The cross!

I don’t want to seem to be undermining the resurrection.  As the Bible shows, Jesus raising from the death shows the power, the wisdom, the sovereignty of God, etc. (Acts 2:24; Romans 4:24, 6:4; Colossians 2:12, etc.). But today, I want to talk about the cross.

When praying today, it came to my mind that the cross of Christ was not a reason to cry. Sometimes, Good Friday, the death of Christ is seen as a moment of mourning, a reason to be sad while it is a reason to rejoice and praise God.  The cross is, among other things:

  • the power a God (For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18);
  • a reason to boast (But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14);
  • the mean of reconciliation with God (and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Ephesians 2: 16);
  • our redemption (And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2: 13- 15);
  • God’s victory (Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2: 14-15).

The cross was not a weakness of God. It was a proof that He was God, the Author of life, the One who holds all things in His hands, the Master of everything. It was a demonstration of power, mercy, love and sovereignty. As Peter said, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28)

I don’t understand everything about predestination, but I know something for sure: Christ dying on the cross was not a failure, a defeat. God wasn’t sitting there, crying and waiting for Sunday morning to happen. He was reigning and victorious, totally sovereign and righteous, totally merciful and God. As the song says: “My soul does magnify the Lord and my spirit praises His name for death could not hold Him captive; even in the grave Jesus is Lord; for death could not hold him captive, even in the grave Jesus is Lord”.

Yes, even on the cross, even in the grave, even dead and buried, even nailed, and mocked, even pierced, Jesus was Lord!

Advertisements

Blessed He is

served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:25)
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:5)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (2 Corinthians 1:3)
The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. (2 Corinthians 11:31)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 1:3)

in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1 Timothy 1:11)

which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, (1 Timothy 6:5)

waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:13)

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Peter 1:3)

Beauty

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

Life is hard. We see our dreams fly away and sometimes it seems like hope is nowhere to be found. There are so many things we need and desire, so many things that we have asked for again and again. There are so many things that hurt us, so many things that threaten to destroy us.  And we almost forget the beauty of life, the beauty of beholding the glory of God, the beauty of being transformed into His image. Whatever your life looks like today, even if it looks ugly, there is beauty in it. Open your eyes and your heart and behold it!

Esra’s heart

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (Ezra 7:10 ESV)

I don’t know if there is something to add. I am speechless before Ezra’s heart.  I want to be as determined as he was to know God’s word, to understand it, and to obey and teach it. When you set your heart, there is no place for being lukewarm; there is no place for compromising a little. When you set your heart, God is first, His honor is your goal, pleasing Him your pleasure, and you will let nothing come between you and His will.

That is the kind of woman I dream and pray to be. That is the kind of person I pray you will be.

Isaiah’s song

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.” The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them. O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. O LORD our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance. They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them. But you have increased the nation, O LORD, you have increased the nation; you are glorified; you have enlarged all the borders of the land. O LORD, in distress they sought you; they poured out a whispered prayer when your discipline was upon them. Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O LORD; we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen. Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. (Isaiah 26:1-19 ESV)

“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.” The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them. O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. O LORD our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance. They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them. But you have increased the nation, O LORD, you have increased the nation; you are glorified; you have enlarged all the borders of the land. O LORD, in distress they sought you; they poured out a whispered prayer when your discipline was upon them. Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O LORD; we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen. Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. (Isaiah 26:1-19 ESV)

Blessings

A life that praises the LORD.

Why Will You Die, Israel? “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:10-11)

Still thinking of Judah, of how his life gave praise to God.  He was not a spiritual giant. People never want to be more like Judah. There are songs and sermons about Joseph and nothing about Judah.

Judah was a mean, envious and bitter man.  He was the one who suggested to sell Joseph, manipulating his brother to accept his idea. Moreover he left his family and married a Canaanite. Then he refused to give Tamar, his daughter-in-law, to his youngest son and slept with her thinking she was a prostitute.

But God’s grace looks beyond our sins and blesses repentance. Judah could have let Tamar be burned, but instead he recognised his unrighteousness. He could have taken advantage of her, but never touched her again (Genesis 38:24-26). Then he went back to his family (Genesis 42:1-3) and used his influence for good.  He took not only the place, but also the responsibility of the leader (Genesis 43:1-10).  And when Joseph wanted to keep Benjamin as slave, Judah offered to take his place. His bitterness and envy were gone and replaced by compassion and mercy. He was ready to die to serve the other most loved son (Genesis 44).

Judah was a sinner. The kind we can easily look down upon. But he had a repentant heart. The kind of heart that pleases God. And therefore his life praised the Lord.

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus… (Acts 3:19-20)

This time I will praise the Lord!

Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you… The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Genesis 49:8-10)

Have you ever wondered why the Messiah is from the tribe of Judah? Why from Judah and not from Joseph, “who was set apart from his brothers.”? (Genesis 49:29)?

Maybe because He is the only son of Jacob that was for the glory of God. His other sons were for the glory of their parents. They chose their names for their own gratification.

Reuben was chosen  “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”;  Simeon “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.”;  Levi for, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”; Dan for “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.”; Naphtali for “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” ; Gad for “Good fortune has come!” ; Asher for “Happy am I! For women have called me happy.”; Issachar for “God has given me my wages because I gave my servant to my husband.”; Zebulun for “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons.”; Joseph for “God has taken away my reproach.”, and “May the Lord add to me another son!”; and Benjamin means son of the right hand. (Genesis 29: 32-34, 30: 6-13, 18-20, 22-24, 35:18)

But Judah’s name was given to Him for the LORD’s sake (Genesis 29:35). Because after all, the LORD is worthy of being praised, and not only because of His blessings, but because of who He is. And in some way, Judah’s life was a praise to the Lord.