In Isaiah 53:5, we find these words: “But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed” (ESV). The King James Version ends with, “By His stripes we are healed.”
Very often, we hear this verse quoted, either by our pastor, a Christian sister, or a person who is expecting healing in some area of their life. It has become a rather common quote, attached to physical healing. But, is that what Isaiah meant when he penned this verse? To understand, we must look intently at our given verse (I’ve placed emphasis on certain portions, as you see), and also at the surrounding verses. In verse 4, we read, “Surely [Jesus] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows [results of sin]; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” Verse 6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Lastly, verse 10 tells us, “Yet, it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.”
Now, with a little more contextual evidence in view, we can better understand what type of healing our verse is conveying. We see that it isn’t physical healing our Lord, through Isaiah, is speaking on here, but spiritual healing. Because of Jesus’ great sacrifice—His death, burial, and resurrection—done on behalf of our sins, we, those of us who have repented and submitted to His Lordship, are no longer corrupted by sin.
Sin is a deadly disease, which infects and defiles all men from birth. But, because of what Jesus endured and did for us at Calvary, the blood He shed for you and me, we are healed, cured, set free, able to walk in newness of life.
So, while this verse may be comforting to a weary soul, using it out of context is misleading to that soul. Granted, Jesus performed many miracles of healing while He walked the earth, and I believe that He still heals (actually, I know that He does); however, it may not be His plan to heal everyone’s ailments this side of Heaven, but to instead use them for His glory.
Telling people, or even believing ourselves, that “by His stripes we are healed” is a guaranteed promise of physical healing from any and all ailments, will only cause an already aching soul to become discouraged, and to possibly even distance themselves from the faith… all because they held tightly to a “promise” that Jesus never promised.
That said, sisters, it is vital that we study carefully to show ourselves approved; that we be workers who need not be ashamed, because we’ve rightly handled the truths of God’s Word. Though it may not seem like it could, our misaligned, out of context interpretations can cause a lot of harm. Therefore, in knowing this, before quoting a verse to a grieving friend, or an ailing spouse, or a lost soul, let us seek to understand that verse; let us read Spirit-led commentary and study Bibles to dissect that verse; if need be, let us speak with sisters and brothers in Christ who have grasped that verse; and let us pray for clarity and wisdom to execute that verse.
In doing so, you will not only be equipped to help a hurting sister, or brother, but you will also be armed with new knowledge to help you in your own walk, and that can be applied in your own time of need.
P.S. Please understand that there is nothing wrong about praying for healing, as none of us knows the will of God for our lives. In all things, we are to trust Him, and know that He can bring healing, if He so chooses. However, if He chooses not to, as part of a greater purpose and plan, know that He hasn’t failed you, because, unlike what some propagate, He never promised total physical healing on this side to any of us.