Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Isaiah and the Atonment

So this is a paper that I wrote for my Isaiah class. The assignment was to write a lesson plan about something taught in Isaiah. I decided to write about Isaiah's teaching of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is long but I just wanted to put it out there.


The audience of this lesson is a gospel doctrine class in a family ward in Provo. The ward is primarily made up of young couples and empty nesters. The lesson will hopefully inspire a deeper understanding of the atonement for the class members and help them understand more fully what the Savior suffered for us.

With His Stripes We Are Healed

Lesson Objective

The purpose of this lesson is to build trust and faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ through to words of Isaiah. More specifically, this lesson will focus on building faith in the cleansing/healing power of the atonement, the repentance process, and Christ as our perfect judge, mediator, and advocate with the father. After hearing this lesson the audience should have a greater desire to apply the power of the atonement in their lives.

Key Scriptures to be Used

  • Isaiah 53 (particularly verses 2-8 and verses 11-12)
  • Isaiah 1:16-20
  • Isaiah 49:15-16
  • Isaiah 3:13
  • Alma 7:11-13


The atonement of Christ is the central doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as Christianity as a whole. Millions upon millions of people across the globe call Jesus Christ their Savior because of the infinite act of the atonement. Unfortunately this doctrine is sometimes misunderstood, understudied, and left unapplied. Throughout the history of the world God has taught his children about the atonement through his servants, the prophets. The writings of Isaiah, as found in the bible, are some of the richest sources of knowledge about this subject.

Understanding the Atonement through the Writings of Isaiah

A Vicarious Act

One of the reasons the atonement is so important is because Christ did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. We, as mortals, have no way, by ourselves, to pay for our sins, reconcile ourselves to God, or resurrect our bodies. Because of this inability we needed someone to do it for us. So God in his infinite wisdom provided for us a Savior. Many times in Isaiah we read that Christ suffered for OUR sins and OUR transgressions; the use of the word “our” is a description of Christ’s vicarious actions for us. J. A. Motyer described the atonement like this, “He acted by means of substitution… [Christ] lifts up and loads our needs onto himself (p. 429).” In The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary this act of substitution was described like this, “The pain, humiliation, and abuse that we deserve, He took upon Himself (p. 291).” How could Christ do this? The Savior could suffer for our sins and take upon him our infirmities because of his supernal Godhood and also his sinless life. The fact that God accepted the atonement is also strong evidence that He will accept other vicarious acts like baptisms, endowments and marriages for the dead.

Question: Why did Christ have to suffer for us?

Bore our Grief’s

  • Read Isaiah 53:4-6

In Isaiah 53:4-6, the prophet lists several things that Christ took upon himself for our benefit. The first on the list states that He bore our griefs. Dictionary.com describes grief as a keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret. (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=grief). Christ took upon himself all of our mental suffering and distress. Christ’s reach is as wide as the distress felt by a child after losing a toy to the intense sadness brought about by the loss of a loved one. Also, in the Book of Mormon in Alma 7:11 we learn that Christ suffered “pains and afflictions . . . of every kind.” Not only did Christ suffer for all of our mental suffering, but He also endured all and any kind of physical suffering that man has been subject too. He took all of these things upon himself so that we could look to him to find comfort. Thinking about pain, sickness, mental suffering, and distresses on an aggregate level can be overwhelming and impersonal, but the truth of the matter is that Christ was able to suffer for all of these things on a personal level. He knows exactly what it was like when you endured a particular hardship. Understanding this personal level of the atonement is vital to unlocking its full power.

    Questions: What are some examples of ‘mental suffering and distresses” that Christ could have suffered for? Why is understanding that Christ suffered for YOUR sins/hardships/pain/sicknesses important to unlocking the full power of the atonement?

    Activity: Invite the class to think about a particular time when they had distress of mental suffering and then invite them to think about what that means to them that Christ has been through that experience as well.

Carried our Sorrows

The next item that Isaiah lists in his list about the atonement is the fact that Christ “carried our sorrows.” Isaiah used specific language to separate grief and sorrows. Surely there is some overlap in the two words, but there are also subtle differences. Sorrow, like grief, often comes about from loss, affliction, or sadness, but sorrow can also come from disappointment and regret. After hurting someone or doing them wrong, there often come a feeling of guilt and pain and we are lead to say “I’m sorry.” These feeling can be very deep and sometimes even debilitating. Imagine for a moment the pain that might come to a driver that accidently fell asleep at the wheel who then hit killed a family because of it. We all know this pain in one way or another—we may have hurt someone we love by not living up to their expectations or said hurtful things to someone close to us. Christ also took upon himself all of these feelings of deep regret and guilt. Once again it is important to understand that this was done on a personal level.

Question: How is sorrow different from grief?

Wounded for our Transgressions and Bruised for our Iniquities

Sin, transgression, and iniquity are often used synonymously in the scriptures, but once again Isaiah carefully chose his words and separates transgressions from iniquities. So, in Isaiah’s mind there must be a difference between these words. Perhaps the way Isaiah used the word transgression is the same way it is used in the second article of faith. Elder Dallin H. Oaks explains that syntax:

    “This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (italics added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall”

Motyer believes it is the other way around. He states that “Transgression is the willfulness and rebelliousness of sin, the deliberate flouting of the Lord and His law. Iniquities reflects the bentness or pervertedness of human nature, the result of the fall and the ever-flowing fountain of sin (p. 430).” Whichever way Isaiah meant it, the distinction is the same; Christ suffered for the effects of the fall and also for the willful disobedience of all mankind. Christ suffered for the effects of the fall so that he could restore the blessings lost in the fall for the whole human race. He also took upon himself the pain of every sin. He felt the feelings of guilt and estrangement that come from breaking the laws of God. He also paid the price of suffering that the law of justice requires for every sin of mankind. We are told in the Doctrine and Covenants that the awful burden of suffering placed upon the Lord caused him to “bleed at every pore (D&C 19:18).”

Question: How do the laws of justice and mercy relate to the atonement?

The Chastisement of our Peace

One of the ultimate questions that comes from the atonement is why did Christ have to suffer so much? In verse 5 of Isaiah 53 it reads that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him.” At first reading this might seem confusing but A.J. Motyer helps shed light on this subject by saying that this chastisement was “the punishment necessary to secure or restore our peace with God (p. 430).” In answer to the question that was posed as the beginning of this section, it is through Jesus Christ and his suffering that we can be at peace with the Father. The peace that is offered through the atonement will not only come when we return to heaven to live with God, but can be felt in this life. Through the atonement we can gain peace in this life that our actions are in harmony with the will of God, and with that peace we can walk with confidence.

Question: Why is peace in this life such a blessing?

With His Stripes We Are Healed

How does this promised peace come about? It comes through the healing power of the atonement. Isaiah ends his description of the suffering of Christ with the phrase “and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).” What can be healed from? All that Christ suffered for. As discussed before there are many hardships in this life; metal distress, pain, sickness, sorrow, depression, and alienation from God (to name a few) and we can be healed for each of these things. In the case of pain and sickness this healing may not always be literal, but it can be found in the peace to endure it well and the comfort that is available through knowing that the Savior understands what you have been through. Because of the atonement of Christ, all men can feel the wonderful peace that only He can bring. The awful feelings of guilt and uncleanness that come with sin can be healed and replaced with feelings of peace and joy.

Question: How have you felt peace and joy in your life?

Though Your Sins Be as Scarlet

  • Read Isaiah 1:16-20

How can the full blessings of peace and healing be obtained? Isaiah gives us the answer in Isaiah 1:16-20. Victor Ludlow makes it clear that the invitation to “wash you and make you clean; put away the evil of your doings” is an invitation to repent and be baptized (p. 77). Isaiah goes on to talk about the blessings of repentance by comparing our sins to red stains on our soul. Isaiah promises that if we repent we can be made white and pure again. Ludlow explains Isaiah’s color choice further by saying “he uses red and white to symbolize the purification process brought about by the cleansing blood of Christ’s atonement (p.77).” What an amazing blessing that our sins that were as red as scarlet can become white as snow. They can become as if they never happened. As we draw close to the Lord, repent and are baptized he will give us his peace and healing.

Question: How is repentance and baptism related to the atonement?

The Lord Standeth to Judge the People

  • Read Isaiah 3:13

One blessing that comes from the atonement that often goes unassociated with the atonement is the fact that because Christ endured all He will now serve as our perfect judge and mediator for the Father. After enduring the atonement Christ walked away with a perfect understanding of all our sufferings here in mortality. He will never forget what he learned about each of us because he hath “graven [us] upon the palms of [His] hands (Isaiah 49:15-16).” He has a personal knowledge of each of us. He knows what makes us tick; he knows our specific weaknesses and strengths. He knows what each of us has endured and to what degree; he understands our socialization, our culture, our situations, and even our biology. With this wonderful knowledge he can serve as a prefect judge, mediator, and advocate with the Father.

    Questions: Why is it important that Christ serve as our judge? What are some of the blessings of the atonement that you can experience right now? Can all that is unfair about life be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ?


Christ did complete the atonement. Our responsibility is to seek the power and blessings that are made available thought the atonement. We must seek them daily. We should seek for them in the scriptures and in prayer. Peace and comfort can be ours. We also have the responsibilities of sharing and being the blessings of the atonement for those around us. He did bare OUR griefs and carry OUR sorrows. He was wounded for OUR transgressions and bruised for OUR iniquities, but because of His suffering WE can be healed.

  • I know that Christ did complete the Atonement, and I know that with it we can become healed.


    The Interpreter's Bible the Holy Scriptures in the King James and Revised Standard Versions with General Articles and Introduction, Exegesis, Exposition for each Book of the Bible. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1951-1957.

    Ludlow, Victor L. Isaiah Prophet, Seer, and Poet. Salt Lake City Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1982.

    Dallin H. Oaks, “‘The Great Plan of Happiness’,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 72

    Motyer, J. A. The Prophecy of Isaiah. Leicester UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 1993.

    Nichol, Francis D. The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary the Holy Bible with Exegetical and Expository Comment. Washington D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assoc, [1953-57].

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