I am writing up reflections on my devotions every day for six weeks. This is one of those posts.
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of Yahweh one turns away from evil.
Reading through the Proverbs, one finds gem after gem. (Indeed, the whole book is a collection thereof. That’s the point, after all.) This one particularly caught my attention tonight, though: it is as pithy a statement of the gospel as one could wish. Simple, straightforward, easy to understand, and embedded with more canonical weight than you could shake a stick at. “Steadfast love and faithfulness” are the marks of God’s covenant love throughout the Old Testament; these keywords from Exodus 34 are perhaps those most cited by the authors of the Old Testament. By Yahweh’s character-defining work, the author1 says, comes salvation. Fearing him is how we turn away from evil. When the apostles preached the gospel in the New Testament, they may not have used exactly these words,2 but this was their message: God acted in accord with his character and his covenant promises to bring salvation. Repent!
This one is going in my to-memorize list. It will be a good reminder for me as I go through my own life, and hopefully a helpful way of reminding others who God is and what he has done as well.
Reading through Matthew and Genesis in parallel is often illuminating; I expect I shall find the same to be true of other books as I continue on this path. Coming to chapter 22 of each book, I found Jesus answering his Pharisee and Sadducee opponents in the temple, and God testing Abraham by instructing him to sacrifice Isaac. At first glance, the passages could not seem less related, apart from the overt covenant themes and pointers in the Genesis passage. However, a bit more time made one particular connection stand out to me.
When Jesus answers the Sadducees on the resurrection (after their contrived question about seven brothers having had one woman as their wife with no children), he rather pointedly tells them that the reason they are wrong is that they “know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Given the relative paucity of reference to resurrection from the dead in the Old Testament, his accusation is an interesting one (though of course he backs it up moments later by pointing to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of the living, not the dead). One of the many places the Sadducees should have seen that God will bring about resurrection is right in Genesis 22. As the author of Hebrews points out, Abraham went up that mountain in faith that the same God who had given him a son—in his old age, from his barren wife—could raise that same son from the dead if necessary to keep his promise.
The Sadducees should have seen it coming; all the pieces were there. But they knew neither God’s word, nor God himself. Given these were men who had spent their lives studying the Scriptures, this is a fearful warning to those of us who seek to know those same Scriptures.
God provided another way—not the child sacrifice so common in that day and age, but a substitute.3 Ultimately, he provided his own son, and raised him from the dead after sacrificing him on a mount. That which he did not ultimately require of Abraham, he gave himself. But Abraham’s faith was well-placed: God could have raised Isaac from the dead, and someday he will do just that. Someday he will raise us, too. But first of all, he raised his son. Hallelujah.
- Proverber? Proverbian? Proverbite? I’m taking suggestions in the comment thread. ↩
- This is one of the small curiosities that fascinates me about the authors of the New Testament and the divine superintendence of their work, and something I expect I’ll ask about when I get the chance: why is this central refrain of the Old Testament left unstated in the New? ↩
- Though the lamb Abraham promises Isaac never appears; it is a ram and not a lamb that takes Isaac’s place here. Curious… ↩