Surely (truly, verily, indeed) he took up (lifted up, bore) our infirmities (malady, anxiety, calamity, disease, grief, sickness) and [He himself] carried (bore, was laden or burdened with) our sorrows (anguish, figuratively affliction, grief, pain, sorrow), yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted (chastened, humbled, humiliated). But he was pierced (chalal) for our transgressions, he was crushed (daka) for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on (paga) him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV)
The verses of Isaiah 53 are familiar as describing the Messiah, Jesus, and what he would do for us in his suffering on the cross. They are beautiful verses, full of wonderful promises, and I have read them many times over the years. But, this last time as I looked closer at the Hebrew meanings of the three words highlighted above – chalal, daka, paga – I saw some things I had never seen before. I would like to look at them here, saving daka for the last.
First, chalal (חָלַל) is a heartbreaking word. Translated “pierced”, it means to wound fatally, bore through, pierce. But it also means to profane, defile, pollute, desecrate, to treat as common. One way a person could be defiled in the Old Testament was through contact with the dead (Leviticus 21:4). We were dead in our transgressions (Ephesians 2:1-6) yet Jesus had contact with us. He had contact with our pollution, our dirt. I like the image above. It’s messy and dirty. God got his hands dirty saving us. The sinless, perfect, unblemished Lamb of God allowed himself to be defiled, polluted, treated as a common criminal to carry our sins and rebellions to the cross, and there, do away with them (Isaiah 53:9, Luke 23:33). Not only did God get dirty, he also allowed his reputation to be destroyed. Psalm 8:9 proclaims, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name (reputation, fame, glory) in all the earth!” Yet, he laid it all down to completely identify with us. The Bob Carlile song calls Him a “Man of No Reputation.”
The Hebrew word paga (פָּגַע) is translated here “laid upon” – God laid upon him the iniquity of us all. It means to lay upon or light upon, but it also means to cause to come between, cause to entreat, make intercession, meet together, pray, reach the mark. In laying on Jesus our iniquities, God caused Him to come between us and the justice due us from a righteous God. Jesus has become the Intercessor, entreating the Father for us, reaching the mark set by God for us – whereas we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” – making the way for us to meet together, to come into His Presence.
Amazing grace! But it was the Hebrew verb translated “crushed” here – daka (דָּכָא) – that stunned me. It means to crumble, to bruise, beat to pieces, break in pieces, crush, destroy, humble, oppress, smite. The noun derivative of this word is dakka and literally means “dust.” It is used in Psalm 90, “You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men” (NIV). Could it be that, as the first Adam who sinned was made from the dust, this last perfect, sinless Adam would be crushed back into dust so that, through Him, humankind might be remade, reformed, become new creatures, transformed? “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 (NIV)
Could it be that Jesus, Son of God, became a human being so he could bear all the punishment and consequences of our rebellion against God? All the infirmities, malady, anxiety, calamity, disease, grief, sickness, sorrows, anguish, afflictions, and pain could be laid on Him? That He would become our sin there on the cross, and then would be crushed to dust so that the Potter could remake, reform humankind into a new creation?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8 (NASB)
But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again. Jeremiah 18:4 (NLT)
Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:7 (NASB)
Image detail: By Earthen Potter – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54699329
 Romans 3:23
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