“Will that heavy cloud ever lift?” That was the question in my mind as I drove our daughter to school on many mornings. We lived at an altitude of over 3000 feet and heavy fogs were frequent. Sometimes it was difficult to see the road ahead. However on many mornings as I drove home from the school, all you could see was Peter, Paul and Mary! No, not the singing group but the spires of three churches in the middle of town poking up through the low cloud. St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral of which I was the Dean, St Paul’s Presbyterian church and St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. On some days the heavy cloud had almost miraculously disappeared and the sun was shining brightly on the city. On other days it was just plain misty. But often the mist disappeared within a matter of minutes as I drove home.
For some people however their concern is not with that sort of cloud. Rather it is the heaviness that they feel envelops them. They feel that life’s circumstances are choking them. They have no sense of freedom. They cannot see any light in their situation. Everything around them seems to be dark and threatening. They feel an oppressing sense of guilt and shame. They wonder if that oppression will ever lift from them.
What a wonderful sense of freedom came to many people when they encountered the words of Isaiah 44:22 in the Bible. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. The words for “transgressions” in the Hebrew Old Testament (pesha) and in the Septuagint Greek Old Testament (anomia) have the meaning of rebellion and lawlessness primarily against God. It is no light thing to believe that you have offended the God of this universe by turning away from Him and by doing things that He has declared to be against His will. What a joy to know that God can blot out or wipe away our guilt as we turn to Him and ask for mercy.
Likewise Isaiah talks about our “sins” being taken away, using the imagery of mists dispersing and disappearing. (Chattath is the Hebrew word for “sins” and hamartia is the word in the Greek Old Testament). Both words have the meaning of the evil we commit against God and against our fellow humans.
Millions of people are familiar with the words of the 2 Great Commandments of Jesus. Matthew 22:37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Most would admit that they have been guilty of breaking those two Great Commandments by not perfectly loving God and fellow humans as they should have.
This verse promises that sins against God and against fellow humans can be blotted out by Him. What is needed? It is for people to turn back to Him. Why? Because as verse 22 says, He is the only One who can redeem them or set them free from the power and guilt of their sin. We will see in future articles that the freedom God gives to people is freedom from the guilt of sin and also freedom from its power in our lives.
GOOD FRIDAY made the promises of Isaiah 44:22 possible. On that day Jesus as the Son Of God offered a sacrifice on the cross that would take away all sin. It would provide an eternal redemption for His people. The sacrifice was the sacrifice of Himself. As St Peter wrote in his first epistle, 1Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. No wonder “Good Friday” is “Good”. It reminds us of the good news that Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God became a human, so that he might die as a human, to bring us to God.
Where does Easter fit in with all this? The Jesus who was crucified on that first Good Friday rose from the dead on that first Easter Morning, the victor over sin and death and over all the powers of darkness.
Good news, but so what? What significance does it have for us today, you might ask? It challenges us to respond to Him. Jesus as the Son of God and as the creator of the universe came to His own creation. On Good Friday He died for sinners. St Paul reminds us of the implications of that death for us, 2 Corinthians 5:15 he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:- [Added 26 October 2017]
1]. Have you ever had disturbing thoughts that the day on which Jesus was crucified was called “Good Friday”? If you did, why do you think you were troubled by its name? Should we continue to feel disturbed by it? If not, why not?
2]. Have the terms “cloud” and “mist” had any application to you? You felt that you had been enveloped in a thick cloud and you could not see the way ahead. Even your brain seemed to be foggy? Or did you feel that mists were swirling around you and you had lost any sense of direction in life? If so, what helped you emerge from the fog or the cloud so that life became more bearable?
3]. Have you had any sense in your life that your sins had been blotted out or erased? What caused that to happen? Do you still feel that those sins have been dealt with or do they still trouble you?
4]. What do you think is needed for people who feel burdened by sin to get rid of that burden? Is feeling sorry or remorseful enough? What would you suggest they do?
5]. The words of Isaiah in this verse look forward to the coming death of the Messiah or the Christ. How do Peter’s words above in 1 Peter 2:24 fulfil what Isaiah prophesied in our verse today from Isaiah 44:22?
Jim Holbeck. Blog No 20. Posted on Thursday 21st April 2011. [Revised on 26 Oct 2017]
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