Meditations On Isaiah 6: Part 3

Reading Part 1 and Part 2 first will be helpful for this post 😉

THE CROSS

 We haven’t even gotten to the good part yet. Our story in Isaiah 6 does not end where we left it. There are still two more amazing verses; verses that lift us from the shadows into the marvelous light of the Father. This is how Isaiah recounts it:

“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’”

If anything is to silence a claim of injustice against the Lord, this is it. Both parties in this story understand what the just action would be. Isaiah deserves to die. He is a man of unclean lips and so are all of his buddies and neighbors. The seraphim uphold the reality of God’s nature and His holiness consumes the presence of the temple. Yet the Lord makes a different decision. He takes away the guilt of Isaiah and atones for his sins. As Isaiah weeps before His throne, God pursues Him and makes Him clean.

This would be the more appropriate place to bring up the conversation of justice. If we really cared about it, this would be the place to bust out the gaudy picket signs and the threats of boycotting, but no one wants to do that, right? I certainly don’t! But on some level, this has to cause a bit of concern for us. It forces to question the legitimacy of God’s justice because He isn’t just if our rebellion against Him is not paid for in full.

Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.” Three chapters earlier, Paul tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.[1] This is a pretty all-encompassing statement. Everyone has sinned and everyone deserves death because of his or her sin. This is the just penalty. So what satisfies this? How is God just in making Isaiah clean? How is He just if all of us are still alive right now? The answer is the cross.

Paul tells us that God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to become “a propitiation”[2] for mankind. Essentially, what this word means is that Christ is our “substitute.” He took our place. Jesus was nailed to a tree after being beaten, whipped, and mocked by His own creation. The Perfect Lamb of God died a death He did not deserve for a people who knew Him not. And Isaiah tells us “it was the will of God to crush him.”[3]

This is how God is just in taking away the guilt of those who believe in Him. The cross of Christ. If ever there was to be a clear revelation of the righteous, wrathful judgment of the Lord, it is in the picture we have of Calvary. We see how much God hates sin. He requires it to be put to death through the spilling of blood. In the cross, God poured out His holy wrath upon His Son to pay the debt we owed for our crimes against Him. Jesus died, not because of any offense of His own, but because of the crimes we ourselves have committed against Him!

But this is how God is just. In requiring blood to be spilt for the sins of the world, He exacted it through His Son’s crucifixion. In requiring death for the rebellion of mankind, He exacted it through His Son’s death on the cross. A death has occurred and the wages of sin have been met. God is just because He carried out what He said must occur for sin to be atoned for and guilt taken away. So He does not order any injustice as He welcomes men and women into the Kingdom of Heaven because in Christ our righteousness is no longer dependent upon our own successes or failures. Rather, it is dependent wholly upon the blood of Jesus.

See, in the cross of Christ we have a terrifyingly brutal understanding of how deeply God hates sin, but we also have a spectacular image of the love of the Father for this world. By putting His Son to death on the cross, God has opened a door to salvation for the entire world. And more than that, it is free. We cannot earn this salvation. It was our inability to do this that drove Christ to the cross in the first place. But for those who believe in Jesus as their Savior, we have a new mantra: “He who knew no sin became sin for us that in Him we might be given the righteousness of God”.[4]

The cross of Christ is both our greatest criticism and our greatest compliment.[5] It is our greatest criticism in so much as it shows us that God hates the sin within us. Outside of Christ, we are offensive in His sight and repulsive in His presence. But it is our greatest compliment as it reveals that the Lord has such a deep love for this world that He was willing to pour out His just wrath not on those who deserved it, but upon His Son so that the world could know Him and be reconciled to Him. We are living in the greatest love story ever told.


[1] Romans 3:23

[2] Romans 3:25

[3] Isaiah 53:10

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[5] This idea came from an insightful (and brief) blog post written by Justin Buzzard, a pastor in San Jose, California: http://theresurgence.com/2012/05/08/feedback-is-scarybut-you-need-it

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