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Posts Tagged ‘Reconciliation’

For the past couple of years, God has been slowly teaching me about mercy.  I have all these questions.  Some days I have cried out to Him, not knowing enough truth to decide what to trust Him for.  Who are You?  How do You work towards us when we fail?  How long is Your long-suffering?  What do You still accomplish through us when we hold back from You?  

I think that the reason I have struggled so much with these things is that the answers are not the same for every person, every time.

This is something I discovered last week when I pondered Isaiah 59:2.  It is not new with me, to be uneasy about this verse and the way I have learned to use it.  Allow me to quote it:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God, 

and your sins have hidden His face from you, 

so that He will not hear.”  

Growing up, I memorized this verse to use in presenting the gospel.  But, is that a right division of the word of God?

Firstly, the verse is in an Old Testament prophecy to the nation of Israel.  By extension, since it says “your God,” we might apply it to those who claim YHWH as their God, namely Christians.  But it seems rather far-fetched to apply it to all humans, particularly to speak it to those whose very condition is having rejected God as their God.

The prophecy itself is directed not as an eternal promise or principle towards God’s chosen people, but as a message to them at a certain time.  In context, the passage reads: “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.”  God is able to save, but in this case, He is not willing.  Israel’s sins did not constrain God; they provoked Him, and this was His response.

God’s use of the terms “separated” and “hidden” and “not hear” apparently do not prevent Him from knowing the situation, from speaking to them, or acting on their behalf (see Isaiah 59:16-21).  This does parallel the situation with the unsaved, for “when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”  The terms, however, suggest a serious, but less desperate situation.  Israel’s national sins caused a covenant-based relational rift in their help from God.  The individual’s state of sin leaves him an enemy, justly deserving of God’s wrath, and unable to accomplish anything good, doomed – apart from the grace of God – to suffer punishment for his rebellion through ongoing eternal spiritual death in hell.

Though in a sense we may say that our sin-nature and our sinful acts have separated us from God, the Bible’s language of salvation and the gospel does not use that picture, of separation.  The New Testament frequently refers to salvation as as being changed from enemies by Jesus’ death on the cross and by His resurrection to reconciliation with God.  The Bible says that we were dead in our sins, but that God makes us alive, gives us eternal life as spiritually born children of God.  I favor these metaphors to that of “separation”.  In part, they speak much more dramatically to our salvation being useful immediately, and not merely to keeping us out of hell after we die.

In addition, when we are preaching the gospel, we are telling people to “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved.  The good news we are sharing is that because of Jesus’ work, God will hear that prayer.

Returning to God dealing with those who are His, does He always treat their sin with a cold shoulder?  In Ezekiel, God addressed similar sins by saying that when Israel would seek Him, He would answer them (and it would be a fearful thing)!  Hebrews says that God deals with those He loves as sons, chastening them to produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness.  He is a merciful God who, without excusing doubt and disobedience, continues to reveal Himself, to teach, to work through us.  He often pursues us to bring us to full repentance, to have peace and intimacy with us when we are fully yielded to Him.  But He may do good, un-thwarted by our turning aside to our own ways.

But I do not believe that God is obligated to show mercy in this way.  He may refuse to heed our prayers, as David acknowledged:  “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.”  So it makes sense to me to ask Him to be merciful, if He will allow us to pray this way.

I praise God for the times that He has elected to have mercy on me, and I continue to cry out to Him, begging Him to be merciful towards me and towards those I love.

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

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Last fall I read George MacDonald’s The Highlander’s Last Song: a beautiful book if you read it for the descriptions of the Scottish landscape and life, and for the romance. When I read it, I was trying to enjoy some easy fiction instead of deep theology, but my discernment alarms started to go off when he wrote about the Cross.

A burdening selection: “Mother, to say that the justice of God is satisfied with suffering is a piece of the darkness of hell. God is willing to suffer, and ready to inflict suffering to save from sin, but no suffering is satisfaction to him or his justice… He knows man is sure to sin; he will not condemn us because we sin… [mother speaks] Then you do not believe that the justice of God demands the satisfaction of the sinner’s endless punishment? [son] I do not… Eternal misery in the name of justice could satisfy none but a demon whose bad laws had been broken… The whole idea of the atonement in that light is the merest figment of the paltry human intellect to reconcile difficulties of its own invention. The sacrifices of the innocent in the Old Testament were the most shadowy type of the true meaning of Christ’s death. He is indeed the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. But not through an old-covenant sacrifice of the innocent for the guilty. No, the true atonement of Christ is on an altogether higher and deeper plane. And that is the mystery of the gospel…” (The Highlander’s Last Song, originally “What’s Mine’s Mine” by George MacDonald, this edition edited by Michael R. Phillips and copyright 1986, published by Bethany House)


Tonight, opening Tag Surfer on WordPress, I came across this post (and sermon link – advertised as only 14 minutes) titled, The Cross. The author begins, “The Father was not punishing Jesus in our place on the cross.” In the fourteen minute sermon, though he uses several Bible verses, all of them are taken out of context, contexts which usually include a reference to the blood of Christ taking away our sins, redeeming us, etc. I felt at one point like there was a blow to my heart, when he reported that at the Crucifixion, Jesus and God cheered and celebrated. So much for man of sorrows, and sweating blood in Gethsemane. And the whole way through this horrible, deceptive sermon, this man is associating the biblical view of the Cross and atonement with darkness, with a shackled and blind and guilty perspective of our own that we project onto the Cross, creating a mythology. That is not true! The Bible teaches clearly that Jesus had to suffer and die on a cross so we would not have to die. He is the propitiation, the sacrifice, the lamb, the substitutionary atonement, the righteous fulfillment of God’s wrath against our sin. By His stripes we are healed.

The wonderful young men over at Elect Exiles have been doing a wonderful job reminding their readers what the Cross was. Come on, readers; click the links!!

Why Did Christ Die?
Christ’s Righteousness, Not Our Own
Saving Reconciliation
The Need for Reconciliation

I started looking up the verses about why Jesus died. There are a lot. There couldn’t have been a better reminder of what my God did for me, this Good Friday. (all verses are from the KJV)

Isaiah 53:5-10, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”

2 Corinthians 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Romans 5:8-11, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

1 John 4:10, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

1 Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;”

Colossians 1:20-22, “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Ephesians 1:7, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”

Colossians 2:14, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”

Matthew 20:28, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Romans 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

Galatians 3:13, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”

Titus 2:14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

Hebrews 9:28, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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