AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH
November 21, 2004
ETERNAL LIFE OVERCOMES DEATH: THE MIGHT OF THE MESSIAH
For a much fuller treatment, click here.
I The Post-Christian Child, Caught in the Womb of Culture – Hosea 13:13
On this Communion Sunday, we do well to consider Hosea 13:13. Its message needs some searching out, but it is this, that Israel should not have lingered long in the place where children are born, for child-birth pains will come to it. This the prophet proclaims.
Israel is being challenged for its prolongation, its procrastination, its inaction. Perhaps it is referring to the much prophesied onslaught of Babylon, when Jerusalem was destroyed precisely because it would not surrender, despite the Lord’s strong urging that they accept His rebuke, rather than destruction (Jeremiah 38:17). In his day, Hezekiak made the huge mistake of having something like fellowship with the Babylonian envoys, wishing him good health after sickness, and showed them all the wonders and treasures of the temple.
There is a need to avoid such commingling with what is spurious as communion with Roman Catholicism or those who accept it as valid, the sects or those who throw away the moral principles and rules of God (I Corinthians 6:9); and where such error is made, it is perilous indeed to linger. Those Jews who were either captured early by Babylon or went and surrendered would be spared; but the city had a fearful famine and devastating end, when it resisted. It was two-faced, claiming to belong to the Lord, but departing far from His ways (cf. Isaiah 1, II Chronicles 33ff.). Staying long in that mess was a murderous business.
The second lesson is this: that you accept divine discipline. If the Lord has something to correct in you, try not to resent this, but rather to relish it. If Zedekiah had listened, he would have spared his eyes, and the death of his sons before them!
II The Divine Cost and the Human Calamity it Covers … Hosea 13:14
Yet how is hell itself and the grace that for so many leads to it, to be covered since its exclusion zone, apart from God, is deserved ? It is by a DIVINE RANSOM. God is not willing to ignore sin, but is willing to pay adequately for it, and cover its cost for each sinner IF and WHEN it is repented and life becomes the resultant, even from Christ (Luke 13:1-3, John 6:40, 6:50ff., Romans 8:32, II John 2:1-2). The power of the grave and of hell ? it is justice and judgment; and the ransom, it is divine taking of a body by the eternal Word of God, so that as the Messiah He was dressed to die vicariously for man, even as many as receive Him (John 1:12).
The power of these mangling evils that He met, it is very great. It breaks the iron man, and reduces even the statue to symbolic ruin as in Russia, where one to Eternal Life for Man was foolishly built and collapsed! It is however both merciful and natural that the power of God is greater, since death is His own sentence on sin (Romans 6:23); and the supernatural is both source and criterion for the natural, the product of God Himself. He can cover what He made.
What then do we learn from this ? Flying in the face of death is like cruising at 600 mph, into a tornado; but being evacuated from it is rather like finding a deep sea submarine near you, when you are being crushed in diving too deep, and cannot suddenly break the surface without courting death. The intimate horror which sin is, has its placard, its poster in this, that God Himself sees fit to pay RANSOM to exclude this death and hell (Matthew 20:29). Man’s image from God is a cause of sublimity and of the infernal alike, and ONLY GOD can make the difference, and at that through redemption, even one paid for by God Himself (cf. Hebrews 9:1-12)! Nor was this all, for the purity of life which made such a sacrifice as that of Christ on the Cross, meant vigilance, self-discipline and overcoming all mockery and persecution with fire and grace alike. Such is our Saviour.
III The Divine Destruction Hosea 13:14
Not only however is the divine cost to be met, but in paying in this way, the Lord Himself will even CONSTITUTE in person the removalist of plagues, and in Himself the destruction of hell and death. It is not a matter of bearing sin only, but of bearing it PERSONALLY so that its acids if you will, its poisons etched themselves into the very peace of Christ, producing such a clamour of horror as they confronted His dying gift of life, that He even felt forsaken, as it was predicted He would in Psalm 22, which He quoted as He came near to death!
How horrible is a plague, but God taking the form of a servant, became a plague to the plague, and did so by entering into its menacing dynamic, and stilling it. It is like a doctor entering your cancer tumour and confronting it with His own power, on site! Hell and the grave that is its anteroom for so many (Matthew 7:15ff.), these were destroyed in all final impact and power by making them irrelevant; for death and damnation has no case when its penalty is met; and Christ met it!
V The Divine Determination
Such a lowering of the glory of deity, such an exposure to horror, this could lead to review ? Not at all. “Pity is hidden from My eyes”, or “Repentance is hidden from My eyes.” In other words, a change of mind, of heart about paying such a cost is certainly something that could be brought to bear, as indeed it was by Peter when he challenged Christ NOT to die! (cf. Mat, 16:21-23). In reply to Peter’s short-sighted but large-hearted urgings that Christ avoid the death, He replied: “Get behind Me Satan. You are an offence to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Agony it was (Hebrews 5:7), even to contemplate it; but He met it, with all the purity of divine passion and all the result of His power.
How Peter erred here! Rome’s ludicrously claimed first Pope, the spiritual ‘Father’ whom Christ forbad as name for ANY but God Almighty, surely was as far from infallible then as later! Christ did what He came to do, the man born to die, not merely as a penalty of sin but as a procedure of passion in love, a vicarious victory to liberate flesh from folly, and man from ruin. He set His face like a flint to get it done (Isaiah 50, Luke 9:53). NOTHING would seduce Him from this glorious procedure, better than prayer for it MADE IT HAPPEN, that whosoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life, and be raised up on the last day (John 6:40ff.).
How does this claim our Christian ears and indeed hearts! for if God has set us to a task, let us finish it; as to the testimony for Christ let it ever be on our lips and in our lives; if His commands set us a challenge, let us meet it in His own promised power (Romans 5:17 and 8:1-10), not wavering like wind-socks at the airport, not wandering like lost sheep; but let it be done as we are led by the Good Shepherd, pitiful, compassionate, refreshing, defending, delighting in His people (Jeremiah 31:18-20, John 10:27-28). Finally, ponder the poem provided from Anne Catherine White, “The Morning Cometh”, and remember the Lord’s Supper is in memory of Him UNTIL HE COMES! (I Corinthians 11:26).