Job 25:4 poses a question that’s hardwired inside every one of us and accompanied by a deep, instinctive longing to be fully reconciled with our Creator:
“How can a man be in the right before God?” (ESV).
The answer: justification by faith in Jesus.
What is justification exactly? Biblically, it is a legal declaration from God that we are innocent of sin. Instead of being punished, we are declared right before Him. It is not mere pardon – justification still respects the law. Rather, it is an act by which God determines to treat the guilty as righteous, just as if they had not sinned. The basis for this? The finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ at the cross. He takes our place as Accused Number 1 and is put to death in our place.
“He who knew no sin becomes sin for us, broken for our brokenness” (2 Corinthians 5:21, author’s paraphrase).
Researching and writing this has made me realize how absolutely central the doctrine of justification is to our faith. It really is at the heart of all that we are called to believe, live by, and proclaim as Christians. Martin Luther wrote that justification is the cornerstone of Christianity. It sets our faith apart from all other world religions. And it is only possible because of God’s scandalous grace. No wonder our false sense of justice and piety makes it so difficult to accept.
The thief on the cross next to Jesus, instantly and wholly justified with just a few words of simple faith, is a powerful reminder that restoring the relationship between God and us is by grace alone through faith, not by any goodness on our part! God counts us as righteous through faith, justifying us because of Christ. The history-splitting sacrifice of Jesus, or atonement, justifies a fallen world before a Holy God. So that humans can once again walk and talk in relationship with Him, full of hope and wonderfully free.
Have you truly, fully embraced the mind-blowing doctrine of justification? Yet, His Word teaches us that it is a gift that we must keep grabbing onto to live the abundant, eternal, and freedom-proclaiming life for which we are all made! And it is also a gift we need to experience and tell unbelievers around us about – so they too can live free and fully justified before their Creator.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
2 Kings 3:20-22 20The next morning, about the time for offering the sacrifice, there it was–water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water. 21Now all the Moabites had heard that the kings had come to fight against them; so every man, young and old, who could bear arms was called up and stationed on the border. 22When they got up early in the morning, the sun was shining on the water. To the Moabites across the way, the water looked red–like blood.
The LORD told Elisha to have the army dig ditches, and that God was going to fill those ditches with water so the armies of Israel, Judah and Edom could drink. The next morning water flowed from the direction of Edom and filled the ditches. The able-bodied men of Moab had gathered to resist the attack. When they saw the reflection of the sunrise and thought the water was the blood of the armies that had come to fight them, they rushed headlong into an ambush of ready, thirst-quenched soldiers.
The day before the armies in league with Israel had thought God was against them, bringing them to defeat through thirst. Instead it was God’s way of getting them to stop their plans so that He could work. We are often ready to jump into a spiritual battle, ready to take the enemy’s territory, but God has His own way of doing things. He may introduce a difficulty to get us to seek His face and go His direction. The very solution to their difficulty was the means God used to trick the army of Moab. Two birds with one stone! The lesson was that the hand of God would work in their favor if they would seek His face and listen to Him.
Consider: The next time you face a dead end and feel the Lord is working against you, stop and seek His face. Find out how He would have you proceed. The difficulty may be preparation for a victory in your life.
Roy Berkenbosch, author, Today Devotions
SCRIPTURE READING — GENESIS 1:28-2:3
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. . . .
The good, perfect, and loving Creator made an amazingly good world. The great song of creation in Genesis 1 closes with this resounding affirmation: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” The star-studded heavens, the warming sun and glistening moon, the lush forests and the underlying biosphere, the sea teeming with marine life, and the air humming with birds—all of it was good. And humankind, bearing God’s image, empowered to care for God’s good earth, was also good. It was all very good.
An important word that we will consider often this month is shalom. This Hebrew word, often translated as “peace,” means much more than that. While “peace” often refers mainly to an absence of conflict, shalom suggests the presence of goodness, flourishing, right relationships, and all things being as God created them to be. Shalom points to all things living in line with their character so that they can fully achieve God’s intentions for them.
Living in right relationship is essential for human flourishing—right relationship with God, with others, with self, and with God’s creation. That’s what God intended. Yet because of human sin and rebellion, those relations are twisted and spoiled. Poverty and all its limitations are the result of relationships gone wrong. Even so, God’s great work of love is to free us and his creation from the bondage of sin and to restore shalom.
God, thank you for loving us enough to restore us and make all things new. In Jesus, Amen.
Streams in the Desert – July 3
- 20223 Jul
Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? (Isa. 28:24).
One day in early summer I walked past a beautiful meadow. The grass was as soft and thick and fine as an immense green Oriental rug. In one corner stood a fine old tree, a sanctuary for numberless wild birds; the crisp, sweet air was full of their happy songs. Two cows lay in the shade, the very picture of content. Down by the roadside the saucy dandelion mingled his gold with the royal purple of the wild violet. I leaned against the fence for a long time, feasting my hungry eyes, and thinking in my soul that God never made a fairer spot than my lovely meadow.
The next day I passed that way again, and lo! the hand of the despoiler had been there. A plowman and his great plow, now standing idle in the furrow, had in a day wrought a terrible havoc. Instead of the green grass there was turned up to view the ugly, bare, brown earth; instead of the singing birds there were only a few hens industriously scratching for worms. Gone were the dandelion and the pretty violet. I said in my grief, “How could any one spoil a thing so fair?”
Then my eyes were opened by some unseen hand, and I saw a vision, a vision of a field of ripe corn ready for the harvest. I could see the giant, heavily laden stalks in the autumn sun; I could almost hear the music of the wind as it would sweep across the golden tassels. And before I was aware, the brown earth took on a splendor it had not had the day before.
Oh, that we might always catch the vision of an abundant harvest, when the great Master Plowman comes, as He often does, and furrows through our very souls, uprooting and turning under that which we thought most fair, and leaving for our tortured gaze only the bare and the unbeautiful.
Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that maketh the deep furrows on my soul? I know He is no idle husbandman, He purposeth a crop.