Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our Sun and Shield

This morning, I was reading Psalm 84 and came across a verse I had read hundreds of times before.

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield..." Psalm 84:11a

Even though I had read that little phrase in the past, I had never truly stopped to ponder what that meant. God is a sun? and a shield?

So, I broke them up and did a little word study.

Sun: The sun is radiant, awe-inspiring, and beyond our physical comprehension. The sun gives light, just as God gives light to His children, revealing His ways, and exposing the darkness within us. The Lord grants to us the warmth and comfort of His presence, just as the sun gives us the heat we need to survive. But here is my main point. The sun is a blazing ball of pure gas, undiluted by any solid or liquid form of anything. So God, in all His splendid, blazing holiness cannot stand any spot of sin in His presence; it is simply impossible, for He would be defying His very nature of perfection.

Okay, keep that in mind.

Shield: For me at least, the Lord as our shield is a common picture that comes to mind. He rescues us from the flaming darts of the enemy and has secured a way for victory in every temptation. But today, I was reminded of another aspect for the word. It is the picture of Christ shielding us, not only from the enemy, but the very wrath of God Almighty.

Remember the picture of the sun. Before the spotless, blazing holiness of God, our sin and rebellion demand justice. The holy wrath of God was aimed at us, His disobedient, creation...until Christ stepped in as our shield.

As I was thinking about all this today, an allegory came to mind. It gave me a glimpse of Christ's sacrifice in a way I hadn't pictured before.

"There I was, face-down on the dry, sandy dirt, awaiting what I deserved. How was this happening to me? I had been so happy here, on the Road to Hell, living for myself, not once caring about God's laws. Why should I have feared God or had anything to do with Him? He only made life miserable, I had heard. Why would I have wanted to live for Him, denying myself and enslaved to some God who demanded all of me?

That day, I had arrived at the entrance to some desert, just having come out of Vanity Fair. I had had an exciting time at the fair and was reminiscing on the memories, until I saw the sign; the sign that welcomed me to the very place I should have steered far away from. It read in big black letters, "The Desert of Holiness: Sinners Shall Be Judged By Almighty God."

I joked to myself about the so-called "justice of God", flippantly daring God to strike me down, while boasting that I would be the first sinner to cross the Desert of Holiness and come out alive. Confidently, I strolled through the gate, telling myself that even if there was a God, I didn't need to worry. Those Christians had always told me He was a God of love. Surely then, He wouldn't judge me for being a sinner. Would He?

As I continued along the way, the sweat from the intense heat poured down my face. On the side of the path stood another sign, smaller yet in the same bold lettering: "Repent! Only the blood of Christ can save you!"

The blood of Christ?! I scoffed to myself. "I don't need Christ!" I shouted to the heavens, "I can save myself!" My voice echoed through the sandy mountains and taunted me as it rang out, "I can save myself! I can save myself!"

Suddenly, a Voice shook the heavens. "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, not even one."

For a moment the Voice paused, allowing the sound of my throbbing heart to drum in my ears. He began again.

"You have turned aside from Me, My little creation. I formed you with My hands, wrought you in the deep, but all you have done is rebelled and sinned against Me, your holy God. I am a Righteous Judge, and your innumerable sins demand complete and total justice. You deserve My wrath, My absolute, perfect wrath; you deserve no love, no goodness from Me."

There I was, face-down on the dry, sandy dirt, awaiting what I deserved. How was this happening to me? As questions raced through my mind, I shielded my eyes from the blinding light that penetrated my very core, exposing all the evil deeds of darkness that I had willfully allowed and participated in. He was right. I deserved every bit of His wrath; I had done nothing but spite Him every day of my life. I was a filthy wretch and didn't deserve to live. Knowing the verdict, I prepared to die under the weight of the wrath of God.

But then, it happened. Instead of feeling the wrath of God, I felt the weight of Someone kneeling over me, His arms surrounding me, encompassing me with His soothing Presence. I felt a warm breath on my ear, as another Voice, similar to the first, whispered to me, "No, you don't deserve My love or goodness, but My Father has chosen you. I have come so that you may have life. You will be Mine."

My mind was pulsing. Who was this? Was this Jesus Christ, the very One I had disdained and scoffed at? If so, what was He doing? Without a moment's warning, the sky turned black. The ground shook and I buried my face back into my hands. The first Voice shook again from heaven declaring, "You, like a sheep, have gone astray, you have turned to your own way; but I, the Lord, will cause your iniquity to fall on Him."

I turned my head, as much as I could with the weight of Christ still leaning over me. But as I saw the sky out of the corner of my eyes, I was horrified. The heavens had completely changed; they were now opened, looking like mighty curtains. Giant arrows entitled "the wrath of God" were poised in my direction. Weapons of metal, they dripped with burning poison and were tipped with balls of fire. My heart stopped at the sight of them.

The whir of the arrows sounded, as they were released from the mighty bows of heaven. I paused, expecting the pain, but instead only hearing a loud groan behind me. Christ's last words pounded in my mind, "You will be Mine."

Something wet and sticky ran down my face. I struggled to wipe it off with my hand. It was then that I realized what it was.

Blood. His blood.

The gravity of everything overwhelmed me.
The words of that second sign, which had lined the desert's path, flashed across my mind. "Only the blood of Christ can save you."

I was a wretched sinner before God Almighty, deserving His full wrath and justice. Yet, at the moment of my punishment, Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, had wrapped His arms around me and became my shield, taking the complete wrath of God upon Himself...

...for me. He had given His perfect, sinless life for my wretched, vile one? Questions flooded my mind, but a victorious cry slashed through the silence.

"It is finished!"

The debt had been paid?! My sin was gone?! The wrath of God had been removed?! Tears filled my eyes as the blood continued seeping down my face. And as it did, I knew I was being changed.
A new life was entering my body and my old heart and mind were dying underneath the flow of that precious life.

My Savior stood, strong and mighty, joyful and glorious. Sitting up, I turned around and for the first time, beheld my majestic Lord.

I was overwhelmed. How could I do anything but fall face down in His holy presence? "O Lord," I cried, "forgive me! I have lived a life of sin and rebellion against You. I only deserve Your wrath..."

"My little child," He called as He extended His hand, "Rise and come near. My blood has washed you clean. Here," at this, He held out a resplendent robe of the purest white, "this is the robe of My righteousness. I have purchased you; you are Mine. No longer are you a slave to sin, but an adopted child of the King of Kings."

As He covered me in His robe, He stepped back to admire me.

"Yes, you are ready," He beamed, taking my hand.

"Come, let me introduce you to your Father...."

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
~Ephesians 2:1-5, 10