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Day 197

God's Game-Changing Answer

Wisdom Psalm 85:8-13
New Testament Romans 3:9-31
Old Testament Amos 3:1-4:13

Introduction

‘We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we are the worst people on the face of the earth and that nobody does as many wrong things as we do. But Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory (excellence) of God. Every man, woman, or child who was ever born, or ever will be, has a problem with sin. But the good news is that God has provided an answer to our dilemma,’ writes Joyce Meyer.

When Saint Augustine found the answer in 386, ‘a clear light flooded [his] heart’. Martin Luther found the answer and a few years later the Reformation began, in 1517. When John Wesley understood the answer in 1738, his heart was ‘strangely warmed’ and the seeds of a revival began.

In each case, their lives were radically changed through understanding ‘the righteousness of God’. It’s a game changer. The moment anyone comes to understand this expression, it changes your life. It certainly changed mine.

Wisdom

Psalm 85:8-13

8 I will listen to what God the Lord says;
        he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
        but let them not turn to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
        that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
        righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
        and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
        and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
        and prepares the way for his steps.

Commentary

God’s answer gives you his peace

‘I grew up in an atmosphere of strife,’ writes Joyce Meyer, ‘and that was all I ever knew. I had to learn an entirely new way of living. Now I am addicted to peace. As soon as my peace disappears, I ask myself how I lost it and start looking for ways to get it back.’

God has promised ‘peace’ (v.8) to his people. This does not necessarily mean outward peace. The pressures, difficulties, trials, battles and busyness may not disappear. But in all this, God has promised to give you his peace. This peace comes from listening to what ‘God the Lord’ says (v.8).

Peace is very closely connected with righteousness. The psalmist says, ‘righteousness and peace kiss each other’ (v.10b). In the same way that love and faithfulness go together (v.10a), so do righteousness and peace. Peace comes from living in a right relationship with God (Romans 5:1).

Prayer

God, thank you that you make it possible for me to walk in a right relationship with you and to enjoy the peace that follows.

New Testament

Romans 3:9-31

No One Is Righteous

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
        11 there is no one who understands;
        there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
        they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
        not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
        their tongues practice deceit.”
    “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
        14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
    15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
        16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
    17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
        18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Righteousness Through Faith

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood —to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Commentary

God’s answer is a gift you receive

We long for peace. We long to be in a right relationship with God and with other people. But how do you receive this ‘righteousness from God’?

Paul continues his argument that no one is righteous on their own. ‘There's nobody living right, not even one’ (v.10b, MSG). ‘They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys’ (v.12, MSG). Righteousness is the way to peace, but the reality is that ‘the way of peace they do not know’ (v.17).

Paul concludes his argument in this section: ‘And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else?’ (v.20, MSG). The two little words that follow are of huge significance: ‘But now…’ (v.21).

Having set out the problem, Paul now moves on to describe God’s game-changing answer – ‘a righteousness from God’ (v.21). This righteousness from God cannot be achieved through the law because no one (apart from Jesus) has ever kept the entire law. The Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) testifies about this and points towards God’s answer (v.21).

‘This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’ (v.22). This righteousness from God cannot be earned. It is a pure gift that you receive ‘through faith in Jesus Christ’. It is a gift ‘to all who believe’ (v.22).

Paul then uses three images to describe what Jesus’ death on the cross has achieved. Each is like a facet of a diamond. Each image is connected with the others:

  1. The penalty of sin has been paid
    Justification is an expression from the law court. We ‘are justifiedfreely by his grace’ (v.24). God is a just judge. He could not ignore our guilt.

    He came in the person of his son Jesus Christ to die for you and me: ‘… in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus’ (vv.25–26). He paid the penalty himself.

    You are justified ‘freely by his grace’ (v.24). Grace means undeserved love. It is free. There is no merit on our part. You cannot earn it. It is a gift. Therefore, there is no room for boasting (vv.27–31).

    Through his death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our every wrong action, word and thought. The moment you put your faith in Jesus, you are justified. You have nothing to fear. The penalty has been paid. You have received the gift of righteousness from God.

  2. The power of sin has been broken
    The second image Paul uses comes from the market-place: ‘through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ (v.24).

    Debt was a problem in the ancient world as well. If someone had serious debts, they might be forced to sell themselves into slavery in order to pay them off.

    Suppose a person was standing in the market-place, offering themselves as a slave. Someone might have pity and pay the amount they owe, then let the person they’ve paid for go free. In doing so, they would be ‘redeeming’ them and paying a ‘ransom’ price.

    In a similar way for us, ‘redemption… came by Jesus Christ’ (v.24). Your sins are like a debt that stands against you. Jesus, by his death on the cross, paid the ransom price (Mark 10:45). In this way, you are set free to have a relationship with God. Your relationship is restored. You receive a righteousness from God.

  3. The pollution of sin has been removed
    Paul’s third image in this passage comes from the temple. ‘God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood’ (Romans 3:25).

    In the Old Testament, very detailed laws were laid down regarding how sin should be dealt with. There was a whole sacrificial system that demonstrated the seriousness of sin and the need for cleansing from it, as sin was passed from the sinner to the animal, which was then killed.

    But ‘it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins’ (Hebrews 10:4). The old sacrificial system was only a ‘shadow’ (v.1) of what was to come. The reality came with the sacrifice of Jesus. Only the blood of Christ, the ‘once for all’ (v.10) sacrifice of atonement, can wash away your sin and remove its pollution. This is because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He alone lived a perfect life. Through his blood you receive God’s game-changing answer – a righteousness from God.

Prayer

Lord, how can I ever thank you enough for the gift of ‘the righteousness from God’ by faith in Jesus? Thank you that as a result of your righteousness I can receive peace, forgiveness, freedom and cleansing through the blood of Jesus.

Old Testament

Amos 3:1-4:13

Witnesses Summoned Against Israel

3Hear this word, people of Israel, the word the Lord has spoken against you —against the whole family I brought up out of Egypt:

    2 “You only have I chosen
        of all the families of the earth;
    therefore I will punish you
        for all your sins. ”

    3 Do two walk together
        unless they have agreed to do so?
    4 Does a lion roar in the thicket
        when it has no prey?
    Does it growl in its den
        when it has caught nothing?
    5 Does a bird swoop down to a trap on the ground
        when no bait is there?
    Does a trap spring up from the ground
        if it has not caught anything?
    6 When a trumpet sounds in a city,
        do not the people tremble?
    When disaster comes to a city,
        has not the Lord caused it?

    7 Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing
        without revealing his plan
    to his servants the prophets.

    8 The lion has roared —
        who will not fear?
    The Sovereign Lord has spoken—
        who can but prophesy?

    9 Proclaim to the fortresses of Ashdod
        and to the fortresses of Egypt:
    “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria;
        see the great unrest within her
        and the oppression among her people.”

    10 “They do not know how to do right, ” declares the Lord,
        “who store up in their fortresses
        what they have plundered and looted.”

11 Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

        “An enemy will overrun your land,
        pull down your strongholds
        and plunder your fortresses. ”

12 This is what the Lord says:

    “As a shepherd rescues from the lion’s mouth
        only two leg bones or a piece of an ear,
    so will the Israelites living in Samaria be rescued,
        with only the head of a bed
        and a piece of fabric from a couch. ”

13 “Hear this and testify against the descendants of Jacob,” declares the Lord, the Lord God Almighty.

    14 “On the day I punish Israel for her sins,
        I will destroy the altars of Bethel;
    the horns of the altar will be cut off
        and fall to the ground.
    15 I will tear down the winter house
        along with the summer house;
    the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed
        and the mansions will be demolished, ”
            declares the Lord.

Israel Has Not Returned to God

4Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
        you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
        and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks! ”
2 The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness:
        “The time will surely come
    when you will be taken away with hooks,
        the last of you with fishhooks.
3 You will each go straight out
        through breaches in the wall,
        and you will be cast out toward Harmon,”
            declares the Lord.
4 “Go to Bethel and sin;
        go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
    Bring your sacrifices every morning,
        your tithes every three years.
5 Burn leavened bread as a thank offering
        and brag about your freewill offerings —
    boast about them, you Israelites,
        for this is what you love to do,”
            declares the Sovereign Lord.

6 “I gave you empty stomachs in every city
        and lack of bread in every town,
    yet you have not returned to me,”
        declares the Lord.

7 “I also withheld rain from you
        when the harvest was still three months away.
    I sent rain on one town,
        but withheld it from another.
    One field had rain;
        another had none and dried up.
8 People staggered from town to town for water
        but did not get enough to drink,
        yet you have not returned to me,”
            declares the Lord.

9 “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards,
        destroying them with blight and mildew.
    Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees,
        yet you have not returned to me,”
            declares the Lord.

10 “I sent plagues among you
        as I did to Egypt.
    I killed your young men with the sword,
        along with your captured horses.
    I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps,
        yet you have not returned to me,”
            declares the Lord.

11 “I overthrew some of you
        as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
    You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire,
        yet you have not returned to me,”
            declares the Lord.

12 “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel,
        and because I will do this to you, Israel,
        prepare to meet your God.”

13 He who forms the mountains,
        who creates the wind,
        and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
    who turns dawn to darkness,
        and treads on the heights of the earth —
        the Lord God Almighty is his name.

Commentary

God’s answer challenges us to right living

Paul tells us that God’s game-changing answer – ‘a righteousness from God’ is something about which ‘the Law and the Prophets testify’ (Romans 3:21). Amos is one of those prophets.

As Amos turned to speak the word of the Lord against Israel, we see God’s desire for righteousness in that all their sins are punished. The Lord said, ‘Out of all the families on earth, I picked you. Therefore, because of your special calling, I’m holding you responsible for all your sins’ (Amos 3:2, MSG).

The people are condemned in what is almost a law court: ‘“Hear this and testify against the house of Jacob,” declares the Lord’ (v.13).

It is as if God calls witnesses to testify against his own people: ‘You women! Mean to the poor, cruel to the down-and-out! Indolent and pampered, you demand of your husbands, “Bring us a tall, cool drink!”’ (4:1, MSG). They are condemned for their superficiality, self-centred indulgence and their treatment of the poor and needy.

Over and over again, God speaks to his people in an attempt to draw them back to him: ‘The fact is, God, the Master, does nothing without first telling his prophets the whole story’ (3:7, MSG). ‘Yet,’ he declares, ‘you have not returned to me’ (4:6,8–11).

When we understand this Old Testament background, it makes it all the more staggering that the apostle Paul writes, ‘This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’ (Romans 3:22). God’s game changer is that Jesus has paid the penalty for you; you are righteous in God’s eyes, you can approach him with confidence today. Speak to him as your loving Father and know his peace deep in your heart.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that your desire is always that we return to you and walk in a right relationship with you. Thank you that you have now made that possible through Jesus.

Pippa adds

Amos 4:9

‘“Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.’

In our vicarage garden the rose has mildew, the squirrels have dug up the bulbs and bindweed is taking over the whole garden. Either I need to repent more or work harder in the garden!

Verse of the Day

Psalm 85:8

‘The LORD… promises peace to his people…’.
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References

Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible (Faithwords, 2018) pp.1804,1805.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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