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Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
Note:The text for the “Is the Bible True?” article is included at the bottom of the transcript for Lesson #132.
© Charles A. Clough 1999
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 4: The Death of the King
Lesson 131 – Death of Christ: Justice, Holiness, Righteousness
28 Oct 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Next week we’re going to pause, I want to have you bring regular notebook paper, we’re going to engage criticism that is directed toward Bible believing Christians by the media, and I’m going to use as an exercise the lead article in U.S. News & World Report, October 25, 1999 issue, “Is the Bible True?” [Note: The text from this article is available at the end of the transcript for Lesson #132.] I want to go through that because it behooves us to know the conflicts and how you respond to this kind of thing. We have to be able to engage people because what you read in the media is what 80% of the people out on the sidewalk believe. So if we don’t engage that aggressively and point out where the real differences are, we’re just peripheralized, the gospel is just shunted off into a corner somewhere. It’s actually part of evangelism, good evangelism, to be able to engage what the worldview is doing. We have examples by Paul in all the epistles; we don’t think of it that way because when we open the Bible, we read the New Testament, we read Romans, we read Colossians, we read Ephesians, we all know them by those names.
What we fail to remember is that originally they didn’t have those names; originally those were letters that the apostle wrote to ordinary believers who were conflicting with the world system on some issue. In Colossians it was Gnosticism; in Rome it was the racial ethnic problem between Jews and Gentiles. Whatever the background is there was a problem there. Not to know that, not to appreciate that, is to read the Bible in a total vacuum. And when you have the bad habit of reading the Word of God in a vacuum, what happens after a while is you become a vacuum, because you become unable to contact the world with what we’re learning. That’s why it’s not too healthy and that’s why I think it’s important enough to pause next week. Usually around Christmas or Easter every news magazine has something about, “What is the Real Jesus?” Or, “Do We Really Know the Bible is True?” There’s always an article like that. This is a conflict and we want to, as Christians, be good soldiers and cope with it.
Just to review, because we want to keep this drill up of faith-resting in the promises of Scripture, it’s a very simple part of the Christian life but it’s very essential because you can’t do this if you’re not certain yourself of the authority of Scripture. Turn to Hebrews 11:3 again, and again I urge you, whatever translation you have or if you prefer a different wording, write it out. This particular promise is at the root of where we collide with the world system and everything in it. We want to look at this promise again, taking it apart, each week taking little pieces of it.
Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” The thing to notice right off the bat is “by faith we understand.” Isn’t it interesting that in the modern world view faith is the opposite of understanding. Haven’t you ever heard “faith versus reason?” Well, I’m reasonable; it’s the weak minded people that have to believe. In our modern vernacular faith and reason are set apart from one another. It’s always set apart, and the man in the street will nine times out of ten think of belief as a weak substitute for REASON! If you can’t be reasonably sure, then you just take it by faith. Haven’t you heard that? That’s the bifurcation that happens. We want to cut away a little bit at that—reason and faith. These are considered in the world to be opposites.
Verse 3 denies that. You can’t read verse 3 and accept that premise. Right away we’re stuck on the first verb of the verse. The verb says “by faith we understand,” the word “understand” there is the word to think and to reason. So it’s not true that faith and reason are opposed. Faith and reason go together. In fact, in fact this verse turns the argument on its head the other way and says you can’t reason without faith. Let’s think about this and review so that we don’t get snookered into this little game that often goes on. “By faith we understand,” we understand what? We understand that the ages, all of historical experience, all of the ages were prepared by the Word of God. So we understand that there’s a plan over all things.
Think for a minute. How could you possibly reason without faith, to this kind of a conclusion? Think about the dilemma of the non-Christian. Apart from the Scriptures, let’s go back to a simple diagram, apart from the Scriptures we are victims of our experience. We’re trapped in this limited experience box. You only have so much experience. If you work with computers, if you work with data bases you know that there’s a data base and it only has n pieces of data in it. Computers have finite data bases. Our brains are finite analogues of computers. They have finite experience and finite memory. Do you see the problem here? So on the basis of non-Christian thinking, you’ve got to start with finite experience.
The problem with that is how do you come to grandiose conclusions? Right now, in this country we are seeing this sort of error being made by almost everyone in the media. Unless you’ve been on the moon recently you’ve heard about the State of Kansas school board, and the media has gone into a feeding frenzy knocking all Christians everywhere because they’re going to kick evolution out of the Kansas state public education system, and it’s these right-wing Christian extremists again, butting into our intellectual freedom. If you read the fine print of what’s going on in Kansas, that’s not at all the issue. The school board never said anything about not teaching evolution. There’s not a shred of evidence to that. What the school board of the State of Kansas argued was that evolution cannot be taught as the final truth. That’s all they said. They said it’s a theory. Look at the feeding frenzy that’s going on.
There’s a simple little rule of warfare. Do you know how you can tell when a bomb hits the target? By the screams in the enemy camp. When you get this kind of an emotional response by people on all the big three networks, the newspapers, and particularly the teacher’s unions, when you see this kind of a feeding frenzy because somebody just pointed this out, that’s all that’s happening here, all the school board is saying is on the basis of finite experience, including scientific data, you can’t erect grandiose conclusions. That’s all it said, no problem. But the feeding frenzy is because people are really angry, there’s an intense anger and hatred to be reminded of this. That’s the problem.
It gets back to this idea that the non-Christian has all the time, that reason is opposed to faith, that reason is equipped somehow in and of itself to make infinite and grandiose conclusions. What do I mean by “infinite and grandiose conclusions?” I mean every time you assert that there’s something that is absolutely true, to be absolutely true what do you mean? That if you go to Mars it’s true, if you go to the moon it’s true, if you go anywhere on the earth it’s true, it’s an absolute truth. That’s a grandiose conclusion. It’s a generalized absolute conclusion. If the world happened this way, it’s a grandiose conclusion; how do you get that way if you’re operating inside this finite experience box? You see, you can’t get out of the box, unless what? Unless you believe, unless you take a “by faith” position in something you can never escape the box. So the non-Christian is faced with this dilemma of infinitely extended thought, language and meaning out of his box. He is trying to be God-like in his conclusions when he’s only a creature in his experience.
Think of this for a minute. What does this smack of? There’s a word for it in the Bible over and over again in the Old Testament. We don’t see it too much in the New Testament, but what is the practice of creating a surrogate God? Idolatry! The unbelieving mind is inherently idolatrous. Whenever you are attempting, or I am attempting, or the man in the street is attempting to make grandiose conclusions on the basis of this, he is in essence an idolater. He has no right to make those conclusions. That’s why this promise in Hebrews 11, “By faith we understand,” is a forthright confession that I am not, as a creature, I am not playing God. I’m not playing God here, I recognize my creature hood, and so when I go to formulate grandiose conclusions, I don’t do it this way. That’s not my modus operandi. My modus operandi as a Christian is that because I have a Creator who thinks, speaks, and has meaning before I existed, He is the source of the absolutes; He is the source of the grandiose conclusions. If I come to grandiose conclusions they’re only derivative of His. I have to think God’s thoughts after His thoughts. He thinks first, He thinks completely. I think afterward, and I think partially. That’s the way to view the reasoning.
My reason is a slave to His reason. I have no other choice, because my data base isn’t that big, it can’t even compete. That’s why I come to a rest, why as a Christian believer I faith-rest in the Word of God. It’s a fundamental principle. So when we claim the promises of God knowledgeably and by faith this introduces all kinds of implications for your everyday life, because now we can fundamentally relax. We have a resting point and we hold to that resting point. Nothing in the world can disturb that resting point; NOTHING! There may be turmoil on the outside but there can be a fundamental rest on the inside because we take our resting position on the truths of God’s Word. We know that whatever the chaos is, it’s part of the ages of history, so “By faith we understand that the ages were prepared by the word of God,” is tomorrow prepared by the Word of God? Yes it is. As I walk into tomorrow I’m walking into a new script, like an actor or an actress hired to do a drama, and you get here and the scriptwriter has prepared the way. So, if you can, view life’s adversities in that way, as thinking that you’re just walking into another chapter that He has already written. He knows the drama, you don’t, but that’s okay. There is a purpose for tomorrow, no matter what happens, there is a purpose that has from all eternity been designed about tomorrow and you. That’s where we have a fundamental rest in the Word of God.
If you don’t want to do that, and when we get tested, to just go our own way, and try to operate claiming that we have such powerful reason that we can substitute our reason for God’s omniscience, we wind up ultimately back down in this constant rocking motion, back and forth, back and forth between these two extremes. We emphasize the Many, the details of life, the pieces; in philosophy that’s called empiricism, all my little experience and I flip from one experience to the next experience. Licentiousness is another example, politically that version would be anarchists, an anarchist doesn’t believe in any authority. The trouble is what happens when two anarchists meet? This is the libertarian approach over here. On the left side we have the optimist. Over here is the pessimist; by the way, this leads eventually to depression; psychologically it’s depression, because in depression you feel totally out of control, everything is haywire and that’s the psychological. So we can put the psychological, the political, and the philosophical all on that side.
Over here in the moment of optimism, I’m going to control everything. Philosophically that’s rationalism. My powers of reason are so great that I can dominate everything, I can solve every problem. Legalistically, the Christian life, I am so good that if I do this many good works God has to say wow, what a guy you are. This is legalism, that God has to respond to my righteousness. I’m such a great person, such a wonderful person. That’s the other extreme. Politically it’s tyranny, and politically you can see this very easy, if this is hard to think about philosophically think about it politically. A mob or tyranny, a mob or tyranny, and that’s the history of politics. Sometimes it oscillates in the middle, but it’s one or the other. Optimism, or pessimism.
You could diagram that, the Bible has a technical term for it, it’s called vanity. The pagan mentality of the flesh, it goes round and round from one poll to the next. On one hand unbelief demands unity and order, I can and I will, that’s one poll, and you’ll see it in yourself because you’ll see yourself drifting. This is the way the flesh is, this is how the flesh manifests itself in the way we think, I can or I will, inflexible plans. It could be in business, it could be in spiritual life, it could be in family, it could be in church, it’s just that I’ve determined it’s going to be this way regardless of what happens. How can you make a statement like that, you don’t know what’s going to happen? You’re not in charge of tomorrow, so you can’t do this.
We get frustrated because we’re over here, and then we say it’s going to be different tomorrow, I’m going to be in charge. No, it doesn’t work that way. So this breaks apart and then we wind up over here, and what’s happening. I can’t or I fail; this is being totally overwhelmed. So it’s one way or it’s the other way, and all that is is the working out in an ordinary way of the failure to come back to a promise like Hebrews 11:3, By faith we understand that this problem, this situation, has been prepared by the Word of God, and what we observe and what we experience is not being ultimately caused by things we can get our hand on. Some of it, yes, but not all of it; we can’t call the final shots. The issue is we go back to the Word of God as our authority in the situation. Enough said for Hebrews 11:3.
We’re going review a little about this third event in Christ’s life. What we’re talking about is Christ’s death and we’re making a point that every term in the Scripture, whether it’s Christ died for our sins, or anything else is meant to be understood in context. Maybe you’ve been around Bible teaching circles and you hear people say “a text out of its context is pretext.” That’s a very dangerous thing; you’ll hear people say oh, I don’t believe the Bible, you can read anything into the Bible. Yes, there have been idiots that read the Bible, but do you ever write a letter to somebody? The answer is very simple. Well, yea, I’ve written letters to people. Do you expect twenty people at the other end to have twenty different opinions about what you wrote? No you don’t. If you really thought that way you’d never write anybody. If writing and speaking was so hopelessly fouled up that the receiver couldn’t discern any meaning, you wouldn’t open your mouth or you wouldn’t write with your pen. So every day you’re disproving that assertion that any idiot can read the Bible and get all kinds of things out of it. Sure, but that doesn’t invalidate the Bible.
We want to see one word in particular because it’s a background for understanding the cross, and that’s justice. We want to get a little bit of a biblical flavor for what the Bible says justice is all about. We said basically, if you look at the Scriptures and you look at the history of the Bible, keeping in mind that as we go through this frame of reference, you start out with creation, the fall, the flood and the covenant. You go through all these historical events, each one shedding light on these great truths, that’s the context historically so that when the Lord Jesus Christ dies, He’s had thousands of years of preparation to the human race to understand what happened on that cross. The cross did not happen in isolation from Old Testament history. Therefore we want to make sure we have some idea of justice.
We also, and this is a trick that I use a lot, when you start studying these things, and it’s sad that in our schools and in our preparation of Christian young people, we don’t give them the basic tools of thinking the great ideas, because education really involves, maybe ten to fifteen great ideas and that’s about all, it’s just combinations of these great ideas. One of the ideas that you see peppered all over the place is justice. Everybody is talking about justice. Maybe instead of talking about justice on this issue or justice in the women’s rights, or justice in racial tensions, or justice in business or this deal, or political situations, instead of just going into these discussions, maybe we ought to say whoa, hold it. Hold it, cut! Let’s just think about what we’re talking about when we use the word “justice.” If I know that, then I can start thinking more clearly about what’s the problem over here.
One of the conclusions we came to last time was this: that in the Bible, in contrast to human speculation, justice is derivative of God’s attribute of holiness. God has His attributes. He’s sovereign, He’s holy, He loves, He’s omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable, eternal, lots of other attributes. That’s who God is, that’s what He was before the universe came into being. All this pre-existed our universe. And one of those things is holiness; I’m using the word “holiness” to encompass righteousness and justice. That is the source of justice in several ways. It’s the source of justice in that when my conscience feels violated and I feel like something unjust is being done to me, that comes about because I am created in whose image? You’re created in whose image? God’s image. So there’s something natural inside our souls that kind of intuitively senses when there’s justice and there’s not justice. It’s part of our creation. Where did we get that from? It’s an image of Him. So in the human level, the human conscience is a finite replica, a creature version of God’s holiness and righteousness. That’s why it bothers us, because it reminds us we don’t fit, ultimately morally and ethically we don’t fit with Him, we’re at odds with Him, and we get that thing we call conscience going.
Justice Scripturally does not come …, here’s where I’m going to give some negatives, because the Bible is always set over against the culture. You have to know this, you can’t just think you know what the Bible says, you want to know what the Bible doesn’t say. The Bible denies that justice is ultimately determined by man. Practical source: that means that justice ultimately is not defined by what happens in Annapolis. What segment of our government meets together part of the year to write and publish laws, legislation? Justice is not generated in Annapolis. We’re stepping on toes here, now there’s some tension in the air. What do you mean justice isn’t done in Annapolis, how dare you assert that, I’m a legislator, I’ve been here ten years, I’ve given my time, my money, my effort, and you’re telling me I don’t create justice down here, what am I doing here if I’m not doing that? You’re writing laws that you hope approximate justice, but you’re not determining justice; you’re trying to approximate God’s justice, but the standard you’re not making. We have to deny that. Annapolis, Washington, D.C., those are not the sources of justice; they are only the sources of attempts for man to reflect God’s justice, attempts. There’s always a standard.
Practically, where do we go from there? What’s the immediate conclusion to this, what does this kind of reasoning lead us to? Let’s suppose we don’t believe that God is the source of justice and we accept the fact that man is the source of justice. What would you do in 1933 in Germany when the German legislators turned over the absolute power of the Third Reich to Adolph Hitler, and you say that man creates justice? Now you don’t like what you see. How do you respond to the iniquities of the Third Reich? Can you say it’s wrong when you’ve just said that man defines right and wrong? The answer is when the Nazi’s come to your doorstep and take your little retarded kid away to kill him because that kind of child pollutes and contaminates the genes for the Nordic race, you can say I don’t like it, you can say it pains me, it grieves me, I don’t like this but you can’t say it’s wrong. How can you say it’s wrong? You can only say it’s wrong if there’s a standard that was independent of what went on in Berlin. Do you see?
At the end of World War II there was a famous trial of the Nazi leaders. I think every Christian should be aware of this chapter of history; it’s called the Nuremberg trial. At Nuremberg the issue was how can we prosecute Nazi atrocities? If you were a Nazi, you were a member of the S.S. what would be your defense at Nuremberg. Does anybody know the refrain that the Nazi’s used in their legal defense; their lawyer sat right down and said it, “I followed orders.” You know, “I followed the order.” How do you prosecute somebody then, how can you say that the guy shouldn’t have followed the order? That was the dilemma that all men faced at Nuremberg. In the middle of that trial, each country had given several justices. We gave a guy by the name of Henry Jackson, I think that was his name, his last name was Jackson, I think his first name was Henry, not the Senator who later came from Washington State.
Jackson was discussing this matter, and as the justices tried to struggle with this, there’s no such thing as international law, I mean, who writes that. So how do we prosecute the S.S. troops for their atrocities? Well we don’t like it. That’s not the issue in the trial, whether you like it, the issue is what was wrong, what was the injustice. So Jackson said the standard that we use must be above the transient and the provincial. It’s a very famous statement; he used these words, it cannot be transient and it cannot be provincial. What did he mean by that? What would be a transient standard? One that went out of vogue, it was popular over here for a while, and then it faded out, and then we decided we liked it this way. So it can’t be that kind of fickle time-changing standard. Nor can it be provincial in the sense that the Frenchman believes it and the German doesn’t.
Now let’s bring it to America a little bit more. I had a conversation with a black man that was working with me, one of my black friends is a great Christian guy, and the other one is a non-Christian, and the non-Christian is quite a liberal left-wing type thinking person. So he was spouting off one day and I decided I’d heard enough of this so I’m going to have some fun. So I said to him, do you believe in absolute truth and absolute standards, that no matter what the rules of the law says, that there’s a standard in back of that that’s the primary source? No, no, man makes it all. He does? Then explain to me please what Martin Luther King did in Birmingham when he told people don’t get on the buses in the name of justice. And you should have seen him squirm around, because he caught what I was saying. If you say that man is right, then the southern white segregationalist was correct, he had made the rule, and Martin Luther King was wrong in trying to violate it. So you see if man makes law it eliminates all reform, because the reformer comes against the established law and says it’s wrong and it should be this way. That’s the definition of a reformer. How do you reform anything if you don’t have a standard over and above the written law? Do you see what it does? It destroys all reform. I think we’ve labored enough to see that in the Bible, the Bible makes no bones about it, justice is it.
We went to Psalm 51 to point this is out. When David confesses his sin, it’s a famous statement, and when we confess our sins, there’s a lesson here that’s very practical in the Christian life. If we’re not clear on this issue of justice, we’re going to have a real time when we fail and we sit and confess our sins to God, that we really don’t confess our sins to God if we harbor unbiblical views of justice. He’s accepting a confession, I’m not saying He doesn’t accept it, but I’m just saying that it’s not really right to confess sin when on your mind you’re thinking I embarrassed my fellow Christians, or I did this to somebody that I love, or I did that. That’s true, all of those things are true, but that’s not what happens when we confess our sins, because in Psalm 51:4 David says “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned.” Is David denying that he hurt Uriah? Is he denying that he hurt Bathsheba? He’s not denying that, but he says at the point I confess my sin to God, I have to see it as a sin against Him, and get that dealt with. That’s how this justice plays a role, just in ordinary, everyday Christian living. That’s the first thing we know about God’s justice.
Then last time we also went to something else. We said that another feature of God’s justice is that when you see justice in the Mosaic Law Code for all of society, justice calls for restitution. Exodus 22 gives ten to fifteen illustrations of this in the criminal law code of the time. It’s interesting, having been involved in the prison ministry here for many years and dealing with the legal side of things, it’s interesting that in the law codes of Israel there’s no mention of jail … no mention of jail! If you take a concordance the only time you see prisons mentioned in Scripture, two famous examples, famous men of the Bible that were in jail. Paul comes to mind, but in the Old Testament, Joseph and Daniel. Where was that? In both cases it was outside of Israel, pagan nations. You say how did they control crime? Exodus 22 tells one way they controlled it, they required the criminal to pay double, triple and sometimes quadruple damages to his victim. You say suppose the guy said no, I’m not going to do it. They killed him: capital punishment. That was rebellion against the authorities. Sorry. They sort of had a permanent solution to that problem.
The criminal law code had a way of coping with these things, but it didn’t imprison people and treat them like animals in a cage, and send them to graduate school so they could learn to be better criminals when they got out, which is what we do. We have a very silly system. Suppose somebody robs somebody; let’s say they rob you of $15,000–$20,000, really hurtful, damage your house or car or something. How does society solve that problem? Does the criminal ever pay you back? No, you never get a dollar out of the criminal. What happens? We send them to jail; we’ll throw away the keys. You know what you don’t throw away? The tax bill to finance three meals a day for the next twenty years or however long he’s in jail. So now look what we’ve done. Now we’ve got $15,000–$20,000 original damage over here, we’ve got $30,000 a year times ten years, $300,000 in taxpayer money. So what have we done to the damage? We haven’t resolved the damage and now we impose another burden on all of society to pay for the next twenty years.
What else do we do that’s so brilliant? Now the insurance rates go up because the insurance company has to pay this, so now all of us pay again; we’re paying to the insurance company, we’re paying to the jails, we’re paying the lawyers, they didn’t do that in Exodus 22. The Bible isn’t quite as primitive as we think. We can learn a lot from the law codes in the Word of God. God isn’t stupid, and we ought to think about when He set up a society, He wasn’t naïf, He had ways of coping with this. Maybe we can learn something from that. Justice in the Bible means this godly order has to be restored, so there’s a restitutionary component to biblical justice.
The next thing we learned last time which transitions into tonight and the Messiah, the third thing is that in the case of our sin, what do we do for restitution? The question is: what is the source of the restitution? The source of the restitution! Last week we looked at Genesis 3, the first animal to be slaughtered, and slaughtering of animals is a modern issue, the animal rights movement. And there are some things about the animal rights movement that are absolutely weird, silly and stupid, but there are also some things about the movement that are true. The Bible is very humane toward animals.
In Genesis 3:21, God “made garments of skin for Adam and his wife,” how do you get skin except by killing an animal? Here’s the first blood sacrifice. So God says, Adam and Eve, you’ve sinned, you’ve ruined the life that I gave you; that life is cursed now. Now you owe Me. But how do they pay? They can’t, because they don’t have the assets. So where’s the source of the restitution? This leads to a practice that God kept in motion for century after century after century of time throughout the Scripture, and that is animal sacrifice. Let’s think about why He did this.
The first thing to notice is that the animals are giving their life for man. There’s a substitution of sorts in which the animal life is traded for man’s life. So there’s a substitutionary aspect to this. That’s Genesis 3:21 and the whole thing. Why are animals picked instead of plants? Cain thought he could come to God with plants. Abel thought he could come to God with blood sacrifice of animals. What’s the difference between plant and animal in creation account? Nephesh, the Hebrew word for life is true and labeled only of animals, not of plants. Adam and Eve could eat plants before the fall and that did not cause the death of the plant, the plant didn’t die in the nephesh sense. Plants and animals are distinguished. So animals become, because of the nephesh principle, the animals are used as medium so that Adam and Eve start to learn that for their nephesh other nephesh have to be substituted. Jesus Christ wasn’t around, the incarnation hadn’t happened yet, so this is preparatory to the incarnation. Animals have nephesh, plants do not, animals, therefore, are selected to give their nephesh for human nephesh.
Then what happens is that the animals are close enough to man, animals are analogous to us in that we feel, they feel pain, and when we have to kill them in animal sacrifice, we have to cause pain. The problem today is, because we’re not living in rural America any more, we don’t see the slaughter of animals. It’s all neatly packaged in the supermarket shelf. But we don’t see the pain that we caused. In order to get meat you have to kill something. That causes the animal pain. So something has to die in order that we can survive. We won’t get into it tonight, but that’s the lesson of Genesis 9 of why there’s a meat diet after the flood and not before the flood, etc. Now through the animal sacrifices we learn century after century the issue of substitution for God’s restitutionary justice. We learn that there has to be something that’s alive, it can’t be plants. We see the analogous nature of animals and the horror and the suffering it causes.
What is another illustration in the Old Testament that God used to communicate to us the pain that is caused by sacrificial death, it came very close to human sacrifice? An event in Genesis, Abraham and Isaac. That’s the passage of Scripture, if you take a concordance and check out and look up this term that’s used of the Lord Jesus Christ, remember one of the titles of Jesus is “the only begotten,” monogenes. Do you know where that term first occurs? God says to Abraham, take your monogenes, take your “only begotten son” and slit his throat for Me. So in that scene of Abraham and Isaac, God comes yet closer. See, each step God reveals more and more of the Lord Jesus Christ. They didn’t consciously think of it in terms of, perhaps a human Messiah at the time, but man was being led to this end.
That’s why the Bible distinguishes the religion of Cain from the religion of Abel in the book of Hebrews, and the religion of Cain in the book of Jude. The way of Cain is the way of getting around bloody sacrifice, it’s bloodless religion. That is not saying that animism …, a lot of tribes in primitive areas practice animism where they have sacrifice, the Aztecs and the Incas ruined their civilization because they used human sacrifices, cut out the heart right there on a big slab of stone. But behind all that blood and gore was a truth that they had once learned from father Noah, that if you want to approach God, and get on right terms with God’s justice, there’s got to be restitution and it’s got to come from outside you. So it’s got to come from animals or man. In paganism they slipped over the line and began to slaughter their babies, they began to slaughter slaves, they finally began to slaughter people in their families, and you had a literal blood religion that was an apostate religion. On the other hand, if you don’t go this way and you avoid this issue of blood sacrifice, and atonement for sin, then you no way are coping with God’s justice.
Another passage of the Old Testament that shows this is what happened when Israel was freed from Egypt? What was the climactic moment that is commemorated to this day by Orthodox Jewish families, all across the world? The Passover. [blank spot] … it wasn’t their blood, it was a lamb that had to be sacrificed. Now we’re specifying the kinds of animals. Certain kinds of animals are picked out as sacrifices. Why is that? Because zoologically there’s something about sheep that God wants us to see. There’s something about that animal and to kill that particular animal, and go through this experience is teaching us something about the cross of Christ.
So He ordains this strange practice of blood atonement, blood atonement, blood atonement. Years ago, when the gospel was preached in a much more direct fashion, the liberals thirty or forty years ago used to make fun of the fundamentalists. If you were a fundamentalist and you had a liberal friend in your home they’d say I don’t believe in your blood religion. They took pride in setting themselves apart that we have a higher ethic than you people and your bloody religion. So this is a component of the whole issue of justice.
We want to move on to the Messiah and how we start in the Bible discussion in the progressive revelation, we see now that the Messiah comes in. So we have Messiah, He comes and He has something, all the details aren’t quite clear, but Messiah is going to somehow be associated with a substitutionary blood atonement. They couldn’t make this link until they understood the necessity of a substitutionary blood atonement. This lesson had to be learned first; it took a long time to learn this. Then after we learn that God’s justice demands restitution for my sin, and I don’t like this, I mean, the idea of having to kill an animal must have created the thought in people’s minds, look at the consequences of my sin. When I fall from before a holy God, look at what it takes to restore fellowship, look at the damage it’s done here. Now the Messiah becomes linked to that.
We want to look at passages where the blood atonement and the Messiah come together. I’ve already said that the Passover was one of these. Turn to Genesis 3:15, just above the passage where God killed the animal, God already revealed the first truth about Messiah. This is called by theologians, there’s a term for this if you read a serious commentator, there’s a Latin word that’s used, “protevangelium,” the first—“proto” gospel announcement and it’s Genesis 3:15. That’s the protevangelium. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed,” notice the different wounds that are made, “he shall bruise you on the head,” that’s a mortal wound, “and you shall bruise him on the heel,” that’s a wound from which he will recover.
Two things about that verse, notice in the third clause of Genesis 3:15 there’s a word there that should have … should have grabbed the attention of every Jewish reader, or every reader of the Bible, that’s the word “seed.” It’s the word for sperm. What is unusual about the word usage in Genesis 3:15? Women don’t have sperm. Why is that word associated with a woman there? The text doesn’t say, but it’s a very odd construction. Something is not right. We read this, we get so used to it, we just go through it 35 mph and don’t even read the signs. But there’s something screwy about that statement, and it’s deliberately put in there by the Holy Spirit hoping that somebody is going to read that and say hey, what does this mean, the sperm of the woman? What’s going on here? Of course we know historically what that is, and that is a reference to the virgin birth. The woman created a seed; it was the Holy Spirit that brought about the conception.
Her seed shall now “bruise you on the head, and you will bruise him on the heel,” talking to Satan. In mythology this truth was partially remembered in a famous Greek myth. Remember what the myth was? Somebody whose heel his mother held when he was a baby and it gave him immunity from all parts except his heel, we call that in the expression of the English language, the Achilles heel, because Achilles was held by his mother and it was the place where she held him, by the heel, that was his vulnerable point. That’s probably a mythological distortion of the Genesis truth.
So the Messiah in the context is spoken of. The virgin birth is hinted at, and the Messiah is said to engage a battle with Satan and will be wounded. It’s not explicitly in context linked yet. Verse 15 and verse 21 aren’t linked together yet, but that’s the first thing. So let’s watch the progress. There are four or five of these links that go on between the Messiah that I’m going to point out.
The first one is in Genesis 3, let’s go to the second one, which we’ve already talked about, that’s the Passover. Jesus Christ, the night before He was betrayed, He took bread, and He took the wine. Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover, and He did so because in effect He was acting out the Passover to show His participation. We’ll get into that in a little bit. Exodus 12 is the second link between the Messiah and the substitutionary atonement.
The third link is that every major biblical covenant in the Scripture, EVERY covenant in the Scripture is inaugurated by a blood sacrifice, starting with the Noahic Covenant. Noah made a sacrifice, Abraham had a sacrifice, the Sinaitic Covenant was installed by sacrifice, and what was the covenant which was the focus into the future? The New Covenant, and when the Lord Jesus Christ, in the middle of the first communion, what did He say, as He held up the cup? This is the blood of the New Covenant; so as the Lord Jesus Christ installed the covenant that night, twenty-four hours later He would pay with His blood, with His life, the installation of the New Covenant. It all fits together. He was doing nothing that hadn’t already been done in the Old Testament.
A fourth link, Isaiah 53, this is the most controversial passage to Jewish people in the Scripture. This has been a crux, a source of argumentation, for centuries, a very famous portion of the Old Testament. Knowledgeable Jews will react, I say knowledgeable Jews because there are many Jewish people today who know less about the Bible than Gentiles, but Jews that are knowledgeable about the Scripture are very sensitive to this passage. In Isaiah 53:2, “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him. Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” By the way, there’s no portrait in the Scripture of the physical appearance of Jesus Christ except this. This is the closest we ever come, with one exception in the Gospel of John where people said that He wasn’t yet 50, which means that he probably looked older than He was because He was only 30 something. But here it says that if you saw the Lord Jesus Christ, not the hippie that’s painted in the artistry, but if you saw the real Jesus you would not particularly think of as a particularly outstanding person, very plain looking, “nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” He wasn’t that super attractive physically.
Verse 3, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried,” watch verses 4 and 5, because this is what really causes grief to Jewish people who are knowledgeable of the Scriptures who are not Messianic Jews. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried, yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions,” watch it right there, do you see what’s happening in Isaiah 53 that’s exciting? Isaiah 53 links the Messiah to a substitutionary death. It’s right here. What does it says, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.  All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD” look at this one, “the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
Isaiah 53 is a central passage about the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. How do unbelieving Jews handle this? Before Christianity the universal interpretation of this by the Jewish community was that this was the Messiah, no doubt. Then after Jesus came and the Christian Jews began to say see, right there, there’s Messiah, then they said well gee, let’s take another look at this one. So things got greasy then, so the interpretation of Isaiah 53 came to be well, maybe that’s the nation Israel there. In the notes on page 77, “Not until the Middle Ages did the rabbis shift to what is claimed today as ‘the’ Jewish interpretation,” so look at the date. How many centuries went by between the Middle Ages and the death of Christ? Nine, ten, so it’s ten centuries later that this interpretation got all greased up.
“Some Gentile Christian scholars, however, insist that first-century Jews did not recognize any vicarious suffering of the Messiah in this passage.” They say they just didn’t recognize it. “These scholars are opposed by most Hebrew Christian scholars, who claim the contrary. Dr. Fruchtenbaum, for example, notes” and here’s some evidences for you, I searched these out so those of you who like to capture little evidences, here’s a list for you. Dr. Fruchtenbaum, “notes that the Zohar, written about AD 110,” that’s after the death of Christ, “preserves an old first-century Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 53:4,” and this is what the Zohar says, quote, “ ‘Were it not that [Messiah] had thus lighted [sickness, pain, chastisement] off Israel and taken them upon himself, there had been no man able to bear Israel’s chastisement for transgression of the law.’ Surely, there is the element of vicarious or substitutionary Messianic suffering in this non-Christian Jewish first-century tradition. Furthermore, Fruchtenbaum points out, this interpretative tradition of Isaiah 53 continued in Jewish circles well into the Christian era, occurring in remarkable places such as the Yom Kippur Musaf Prayer written around the seventh century AD” now we’re up to the seventh century AD, and here’s what the prayer says, “‘Messiah our Righteousness is departed from us. … He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities, and our transgressions…. He beareth our sins… that he may find pardon for our iniquities.’ The allusion to Isaiah 53 is unmistakable.”
What we’ve said tonight is out of this core of justice that we’ve learned in the Scripture, then we moved to the animal sacrifice that was a revelatory preparation for understanding the death of Christ, then the Messiah prophetically was linked into the substitutionary blood atonement. Next week we’re going to deal with the crucifixion narratives and we’re going to cite certain things that maybe you haven’t seen, hopefully most of us have, but there may be some who are new to the Scripture who haven’t noticed particular ways that the Bible reports the death to have occurred. There’s a strange thing in this. So we’ll work with that after we get done with next week’s discussion of how the Bible is true.