Tag Archives: Atonement

Your Bill

When you open your credit card bill  do you ever get a shock?  You gape in disbelief and think, “I owe how much?  Oh yeah, I forgot about that smart watch; why did I buy that thing?” 

What if you got a bill from God: how much would you owe?   No doubt you would be in for a much bigger shock.  There would be uncountable line items on that bill, ones you had long since forgotten.  I got thinking about such a bill when I read this:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.”  (Matthew 18:23-24)

We miss the point of this unless we know that ten thousand talents is a bill of roughly $6 billion!  And the guy who owes that much is a servant to a king.  Consider the vast difference in authority and status between the two.  Heap on the $6 billion debt, and then zero in on these words: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…”  There’s your bill.

You can see how inadequate religious attempts to pay the bill are.  Some require bringing a sacrifice.  Others assign various acts of penance after you confess a short list of sins.  It is literally hopeless to attempt to square accounts with God by such piddly measures, especially since the bill grows greater each day.

Although it is hard for us to fully understand, only God could settle up for us, by forgiving the debt, as the king in that parable did.  When you forgive a debt, that means you accept the cost.  God’s method to zero out our accounts was foretold by Isaiah and fulfilled by Jesus.

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.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Now You See it; Now You Don’t

My wife has a can of aerosol wonder spray that causes spots on the carpet to vanish.  No, I don’t know what it is – deliberately, so I don’t have to use it.  We each have our own gifts: my gift is putting the spots on the carpet…  Anyhow, it’s amazing stuff. You should get some.  Now you see it; now you don’t.  

In Isaiah, God said this:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall  be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Most of us have sins we hope nobody ever finds out about, the ones that, whenever they come to mind, cause our toes  to curl up in our shoes.  We’d like to forget them but they won’t go away.  They are like bloodstains on the carpet.   But God says He will cause those to vanish.  Not just forgive them but take them away entirely.   Literally.  Isaiah knew this from first hand experience.  When he cowered before God and confessed that he, like everybody else, was a man of “unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5) God arranged a weird, supernatural ceremony of atonement to happen:

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

I cannot explain all the bizarre details described there.  But God (literally His angelic beings) did something to cause Isaiah’s sin to disappear.  The Hebrew word behind the phrase “taken away” means to drag off, or cause something to vanish.  Now you see it; now you don’t.   The reason that is possible is explained in the Hebrew word behind the phrase “atoned for.”  If you wanted to purchase freedom for a slave, you would pay the going rate to his master, making atonement for him.   Jesus made that kind of payment to free us from our guilt.   If you are willing, God removes it.

In the verse we began with above, God says, in effect, “Be reasonable and I will cause your sin to disappear – not just the common ones, but the whoppers, too – the ones that seem like bloodstains on your memory.”   What does He mean by “Let us reason together?”  We see it in the next two verses:

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.  (Isaiah 1:19-20)