This is the 21st day of our Lenten journey, the Sunday of the Holy Cross. God bless you as you travel the path to Holy Week and to our Lord’s resurrection. Let’s look at the first part of today’s Sunday epistle reading, Hebrews 4:14-16.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The opening chapters of Isaiah are sometimes very difficult to read, especially when God appears to be inclined to punish His people. I’ve spoken to many who refuse to acknowledge this characteristic of God. They say that Isaiah spoke according to an incorrect theology, or that he was trying to explain away the fact that he could see that Israel would fall to foreign armies. Sometimes people simply say that this describes the God of the Old Testament, but that the God of the New Testament is different. And some scholars claim that Isaiah didn’t write these words at all, but that they were written later, after the time of Israel’s bondage, in order to remove any blame from the national leadership.
I don’t need to tell you that all these explanations of Isaiah’s prophesies are wrong. God did not change between the Old and New Testaments, and Isaiah wrote (the vast bulk of) the book that carries his name, and wrote it according to visions given to him by God.
No. We must read the prophesies of Isaiah in a different way, and the epistle to the Hebrews shows us how: It tells us that Jesus has come to us, the only begotten Son of the Father. He came because God loves us and seeks to suffer with us, He saves us by paying for our sins with His own death on the Cross. Sin is not erased easily. Sin requires punishment. Reading about the sin of the ancient Israelites and the punishment their sin engendered illustrates to us the serious consequences of our own sins. But as we continue through the book, we will see a second lesson, which the epistle to the Hebrews also expresses: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” As we continue to reflect on the Lenten readings from the book of Isaiah, brothers and sisters, let us use them to drawn near to the throne of grace.