Look Away from Me!

August 11, 2017

Have you ever felt as if you wished God would look away from you? Like God was disciplining you, and His discipline was so painful you just wanted it to end?

As we saw in Sunday’s sermon, both Job and David felt that way:

Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer before I go –and I shall not return – to the land of darkness and deep shadow (Job 10:20-21).

Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more! (Psalm 39:13)

How should we respond when we feel this way?

One right response is to remember a central truth of the Gospel: God loves us in spite of ourselves, in spite of who we are and what we do. His love is not a response to our inherent goodness or our pleasing actions. Rather, His love changes and conforms us to the image of His Son. As Martin Luther states:

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. . . . This is the love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good which it may enjoy, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person (Heidelberg Disputation #28).

So if you are in Christ, if you have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and are saved, your status before God does not depend on your behavior; it does not depend on your obedience. When you sin, you may well experience the logical consequences of that sin, and you likely will come under God’s discipline – but neither those consequences nor the discipline are punitive; neither are retribution for what you have done. God loves you because of Christ. And like a loving parent, God orchestrates these events to bring about His good and wise purposes in your life (Hebrews 12:3-13).

So that’s one right response.

A second, related response is to consider our Savior on the cross.

As we saw above, in Psalm 39:13 David asks that God might look away from him. He thinks of God as the punisher. Though he knows he deserves such punishment (Psalm 38:18), he highlights how much he has already suffered, and asks God mercifully to end it.

But consider David’s descendant, Jesus. On the cross, He suffered, though he personally was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). And this punishment was indeed punitive and retributive; the Lord had laid on Him the iniquity of all of His people (Isaiah 53:6). Despite Jesus’ innocence, God inflicted on Him the punishment we deserve.

So, think: David asks God to look away from His guilt though He deserves the pain; God does look away from the innocence of Jesus so that He might punish our sin in Him. David is guilty, yet has his discipline lightened as God looks away; Jesus is innocent, yet bears the complete punishment, as God looks away. God looks away from David’s guilt (and my guilt) – and He looks away from Jesus’ innocence.

Thus perfect mercy and perfect justice meet each other at the cross.

So, fellow sinner, fellow rebel worthy of execution by your rightful King: You don’t have to perform any great deed, you don’t have to make yourself righteous to put yourself in the King’s favor. Indeed, there is nothing you could do that would accomplish that. But His Son accomplished on the cross what you never could.  His love will create in you what is pleasing to Him. Submit to Him. Trust Him. Follow Him. And so, by His grace, receive His love and become like Him.

[Thanks to Tim Cain of Kaleo Church for pointing me to the Luther quote.]

 

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