthur, The Gospel According to God (Crossway, 2018), 93–94.

Posted 2019·04·02 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Atonement · Isaiah · John MacArthur · Substitution · The Gospel According to God

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