I had the privilege of preaching the word of God at Rustburg Correctional Facility today, where I delivered a message about what is arguably the greatest promise God has ever made to humankind. I sought to remind the inmates of God’s incredible love displayed in it, and to “not compromise that promise”.
You might wonder just what that promise is. Well, it starts and ends at the cross. I believe that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ speaks volumes to us about how we are to live… yes, live! Jesus’ entire life was not only the required sacrifice to save us from our sins, but it was also the prime example of what it means to live in relation to the God of heaven. Everything from his reliance on the Father for food, clothing, shelter, and miracles, to his continual conversations with the Father about all that pertained to his life and purpose for being born were examples for us.
And there were only a couple of times in Scripture where we can see that there is an apparent dis-connect between God the Father and Christ the Son. And I emphasis “apparent”, because of course we know that there was not and never will be a complete disconnection between the Father and the Son. But by God’s design, there appeared to be one for a very, very good reason.
All throughout Jesus’ ministry, we read of him praying to the Father, and even on several occasions we hear the Father speak of Jesus from Heaven (e.g., at his baptism (Matt. 3:17), and the mount of transfiguration, (Matt. 17:5)). But remember when Jesus prayed three times in the garden of Gethsemane that if it was possible that the Father would let the cup of crucifixion pass from him (Matt. 26:39-44)? Though Christ prayed three times, heaven remained silent. And then there came the time when after suffering false accusation and arrest, being kept up and questioned all night, and mocked and beaten the next day, that he was then nailed to a cross and lifted up for all to see.
Surely there was pandemonium as the people crowded Golgotha that afternoon. Surely there were cries from the devastated Mary, Jesus mother and many of the other women. Yet all of the confusion and tumult must have muted when Jesus began to cry out, “Eli, Eli, Lema sabachthani?”, which meant, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). In that simple question there exists volumes of understanding of what life in Christ is about. And one of the things that Jesus’ words do there is contrast for us the preciousness of what I like to refer to as the greatest promise God ever made to humankind. And if we compromise that greatest promise, we will begin to live lives that serve to discredit the validity of all the other promises of God; and surely, no Christian wants to be guilty of that.
So what is this “greatest” of all promises? As I said before, it starts at the cross. How so? Well, Jesus cried out to God asking why he was forsaken by Him. And, of course, heaven was silent, right? I personally think that God did not respond to Christ’s question for at least two reasons: “leaving” and “forsaking”. First of all, I believe God did not respond because He didn’t have to, since the question that was asked was not a completely valid one. God does not have to defend Himself at all, much less about something He can never truly be guilty of. God the Father and God the Son are eternally inseparable, and yet, Jesus speaks as if they have been separated.
I know the feeling though, and many of you do too. I can remember when I was a child. I never attended pre-school; I didn’t start school until I was old enough for kindergarten. Up until that time, I spent every day of my life with my mother or some other close family member. So you can probably guess what happened on my first day when I was left alone at school by my mom. Yep! I cried “for about the space of four or five hours”, which was about how long we went to school each day in kindergarten! I don’t remember if I cried again the next day, but I can remember the feeling down in my bones of being abandoned that first day. But is that what actually happened? Of course that was not what happened. But can you imagine the perfect relationship the Father and the Son had from eternity, being so abruptly and bitterly interrupted by thirty-three-and-a-half years of persecution that culminated in three-and-a-half hours of unspeakable torture on a cross? Surely, Jesus was speaking from his completely human perspective when he cried out to God that way. Though he was eternally God the Son, he was also a perfectly sinless human being crying out from every fiber within to his God, telling Him (and us) exactly what he was feeling. He had to be feeling like God was nowhere around. But was He still there? Of course He was still there.
A second reason I believe heaven was silent was to highlight Christ’s feeling of forsakenness. What does it mean to be forsaken, and is it the same as being left or abandoned? I don’t think so. I believe you can forsake someone while you remain in their very presence every day of their lives. That is what children who are raised in severely dysfunctional homes endure until they are grown enough and able to leave and make a life for themselves. So when it comes to being forsaken, I believe that Christ’s cry was unanswered because God wanted us to see to what measures He would go in order to show us that He would never leave nor would he ever forsake us. And that is the greatest promise God has ever made to humankind. “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you'” (Heb. 13:5).
God the Father appeared to have forsaken His only begotten Son Jesus on the cross so that He would be able to make us a promise signed in the sinless blood of His only begotten Son that He will never depart from us, nor would He ever neglect us. And Christ’s cross serves to teach us the lesson that there will be times in our lives that heaven will be silent at our cries; it will literally seem like God is completely neglecting us. But Jesus told us clearly that if we would follow him, we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and do so daily (Luke 9:23). And let us remember that His promise to never leave us is founded upon His Omnipresence–He is always with Believers, no matter where we are! And let us also never forget that His promise to never forsake us is backed up by His Omnipotence and Omniscience–He is powerful enough and smart enough to cause all things, triumphant or tragic, to work together for good to us who love Him and are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28)!
So, every other promise of God in Christ Jesus essentially hinges upon this great promise of Hebrews 13:5 because it is the only promise God makes to us that all of His other promises could not be possible without. And if we can really get a good and continual heart-hold of this promise, we will begin to learn like the apostle Paul did, to be content in whatsoever state or condition we find ourselves (Phil. 4:11); we will experience the life of great gain, that abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10) which also comes with such contentment (1 Tim. 6:6). May we never compromise the greatest of all promises by living as if God is nowhere around us or as if He could care less about us. Others who need to believe in our God are all around, and they are watching. If He is not with us now, then He never was. But if you are a true Believer, just know, and show that you know, that He is always there and He truly cares. Don’t compromise that PROMISE!
- The Struggle with Jesus Lordship (ptl2010.com)
- The Lesson of Lament (dearchristiancounselor.com)
- The OSAS Doctrine: can I lose my salvation? (growup318.com)
- New Xulon Book Explores Author’s Life, Freedom from Sin (prweb.com)
- Our Many Promises (csahm.com)
- Making the Meaningless Meaningful (heatheregartshore.com)
- I AM, Elohim, Jesus, Yaweh, the Tri-une God. Hebrews 1:5-13 (whoareyoulord.wordpress.com)