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Isaiah 43:1-15

 

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.  Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.  Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.  I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth,  everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."

 

Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!  All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and I am God.

 

Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?" Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "For your sake I send to Babylon and bring them all down as fugitives, even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice. I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King." (ESV)

What a Deal!

Wednesday of Easter 3

22 April 2015

When I was a seminary student, there was a lively book market on the campus. Books were our educational meat and drink, so book auctions were anticipated with some relish, and sales between students were not at all uncommon. I remember listening in on the negotiations between two students over a textbook in a required class just finished by the book's owner and a student who wanted the book because he was enrolled in the class in the next quarter. The haggling reached an impasse when the owner of the book insisted: "I won't take any more than ten dollars for this book." The buyer made a counter offer: "Look, I will pay you twelve dollars for it. Take it or leave it." With some glee, I injected myself into their negotiations, "You boys have it all wrong! Let me, the Canadian, explain the capitalist system to you Americans. The seller should be asking for more and the buyer should be offering less. Not the opposite." Both were haggling against their own economic interests; giving more and getting less. Who would do such an absurd thing?

 

Who would give more and get less? God. He gave His own dearest Treasure, His beloved Son into death for sinners like us. What kind of exchange is this? Hardly a capitalist exchange! It is an exchange of grace, what Luther calls the "blessed exchange." "I have that...blessed exchange by which I know that death has been changed into life, destruction into eternal salvation, and sin into righteousness" (Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 35.3). This exchange is blessed to us because we would never merit its benefit using our own resources. Apart from God's grace, which substitutes the shining righteousness of Christ for our filthy sin, we would be so deeply damned that we could not even fathom the depth of our state. The only way we are going to be raised from liability to death and obedience to its king, sin, is by grace for we have not the resources within ourselves to do anything about it.

 

What does God get from us? Our sin and death, which is far worse than nothing. God does not forgive our sin and rescue us from death and the devil by mere caprice, as thought it were merely a random act of kindness on God's part. No, He lays upon the back of our dear Lord Jesus the things exchanged for the gifts of God's grace. Our filth, sin and death now are Christ's, and if so, they are no longer ours. So God gives holiness to the saints for Christ's sake and in exchange the saints hand over the burden of their death and sin. Christ becomes the infinitely valuable "voucher" as John Chrysostom says, becoming what we might call the gift card that just keeps on giving.

 

The value of what is exchanged is in no way commensurate. At least in a capitalistic exchange there is commensurability; I pay what I think a product or service is worth. God does not deal with us poor sinners in this way. He does not restore us to the kind of life broken by the fall. He goes far beyond this by restoring perfect fellowship and promising eternal life with Him. We do not just get the "good life," but eternal life in His presence. What a deal! Let me know when you find one that is better.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'So that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord' (Rm 5:21). Paul says this to show that the latter, sin, ranks as a king. The former, death, is a soldier, marshaled under sin and armed by it. If then the latter, sin, armed death, it is plain enough that the righteousness destructive of it, which was introduced by grace, not only disarms death, but even destroys it, and undoes entirely its dominion, in that it is the greatest of the two, because it is introduced not by man and the devil, but by God and grace, and leading our life to a better state and unlimited blessings. Of it there will never be any end (to give you a view of its superiority from this also). For sin cast us out of our present life, but grace, when it came, gave us not the present life, but the immortal and eternal one. But for all these things Christ is our voucher. Do not doubt then about your life, if you have righteousness, for righteousness is greater than life, being its mother."  


John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 10.3
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have disarmed death by taking sin's power away in Your own on glorious person. Help us to live in peace under the grace which You have proclaimed to us in the words of the prophets and apostles through whom You spoke to us poor sinners. Amen.

 

For Holly Cokinos, who is pregnant, that the Lord would keep both mother and child in his gracious and caring hand

 

For Bill and Rosa Summers, who have been granted the gift of a baby boy, Wesley Scott Summers, that they would be good stewards of the gift granted them by God

 

For all the guests and visitors present among us by the power of the Spirit, that we might welcome them to our Father's home, the church, with open arms, as He has welcomed us

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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