Saturday, March 30, 2013

Coram Deo

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” – Galatians 3:13-14
There are many ways to kill a man, and as horrible as crucifixion on a cross is, it is not the most horrible way.  Many murderers have invented ways that are sinister, and far worse.  But the cross was the predestined method of death for Jesus Christ.  It served a purpose for Him to give up His life on a wooden cross.

The Romans reserved death on the cross for criminals and slaves, neither of which was Jesus.  But in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 we read that the worst of sins were to be atoned to God through death on the cross.  It says, If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.”
Was Jesus worthy of punishment that was reserved for “a sin deserving of death”?  No.  He was not made guilty by our sins.  Let no one say that Jesus was ever found guilty, not even when paying our sin debt, for He was the perfect Lamb of God.  But He was made the sacrifice for all sins, trading His righteousness willingly for our freedom.  In taking on the greatest punishment for sin, He cleansed us from the smallest to the greatest degree of sin.  The cross was what WE deserved.  It was OUR punishment, being criminal in our breaking of God’s laws, and a slave to sin through our own weakness.

But the cross afforded us much more than payment of our sin debt.  It cancelled the curse of sin.  The curse was not only death, but alienation from God.  It separated us from Him.  When the curse was pronounced on the human race in Genesis 3:24 God drove man out of the Garden of Eden.  He no longer would walk with man in the cool of the day.  In Matthew 25:41 Jesus speaks of the separation of those who are sinful, those that will stand on His left hand in the Day of Judgment, saying “Depart from me, you cursed”.  Without faith in Jesus, we are still cursed and separated from God.
In the Old Testament, atonement for sin wasn’t through faith, but made through sacrifices.  For sin, the sacrifice of a bull was made.  Our sins would be transferred to the bull, and the bull’s life would be taken.  But after the bull was sacrificed, the law said that “the whole bull he shall carry outside the camp”.  Sin causes separation from God, who dwelled in the Holy of Holies.  The bull would be taken away from God’s presence, far outside the camp.

Likewise those who were lepers were called “unclean”.  In Leviticus 13:46 it says that “All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. The unclean flesh would not come to the presence of God. He would dwell alone.  The leper was a “type” given in the Old Testament of a sinner, depicting our sin infected flesh.
Hebrews 13:11-12 says “For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” The cross was outside the city, and raised high on the hill of Golgotha.

In Numbers 21, the Israelites sinned against God, complaining about being taken out of Egypt, and God sent serpents to bite them.  The bite would kill them because of their sin.  But when they confessed their sins, God told Moses to craft a brazen serpent, and put it high on a pole.  When the Israelites were bitten, paying the price for their own sin, they would look to the brazen serpent, raised high on a wooden pole (think Cross), and live. When bitten, the last thing these people would want to do is look at a snake and be reminded of the bite!  In that same way, when we sin, the last thing we want to do is look to Jesus, who is Holy.  But those who would look to the serpent, in faith, would live.   
Colossians 2:13-14 reminds us of the cancelation of our sin debt in looking to Christ in faith, saying, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Our sins, all of them, were placed upon Jesus as He hung on the cross.

While living among us, Jesus lived in ‘Coram Deo’.  ‘Coram Deo’ is Latin, and means “in the presence of God.” But when Jesus went to the cross, there was a time when He felt forsaken by God.  He felt the absence of God for the first time.  In that ninth hour on the cross, “in the fullness of time”, Jesus cried out to God saying “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).  For payment of our sins, He was exiled from God.  For the first time Jesus experienced life outside of Coram Deo.    
1 Peter 2:23-24 says that He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously [God]; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. We were the sheep outside the herd, lost and away from the Shepherd. 

By one man’s sin, we were all found guilty.  We were placed under judgment and condemnation.  But by one man’s righteousness, we were justified and made right with God. Romans 8:19 says “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
The cross was more than just the payment of our sins.  Through faith, it restores us to fellowship with God, giving us the gift of His Holy Spirit when we look to Christ, and live.  Faith in Jesus cancels the curse of sin.  We accept His payment, personally, for our sin debt through confession of our sins.  Then we receive Coram Deo, “the presence of God”.  God lives within us through His Holy Spirit, and are never exiled from God again.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5

Thank you, God, for you left nothing undone in restoring us to righteousness.  Thank you for your presence in our lives, for not forsaking us.  Thank you, Jesus, for being our willing sacrifice.  Thank you for your eternal love and eternal life.

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