By Femi Aribisala
Be that sin-bearing servant who refuses to give God peace until he establishes his righteousness in the earth.
Isaiah says: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 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 53:4-5).
“Who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” (Acts 8:34).
This is certainly a prophecy about Jesus. But it is also referring to believers in general. I used to assume messianic scriptures are exclusively about Christ. Until one day, the Lord spoke one (Isaiah 49:1-3) directly to me. The scripture jumped off the page of the bible and hit me in the face. I thought: “But this is talking about Jesus.” But the Lord said to me: “Femi, it is also talking about you.”
God says: “My righteous servant shall make many to be counted righteous before God, for he shall bear all their sins.” (Isaiah 53:11). Is it right to say this also applies to any other person than Jesus? Can anyone but Jesus bear the sins of others?
Contrary to popular Christian thinking, the answer is yes. Moses, for example, was a burden-bearer for Israel. He even complained to the Lord that he needed helpers: “Why have I not found favor in your sight, so that you lay the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.” (Numbers 11:11,14).
God required Ezekiel to bear the sins of Israel and Judah: “Lie on your left side and put the sin of the house of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah.” (Ezekiel 4:3-6).
Paul also bore the burden of Israel’s sins: “I have great heaviness and continual pain in my heart. For I myself was wishing to be accursed from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:1-3).
In the Old Testament and under the Law of Moses, sin-bearing was the sole responsibility of the priests and the prophets. Thus, Moses chided the sons of Aaron: “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, since it is most holy, and (God) has given it to you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before Jehovah?” (Leviticus 10:17).
However, in the New Testament, believers are burden-bearers because Jesus has made us all “priests to our God.” (Revelation 5:10). Therefore, Paul says: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the Law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2).
Burdens are loads that weigh us down and impede our movement. Sickness is also a burden. It is sometimes so heavy, it keeps us bed-ridden. We also carry burdens as a result of adverse situations and circumstances. Thus, we may be burdened by unemployment, death of a loved one or loneliness.
But whether we fully realise it or not, sin is the major burden we carry. Sin represents the breakdown in the machinery of our soul that, like a car, has to be repaired in order for us to function properly according to the will of God.
Man is not created to carry heavy burdens alone. Today, we have man-made machinery designed to carry heavy physical loads for us. But no such man-made machinery exists spiritually. God is the principal spiritual burden-bearer we have. The psalmist says: “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19).
The promise of God to Israel says: “Even to old age I am he; and to gray hairs I will bear you. I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4).
Jesus makes a similar promise to all who believe in him: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
However, when we sin, we end up with burdens not from God. Thus, God laments a nation: “Full of sin, a people weighted down with crime, a generation of evil-doers, false-hearted children: they have gone away from the Lord, they have no respect for the Holy One of Israel, their hearts are turned back from him.” (Isaiah 1:4)
God suffers and is deeply grieved by our sins because in all our affliction God is afflicted. (Isaiah 63:9). He wants us to be anxious about nothing, and to cast all our cares upon him. (1 Peter 5:7). But our sins are not the burden he wants to carry for us. On the contrary, he says of them: “They are a heavy burden I am tired of carrying.” (Isaiah 1:14).
Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us. (Hebrews 7:25). His burden-bearing task was not just fulfilled on the cross: it is fulfilled yesterday and today and forever. Before Calvary, Jesus healed all who were sick: “so that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘He took on himself our weaknesses and bore our sicknesses.’” (Matthew 8:16-17).
But it is important to know that the burden of sin is not only carried by the sinner. It is also carried by the righteous, who are required to intercede for the sinner. It is carried by the sinner’s loved ones and even by the innocent. For instance, drunk drivers kill innocent bystanders. Rapists impregnate their victims and give them sexually transmitted diseases.
True children of God are sin and burden-bearers. We labour daily in prayer for sinners. Jesus says: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). We mourn the transgressions we decry; frustrated in the knowledge that few will believe our report.
God is looking for believers to stand in the gap for the sins of the land. (Ezekiel 22:30). Beloved, let him find you. Be that sin-bearing servant who refuses to give God peace until he establishes his righteousness in the earth. (Isaiah 62:7).
Burden of sickness
I was praying in the middle of the night about a message I was scheduled to deliver at a lunch-hour fellowship in the afternoon. Suddenly, I was gripped with a searing pain in my back. As I crouched on the floor, I continued praying. I knew instinctively the pain did not belong to me: it belonged to someone else who would surely be at the fellowship that day.
After delivering my message, I told my audience the Lord wants me to pray for “someone” suffering from severe back pain. Three people received their healing on that day because the Lord caused me to bear their sickness the night before. He put their sickness on me. I entered into their pain, and he healed them.