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  • Writer's picturekeithburwell

Wounded for Rebellion

Isaiah 53- The Forbidden Chapter

[Isa 53:4-6 ESV] 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 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. 6 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.

This chapter has caused much controversy between Jews and Christians for thousands of years. It is about the suffering servant. Prior to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Jewish scholars were clear that this was a prophecy about their coming Messiah. After Jesus, It was pushed to the side and ignored, at best.

One of the most poignant and accurate fulfillments at the cross was of the 5th verse- "But He was pierced for our transgressions..." We read in John that this was literally fulfilled by the Roman soldier.

[Jhn 19:31-34 ESV] 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

While this fulfillment is remarkable, I find a correlation to the exodus story that may be just as compelling if not more. The word used in Isaiah 53 for transgression is the Hebrew word, פֶּשַׁע peshaʻ -which means rebellion. Therefore, Jesus was pierced through His side for OUR rebellion, our revolt. Each one of us. However, there is a story of rebellion in the desert among the Israelites that will absolutely stun you. Hang with me- this will be good.


While in the desert, Aaron and Moses had assigned various tasks to different Levite (priestly) families. The family of Korah was assigned the task of carrying all of the vessels that were in the Tabernacle whenever they would move to a new location as they followed the pillar of smoke and fire. However, they could not touch the actual vessels- they were to be wrapped in blue fabrics before transporting. If Korah's family touched the actual vessel, they would die. Yet- Aaron and his sons were able to touch the vessels as they wrapped the blankets around them. In fact, Aaron and his sons regularly touched the Tabernacle vessels- it was their job! They would offer the sacrifices, place the incense, etc. This was the role that God had given Aaron and his sons.

Korah, among a group of leaders, including a group from the tribe of Reuben, did not like this and felt that Moses and Aaron were playing favorites to their own family.

[Num 16:1-5 ESV] 1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. 2 And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. 3 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, "You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" 4 When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, 5 and he said to Korah and all his company, "In the morning the LORD will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him.


[Num 16:27-33 ESV] 27 So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones. 28 And Moses said, "Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord. 29 If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 But if the LORD creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the LORD." 31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.


God opened a hole directly to Sheol and these families are dropped in. What is the offense which Korah and the other leaders, including those from the tribe of Reuben, are guilty of? It is rebellion against God. God laid out roles and responsibilities in the desert and Korah and the others did not like it and chose to rebel against His orders. So just as a hole was placed in the side of Jesus, a hole was placed in the ground in the desert- both due to transgression, or rebellion. That would be interesting by itself,


Where the Israelites were camped, the king of Moab wanted them to be cursed as he saw them as a threat to his kingdom which was on the other side of the mountain range. Balak, the king, hired Balaam, the prophet, to curse the Israelite people as a whole.

In order to do this effectively, Balaam went to the top of a high mountain so that he could overlook the entire camp. However, after several attempts at cursing them, he could do nothing but bless them. Balak was enraged. It was a simple thing- just curse the people! Yet, Balaam could not bring himself to do it. Not only could he not curse them but he desired to bless them with his lips. Rather than staying quiet he determined to bless them instead.

The question is "Why?" Why would Balaam bless what he saw instead of curse what he saw? We gain a better understanding in previous chapters of Numbers. in the book of Numbers we are told that the layout of the camp was standard no matter where they moved. Every family would stay within their respective tribe and every tribe would stay in their respective order and orientation to the Tent of Meeting, which would always be in the middle of the camp.


Because we know this, we can lay out the exact position of each tribe. Further, the Bible gives a count of the number of people in each tribe, so we also know how much room each one will generally take up. For example, Judah having 74,600 people and Issachar having 4,400 are not going to take up the same amount of real estate. Because of this, we can get an estimate how far away from the Tent of Meeting each group of tribes would stretch in each of the 4 cardinal directions.

To the West would be the shortest grouping at 108,100 behind Ephraim. East of the Tabernacle would be the longest behind Judah at 186,400. Protruding North and South would be Dan and Reuben, respectively, at 151,000 and 157,000, both close in proportionality to each other.


This is how they would align themselves whenever the camp would settle. They would stay in their same orientation to the Tabernacle and to the tribes around them. Because of this, we can create a picture of what they would have looked like to Balaam as he stared down from the mountain.


That is what Balaam would have seen looking down on the Israelites encampment! Based on the size of each tribe and where they were positioned, Balaam would have seen a cross. So now we have a cross in the desert and a cross at Calvary. We have a hole pierced in the desert for transgressions and we have a hole in Jesus' side, pierced for our transgressions. This would be amazing if it ended here,


The final amazing part to this is where Korah and his family resided in the desert. They were immediately next to the Tent of Meeting, which was in the middle of the cross, and right next to the Tribe of Reuben, from where several of the leaders who rebelled came from. We know that Korah was in the position directly to the side of the Tent of Meeting, and , in fact, it would very much look like the picture below.

He Was Pierced for OUR Transgressions, OUR Rebellion

What a powerful visual to understand the depth of what Jesus did on the cross. Like so many other things, God created a foreshadowing long before the cross. When He placed Reuben and Korah in those locations, He knew the result and how it would mirror the hole in Jesus' side. Just like He knew where you and I would rebel. Yet He placed us there anyway.

So when we read of Korah and we so easily build contempt for the revolt of this man and the others around him, and think “I would never act as brazen and disrespectful towards God! How dare he behave that way!”, we need to realize that the picture of Korah falling into the hole that God pierced in the ground is the same as the hole that the Roman soldier pierced in Jesus for the sake of our rebellion.

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