Tag Archives: righteousness

Innocent Blood

The author of the book of Hebrews wrote to people who were struggling to understand what it meant for them as Jews to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah promised when God said to Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3 NIV). Toward the end of chapter 12, the author says, “You have not come to a mountain that cannot be touched,” referring to Sinai, the place where the nation of Israel was born.

At Sinai, God established his absolute righteousness in the minds and hearts of the descendants of Abraham. He enforced their respect for his righteousness by requiring them to keep their distance. He showed them the difference between himself and sinful humanity. He threatened them with death if they came near enough to touch the mountain on which he met Moses and wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets with his own finger. According to the man who penned the book of Hebrews, even Moses said, “I am trembling with fear” (Hebrews 12:21 NIV).

This same writer, however, comforts the Hebrew readers who are trying to understand how Jesus of Nazareth could be the Messiah by saying to them that instead of a mountain that nobody dares to touch, they may approach Mount Zion, because Jesus has mediated a new covenant in his own blood. Jesus, perfectly sinless, satisfied the righteousness of God in his own blood. Innocent of any wrongdoing, just like Abel, the first murder victim, the blood of Jesus cries out to God, just as Abel’s blood did. However, even though Abel was innocent when he was murdered, Abel was a sinful human being. His blood cried out his innocence, but his blood could not cleanse humans of sin, because Abel was as sinful as anyone else. Jesus, however, was not only innocent, but also sinless. The author of Hebrews says that Jesus is “the mediator of a new covenant,” and the sprinkled blood of Jesus “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

Our world is, sad to say, filled with the sprinkled blood of innocent human beings. Every day, more babies are killed by abortion than were killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. In the US alone, more than 3,000 babies die every day by abortion. That is a lot of innocent blood. While nobody says that babies are sinless like Jesus, it is obvious that they are innocent–as innocent as Abel. Their blood cries out for God’s judgment as surely as Abel’s blood did.

The blood of Jesus speaks a better word than Abel’s blood, and it certainly speaks a better word than the blood of innocent babies. Christ’s blood speaks of righteous cleansing and purification from sin and guilt. If 3,000 babies die every day by abortion, then 3,000 mothers are suffering from the guilt of those murders. Each person who performs even one of those abortions suffers the guilt of knowing that an innocent human being died at his or her hands during each abortion. Nurses, aides, and even receptionists know the mayhem in which they are participating, and if they ever stop to listen, the blood of those innocents will call out to them for God’s judgment.

The blood of Jesus, on the other hand, calls out for God’s forgiveness. The righteousness of God is poured out over every human being who chooses to receive forgiveness though Christ. The righteous blood of Christ can cleanse all mothers who have given up their babies to abortion, as well as abortionists, nurses, technicians and office staff who have participated in the murderous processes of abortion. The blood of Abel cried out, “I am innocent!” The blood of aborted babies cries out, “I am innocent!” The blood of Christ cries out, “God loves you. Come be cleansed of your guilt. Be purified. Be forgiven for the sin of shedding innocent blood.” At Sinai, the righteousness of God pushed the people away, lest they be destroyed by his righteousness. At Calvary, the righteousness of Christ pulls people toward him, in order to cleanse them of their unrighteousness. Sinful, guilt-ridden people, covered in the blood of innocent babies, can be cleansed of their guilt if they turn away from murder and choose life in Christ.

This is the better message spoken by the blood of Christ.

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Hymn Meditation

Psalm 23

My shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is his name;
In pastures fresh he makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.

He brings my wand’ring spirit back
When I forsake his ways;
And leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.

Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread,
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days:
O may thy house be mine abode,
And all my work be praise!

There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home.

By Isaac Watts
In the Public Domain
Source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/watts/psalmshymns.Ps.54.html

  • This hymn is based on Psalm 23. How do verse 1 and 2 of the hymn enhance the thoughts inspired by Psalm 23:1-3?
  • Isaac Watts faces his fears emboldened and comforted by God’s presence. The psalmist relied on the shepherd’s rod and staff. What encourages Isaac Watts?
  • Enemies may be individual people, or they may be forces at work in the culture. What enemies besiege you when you are enjoying the fellowship of the Lord?
  • Surveys in contemporary culture reveal that few people consider weekly worship in a building with other worshipers to be a big priority. Compare the view of worship described by Isaac Watts with the psalmist’s description. Compare these views with comments people of your acquaintance make about worship. Why do Christians need to gather with other Christians for worship? How would you explain that need to a secular thinker?

Stop and Think about a Hymn

hymnalMy Hope is Built on Nothing Less

by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

1. My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Refrain:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

2. When Darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
(Refrain)

3. His oath, his covenant, his blood
supports me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.
(Refrain)

4. When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne!
(Refrain)

 

 

 

 

Text: based on 1 Timothy 1:1,
source http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh368.sht
Author: Edward Mote, c. 1834
Text in the public domain

  • Why is it safe to build your hope on nothing more than Jesus, his blood and his righteousness? Who is Jesus, anyway?
  • Verse 2 explains what hope is. The theme is that we can count on Jesus, who is God in the flesh, because he will always do what he says he will do. How is that different from wishful thinking?
  • A young Christian girl in Nigeria was kidnapped by Boko Haram. She was given the choice to convert to Islam or to be chained to a bed and raped repeatedly. All her earthly props have given way. What is her hope?
  • Each Sunday we testify to our faith in the words of the creed. What does this hymn say in the fourth verse that parallels our creeds?
  • How do you understand Christ’s oath, his covenant, and his blood. How will you become clothed in the righteousness of Christ in the new earth?

Who Promised What? Why Does It Matter?

Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward Genesis 15:1 NIV

We are familiar with the words covenant and testament as used in the Bible. We read the Old Testament and the New Testament, and we understand them to represent different “contracts” with humankind. The verse quoted above initiates the certification of one of the oldest of the “contracts.”

The story goes this way.

God addresses Abram and promises him protection, reward, and heirs. When Abram asks, “How can I know …? God tells him to do something that seems very peculiar to modern ears. He tells Abram to gather up a number of animals, which Abram slaughters and divides. He lays the halves of the animals opposite each other and guards the slaughtered beasts from predators.

After a time, Abram has a vision. God makes a prophecy, and then Abram sees God pass between the pieces of the slaughtered beasts. “A smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed through the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram” Genesis 15:17-18 NIV.

The image of God as a fire is a familiar one. The notion of God traversing the path between halves of slaughtered animals seems almost barbaric. To make sense of it, we need to know that this process was an ancient ceremony of commitment to a contract. Passing between the pieces of slaughtered animals was a way of saying, “May it be to me as to these animals if I break this covenant.” In this story of the covenant with Abram, God passes through the field of slaughter, and in so doing he says, May I become a bloody victim like these beasts if I ever break my covenant.”

Just as we expect both parties to a contemporary contract to sign their names, in ancient times, both parties were expected to pass between the beasts. Yet in this story, there is no record that Abram took that walk. God took the entire burden of the covenant upon himself.

What became of that covenant? The Bible tells a sad story. Abram’s descendants could not make up their minds what they believed. They felt little obligation to the God who had committed himself to a bloody fate if He ever failed them. Story after story reveals that they were incapable of an equivalent and reciprocal commitment.

  • “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord” Judges 3:7 NIV
  • ”They provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols” 1 Kings 16:33 NIV
  • “They did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites “ 2 Chronicles 33:9 NIV

And how did the God who had committed himself to a blood-enforced covenant react?

  • “To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I” Isaiah 65:1
  • “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock “ Jeremiah 23:3
  • “Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them” Ezekiel 23:3
  • “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?” Hosea 11:8

Over and over, the Bible records the story—Abram’s descendants scorned the God who offered to become as a slaughtered beast in order to affirm his covenant with them. They, who had offered nothing, cried out to the God they scorned when trouble arose, but when times were good, they had no use for Him. There were two parties to the covenant, but only one had ever offered to do anything to restore the covenant if it were broken. One party remained steadfastly committed to the agreement. The other party trampled the covenant underfoot and scorned the whole idea as too limiting on personal freedom. You might ask, who would ever make good on this covenant?

“When they came to the place of the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right hand, the other on his left” Luke 23:32 NIV

When God made a covenant with his people, he offered to become as a slaughtered beast in order to demonstrate his commitment to the covenant. On a hill outside Jerusalem He passed in the midst of slaughter again. He said again, “May it be so to me,” not because He had broken the covenant, but because we have broken it.

Imagine that you found you found yourself unable to pay the mortgage on your house. Imagine further that you had bad-mouthed the banker all over town for sending you dunning letters after you first defaulted on your payments. Then imagine that your banker said, “I’ll personally borrow the money and pay this mortgage for you.” That scenario is still more credible than the idea that the God of all creation would permit himself to be tortured and killed because we are not able to keep our promises.

Human beings do not have a good record of keeping promises. We fail, because the promise is inconvenient. We fail, because we promise what we have no power to keep. We fail, because our sense of commitment wears out and we cannot talk ourselves into it again. Yet the God who creates fulfillment of his Word by the mere act of speaking that Word never fails to keep His promises. When He was ready to show all the world that he meant business, He sent his Son into the world, and His Son explained why he was here. He was here to be the slaughtered beast that restored the broken covenant between God and man.

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him “ John 3:16-17 NIV

God keeps all his promises. You can count on him.

 

A Verse for Meditation

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. The Lord loves the righteous.
Psalm 146:8

  • Why do we bow before the Lord? Why don’t we bow when we meet good friends?
  • What does it mean to be bowed down before the Lord? When was the last time you would have described yourself as “bowed down before the Lord?”
  • Do you think the Lord is picky because he loves the righteous? Do you think you are righteous?
  • How can anyone be righteous before the Lord? What does it mean when the Bible says that the Lord treate Abraham’s faith in action as his righteousness?
  • Why does the Lord care if you are bowed down? Think of situations where you have felt defeated, stymied, shamed, or otherwise less than valuable that might mean you are “bowed down.” Is a person oppressed and enslaved automatically bowed down?