In Memoriam

For our foreign readers, today is a national holiday in the United States called Memorial Day. It’s the day we commemorate the men and women in the military who have died in service to their country.

Thank you, men and women, for serving our country.

In the spirit of this special day, we’ll read about someone who gave his life in service to all of us.

TODAY’S READING

2 Samuel 17:1-29
John 19:23-42
Psalm 119:129-152
Proverbs 16:12-13

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Samuel 17:1-29. Ahithophel’s loyalty to Absalom was an extreme surprise to David because he happened to be the father of Bathsheba, David’s beloved wife. Scholars can’t figure out why David’s once-trusted advisor would divide the family like that, but there must have been deep hatred toward his former employer because he advised Absalom to assassinate the king. Perhaps the fiasco involving his daughter’s illicit affair with David simmered deep within until Absalom emerged on the scene.

Hushai, on the other hand, offered much different advice. Remember, he was secretly loyal to David, and joined Absalom’s stable of counselors to undermine the advice of Ahithophel. Whereas Ahithophel advised Absalom to clandestinely assassinate the king and bring a quick end to the resistance, Hushai recommended a massive mobilization of the army. The New Bible commentary offers some interesting insights:

Hushai’s advice was…based on the fact that Absolom’s army was bigger than David’s. The flaw in his scheme (as Hushai well knew) was that it involved a long delay, and so would give David and Joab, with all their military experience, ample time to make proper preparations. Hushai’s scheme was so bad, in fact, that Ahithophel soon committed suicide (verse 23).

Throughout the story of Absalom’s insurrection, we see the hand of God. Absalom accepted Hushai’s “bad” advice, and the men bringing David information about Absalom’s plans were undiscovered in the woman’s well. Even when circumstances appear grim, God is still in control.

John 19:23-42. The legs of the two men hanging beside Jesus on the cross were broken in order to hasten their death. In a crucifixion, people die from asphyxiation. As long as they can support their bodies on the cross, they can delay their death—sometimes living for several days. But if their legs are broken, they can no longer support their weight.

We read, though, that Jesus had already died, so the soldiers decided not to break his legs. This fulfilled the words of the psalmist in Psalm 34:20: “He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” Also, Jewish law mandated that the Passover lamb’s bones must not be broken.

The presence of blood and water when the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side was significant to John and his readers. The New Bible Commentary explains that “John’s intention here is to affirm the physical reality of Jesus’ death, in contrast to the views held by the Docetists, who claimed that he had only appeared to die.”

Jesus was then placed in a grave “in which no one had ever been laid.” This was significant because it meant Jesus’ body wasn’t’ defiled by other bodies laying in the tomb. This likely fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 16:10, “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (italics added).

Psalm 119:129-152. Verse 131 caught my attention: “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” The message expresses it this way: “My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!— insatiable for your nourishing commands.”

Such is the desire of those who desire God.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Not so coincidentally, today our reading in John finishes telling the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.

The last words of Jesus are fairly well-known: “It is finished.” In the Greek language, this is a one-word sentence—tetelestai. It’s an interesting word because it means more than finishing a project or task. The word was used in commerce. When a person paid off a debt, their bill was stamped tetelestai. Paid in full.

My hunch is, most people look at Jesus’ death on the cross and readily accept that their debt of sin is paid. Kind of like a down payment—but we must finish making the payments.

In Jesus’ case, though, he paid our debt of sin in full. What does this mean?

Every law written in the old covenant (found in Genesis through Deuteronomy) was fulfilled.

When we give our lives to Jesus, every fragment of sin from our past, present, and future is completely forgiven. We need no longer fear that our darkest secrets will endanger our position of eternity with Jesus.

Even the minutest sins we commit—the ones we never realize we’re committing—are forever forgiven.

We can do nothing to earn our salvation.

We’re free to live without the fear of messing up and endangering our relationship with Jesus. For this reason, Martin Luther once said, “Love God and sin boldly.”

When we realize Jesus paid our debt of sin IN FULL, we live with boldness and confidence.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does Jesus’ words “Paid in full” mean to you?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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