March 25, 2016

Dear Liberty,

     While in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve full reign of the land.  They were free to roam and enjoy all that God had provided for them, except for one specific tree, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. (see Fruit Of The Forbidden Tree)  We don’t know exactly how long Satan tempted Adam and Eve, but he wore them down with one repeated question.  “Did God really say that?”  After giving into temptation, both Adam and Eve were confronted by God because of their sin.  

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?…Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”  Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."  Genesis 3:9-13

     The bond between God and mankind had been torn apart.  But God, being a gracious and loving God, gave them and us hope that that relationship could and would be repaired.  

“I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman, and between your offspring (unbelievers) and her offspring (believers); he (Jesus) shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

     God revealed that this promised Savior would come through Abraham and his descendants, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12: 1-3.  

     But the descendants of Abraham constantly challenged God and turned from him.  After being freed from slavery in Egypt, but while still in the desert, the Israelites whined and complained about their circumstances.  They moaned about the long journey, which they brought upon themselves due to their unfaithfulness. They grumbled about the food which God compassionately and mercifully provided daily.  In order to open Israel’s eyes, God sent serpents throughout the land that bit and killed the people for their disbelief.  Because of God’s rebuking, the people realized their sin and repented.  

And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you.  Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.”  So Moses prayed for the people.  And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”  So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole.  And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.  Numbers 21:7-9

     God taught the Israelites that the serpent, which has represented Satan and sin since the Garden of Eden, would surround them.  (see Fruit Of The Forbidden Tree)  However, if they looked upon the conquered snake on the pole, they would live.

     God gave Moses instructions on how Israelites were to conduct themselves and keep evil out of their community.  God informed them, “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.” Deuteronomy 21: 22-23

     At the time of Caesar Augustus, when Rome ruled the known world, God completed his promise to His people.  (see The Reason For The Season)  As foretold, an offspring of the woman and God’s own son, Jesus, was born and he brought enmity between believers and unbelievers.  After three years of ministry, Jesus knew His time had come to fulfill His Father’s will.  The priests and scholars rallied against Jesus, convincing others He was a sinner worthy of death.

And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.  Mark 14:63-65

     Jesus, the Son of God, sinless and blameless, was innocent of the charges, but was still condemned of a “crime punishable by death” and sentenced to suffer on the cross.  (see What's So Good About Good Friday?)  He was flogged and beaten, forced to carry his means of execution to the place of his death and then lifted up upon a tree to receive the punishment meant for every one of us.  In God’s eye’s, Jesus became cursed, not because of His crimes, but because of ours.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;

  yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

  upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:4-5

     Jesus heals us in the way the Israelites were healed 1,500 years before. We, as sinners, bitten by sin of Satan can receive life by looking upon the one on the cross.  As Jesus told Nicodemus:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”  John 3:14-15

     So, Liberty, as we mourn that Jesus had to suffer and die in our place, it was the plan God laid out for us from the beginning.  He made clear through His Word that He would send a Savior because only He could repair the damage Adam and Eve had done.  He fulfilled that promise with His son, Jesus Christ.  

     But Christ’s death on the cross is not the end of the story.  Christ did not just die in our stead to pay for our sins. His real victory was conquering death upon His resurrection.  Christ had bruised Satan’s head and now sin and death have lost their sting.  As it is on a cross that Christ hanged to give us freedom from our sin, it is the empty cross that fulfills that promise.  As Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19.

     When we feel the pressures of sin and Satan constantly surrounding us ready to strike, remember even when we get bit, look upon the tree, look upon the cross, and believe.  For it is upon that tree that God revealed the true knowledge of good and evil.  Just like in the garden, Satan again thought he won and God's reign was done, especially when Jesus declared, "It is finished.”  In reality, Jesus was proclaiming God's law, prophecies, and promises were fulfilled.  We are no longer slaves to Satan and sin.  God has given us the path to eternal life.  

     So rejoice, Liberty, because the victory has been won.  And when Satan tempts you by asking, “Did God really say that?” you can confidently and proudly respond, “Yes, yes he did!”

     That’s my 2 cents.