The Exchange (Isaiah 53:9-10)

 

“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death,

though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer,

and though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin,

He will see his offspring and prolong His days,

and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.”

ISAIAH 53.9-10

 

When you stop and think about it… this thing called guilt is really weird thing.

 

I met a woman once who was battling with severe anxiety. So much so that she hadn’t been able to drive her car for years. For her, her battle began one night when she was a new driver, in her early twenties, and she’d been pulled over by the police.

The sound of that siren behind her, and the flashing blue lights in the mirror, caused her to panic… her legs went to jelly, and her hands started trembling, her cheeks were red hot, but her forehead went cold.

It turns out one of her brake lights was broken – she was told to get it fixed, and that was pretty much the end of it… legally speaking. But emotionally she’s still scarred. Ever since that night she can’t shake that horrible thought: “what if I’m doing something wrong?”

Sometimes, some people aren’t guilty… but they feel guilty…

 

“Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.”

ERMA BOMBECK

 

Maybe you’ve had a similar moment – that sudden, horrible realisation…

Have you ever been reading the Bible, and come across something that you didn’t know was in there – and had that awful feeling: “That’s me. I do that…” And suddenly something that you weren’t feeling guilty about, now casts this dark shadow over you.

Sometimes that feeling is not even about something we do – we feel guilty about something we don’t do, but know we should, or wish we could. We look at other Christians and wish we could have their confidence, but inside we feel a bit of a fraud. Perhaps you’ve given up on the whole church thing all together, because you don’t want keep feeling guilty.

Guilt is a really weird thing. – Other times people are guilty but they don’t feel guilty.

 

Sin comes with consequences, on the outside it affects our relationships with others, and on the inside it affects our relationship with ourselves – and with the Holy Spirit.

And so, over time, we learn to adjust our inner “guilt-tolerance level”. We explain things away, or we ignore certain things, we don’t talk to God about that subject anymore… And the line it horrified us to cross the first time, we now dance all over like the lines not there anymore.

 

“Lead me not into temptation, I can find the way myself.”

RITA MAE BROWN

 

And then of course there are times when we are just in the wrong and we know it – we feel guilty because we are guilty… as charged… red-handed, case closed and no amount of excusing, or avoiding, or appeasing can change it.

The question is whether it’s fake guilt, a moral numbness or genuine remorse… what’s the real cure? Where can I actually find a place to put down the accumulated years of all this baggage?

 

“We earnestly repent, and are deeply sorry for these our wrongdoings;

the memory of them weighs us down, the burden of them is too great for us to bear.”

BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER

 

Imagine you were to find yourself in financial straits, and in a moment of desperation, you cheat on your tax return – you trim of a few edges here and there, and don’t declare everything… you get away with it, and this goes on for a while until eventually you’re caught. You go to court, and plead your case and give them a long list of all the crimes you’ve never committed:

“Your honour, I’ve never robbed a bank, I’ve never mugged an old lay, I’ve never run over a child, I’ve never murdered anyone…”

You and I know, we will be laughed out of court – because none of the things that we haven’t done make amends for the wrong we have actually committed! In fact none of our good things we do can change the fact that we’ve broken the law, that we owe something back. We know that and yet we try to live like that’s not true.

 

When it comes to our guilt… we try to drown out it’s voice either with the sound of the good things we’ve done or the silence of the bad things we’d never do. But it’s little whisper remains, nagging, niggling, teasing, taunting.

We’re like the character from Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement who, as a young girl, wrongfully accuses her sisters boyfriend of rape. She was just a child who had now real notion of the ramifications for everyone… but her accusation is believed, and he is wrongly jailed for years and labelled for the rest of his life.

As a young woman, she begins to understand her mistake, but now untold damage has already been done. The guilt drives her throw herself into a life of nursing, of serving others, of caring. But towards the end of the book, as she looks back over her life, all the medicine she has served to others has been unable to cure the pain of guilt in her own soul:

“All she wanted to do was work then bathe then sleep until it was time to work again. But it was all useless, she knew. Whatever skivvying or humble nursing she did, and however well or hard she did it…She would never undo the damage.”

IAN McEWAN

 

“Not the labours of my hands can fulfil Thy law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know, could my tears for ever flow,

All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.”

ROCK OF AGES – AUGUSTUS TOPLADY

For Holy Week this year we’ve been journeying through Isaiah Chapter 53 – the Prophecy of The Suffering Servant, a prophecy that finds it’s fulfilment today, on Good Friday, in the suffering and death of Jesus.

Today we come to these powerful verses:

“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death,

though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer,

and though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin,

He will see His offspring and prolong His days,

and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.”

ISAIAH 53.9-10

 

The Lord makes His life… and offering for sin. An offering.

The Hebrew word there is the word “Asham” – and it’s a technical word for a type of offering used in the Old Testament. In a book called Leviticus, the rules for sacrifices are laid out. There are different types of offerings for different types of occasions. Thanksgiving offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings. Isaiah tells us that God made a Jesus an offering for our sin, an “Asham”.

An asham was a guilt offering.

A sin offering was made to atone for sins you know you have committed, that you knew you were guilty of. But in additional the guilt offering was there for people who had also sinned unintentionally, or even just suspected that they may have…

 

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

LUKE 23.34

 

Today we remember, Jesus’ sacrifices covers both our blame and our shame! He died not just to atone for our external actual offences and their consequences – but also internally… our guilt. All the sin that we’ve done, desired, directed… and all the good we’ve left undone, unsaid, unwanted.

 

This is the exchange:

His grace for our guilt – We broke the law, but He paid our fine.

We transgressed but He took our place.

He was given our punishment so that we might receive His peace.

 

And we didn’t strike this bargain either – it wasn’t our idea, our instigation, our initiative… we could have never asked God to do this, never imagined He would, never deserved it. So thank God that we read:

“It was the Lord’s will to crush Him…” – the word will can also be translated as “His Good Pleasure.”

 

God knows that the other side of Jesus’ undeserved punishment is our undeserved pardon. This is His plan, it rested on His power – a covenant sealed in His blood, not ours – dependent on His work, not ours.

Today, You can be finally free – and feel finally free

Today, You can be acquitted of blame – and actually know it

Today, You can hear Jesus shout: “It is finished!” and know that He was serious.

 

“God made Him who had no sin to become sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 CORINTHIANS 5.21

 

 

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