Shaken Off

He shakes us forward and shakes us free.

For I am poor (depressed, in mind or circumstances, wretched, afflicted, 
humble, lowly, needy, poor)

and needy (in want, a beggar, needy, poor),

and my heart (inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding, seat of courage)

is wounded (profaned, defiled, polluted, desecrated, violated, wounded, pierced)

within me (my inward part, seat of thought and emotion, my center).

I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust. Psalm 109:22-23 

I can identify with all of this Psalm – the depression, the woundedness, the feeling like I am in darkness. But I can especially relate to that last line: “I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust.”  

I can understand shaking off a locust or grasshopper in creepy disgust. The feel of their sticky little feet and they are ugly and they spit that brown goo. They are associated with curse and plague, eating everything in their path, destroying the green life. To me, this is like rejection, being viewed as creepy, disgusting, gross, and being shaken off. I feel like the real me was shaken off in my childhood, and I have been shaking myself off in self-hatred ever since. So, this is something that God is showing me that I have to work on for sure.  

On the other hand, locusts were considered a clean animal that you could eat, that could bring nourishment. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, peoples in the Middle East were “accustomed to feed upon locusts, either raw or roasted and seasoned with salt (or prepared in other ways), and the Israelites also (according to Leviticus 11:22) were permitted to eat them.” John the Baptist ate them in the wilderness. 

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. Matthew 3:4 

John’s food was locusts AND honey. And in that verse is an amazing hidden treasure. There was another time that God fed his people in the desert with honey – honey from the rock. Moses identified the Rock as the Lord God. 

He [the Lord] is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just … He nourished him [Israel] with honey from the rock … Deuteronomy 32:4, 13 

… with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Psalm 81:16 

John was fed in the desert place with these creepy, disgusting insects AND the honey from the Rock. Isn’t that what God does? He makes us, creepy as we are, nourishment, food for a hungry world with Christ, as we abide in Christ? 

I have felt shaken off in disgust. Yet, as I looked at the meaning of the word translated “shaken” in Psalm 109, I found treasure there too. Cool thing about this word is that it is “a primitive root, probably identical with 05286 (means growl), through the idea of the rustling of mane, which usually accompanies the lion’s roar.”1 The Lion of Judah roars and I am shaken like a locust. 

But I don’t think He is roaring in disgust or rejection. He is roaring in anger at my sin and what the sins of others have done to me. He is roaring with the pain and groaning of a broken world. And like a lion shaking its mane, he will shake these things off and set me free. He will bring new life, resurrection. He will transform me by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). 

Because, though I fade away like an evening shadow, or I am “like a late afternoon shadow made by the descending sun that will soon be swallowed up by complete darkness,”2 the Lord will bring me light.  

The word translated “shaken” in the Psalm, is the same word as used in Job 38:13 Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?” 

I love that verse, and I have blogged about it before, but now I see something else. Do you see it? The dawn arrives, the Light of the world comes and dispels the deepening darkness, and the earth is shaken, I am shaken. 

The Lion shakes his mane and roars. I am shaken off like a locust into a new day. Yet, not in disgust and rejection, but rather to “shake me forward and shake me free” as in the Rich Mullins song, Calling Out Your Name. 

From the place where morning gathers  
You can look sometimes forever ’til you see  
What time may never know  
What time may never know  
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world  
And shakes us forward and shakes us free  
To run wild with the hope  
To run wild with the hope   

Lion of Judah roar! I am depressed and wretched in my mind; my heart is wounded, pierced and violated. I have been shaken off and rejected as disappointing and disgusting. I am about to be swallowed up in the darkness. Bring your Light as the dawn and shake off my sticky little feet from clinging to this world, from wrong thinking and lies, from idolatries, from fear and doubt and despair. Sweep me up to run wild with you, wild with hope. 

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. Isaiah 40:22 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe … Hebrews 12:28 

1Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance 

2NET Bible notes. 

Image by Michael https://flic.kr/p/8cP1vw  

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

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

Rahab

Do you see the message of grace and mercy printed right into the DNA of Jesus? 

So she [Rahab] let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. Joshua 2:15 

The story of Rahab, described as a harlot in Jericho, is told in Joshua chapters 2 and 6. She hid the Israelites who were spying out the city, and helped them to escape, and in doing so saved herself and her family. In Hebrews 11:31 it says that Rahab did this by faith. She decided to put her faith and life in the hands of this wonder-working God she had heard of.  

Rahab, and her actions hiding the Israelite spies, is mentioned twice in the New Testament as an example of faith showing itself in good works. But, did you know that Rahab was the great-great grandmother of King David, and therefore in the genealogy of Jesus? 

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. Joshua 6:25 

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham … Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. Matthew 1:1, 5-6 

Here’s some commentary on Rahab’s marriage to Salmon: 

The Old Testament records are silent as to the marriage of Salmon with the harlot of Jericho. When they were compiled it was probably thought of as a blot rather than a glory; but the fact may have been preserved in the traditions of the house of David. It has been conjectured that Salmon may have been one of the two unnamed spies whose lives were saved by Rahab, when he was doing the work which Caleb had done before him. The mention of Rahab in James 2:25, Hebrews 11:31, shows that her fame had risen at the time when St. Matthew wrote. —Elliott’s Commentary for English Readers (emphasis mine) 

I always thought that this was why Boaz had no qualms about marrying a despised Moabite, Ruth, because his own mother was a Canaanite outcast. Both Rahab and Ruth had converted and chosen to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What is so wonderful is that these two foreigners and outsiders are prominent in the family tree of Jesus (see Matthew 1:1-16).  

And they are not the only ones in the genealogy that raise eyebrows. There is Tamar, who acted as a prostitute to lure Judah into obeying the command of God. There is Bathsheba, whose extramarital tryst resulted in an unplanned pregnancy and the murder of her husband. Not to mention Mary, who became pregnant out of wedlock. And that’s just the women. There was also David, who committed the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Ahaz who sacrificed his children to false gods, and Manasseh, about whom it is written that he “shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end.” 

You know that saying, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”? Well, God could have. God could have arranged that Jesus be born of a spotless, totally righteous bloodline of perfect people. But he did not.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written that when Jesus left heaven “he left heaven as God, God the Son, but when he returned to heaven he was God and Man. He has taken human nature with him.”1 How wonderful! How amazing! Right from the start, and on into eternity, God, through Jesus, embraces humanity, embraces the sinner – even the most horrible, detestable of sinners. By taking on human nature and living a perfect human life, Jesus has made a Way to take us back to heaven with and in him.

Rahab’s scarlet cord, that she tied in the window to ward off the attackers, was a foreshadowing of salvation by the atoning death, the shed blood, of Jesus. Ruth laying down at the feet of Boaz and asking him to marry her is a picture of Christ and the Bride, the Church. Do you see the message of grace and mercy printed right into the DNA of Jesus? 

It doesn’t matter what you have done, you can come to God and be accepted into the family through the blood of Jesus shed for you. Turn from your sin. Put your faith in what He did for you on the cross. Bow down at his feet as Ruth did. He wants to receive you, cleanse you, save you, and marry you as the holy Bride of Christ, the Church. 

Salvation 

You can use this as a free Bible study here.

1Sanctified through the Truth, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Crossway Books. 1989

Image free download from pixabay 

Every Heart

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 of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  Genesis 3:8 (ESV) 

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day about cancel culture. The first person says, “I hate cancel culture.” The second one answers, “The very first Bible story is God cancelling two people over an apple.” I wanted to put in a good word for God here.

What this meme defines as “cancelling” was God closing the doors of the Garden and not allowing Adam and Eve back in. They had just sinned, separating themselves from God, causing a rift in the relationship. And they showed a distressing tendency to continue on that path, refusing to admit their responsibility in the matter, pointing fingers at each other.  

God did not want them to eat of the tree that would give them eternal life in that state. They would have been eternally separated from God and his love for them. Isn’t that the definition of hell? It was an act of mercy and compassion banning them from the Garden and locking them out. He was giving them a chance; he was giving them time to turn, time to realize what they had lost. Until God would come back into another garden and open the door again by offering Himself up as the atonement. 

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. John 18:1-3 (ESV) 

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. John 19:41 (ESV) 

You are invited to turn around and come back into the garden and walk again with the One who loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.  

“God now fills the recovered garden, and we may without fear walk and commune with Him in the cool of the day.” — A.W. Tozer 

Come back  Salvation

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

The Assumptions of Grace

Ever wonder what grace really means?

(This post is reblogged with permission from Seedbed https://www.seedbed.com/the-assumptions-of-grace/)

Philippians 4:23

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

CONSIDER THIS

And so it ends as it began, by grace:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

I wish I better understood this little word we so readily throw around in the Christian faith. It has come to mean so much that it means almost nothing. I assume I know what it means, and so I just mouth the words and move on. I mean, I get it, right? You too?

Paul begins and ends every letter he writes with these same words, yet there is nothing standard about these kinds of greetings. He is not saying, “Hello again, hope you are well,” or “Thanks for everything; wish you were here.” He is not extending his own grace to us. He greets us with the very grace of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. The little word is loaded with assumptions, and, lest I regularly reexamine them, the word becomes little more than my own presumption.

So what does grace assume? Here goes. It assumes I know I am a sinner; that I was born a sinner; that I am a sinner, not because I sin, but that I sin because I am a sinner. Grace assumes I understand I am a son of Adam, infected with sin-cancer from the start, born with a terminal illness, and destined for destruction. I am, by nature, a child of wrath. It’s not that God hates me; he loves me so much he will not allow me, a depraved sinner, to stand in his presence; for in his presence I am destroyed.

God is holy. This is his nature. Just as a fire consumes anything it is fed, so the holiness of God consumes whatever is not holy. And grace assumes I know that there is absolutely nothing I can do to make myself holy. Grace assumes that I understand that, apart from grace, I am hopeless. The holy God of the universe will not tolerate sin, not because he chooses not to but because he cannot, for to do so would be to deny his nature. The wrath of God is not an emotion but a simple fact of his existence.

Grace also assumes I know I am loved. I was loved at my birth, despite my sinful nature, and loved every day of my life, despite my sin; and loved in and through my recalcitrant, rebellious resistance. Grace wants to make sure I know I am loved, not because of anything I have ever done or not done; nor am I not loved because of anything I have ever done or not done. Grace assumes I know I am loved because it is God’s nature to love me.

Yes, grace assumes I know that God is holy and God is love and that these two eternal verities have been made known to us in this gospel: “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Grace assumes I know that understand that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). 

Grace assumes I get it that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Grace is the unmerited, unmitigated favor of God for sinners like me and you. The more we recognize our sin, the more we recognize our need for God’s grace; the more we recognize our need for God’s grace, the more grace we are given; and the more grace we are given, the more we become the agents of his grace in the world for others.

When Paul says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen,” this is what he means.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is grace and truth, holiness and love, God and man, giver and gift. Thank you for the cross where we find grace on grace on grace. Thank you. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Are you growing in your grasp of the grace of God in Jesus Christ?
  2. How has Paul’s letter to the Philippians most encouraged you? Challenged you?
  3. What is your top takeaway from this letter and our journey through it?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief

Image, Baby’s hand, by Fruity Monkey on flickr https://flic.kr/p/99tqDR

Niagara Falls in a Teacup

“His demand for righteousness is insistent, and it is always at the maximum intensity.”

Cheap grace and costly grace. The gift and the “shift.” Transformation deep as the roots of human life. Uncontainable love.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship  

“The gift element in the gospel is held to be its exclusive content, and the shift element is accordingly ignored. Theological assent is all that is required to make Christians. This assent is called faith and is thought to be the only difference between the saved and the lost. Faith is thus conceived as a kind of religious magic, bringing to the Lord great delight and possessing mysterious power to open the Kingdom of heaven. I want to be fair to everyone and to find all the good I can in every man’s religious beliefs, but the harmful effects of this faith-as-magic creed are greater than could be imagined by anyone who has not come face-to-face with them … 

I think the truth of the matter is not too deep nor too difficult to discover. Self-righteousness is an effective bar to God’s favor because it throws the sinner back upon his own merits and shuts him out from the imputed righteousness of Christ. And to be a sinner confessed and consciously lost is necessary to the act of receiving salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. This we joyously admit and constantly assert, but here is the truth that has been overlooked in our day: A sinner cannot enter the Kingdom of God. The Bible passages that declare this are too many and too familiar to need repeating here, but the skeptical might look at Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 2:18.  

How then can any man be saved? The penitent sinner meets Christ, and after that saving encounter he is a sinner no more. The power of the gospel changes him, shifts the basis of his life from self to Christ, faces him about in a new direction, and makes him a new creation. The moral state of the penitent when he comes to Christ does not affect the result, for the work of Christ sweeps away both his good and his evil, and turns him into another man. The returning sinner is not saved by some judicial transaction apart from a corresponding moral change. Salvation must include a judicial change of status, but what is overlooked by most teachers is that it also includes an actual change in the life of the individual. And by this we mean more than a surface change; we mean a transformation as deep as the roots of his human life. If it does not go that deep, it does not go deep enough.” — A.W. Tozer, In Word, Or In Power: The Divine Conquest 

“But this much is clear: when we try to estimate the depth and the persistence of God’s loving-kindness and mercy, we must first remember his passion for righteousness. His passion for righteousness is so strong that he could not be more insistent in his demand for it, but God’s persistent love for his people is more insistent still. The story of God’s people throughout the centuries is that her waywardness has been so persistent that, if even a remnant is to be preserved, God has had to show mercy more than anything else. It is important to realize that though the Hebrew chesed can be translated by loving-kindness and mercy without doing violence to the context, yet we must always beware lest we think that God is content with less than righteousness. There is no reference to any sentimental kindness, and no suggestion of mercy apart from repentance, in any case where the Hebrew original is chesed. His demand for righteousness is insistent, and it is always at the maximum intensity. The loving-kindness of God means that his mercy is greater even than that. The word stands for the wonder of his unfailing love for the people of his choice, and the solving of the problem of the relation between his righteousness and his loving-kindness passes beyond human comprehension.” — Norman H. Snaith, Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, London (1944) 

“In faith there is movement and development. Each day something is new. To be Christian, faith has to be new – that is, alive and growing. It cannot be static, finished, settled. When Scripture, prayer, worship, ministry become routine, they are dead. When I conclude that I can cope with the awful love of God, I have headed for the shallows to avoid the deeps. I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a teacup than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.” — Brennan Manning, The Ragmuffin Gospel 

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Image, Niagara Falls, by Boris Kasimov  https://flic.kr/p/2g3fgeL  

Enough

If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.  Psalms 66:18 (NKJV) 

I always looked at this verse as saying that if I coddled some unrepented sinful act or thought in my heart, the Lord could not listen to my prayers. And it does mean that, but I think God is saying something more to me. The word in the above verse translated “regard” is the Hebrew word ra’ah. It means to look at, see, regard, gaze at, behold, perceive. Derek Prince had a slightly different take on this verse: 

“If I ‘regard iniquity in my heart,’ it means that I come to God with a consciousness in my heart of something that condemns me.”  

I have been having a hard time in prayer. I have been feeling like the Lord did not hear. Suddenly, I realized that I had not been coming to God in prayer with a clear conscious. I was always under the burden of some kind of guilt. Guilt about not being a good enough friend, a good enough wife and mother, not serving God enough, not praying enough, not calling my elderly parents enough — not being enough. I had been listening to those accusing voices in my head and had been feeling a closed door, a heavy curtain, between me and God. My heart was condemning me. I was gazing at my failings and not at Jesus.  

Then I read this from J. Vernon McGee. He was describing the tabernacle in the wilderness and its three parts: the outer court where the sacrifices were received and their blood shed, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies, where God dwelt between the cherubim. About the articles of furniture in the Holy Place of the tabernacle, he writes that it included “the table of showbread and the golden lampstand. Then, in the background was the golden altar, the altar of incense, which speaks of prayer – no sacrifices were ever made there” [emphasis mine]. 

No sacrifices were made at the altar of incense, the place that symbolically represented the prayers of the saints (see Revelation 8: 3-4). Why? Because the sacrifice had already been made out in the courtyard on the brazen altar. The sacrifice had already been made. Therefore, the priest could go into the Holy Place and offer the prayer-incense without further sacrifice.  

But these Old Covenant sacrifices, made over and over, “were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper” (Hebrews 9:9). It is only the once-and-for-all sacrifice of the Lamb of God that can clear our consciences. 

I was bypassing the altar where the Blood of the Lamb has been shed. Should I (in pride) be surprised that I am weak and sinful? No, I should throw away all expectation of ever being “enough.” I can never be enough for anyone, and it’s not my job either. It is not my wonderfulness that helps or saves. Only God can be enough. All I can do is offer my love, serve with the strength he gives and trust him for the rest.  

“We have to get rid of any attitude that suggests some kind of righteousness in ourselves. We have no righteousness of our own. We must come to a place where we are trusting in God’s faithfulness, and that produces confidence … There must come a time when we lay side every attempt to justify ourselves and say, ‘I receive by faith the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to me by my faith in Him according to the Word of God. I will not worry about my merits. I will not worry about my sins. I will not parade my good deeds. I will not blush for my bad deeds. I will not examine and analyze my own heart all the time to see if I am good enough. I will trust God that the blood of Jesus has cleansed me from all sin. And now I am going boldly right to the throne, right into the holiest place of all.’” Derek Prince, Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, chapt. 2, Basic Conditions for Answered Prayer [emphasis mine] 

Instead of beholding, gazing at my real failings and unrighteousness and listening to the accusations of our enemy, I need to fix my thoughts and eyes on Jesus, Our Righteousness (Hebrews 12:2). As the Holy Spirit points out sin, I repent of it and give it to the One who washes it away with his Blood as if it never happened and forgets it. 

The humble find the Holy One. Just when the consciousness of sin and weakness, and the discovery of how much of self there is, makes you fear that you can never be holy, the Holy One gives Himself. Not as you look at self, and seek to know whether now you are contrite and humble enough—no, but when no longer looking at self, because you have given up all hope of seeing anything in it but sin, you look up to the Holy One, you will see how His promise is your only hope.” — Andrew Murray, Holy in Christ [emphasis mine] 

But you know what the really wonderful, amazing, grace-filled thing is? We don’t have to stop at the altar of incense in this new temple. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we can go all the way into God’s very presence and talk to him in person. Let us go there with assurance. 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a Great Priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. Romans 8:1 (Message) 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14  

But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Passion Translation)

Photo copyright Jack Bair

All

None are left out here. All are included on the sin side, and no one is excluded on the redemption side.

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. Isaiah 53:6 (NKJV) 

This verse begins and ends with the Hebrew word kol, translated “all.” It means the whole, any, each, every, altogether, as many as, whatsoever, howsoever, whosoever – all. 

None are left out here. All are included on the sin side, and no one is excluded on the redemption side. Henry Allen Ironside wrote of this verse as a balancing of the books of heaven and as a condensed version of the story of the world. 

In verse six God, as it were, balances the books of the world – two debit entries and one credit entry. The two debit entries: “All we like sheep have gone astray” – there is the whole fallen human race; “we have turned every one to his own way” – there is each individual’s own personal sen; and then the credit entry that clears it all on the books of God if men would but receive it: “Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (R[evised]. V[ersion].)

Here we have the entire story of the Bible epitomized: Man’s ruin both by nature and practice, and God’s marvelous and all-sufficient remedy. The verse begins with all and ends with all … The first is the acknowledgment of our deep need. The second shows how fully that need has been met in the Cross of Christ.

H.A. Ironside, Expository Notes on the Prophet Isaiah

And where it is translated “the Lord has laid on Him” our iniquities, the Hebrew word is paga. In the form used in this verse it literally means that the Lord made our iniquity to fall on him or attack him.  

[Paga] sometimes refers to a hostile encounter or attack … the Lord makes “sin” attack “him.” In their sin the group was like sheep who had wandered from God’s path. They were vulnerable to attack; the guilt of their sin was ready to attack and destroy them. But then the servant stepped in and took the full force of the attack.

NetBible Translators’ Notes

I love that! He stood between us and our sin and took the full force of the attack! And who is the “Him” who is spoken of in this verse? He is God’s Servant who is first introduced in Isaiah 42. He is the One who will “sprinkle many nations” and who will be “despised and rejected by men,” who will take up our infirmities and carry our sorrows. The one who will be, and has been, pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and healed us by his wounds (Isaiah 52:15-53:5). He is Jesus Christ our Lord. 

All (the whole, any, each, every, altogether, as many as, whosoever) we like sheep have gone astray (erred, wandered, reeled and staggered, been intoxicated, led astray, misled, deceived); 

We have turned (turned from, away, back, aside), every one, to his own way (road, path, journey, direction, manner, habit, course of life, moral character);  

And the LORD has laid on Him (made to fall on him and attack him) the iniquity (perversity, depravity, sin, moral evil, fault, guilt, punishment, consequence) of us all (the whole, any, each, every, altogether, as many as, whosoever).  

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24 

Sin

It’s never too late to confess our sins to God and seek refuge in His salvation.

This week a definite theme emerged in the blogs and devotionals I receive daily. Sin is not something we like to think or hear about, but it became obvious what the Spirit is saying. 

Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned   Romans 5:12 

The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man’s sin, but that the nature of sin, namely, my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race through one man. But it also says that another Man took upon Himself the sin of the human race and put it away— an infinitely more profound revelation (see Hebrews 9:26). The nature of sin is not immorality and wrongdoing, but the nature of self-realization which leads us to say, “I am my own god.” — Oswald Chambers, The Nature of Degeneration, From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18 

A broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a subdued will are rare things, especially in this age in which men everywhere are taught to demand their rights; and the church has become a place where man is exalted and enshrined as though he were God. Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-promotion are the cry of the day. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes. — Steve Rebus, Broken People!, https://steverebus.com/2020/10/05/broken-people/  

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  2 Corinthians 5:21 

Sin is a fundamental relationship— it is not wrong doing, but wrong being— it is deliberate and determined independence from God. The Christian faith bases everything on the extreme, self-confident nature of sin. Other faiths deal with sins— the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ confronted in people was the heredity of sin … — Oswald Chambers, The Nature of Reconciliation, From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

Just as the nature of sin entered into the human race through one man, the Holy Spirit entered into the human race through another Man (see Romans 5:12-19). And redemption means that I can be delivered from the heredity of sin, and that through Jesus Christ I can receive a pure and spotless heredity, namely, the Holy Spirit. — Oswald Chambers, The Nature of Regeneration, From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

When a Bible verse comes to me from two different sources in the same week, I pay attention:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9, 11 

The psalmist answers his own question: By living according to God’s Word … Then he goes on to say, “I have hidden God’s word in my heart that I might not sin against God.” That’s the secret of purity. It’s hiding God’s Word in your heart, because one or other of two things is going to happen: Either God’s Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s Word. 

So don’t just flow with the current like a dead fish. Be willing to be a live fish and swim against the stream. God’s Word will give you the strength if you hide it in your heart. It is possible to lead a pure life even in today’s world. — Derek Prince, Devotional: Hiding God’s Word 

With my whole heart I have sought You … Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You … I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. Psalm 119:10-11, 15 – Blogged by Gary Wilkerson, Attentive to His Presence, World Challenge online devotional https://worldchallenge.org/devotion/attentive-his-presence?ref=devos   

Blogging about the raising of Lazarus, J.D. Walt writes (The Problem behind All Our Problems): 

Death was not part of God’s plan for his creation. It was a consequence of human sin—not a consequence as in punishment, but as in irrevocable laws of the universe, like gravity. If sin, then death. It turns out the law of sin and death was not so irrevocable after all. In fact, it’s not really accurate to call it a law. It’s an aberration. The only true and real law is the law of the spirit of life. The law of sin and death merely describes the outcome of rebellion against the law of the spirit of life … Love overcomes sin and life overwhelms death. 

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40 

The gospel is the good news that God saves his sinful people from his wrath through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, promising to share his glory with them in a renewed creation forever—all to the praise of the glory of his grace. — Adam McClendon, via Dr. Peter Cockrell, The Gospel is Big Enough for Your Church https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/10/06/the-gospel-is-big-enough-for-your-church/  

It’s never too late to confess our sins to God and seek refuge in His salvation. He will deliver us from our sins if we only acknowledge and repent them. — Derek Prince 

Photograph copyright 2018 Derek Bair

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