Less than our Sins Deserve
“What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved” (Ezra 9:13).
I remember throwing the football in the house as a kid. I was throwing the touchdown pass to my sister but she didn’t catch it. I threw it over her head. And hit my mom’s collection of fancy things. And I broke a bowl that her mom had passed down to her.
What happened was my fault. I couldn’t blame it on my sister and I certainly couldn’t blame it on my mom. And yet my mom was not angry with me. She was upset that the bowl was broken. It was special to her. But she didn’t take it out on me. And she even cleaned up the mess I made, the broken shards of her bowl I broke.
I’m thankful my mom showed kindness even though I didn’t deserve it. But I’m especially thankful that God shows kindness even when we don’t deserve it. God, since the beginning, has punished us less than our sins deserve.
God even takes the consequences of our sin upon Himself in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. Upon Him was the punishment that brings us peace (See Isaiah 53). The wages of sin is death and eternal separation from God in whom alone there is life, yet Jesus takes the wages upon Himself and pays the price we owed.
God has compassion on us and through Jesus casts our sin into the depth of the sea (Micah 7:19). Jesus removes our sin from us, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). God does not give us as our sins deserve. He gives grace.
We deserve to be paid death for the sin and ruin we’ve worked (Romans 6:23). That’s our due. Yet, God has “punished us less than our sins deserved” (Ezra 9:13).
Every day and every good thing is an undeserved gift of God. From the smile of a dog to the sip of cider, it’s all an undeserved gift from God. Every good and perfect gift comes from our Father above (James 1:17). And it’s a gift because it is underserved. We did not earn it.
*Photo by Alvan Nee
Noah’s Ark and the Bible’s Narrative Arc
“…the whole earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen. 6:11b-12).
The story of Noah and his ark has always been a difficult story. Knowing the context of the story is helpful though.
So, what was going on before God destroys the world with a flood?
Well, just a few chapters earlier we see that God made an incredibly good and beautiful creation (see e.g. Gen. 1:31). We see God made people–all people–with dignity and worth (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-2). We see God gave people good things to do (Gen.1:28).
But, we also see, humans didn’t listen. We see that in the Fall of humanity (Gen. 3), the first murder (Gen. 4:8), and the growing corruption and violence (Gen. 6:5). In Genesis, we go from God and good creation to growing corruption very quickly (that’s also representational of my own tendency).
It was not God who “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” That’s what humans had already done. Humans damaged and defiled the very thing that would have brought them endless delight. Humans turn from fresh fulfilling water to putrid puddles.
But, that’s not it. Humans also hate. They hate humans that were made with the dignity of God. They hate and they hurt. They abuse and injure. And even kill.
Before God destroyed the world in the flood, humans destroyed the world with their sin. In God’s act of destruction, He was actually bringing a type of deliverance. He could have, and in a sense considered, destroying the world completely (Gen. 6:6-7).
Yet, God worked through Noah, a mediator (Gen. 6:8ff), as He does, to bring salvation through judgment. God provided a type of rescue when wrath was deserved.
Ultimately we know, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, took the wrath of God and the violence of the world on Himself. When we understand the whole context of the story of Noah’s ark, we see it is not God at fault. He is not the guilty party for the destruction of the world.
Instead, we see we are at fault. We carry out atrocities. We turn from God, where alone there is life, to trifles and trivialities. We hate humans, who have eternal value and being, and love things that perish in a moment.
When the story of Noah’s ark is understood in context, from the perspective of the whole of redemptive history, we see how amazing it is that the LORD is both just and the justifier of the one who trusts in Jesus alone for rescue (see Rom. 3:25-26).
Proof of God’s Grace #1: Planned Grace
The Bible shows us over and over again proof of God’s abundant grace. Here we are going to look at the acronym PROOF to look at God’s grace. We are going to look at: Planned grace, Resurrecting grace, Outrageous grace, Overcoming grace, and Forever grace.
Why is it important that we consider the proof of grace? First, because when we understand all the proof of God’s grace we praise and glorify God for His abundant grace. Second, anything that is the teaching of Scripture is important and profitable for us to understand (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Third, when we understand the extent of God’s grace it humbles us. Fourth, when we understand more of the extent of our desperation we will (or should) love God more (Lk. 7:47).
Is Jesus Really the Only Way?
A lot of people believe that all “good” people go to heaven.
“After all, isn’t being good what really matters? If someone is good and sincere in their beliefs then they should go to heaven. Plus, aren’t all religions basically the same?”
“How could a good God allow people to go to hell?”
However, it should be asked, does God want those people to go to hell? And has God provided a way for them to be saved? The answer to the first question we’ll see is no and the answer to the second question is yes.
First, Scripture repeatedly says things like God desires all humans to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Here are three more:
“The Lord is… not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?… For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live” (Ezek. 18:23, 32).
“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?” (Ezek. 33:11).
So, God’s desire is for people to come to a knowledge of the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins and be saved. That is God’s desire. However, that’s not it.
Second, God has also provided the way of salvation. The one God has provided the one way of salvation through the man Christ Jesus who is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
Imagine we were all on an island that a very wealthy and magnificent man owns. It is on fire and we all have to get off or we will die. Now, imagine that the owner of the island built a very large and sturdy bridge to the mainland so that people could escape. And in making the bridge he himself died.
As we saw in the previous post on the resurrection, Peter looked at Psalm 16 and showed how Jesus’ resurrection was foretold. In Acts 2 Peter goes on to show that Jesus is now at God’s right hand, as Psalm 110 foretold. Jesus Himself had quoted from Psalm 110 and stomped His critics (see e.g. Matt. 22:41-46). And when you look at 110:1 it’s not surprising that they were stomped.
So, we see that Jesus is at God’s right hand until… Until He makes His enemies His footstool. That means that Jesus is coming back—and the New Testament repeatedly says soon—to bring judgment, and pervasive peace through that judgment.
Jesus’ death and resurrection shows that He is indeed the Lord and Messiah. As the Lord and Messiah, He is coming back soon to vanquish every foe and establish His forever reign of peace. In His second coming, He will bring the Kingdom that was expected at His first coming. Read More…
Peter refers to this Davidic Psalm in Acts chapter 2. He said: “Fellow Israelites, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us today” (Acts 2:29). In short, David’s dead and his body rotted. David did, however, as a prophet tell us that one of his descendants would sit on his throne (v. 30). So, David seeing that in advance “spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: ‘His body was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay’” (v. 31).
Paul says it a little differently. He says King “David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption” (Acts 13:36). King David saw corruption. His body decomposed. So, David is not the “Holy One” that the Psalm refers to.
Paul goes on to say, “But He whom God raised up did not see corruption” (v. 37). Ding, ding, ding! Jesus is the Holy One! He is the long-awaited Messiah and forever King!
David knew that the LORD would place one of his descendants on the throne. How did he know this? Because…
The Righteous One was not delivered. The Righteous One was afflicted and slayed. The Righteous One was condemned, condemned to die the terrible death of a criminal and slave.
Jesus was slaughtered. But it was not a senseless slaughter.
As the centurion nearby Jesus acknowledged, something more was going on behind the scenes. The centurion would have observed many deaths and many crucifixions. And so, he is in a unique position to recognize the purity and power of Jesus. The centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent and the Son of God! (Lk. 23:47/Matt. 27:54; Mk. 15:39)
The centurion responded in that way after he saw Jesus call out and say, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” and breathe his last (Jn. 19:30/Lk. 23:46). The centurion must have been amazed by Jesus’ composure and everything else that had taken place surrounding Him. The centurion may have seen the way Jesus treated His enemies (Lk. 23:34), His promise to the criminal on the cross (v. 43), His prayer to God (v. 46), not to mention the ominous darkness (v. 44).
Jesus’ death was not senseless, but according to Scripture. The Righteous One was slain in between two criminals. Jesus was, as Isaiah says, “numbered with the transgressors.” Yet in being cursed Jesus was carrying out a rescue plan that had long since been written (Rev. 13:8). “When He was hung on the cross, He took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13).
Psalm 22 has an amazing amount of parallels with Jesus’ experience on the cross on Good Friday. It says he is surrounded by rough enemies that want to harm him (v. 12), he is attacked by their words (v. 13), he is exhausted and close to death (v. 14), he experiences fatal dehydration (v. 15), his hands and feet are pierced (v. 16), his bony frame is exposed (v. 17), and his garments are divided and cast lots for (v. 18 cf. Matt. 27:35).
Reading this Psalm you almost expect David to say something close to “Father, forgive them” because the account of Jesus’ crucifixion is foreshadowed so many times (see also Ps. 69:4, 9, 21). Instead, in somewhat of a parallel passage to this Psalm and in great contrast to Jesus, David calls for God’s burning anger to overtake his enemies (69:24), he pleads that God would “add to them punishment upon punishment” (v. 27), and that they would be “blotted out of the book of the living” and “not be enrolled among the righteous” (v. 28).
Messiah Jesus instead Himself receives punishment upon punishment, His life is blotted out, and He joins the unrighteous on a cursed cross (see Is. 53:9 and Matt. 27:38) to save His enemies, those who are far from Him. Jesus is the perfect lamb of God, the lamb without blemish, that takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:19).