The Seventy Weeks Prophecy
Sin and Justice
Do you think God is being fair to you?
In the previous message, corresponding to Daniel 9:5-6, we were talking about the confession of sins - the same thing Daniel is doing in those verses - and the provision God has made in Jesus Christ to save us from the just outcome of those sins. That provision is called "salvation".
There are in principle two ways we usually respond to salvation in Jesus Christ: we either accept Him as our Lord and Savior or we reject Him. The questions above are pertinent to both groups of people (Christians and everyone else) because we all make decisions and act in some way, according to our perception of how God is treating us. Many Atheists have made their decision by thinking, "there can't be a righteous God, with all injustice we see on earth. If he is almighty and rigtheous, how does he permits so much injustice?". Then they reject God's justice and become "social justice warriors" or something else, usually anything but Christian. On the other hand, people who have accepted Jesus find impossible to accept God's plan for their lives, or God's ways to achieve that plan, and then they become "religious" (attending just formalities and not the core of their relationship with God) They usually forget that Jesus saves, religion doesn't. Nevertheless, God doesn't give up on us, even if we become either Atheists or schematically religious. That's something we can learn in the prayer of Daniel, most exactly in the verses we are bringing today:
"Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame - the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets"
"Lekhá Adonáy hatzedaká belánu bóshet hapaním, kayóm hazé, leísh Yehudá uleyoshbé Yerushaláyim, ulekhól-Yisraél, hakerobím veharekhokím, bekhól-haaratzót ashér hiddakhtám shám, bemaalám ashér maalú-bakh. Yahweh, lánu bóshet hapaním, limlakhénu, lesarénu velaaboténu, ashér khatánu lakh"
"La-Adonáy Elohénu harakhabím vehaselikhót, ki marádnu bo, velo shamánu vekól Yahweh Elohénu lalékhet betorotáv ashér natán lepanénu beyád abdáv hanebiím"
Even when it is not a literal translation, the changes are perfectly done in order to express in English the same ideas of the original Hebrew. For instance, "Lekhá Adonay hatzedaká belánu bóshet hapaním" means literally "to you, Lord, [belongs] the righteousness, and to us, [belongs] shame in our faces", which is perfectly conveyed by "Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame". To "keep the laws" would be "to walk in the laws" if literally translated, and "through his servants" would be "by the hands of his servants". We see the meaning in English is perfectly conveyed in every sentence, though not the deep of the Hebrew poetical language and thought. And we can see also that Daniel have been asking God for His forgiveness because he understands that the nearly seventy years of captivity, the death of many Jews, the destruction of the temple and the desolations of Jerusalem, are just retribution for the sin they committed. He knows God is not being cruel against them, but righteous.
When you are frustrated, or in great trouble, or suffering because of "inexplicable" causes... who do you blame? Yourself, your relatives, your acquaintances, your neighbors, your friends, God, Satan, an unclean spirit, or global warming?
God's righteousness could be the most important truth to know when you feel - or even when you are indeed - unjustly treated. In Lamentations 3:22-24 we read:
"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him' "
These are the words of Jeremiah the prophet in response to the terrible events he experienced in his life. They are a radiant sunlight ray in the middle of five chapters of stormy, gloomy depiction of Jerusalem's fall. The Babylonian power invaded Judah and deposed their king, took many Jews as prisoners, destroyed Jerusalem and the holy temple... All of this, after Jeremiah had earnestly preached for years to his fellow Jews not to rebel but rather to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar - because he was God's instrument to execute God's sentence on a rebellious people - and nobody had obeyed him, they rather persecuted him and threatened his life. In the middle of the destruction and chaos, the prophet says that the Lord "is his portion" and that he will "wait in the Lord", because no matter what's happening to him and to his nation, the Lord is "compassionate", "loving" and "faithful".
Not everyone going through terrible crisis acknowledged these truths. In the book of Ruth we read about Naomi, who widowed and lost her two sons, also. In a time when men were the expected providers, because women didn't usually work in the fields, she and her daughters in law had become pariahs. And she blamed God because of her adversity:
"Don’t call me Naomi ["pleasant"]... call me Mara, ["bitter"] because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me".
The interesting part in the whole story is that Ruth, the daughter in law who decided to cling to her and declared, "where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God", was God's instrument for the blessing and restoration of Naomi's life. In some inexplicable way, Ruth understood that the same God who "made their life very bitter" and "afflicted them", "bringing misfortune" upon them, was the One Who would bless them, and declared that He would be her God.
Before we judge Naomi too severely, let's remember she was a Jewish believer. Believers in the Bible, both Jews and Christians, understand that we live obeying our God and that sin brings consequences, aka punishment, upon sinners. Her shock can be easily understood as the bewilderment of someone who considers the crisis as a too harsh punishment for his sins, and asks, "why me?", "what did I do to deserve this?". That severe crisis was the cause they went back to Israel, Ruth knew and married Boaz, and then Naomi became the mother of a very rich woman, and an ancestor to king David, instead of the mother-in-law of a poor moabite girl. But we who can understand it after reading the whole story are in a different position than she was in the middle of the trial. We are not in Naomi's shoes.
There are some other figures in the Bible who knew God's mind and heart, as the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations did. The Scriptures show critical periods in the lives of very reverent and good persons, as the patriarch Job, Joseph the son of Jacob, king David and Our Lord Jesus Himself. All of them experienced the rejection, calamities, frustration, persecution, evil in any possible way, all things that a person who believes in God and lives a righteous life wouldn't rationally expect.
How many of us should confess a Redeemer who will stand at the end, to deliver us, after losing his whole family and his riches, as Job did? Especially, confess Him before some "friends" who are accusing him of being a sinner and therefore, being experiencing God's justice.
How many of us should trust the promises of our God, after being sold as a slave by his brothers - whose intention was to kill him in the beginning - then persecuted by an adulteress, falsely accused and sent to prison for many years? That's what Joseph did, and he was later exalted by Pharao himself and became the savior of his family, the same brothers who tried to kill him. He pardoned them, because he saw God's hand in all the trials he had endured through so many years, and they as God's instruments, doing God's will.
How many of us would respect the life of the man seeking us to kill us, after serving him, delivering him from satanical oppression, defeating the great Philistine warrior nobody dared to face, and fighting many battles under the king's standard? That's what king David did, having twice the opportunity to kill the demon-possessed king Saul who was persecuting him to death, but pardoning his life because he was the Lord's anointed.
How many of us would preach to people who hate us, even bring them healing, and remain faithful to a ministry we already know will end in an unjust trial - more like a farce of trial - humilliation, mistreat, crucifixion and death? That's what our Lord Jesus did, pardoning all disciples who left Him and ran, pardoning those who humilliated Him and unjustly treated Him, and asking God to forgive those who were crucifying Him.
There's a common feature to all of these believers that shone in them through the crisis and trials they endured: they were all forgivers. I'm not talking about forgiving someone who trod on your new white shoes, left an almost undistinguishable mark in your bumper by a little collision or failed to pay you five dollars back. Those men forgot people who were trying to kill them. It doesn't mean you have to exonerate and declare "righteous" all of those who sin against you. It means you have to forgive them, not to seek revenge on them, you have to trust a God who pays just reward or retribution to anyone, on his good or evil deeds. You have in principle to "let them go". If they will become your soulmates or just your "forgotten enemies", only God knows. He scrutinizes the hearts of men, we don't. He knows the hearts of men, we don't. He is capable to transform the hearts of men, we aren't. He is the One to whom all men will be accountable to at the end of times, we aren't.
When you are a real forgiver, then and only then you're in the path of knowing God's heart. And to know God's heart, you have to "forgive God" also. As absurd as it may sound, you have to understand that God is not your "forgotten enemy", God is not your "earlier enemy who has become a friend", God is not even your "unsympathetic fellow". He is your loving Father, He has never stopped loving you, and He will never do. Everything He has done or permitted to be done in your life is for your good. Perceived unfairnesses, trials, mistreat, persecution or any evil you have experienced, can drive you closer to God, or farther away from Him. Forgiveness makes the difference!
Forgiveness is not only the greatest among every soul-healing tool in this world. It is a sine qua non requisite to be saved. Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior said:
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins".
God wouldn't be a righteous God if He would pardon someone who is incapable to pardon others, would He? As I'm writing this, yesterday was the last Christmas day of the winter 2017-18. But Christmas is not the only "season of forgiveness" in the year. We have 365 days - sometimes 366 - every year to forgive them who have sinned against us. If you have not yet received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, believe me, He's waiting for you to do it! He wants to receive you, heal your soul, forgive your sins and bless you beyond your wildest dreams. There are millions who can testify about it, like me, and we expect many more to come to Our Savior and escape both the terrible judgements coming on this world, and the never ceasing punishment in the realm of eternal death. Receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior! That's the choice you'll never repent!
In the love of Jesus, your brother