Midweek Lent 5 March 14 & March 15, 2018
Text: Ps.40:6-8 His Mercy Endures Forever: Savior in the Psalms
Theme: Christ Is the Savior the Father Wanted 18:2058
Animals can sense things that we humans don’t. Sometimes their instincts seem to make them more aware than we of things that are going amiss. They sense danger that lies ahead better than we do.
So, what was it like on the temple grounds in Jesus’ day when the animals were brought for sacrifice? Were the bulls, goats, lambs, and doves ready and willing to go to their death? As they were brought forward, they must have seen signs of carnage on the ground. Their nostrils smelled the odor rising from burning flesh. Do you think that some of them bolted in an attempt to get free? Others squealing in fear? Did any of them look forward to their untimely end at the hands of the priest? Day after day, year after year, generation after generation, animals lost their lives and the temple smelled of sacrifice.
But neither the sacrifice nor those who offered the sacrifice could ever cool the anger of God’s wrath against sin. The Bible says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin….Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Hb.10:4,11). They could not satisfy God’s wrath for sin.
But there was hope. God promised to send someone who would be both a willing worshiper and a willing sacrifice that would satisfy divine justice. A small ray of that hope burst through the pen of David in our psalm this evening 1000 years before He came. Christ Was the Savior the Father wanted. First…
I. …because of His attitude toward the Old Covenant.
Merely keeping the outward requirements of the law was never what God wanted under the Old Covenant. God wanted hearts – not just service, hearts that would willingly serve Him. The psalm made that clear when it said, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire.”
That is not to say that God was not interested in the keeping of His law. No, God was dead serious about what He commanded His people to do, just like He is dead serious about what He commands us to do. His law is not the 10 suggestions; it is the 10 commandments. “You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees,” He said. “I am the LORD your God” (Lv.18:4).
Obedience was not an option. It was commanded. But outward
obedience (going through the motions) was not enough. Outward activity divorced from a willing heart was a stench in His nostrils. There was nothing inherently appealing to God about animals burned on an altar. The psalmist wrote, “You did not ask for burnt offerings and sin offerings.” Outward sacrifice pleases Him only when it is coupled with a willing heart. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps.51:17). Outward obedience moved by willing hearts – that’s what God wanted.
Think back through the OT. See if you can find anyone who meets these requirements: Adam? Eve? Noah? Even Abraham didn’t. Neither Sarah, Jacob, Moses, David, nor Elijah? Not even John the Baptist. Not one person throughout Bible history was ever the Savior the Father wanted – no one until you get to Jesus.
Christ Jesus’ attitude towards the Old Covenant was perfect. He not only did everything the Father required, but He did it with a fully willing heart. So He says in the words of the psalm: “Here I am, I have come….Ears You have opened (pierced) for me.” “Ears You have opened for me”? What does that mean?
When God creates a human being with ears, those ears are capable of hearing God’s Word. And when He “opens the ears” (literally, “My ears You have dug”) of the believer, then he is willing to obey the word of God that he hears. Think of the words in the psalm this way. This describes the wonderful, creative act of God by which God clears out Christ’s ears and gets rid of all obstacles. He opens Christ’s ears and makes a clear channel to His heart so that He willingly hears and does what God requires.
Now think of Jesus in His Passion. First of all, He kept all God’s commands perfectly. But it was not just the outward keeping of the letter of the law, it was the willing and loving spirit in which He kept it that made His Father happy. Remember how the Father said on several occasions: “This is my Son whom I love”?
Now think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When He was looking at the horrors that lay ahead for Him, He bowed down to the dust and prayed for it to be taken away but added, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Jesus’ will was never supreme; the Father’s was. And it was never a burden to Him, nor did He ever complain or raise a voice like we might. That was Jesus’ attitude toward the Old Covenant. Finally, after thousands of years, the Father had the Savior He wanted. “With Him,” He said, “I am well pleased!”
Has God always been well pleased with our deeds and our attitudes? Ah, when you admit your failure, set your eyes on Christ. See His love, see His willingness to do everything that we have not done. Finally, a Savior had come who could and willingly fulfilled God’s commands, as worshipper and as sacrifice.
II. Because of Jesus’ attitude toward the New Covenant.
But I thought sacrifice was not what God really wanted. Well, not a sacrifice of mere outward performance by the hand, but a sacrifice of loving and willing proportions within that would provide forgiveness for others through the perfect payment for sin.
Every day under the Old Covenant, the priests shed blood at the temple. But the act was never enough. The animals’ blood was not strong enough to wash away sin. The Bible says, “If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins” (Hb.10:2f). But people still felt guilty. So each new day they brought more sacrifices to the altar because God had said, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hb.9:22). Still the sacrifices were never complete. They only were a constant reminder to the people of their sins (Hb.10:3).
Maybe some Israelites thought that if they could only give their own lives that might be enough. All were in need of forgiveness. But no Israelite could be the perfect Savior – until Christ came and then the people marveled and exclaimed: “He has done everything well! (Mk/7:37) But little did they foresee that God the Father had asked something more of Him, more than He asked of anyone else.
He wanted Him to suffer cruel beatings; He wanted Him to shed His blood; He wanted Him to die on a cross; He wanted Him to suffer the forsakenness of hell; He wanted Him to do all this although He was innocent in order to secure the forgiveness of all sin. This is what the Father wanted. And what did Jesus think? What was His attitude toward the New Covenant that would shed His blood? He said, “Here I am; I have come. The books written on a scroll (the Bible) tells about me. My God, I take pleasure in doing Your will. It’s in my heart.”
Thank God for such a Savior for by His wounds we are healed. He is the Savior the Father Wanted, the only perfect Savior, the only One who could secure our forgiveness. Through Him God’s wrath for sin is appeased. God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake.