Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Beautiful, Part One

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

What is beautiful?

We usually think of outward appearance when we think of beauty, but to God, beauty is internal. He values a humble spirit inside–self-sacrificing, loving, obedient. But He gave us free will and the first parents, Adam and Eve, used that gift to disobey God. Ever since, we have been under the curse of the sinful nature passed down through all generations, rebelling against Him. God made us for His pleasure, but we are separated from Him by our sin. He is holy and nothing unholy and impure will be tolerated in His presence, but He made a way for us to be purified and “right” with Him. He loves us so much that He sent His one and only begotten Son to live a perfect, sinless life and sacrifice Himself for us. Jesus took our punishment to save us. It’s hard for us to understand, but His blood washes us clean.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." John 3:16-18

To God and those of us spared what we deserved, what He did was beautiful, though Jesus was nearly unrecognizable as a human being. He was disrespected, hit, spit on, pushed and shoved, His beard pulled, mocked, humiliated, punctured with thorns that were deliberately pounded into His head, and then whipped mercilessly–His back no doubt utterly laid wide open. He was then made to carry His own cross on His bloody back, but was unable to continue, having already suffered so much abuse. As if that were not enough injustice against Him, the most gruesome part of the punishment for OUR sins was yet to come. Nailed to the cross and hanging there, He was barely able to breathe–His tongue stuck to the roof of His mouth and His bones were out of joint. He was tortured to death in front of those who loved Him. The excruciating pain of crucifixion was made even worse by the wounds He had already received, but He endured it all for us, as prophesied in the Old Testament.

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” ...Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22:6-8, 12-18

I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. Isaiah 50:6-7

Look, my Servant will succeed! He will be elevated, lifted high, and greatly exalted—as many were astonished at the sight of you—He was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man; his form was so marred he no longer looked human—so now he will startle many nations. Kings will be shocked by his exaltation, for they will witness something unannounced to them, and they will understand something they had not heard about. Isaiah 52:13-15

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the Righteous One, my Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the sinners; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the sinners. Isaiah 53

He was despised for telling the truth, rejected and falsely accused by those He came to save, abandoned by those closest to Him, scorned by His own creation, surrounded by and at the “mercy” of vicious enemies, and made the object of intense hatred by a frenzied mob of His own people. Those prophecies were all perfectly fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament:

Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. ...Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, "Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?" Matthew 26:57, 67-68

The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. Luke 23:10-11 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him." John 19:6

Then Pilate released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27:26-31

There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Matthew 27:55-56 ...but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. John 19:25-27

This is Part One of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.