Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sabbath Sanctuary: Holy Saturday Why did Jesus have to die?

It sits nicely tucked away in its box—the bronzed cross which hung on my wall for many years as a symbol of blessing for my home. I packed it away after redecorating the place it hung and came across it this morning.

Remembering that His hands were pierced instead of mine.


Bronze the representation of judgment—Jesus took upon Him the wrath due me on the cross. A cross to bless my home came with a great price by God who sent His Son. 
Yesterday we remembered Christ and His crucifixion; His holy sacrifice for our filthiness and sin. Every sin I have committed, every idle word I have spoken was nailed to the cross yesterday. There seems to be a void after the horrific crucifixion scene the previous day, and the celebration of an empty grave on Sunday. Sabbath Saturday seemed quiet; the dust settling from the events and commotion of the traumatic events of the previous day, and a quiet hush seemed to hold the city captive. It looked like everything was dead. Everything the disciples hoped for is gone—their dreams died and were buried with Jesus. The perceived injustice broke their hearts and surely the question had to well in their spirit—why did He have to die?

Many have asked this question through the centuries since He laid down His life for the world. It was foretold through the Old Testament “they are striking the judge of Israel on the cheek with a rod. Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be the ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity” {Micha 5:2 HCSB}. This speaks to His eternal nature—from the foundation of the world, the pre-existent Christ—the Lamb that was slain {Revelation 13:7-9}came in the flesh. Jesus told His disciples that everything written about Him in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled {Lk. 24:44}.

Christ has sinlessly borne the sins of the world. In His innocence he has submitted first in the full waters of the Jordan and then in the bloody waters of the cross, to baptism for sin’s repentance becoming cursed for us in order to deliver us and save us from our sin.[1] 

Some may argue that this sacrifice is cruel and sadistic, but they are misguided. It was a price motivated by the love and compassion of the only wise God. A Just God who could have chosen differently. He could have chosen to leave us in our sin awaiting judgment, displaying His perfect justice. He could have chosen to save no one. But God, in His love chose to redeem instead of leaving us to wallow in our sin. As a consequence of His choice to redeem, Christ’s atonement was necessary. Jesus prayed in the garden to let the cup of His death pass from Him {Matt. 26:39}, if only there was another way…but He always prayed according to Father’s will and in fullness of faith. This is evidence for us that it was not possible for Jesus to avoid His death and the cup of His suffering if He was going to fulfill the Father’s purpose and redeem mankind.

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him” {Isaiah 53:1-6 NASB}.

But this is not the end of the story. Friday happened, but Sunday is coming! The Suffering Servant has been rewarded—His suffering is over:

He will divide the spoils with the strong. This means that we share in Christ’s inheritance. We are co-heirs with Jesus, according to Paul, because we have been adopted into the family. We are God’s children. ‘Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if we indeed share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory’ {Rom. 8:15}.[2]

Why did Christ have to come to earth and die for our sins? The answer is found in His character—His love, and His justice. In His goodness, He chose to not leave us in sin but to redeem us.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life {John 3:16}. But His justice required a way for our sins to be paid for, for He is a holy God and cannot allow sin to go unanswered. Paul tells us that this was why God sent Christ to be the propitiation {Romans 3:25}, the only perfect sacrifice to pay for our sin. The love and justice of God were the ultimate cause of the atonement.

On this Sabbath Passover Easter weekend, reflect on God’s holiness and justice and rest in His love that chose to redeem you and make available His promises for your life. In His holiness He saw your sin, in His justice, He provided the sacrifice for you through Christ and because He loves you He redeemed you.

Saturday is almost over…Sunday is Resurrection!

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[1] Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross And Resurrection: A Theology Of Holy Saturday (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 45.
[2] R.T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died: A Meditation Of Isaiah 53 (Oxford: Monarch Books, 2011), 185.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Passover Lamb: Behold the Lamb of God

It is Holy Week and many eloquent writers have penned beautiful prose concerning the beauty of what we remember this week. Here are my humble musings; what my heart is breathing on this Good Friday. Not only is this Good Friday for the body of Christ, it is also Passover week for the Jews, beginning at sundown. I love when Passover falls at the same time as Easter; the two are more connected than appears on the surface {I will elaborate on this in a moment}. Let’s begin at Good Friday.


Good Friday is a solemn day—or should be in proper reflection. Before Jesus made His way to the cross, He had a battle to overcome in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is where Jesus had an intense spiritual battle and through His struggle remained obedient to God and submitted Himself to the will of the Father. He agonized as He pondered what was to come and prayed for the cup to pass. Through His love for us, He remained obedient; He saw beyond the cross to those that He loved and desired to redeem. He chose to obey the will of the Father and to endure His impending suffering. Jesus chose the way of obedience, and the Lord sent an angel to minister to Him.

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done. Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him {Luke 22: 41-43 NASB}.

 Jesus received His strength from the Lord. When the Lord sent the angel unto Him, the Father strengthened Him and enabled Him to remain obedient until death.

Jesus suffered immensely on our behalf, and it is important to remember that He not only died for us, but He also died in our place and on our behalf. The brutality that Jesus experienced absorbed God’s wrath and reconciled us to the Father. He exhibited the grace and mercy of God on behalf of sinners and conquered death. He was the last and perfect sin offering.

This is the law of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed, the sin offering shall be killed before the Lord. It is most holy {Leviticus 6:25 NASB}.

Christ—the holiness of God, beautifully prophesied in the Old Testament, just as the high priest was adorned with the words holiness unto the LordChrist was holiness in the deepest and fullest sense of the word. The Old Testament tells the story that Jesus completes in the NewTestament. We would not have the New Testament without the Old.

Leviticus chapter four details the requirements for the sin offering, I encourage you to read it, it is too lengthy for the space here. Here is a brief summary;

The sacrifice for the sin offering offered at the Tabernacle had to be the first-born male, without spot or blemish. The sacrifice was required to be inspected by the priests to ensure the sacrifice satisfied God’s requirements. In the New Testament Jesus fulfilled this requirement, as He, upon inspection seven times, was found to be without fault.

1. Pilate: John 19:4; Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him” {NASB}.

2. Herod: Luke 23: 14-15; “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him” {NASB}.

3. The High Priest: John 18 says after Annas sent Jesus to Caiaphas; he could find no fault with Jesus.

4. Caiaphas: Matt. 26:57-75; Could not get the witnesses to agree on any wrongdoing by Jesus.

5. Judas: Matt. 27:4; “I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood” {NASB}.

6. The Centurion: Matt. 27: 54; “Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” {NASB}.

7. The thief on the cross: Luke 23:40-41; “But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” {NASB}.

Jesus is not only our sin offering, He is also our Passover Lamb. It is no accident that Christ was crucified on Passover. He was not only crucified on the day, but also at the same hour. 

With this many lambs, it was necessary for the Jews to prepare them for sacrifice at nine o’clock in the morning…they then killed them at three o’clock that afternoon so that the Passover could be completed before six o’clock, which would begin a new day.”[1]

As Israel was slaughtering the lambs with knives, spikes were driven into the flesh of our Lord; fulfilling Isaiah’sprophecy…He was wounded for our transgressions….

Then at three o’clock as the people were praising God and slaughtering the lambs, Jesus died. Mark was careful to note the time and wrote that it was the ninth hour (three o’clock Jewish time) when Jesus breathed His last breath (see Mark 15:33-37).[2]

On Passover, the Israelites were to take hyssop and apply the blood of the lamb on the lintel of the doorway and on each side post. Now as Christ hanged on the cross dead, His blood is applied to humanity, and the destroyer has to Passover at the presence of the Blood.

The only way to the Father is to believe that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead for our sin; to attempt any other passageway is to negate the cross. In the Tabernacle there was only one door;

Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me {John 14:6 NASB}.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” {John 1: 1-5, 14 NASB}.

Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement {1 John 5:5-8 NASB}.

And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament. They which are called might receive the promises of eternal inheritance” {Hebrews 9: 15 NASB}. 
Dear Jesus, thank you for being the perfect sacrifice for sin. Thank you for loving the world so much that you died to redeem it. Father, I thank You for the many that You used to bring forth the birth of Your Son. I honor them today for obedience to You. I acknowledge Jesus Christ as my only mediator and propitiation for my sin and I give you all the glory, honor, and praise. Jesus, You are our Paschal Lamb, and we apply Your blood over the doorpost and lintels of our homes; hyssop in hand reminding us of our humanity and sin that runs rampant in the earth. Thank You for Your shed blood that marks us for You and sends the destroyer on his way. In Your precious Name, Amen. 

[1]Booker, Richard, Celebrating Jesus In The Biblical Feasts (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 2009), 42-43.
[2] Ibid.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Attributes of God: Love

God Is Love 1 John 4:8.

I spent the first part of my morning on the couch watching as one of my heroes of the faith was laid to rest. The legacy of this General will stay with me forever. Though I rejoice that he has received his heavenly reward, my heart broke when he passed. Many spoke and shared touching stories of how this great man of God touched their lives. Tears fell hard as I listened to the daughter who returned home in her fallenness and brokenness to find her father waiting for her with loving arms open wide. The unconditional love of a father. Her father was not God, but he showed her that day who God is and how He loves the broken-hearted. The prodigal son jumps off the page of the Holy Writ and into my heart. 
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love {1 Jn. 4:8 NASB}.

Scripture tells us three things concerning the nature of God; He is spirit {Jn. 4:24}, He is light {1 Jn. 1:5}, and He is love {1 Jn. 4:8}. God does not simply love us, He is Love. Love is not one of His attributes, but His very nature.[1] Oh if only we had a full grasp on the love of God! The more we experience and understand His love—its character, fullness, blessedness—the more our hearts will be drawn out in love to Him.

I am so thankful for His love. I cannot fathom how He can possibly love me, yet He does. His love is unchanging and it cannot be influenced by anyone or anything. I cannot cause Him to love me more and I can’t do anything to make Him love me less. His love is free, spontaneous, and uncaused. He loves me when I am loveless.

God is eternal which means He has no beginning; His love is eternal. I cannot wrap my finite mind around His love for me—I am but dust. I am undone.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness{Jer. 31: 3 NASB}.

From eternity God set His heart upon His people. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. He knows all and sees all. He is all-powerful—nothing is too hard for Him. His love is without limit, it cannot be fathomed, it cannot be measured.

God’s love is one of the grandest themes in all of Scripture.[2] The Bible is God’s story of love for all creatures. The Preacher’s daughter spoke of being comforted in her father’s arms in the midst of her darkness—her brokenness. This is a beautiful picture of our heavenly Father and His love for us. God’s love means that God eternally gives of Himself to others.[3] It is part of His nature to give of Himself in order to bring about good to His people.

His love was evident at creation in the Trinity. Jesus speaks to this truth in John’s gospel in one of the most beautiful prayers ever spoken—His High Priestly Prayer:

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (Jn. 17:24 NASB emphasis by author). God loved and honored Him from all eternity. The Beloved Disciple wants us to know this truth, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand”{3:35 NASB}. The love between the Father and Son also presumably characterizes their relationship with the Holy Spirit even though it is not explicitly mentioned.[4] This eternal love of the Father for the Son and both for the Holy Spirit demonstrates that the Trinity seeks to bring joy and happiness to each other and to us as well. The Trinity’s self-giving love is expressed in God’s relationship to mankind. He loves sinners which is why He sent His Son to redeem everyone who will accept this precious gift of grace.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life {Jn.3:16 NASB}

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us {Rom. 5:8 NASB}.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me {Gal. 2:20 NASB}.

Christ loves sinners. He loves all people. He came and died for all mankind—because of His love for us. His love drove Him to the cross. It is unfathomable to me that God set his love on us and that He longs to bring us true joy and happiness. It doesn’t mean that we will have a trouble-free life, but He is working all things for our good {Rom. 8:28}and His love for us is eternal.

God’s love is so amazing and it is even more profound that we can and should return our love to Him:

And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment” {Matt. 22:37-38 NASB}.

The way we demonstrate our love for God is by obeying His commandments. Just as God has bestowed His love on us, we can pour out our love on Him by living a life of obedience, living a life of worship and prayer, and by doing so, we bring joy to His heart.

As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you {Is. 62:5 NASB}.

The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. {Zep. 3:17 NASB}.

To read all in this series of the Attributes of God click here
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[1] A.W. Pink, The Attributes Of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1975), 77.
[2] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 349.
[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 199.
[4] Ibid.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Psalms To See Me Through Psalm 28: He Hears and Answers Prayer

David prayed this psalm when Saul and others, including his own son Absalom, declared their loyalty to David yet their hearts were set on destroying him. This psalm continues the theme from Psalm 26 and Psalm 27 in prayer to the Lord for deliverance. David once again follows his petition with praise to God for answering his prayer. David knew how to reach Yahweh.

A Psalm of David.
To You, O Lord, I call; My rock, do not be deaf to me, For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary {vv. 1-2}.

God’s holy sanctuary. David does not neglect the sanctuary for it is where he finds God’s presence and is filled with grace. Let us boldly enter the throne of grace {Heb. 4:16}. Don’t forget the sanctuary, run to God and as you lift your hands in worship—like David—you too will find the grace you need. God has manifested himself to man in His word, so when we are afflicted we can fix our hearts on Him. God should be the object of our faith, hope, and prayer. The Lord encourages us through his servant the prophet, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know {Jer. 33: 3}. He is our Rock—“there is no rock like our God” {1 Sam. 2:2}. 

Do not drag me away with the wicked And with those who work iniquity, Who speak peace with their neighbors, While evil is in their hearts.  Requite them according to their work and according to the evil of their practices; Requite them according to the deeds of their hands; Repay them their recompense. Because they do not regard the works of the Lord Nor the deeds of His hands, He will tear them down and not build them up {vv. 3-5}.

We all have people who say they love us. They promise to be our friend for life—that they have our back—only to find that they stab us in the back when it serves their purpose. David experienced many such people. He knew their actions to be wicked and he prayed that he would not be swept away with them and suffer their punishment. He didn’t want to be punished along with them and I think, he also did not want to get swept away by the same behavior. He did not want to love people to their face yet turn his back on them when it served him. He knows the Lord warns against being double minded and unstable{James 1:5-8}.

Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication. The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him. The Lord is their strength, And He is a saving defense to His anointed. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever {vv. 6-9}.

David always follows his prayers with praise to God knowing that He will answer. Yahweh is faithful to him. Yahweh is always faithful when we pray. The outcome may not be what we asked for but He will always answer with exactly what we need.

David declares that the Lord is His strength and shield. Strength is often associated with the Ark of the Covenant, the pure gold ark symbolized the presence of God. It was also a reminder that He is the covenant-keeping God. The cherubim who adorned the lid of the ark symbolized strength and power. They were assigned to guard the Garden of Eden with flaming swords after Adam and Eve were exiled. The glorious sound of their wings is likened to the voice of God Almighty when He speaks {Ezek. 10:5}. A sound so loud and marvelous it was heard in the outer court of the temple. They surround the throne of God in Revelation. They bring fear and awe and yet they are not as strong and powerful as Yahweh. The Lord is David’s strength and He is our strength as well. He is a strong tower for us to run and find refuge. God is not only David’s strength, He is also a refuge. He is a fortress of salvation for His anointed—here it is referring to David or one of the priests—now it is for all of us. Salvation is available to all who will run to Him.  

The Tabernacle in the wilderness had many covers of protection. They protected from storms and weather. They protected from wild animals and intruders. This represents God protecting His anointed people. We can run to Him for protection and safety. He is faithful and trustworthy. He will never leave us or forsake us. Don’t be complacent in your relationship with the Lord though. David worshiped Him and trusted and believed in Him. He promises to be with us always, but we must do our part. Worship is the key to God moving in your life. Cultivate a life of prayer and a life of worship. He is our Shepherd and will give us rest.

To read all the Psalms in this series click here: Psalms To See Me Through

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