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What does it mean that “all we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6)?

all we like sheep have gone astray

In the midst of one of the most beautiful and hope-giving Messianic passages is the universally condemning statement that “all we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6, ESV). Like sheep we have all turned to our own path rather than faithfully following our Shepherd. Because of that great deficiency, we have need of a Savior, and in God’s grace Christ pays the penalty for our sin—“The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all / To fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:6, NASB 1995).

In theological terms, the idea that “all we like sheep have gone astray” is sometimes called original sin. Isaiah explains that “all of us have become like one who is unclean, / And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6, NASB). None are exempt from the universal curse of guilt. As Paul reiterates, “There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10, BLB) and “There is no one who does what is good, not even one” (Romans 3:12, CSB). All are guilty, and all are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

Even though Adam and Eve were created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26–27, 5:1–2), when they had children, those children were also in the likeness and image of Adam (Genesis 5:3), and they carried the stain and curse of Adam’s sin. Sin and death entered the world through Adam and spread to all (Romans 5:12), and because of his sin all of humanity is dead in sin (Romans 5:15). Not only are we all positionally dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1–3), but also “all we like sheep have gone astray.” We have actively all gone the wrong way. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).

But because of His love for His world (John 3:16), while we were all still dead in sin (Ephesians 2:4–5), Christ died on our behalf (1 Corinthians 15:3) to pay the penalty and endure the judgment for our sin so that we would not have to. We can receive that gift of His grace by faith (belief, or trust) in Him (Ephesians 2:8–9), and when we believe we are “born again” (John 3:5–7)—we are made alive (Ephesians 2:5), we are made new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and we created as new people for good works that He prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). While “all we like sheep have gone astray,” we don’t have to continue on that path of walking in deadness, sin, and shame. God has provided a new path for us (2 Corinthians 5:17), and He has given us the tools and the strength to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

All we like sheep have gone astray, yet we have been forgiven so much. For this cause, we should rejoice in God’s grace, thankful for His provision of forgiveness and righteousness (Colossians 3:15–17). Like a good shepherd, our Savior has loved us and given Himself for us so that we might live (John 10:11). Now that we have new life, we can recognize that our lives are not our own (Galatians 2:20), but we now belong to Him—we are now in Him and have every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

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What does it mean that “all we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6)?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022