Monthly Archives: February 2019

Peace with God

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. (Psalm 6:2 ESV)

These words describe part of what Jesus endured as He was executed, hanging on the cross. When He was given to the Roman executioners, His physical torment began. They tortured Him to death. Roman executions began with the humiliation of scourging and ended with the beaten and broken body of the condemned hanging on a cross, exposed, until death. Pilate released a known criminal and Jesus, an innocent man, having never sinned, was murdered. “Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26 ESV; see Luke 23:25). 

Jesus knew what would happen to Him. On many occasions, He predicted His manner of death. “They will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified” (Matthew 20:19 ESV). During His execution, Jesus was so physically battered and weakened from the scourging He could barely walk, let alone carry the beam to which they would attach Him with spikes. “As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross” (Matthew 27:32 ESV; see Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26). 

Jesus died on the cross, but the two crucified with Him remained alive. Passover was near, so the religious leaders asked the Romans to break the legs of the others so they would die before Passover. The Romans did not break Jesus’ legs. His bones, His limbs and body, was troubled, stressed by the turmoil of the experience, but not one of His bones were broken. “For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken’” (John 19:36 ESV; see Psalm 34:20). 

David’s words perfectly describe Jesus’ experience. His body was abused to the point of exhaustion and death. He had no strength left to live, which was the intent of the Roman executioners. His bones were disjointed. But more than the physical torment of His body, He faced the immediate presence of sin and its eternal consequences, which is separation from God. Jesus bore the brunt of our condemnation for sin, both physically and spiritually. Jesus did not remain separated from God. He fulfilled the just sentence for rebellion, and then was resurrected by God and brought into His presence. 

God showered His grace and mercy upon Jesus once His sacrifice accomplished the purpose of God. Gracious means to show favor and pity, to have mercy upon. Healmeans to make healthy and restore to wholeness from the sufferings and injuries inflicted. Jesus died. Jesus was raised from death. Jesus now sits at God’s right hand making intercession for those who are His. “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV). 

Paul also declares our Intercessor has God’s ear.

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us”

(Roman s 8:33-34 ESV)

Isaiah, 700 years before the birth of Messiah, tells us the same.

“Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12 ESV).Though physically assaulted and executed, Jesus’ death purchased peace with God for those called by God into His presence. God is gracious to Jesus and those who have taken refuge in Him.

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Peace in the Face of Death

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.  (Psalm 6:2 ESV)

Is there a burden God cannot lift because it is too heavy? God created the heavens and the earth and all in the universe. He is not created but always exists. If there is anything heavy, it was He who created it for His purpose. There is nothing He cannot lift or carry, but there are many things He will not carry or lift. He cannot abide sin in His presence. “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV). No one who sins against Him, who dies in their rebellion, will stand in His presence. Christ took upon Himself the burden of the sin of everyone who has ever lived or will live. This weight is unimaginably heavy because it is eternal, not just temporal. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV). That which Christ bore for all was the sacrifice required by Himself to atone for the criminal activity of all created in His image. His sacrificial act brought peace where there was only wrath.

Having peace with God brings security and rest. Our own sinful flesh, the tugs and pulls of the world, and the Deceiver, fight to interrupt and frustrate our peace with Him. When the war against our peace with God engages, the sabotage of the world and the Deceiver insinuates we never had God’s peace. Even our own flesh may work and fight against our reckoning of peace with God. There appears to be no peace because of the assaults.

What does it mean to languish? Languishing means weak and feeble, as when all strength is expended and the muscles no longer respond to the commands of the persons will. This happens when a burden becomes so heavy it can no longer be carried. Bones means essence and substance as well as, body, limbs, physical members. Troubled means dismayed, terrified, and to hasten or quicken, vexed. David, when he wrote these words, had come to the end of his abilities and strength. His being was quickened with fear, his heart racing with terror, his body battered into submission. His soul distressed, facing a danger over which he could not control, which wanted to destroy him.

Hezekiah sang to the LORD after his deathly illness, when God promised him another 15 years of life. He praised God and remembered how he felt upon knowing his death was imminent. “Like a lion he breaks all my bones; from day to night you bring me to an end” (Isaiah 38:13 ESV). Hezekiah faced death and it exhausted him. So, too, throughout David’s life, there were many times when he was surrounded by those who wanted him dead. He found himself in places where he could do nothing to save himself. Both David and Hezekiah faced the ultimate consequence of sin. They faced death. Hezekiah languished in his bed as he lay dying. His innermost self was disjointed, torn apart with grief. Both these men reflect the feelings of Jesus as He faced an excruciating death. 

Hezekiah was given another 15 years of life after God answered his prayer. Hezekiah then slept with his fathers and died peacefully. David was rescued from those who wanted to kill him, reigned as king and finally died peacefully.

Thus David the son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. The time that he reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. Then he died at a good age, full of days, riches, and honor. (1 Chronicles 29:26-28)

Mercy

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. (Psalm 6:1 ESV)

Scripture is filled with mystery. Perhaps the greatest spiritual mystery given us in Scripture is the eternal fact that God judicially covered the sins committed by His people against Him with the righteousness of His Son. How does God do this? Everything we do is bent by sin, the desire to control and be over God. We cannot know how He does what He does. We can know that He has covered us with Jesus’ righteousness because He tells us He has. Still, it does not make sense to our finite minds and corrupted logic.

This mystery captures the essence of God and of His Son. God reveals to us what He has done throughout Scripture. Isaiah tells us “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed”  (Isaiah 53:5 ESV). Paul continues Isaiah’s prophecy by declaring, “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). Jesus is the eternal Servant and ultimate Authority. The mystery of following Him encompasses our whole lives, our motivations, our words, our thinking and feelings. Jesus came in the likeness of human flesh (see Philippians 2:7-8) to ransom, which means to redeem and to liberate from a criminal sentence for crimes committed against God.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28 ESV; see Mark 10:43-45)

In return for His righteousness we are made new and set apart for service and to have an intimate relationship with God.

This mystery is not cheap. God covering us with Jesus’ righteousness means God laid upon Him our sin. There are many illustrations of this truth but no one can know the depth of the cost and agony experienced by Jesus. We can imagine but must be careful in our imaginations. For we, as long as we are in this world, in this flesh, assaulted by the Deceiver, must rely upon the work of the Holy Spirit to know truth.

In the first verse of Psalm 6 we see a man begging for mercy. Our assumption is God’s wrath is justly exercised against the speaker because of their transgressions against His law and person. The writer of the Psalm was a sinful man. Yet, the writer of the Psalm is speaking for Jesus, who did not sin and lives in God’s eternal blessing. How then can Jesus beg for mercy? When God laid upon Him our sin He felt the full wrath of God. 

Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem, knowing His executioners awaited Him. He did not deviate from His course or linger in places to avoid facing His responsibility. He ministered for many years before His final journey to Jerusalem. His intent was purposeful, drawing people to Himself and teaching them the meaning of citizenship in God’s eternal kingdom. Then, when the time was right, according to the eternal will of God, He faced His death, offering to God His body, the sacrifice for our sin.

Read the words of Psalm 6:1 as coming from a righteous Man bearing the unrighteousness of all men. Rebuke means to decide, reason, chide and reprove, to judge, convince and convict. Discipline means to chasten, admonish and correct, to teach. Anger means nose or nostril, or face, and wrath means fever, heat, burning rage. God’s face reflects His anger and judgment toward sin, which He hates. “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”  (Psalm 5:4-5 ESV). Those who sin, who cannot stand before Him, are driven from His presence. God’s anger toward sin is characterized as a snorting, burning rage, justly executed against those who rebel against Him.

Jesus did not rebel against God but felt and experienced God rage against sin. Jesus is the only righteous person who has ever lived, refusing to walk in the way of the world, accept the lies of the Deceiver, or allow His own flesh to tempt Him and move Him to rebellion. Hanging on the cross, He endured the just wrath of God against sin. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46 ESV; see Mark 15:34). Jesus was for a brief time, forsaken by God. This does not mean Jesus sinned, for He could not sin. Jesus is God in the flesh.

Jesus’ purpose for coming as a man was to take upon Himself the sins of man to bring people back into relationship with God. Peter also declares his understanding of why Messiah came as a man. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed”  (1 Peter 2:24 ESV). 

When Jesus took upon Himself our sin, He was, is and will always remain, sinless. He is eternally righteous. God, when He saw Jesus on the cross, saw His Son covered with our sin. Jesus bore the burden of the sentence for sin. Conversely, when God looks at the Christian, those who are in Christ, He sees the blood of Christ covering them, hiding the obvious sin they carry in their whole being. We are no more righteous than He is a sinner. What God declares He sees, because of the sacrifice of His Son, is Christ’s righteousness covering us as a cloak, a shield, surrounding us as a hedge and impenetrable wall, a refuge. He leaves us in this world to prepare us for eternity. While in the world, those who are His are safely held for eternity.