Following the park guide, I scribbled notes as he taught about the plants of the Bahamian primeval forest. He told us which trees to avoid. The poisonwood tree, he said, secretes a black sap that causes a painful, itchy rash. But not to worry! The antidote could usually be found growing right next it. “Cut into the red bark of the gum elemi tree,” he said, “and rub the sap on the rash. It will immediately begin to heal.”
I nearly dropped my pencil in astonishment. I hadn’t expected to find a picture of salvation in the forest. But in the gum elemi tree, I saw Jesus. He’s the ready remedy wherever the poison of sin is found. Like the red bark of that tree, the blood of Jesus brings healing.
The prophet Isaiah understood that humanity needed healing. The rash of sin had infected us. Isaiah promised that our healing would come through “a man of suffering” who would take our sickness upon Himself (Isaiah 53:3). That man was Jesus. We were sick, but Christ was willing to be wounded in our place. When we believe in Him, we are healed from the sickness of sin (v. 5). It may take a lifetime to learn to live as those who’re healed—to recognize our sins and to reject them in favor of our new identity—but because of Jesus, we can.
What other pictures in the natural world do you see of the salvation God offers us? What has the healing He offers meant to you?
Isaiah 53 gives us the clearest description of the sacrifice of Christ in the Old Testament, describing His rejection (vv. 1–3), His suffering in our place (vv. 4–6), His sacrificial death and burial (vv. 7–9), and His reconciling atonement and resurrection (vv. 10–12). The chapter is the last of four messianic prophecies in the book of Isaiah (42:1–9; 49:1–13, 50:4–11; 52:13–53:12) known as the “Servant Songs” because they prophetically refer to Jesus the Messiah as Servant (42:1; 49:3; 50:10; 52:13), although Jewish scholars tend to identify the Servant as Israel itself.
In the New Testament, Isaiah is quoted or alluded to sixty-two times. New Testament writers unequivocally apply quotes from Isaiah 53 to Jesus Christ (Matthew 8:17; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37; John 12:38–41; Acts 8:32–35; Romans 10:16; 1 Peter 2:24).