Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Deuteronomy 25:1-3

Punishment Befitting the Crime

 

I remember when I was a teenager and the new kid in town in Travelers Rest, SC (affectionatetly known as TR by the locals). After we had been there a few months, I was in pretty good with the youth group at one of the two churches that my dad served as Methodist minister. By October, after having moved to TR in June, I had started dating the girl who would eventually become my first wife and subsequently the mother of my two daughters. One night after the youth meeting on Sunday night after I had been dating Lisa for a couple of months, we were all hanging in the parking lot at the church talking – the whole Jackson Grove UMC posse. It was youth group at a small church but it was about 20 of us. One thing that I was unaware of was that before I moved to town and got Lisa interested in me was that Harold Perry had long had a crush on Lisa, but he was a shy introvert but a giant of a teenager. He was about 6’3” and 200 lbs at age 16. He never played sports for some reason. That spring before we moved to TR, Lisa had broken off a relationship with Charles Monroe so Harold must have thought that it was his chance to act on his crush on Lisa. However, the cute new preacher’s kid, me, had moved to town. I ruined his plans. He had this smoldering anger toward me. And it spilled out one night.

 

One night after youth group, teenagers being teenagers, not thinking or even caring about each other’s back stories, I must have made a flippant remark (not intended to do anything but draw laughter) about Harold’s manhood or something. I cannot even remember what was said. Then, to me, out of the blue, Harold the 6’3” behemoth picks up this boy, a boy of 5’6” in height at that age, 14, and throws me over his shoulders and start spinning round and round in imitation of a wrestling move. In my embarrassment in allowing myself to become a victim of such a public display, I did not wait for him to either stop or slam me to the ground, I did my best to wiggle free of the choke he had around my ankles on one side and my neck on the other. As he was spinning I was able to break free but that also meant that I went flying through the air toward the ground – because gravity is gravity and she is an unrelentingly consistent bitch. When I hit the ground it was chin first. Did I mention that the “ground” we on was the paved parking lot of Jackson Grove UMC? I scraped the heck out of my chin. It could have worse. The landing could have dug down through my skin to my chin bone. But luckily I had turn my face somewhat sideways right before my face hit the pavement so my chin did not take the full force of gravity and the immovable pavement.

 

When I arose, bloodied, embarrassed and shocked, I was all “what the heck was that all about, dude?” I couldn’t believe that I was just standing there joking around with my friends one moment and then the next I am spinning helplessly on the shoulders of a guy that hardly ever said anything to me, and now I standing there with a bloody chin and side of my face. I didn’t say “what the heck” and you know the what the…” that I said. It was only later when Lisa and I were talking about the event that I found out (being a clueless man – we are often clueless about things that women see, and a teenage one at that) that Harold had a crush on Lisa there for a while but never acted on it. Then I swooped in out of nowhere, to him, and took “his girl.” From that point on, he quietly disliked me greatly unbeknownst to me. I was clueless of the crime that I had committed in his eyes. And, then, bam, one night he punished me for a crime that I had no idea that I had committed.

 

That idea of punishments of crimes and the punishment fitting the crime brought that memory to the surface suddenly. I had not thought about the events of that night in the Jackson Grove parking lot for years and years. It is funny sometimes how the Holy Spirit draws out memories that are buried and forgotten so as to illustrate Scripture. He often takes memories of our lives to show us what Scripture means in relationship to real events in our life. This morning, that was certainly the case. Let us read Deuteronomy 25:1-3 now:

 

25 When people have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty. 2 If the guilty person deserves to be beaten, the judge shall make them lie down and have them flogged in his presence with the number of lashes the crime deserves, 3 but the judge must not impose more than forty lashes. If the guilty party is flogged more than that, your fellow Israelite will be degraded in your eyes.

 

At first glance, this passage seems irrelevant today. However, a closer look reveals some important principles about discipline. Are you responsible for the discipline of a child, a student, or an employee? Three important points will help you carry out your responsibility. First, let the punishment follow quickly after the offense. Second, let the degree of punishment reflect the seriousness of the offense. Finally, don’t overdo the punishment. Discipline that is swift, just and restrained makes its point while preserving the dignity of the offender.

 

In my case, Harold denied me of my dignity. He never identified to me what my crime was. He never stated that I had offended him. He never gave me the chance to defend myself against his charge against me. I was not given a fair trial. I was just punished. It is an example of how we often just lash out at people who have offended us. Sometimes, we have made up our mind on getting revenge and punishment without determining whether our outlook on the reality of the situation is valid or not. We just lash out. Sometimes, we lash out and our reaction is unjustified because there was no crime committed against us by the person. We knee jerk react to situations. This passage reminds us that we need to give our enemies a fair hearing before we execute punishment. We need for them to know how they have hurt us and get an explanation. Often times, people who have offended or hurt us, don’t even know that they have hurt us. Give them a fair hearing. Give them a chance to defend themselves. Then, let the punishment fit the crime. A lack of knowledge of what they had done wrong against you would deserve greater degree of mercy that a willful intent to hurt you. But even willful offenses do not deserve punishments beyond what fits the crime.

 

As we begin the holiest of weeks in the Christian calendar today with Palm Sunday and continuing on through Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we are reminded of how Jesus committed no crime, but was treated as if he had committed some great offense against the Jewish religious state and, also, the Roman Empire. He had committed no crime but to speak the truth of God. He was innocent of any real crime. However, it was all part of God’s plan to show mercy to us by taking out His wrath against sin against His Son on the cross instead of taking it out on us.

 

He was innocent. We are guilty. But He took the punishment that we deserved. God poured it all out on Him. All the wrath that I deserved. Jesus didn’t deserve the punishment of 40 lashes with a cat-o’-nine-tails whip and with reeds. He didn’t deserve to have the flesh ripped from his body by that horrible kind of whip. He didn’t deserve the deep tissue bruises caused by being beat with wooden reeds. There was no unbiased judge that prevented that. There was no mercy shown Him for the crimes he supposedly (without evidence) had committed against the government. He did not deserve to be bloodied almost to death and then paraded through the streets with the cross beam on his shoulders. He did not deserve to be forced to carry that beam when he was beaten with an inch of his life and had bloody open wounds all over his body. He did not deserve to be put to death by crucifixion – still one of the most cruel and lengthy punishments to the death ever devised by man. He did not deserve what He got. He was innocent of His crime. But, yet, there was an eternal thing that He was doing in a temporal world. He died for all sins. He died for all your sins and all of mine. He took the punishment that He personally did not deserve.

Therefore, let us be a merciful people when people have offended us. Jesus didn’t deserve what happened to Him. But he accepted it anyway because of his love for us, our friends and even our enemies. Let us show mercy. Let us show restraint. When someone offends us, let us make sure first that they have indeed offended us. Let us give them the opportunity to seek forgiveness. Let us learn their back story. Let us offer forgiveness. Let us react in ways that are befitting to the crime that has been committed. Let us then forgive and restore. Let us be merciful as God has been merciful to us by giving the punishment we deserve for our crimes of sin to His Son instead of to us. Let us seek mercy as well as justice just as God has done with us.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 24:17-22

Help for Foreigners & Widows

The Statue of Liberty stands in the New York harbor as a stark reminder of the fact that we are all immigrants in this country. Other than native Americans, none of us can trace our lineage in this country back more than 450 years or so. Most of us can trace our lineage in this country back more than 250 years or so. A large majority of Americans can only trace back 100 or so years. At some point, depending on when your ancestors came to this country, we have to return to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, or Africa. We are all immigrants.

 

Why is it then that we all of a sudden have such a hard time with immigrants coming into our country here in the 21st century. Before you quit reading right here and get angry at me, I am not for free and unfettered immigration. I believe that all those who come to our country must be subjected to the same rigors of immigration as were our ancestors. We should have to go through a process to become American citizens and not just come into this country without some process of vetting in place. This is true because no longer does every immigrant want to come here to pursue opportunity. Some wish to enter the country to cause havoc and destruction. I am all for vetting those who come through our immigration points. Allowing unfettered immigration or allowing people into our country through illegal entry is an affront to those who come to our country through the proper channels. It takes usually around 7 years to become a full-fledged American citizen once you apply for citizenship. To allow unvetted entry or to allow illegal entry or to give amnesty to those who have entered illegally is a slap in the face of those who do it the right way.

 

Somehow though in the last few years, we have forgotten that we are all immigrants. None of us have natural claim or right to be in this country. We invaded it and we conquered it. We act as though we have some inalienable right to live here that has been granted us by our ancestors. To a certain extent that is true. We are citizens, most of us, by birth. However, our living in what we call the United States was accomplished by conquering a land that did not belong to us to begin with. Because of the arrogance of the supremacy of the white man, we invaded this country from day one and we progressively stole each inch of it from the native Americans of this land. We now accept this land as ours and with each successive generation it becomes more and more ours. However, our ownership of it is flawed by its very nature. It was theft. It was imposing our will on others we considered savages and beneath us. Therefore, our arrogance now over immigration is surprising in light of how we obtained our land that started our country. We must find a way to make workable solutions to immigration issues. We cannot ignore the call of those who pay taxes while immigrants pour into our country illegally. We can’t treat them like, wow, they did not know they coming into the country illegally. They’ve got to know there is a price to be paid for illegal entry. If America is worth what we project to the world, then, there is a right way to get in here. But let us not ever forget that (1) we obtained this land not by purchasing it from those whom it really belonged, and (2) we are all immigrants at some point in our family’s past. Maybe the remembrance of these two things will reduce some of the bravado of those who want to cut off all immigration on one side and those on the other that do not want to anger anyone but making it more difficult to come here illegally.

 

It was that repeated idea in this passage that struck me this morning. In Deuteronomy 24:17-22, the phrase, “always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from your slavery” is repeated twice in five short verses. Under divine supervision of the Holy Spirit, Moses wrote this phrase twice. It must, then, be important to the point of the passage. Let’s read it together now:

 

17 Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. 18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.

 

19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.

 

In this passage, we see the continuation of an Old Testament theme in which God tells His people to treat the poor with justice. The powerless and poverty-stricken are often looked upon by some as incompetent or lazy, when, in fact, those facing that situation may be the victims of oppression or circumstance. God says we must do all we can to help those who are needy. His justice does not permit the Israelites to insist on profits or quick payment from those who were less fortunate. Instead, his laws gave the poor every opportunity to better their situation, while providing humane options for those who could not. None of us is completely isolated from poverty. Many of us face needs at one time or another. God wants us to treat each other fairly and do our part to meet one another’s needs.

 

As well, in this passage, God’s people were instructed to leave some of their harvest behind in the fields so that travelers and the poor could gather it for food. This second gathering, called gleaning, was a way for them to provide food for themselves. Years later, you might remember, Ruth obtained food for herself and Naomi by gleaning behind the reapers in Boaz’s fields (Ruth 2:2). Because this law was still being obeyed years later after it was written, Ruth, a woman in the lineage of our Savior, Jesus Christ, was able to find food.

 

The instructions are clear that the Israelites were to help the poor and needy. But why did God cloak it all in the repeated phrase of having redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. This phrase is important because it would be easy for the Israelites in the Promised Land years later to develop an arrogance to the poor. They could easily develop the mindset that this is my property, my wealth, my crops and mistreat those that did not have property, wealth or crops. They could develop of mindset that this is mine and it is my inalienable right to do with what I please. They could easily develop and attitude that this is mine not yours. God repetition of this phrase twice in one passage is to remind the Israelites that they wealth that they might gain in the Promised Land was not some inalienable right. It would be a gift from God for it was not too long back in Israel’s history that everyone was poor and enslaved. They had no freedom to pursue their dreams. They had no freedom to use their talents to become wealthy. They had no land to toil to produce crops that they could sell for profit. They all had nothing but what the Egyptians allowed them to have. Therefore, with that collective national memory in mind, God wanted the Israelites to not be arrogant and care for the needy because God gifted them their nation. It was not some inalienable right they had to the land. It was under God’s divine providence that they gained the Promised Land. As a result, the Israelites were to be a thankful and generous people.

 

When you look at this passage from that perspective, it reminds us that we, now, are in a similar position. We should never be arrogant to think that others should not have the right to come to this country. We are all immigrants from foreign lands. We should never be arrogant to think that we are rightful owners of this land. We stole the land on which we live from native Americans. We may have paid France for a large portion of the United States but it was never their property to begin with. The English, the French and the Spaniards all simply claimed land but had to inalienable right from God to do so. It is from this theft that we inherited our country. Therefore, let us act with compromise over immigration issues. There must be middle ground. We cannot be arrogant enough to close our borders when we are all immigrants on stolen property to begin with.

 

This passage is also a reminder to us that it is only by grace that we have a right to claim heaven as our home. We do not have a right to heaven. We cannot earn it. We only have access to heaven because of Jesus Christ taking the punishment for our sins. We have no inalienable right to heaven even as long-time Christians. We have no merit on our own even as a mature Christian. We still sin and sin stains us. Sin prevents us from ever being in the presence of God on our own. We are destined for hell on our own merits. We must be perfectly sinless to have a right to go to heaven. Only one person ever did that, Jesus Christ. It is only through the grace of his imputed perfection that we gain access to the presence of God. It is only through Him that we can enter into the Promised Land that is heaven. We have no inalienable right on our own to heaven. We were given a gift through salvation that we do not deserve. As a result, we should be generous and thankful people. We should never be an arrogant people. We were once sinners condemned to hell ourselves. Now we are sinners wrapped in the grace of Jesus Christ. Let us as Christians never forget where we were before Jesus Christ and where we are after we accept Him as our Savior and Lord.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 14:13-25 (Part 1 of 4)

Moses Intercedes for the People

Have you ever noticed that one of the most common objections to the Christian faith is the God of the Old Testament? Even many of us Christians refuse to read the Old Testament because of its perceived “wrath of God” stuff. We don’t want to deal with God’s judgments and seemingly harsh ways of dealing with not only His enemies but also His own people. Both the general public and many immature Christians think of these judgments as too quick and too complete. Do you feel that way? Why is it that we sympathize with this view? Is it that we live in a modern world where the sins we commit are specifically forbidden in the Bible and we need a way to lessen the impact of God’s wrath against our disobedience. Maybe we begin by saying that the Bible is old-fashioned and out-of-date. Next, we say that because it is out-of-date, it is no longer valid and you do not have to pay attention to it. Next, comes then, that since the Bible is out of step and out-of-date and what is contained in it is no longer valid, we then become free to chase after our favorite sins without any internal guilt at all. Homosexuality becomes mainstream and acceptable. Heterosexual promiscuity becomes commonplace. So commonplace that if you are a virgin before you get married even the first time is rare. Greed becomes acceptable. Screwing other people over to get what we want becomes OK. Being a baby daddy instead of a father in the home becomes acceptable and common place. Being a single mom becomes a norm rather than an aberration. All the things that God gave us as rules and regulations for an orderly society and one where He knows what is best for us and just wants to prevent us from harming ourselves become open season. These things become commonplace in as we become more enlightened, as we think of ourselves.

 

We think that without all that judgment of the Old Testament dragging us down and keeping us from self-actualizing our own desires and dreams, we are free to become and do what we want to do. It is more enlightened to allow ourselves to pursue and act upon our desires than it is to blindly and faithfully accept that God says it is wrong so therefore we obey. Without the Old Testament, we make Jesus our friend and not a necessity for life eternal. Without the Old Testament and its judgment, we can offset our bad deeds with good ones. If we do more good than bad, then, we will exist in an eternal happy state of perfection. You know this. You see all around us. Even some Christians really and truly believe this because they are “New Testament Christians” going to “New Testament churches.”

 

You have heard unchurched people say that they love the God of the New Testament and that they do not care for the God of the Old Testament. You hear Christ followers sometimes say, when they have not been discipled properly, that they are “New Testament Christians” and sometimes you hear churches call themselves a “New Testament church” to gain some greater appeal to the masses. We just want to write-off the Old Testament altogether. We think of God, in the Old Testament, as one who is full of anger, rules, regulations, and punishment. We think of God, in the Old Testament, as ruthlessly rigid. There was a famous line from the movie, Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey, where Bruce says to God, “Smite me, oh mighty Smiter!” Many of us so completely have this view of God that they will not even consider reading a book of the Old Testament. Too much smiting! Too much judgment! We do not want God’s judgment coming down on us!

 

However, when you read this passage in context of the previous passages and in context of the previous books, this concept of God of the Old Testament is just so mistaken. Let us read about this supposed “wrathful God of the Old Testament” that we think of as mean and ruthless (mainly because we have never taken the time to read the Old Testament):

 

13 Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. 14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. 15 If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 16 ‘The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness.’

 

17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

 

20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. 25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.”

 

Here in this passage, Numbers 14:13-25, we see an Old Testament God that is different from the common conception. Here, we see Moses pleading with God, asking Him to forgive his people. His plea reveals several of the characteristics of God that are a theme throughout the Bible and not just the New Testament. First, God is patient. Second, God’s love for us is enduring. Third, God is always willing to forgive. Fourth, God is merciful. This is not exactly wrathful, mean, kid stomping on an ant hill kind of God, right?

 

First before we get into to some of God’s characteristics on display here. Should God be a God of judgment? If we accept the premise that God exists, and I do, and that He created the universe, as I do, then by extension it must mean that He is an amazingly powerful and knowledgeable entity. He is all knowing and thus can establish how the universe works with all its intricate details and processes working together in tandem that makes this whole universe work synchronously. The laws of the cause and effect of the universe were created by Him. It makes the universe operate. He created all the mechanical laws of the universe and of our planet to make sure it does not all go spinning out of control. These laws of the universe, of causes and an effects, have existed since the universe was created by Him. These laws will be in effect til the end of time. They are unchangeable. So, then, if He defines how the universe works, then, why can He not define right from wrong. He can and does.

 

Therefore, his laws of human behavior would have been in Him since the beginning of time, even before man came onto the scene of universal existence, and would then be forever true both from the beginning of time, to now, and to the end of time. Could you not stipulate that? Therefore, in the logic of the universe and in the economy of God would it not be equally true that if we violated and an eternally true law of human behavior established by the Creator of the universe, then, would we not stand in judgment before the Lord for this crime of subverting and eternally true law. Do we not deserve judgment when we do wrong? With our parents, we get punished as children when we do wrong and we accept that as being acceptable. In a court of law, crimes are always punished in one way or another. There is always some price to be paid for violating the laws established by society. If we have committed a crime, we may negotiate a lesser sentence but there is always an acceptable supposition that we must pay for our crime in some way. We might bring up our past behavior of always being a law-abiding citizen and it may work for us to lessen our sentence but that does not take away from the basic premise that we must pay for our violation of law of our society. We operate, as a society, from a premise that if found guilty that you must pay for your crime, plain and simple. There is a premise that some price must be paid, whether it be large or small, for violations no matter how good we have been before we committed our violation of an established law of our society.

 

It is the same way with God’s judgment. He, who is eternally true and who established what is right and what is wrong in our universe, has a right to judge us. There is a penalty to be paid for our sins. Even if we act as if the laws do not exist, it does not make God’s law not exist. Claiming ignorance of the law in a human courtroom is no defense. Neither is it in God’s courtroom. One violation of universal and eternal laws of God deserves punishment. We will be judged. In eternal terms, that means that if we violate God’s law, it makes us unclean and imperfect before a holy and just God. Our crime, our sins, require that we be taken away from God and cast into hell, where we will be eternally punished and eternally separated from His presence because of the black mark on us for having committed sin, violations of God’s established law. Just like a crime is on your record when you violate human law, we are eternally marked as imperfect and unworthy of being in the presence of God. So, there you have it, God does have a right, as the Creator of the universe and being the all-knowing writer of the laws of human behavior, to judge us.

 

However, we find here in this passage, that God uses restraint in His judgment. He is not some kid with a magnifying glass over an ant hill just waiting capriciously to burn us up. First, we see here that God is immensely patient with us. He is willing to give us every opportunity to turn away from our sins. Why do you think He has not ended the world already? He is waiting as long as He can so that we all have the opportunity to turn away from sin and return to Him.

 

God’s love for us is eternal and abiding. He does not want to us cast us into hell. He does not condemn us to hell. We do that ourselves through our rejection of God and thumbing our nose up at Him as some antiquated creation of man to keep society from doing whatever feels good to its citizens. God want to be in relationship with us. However, our sins get in the way and they must be punished. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can regain our purity and have our black marks erased. God is showing his love for His people here in this passage. Because He has the right to punish us by casting us out and eternally separated us from Him, His love for us is shown in this passage. That He was willing to let His people survive another day shows His unending love for His children. Just as a parent continues to love a child even though they have done wrong and must suffer the consequences of it, the parent does not stop loving the child. God allows us to deal with the consequences of our sin but that does not mean He stops loving us. That love is on display here in this passage. God is not being some mighty Smiter here, is He?

 

God is a forgiving God. Here, he forgives the obvious rebellion of His people against Him. Yet, even though they have sinned, He is willing to forgive them and give them the opportunity to return to obedience and they will be restored to a right relationship with Him. His forgiving nature is on display here. Just think of all the rebellions of the people in Exodus and here in Numbers. When you read through the Old Testament books you see the cycles of obedience and rebellion of the people of God. God’s wrath, the allowing of us to pay the consequence of our sin, is equally matched with His forgiving nature when His people came to their senses and repented of their sins. He is the same way with each one of us today. He will forgive every sin and restore us to a right relationship with Him through the perfection of Jesus Christ if we simply repent. All of His wrath against our sin has already been paid for by Jesus Christ. Therefore, all we must do to receive God’s reprieve of our sentence for sin is to proclaim Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. He will forgive us through that proclamation and belief. The only way that we see Jesus as Savior is to understand that we are sinners in need of a reprieve. We must turn from our sin. Repent. We will be forgiven, just as God continually forgave the Israelites.

 

God is a merciful God. His mercy is on display here through not smiting the Israelites. He had every right to judge them and smite them, if you will. He loves His children to the point of showing mercy upon them even when they do not deserve it. The people here, even if you are just reading the Bible as interesting literature and not the Holy Word of God, are just plain rebellious and deserve punishment. Non-believers reading this chapter would agree with you that, man, these guys are just stupid and deserve punishment from this fictional god in this story. They would agree with the premise of the literature that, though God had a right to punish, he showed mercy. For us as believers, it demonstrates the character of the Almighty God who created all things and who is our Judge. He is like a parent just wanting His kids to get it and learn to live in the ways that He knows is best for them. He wants them to have every opportunity to “get it” so He shows mercy. We have been shown mercy by God through Jesus Christ. As we have stated before, in human courts of law, ignorance of the law or demonstrating that we have been good boys or good girls outside of this crime does not take away the need for punishment for a violation of the law. A price must be paid for violations of the law or anarchy would result. It is the same with God, our sins taint us forever. We have black marks on our record from the time we commit our first sin not to mention all the sins we add to it after that. We are repeat, habitual sinners before the court of God. We deserve to be thrown into the worst prison. However, Jesus enters the courtroom as the defense attorney for us before the Father. He says that I will take the punishment for this criminal if you will set Him free as if He had committed no crimes. God is merciful through Jesus and we see His mercy here way back in the Old Testament days.

 

God has not changed. He is the same now as He was yesterday. He is the same today as He will be in the future. There is no Old Testament God and New Testament God. He is the same. He judged then, after so many opportunities to get their stuff together, and he judges now, after giving us every opportunity to repent. Without really reading the Old Testament, we fail to see the right that God has to judge us and we fail to see that His love for us is so often on display there. We fail to see that our continued rebellion despite His love gives Him the right to judge us. Without the Old Testament and its laws and its judgment established, Jesus becomes an option not the absolute necessity that He is. God was merciful then and He is merciful now. He forgives through our repentance. But we first must recognize that we have sinned. Without the Old Testament, we do not know we have such great rebellion in us that God has every right to condemn us. Without the Old Testament, we do not see the extreme love and patience that God has shown us and that we must throw ourselves at His mercy through Jesus Christ. I am not New Testament Christian. I am a whole Bible Christian. Without the whole Bible, we fail to see the patience, the abiding love, the forgiving nature, and, yet, at the same time, the rightful justice of God. Without those things, Jesus becomes one path of many to goodness and not the absolutely necessary covering for our sins that, by all rights, should condemn us to hell eternally. That’s my Bible. That’s my Jesus, my absolutely necessary Jesus!

 

Amen and Amen.