God Has Found a Substitute (part 3) - Mercy Over Justice
Some might suppose that sin doesn’t have consequences, but that isn’t true: sin has consequences. Romans 6:23 tells us, “… the wages of sin is DEATH…” God told Adam and Eve that the day they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they shall surely die (Genesis 2:17, 3:3).
Understand that God was not threatening man! Death is the consequence of sin. Wherever there is sin, death must follow (Romans 5:12). By ‘death’, Scripture isn’t just referring to physical death; it is referring to all the attending antecedents of death which include sickness, poverty, lack, oppression, failure, restlessness, etc. This is the justice of God! “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.” Psalms 89:14
It is important to know that God is both a ‘just’ God and a ‘merciful’ God. As a just God, He must punish sin with death. No wonder Romans 3:26 says, “…to DEMONSTRATE at the present time His righteousness, that HE MIGHT BE JUST and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” If sin isn’t punished with death, then He isn’t a just God and the very establishment of His ‘throne’ and existence can be questioned! Sin must be punished – not by Satan – but by God because mankind has never sinned against the devil!
God, however, is also gracious! The Passion Translation of Psalm 89:14 says, “Your glorious throne rests on a foundation of righteousness and JUST VERDICTS. GRACE AND TRUTH are the attendants who go before you.” It is important to notice the words ‘grace’ and ‘truth’ because they are more than words that describe God’s personality. Grace and Truth here refer to Jesus Christ. The Bible says in John 1:17, “For the Law (the justice of God) was given through Moses, but GRACE [the unearned, undeserved favor of God] and TRUTH came through Jesus Christ” (Amplified Bible – Emphasis mine).
The grace of God is Jesus Christ. He is the One who goes before the Father on our behalf so that we can enjoy the Grace, the unearned and unmerited favour of God.
The New King James Bible says “… Mercy and truth GO BEFORE YOUR FACE.” One word that accurately describes the phrase ‘go before’ is the word ‘propitiation.’ It means ‘pacifier’, ‘appeaser’, or ‘the one who makes favourably inclined towards.’
I understand very well when someone ‘goes before’ you because in my culture, as children, all we needed to do to avert justice or the wrath of someone we had offended and were running away from was to run and go behind the oldest person available. That older person becomes your propitiation against the wrath of the offended person. Speaking of Jesus, 1 John 2:2 says, “And He Himself is THE PROPITIATION for OUR SINS, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
By way of sacrifice Jesus went on the cross and fulfilled the just requirements for every man’s sin. He was punished for our sins and, as such, He became the guiltless man that took our place and suffered the full wrath of God for us. He is the Mercy and Truth that goes before the Father today for ANYONE who believes. When anyone believes in the finished work of Jesus, God sees the person through the eyes of the substitute because the legal claims of justice have been met.
Where justice demands death as payment for sin, MERCY has the POWER to keep the sinner free from experiencing any and every form of death because there is a substitute: JESUS! The good news of the Gospel is that God has found a ransom.
It is true that Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” but we also need to know that it doesn’t end there because vs. 24 says, “…and all are JUSTIFIED FREELY by his grace through the REDEMPTION that came by CHRIST JESUS.” There is redemption through Christ Jesus. His death is proof of full payment for our sins!
Despite the fact that the children of Israel had the Law and commandments, God still gave them ordinances concerning sacrifices so that if they broke the law, the consequences of breaking the law would come upon a sacrificial animal (Leviticus 4:22-31). Blood was the proof or evidence of death. Hebrews 9:22 says, “… practically everything in a will hinges on a death. That's why BLOOD, THE EVIDENCE OF DEATH, is used so much in our tradition, especially regarding FORGIVENESS OF SINS” (MSG). Anywhere God sees blood – either for a man, a people or a nation – it actually means that the consequence of sin has been taken care of and the demands of justice have been met.
Even under the Law of Moses, mercy triumphed over justice! In Hebrews 9:4-5, we see that the Ark of the Covenant which contained the tablets of the covenant (the Law) had a top cover known as the mercy seat. It is upon this mercy seat that blood is poured and God speaks to the high priest because mercy overrides justice (Exodus 25:21-22).