You Loved Me Back

It seems He is always loving my soul back either from the edge of the pit, or pulling me out if I’m already down there stuck in the muck.

Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. Isaiah 38:17 

The word translated bitterness above is the Hebrew adjective mar or marah. It means angry, bitterly chafed, discontented, great (as in greatly or bitterly distressed), heavy (as in have a heavy or bitter heart).1 It comes from the same root as the name Mara, or bitter, which Naomi called herself after her sons and husband died, leaving her bereft in a foreign land. 

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Ruth 1:20 

We have all, or I’m betting at least many of us, have felt like Naomi. Life has not turned out as expected. We have been dealt a bitter blow. We have lost loved ones. We have been left alone. It can be easy to become angry at God, bitter, discontented.  

In the verse above from Isaiah, Hezekiah is recounting how very bitter he was when he was told that he had a terminal disease. He even repeats the word twice for emphasis in the Hebrew. He literally says “it was bitter, was bitter unto me,” or “I had such bitterness, such bitterness.”  

But then he declares the most wonderful thing: but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. 

Do you know what that says, literally, in the original Hebrew? “Thou hast loved me out of the pit of corruption,”2 or “thou hast loved my soul back from the pit of destruction – as if God’s love, beaming on the monarch’s soul, had drawn it back from the edge of the pit.3 

You have loved my soul back! Oh, yes! What amazing grace! How many times has He done that for me? It seems He is always loving my soul back either from the edge of the pit, or pulling me out if I’m already down there stuck in the muck. Loving me back from anger and discontent and bitterness. Pulling me up out of depression, fear, despair and hopelessness. He has loved my soul back. 

But the most wonderful thing is: for you have cast all my sins behind your back. Picture that – God throwing my sins behind His back “Where they could be no more seen, and therefore would be no more remembered.”3  

And what does Hezekiah say about why all this happened to him? It was for my welfare. Literally, it was for my shalom: my completeness, soundness, welfare, peace. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 

It was for my completeness, soundness, welfare, peace that I had such bitterness, such bitterness. But you have loved me back from the brink – from the pit of destruction, corruption, failure, nothingness. For you have cast away, thrown, flung, hurled all my sins behind your back.  

“The worst-case scenario is that all the very worst things happen, and I am still loved.” — Ann Voskamp, excerpt from the WayMaker Study Guide 

Yes, we are still, always, loved, even when the worst-case scenario happens. And He is drawing us – me and you – always loving us back. Back to Him. Praise for His amazing grace! 

I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. Hosea 11:4 (ESV) 

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. Psalm 40:1-2 

“Salvation means rescue from the pit of destruction, from the miry clay of ourselves.” — Elisabeth Elliot, A Path Through Suffering 

1Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance 

2Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

3Pulpit Commentary 

Image, Killer Cliffs! by Martin Cathrae https://flic.kr/p/jqrf5

Fix the Value

I can only set his value as precious beyond anything in the heavens and earth, if I know, know, know what he has done for me.

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. John 5:22-23 

Jesus uses the word “honor” four times in this passage. The last time I read it the thought popped into my head: what does it really mean to honor? What does Jesus mean by “honor”? 

The word in the Greek is timaó (τιμάω), and the definition was surprising to me. It means “to fix the value or price of something.” It means properly to “assign value (give honor), as it reflects the personal esteem (value, preciousness) attached to it by the beholder.”1

The value and preciousness! Think of that and replace the word “honor” above. “… that all may value the preciousness of the Son just as they value the preciousness of the Father.”  

Now think about this. This is the same word used in Matthew 27 about the Pharisees giving Judas thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus to them, and then using it to buy the potter’s field when Judas returned it: 

Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price (timaó) of him on whom a price (timaó) had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.” Matthew 27:9-10 (ESV) 

Zechariah also prophesied about this fixing of a value, saying: 

And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potter in the Temple of the LORD. Zechariah 11:13 (NLT) 

Zechariah sarcastically called it a “magnificent sum” because thirty silver coins was the price or value of a slave set in Exodus 21:32. 

So, the value or preciousness of Jesus Messiah was set by the Pharisees as the price of a slave. The ironic thing, of course, is that Jesus agreed with their valuation, at least partly. He called himself a servant or slave. 

“… whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:44-45 

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he [Jesus] made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant (doulos = slave), being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:6-7 

Jesus said that he honored (timaó) his Father and that in doing that he was seeking to bring glory to the Father. 

“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory (doxa) for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. John 8:49-50 

Interestingly, the Greek word doxa, translated here “glory,” also has a meaning of valuation. Doxa means having a good opinion in the New Testament. It means “exercising personal opinion which determines value.” According to Joseph Thayer2, it literally means “what evokes good opinion, i.e. that something has inherent, intrinsic worth.” 

Inherent, intrinsic worth. Jesus honored, valued as precious, his Father – and pointed us to that same good opinion – because of the Father’s inherent, intrinsic worth. Just because of who He is. Because He is our enduring-loving forever, faithful and unfailing Father. Always and forever through all generations. And Jesus came as a slave that we might know the precious heart of God – a heart that is for us and loves us – and in knowing, have life. 

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10b 

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3 

This all made me think: what is his value to me? Is he precious to me? Does his value to me rest on his intrinsic worth, who he is? Or does it rest on what he can do for me? Like an insurance policy? A ticket to riches and success? A slave to fill my needs and obey my wishes and whims? A life preserver to be thrown out in case I get into trouble?  

For many, his value is less than even that. To them he is a well-meaning person who can be a good role model in some situations. Or he is of no value at all, like he was to those of his day who despised and scorned and rejected Him, walking by the cross shaking their heads. 

I can only set his value as precious beyond anything in the heavens and earth, if I know, know, know what he has done for me. If I have really understood and acknowledged and owned my sin and the ongoing, infectious horror of it. If I have fully comprehended from what dark pit his death on the cross has delivered me. Then I know his worth. Then I know he is worthy of all my honor, all my praise and gratitude, all my life. 

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19 

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor (value, esteem of the highest degree, preciousness, price) and glory (because of inherent and intrinsic worth) and praise! Revelation 5:12  

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound 
That saved a wretch like me 
I once was lost, but now am found 
Was blind but now I see 

Was Grace that taught my heart to fear 
And Grace, my fears relieved 
How precious did that Grace appear 
The hour I first believed 

— John Newton 

1definitions from HELPS Word-studies by Discovery Bible, 2021 

2Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament 

Image in the Public Domain, Judas Returning the Thirty Silver Pieces by Rembrandt https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Repentant,_Returning_the_Pieces_of_Silver#/media/File:Judas_Returning_the_Thirty_Silver_Pieces_-_Rembrandt.jpg  

Standing There

“He stands in my place, where I should stand and cannot.”

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:55 

At this, [Mary Magdalene] turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. John 20:14 

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27 

There for me the Savior stands,
shows His wounds and spreads His hands:
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps, but loves me still! — Charles Wesley

“’Where does he stand?’ He stands pro me. He stands in my place, where I should stand and cannot … At this place I cannot stand alone. Here Christ stands in the centre, between me and myself, between the old existence and the new.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christ the Center (emphasis original) 

If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 

When you’ve played out  
Your last chance  
And your directions  
Have all been lost  
When the roads that you look down  
Are all dead ends  
Look up  
You could see if you’d just look up  

You’re on the verge of a miracle  
Standing there  
You’re on the verge of a miracle  
Just waiting to be believed in  
Open your eyes and see  
You’re on the verge of a miraclei 

— Rich Mullins 

For He stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them. Psalm 109:31 

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:19-20 (ESV) 

You’re on the verge of a miracle … 

Salvation

i Richard Mullins, from Verge of a Miracle lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group 

Photo of door by Jack Bair

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