Friday, April 22, 2011

How Chastisement Became Peace

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
    He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
    And by His stripes we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:5)
For the past few days, I have been captured by this verse, particularly the line about “chastisement” and “peace,” and how one was exchanged for the other.

This passage, from Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12, is about the “Suffering Servant.” It is a portrait of the Messiah, a prophecy of what He would do — and of what would be done to Him. It is a picture of the Passion, of Good Friday and the Cross.

What happened there that day was a very peculiar thing. To onlookers, it might have appeared that He was suffering on His own behalf, because of His own sins: “Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). However, the opposite was true, as the “but” that begins verse 5 indicates: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” The Innocent One suffered for the guilty, the Righteous One for the unrighteous.
  • The transgressions were ours; the mortal wound belonged to us, but He was pierced instead.
  • Ours were the iniquities, so also the crushing, disfiguring bruises, but He took them upon Himself.
  • The stripes that fell on His back should rightfully have been laid on ours, but He let them be on His so we could be healed.
In a word, He took what belonged to us and gave us what belonged to Him. The world’s idea of justice was turned upside down so that the world could be put right.

Consider, now, how chastisement became peace. The Hebrew word for “chastise” is musar. It may be corporal or verbal; it may be instruction, discipline, rebuke or punishment. A chastisement by words indicates that the purpose is to instruct, but what Isaiah speaks of is a chastisement of wounds, of bruises, of stripes, and the purpose is for peace.

The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom. It is much more than the absence of conflict or the ceasing of hostilities. It is wholeness, what was once missing now restored, what was once broken now healed.

Jesus, the Son of God become flesh, had no lack. Nothing missing, nothing broken. The lack was ours — a broken relationship with God, with creation, with each other, even with our own selves. The chastisement should have been on us, but He let it come upon Himself so we could have His peace, His shalom, His wholeness.

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