Led like a lamb to the slaughter
When someone is “led like a lamb to the slaughter” it’s not pretty. Perhaps a partner in the firm is about to be ousted for the sake of the company. As he blithely enters the boardroom he’s like a lamb to the slaughter.
It’s a brutal verbal picture. An innocent lamb will follow a leader no matter where they’re taken. No protests, no questions asked. At the slaughterhouse they train a “Judas sheep” to lead the others to their doom. “Judas” escapes through a hatch, the others get it in the neck. A lamb led to the slaughter is a chilling image.
But Isaiah says the true Lamb to the slaughter is the LORD Almighty!
Pause there and meditate on the LORD… led like a Lamb… to the slaughter.
We’ve considered Isaiah’s vision of the LORD Jesus in the temple. Isaiah described Him as “high and lifted up.” But later, Isaiah has another vision of Him. And again He is “high and lifted up” but not in quite the same way.
Here the Father addresses the world with pride saying,
Behold, my Servant… he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. (Isaiah 52:13)
The King of Isaiah 6 is now seen as the Servant of Isaiah 52-53. In both visions He is “exalted”, “lifted up”, “very high” etc. But the two images of “lifted up” appear very different. In one, He sits on a throne. In the other He is slain on an altar.
John’s Gospel also picks up on this double-meaning from Isaiah. Jesus is truly “lifted up” – that is, truly glorified – by being lifted up on the cross. (e.g. John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-34)
Yet for both Isaiah and John, this is not so much His descent as His true exaltation!
Listen to the upside-down glory of the LORD Jesus who is lifted up in sacrifice:
2 For he shall grow up before [God] as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 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. 7 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 dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:2-7)
Notice the wonderful exchange going on here.
We are the ones with transgressions, He is the One bruised for them.
We are the ones who gain peace, He is the One who takes the chastisement.
He takes the stripes (the wounds), we are healed.
We are the ones like willful sheep. He is the lamb to the slaughter.
In this gracious exchange we see the true glory of the LORD. A King may remain on his throne “high and lifted up.” Yet there is a far greater majesty. It’s the majesty of Christ. He is the King of the temple, the LORD Almighty to Whom angels cry “Holy, Holy, Holy!” This same King becomes the Servant who descends even lower to be slain as a Lamb. He is “crushed” under the weight of a world’s sin (Isaiah 53:10). And He “pours out His soul unto death (Isaiah 53:12). This is true glory.
When John wrote the final book of the bible – Revelation – he returned to this truth. In his vision of heaven he saw to the heart of divine majesty, and what did he see?
Lo, in the midst of the throne… stood a Lamb as it had been slain (Revelation 5:6)
He calls Jesus,
the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne. (Revelation 7:17)
The throne is the manifestation of divine power and glory. And what is at the centre of the throne? The Lamb. If you push through to the deepest depths of divinity what will you find? A Lamb led to the slaughter.
How do you picture God? How do you picture divine glory? Look again to that willing Sacrifice and you will see. And with the rest of heaven you will sing:
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. (Revelation 5:12)