07 Mar The Great Riddle Solved
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will be no means clear the guilty…”
God’s proclamation to Moses in Exodus 34 exhibits the “great riddle” of the Old Testament; holy God juxtaposed with guilty man. God, perfectly merciful and gracious, holy and just, longing to forgive and redeem, yet unable to clear the guilty or allow sin to go unpunished. Man, eternally stamped since the fall of man in Genesis with the status of “guilty” – and yet hopelessly unable to clear it off.
How can God, in his justice, ever hope to display his mercy to hopelessly guilty people? And how can sinful people ever hope to justly receive the mercy of God? From Genesis to Malachi, we see the people of God seek to solve this riddle over and over again and be restored to a right relationship with God. The answer is sought in kings, in conquests, in promised lands, in priests, in prophets and in temples – but to no avail. Sinful people cannot clear the guilt of other sinful people before a holy God. We needed a perfect and sinless mediator in order to justify the punishment for sin before God.
“The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.”
Enter Jesus. Fully man yet fully God, like us in form and appearance yet without sin and therefore by his very essence bridging the gap between holy God and sinful man. He mercifully healed the sick, cared for widows and outcasts, and justly called out the unrighteousness of the religious elite. Throughout his ministry, he whispered hints of how a just God could forgive the guilty. And at the cross of Calvary, he lovingly provided the glorious solution to the centuries-old riddle. There, he perfectly satisfied God’s judgment on sin, and mercifully cleared the guilt of sin that had plagued mankind since the fall. All who receive his mercy and place their faith in him are forgiven, cleared of their guilt, and able to fully and freely receive the steadfast love, grace and mercy of God.
“Man of Sorrows!” what a name For the Son of God, who came. Ruined sinners to reclaim, Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood; Sealed my pardon with His blood, Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Guilty, vile, and helpless we; Spotless Lamb of God was He; “Full atonement!” can it be? Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Lifted up was He to die; “It is finished!” was His cry; Now in Heav’n exalted high. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
When He comes, our glorious King, All His ransomed home to bring, Then anew His song we’ll sing: Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Readings for this week:
2 Corinthians 5:21
This post is fourth in a series celebrating Lent, for the purpose of preparing our hearts to treasure Christ more as Easter approaches. Each post in the series is coupled with art from local artist Kathryn Schermbeck. Our hope is that these words, reading guides, and pieces of art would lead you to worship as you remember the radical and costly grace of God. Click here for the first post in the series, here for the second and here for the third.