On this week of thanksgiving, to most it simply means lots and lots of food. The giving of thanks is rarely performed in a manner that this holiday was intended for initially. Mostly it is being thankful for the day off and lots and lots of food, and maybe something special on TV
It was four years ago this weekend that I first stepped into this pulpit to speak and it was a giving-of-thanks styled message at that time too, though with more of a slant towards prayer, which is not the emphasis today.
I want to revisit that message only ever so briefly, simply to remind you of why this American holiday was originally established. In 1879, Washington established this holiday as a day of thanks for these reasons:
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country…
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and increase of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
So I ask – is that what Americans just celebrated and performed a few days ago? Sadly not – like almost all our founding traditions, the original intent has been ignored, lost and forgotten by the masses. And sadly the nation has forgotten the reason for this season, and the nation may have ceased giving thanks to Yahweh for all he has done, but I pray that the church never will.
The term thanksgiving simply means to express gratitude, especially to God. Today I wish to discuss an area that not one member of the body of Christ should ever cease giving thanks for – and that is in regard to the remission of sins. We look today at Psalm 32:1 which tells us:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (Psa 32:1 ESV)
The word blessed is so frequently used in Scripture and Christian talk in general that for me at least, it tends to be one of those religious words that is just always there, but doesn’t always hit home as to what it should mean. I like the way Young’s Literal puts it:
O the happiness of him whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. (Psa 32:1 YLT)
O the happiness – the happiness of him whose transgression is forgiven. Happiness – that emotion we are more familiar with that exists when we feel when something favorable to us has occurred, giving us great joy.
How much joy and happiness should the thought of receiving forgiveness from Yahweh bring to us? To think that such a thought should not stir up a great amount of thankfulness in a believer’s heart seems impossible to fathom – especially if the lack of forgiveness is truly understood.
If ever there was something that we could give thanks for everyday and not just this holiday season, then forgiveness of our transgressions and sin should be a thing that keeps us busy for life. So that is the topic we will be looking deeper into at this time.
What is it that is actually being forgiven here? The word used here for transgression signifies the act of passing over a boundary, or doing that which is prohibited. So basically, all of those actions which are done that should not have been committed. That is what is being forgiven – the things committed.
Forgiven is another one of those words that we breeze over and often take for granted. People may be quick to say “I forgive you” and go on with life, but what does it really mean? The word itself basically means to lift up, to bear, to carry off, or to take away. We see this symbolized in the sin offering we find mentioned in the old covenant Scriptures, for instance in Lev. 16, speaking of Aaron:
And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. "Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel. (Lev 16:5-10 ESV)
So, we see one of the goats here was used for an atonement, and then was sent away, removed from the camp, out into the wilderness. This is a symbolic view at what forgiveness means – it means the transgression and sin are carried out and away.
Of course I wish I had the time to divert attention to this verse specifically – as many of you probably read translations that do not say Azazel, but in its place actually say translate it as scapegoat. Because of this, this is exactly where we get the idea of a scapegoat from.
It is putting some transgression onto something else and letting it take the fall for it. However, this verse is best understood as directly tied in to the unseen realm and the whole divine council issue, with Azazel being understood as an entity, the pre-Mosaic name of an evil personal being, and not simply a term of removal.
But I won’t chase that digression, but let us continue by looking at what commentator John Gill, one of my favorite preachers of the eighteenth century, says about our verse in Psalm 32. Speaking of the transgression, he says:
…the guilt of it charged upon the conscience of a sinner is a heavy burden, too heavy for him to bear, and the punishment of it is intolerable: forgiveness is a removal of sin, guilt, and punishment. Sin was first taken off, and transferred from the sinner to Christ, the surety; and who laid upon him really and judicially, as the sins of the people of Israel were put upon the scapegoat typically; and was bore by him, both guilt and punishment, and taken away, finished, and made an end of; and by the application of his blood and sacrifice it is taken away from the sinner's conscience; it is caused to pass from him, and is removed afar off, as far as the east is from the west; it is so lifted off from him as to give him ease and peace, and so as never to return to the destruction of him; wherefore such a man is a happy man; he has much peace, comfort, calmness, and serenity of mind and now can appear before God with intrepidity, and serve him without fear; no bill of indictment can hereafter be found against him; no charge will be exhibited, and so no condemnation to him. (John Gill)
Is this how you feel when you stop and think of the forgiveness given to you through Christ? Does it give you happiness, peace, comfort, calmness and serenity of mind knowing that all of the things you do that are wrong have been forgiven? Does such a thought ever enter your daily mind? Either way - does it not give you ample reason to be ever thankful?
The second part of the verse deals with a covering of sin. The word here used for sin differs from a transgression. A transgression is doing something wrong, where a sin is missing the mark, or, not doing something that was commanded. So this verse is dealing with both the acts of commissions and omission.
While we’ll only be examining this one verse, I will just note that aside from addressing transgressions and sin, this Psalm goes on to also look at iniquity and guile, two other issues needing dealt with in man, and these four issues are dealt with through forgiving, covering, and not imputing.
We find our section of the Psalm being quoted by Paul in Romans 4 when he illustrates the doctrine of justification by faith.
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (Rom 4:5-7 ESV)
One thing you may notice here is that our verse in Psalm 32 says “blessed is the one…” whereas Paul here in Romans says “blessed are those…” switching from the singular to the plural. The reason for this is because Paul is most likely quoting from the Septuagint Greek translation of Psalms which has it written in the plural in this manner.
Some commentators point out that this change by the Septuagint is not an issue though, since by the time the Psalm concludes in verse 11, David too is using the plural, and so using it at the beginning makes the universality of the psalm explicit.
This Psalm addresses the common issue of where true happiness can and should come from. David was a very powerful and famous king, yet he did not say “Blessed is he who has a crown and a great kingdom.” He was a very wealthy man, yet he did not say “Blessed is he who has the world’s goods.”
He was a mighty warrior with many victories under his belt, yet he did not say “Blessed is the man that triumphs over his enemies.” David would be considered blessed in many ways by most men today, yet none of those things did he look to as a means of true happiness.
We look at our lives, and none of us are kings, or extremely rich, or mighty warriors, and so we may be quick to think just how bad we have it. We look at some of these positions in life around us, and compare our place to those who have much and have accomplished much, and we consider ourselves less blessed than them.
We should, like David who possessed all of those things, find our blessedness to consist in the pardon and forgiveness of transgressions and sin. These are the only thing the Psalmist proclaims as constituting happiness.
And these things are achieved not by anything we can do – not by works – but by the free grace of Yahweh and the works of Yeshua. It did not come from our works, nor did it come from being born into a special people group, or anything along that line. When Paul quotes this verse in Romans 4, he continued on to ask:
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. (Rom 4:9 ESV)
If through faith Abraham was considered righteous, was it because he was part of the circumcised? Was it only for a special people group, or can it be applied to those of the uncircumcised also, Paul asks? He answers that Abraham was considered righteous prior to circumcision, so that in fact righteousness would not be considered link to only those circumcised, as he continues:
How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.
The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Rom 4:10-12 ESV)
Paul was stating that this was not a righteousness only for the circumcised, it was not limited to only the tribes of Israel as some may like to teach. Paul says no, and continues:
For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. (Rom 4:13 ESV)
This promise was to go well beyond just the circumcised; it was to the world, to those who follow Abraham in faith, not by the works or law. This is one of the key aspects of the gospel message – that through grace, men can receive the happiness that comes from knowing your transgressions and sins are no longer held to your account.
This was obviously a message of great happiness to the Galatians, who when they heard it they seem to have been amazingly enthralled by the idea. These people had obviously received the message with much joy, to find that they could be brought into God’s people and given this status, but then they began turning back from the gospel. Paul says:
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? (Gal 4:9 ESV)
Before they turned back, Paul knew they had received the message with great happiness, but now he is asking:
What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. (Gal 4:15 ESV)
What has become of your happiness? A happiness that was so strong, that if they could have plucked their eyes out and given them to Paul they would have out of their joyfulness over the message.
This idea of plucking out their eyes kind of intrigued me, and while I did not stop to do an in-depth study, I did quickly find a few varying opinions on the meaning. Some think that Paul, who had many infirmities in his feeble body, might have had eye issues, and in their joy they would have given up their eyes for him to be blessed.
Then there is a slight tie in by the fact that when first coming to faith, he had been blinded on the road to Damascus, so there is an eye connection there. But many feel it is simply a figure of speech, a measure of great gratitude since the eyes were considered a highly valued member of the body, even more valuable than the giving up of one’s life all together.
At the time of Paul’s dealing with the churches to whom he wrote, the freshness of the sacrifice for sin was still present in the culture. Here is a group of people in the first century, some of whom would have been used to the sacrifices and laws regarding sin and the temple worship at the time.
They were familiar with the death, the blood, the annual deeds and treks and everything involved in sin offerings at the time. So for those people, to now be told all of that was obsolete and that the one eternal sacrifice had been made, and that they were free from the old ways – can you imagine the burden that was lifted from them?
So in many ways, it would appear somewhat obvious that their happiness may have been much more deeply appreciative than we might experience ourselves today, simply because we have never been a part of that old way of sacrifices as they. I guess a slightly modernized equivalence may be found in comparing it to someone that has been raised all of their life within a very strict, cult-like works based religion. If they then became a Christian and experienced a freedom not known before, their appreciation of that grace would be greater than someone having never been in a similar situation.
For most of us though, that is not the case. So the question is - is our happiness as much as it probably should be in the whole scheme of things? A good majority of church-goers have not experienced a drastic release from oppression and burden when coming to faith, so they may find it easier to take for granted their new position in Christ.
So how often do we stop and ponder on this – pondering on where we were in our standing outside of Christ, and where we are now in our standing in Christ? To fully grasp this situation would surely provoke much happiness and provide much for which we could pray and be eternally thankful.
One of my favorite preachers of the seventeenth century is Jeremiah Burroughs. And while I know the ancients had a way of over dramatizing hell and sin, I still wanted to share a fictitious look at life out of Christ as he offered:
Let me speak a little to the poor sinner who understands what the meaning of sin is, and who understands something of the dreadful evil of it: I would ask you, oh, poor sinner, what do you see? The answer will be,
“What do I see? Oh, I see the angry countenance of an infinite God against me, whose eyes are a flaming fire looking with indignation upon me! I see a black dismal cloud of the displeasure of the Almighty hanging over me! I see a most hideous and dreadful sentence of wrath ready to fall upon me!
I see blackness and desolation even surrounding me! I both see and feel the woeful accusations of a guilty conscience within me, condemning me, continually grating upon my soul and terrifying me with dreadful visions of eternal miseries to betide me!
I see the chain of black guilt and horror on my soul, that I carry with me wherever I go! I see the bottomless gulf of eternal horror and despair with the mouth of it wide open to swallow me up!” (Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Remission, pg. 8-9)
How many of you today have felt this kind of deep despair, or experienced these inner torments of life outside of Christ? Many may see this type of talk just an old school fire and brimstone scare tactic – but for those outside of Christ, the spiritual symbolism here is not too far off the mark as a description to the standing before Yahweh.
Sadly, the vision most in the modern church would have, is not so much a God angry at sin and standing waiting to judge, but instead they would describe a tearful God, standing helplessly by, hoping that some sinner may come to him and allow him to provide salvation to him.
The modern church is so far removed from the blood, pain and all of the terrible things that go along with the sacrificial system that they do not truly grasp what the sacrifice was and why it had to be made in the manner that it was. Their understanding of the holy, sovereign Yahweh is sadly not a biblical understanding.
If we truly grasped the horrible place in which we were in our place before Yahweh, when we walked in life outside of Christ, before having our conscience enlightened and awakened, then the thoughts of forgiveness and pardon from existence within this cloud of darkness should indeed make us truly happy.
Have you experienced this blessedness – the blessed release from transgressions and sin? We are exhorted constantly to stay in God’s word. But it is so easy to make our bible studying nothing more than a practice of completing the task or of simply some kind of scholarly examination. We often read the Scripture with the intent to learn something new about it culturally, or to gain some kind of mental insight.
But how often does your scripture reading bring to mind the depths of sin that life before Christ was like for you? How often are you struck by the extreme pain and sacrifice made on your behalf to free you from those burdens? How often does it really hit home with you that all of this was done for you, and not by you, and of which you freely receive - not requiring you to jump through the hoops of rituals, laws, and other such practices?
We may be too far removed from the old way of the temple and sacrificial system to be as appreciative of the change as they were, but as we stay in the Word and read of those things, and the requirements related to them by Yahweh, it should always strike a nerve and promote a heightened gratitude and gladness of heart to know where we now stand and why.
And all of this was only made possible by the great sacrifice of Yeshua, who bore our sins upon himself - who became that goat to Azazel for us – who paid the ultimate sacrifice:
for him who did not know sin, in our behalf He did make sin, that we may become the righteousness of God in him. (2Co 5:21 YLT)
So Yahweh made him who knew no sin – who was innocent – He made him a sin offering for us. In order for us to be pardoned, the sin was transferred to Christ. If we understand just how weighty of a situation that is, it should cause us to not treat our sin lightly.
People often say free grace leads to cheap grace. They say it leads to a life of doing what you want, sinning all you want, and knowing it is all covered. Such an idea is only true in someone totally devoid of any real understanding of the before and after stance in Christ and what it took to make that possible.
I truly believe it comes from a total ignorance of what was and what now is in the comparison of old vs new covenant life. It stems from a lack of knowledge of the full story of God’s word. It is most commonly found in those who only read the NT, who know little of Hebrew culture, the law, the old system and the purposes behind those old practices.
It comes from an inability to grasp all of the intricate ways in which Christ fulfilled every small part of the law, the prophets, the feast days, and other aspects of symbolism pointing to Him from the old system. Sadly the church in general has become very deficient in this area, and continues dispensing cheap grace to their flocks.
Moving on, let us look at one of the great mysteries of this forgiveness idea and in how we stand righteously before Yahweh. This tends to be hard for most modern people to grasp due to the way things work in our world.
In our everyday world, we may forgive people all of the time, and we may truly get over whatever was the cause of the issue. However, it is near impossible for us to look upon that person in the same, or better light than we did before their transgression. Because of our inability, we tend to cast that application back upon God. Such a problem is not an issue with God. As Burroughs puts it:
Wherever sin is pardoned, God not only passes by sin and forgives it, but He makes the soul stand righteous before Him. Every justified man stands righteous before the Lord.
A prince may forgive a traitor, but the Law is not satisfied; but God when He forgives sin, takes such a course as that the offense is not only forgiven, but the Law comes to be satisfied and the soul stands before God as a righteous person. And surely he who is righteous must be blessed. (Jeremiah Burroughs)
And of course, that righteous standing is only able to be - because it is not ours. If it were ours, it would do us no good. It is only in the righteousness of Christ that we can stand before Yahweh. Paul counted all else a loss in this matter:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith...(Php 3:8-9 ESV)
And we know further how Paul felt on the topic. Paul, understanding that his own obedience, which we see in Scripture is a requirement, that even it has no part in the righteousness equation. In Romans 5 he tells us:
For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:19 ESV)
The obedience that matter is that of Christ’s. And the fact that it is his and not ours is yet another great reason to be both happy and thankful. If you recall in the story of Esther, when the king asked Haman “What should be done to the man who the king delights to honor?” – the reply was to dress him in the royal robes.
Then Isaiah prophesies of a day when more robes would be used for those whom the great high King delights in:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isa 61:10 ESV)
This is a robe we now possess, and a garment of salvation bestowed upon his people. The old covenant people looked forward to receiving this, and where blessed when they finally received it in Christ – as we should likewise be blessed with it today. Again, commentator John Gill speaking on this verse puts it quite nicely saying it is:
…the righteousness of Christ, the best robe, the wedding garment, and change of raiment, which, like a robe, is upon believers, but not in them; it in Christ, and imputed to them; it covers their persons and their nakedness, and all their sins, so as not to be seen with the eye of avenging justice: to clothe and cover with it is God's act of imputation, and Christ's application of it by his Spirit, which, perceived by the believer, causes great joy; it being all of a piece, like Christ's seamless robe, and so pure and spotless, so perfect and complete, and so rich and glorious: (John Gill)
So this should give us even more to be thankful for, for the king has honored us with such a robe as this to cover the filthy rags of our own.
There is a song we sing often in worship, A Mind at Perfect Peace with God. The hymn itself was written in the 1800’s by Horatius Bonar and it contained five verses. At some point in the not too distant past, someone turned the song into the more modern sounding praise tune we sing today. In doing so they stripped out two verses and added the chorus and bridge we now have.
One of the removed verses states:
By nature and by practice far,
How very far from God;
Yet now by grace brought nigh to Him,
Through faith in Jesus’ blood.
This is a verse that shows us the before status we had outside of Christ. Then we go on to the following verse which we presently have which states:
So nigh, so very nigh to God
I cannot nearer be
For in the person of His son
I am as near as he.
As I was reading through other pieces of writings by the afore mentioned Jeremiah Burroughs on this Psalm, I found and appreciated this related way he described the same idea. He states:
When God comes to forgive sin, the way God takes is this: He brings a man into such a near union with His own Son as makes you to be one with Him…for when God forgives you, He makes you one with His own Son so that no two things in the world are as near together as you and Christ are. (Jeremiah Burroughs)
It is because of this that we can now stand righteous before Yahweh. We have not in our nature physically become righteous, but we have become robed with and placed in union with Christ in a manner that covers our nature.
The one thing that is important to realize, is that we have not entered into this union with Christ because we have changed our heart and nature, but that by this union we might be changed.
The pardoning of sin and the robe of righteousness come first, and it is then by that new status that we are able to be changed – for the process of sanctification to begin. As we mentioned from Romans earlier, Paul stated:
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness… (Romans 4:5 ESV)
The status of righteousness is by faith, not works, so if you are feeling like there are things you have to do to get yourself right before you feel ready to approach Yahweh, then you are still thinking backwards.
If you see yourself as an ungodly sinner with a vile heart, and question whether you can approach Yahweh to lay hold of his grace and mercy, then the answer to that is yes you can. Indeed you must.
Yahweh justifies the ungodly, and though your nature appears neither changed nor sanctified at that moment, you are to go forth and lay hold of God’s grace for justification that once applied - leads to you being pardoned and sanctification begins.
One of the other reasons that a man is truly blessed when pardoned from sin, is because that is just the first step that opens a flood gate of other mercies and blessing from our Father. The covenant of grace is a rich treasury; it has an abundant store of mercy in it, and this opens to them all.
These mercies were once blocked by transgressions and sin, but once those are pardoned and out of the way, the infinite grace and goodness may flow forth abundantly to all that belongs to the believer.
Once we are pardoned, Paul tells us on chapter 5 that we have peace:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:1-2 ESV)
We have peace with Yahweh and now have access to further grace. He does not say to you “wait until you have acknowledged your utter uselessness and become humbled in your sin and then you’ll have peace.” No, peace with God is an essential early step to begin dealing with your lifestyle – with your change.
Without this pardon and peace, we can only stand in fear and trembling before Yahweh as His enemy. Again, understanding that our standing was in opposition to Yahweh prior to forgiveness - is a theme all but lost to most modern day “God-is-love” advocates.
After the pardon of sin, we gain the peace of being reconciled with God that allows us to come boldly to the throne without the fear. And with that peace of being restored with God – there also comes a personal peace of conscience. Those fears or terrors that existed previously, that tend to arise from a guilty conscience – they are stilled. The fears and terrors of what will happen after death – they are stilled.
If those fears continue, rest assured it is not stemming from a lack on God’s part, but from your own weakness, and that weakness too can be brought and laid at the feet of your merciful Father for relief and assurance.
Nothing relieves a fear of death more than the forgiveness of sins. Obtaining relief from the burden of sin, reconciliation and peace with God, as well as peace of conscience from the terrors of death, life after death and judgment - are these not all great reasons to be always happy as the new creation you have become?
Now, instead of fearing physical death, you can embrace it – understanding that it leads to eternal life. As Paul stated in Romans 8:
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:30 ESV)
You have been justified, and all that comes with it makes you blessed enough, but now add to that the knowledge that you shall also be glorified with eternal life. Non-Christians are not promised eternal life, but are promised to perish and be destroyed, while the blessing of eternal life has been promised only to those in Christ. What a blessing indeed.
All of these blessings come because Yeshua obediently went to the cross on our behalf. He was a man of many sorrows, but he had power with which he could have resisted the crucifixion. He himself proclaimed in Matthew 26:
Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? (Mat 26:53 ESV)
He was more than able to defend himself in this matter. Yet he willingly went, because as he says in the next verse:
But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so? (Mat 26:54 ESV)
Now only was Christ desirous of completing this great work of redemption for mankind, but Yahweh was pleased to have him die for this cause. People are so quick to say that God takes no delight in the death of anyone, yet Scripture tells us in this case, he did. Isaiah 53 tells us:
Yet it pleased Yahweh to crush Him; to grieve Him; that He should put forth His soul as a guilt-offering. He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the will of Yahweh shall prosper in His hand. (Isa 53:10 MKJV)
When God saw his Son under the wrathful curse, sweating drops of blood, beaten and scourged, it pleased Him well. Christ, being made a curse, thereby redeemed us from the curse, procured the pardon of our sins, and reconciled us unto God. And this very thing sweetened the death of the Son of God unto God the Father. Therefore, the heart of God was much in it.
On top of that, it was not only Yeshua being simply obedient, but it can even be said that he took delight in the task. He knew on that last night prior to the crucifixion that he was preparing to become the physical Passover sacrifice, and in celebrating the ceremonial Passover, he stated in Luke 22:
And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luk 22:15 ESV)
I turn again to John Gill, as I like the way he responds to this text. He gives a few reasons for why Yeshua had a desire here, and closes by saying:
the other reason of this his strong desire in the text is, that this was the last passover, and that his sufferings and death were just at hand, and which he longed to have over; not that he desired these sufferings…but because of the effects of them; since hereby justice would be satisfied, the law would be fulfilled, sin atoned for, and the salvation of his elect obtained; for whom he bore the strongest affection, and whom he loved with a love of complacency, and whose salvation he most earnestly desired, and even sufferings for the sake of it. (John Gill)
When Christ was about to endure the great suffering leading up to His ultimate death on the cross, he desired it gladly, because he knew what we are told in Isaiah 53:11, which is the verse after the one we just read a moment ago about Yahweh being pleased:
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isa 53:11 ESV)
He shall see the anguish of his soul – the travail, the toil and labor of what he went through - he shall see it, he shall endure it, and will be satisfied to do so. Why? Because by going through all of that, many would be made righteous. His satisfaction came from knowing that people like you and I would be forgiven of trespasses, our sins covered, robes of righteousness given, peace with God and peace of mind granted, and the blessed gift of eternal life given.
When one is forgiven of sin, and made as righteous as Christ, they stand justified before Yahweh. They are as justified as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Paul, Peter, John and any of the great righteous men we hold so fondly in Scriptures. No matter your lot in life – rich or poor, young or old, male or female - everyone is on the same level of justification before God.
You may not be on the same level of sanctification, but when it comes to your righteousness and justification, that is a one-time perfect work of God and you are on the same level as everyone else. We acquire – with the new covenant – that which was longed for by many old covenant saints.
David’s plea in Psalm 51 is a fairly popular one that most know. After he was confronted by Nathan about his evil doings with Bathsheba and her husband, he writes this Psalm asking for forgiveness of sin. And in verse 7 he states:
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psa 51:7 ESV)
He was asking to be forgiven for his transgressions and sin, so that he could be cleansed, as he desired to be made whiter than snow when it comes to his sin. That is what Christ has given to us – that cleanness that the blood of no animal sacrifice was able to accomplish.
That is what we now have, that is what brought such joy to those first century hearers – this was indeed great news. Paul tells us that we partake in what David sought, for he states in Ephesians 5:
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:25-27 ESV)
We are partakers in this, and it should likewise still be just as much a declaration of great news to our modern mind as it was back when it came upon those people. Yes, we are far removed from the sacrificial system that may have made this news more relevant to their situation, and therefore even greater news to them, but that does not diminish the greatness of it for us, if we simply stop and meditate on what we have been given and where we once stood in relation to Yahweh.
The good news back then was that what was once hoped for was now being made manifest and coming into fulfillment. And here is a last note on just how blessed we should consider ourselves in this forgiveness we have, and this will tie in with all of the unseen realm stuff discussed in church this year.
God has set out to make a special plan to make our sins be forgiven and to declare us righteous in his sight. However, never was such a plan ever stated or initiated for those angels who sinned against Him. We do well to consider the angels to be a much higher creature than us, yet God did not have any similar plan of redemption for them.
Peter starts out his second letter with the praises of our positions:
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: … His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2Pe 1:1-4 ESV)
And just a few short sections later, Peter says:
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but held them captive in Tartarus with chains of darkness and handed them over to be kept for judgment; (2Pe 2:4 LEB)
Man falls, and God has a plan of redemption. Angels fell, and God has no plan, no mercy - only judgment. There was a high price paid for the redemption of man, but none provided for those who had previously stood in the very presence of Yahweh – who interacted with Him in a manner much more closely than many ever has.
There are many in the church that dismiss almost all things supernatural and relating to the spiritual realm. To them the mention of angels is most often simply referring to human messengers. Well, to them I ask, who are these human messengers spoken of by Peter and Jude that have no plan, no ability at all to ever be forgiven? Why are these humans excluded from partaking of the grace and mercy that God opens to others?
I won’t go in further on this path, but to just draw your attention to yet another reason for your happiness, in that you are partakers in something that even God’s higher created beings have no part in. That is blessedness indeed.
So at this point I will close. It is tough in the world today, and with everything going on around us, it is easy to become downtrodden and depressed, even for the Christian. When Thanksgiving rolls around each year, the spirit of thankfulness is easy to push aside while we focus on the negative things going on around us.
Whenever those negative times read their ugly head, just remember what our verse in Psalm 32 says:
O the happiness of him whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. (Psa 32:1 YLT)
And then slow down to recount the numerous reasons you are special to God. Recall the great many steps and the great deal of pain that it took in order to get you to a place where you could stand before Yahweh in a perfectly justified and righteous state.
Recall where you would be without this state of forgiveness.
Recall where you would stand if you were not robed in the righteousness of Christ.
Recall where you would be without the peace with God that you now possess.
Recall where you would be without the peace of conscience relating to eternal life.
Recall the mercy and love shown to you by both the Father and Son that got you to the redeemed state you are in today.
Recall the mercy shown to a lowly human worm like you, that was not given to the glorious angels previously so close to God.
And then consider that those are but just a few of the introductory wonderful things you can recall each and every day to bring happiness to your spirt and to give you enough to offer a lifetime of thanksgiving to Yahweh.