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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Abandoned and alone

Do you think that God abandoned Jesus Christ when he was hanging on the cross? Was Christ really alone that day? It seems to me that how you answer those questions says much more about you than it does about God. Do you perceive God as someone who would forsake or abandon those he loves?
For me, God was there at the cross that day. I perceive God as someone who never abandons His/Her loved ones.
Christ came to this earth to experience what we experience as humans. Abandonment and loneliness is part of that experience. According to Scripture, our sins have made us feel alienated and separated from our God. Isaiah 59:2 Hence, with the weight of all of that sin on his shoulders, Christ simply could not see that God was standing there right in front of him. God never abandoned him. Haven't we all felt forsaken and abandoned by God at various times in our lives? Like us, Christ simply could not see God at that moment in his life!
After discussing all of the consequences that would ensue if they ever abandoned his covenant (Deuteronomy 4:26-29), God told the Israelites: "In the distant future, when you are suffering all these things, you will finally return to the Lord your God and listen to what he tells you. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the solemn covenant he made with your ancestors." Deuteronomy 4:30-31 At the conclusion of his ministry, Moses reassured the Israelites with these words: "Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you." Deuteronomy 31:8 Finally, as if to reiterate the inviolable nature of this promise, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews repeated it. Hebrews 13:5
Our human perception of things is twisted and turned around. The Israelites are a prime example of the truth of this phenomenon. Instead of seeing themselves as turning their backs on God and forsaking him and his covenant, they saw God as forsaking/abandoning them! They continually walked away from God and accused him of walking away from them! Likewise, the Psalms are full of appeals by David and others for God not to abandon them. They would sin and get into various scrapes and situations and then turn to God. They would walk just as far away from God as they could get, and then turn around and ask "Where are you God?" Moreover, it appears that human nature hasn't changed much in this regard as many of us do the exact same thing today!
As Jesus was hanging there on the cross with our sins on his shoulders, he felt the alienation that we all feel as a consequence of our own behavior. Thus we read: "Then at three o'clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' which means 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'" Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46
Once again, the Epistle to the Hebrews puts all of this into the proper perspective for us. We read: "Therefore, it was necessary for him (Christ) to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested." Hebrews 2:17-18
So there are times when our own actions (or the sinful behavior of others) will make us feel abandoned and alone, but God is always there - always faithful. God will never abandon or forsake you!

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