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Because He First Loved Us

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

He "Learned" to Speak Our Language


Welcome to Our God Bathed Life! I want to take just a moment to recommend that you read the introductory blog if you have not done so already. It will give you a good idea of what to expect from this and future blogs. Since the podcast and blog are essentially the same, when I refer to the blog, it also includes the corresponding podcast episode as well.


As stated in that introductory blog, the practices suggested at the end of the blogs are for anyone. You do not need to be a Christian yet to be here.


Just a note: this will probably be one of the more challenging blogs I write. I know it is a risk to start this way, but I think that if we are to have a relational relationship with God, we need to be confident that He is good. This blog deals not only with the direct question that it seeks to answer, but also with many related questions people have about whether we can trust that God is good. This blog is long and some may consider it dense. If that is so for you, then please take advantage of the section headers as a marker for where to take a break and come back to later. Glean what you can, and focus on the part where we imagine what God might say as well as the practice.





"We love, because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19 (NASB)


"The LORD is gracious and merciful;

Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.

The LORD is good to all,

And His mercies are over all His works."


A Surprising Question: Both the Question, and the Fact that it Isn't More Common


This blog and next I want to take time to consider the goodness of God. The first thing I want to do, before we get any deeper into the blog, is to give a personal story to explain how it came about, because this may be a bizarre way to approach the subject of God's goodness.


Have you ever met someone that is amazing at talking with people about Jesus, the topic just comes up with ease? That's not me. So I took a class at church.


Eventually this class had a homework assignment to speak with two people about Jesus using the method that was taught. I feel like it was one of the better methods I had heard of how to introduce the topic of a relationship with God. There were two people at work that I wanted to speak with specifically, and I got to speak with one of the two. She was a kind-hearted young woman.


We met for breakfast and she listened as I laid out the gospel message according to the homework assignment. Then she asked a question: why did Jesus have to die? I went back and explained that He was paying for our sin so we can be reconciled with Him.


She said she understood that part. She was asking a question I never considered, but was a natural one, especially from a kind-hearted person. It is a wonder I don't remember hearing it asked before: why did God choose such a horrible, violent method of reconciliation with mankind, one where He essentially sacrifices His own son to humiliation, torture, and death? Surely an infinite God could come up with a less, well, seemingly evil way.


Hmmm... I don't know. But I promised I would look into it. And I did, for a couple/few months I did. I researched through my Bible study software I had at the time - nothing. I asked around. My pastor suggested that human sacrifice and punishment on a cross were in use and understood in Jesus' culture. God was meeting us where we were at, as He so commonly does. That was a really good answer, but it needed some color commentary. I pieced that answer together with it being a display of the lengths God was willing to go through to demonstrate His love for us. I wrote her an email to lay out the explanation that she could read at her leisure. But I knew it was incomplete, and it has been in the back of my mind ever since.


Why couldn't, or, more likely, why didn't, a good God choose a less seemingly evil mode of reconciliation than subjecting His own Son to humiliation, torture, and death? He is infinite in creativity as well as power and wisdom after all.


I have come to the conclusion that it is precisely because God is good.


Horror or Hope?


I struggled with how to introduce this blog and its content about God's goodness for over a week. As the thought came to me to simply tell the story of how this came about, I was in the drive-thru picking up lunch. The girl at the pick-up window was prominently wearing a cross necklace. It struck me how this cross was an offense to the one young woman, and rightly so, yet was a symbol of faith and beauty to another, and to so many billions of people throughout history, and also rightly so.


How, exactly, does a symbol of humiliation, torture, and death, especially when there is a human who ends up as a sacrifice, become a symbol of faith and beauty to so many?


I have come to the conclusion that it is precisely because God is good. Let me explain...


We Have Questions and Doubts, So God Offers Himself


I know that some of you may have a problem with this idea. "If God is so good, then why didn't He keep my wife from getting cancer? She's pregnant. The treatment that gives her the best chance of survival may also kill our baby" (this was a decision that a young couple with several children had to deal with at a church I was attending). "If He is so good, how could He allow my husband to be shot to death in a mass shooting? We have three children and I am a stay at home mom." And the list of tragedies goes on and on. We live in a horrendously broken world. We all know it. I do hope, in a later episode, to address how a good God can allow so much evil. There is an answer. Spoiler alert: it isn't a very satisfying one. Because when everything has been explained, we are still left with the desire for justice and good even as evil seems to triumph.


When tragedies happen, or sometimes just a bad day, we often wonder why. Why would God allow this to happen? If you believe, like I do, that God works to bring good from the painful ashes of tragedy, then your why question might turn into a how question. I think that, precisely because He is good, God's default position is to answer those questions for us. The problem is that He is an infinite God with infinite understanding and we have finite minds that have a hard time understanding much. So what options does that leave God when He wants to explain but our minds can't absorb the answer?


He can show us that He is good. And that we can lean into trusting Him. He can make Himself available for a personal relationship with Him. And it turns out that is exactly what He wants anyway, a personal relationship with each and every person.


In this blog, we explore how God used something that He is against in order to meet us where we were at. Allow me to say that again, God used something He is against in order to meet us where we were at. God is for life, and against the sacrifice of a human being. Yet, even though God the Father did not place Jesus on the cross, He did willingly send Him. Jesus willingly went. The Holy Spirit willingly led Him. God spoke our language to reach us. Actually it wasn't even our language. It was given to us by God's enemy. But we'll talk about that more in the next blog. And please know, no matter who you are or where you are spiritually, God will reach out to you where you are at. He always does. He always will. You are never beyond reach. Reach out to Him and you'll find that He is right there.


Where it All Went Wrong


Even if you aren't a church goer, chances are you are familiar with the creation story in early Genesis. If not, feel free to read it in the first 2 chapters of Genesis at BibleGateway.com here. We'll get into it more in the next blog, but for now let's just say that God created a paradise in which we can live together with Him and each other.


And chances are, even if you haven't read Genesis 3 (you can read Genesis 3 here), you are aware that we (mankind) messed this paradise up by eating the one fruit that God said not to. We had one job, as the joke goes. That's not really right. We had three jobs: 1) be fruitful and multiply, 2) rule over the earth together with God, 3) don't eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


Well, before too long we did eat from that tree and things went downhill really, really fast. How fast and how bad? A mere 3 chapters later and things deteriorated so far that God saw that "every intent of the thoughts of (mankind's) heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5 NASB) So God decided to wipe it all out with a flood. Except there was one man, just one in all the earth, that found favor with God: Noah. Chances are you heard about him and how he and his family built an ark and escorted animals into it so that God could hit the reset button on mankind through them.


A Second Chance and We Meet a Man Named Abram


So how did it go this time? The flood waters receded, God promised Noah that He wouldn't destroy the earth with a flood again and told Noah 1) No murdering, 2) Be fruitful and multiply. A few verses later Noah plants a vineyard and gets drunk and naked and one of his sons saw him, told his brothers about it, and then there is some family drama. Three chapters later, we meet a man named Abram that God called away from his father's estate to a land that God promised him. This man's travels took him to Egypt. On the way, he told his very beautiful wife, Sarai, to tell the Egyptians that she is his sister, and not his wife, so that they don't kill him and take her. He reasoned that it wasn't really lying because she's his step sister anyway. The next chapter we see Abram and his nephew, Lot, who was his travel companion, are at a crossroads. He and Abram had lots of livestock, so much so that the land couldn't support them all. Abram offered for Lot to choose which land he would settle, and Abram would go the other way. So Lot, taking advantage of Abram's kindness, took the more fertile land. Then Lot settled near Sodom where "the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD." (Genesis 13:13 NASB) So how did it go this time after God hit the reset button? Still not so good. So God is going to hit the smite button again, right? Well, no.


You see, Genesis 6 tells us that God's use of the flood was borne out of sorrow and regret, not retribution and anger. He wants good. Just like we do when we ask Him why or how when tragedy strikes. All mankind was deeply steeped in evil except Noah, and that was apparently only by a matter of degree. But this time it seems to be going slightly better, and besides, God promised Noah... and us.


So back to Abram. God said that He was going to bless all of the families of the earth through his lineage. The only problem was that Sarai was barren and he had no kids of his own, so maybe through the son of one of his servants maybe? No, God promised Abram a son of his own, from his own body and not adopted.


*** Pause and Recap ***


Let's hit the pause button for just a moment so that we can recap and look ahead:


Why would a good God use such a cruel and brutal method, Jesus' suffering and death on a cross, as a means of offering reconciliation to every person? We'll get to that later in this blog.


First, is God even good when evil and injustice are so common? Yes, evil and injustice exist because God values agency. He gave it to people, resulting in the fall, introducing evil into God's good creation, but we'll look at that more in the next blog. He also gave agency to angels, which is how we got Satan, the enemy, and his demons.


When evil came to the world, humanity fell hard and fast. God wants good. He wants to work with humanity in His good creation. A sorrowful God found one man in all the earth He could work with, saved him and his family, together with representative male and females from all of the animals, and wiped the rest out in a flood. He hit the reset button with greater hope for the second time around.


God wants relationship with us: for our sake because we were designed for it, and for His sake because He delights in it. But the fall caused a deep rift between a people with a penchant for evil and a God who is good and pure. Because of His deep love, a byproduct of His goodness, He launches a rescue plan that will respect our agency. Why is agency so important? We'll get into that in the next blog as well.


Anyway, God's plan for blessing the nations, meaning providing a way to reconnect with Him, is under way with Abram.


The Plan for Blessing Gets Off to a Rocky Start


Time went by and Abram's wife, Sarai, decided maybe God's promise of offspring needed a little help because she wasn't a spring chicken anymore and time was ticking for both of them. So she told Abram to take her servant, Hagar, as his other wife and have a kid by her. Abram didn't seem to put up a fight about it, like, at all, and Hagar didn't seem to get a vote. As you may have predicted, there was some drama.


However it was a success! Hagar bears Abram a son named Ishmael. They have it made. Abram is wealthy, Ishmael is going to inherit it all, and of course Ishmael will take care of his mom. 86-year-old Abram gets an heir. Everybody's happy!


Until 13 years later when God steps in and tells 99-year-old Abram, "that's not what I had in mind. Your wife Sarai is going to be a mom by you." In fact, the Bible says that God changed his name from Abram (which meant "exalted father") to Abraham (which meant "father of multitudes"), and that Abraham was a friend to God. So maybe the humanity thing has a chance.


Sarai also undergoes a name change to Sarah (meaning "princess") and she becomes mom to Isaac. There is more family drama and now Sarah asks Abraham to kick Hagar and Ishmael out. While Abraham is grieved over it, God tells Abraham to go through with it. God told Abraham that He had a plan for Ishmael, that Ishmael would become a nation, too. Abraham sends them away.


Anyway, Abraham loves Isaac. He is his only son now. They probably went fishing together, hunting together, built Legos together and raced Hot Wheels cars. Abraham taught him how to tend to the land and the flocks. Set the needle on the record and picture centenarian Abraham skipping hand-in-hand with young Isaac.


If This is How You Treat Your Friends...


Into this picture steps God again, "He said, 'Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.'" (Genesis 22:2 NASB) Record scratch. Silence.


Wait! What? This is God being good how exactly?


As I mentioned earlier, the Bible tells us that God considered Abraham a friend of His. St Teresa of Avila, a famous Spanish saint who lived during the 1500's, is believed to have said to God one day when she took a tumble, something to the effect of "If this is how You treat your friends, no wonder You have so few of them!"


Let's continue the story:

"So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey,"

[he didn't delay? He rose early?]

"and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance."

-Genesis 22:3-4 (NASB) (except the delay comments)


Three days?! Ugh. What was Abraham thinking for THREE DAYS. (Hebrews 11:19a gives us insight on one of the thoughts Abraham had during those three excruciating days: "He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead" NASB)


Continuing:

"Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.'"

-Genesis 22:5 (NASB)


We'll both return: I'll be carrying the charred remains of Isaac.


"Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son,"

[Isaac has to carry the wood of his own sacrifice?! Who does that?]

"and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.

Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, 'My father!' And he said, 'Here I am, my son.' And he said, 'Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?'

Abraham said, 'God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.' So the two of them walked on together.

Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son."

Genesis 22:6-10 (NASB) (except the comment about Isaac carrying the wood to his own sacrifice)


Let's step away from this scene for a moment and fast forward about 1000-1500 years or so and listen to God speak to the kings of Judah through His prophet Jeremiah:

“Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind;"

Is God suffering from selective memory here? I mean, sure, Abraham wasn't offering Isaac to Baal (a demonic idol with many variations), but still. Didn't God just tell Abraham to offer Isaac to Him as a burnt offering?


But God is Making a Different Point


The knife is still in the air and Abraham is waiting for us so we better get back there:

"But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.'

He said, 'Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.'

Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.

Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, 'In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.'

Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, 'By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.'

So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba."


Because Beersheba had the best family counselors.


So I believe that God was making a couple of points here:

1) It is likely that human/child sacrifice was practiced among the people groups around Abraham and that he was aware of the practice. The command from God did not seem to come as a shock to Abraham, and Abraham quickly obeyed. Further, we also know that people groups descended from Lot practiced child sacrifice. Whatever the reason for the practice at that time, we see that it would prove the whole-hearted devotion of the worshiper. The first point: One thing child sacrifice could do is demonstrate the whole-hearted devotion of the worshiper. That is not to condone it, only to acknowledge what it does. It is an evil practice.

2) God was showing Abraham, and his descendants that worshiped God, that this is precisely who He is not. That is not at all a practice He affirms. Remember the commands He gave to Noah - don't murder and be fruitful and multiply. This goes against both. The second point: God does not want us to sacrifice people. In fact, God later outlawed it when He gave Moses His Law.


But How Can He Get Our Attention?


There is a third and final point that I want to look at that relates to human/child sacrifice. I know it is a horrendously evil practice, and I don't want to dwell on it, but we're going somewhere with it, I promise. To see this point, let's take a brief look at 2 Kings chapter 3.


2 Kings Chapter 3. The king of Moab dies and his son takes over. His son decides that he isn't going to keep paying the king of Israel the 100,000 ewe lambs and the wool from 100,000 rams like his father used to. The king of Israel decides that he doesn't like this, so he musters help from the king of Judah. They travel through the land of the Edomites toward Moab and pick up help from them along the way. A battle ensues. It isn't going well for Moab. So we pick up in 2 Kings 3:26:

"When the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him 700 men who drew swords, to break through to the king of Edom; but they could not.

Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel, and they departed from him and returned to their own land."


The king of Moab offered his son as a burnt offering to his deity to turn the tide of the battle...and it worked! I checked a number of commentaries and there was a lot of speculation but no real reasoning to explain this. It is a mystery. Regardless, here is the final point: Final point: human/child sacrifice could be used to win the ear of one's deity in times when the stakes are high, and hope for the deity's positive response.


*** Pause and Recap ***


God sets His plan of reconciliation in motion. That plan is going to involve Someone from the lineage of Abraham blessing all of the nations. He will be the true hope of humanity. As the plan unfolds over the next 2000-2300-ish years, we learn that the Promised One is Jesus.


That plan gets off to a rocky start, as you might expect with humans. Nevertheless, God doesn't ditch His plan. He doesn't give up on us. Instead, He is paying attention. He wants to meet us where we are at, to use the language we speak, the language Satan gave us in order to hurt Him, the language of sacrifice. If He offers the greatest possible sacrifice, maybe we'll turn our ear to Him.


So to recap the three points I would like us to consider about human/child sacrifice:

1) It could demonstrate the whole-hearted devotion of the worshiper.

2) It is against God's will (and was outlawed when God gave His Law)

3) It was used in high stakes instances to win the ear of one's deity, hopefully getting the deity to positively respond.


The Most Precious Thing on Earth


"The offering of human life, as the most precious thing on earth, came in process of time to be practiced in most countries of the world... In this, too, the dearest object was primitively selected. Human life is the most valuable thing known, and of this most precious possession the most precious portion is the life of a child. Children, therefore, were offered in fire to the false divinities..."

- John M’Clintock and James Strong, “Sacrifice, Human,” Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1880), 227.


Ask most any parent what the most valuable thing in their life is.


To Capture Your Heart


I mentioned earlier about the fall of man in Genesis 3. One result of the fall is that the unifying connection between God and man was lost. And we couldn't fix it. We needed Someone else to. Well, the good thing is that our good God possesses all knowledge and wisdom and power, and a plan.


For reasons that we'll cover in the next blog, God, even though He could, will not force Himself onto anyone. Therefore He needed more than a method of reconciliation - He is infinitely creative and could likely come up with any number of methods. No, He wanted a story. And not just any story. He wanted a story that would speak into the hearts of His image bearers - each and every human being. He wanted a story so full of grace and beauty that it would melt stone and calloused veneers. He wanted a story that would convey the depths of His longing for our good. He wanted a story worthy of capturing our hearts.


Why do I point out "each one of us" instead of just leaving it at "humanity" or "all of us" or, as is said in John 3:16, "the world"? Because, while it is true that God loves the whole of humanity, as referenced in John 3:16-17, it is also true that He loves each one of us. I had trouble grasping this when I was in my twenties. I could reason the cost that God paid to reconcile with the whole of humanity, but it made no sense to think that He would do the same for just me. That is simply too high of a price for the God of the universe to pay for one person.


But I may be getting ahead of myself.


The Joyous Dance of the Trinity


Have you ever wondered what life was like for God before He made, well, anything? Two authors I admire, Dallas Willard and Larry Crabb, both suggest that what life was like for God before creation is pure, unadulterated joy and bliss and love (God is a Trinity defined as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). People long ago, who are way smarter than me, came up with a term to describe this relationship that exists in the Trinity: perichoresis. "Peri" as in perimeter. And "choresis" as in choreography. It is a dance. Specifically, dancing around. Joy, exuberance, love, goodness, respect - all the good stuff.


Then the Trinity said "Let Us make man in our image". By the way, this is what a husband and wife who love each other do. Their love is imperfect but good. The love within the dance of the Trinity is perfect and good. And parents, like God, want to expand the family. In a way, we are all God's kids. That makes you, and me, and each and every person, the most valuable thing to our Dad.


So, Trinity. Forever. Joy. Exuberance. Good. All the good stuff. Intertwined. One being. One experience. Then the kids go bad. They need a way back. God knows they need Him. He Himself is the very best Thing in the universe and He wants nothing less than the very best Thing for His kids. They're in trouble. He won't force His way on them. His people need a story to choose come back to Him. A story that shows them:

1) How whole-heartedly devoted He is to their well being and desire to be unified with them once again.

2) A story that shows that He is willing to experience a pain that He would never want for His kids.

3) A story that would explain just how high He considers the stakes that each of them find their way back to Him. A story that would incline their ear to Him and hope that they will respond to His plea for reconciliation.


I'm not going to even pretend to understand how the Trinity works. I don't. But I do know that God describes Himself as One. And this One is Three: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The Son refers to Jesus. And I wonder if He wouldn't have described Himself differently if it weren't for this story. Do we need a Father and a Son if there is no Jesus story? Maybe He would have chosen two other names to describe those two persons of the Trinity?


The Choice of the Son


But, we do know that there is a Father, and that there is a Son.


Most of us have heard the story of Jesus, the Son: how He is God, took human form, lived among us teaching and demonstrating what truly living really is, and then suffering immeasurably for us before He gave up His life for us on a humiliating and painful cross. Then He raised on the third day and through Him we are invited to be restored in relationship with God. An amazing story. Jesus Himself told His disciples that they ought to love one another and that "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 NASB) He may have meant humanly speaking.


From the Father's Perspective


So far the stories of child/human sacrifice were told from the point of view of the one offering the sacrifice. Yes, Jesus offered Himself. John 10:14-18 tells us so. But He did it both out of love for us and also because He was sent by His Father to do so.


So let's consider the Jesus story from the point of view of the Father. He sent the Son. The Son went willingly.


God the Father was with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, and they were delighting in their dance of goodness and love. Then they decided that it would be great to expand the family and, like in most healthy marriages, said, "This is great! Let's expand the family and grow this circle of love and joy and goodness!" But it came out sounding like "Let Us make man in Our image" when God said it. Maybe God needs a little work on how He expresses exuberance.


Knowing the whole story from the beginning, the Father knew that Adam and Eve would eat the forbidden fruit, death and disunity and disorder would be introduced, and they would need a way back. He knew that they have an enemy, Satan and the realm of evil forces Satan oversees, and that they might seek to hurt Him through hurting humanity.


A little aside: have you ever seen an action movie where the bad guy wants to inflict as much pain on the good guy as possible so he hurts his family to get to him? John Wick is one such example but there are many. Anyway, Satan realizes that he can't hurt God. It just isn't possible. So He goes after those made in His image, His most precious things on earth, us. Enter the serpent into the garden of Eden. What does it say about how God values us that Satan comes after us to hurt God? I'm not even sure that Satan even cares about hurting us when He hurts us. I think he is out to hurt God. We are just a means to an end for him


Satan inflicts his wound and drives a wedge between the Father and His children. God is grieved and we are lost. He is grieved because we are lost.


The Choice of the Father


He sets His story in motion. God works for good. But Satan has our ear. Satan's forces take the form of various false gods and introduce the concept of worship via offering the most valuable thing any parent has. Human parents are grieved. God watches and is grieved. But the enemy of God provides the very story that the Father uses to win back our ear... and our hearts.


The Father dispatches God the Son and He is born in a manger in Bethlehem, God watches Him grow up. They still speak every day. They have always been together. They are both a part of the dance. God the Son, named Jesus, does His Father proud. So proud that the Father rips open the curtain separating heaven and earth and exuberantly exclaims "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." A little better, but still needs a little work on expressing exuberance. Nevertheless, words that every child wants to hear from his or her father.


Jesus never fails to do the good that His Father has for Him to do. All the way up until, one night in a garden with three of Jesus' disciples sleep-praying nearby, Jesus asks His Father if He could find another way. They both knew what was coming. If you were the Father, wouldn't you want to honor that request? And you know that there actually are other ways, other methods of reconciliation with mankind, that can be employed. You can do it. You can save Your Son the horrors to come. But not if you want to demonstrate, in the strongest way possible, just how much you love each and every person. Not if you want to draw "all men" to yourself. Not if you wanted to honor mankind's agency while simultaneously saving as many of them as possible. Not if you want to speak the language of whole-hearted devotion, the language of willingness to go to any possible length, the language of how high you consider the stakes, and the language of wanting your plea to be heard. No, for that there is no other way.


Ask any parent who has lost a child what the greatest possible pain is.


In echoes of Genesis 22:2, you tell your son, "'your (firstborn) son, whom you love, (Jesus)...go to (Jerusalem), and offer (yourself) there as a (humiliating) offering on (a cross, the punishment of a rebellious criminal).' The authorities will beat you, humiliate you, and take your life. And I will lay on you the entirety of the sin of all mankind for all time. And then, for the first and only time in eternity, you and I will be separated. You must do what I would never ask of anyone else." Your son answers you "then not my will, but yours be done". Your heart aches. But his resolve reaffirms your "well-pleasedness". You are a proud, though grieving, papa.


You watch the next hours unfurl. The false accusations, the condemnation of Your innocent Son, every slap, every hit, every time the whip meets and tears flesh, the thorns that tear into his head. You feel it. An army of angels beg You to be released to save him but you hold them back. The only thing You want more than to save Him right now is to save each and every one made in Your image who have lost their way. You feel each painful step and the weight of the cross on his back (He had to carry the wood of His own sacrifice, too). You feel it each time the hammer strikes the nails entering His hands, His feet. He is lifted up upon the cross, and You lay the weight of the world's sin for all time upon Him. And if that wasn't bad enough, You turn away. (We don't really understand how this worked, Trinitarian reality and all, but there was some kind of disconnect, enough so that Your Son cries out to You, "Why have You forsaken Me?") In His greatest hour of need, the Father He has relied on all His life isn't there in the way He always has been. In some way You turned away.


If the story ended there it would just be a sad story. But it doesn't, because despite what we have been told, we do not have invitation to new life because of the death of Jesus. We have invitation to new life because You didn't stay turned away. A couple days later we find an empty tomb and a resurrected Jesus. We have invitation to new life because of the resurrected life of Jesus. And this new life is a joyous one, an abundant one.


*** Pause and Recap ***


The story of Jesus' sacrifice was God "learning" to speak our language. It was God meeting us where we were at. And have you considered just how powerful this non-fiction story is? This story, together with the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as to its truth, as well as the ongoing work of each person of the Trinity in Our God Bathed World, has given hope and life to billions. If you want to know more of the story, the gospels are a great place to start: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all at the beginning of the New Testament. If you do not have a Bible, visit nearly any local church on a Sunday morning and they will be happy to give you one. Or visit Bible Gateway here.


Concluding Our Teaching


As we conclude the "teaching" part, remember how the cross has been a symbol of faith, hope, and beauty for billions over time? Listen again to the words of the angel of the LORD to Abraham In Genesis 22:15-18 (NASB):

15 Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven,

16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son,

17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.

18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”


Because the Father did not withhold His Son, His "only" Son (in the senses of Jesus' uniqueness, such as His virgin conception and being a member of the Trinity), there have been billions of spiritual "seed" in history, people that knew God and know Him today. They are as numerous as the stars in the heavens and the sand on the seashore. We are the blessed ones, and God gets to delight in that blessing. As for possessing the gate of our enemy: "...on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18 (ESV)


God used the language of sacrifice, something He did not agree with, so that He could reach us where we were, so that we might hear His invitation. Some 2000 years later, God's story continues to march forward, His plea continues to be heard and heeded. He reaches out to you, right where you are, no matter where you are, or who you are.


***


To the woman I spoke with that morning over breakfast, my hope is that you will never lose sight of the horror of the cross. But my hope is also that you will see, in addition to the horror, the reason why so many see it as a sign of hope, a sign of faith, and how beauty shines forth out of the horror. My hope is that this symbol of hope and faith and beauty can become your own as well. I hope you hear, and heed, the invitation.


What Might God say?


In this section, we imagine what God might say if He were to speak for Himself to us on the subject. Here is what that might sound like:


I finished this part of the story. I made My plea, and My Holy Spirit continues to carry that plea to each person through the rest of this age. The plea that says:

1) I am whole-heartedly devoted to your life and well-being. I am the best Thing in the universe, and I want what is best for you: a vibrant relationship with Me.

2) I will never ask you to demonstrate your devotion to Me by sacrificing a life the way the ancients did. Yes, some of you will be martyrs, your families may even suffer, but never by your own hand. I will never ask you to participate in evil. That is why My Son had to choose to lay down His own life, even though I sent Him.

3) And I hope you will hear Me: I love you. Your life is the highest stake there is. I want you to spend the rest of it, both your mortal life and your immortal life, with Me.


You may not know this, so many don't, but I literally did this with you in mind. One of the benefits of being infinite is that I can hold each one of you in mind at all times. In fact, I am with each one of you now. I always am. Paul knew I did this for him, specifically, and I asked him to let you all know, too. Here is how he put it:

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." Galatians 2:20 (NASB)

"Me", not (just) humanity, but "me". I gave Myself up, I sent My Son, I rose again, for you... and you are totally worth it.


The cross is ugly, but I made a symbol of beauty out of it. I like beauty. Beauty is important. It brings joy. It nourishes the souls of my image bearers. It is something we can share. And I use it to call to you, to invite you into My good life.


Practicing With

In this section we engage in a practice that we do with God, and hopefully with God together with those He loves. As mentioned on the intro blog, hopefully you get to invite others to experience Our God Bathed Life with you. It might look different for you, but one way you might do that is to get together with a couple of people each week for a meal. Over that meal you get to know each other better and discuss what stood out to you in the episode, what questions you might have, and especially what your experience of the practice has been. Let's look at the first practice:


God made the horror of the the cross a thing of beauty for billions of people over the last 2000-ish years. He likes to make beauty. He made creation, really liked it a lot, and delighted in it. Dallas Willard said that beauty is goodness made manifest to the senses (according to John Ortberg in this episode of his podcast). When is the last time you delighted in His created beauty? Does the world go about you so quickly, is your life so noisy, that you don't hear the call? God is calling out to you from all around you, "Slow down. Share in My joy. Natural beauty proclaims My joy. Joy and beauty proclaim My goodness. Come and delight with Me." In the words of GK Chesterton:

"A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore."

- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy. (New York: John Lane Company, 1909), 108–109.


Over these next two weeks I would like to invite you to delight with God in His "eternal appetite of infancy". Each day, noticing at least one item of natural beauty around you, and taking a picture of it with your phone.

Examples include:

  • Lightning bugs

  • Sunrise or sunset

  • a bird or butterfly

  • a pet or some other animal

  • a tree or a flower

  • ocean or lake scenery

  • Even actions of beauty: children playing and laughing, an act of kindness or care of another.

  • Or an act of forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. If you happen to see or experience this, consider yourself blessed. Then consider a picture to commemorate it.


If you are inviting others to experience Our God Bathed Life with you, and I hope get to do that, I invite you to share those pictures and talk to each other about why they caught your eye. Did one or two pictures stand out to you as particularly meaningful? Consider getting them printed. Perhaps talk with God about it and journal about it.


***


In order to give you time to engage with the practice, and because I'm not creative enough to do these more often, blogs of Our God Bathed Life will be released at a leisurely pace, probably about every two weeks or so. If you would like to experience more of Our God Bathed Life in the meantime, we invite you to go to OurGodBathedLife.com (PracticingWith.com will also get you there). There you will find curated articles and podcast episodes and videos, each with an introduction and/or comments. You will also find recommended books and podcasts and websites that will help you grow in your God Bathed Life.


Thank you for joining us!

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2 comentários


Bri
Bri
07 de out. de 2023

Fantastic stuff Tim! Really enjoyed these opening episodes and it gave me a lot to think about.

Curtir
timbergey
08 de out. de 2023
Respondendo a

Thank you Bri! It validates the time and effort spent, though it was valuable time spent with God. I am glad that you were able to take something away from it!

Curtir
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