For Our Afflictions

018Jesus did a lot of healing when he was here on earth.  I can personally attest that He still does today. So when I come across the following verse, I tend to give it a mental nod and move on.  “Yup, healing, yup, prophecy fulfilled.”

That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”  Matthew 8:16-17 (ESV)

Today when I read that verse, however, it occurred to me that the verse it quotes in Isaiah is translated slightly differently: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…”(ESV)

So why the difference?  It has to do with translating a translation – Matthew was obviously not quoting the ESV version when he quoted Isaiah.  He was translating Hebrew into Greek, which the ESV translators then translated into English.

So which one is right?

If you go back to the original Hebrew for Isaiah, you see that both are right.  The first word can be translated as grief or sickness, but it can also be translated as anxiety or even calamity.  It means all of that.  The second word means sorrow or pain; it can be mental pain or physical pain.

So He didn’t JUST take our illnesses on the cross.  He didn’t just take on our grief.  He took on our anxiety.  He took on that feeling you get when calamity strikes and you feel completely helpless.  He took on our mental anguish and our wounds from people not treating us right as well as our physical aches and pains.

If we think of this concept only in terms of physical healing, we miss the full meaning.  Likewise, if we only take the Isaiah 53:4 translation and think of it as Him taking our grief and sorrow, we’re right, but we’re only halfway there.

Because while the cross provided a way to heaven for us, we won’t need healing in heaven.  So the diseases, illnesses, grief, sorrow, anxiety and calamity He bore for us are the ones we experience RIGHT NOW, right here on earth.

And if I don’t take those issues to Him but think I’m supposed to somehow solider through on my own, I’m missing the point.  He didn’t suffer on that cross solely so that one day I won’t have to suffer when I get to heaven.

The cross provided for grace to be given every day, for every tear I shed, and every problem I encounter here on earth.

What am I holding on to right now? What weighs me down?  What is causing an ache in the pit of my stomach?  THAT’S what he bore on the cross.  It’s paid for.  I can forgive, I can let it go, I can turn it over to Him — he has ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED the answer for that.  I just have to give it to Him.

Because if He suffered on the cross to take care of it, why on earth would I think I have to solve it on my own?

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Resting in Atonement

Deserted streets on Yom Kippur

Deserted streets on Yom Kippur (Photo credit: Meir Jacob | מאיר יעקב)

“The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.”  Lev. 23:27-32

In. Lev. 23:27-28, the Israelites were told to do no work on the annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). In fact, just in case they didn’t get it the first time it was stated that they shouldn’t work on this day, it was further explained in verse 29, and then a bit more in verse 30.  Verse 31 has a little more explanation about the no-work thing, and then verse 32 says it one last time.

So the Lord was apparently really, really serious when He said that they should do no work on the Day of Atonement.   It was a day set aside for solemn reflection, a day to “deny” or “afflict” themselves by taking time to consider their sinful state.  It was the day, according to Lev. 16:30, that “atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins.”

According to Hebrews 7:27, this was the Old Covenant method of atoning for sins, but it was imperfect in that it had to be repeated each year; under the New Covenant, we have a perfect priest in Christ who has atoned for our sins, once for all, and it does not need to be repeated.  However, as with all things in the Old Testament, there is a foreshadowing in the Old Covenant practices that we can apply under the New.

And in this case, I think the Lord made it pretty clear.  We are to do no work on the Day of Atonement.  We are to contribute nothing to our Atonement.  We must let our High Priest do the work there, because we cannot do anything to help.

In other words, we can’t earn our way to heaven.  We can’t save ourselves. The most we can do is to be honest about our sinful state, to take time to stop shrugging off our sins with “well, everyone does that” and “I’m better than most people about this” and “I’m a pretty good person overall, surely that counts for something.”  Once we come face to face, in the quietness of reflection, with how awful we really can be, deep down inside where we let no one else see, and once we understand that no amount of goodness on our part stacked up next to it can actually remove the awfulness, then we can truly appreciate the amazing gift God has given us by sending His son to atone for those sins.

And then, all that is left for us to do is to accept the gift.  We can’t earn it.  We can’t impress God into giving it to us by doing good works. He has already accomplished our atonement and already offered it to us.  And on the Day that we realize that and accept His Atonement, He wants us to do no work but rather, just accept it.  And say thank you.