Seizing Hope

We are urged to hold fast to two things – our confidence and our hope.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. Hebrews 10:35 

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. Mark 10:50 

The above verses are the only places in the Bible where this word translated “throw away” or “throwing … aside” is used. It means to throw off, cast away, throw overboard. But these two verses are so completely different – one talking about a negative thing, throwing away your confidence in God, and the other such a picture of faith as the blind man throws aside his cloak to go to Jesus for healing – I knew there had to be a message for me in there somewhere. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

The blind man threw off his beggar’s cloak and boldly, confidently approached Jesus. He could have sat there in self-pity, blaming God for his situation, viewing Jesus cynically as just another dead-end pipe dream delusion of the duped masses. He had a good reason to be bitter. 

“The ancient nations regarded blindness as the lowest degradation that could be inflicted upon man … The blind, together with cripples and lepers, were outcasts of society and kept quarantined outside the town limits; they became paupers and a menace to passers-by.” — Jewish Encyclopedia1 

So, what gave this degraded outcast the boldness to cry out from the dust at the side of the road and approach the Rabbi for healing? He had probably heard of the other healings. It was probably all the buzz in the outcast community. There was that something about Jesus that invited, that drew the rejected, the pariahs. And I think the reports of miraculous healings had conceived in this blind man a very foreign thing – hope. Hope had started to grow, and hope, paired with desperation, gave him boldness. 

The other verse, Hebrews 10:35, talks about throwing away your confidence. The word translated “confidence” in these two verses is parrésia and means “freedom of speech.” It means “free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance … the undoubting confidence of Christians relative to their fellowship with God.”2 Ellicott’s Commentary3 notes that “[t]o ‘cast away boldness’ is the opposite of ‘holding fast the boldness of the hope’” talked about in Hebrews 3:6. 

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. Hebrews 3:6 

We are urged to hold fast to two things – our confidence and our hope. Confidence, not in our outcast selves, but in what Jesus has done on the cross, and the hope that we have because what Jesus endured on the cross has brought us home and made us part of God’s family. No longer outcasts. If we hold down our hope, hold it fast, take possession, retain, seize on it, restrain it from wandering off. Let’s seize the hope and not let it go, but, like the blind man, let’s throw off our beggar’s cloaks of sin and lies received and bitterness and bad attitudes and pride. Let’s exercise our “freedom of speech” because the way into God’s presence has been opened up for us by Jesus. And let us come boldly, confidently before the throne so that we may receive mercy and grace in our time of need. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Mark 10:51 

1Jewish Encyclopedia, Blind, the, in Law and Literature, by Richard Gottheil, Judah David Eisenstein https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3374-blind-the-in-law-and-literature 

2Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon 

3Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

Image, Blind Beggar 1949 Kenya, by Sydney Oats https://flic.kr/p/68ZJYY  

The Face of God

Jesus endured the complete rupture of his fellowship with God – the horrible darkness and pain of God’s face turned away – so that I could dwell in the Presence of God always. 

Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a wonderful book called Sanctified Through the Truth all about the last prayer of Jesus for his disciples, the prayer where Jesus consecrates himself to be the sacrificial Lamb of God that we might be sanctified as God’s people. Reading Lloyd-Jones’ book, I came across this stunning statement: 

“He [Jesus] is now submitting himself, therefore, to the most terrible thing that he ever contemplated, namely that he should be separated from his Father. He had come out of the eternal bosom. He was in God from the beginning, he is co-equal, and co-eternal with God; but here he realises, and he faces it, that in order to save and to sanctify these people he has to undergo this separation from God and to be made a curse. It means the breaking of the contact, and he submits himself even to that. He is prepared to endure even the loss of the face of God on the cross that we might be sanctified. He separates himself to this.” — Martyn Lloyd-Jones (emphasis mine) 

The loss of the face of God! “The Hebrew word for ‘face’ in the Old Testament is often translated ‘presence.’ When we seek the face of God, we are seeking His presence.”1 For those hours on the cross God would turn his face away from Jesus. Jesus would become sin for us that we could become the righteousness of God, that we might be sanctified or set apart to God. But in the process, he had to lose the face, or Presence, of God. Jesus had to endure the Face of God turned away from him, refusing to hear his cry. 

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2  

The face of God is what Adam and Eve freely enjoyed in the Garden. It is also what they hid from. 

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence (face) of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 (ESV) 

The loss of the Face is ultimately death. It is to be in darkness, adrift. It is to experience rejection and abandonment. The Face turning to shine on us is life and light and gracious acceptance. The light of His Face gives understanding and piercing self-realization. Isaiah’s response to seeing God was anguish at his sin, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). 

The Face of God can cut to the heart, but He always sends grace and healing to the humble. After Isaiah’s anguished repentance, God sent the cleansing coal from the altar: And [the angel] touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7) 

From the Face of God we receive salvation, blessing, grace, peace, deliverance, and the knowledge of God. 

Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us that we may be saved. Psalm 80: 3, 7, 19 

In Psalm 80, the psalmist asks God to restore them and “make your face shine upon us” three times. The word translated “restore” is shub (שׁוּב). It means turn back, return, repair, restore and rescue. The interesting thing is that it is the same word (translated “return”) that is used in verse 14: 

Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine … 

The Face of God turning back to us, looking down, watching over, equals our restoration, repair, rescue – our salvation and peace. 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 

So why do we keep hiding from him? Even if not actively hiding from Him, why is it so hard to remain before His face, in His presence? Why do I keep looking elsewhere? Why do I keep forgetting that He is right here with me when I am gasping and despairing in the midst of the storm? Why do I keep thinking I have to struggle on by myself, thinking nobody cares, no one will help me? Jesus became the sacrificial lamb and endured the complete rupture of his fellowship with God – the horrible darkness and pain of God’s face turned away – so that I could dwell in the Presence of God always. 

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God (before the face of God) on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24 (ESV)  

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) 

1What does it mean to seek God’s face? Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/seek-Gods-face.html  

Image, hand-colored lino print by Sheila Bair. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved. 

Formless and Void

God started in the beginning with an empty canvas – formless and void – and He, in love, started over again with a perfect empty canvas.  

God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation. Isaiah 34:11 

Reading in Isaiah recently two words in this verse jumped out at me – chaos and desolation. What does that mean a “measuring line of chaos” and a “plumb line of desolation”? 

The words translated chaos and desolation are in the Hebrew tohu (formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness) and bohu (emptiness, void). I was surprised to learn that there are only three places in the Bible where these two words are used together, and the first one is in Genesis, chapter one. 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless (tohu) and empty (bohu), darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:1-2 

Formless and empty or void. Like an empty or blank canvas. God, the artist, hovering over it with the pigments of creation. The third place this duo is used is in Jeremiah. 

I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone. Jeremiah 4:23 

Both Isaiah 34 and Jeremiah 4 are warning of coming judgement. A judgement so passionate and powerful that the canvas would be wiped clean and the Creator would start over. “It was as if the earth had been ‘uncreated’ and reverted back to its erstwhile primeval chaos. Order seemed to return to confusion.”1 Like the Potter starting over with the marred pot in relentless love. Wiping off the canvas and starting over, as with Noah, a consuming fire, unchanging, passionately zealous, tireless, one-track, His focus on the goal.  

So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Jeremiah 18:3-4 

God is always creating, working, moving from chaos and desolation to something wonderful. But we always seem to want to turn back, turn away. In God’s great, mocking commentary on idols and idolatry in Isaiah 41, He calls the idols in our lives “less than nothing” and “utterly worthless.” And then declares, “Their deeds amount to nothing; their images are but wind and confusion (tohu).” 

Do we actually erase our real lives when we try to create them ourselves? Are we, in rebellion, wiping off God’s artwork from our canvases? Are we then painting with our own inferior, or even imaginary, pigments? 

I remember on the brink of surrendering my life to Christ, a terrible fear overwhelmed me. What would God make me give up? What would He take away? I didn’t see that my canvas was formless and void, already empty; I didn’t see that the pot I had been shaping was marred. But I sensed the Artist’s hand hovering over me, passionately waiting to make me a beautiful new creation, filled with a new Life. 

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life. Ephesians 2:8-10 

God saw that my canvas was ruined, that my pot was marred. And He saw that I could not fix it myself. And so, He started over for me – for all of us. God started in the beginning with an empty canvas – formless and void – and He, in love, started over again for us with a perfect empty canvas.  

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:  

Who, existing in the form of God,  

did not consider equality with God  

something to be grasped,  

but emptied Himself 

taking the form of a servant,  

being made in human likeness.  

And being found in appearance as a man,  

He humbled Himself  

and became obedient to death— 

even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 

The word above translated “emptied” – Christ Jesus … emptied Himself – means “to empty out, render void.” Jesus became tohu, empty and void, so that, in Him, the Creator God could start over in our lives.  

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) 

We are His workmanship. He starts over from scratch with us when we receive Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. We are new creations in Christ. A blank canvas. Clay in His hands. Our lives are very much chaos and empty.  But then God. 

Nothing before, nothing behind; 
The steps of Faith 
Fall on the seeming void, and find 
The rock beneath.  

John Greenleaf Whittier
excerpts from the poem “The Soul and I”

See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. Isaiah 65:17 

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. Revelation 21:1  

… so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11 

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

If you want to start over as a blank canvas with God. If you want to be a new creation. Give yourself to Him. Salvation 

1Thompson, J.A. The Book of Jeremiah (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1980) 

Photo, MOMA: Empty canvases, by Dan Nguyen https://flic.kr/p/7PbhBC  

Moriah Two

… where the plague was stopped

Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David. 2 Chronicles 3:1 

On Mount Moriah 

thresh me there 

on the threshing floor 

bind me where 

the lamb was provided 

where the plague was stopped 

stand between 

stop my plague 

make me your living stone 

where the house of God was built 

on Mount Moriah 

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2 

Image, Silk Willoughby church, East Window detail by Jules & Jenny https://flic.kr/p/FfHPRM

Broken Hearts

broken hearts 

broken hearts everywhere you go 

walking through crystal shards 

cutting again 

bloody feet 

bleeding hands 

jabbed with flashing slivers  

working deep 

rending despair   

yielding 

relentless 

 hope 

… he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound … Isaiah 61:1 (ESV) 

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. John 19:34 

Image by Peter.Lorre https://flic.kr/p/3yeriz  

My Dad

A few years ago, I sat down with my dad and recorded some memoirs of his life. The result revealed a funny, passionate, pretty cool guy. Dad passed away this week and we bury him today. I know this is long, but I would like to honor him by sharing some of his life with you. 

Dad was born in Ionia, Michigan, in 1927. He remembered that his mother kept him in long blond curls and lacy shirts (Little Lord Fauntleroy costumes) until he was three or four. He hated that. He had to wear knickers until he was eight or nine and really hated them. When he got his first pair of long pants he felt very grown up.  

When Dad was 12, they moved to a farm three miles north of Muir in Ionia County. He remembered getting up early enough to do the chores (feed the animals, etc.) before walking to the one-room school. In the cold months he had to get to school early to get the fire ready and the school warmed up. On the farm that Dad had the responsibility of a large half-acre “truck” garden. He had to plant, weed, and harvest the vegetables and take them to market in town. But he got to keep the profits, and he was able to save up enough money to buy his first beautiful bicycle from the Sears Roebuck catalog.  

Dad also raised a calf which won the blue ribbon at the County Fair. The animals loved him. Dad remembered one rooster in particular who would run down the drive to greet him every day when he returned home. That affinity to animals continued. I remember our dog Rowdy and my Dad “singing” together. My Dad would sing and Rowdy would howl along with him. That dog loved my Dad. 

My Dad was always a prankster. He told me some mischievous things he did as a teen. One time he and his friends put a large oak table in the middle of the highway to see a truck hit and demolish it. The driver got out and chased them, but he hid in a cornfield. Another time they took apart a wagon and put it back together on somebody’s roof. One favorite prank was to fill a paper bag with cow manure and set it on fire on a front porch and then knock on the door and run. Of course, the owner would come out and stomp out the fire.

One time a not-so-happy victim chased them. They scattered, running through back yards, trampling gardens and breaking down fences. The next day he was all innocence at the breakfast table as his scandalized parents read the headlines in the small-town paper: Hoodlums Destroy Victory Gardens.  

He told me that one of the worst punishments his mother could mete out was the phrase, “You will have to tell your father when he gets home.” Then he had to go all day dreading when he had to confess to his father what he did. Grampa Roy usually went easy on him though – being a joker himself. 

When he was in high school, he played football. In one game he was hit in a “whipsaw” (hit at the top and the legs at the same time from different directions) by two guys from the opposing team. He got a concussion and couldn’t remember the rest of the game. But the Ionia Sentinel Standard reported the next day that Douglas went crazy in defense, not afraid of anything. A year or so later when he was stationed on Bikini a Navy ship was anchored off shore. Two sailors got permission to come ashore to see him. They asked, “Are you Douglas?” They were the two guys who had hit him, and they were the ones who told him what happened the second half of the game. 

His Uncle Hiram told Dad that if he learned Spanish, he could go with him to South America when he graduated. He took Spanish but struggled. The war broke out and ended that plan. However, for the rest of his life he tried out his broken Spanish whenever he met Spanish-speakers. They usually gave him bemused, but polite, answers or nods. He also, on purpose, massacred French saying when parting company with you, “Your reservoir my sewer – that means good bye in French.”  

Dad joined the Navy at 17 as soon as he graduated from high school. He got a cyst removed from his leg ahead of time, so there would be no possibility he would be 4-F and not allowed to enlist. He got his hair cut real short ahead of time too so when he got in the chair at basic the barber took one look at him and said, “Get out of here.” But then – disappointing to him, but good for us – he got scarlet fever and had to be quarantined.  The war ended before he got out to the South Pacific.  

He stayed in the Pacific though as a Navy corpsman attached to the 53rd Seabees construction battalion. He was based in San Diego, Hawaii, Kwajalein Atoll, Enewetak Atoll, and Bikini. His last duty station was Bikini as they prepared for the atomic bomb testing. Most of the guys had to go back out to the ship at night, but Dad was allowed to stay on shore in the medical tent. The tent had a refrigerator in it for medicines and penicillin and the guys would store beer in it. Other Seabees would bring steaks down from the food tent and a radio that got state-side music and they would grill steaks and listen to the music at night. Dad also talked the guy that usually did the food inspection before the soldiers could eat their meals into letting him do the inspection. That way he was first in line for chow. 

Upon his return from duty, Dad was accepted at Central Michigan University, where he studied for one year before transferring to the Western Michigan University occupational therapy department in 1947. Dad was staying at the YMCA while attending school, when he met my Mom at a dance in December of 1948. He had heard music and wandered down to the gym. They noticed each other through the crowd, but my dad was too shy to ask for a dance. Mom told her sister, “That’s the man I’m going to marry.” As the dance was ending Mom finally went over and introduced herself. My Dad never had a chance. He remembered the sweater she wore his whole life. They danced together at the next dance and never stopped. They taught ballroom dance for over 60 years together, only retiring just a couple of years ago.   

In a quiet moment just days before he passed into glory, we talked about going home and standing in the Presence of God. We talked about that we can’t stand before God because of good things that we have done or because we are, what he called, a “big wig” in the church. That none of that means a thing to God. The only thing that means anything to God is what Jesus did for us on the cross. That we are standing before him in filthy rags if all we have are the good things we have done. At least, if that is what we are trusting in.  

With the light of eternal revelation in his eyes he said that trusting in your good deeds is “like trying to buy your way into heaven.” Yes, exactly Dad! It’s like trying to buy our way into heaven. But the only currency accepted by God is the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  

He stopped being able to talk much soon after that, but I know we will meet again in God’s Presence. I love you forever Dad and will miss you greatly.   

Your reservoir my sewer.  

Photo, family photo shows that my Dad’s legacy of humor lives on in his crazy family. He’s the one in the middle in the bottom row.

All the Parts are Present

Can I do that? Can I give all the shattered pieces of my heart?

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:36-37 

“with all … with all … with all…”  

Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. He said this is the greatest commandment. The Greek word here translated “all” is holos (ὅλος). It is the root of the English term “whole.” It means whole, complete, entire, “properly, wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole – i.e. as the total, which is greater than the mere sum of the parts.” 

All the parts present and working as a whole means holding nothing back. Jesus came and showed us how to love with all. 

“… whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:27-28 

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Titus 2:14 (NLT) 

Jesus gave all, the whole. As Tozer wrote, His very self.  

“That eternal life which was with the Father is now the possession of believing men, and that life is not God’s gift only, but His very self.”  
― A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man 

All. Can I do that? Can I give all the shattered pieces of my heart, scattered, distracted, resisting, all the carefully separated and locked up memories. Or, will I keep holding back in entitlement to rage, unforgiveness; holding back in fear of the complete destruction of the remaining fragile ego; holding back the needed surgery on the bleeding, infected, pus-filled, putrid, putrescent wounds?  

All, the whole, entire, complete. My voluntary will binding it all together, like Abraham binding Isaac and laying him on the altar. The sacrifice total, greater than the mere sum of fragmented, dismembered, mangled, defective parts. Am I loving Him with all my mind, or am I holding back, reserving a little doubt, a little reinterpretation to justify some sin, unforgiveness, some command I don’t want to obey. “Did God really say?” Am I clutching some precious part of my life, unable to lay it on the altar? 

But Jesus said I have to give up everything. 

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Luke 14:31-33 

“If we shrink from the thought of fighting against God, we had better accept His conditions of peace. The worst folly of all is to enter into the conflict with a wavering will, not caring to know what “the things belonging to our peace” actually are, or to endeavour to stand apart in an impossible neutrality.” — Eliott’s Commentary for English Readers 

“An impossible neutrality.” Yes, being neutral before God is impossible. But that’s what we want – a truce. I will just keep going my own way and God will do His thing and let me be. I will keep back just this one thing and God will blink. But it doesn’t work that way. The King is on His way. He may be still a long way off, but He is on His way. And His terms of peace are all. All is what God wants of us. All or nothing.  

“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33). Jesus said a lot in those simple illustrations. He quickly put an end to the idea that He offered some kind of welfare program. Although the gift of eternal life is free to anyone who asks (John 3:16), the asking requires a transfer of ownership (Luke 9:23; Galatians 5:24). “Counting the cost” means recognizing and agreeing to some terms first. In following Christ, we cannot simply follow our own inclinations. We cannot follow Him and the world’s way at the same time (Matthew 7:13-14). Following Him may mean we lose relationships, dreams, material things, or even our lives.” — Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/count-the-cost.html 

Give me grace Lord to accept your terms of peace: Everything. 

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Genesis 22:9 

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 

The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! Psalm 118:27 (ESV) 

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 

Photo, “Broken Pot” by Silly Little Man https://flic.kr/p/8PtRAa  

Justice to Victory

“We deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.”

Here is My Servant,  

whom I have chosen,  

My beloved,  

in whom My soul delights.  

I will put My Spirit on Him,  

and He will proclaim justice to the nations.  

He will not quarrel or cry out;  

no one will hear His voice in the streets.  

A bruised reed He will not break,  

and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish,  

till He leads justice to victory.  

In His name the nations will put their hope. (Matthew 12:18-21) 

This prophecy about the Messiah, which first appears in Isaiah 42:1-3, says that he will proclaim justice to the nations, and that he will lead justice to victory. I wondered, what does that mean – leading justice to victory? Does it mean what it looks like at first glance, that He will finally bring justice and condemnation on all the evil in the world? Will He finally judge all the rebellious and sinners? I know that will happen someday, at His second coming. But I think that the “justice to victory” that He brought the first time was something else. Something wonderful. 

Matthew is clear in repeating this prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah that he is referring to Jesus first incarnation, or first coming, for the verses leading up to it say: Large crowds followed Him, and He healed them all, warning them not to make Him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah (Matthew 12:16-17). 

The Hebrew word translated “justice” in the original prophecy is mishpat, which means judgment. It comes from shapat, which means to avenge, condemn, contend, execute judgment. Throughout the Bible God warns that the judgment for sin is death: 

And the LORD God commanded the man … “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12 (NLT) 

Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. Deuteronomy 24:16 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 

Pure justice then is death for all who sin. That’s all of us, who in our selfishness and greed and lust have killed and maimed and impoverished each other – physically, mentally, spiritually.  For what we do, even secretly, even what we secretly think, affects those around us – “so death spread to everyone.” 

But, instead of pouring out His judgment on us, God’s judgment on sin was poured out on Jesus at the Cross. As Pastor Troy Gentz preaches, “we deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.” In willingly dying as a sacrifice for our sin on the Cross, Jesus was victorious over sin and death. He brought justice to victory. 

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8: 3-4 

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT) 

“He [Paul] applies to us personally what Christ accomplished perfectly. When we are united to Christ by faith, his punishment becomes ours and his righteousness becomes ours, and God counts our sins against us no more.” — John Piperi  

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:25-26 

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 

Thanks be to God that He brought my justice – the justice due to me – to victory by the shed blood of Jesus for us on the Cross!

Come to Him, wounded and fading and He will give you life. For “a bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not extinguish.” Salvation 

iHow Did the Cross Disarm the Devil? https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-did-the-cross-disarm-the-devil 

Image by Jack Bair

God is Pleased

This pleasure doesn’t just mean to be happy, but reaches out to embrace me by accepting the sacrifice made on my behalf.  

For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Psalm 40:12 

“My heart fails.” How often lately have I felt that way! I was drawn to look closer at this verse and was amazed (but I shouldn’t have been!) to find it leading me to the passion of God for the reconciliation of the world to himself. It all leads back to the Cross where the way back to God was opened. Everything leads to the Cross. 

Though I went looking specifically at verse 12 and the “my heart fails” part, it was the next verse, Psalm 40:13, that arrested me. 

Be pleased (with me, delight yourself to make me acceptable, accomplish, accept the sacrifice, satisfy my debt, reconcile me, pardon me) to save (deliver, rescue) me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me. Psalm 40:13 

It was the “be pleased” part that struck me. When I looked at the Hebrew I saw that it doesn’t just mean to be happy, but reaches out to embrace me by accepting the sacrifice made on my behalf.  

The Hebrew word is ratsah (רָצָה). It means, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “to be pleased with; specifically, to satisfy a debt.” It means to be acceptable, approve, delight yourself, enjoy, pardon, be favorable, reconcile.  

God is pleased, delights even, to make me acceptable. He takes pleasure in accepting the sacrifice satisfying my debt. He delights to reconcile me, pardon me, save me!  

For God was pleased (took pleasure, was willing) to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 

What amazing grace! My heart fails from sin. I am oppressed and trapped under impossible debt. What is God’s response? He is pleased – takes pleasure, enjoys, is willing – to reconcile me to Himself, through the shed blood of His Son. It is not because He has to, but because it makes Him happy. It gives Him great pleasure. It delights Him. And even more than this, God is pleased to give me the kingdom, an everlasting inheritance with Him. God is pleased to do this as Jesus affirmed in Luke 12. 

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased (takes pleasure, is willing) to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32 

I am overtaken now, not with my inescapable sin, but with His overwhelming, unfailing, unending, amazing grace and compassion. 

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion (inheritance, allotment) forever. Psalm 73:26 

It is Done!

This is an invitation to participate in creation, the bringing of His Kingdom and perfect, loving will to earth. 

[Jesus] said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” Revelation 21:6 

What a wonderful proclamation: It is done! How we look forward to hearing it! “It is done” makes me think of Jesus on the cross saying, “It is finished!”  

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30  

That great redemptive work that he came to do, accomplished. The Lamb of God slain for the salvation of the world. But when I looked closer, I found that the two phrases – “it is finished” and “it is done” – mean two different, and very wonderful things.  

When Jesus proclaims, “It is finished,” the Greek word is teleó. It means to bring to an end, complete, fulfill, consummate. Jesus had fulfilled the will of the Father that he had come to do. Only Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, could finish the work on the Cross. 

The root of this word (tel-) means “reaching the end (aim). It is well-illustrated with the old pirate’s telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at full-strength (capacity effectiveness).”i  It is like the completion of a spiritual journey, the unfolding of a telescope. The coming into focus of God’s perfect will. 

And that is wonderful. That is amazing grace! But, “it is done” means something, at least for me, absolutely astonishing. The Greek word is ginomai. The Strong’s Concordance definition is “to come into being, to happen, to become.” Properly, it means “to emerge, become, transitioning from one point (realm, condition) to another.”ii 

According to Marvin R. Vincent, gínomai “means to come into being/manifestation implying motion, movement, or growth” (at 2 Pet 1:4). Thus it is used for God’s actions as emerging from eternity and becoming (showing themselves) in time (physical space).”iii 

Jesus finished the work he came to do so that the new heaven and new earth could emerge. We could transition from this place of continual warfare and anguish and tears, to that place where all tears will be wiped away. That is breathtaking as it is. But now, if you want your mind completely blown, look at some other times that Jesus used this word. 

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done (ginomai) just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Matthew 8:13  

Do you see that! Amazing, amazing grace! Jesus says that through faith the centurion participates in this transitioning, this becoming, this emerging from eternity of the works of God into this time/space realm. When we believe. When we pray in faith. 

When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done (ginomai) to you”; and their sight was restored. Matthew 9:28-30 

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done (ginomai) for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:28 (ESV) 

And Jesus taught us to pray this way – for the manifestation of God’s Kingdom and will to emerge from eternity and become in time and physical space. 

Your kingdom come, your will be done (ginomai), on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 (ESV) 

This is not just a liturgical prayer to be repeated by rote. This is an invitation to participate in creation, the bringing of His Kingdom and perfect, loving will to earth. 

Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done (ginomai) for them by my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:19 

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done (ginomai).” Matthew 21:21 

Does this give you faith to pray? Does this crystalize in your mind the why of praying – the importance of praying? It does for me. 

… if you have faith and do not doubt … it will be done [it will be, it will come into being, it will emerge]. 

… as it is written, “I have made you [Abraham] the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told … Romans 4:17-18 (ESV)  

And God said … and there was … (Genesis 1) 

iHELPS Word-studies, Bible Hub 

iiibid.

iiiVincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament

Image by Linda Tanner, The Butterfly is Gone https://flic.kr/p/piUExS  

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