Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on November 13, 1983
He was wounded for our transgressions, he
was bruised for our iniquities . . . and the
LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
For as many as are of the works of the law are
under the curse . . . Christ hath redeemed us from
the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.
PLEASE TURN IN YOUR BIBLE TO ISAIAH 53. To Christians, this is one of the most well-known passages in the Old Testament. We read, beginning at verse 1, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief . . . he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” This great passage has been applied throughout the history of the church to everyone who trusts in the atoning work of Christ.
The word “atonement” translates the Hebrew word kippur, which means “cover over.” Our word “atonement” comes from the words “at one,” and based on the origin of the English word, some people play games with it and say atonement means “at-one-ment” or “being at one with God.” While atonement may result in that kind of relationship with God, that is not the meaning of the original Hebrew word; it means “cover over.”
Paul, the interpreter of the Old Testament for the New Testament church, explains the significance of that covering in Galatians 3. We read, beginning at verse 10, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” That means those who will be judged by their works, those who will be judged by their ability to perform according to God’s law, are under the curse of the law, which is death. A sentence of death was upon all of us, but “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.”
That little word “for” translates a Greek word that is precise in its meaning. In New Testament days, there were many people who could neither read nor write. If a man wanted to enter into a contract but was unable to sign the contract himself, someone else could sign it for him. For example, if I did not know how to write, then my father could sign a contract for me and write “W.T. Scott for Dr. Gene Scott.” Many historical documents were discovered that helped scholars understand the usage of this Greek word translated “for,” which means “on behalf of” or “for the sake of.”
Again, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us;” Christ was our covering. The curse we deserved fell on Him. Paul goes on to say in Galatians 5, “Stand fast therefore,” which essentially means “Don’t remove yourself from underneath that covering.” “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.”
In the Old Testament, if you wanted to meet God, you had to come to the one place He had designated, which was the tabernacle. This was a tented structure that the children of Israel would set up in the wilderness in the days before Solomon built the temple. You would come to God by entering the tabernacle through one door, which typified Christ. You would bring a perfect animal as a sin-bearer that would become a vicarious or substitute sacrifice for sin. The animal would be slain and its blood poured out. This might sound primitive to us today until we understand that God said in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” God had decreed that the penalty for sin was death, but He allowed an animal to bear our sins and be slain in the place of sinning man.
Once a year, the high priest would take the blood of a slain animal and carry it through the curtain of the Holy Place, through the veil and into the Holy of Holies. He would sprinkle the blood seven times on the place where he would stand as he represented all the people before God. He sprinkled it seven times because the number seven symbolized perfection and completeness. The priest would not stand before God on his own merits; he would stand on the ground sprinkled with blood, typifying the Perfect Sacrifice who would one day pour out His life for us according to God’s promise. You and I stand on that outpoured blood today: Christ was the adequate payment for all of our sins.
The theological term “propitiation” means a payment to remedy, restore or fulfill. It you owed a debt or had to pay some kind of penalty, then “propitiation” is the payment of that debt or penalty. The penalty for sin was death, but the believer was allowed to bring an animal sacrifice as his substitute. He would place his hand on the head of the animal, because God had said that by so doing, whatever sins he had committed would be imparted onto the animal. The animal would then be slain and the blood containing its life would be poured out as propitiation for the believer.
The concept of vicarious sacrifice raises a question: how can something that is less valuable pay for something that is more valuable? How can the life of a bull or a goat suffice to stand in for a man? The answer is that it cannot, on its own. I again explain this idea using an illustration out of economic theory. Paper money has little intrinsic value, yet paper money can be spent to buy things of value like food or gas or cars. If you write a check to buy groceries, the check itself is accepted by the grocery store on the assumption that there is money on deposit in a bank, and the bank is supposed to transfer money to the grocer upon deposit of the check. But again, the bank only gives the grocer another piece of paper. As we move toward the last days and the time of Antichrist, there will be nothing of real value changing hands, just numbers moving around electronically. But in the old days, there was gold and silver on deposit that backed up the value of the paper money. We used to have paper bills called “silver certificates” that could be presented to a representative of the United States government and redeemed for real silver that could be spent anywhere in the world. So our relatively worthless paper bills stood in for real money, silver and gold, on deposit at the bank. The governing authority that issued the paper currency would back up the value of the currency. While this theory was sound, in reality the banks never had enough gold or silver on deposit to redeem all the paper money in circulation.
Now you cannot put your trust in man or in earthly governments, but you can put your trust in God. He backs up His word. The animal sacrifices were analogous to paper money. God allowed those sacrifices to stand in for a man because they represented something of incomparably greater worth. God had said, in essence, “Because of your sin, you deserve death. But because of My grace,” that is, unmerited favor, “I have made a way to give you another chance. I have provided a way to cover you.”
Romans 3 says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” and “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” It does not matter whether you are a heathen who has never heard of the law or a Jew who grew up under the law, God’s standard is so high that all have fallen short of it. The Greek word for “sin” means “to fall short” or “to miss the mark,” and a miss is as good as mile. That is why Galatians 3 says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” But “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” He let us pass out from underneath the curse by bearing our sins in His own body.
God dramatically taught through these Old Testament worship practices that though the life of an animal was not an adequate substitute for the life of a man, He would accept the sacrificed animals as temporary covering for man’s sins.
There is no time with God. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and everything in between. God does things by set times, and until the fullness of time when His Son would die, He allowed man to be redeemed by the shed blood of animals. To continue with our analogy, you could spend, so to speak, the blood of an animal, and you did not even have to understand how that was possible. On the night of the Passover in Egypt, God’s people did not fully understand why He would make them slay a lamb on the threshold of the door and put its blood on the doorpost and on the lintel. The spilling of blood is considered distasteful in our modern anthropocentric society because modern man is conditioned to see everything from his own point of view: he does not have an understanding of what the shedding of blood represents in the Bible. The reason there is so much talk about blood in the Bible is because there was so much sin. Blood is the conveyor of life, and blood had to be poured out because of sin. If no one had ever sinned, there would never have been a need for a blood sacrifice. But God teaches that all mankind falls short of His glory, and instead of pouring out the blood of the people, He allowed a substitute animal to die in their place because of His grace. I suppose that someone in that day might have felt sorry for the animals, but I cannot imagine anyone saying, “Save the animal and kill me instead!”
The animal was worthless in comparison to the value of a man. It was not of sufficient value to erase the demands of our conscience and not intrinsically worth enough to silence the devil, the accuser of the brethren. Satan still has access to heaven’s throne, as he did in Job’s day, to challenge our standing before God. Satan could say, “What right do these sinners have to stand in Your presence?” I know there are perfectionists in the church who think they are not sinners. The Bible says all saints are sinners; we all fall short. The church destroys itself when it thinks otherwise. But what right do we have to stand in God’s presence? We are standing, as the old church hymns say, on the blood. We can say to God, “I stand here on the shed blood of Christ. Don’t look at me; look at the sprinkled blood!”
That is the message of Exodus 24. God called Moses and the elders of Israel to come up Mount Sinai to worship Him, but He said to Moses, “Only you can come near Me. They cannot come close and worship Me until something happens first. Go down, sacrifice an animal in their place, take the blood and apply it to the people.” It was a gruesome scene as Moses splattered the blood of the animal on the people. If you will allow me to make a ludicrous illustration, let’s imagine someone who was all dressed up like he was going to church; he wanted to be recognized for keeping the Sabbath! And suddenly Moses splatters him with blood! You might say, “I think that’s primitive.” Fine. Then you can take your clean suit and go to hell. God was saying, “Do you want to talk to Me? Then talk to Me on My terms, and I have said, ‘For sin comes death’.” Imagine some self-righteous fool saying, “But I’ve never done anything wrong! I’ve never smoked a pipe or even chewed tobacco. I’ve certainly never fornicated. I never even got mud on my shoes when I was a kid. And I’ve never lied! I’m perfect!” But Moses flings the blood on him with a splat! That must have been shocking; it was the first event of its kind. Only after the blood was sprinkled on these people were they allowed to go up the mountain and worship in God’s presence. Again and again, God was teaching by means of a graphic drama: you could only come into His presence when payment for sin had been made.
The shed blood of an animal could never be worth enough to pay the penalty to redeem fallen man. Now suppose someone were to challenge God and say, “How could You allow some reprobate to stand in Your presence simply because a goat was slain?” God could reply that He allowed it in fulfillment of a plan that was set in motion before Calvary. In the councils of heaven, a fail-safe program was built in. You ask, “Did God know man would sin?” I don’t think He did. I don’t believe God wound up everything like a clock, but He has the capacity to see every possibility and plan for it. In one sense our lives are like a spaceship en route to the moon. If a spaceship gets off track, you don’t make it return to earth and correct the error at the point of departure; you simply correct its course as it goes along. And the closer it gets to its destination, the narrower the corrections become. That is what walking in God’s will is like.
God is the eternal Reconstructionist. In the beginning, there was the possibility that Adam and Eve would not fail. But if they did, God was not without a fail-safe plan, for in the councils of heaven before God ever created man, Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Should man fail, Jesus was available. Jesus was like the gold or silver that backed up the paper money. His life was worth enough to stand in for every man who ever lived and would ever live. And the Lamb made the commitment before man was ever created. Once man failed, the fail-safe plan was set in motion. It was symbolized in the types and shadows of the Old Testament, such as the feast days including the Day of Atonement and the Passover. It was symbolized in all the sacrifices that were shadows of things to come. One day, the vault of heaven would break open, and out of that vault would come gold worth enough to buy up every sacrifice and pay the penalty for all mankind. Every sin – past, present and future – was laid on Christ.
Matthew 13 says Jesus paid the price sufficient to buy up the whole field to get the treasure out of the field. That is why Isaiah 53:4 says, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah was prophetically speaking to his own people who in the future would blindly say that Jesus deserved the punishment He would receive from God. But Isaiah refutes that notion, saying Jesus “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Then Isaiah simply defines sin as “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Sin is not some of those foolish things the church calls sin. You can sin just as much while looking like a saint as you can while looking like a sinner. God is looking at the root, not the surface. Here is the essence of sin: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” We all want our own way.
I grew up in the traditional church and have never seen sin more openly expressed anywhere than in traditional churches, where everyone wants their own way. Have you ever seen a church were people didn’t want their own way? Sin is an attitude. Sin is not defined by the length of your hair, the way you dress, or whether or not you smoke. We are born wanting things our way. We say, “Give me, give me, let me, let me,” and If we don’t get our way, we cry and complain! That is sin. Our sins separated us from God, but the Bible says, “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Let’s turn our attention to the tabernacle once again. Within the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant, which consisted of an oblong box made from acacia wood, “a root out of a dry ground,” is a symbol of humanity; and gold is a symbol of divinity. Thus the ark typified the humanity and deity of Christ.
So that no one would misunderstand this symbol, there were three things placed inside the ark. The first was Aaron’s rod that budded, which was a type of the Resurrection. In Numbers 17, to establish God’s choice of Aaron as the high priest, that dead staff with no life in it blossomed overnight and became a symbol of Christ our High Priest who would die and rise again to vindicate His claim of divinity. The second item in the ark was the golden pot with manna in it, the bread that God rained down out of heaven, which was typical of the divine word of God. It is as though God added this second exclamation mark to say, “Even if you are only a child, you can understand who I am expressing in the symbolism of this box: the Resurrected One, the Living Bread.” Also inside the ark were placed the two unbroken tablets of stone inscribed with the law of God. The first set of tablets was broken, but God ordered Moses to make new ones. God used that incident to teach that the law of God was first broken by man. But the only place where God’s law, His standard of perfection, was ever kept was in Christ. All of these elements – the wood, the gold, the rod that budded, the pot containing the manna and the unbroken tablets of stone – were symbols pointing to Christ.
On top of the ark was a solid block of gold called the mercy seat, and molded into it were two cherubim, which remind us of the cherubim God placed at the east of the Garden of Eden to guard the way of the tree of life. When Adam and Eve sinned and were driven out of God’s presence, the cherubim walled them away with flaming swords. But now man could approach God with the sprinkled blood of a life sacrificed for him. The high priest would stand in front of the ark, and the Shekinah glory, a brilliant light that was the substance of God’s presence, would come down and dwell between the two cherubim above the mercy seat. There God would commune with the priest. The golden cherubim, with wings folded and no drawn swords, contemplated the meeting place. The gold symbolized the divine perfection of Christ who covered us. Thus the mercy seat typified the atoning work of Christ.
In a tragic incident recorded in the Old Testament, the ark of the covenant was captured by the Philistines and taken to the house of their god Dagon, and was set beside Dagon’s statue. In the morning, they discovered Dagon fallen on his face! God destroyed the Philistines and “smote them with emerods” or painful boils because they had stolen His ark. The Philistines were afraid of the ark and sent it away. They put it on a cart pulled by two cows that had been separated from their calves, and they said, “Let the cows pull the cart where they will.” The cows pulled the cart to a city in Israel called Beth-shemesh, were some of the people lifted the golden lid of the ark and looked inside. As cruel as it might sound, God killed 50,070 of the citizens of that city because some of them looked inside the ark.
You might say, “That’s awful!” I am sure the ones who died thought so too. Probably only a handful of people looked, yet over 50,000 were killed. I would like to offer some hope, in case someone might think that was not fair. The New Testament says that when Jesus died, He preached to departed souls during the three days He was in the grave. I believe those 50,070 people were among those who were given their chance for eternal life. The book of Ephesians says Jesus led a host into heaven when He returned. You see, God works everything out like a great tapestry on His broad loom.
God has chosen a people to be His oracle and He used them to teach something. They had no business lifting the lid, but since they did, He would make His point and no one would find it easy to forget: if you ever stand face-to-face with God’s standard represented by the unbroken stones, eternal death is your portion. In short, between God’s standard and man was the mercy seat, the covering. Only Christ could stand before the full penetrating measure of those tablets of stone. They were covered up, hidden beneath the mercy seat. The words “mercy seat” translate the Hebrew word kapporeth. The book of Hebrews says Christ is our kapporeth, our covering, our atonement. God was teaching us that we can only stand in His presence and be accepted by Him when we are standing on the shed blood of Christ. God’s standard, the law, was kept by Christ, and we are now covered by the gold of Christ’s performance. Isaiah said, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows . . .” Christ did it all, which is why I preach freedom, grace and covering.
Allow me to be ludicrous again, and imagine some self-righteous saint thinking, “I know I had to stand on the blood and keep the lid closed when I first came to Christ, but now I am part of a denomination that has taught me how to keep the law, so I guess I don’t need that lid anymore! I can stand before God’s law uncovered and condemn all of you!” Sounds pretty foolish, doesn’t it? Yet that is what goes on in so many churches.
From the beginning to the end, whether I am known as the worst sinner in town or as the bishop of a church, I am able to stand in God’s presence because between me and God’s standard is the covering atonement. Christ offered His life in my place. Christ’s sacrifice bought up all the temporary animal sacrifices that had ever been offered, just like the gold on deposit could buy up all the paper money. Every sin committed by everyone in the whole world, past, present and future, was laid on Him.
Who can be saved? God has said, in essence, “I can save everyone; they are all covered. But I will give eternal life to those who trust Me, those who faithe in Me, those who act in faith.” Our moral performance is no longer the criterion of acceptance before God. Isaiah said, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” It is Christ’s performance that covers us, and He will only cover men and women who are acting in faith. Quit trying to beat people into heaven by demanding they conform to some behavioral standard; just let them see what Jesus did for them. And if He be lifted up, He will draw all men unto Himself.
Your ability or inability to perform acts of righteousness and morality is between you and God, and your performance is only worth something if it is God doing His work in and through you. What saves you is your grabbing hold of a promise of God and acting on it. God has paid the terrible debt; the fail-safe plan from eternity was activated and all of mankind is covered. But God only allows the covering to apply to men and women of faith.
There will be many who appear at the judgment saying, “Haven’t we done thus and so in Your name?” And the Lord will say to them, “Depart from Me; I never knew you.” God doesn’t want anyone, from a national leader to a janitor in a church, crowding in on the performance of Christ. All of us will march into heaven on the basis of His merits. And God will let us march in if we will believe He means what He says when He says it, which includes this promise that He will take you on Christ’s merits and not your own. So tell the traditional church to get off our backs. We have a grip on Jesus, and that is the way we are going in!
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
- From The Berean Call, July 2013, “In Defense of the Faith”
The true story is told of a London street preacher who announced to his audience that every atheist was a fool because the Bible said so. A well-known atheist in the crowd shouted back at him that it was a slanderous insult, which he took personally, and that he would sue the preacher for damages. The preacher responded, “It’s not slander to tell the truth.”
The atheist countered, “And it’s not truth unless you can prove it! You’ll have to prove in court that I’m a fool, or I’ll take every pound you’ve got!”
“I don’t have to go to court to prove it,” said the preacher calmly. “You say you’re an atheist?”
“Yes, and not just a casual one. I’ve spent my life proving God doesn’t exist. It’s a pernicious myth!”
“Spent your life proving God doesn’t exist, have you?” replied the preacher. “Tell me this: if a man who spends his life fighting against something that doesn’t exist isn’t a fool, who is?”
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