Did He have to Die? H.C. Question 40

Why did Christ have to suffer death?

Genesis 2:17 – but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Romans 6:23a – For the wages of sin is death…

Romans 8:3-4 – 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 fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Philippians 2:8 – And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Hebrews 2:9 – But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Crucifixion: H.C. Question 39

Is it significant that he was “crucified” instead of dying some other way?

Galatians 3:10-13 – For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

Deuteronomy 21:23 – you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

Pilate: H.C. Question 38

Why did he suffer “under Pontius Pilate” as judge?

Luke 23:13-24 – Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand.

John 19:4 – Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.”

John19:12-16 – From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparationof the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.

Isaiah 53:4-5 – Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 3:13 – Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

Suffered: H.C. Question 37 (part 2)

What do you understand by the word “suffered”?

1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

1 Peter 3:1 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

Romans 3:25 – 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—

Hebrews 10:14 – For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

1 John 2:2 – He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 – This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 8:1-4 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 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 fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Galatians 3:13 – Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

John 3:16 – For 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.

Romans 3:24-26 – and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 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.

Day 226: Jeremiah 24-26; The Good and the Bad

Today we read all about the 1st exile to Babylon.  Yes, I said the first.  See, Nebuchadnezzar actually attacked Jerusalem twice, first when Jehoiachin was king of Judah and then again 10 years later when Jerusalem and the Temple were utterly destroyed.  Jeremiah is living in this time, speaking to the people about the troubles and hardship they are about to endure, the judgment and exile that are taking and will take place in the coming years.  What is interesting about this message of Jeremiah’s is that it contains no call to repentance to the people of Judah nor does it give any good way out.  Jeremiah has turned the focus of the message from avoiding the disaster to the proper and appropriate response to it.  This is what the vision of the figs is all about in chapter 24.

The good figs represented the exile to Babylon, oddly enough.  This didn’t have anything to do with the good that was in them, but because their hearts were open and would respond to God in this time of difficulty.  Because of their openness and because they would be transformed and refined by this time, God would preserve them and eventually bring them back to the land.  God, through Jeremiah, makes the point of saying time and again that He would watch over them while they were in exile.  There is no where they could go that would be too far for His watchful eye.  There is a promise here in chapter 24:6-7 of God’s work to bring them back to the land and to rebuild His nation through them.

The bad figs, however, are the people who did not go as captives to Babylon.  They remained in the land somehow or escaped to Egypt, a rather obvious irony if you ask me and a blatant act of disobedience against the Law of God as well.  But that would have been par for the course for these people, and that’s really the point.  They are choosing to not trust in God’s providence of faithfulness in this crisis.  In many ways, it seems like they are thinking that they would actually be blessed because they didn’t go into exile, that they could somehow escape the judgment and the hardship that is to come.  Interestingly, one of the commentaries I read suggested that the people believed that their blessing was tied solely to the land itself, not the God that gave it to them.

I wonder if we too don’t sometimes think that way as well.  We strive desperately to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, a happy equilibrium where we feel happy and blessed.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself, the sole pursuit of this can actually pull our hearts away from God.  We begin to pay more attention to the holding on to our things than we do to God who gave them to us.  “Trouble,” this commentary points out, “is a blessing when it makes us stronger, and prosperity is a curse if it entices us away from God.”  Perhaps, like the people of God, we need to not look at trouble as being completely bad, but as an opportunity to embrace God’s moving and work towards growing us up in Him.

Day 164: Psalms 55-60; More on Praying, Lamenting, and Justice

Today’s reading is all about praying prayers of lament.  Each and every one of these Psalms is lamenting something, and though they were likely songs as well, these are definitely prayers to God about things that were going on in David’s life.  What strikes me about these prayers is the diversity of things that David is bringing to the Lord and the diversity of situations that these psalms encompass.  Its no secret that David was in trouble a lot during the first part of his life, but what seems to also be a constant for him is the fact that in all things he goes to God for help.

Prayer Requests

Prayer Requests

I find this interesting and striking not because I don’t go to God with some my problems, nor that I think God is unable to handle my problems, but mostly because I don’t know that I often practice what I believe when it comes to going to God and trusting in God through all the things of life.  If we look at these psalms and place them alongside all of the other songs and prayers of lament that are written in the psalms, we see very quickly that when it comes to having a problem in life, the model for us is to go directly to God with it.  What we see is a humble, trusting, hope filled servant of God living his life openly and transparently before God.  David in particular is quick to praise, quick to thank, and quick to bring his laments before God.  What we do not see is a whiny complainer than just comes to God if and when he has a problem.

As we talked about a couple days ago, this is often how we view God; a sort of cosmic vending machine if you will.  We insert our prayers and out pops divine help.  While I can’t say that this particular form of prayer won’t elicit help from God almighty, I do know that God desires more from us than simply asking for His help when we have a problem that we can’t solve on our own.  God desires a relationship with us; one that is open and honest through the roller coaster of life’s emotions.  As we have seen in this model that is set forth by David’s own life, the man that is described ans being “after God’s own heart.”  Again, He is quick to praise, quick to thank, and quick to lament.  Its certainly not that we shouldn’t bring our concerns before God.  In fact Scripture says in Philippians 4 that we should bring all things before the Lord:

 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.



A quick note about Imprecatory (praying for justice on one’s enemies/evil) prayer:  David also gives us a model for what appropriate imprecatory prayer is.  Each of the Psalm today have an imprecatory quality towards them.  In the wake of 9/11 and with all of the horrific things that are going on in the world with bombings, war, violence, etc. I think that we hear very often that we should be more concerned with praying for our attackers and forgiving the evil people than we should be praying for justice to be done.  Let me first say that it is not wrong and is in fact very appropriate to pray for forgiveness of an aggressor or an enemy, and even to pray that they come to know the forgiveness and saving love of Jesus Christ.  However, as we see here, it is also not wrong to pray for justice and David shows us an appropriate way to do just that.  David doesn’t pray out of a motivation for vengeance or out of some personal grudge against someone he just wants to see get their dues, he prays for God’s justice to be done.  God’s justice is perfectly just and comes without malice or contempt.  God does not punish in rage or hatred, but out of love and the desire that one would learn and come to know Him.  Even Jesus, as He taught His Disciples to pray, taught them to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, a Kingdom in which true justice shall reign.

So if you are going to pray an imprecatory prayer, take a moment and check yourself.  It is perfectly ok to desire justice and peace on earth, but be sure that your prayers are not motivated by any selfish thoughts or emotions.  Rather, ask God that His justice would come and that His Kingdom would come on earth as it is in Heaven.  I leave you with the next verses of Philippians 4 as food for thought:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

PSALM 55-60 are all prayers of Lament written by David that are both imprecatory and didactic in nature.

Day 63: Joshua 5-7; Obedience and Disobedience

It’s nice to be into an area of the Bible with familiar stories again.  The battles of Jericho and AI are probably the most familiar in the conquest of Canaan.  Our reading today is a narrative that directly comes from four(ish) particular passages that we have already read this year regarding the life of Israel and their living at God commanded them.

1.  Circumcision/Passover:  Joshua 5 happens right after the Israelites have crossed the Jordan River.  Scripture tells us that the hearts of the people in the land melted because God had dried up the river.  Like the Egyptians, the people of Canaan worshiped many gods, one of which probably had something to do with water.  God’s showing of power here would have been a sign that the God of Israel was stronger than this god.  When they have crossed the river, the chapter says that they all perform the act of circumcision.  Scripture explains that none of the children were circumcised as they were wandering in the wilderness, but if we remember back to Abraham in Genesis 17, we will know that the sign of the covenant relationship between Israel and God is circumcision.  As the people have now been, in a way, baptized, they once again recommit themselves to the Lord performing a sign that they belong to God.  Scripture also tells us that rather than going up immediately and taking Jericho, they spend time (7 days) encamped across the Jordan celebrating the Passover.  If you remember back to Exodus 12, God commands the people of Israel always to remember the Passover on the 14th day of the 1st month.  Joshua 4 says that Israel crossed over on the 10th day of the first month, after which they were immediately circumcised, healed for 3 days, and the celebrated the Passover.  That’s a whole lot of remembering and being re-membered, or once again claiming their identity as God’s people in one week.

2. Obedience (Jericho):  The Battle of Jericho, apart from being a miraculous victory that is attributable to none other that God, is a narrative about the blessings and victory that are found when the people of Israel obey God.  You see in this story that there is no disobedience, the people do as they are told, and everything goes right.  If we remember back to Leviticus 26 or Deuteronomy 28 we see that there are specific blessings that the Lord lays out for the people of Israel when they obey him.  The Battle of Jericho is a narrative that remembers all the good that comes from obedience as well as the faithfulness and power of God.

3. Disobedience (AI):  The Battle of AI is, in stark contrast to Jericho, a narrative about what happens when the people are disobedient.  Remembering once again Leviticus 26 or Deuteronomy 28 there are also lists of specific curses that will come with disobedience.  Where the people found victory in the Lord at Jericho, they met with the defeat of themselves at AI.  Sad as it may be, the sin of one person reflects on the whole community, which may not seem fair to us, but is none-the-less true in this situation.  The anger of the Lord “burns against the people of Israel” because of Achan. and until he is punished for his sin there will be no blessing for obedience.  Again, this is one more way that God is teach the people of Israel about the need for obedience, and showing them what it truly means to have their identity in Him as His people.  They are to be holy ans He is Holy, which cannot be accomplished or realized if even one has sinned and disobeyed the command of God.