How the Gospel Infuses Life into the Bible

Our family has been through some trying times in the last few weeks. It is a combination of many things – loneliness, relationship challenges, and a barrage of spiritual onslaught that we have been facing from several different directions simultaneously. Suffice it to say, our circumstances have been shaking the very foundations of our faith. There was that lingering sense of hopelessness hanging in the air. “Is it possible even for God to redeem a situation like ours? Would He be so inclined, even if He can?”

This morning, as I was reading the Bible, I came across the following verse: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chron 16:9). It is a great verse. Wouldn’t it be amazing if as this verse says, I could have the confidence that God was intimately aware of our lives and circumstances, and that He was providing strong support behind the scenes for us? However, when I read this, my instant reaction was not a sense of hope but a feeling of despair. And when I shared this verse with Vanita, she later told me that she had also felt a similar sense of despair. This despair came from the realization that we know all too well that our hearts are not perfectly in tune with God, so this promise could not possibly apply to us. Since this is where both of our thoughts went immediately, I wonder if you also feel this way when you read such promises from God in Scripture. If so, I pray that this article will encourage you.

The reason I felt this this sense of despair, was because I interpreted the phrase “those whose heart is blameless toward Him” to mean “those whose heart is perfectly in tune with, and in total submission to God”. Living on this side of eternity, I do not come anywhere close to reaching this bar. Although this may seem to be a valid way of reading this verse, the Bible tells us that this is not the whole story. If you think about it, this is not what the verse is actually saying. It was not for those who are perfect, but for those whom God does not find cause to blame for anything, thus making them “blameless”. Normally both the words “perfect” and “blameless” would mean the same thing. However, the word “perfect” literally describes someone’s behavior and character. The word “blameless” describes how God views that person. And thankfully, God does not make “blameless” synonymous with “perfect”. God has done something remarkable, so that we can be blameless although we are not close to being perfect. He has done this for all those who have put their trust in Jesus. Several verses come to mind “For our sake He (God) made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Cor 5:21). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). “He (God) has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isa 61:10).

This is why Jesus came. He came in order to die the death that I deserved, and face the wrath of God that I deserved, and in turn to give me His own righteous perfection. When God looks at me, He does not see my sins but He sees the perfection of His Son. I am reminded of a song I learned as a youth:

I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me;
I am cleansed forever by the precious blood of Jesus and He lives in me,
What a thrill it is to know my Heavenly Father loves me so, and gives to me, my Jesus,
When He looks at me He sees not what I used to be, but He sees Jesus.

Because Jesus bore all the penalty for my sins, there is nothing left to make me guilty. I stand tall in the presence of God as a person whose heart is blameless toward God. I can personally apply the promise of 2 Chron 16:9 as a truth in my own life. God is giving strong support to me and my family right now even if I cannot see it, and I can trust Him and take comfort in that.

The apostle Peter says that Gods “precious and exceedingly great promises” have been given to us, to give us the divine power to live godly lives that are pleasing to Him (2 pet 1:3-4). As I read the Bible, I discover that the Bible is flooded with such promises. In fact this verse in 2 Chronicles 16:9 is just another way of saying that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). Do I “love Him“? Yes I do, although imperfectly. Have I been “called according to His purpose“? Yes. And that was not my doing but His! He called me by revealing Himself to me and showing me that He had died for my sake, and invited me to have a reconciled relationship with Him. So by this promise, I can be assured that in every single situation my family and I are in, God is working all things out individually for our good. I do not have to live in defeat and despair. The assertion here is that all my life experiences will actually be used by God to draw me closer to Him in a way I do not fully understand, and one day I will find that it was ultimately good for me. As J I Packer says in his book Knowing God, regarding an extension of this promise in Romans 8:32: The meaning of “He will give us all things” can be put thus: one day we will see that nothing – literally nothing – which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing – literally nothing – that could have reduced that happiness has been left with us. This is so amazing, it is hard to completely grasp or believe. But if God is who He says He is, this is true!

So I now take great comfort in the knowledge that the promises of God apply to those who belong to God. Those who have fallen at the mercy of God, and who have received that mercy because of what Jesus did on the cross for them.

The Whole Bible Comes Alive

When we start reading the Bible with the lens of the gospel in this way, it comes alive. We find that God is a strong warrior who works on behalf of those who put their trust in Him. We see this time and time again in the Old Testament, as we read about His dealings with people in various circumstances and from various stations in life. As we read, our hearts are warmed with the realization that God has not changed. Our God today is the same God (Heb 13:8). Then when we continue reading into the New Testament, we get to understand the how and the why of all this – centered around the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, these are insights the Old Testament believers never fully had! It all coalesces together into a beautiful whole – God’s Word to us – which has given us every thing we need to live our lives trusting Him, especially through “His precious and exceedingly great promises” (2 Pet 1:3,4)

Let us look the story of Job from this perspective.

A Fresh Look at the Story of Job

The story of Job, starts this way: “There was a man … whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright” (Job 1:1). The story of Job is about a man who was “blameless and upright“. God uses these exact same words in describing Job to Satan in Job 1:8 and Job 2:3 – blameless and upright. The Bible makes it clear that this is how God viewed Job.

But this immediately begs the question. How could God possibly say that Job was blameless if he was not perfect? Job himself was aware that he fell short of God’s absolute standards. He said: “How can a man be right before God? If one wished to contend with Him one could not answer Him once in a thousand times” (Job 9:2-3). Like Job, if we were to stand before God as Judge on the merit of our lives, we would be found guilty, a thousand times. But Job does not stop there. He goes on to say “I must appeal for mercy to my accuser” (Job 9:15b). And we are also in exactly the same situation. Without mercy we, like Job, have no hope. But Job knew His God well enough to know that God indeed was merciful. A lot of Job’s struggle is not that he thought he was perfect and did not deserve to suffer, but that he could not reconcile his circumstances to the nature of the God that he had come to know and worship. (This was also partly because Job did not have the knowledge that this life is not all there is, as we do now. But we also sometimes feel this way).

However, Job did have hope in His God. He later said: “Even now, behold my witness is in heaven. And He who testifies for me is on high. … He would argue the case of a man with God as a son of man does with his neighbor” (Job 16:19,21). Although he knew that he himself would not be able to stand and argue in the court of God’s justice, he knew with the eyes of faith that there is One in heaven who could! And Job was right. Looking at it in the light of New Testament revelation, we know that Jesus was that witness Job was talking about. “If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Thus, even though Job did not fully understand it, he was able to say to his friends in the course of his conversation: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth and after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26). The word “redeem” means “to buy something for a price, or a ransom. That is what Jesus did for Job, and for every one of us who have put our trust in Him. He gave His life as the ransom price to save our souls, and bring us to God. “you were ransomed … not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Job was spot-on, and spoke the truth – and now we understand why.

So when we read about Job, we should not think: “Job was such a righteous man. I can never live up to that standard. This story does not have any relevance to me”. Or worse: “I need to step up my game so that God will favor me like He did Job”. That is the opposite of what God really wants us to learn. The story of Job is ultimately about the God of Job. A God who is merciful and gracious and who abounds in steadfast love. As we read this story, we should realize that Job needed redemption and salvation just as much as we do today (and his friends did too, as we get to learn later). Although he did not know about Jesus, he had put His trust in God with the limited revelation he was given. God in turn considered Job righteous, just as He did with every other Old Testament saint (e.g. see Gen 15:6), on the basis of the at-that-time-future work of Jesus on the cross. This is why God could  call him a “blameless” man, just like you and I are blameless before Him (see Heb 9:15). Job’s story is a foreshadowing of our own stories. It tells us that although in Christ we are blameless in God’s sight, God may have reasons why  He wants us to go through extremely trying situations, just like He did for Job. Our final restoration and vindication may not happen in this life, but God guarantees that it is coming, and that it will extend to all of eternity!

Hope for the Future

Thus we get comfort from Scripture. The entire Bible is ultimately a story of God. We read about Him and learn about His character. Every single Bible story (Old and New Testament) is about how people lived. But we also get the additional divine revelation about how God responded to them. We read stories there which serve as warnings to us (see 1 Cor 10:6) or as encouragements to us (see the entire chapter of Hebrews 11). We learn how God thinks. We read about His awesome holiness that would burn any of us to a crisp if we were to go anywhere close. Yet we read about the great mercy and compassion He has towards us even though we do not deserve any of it. We read about His Beloved Son whom He sent, who at great cost opened the way to God by His death on the cross, shielding us from the lethal rays of God’s righteous holiness by His own blood (John 3:16). And we also read the countless promises that assure us that God is faithful. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him” (2 Cor 1:20). As we read, we learn to trust in Him more and more, to fall in love with Him, and to turn aside and worship.

This is what enables us to press on and live by faith and hope, through the most trying of circumstances.

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