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On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn - both men and animals - and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt (Exodus 12:12-13).
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgement he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53:4-9).
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people (Psalm 22:1-6).
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has one, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

Ever since the beginning, God was, is, and will be love. Never has he treated sinners as they deserve. God told Adam and Eve if they sinned they would surely die. Now, God is not a liar, and indeed all men die as a result of sin; still, God was kind to Adam and Eve and clothed their nakedness and did not kill them instantly. What's more, God promised a seed to overcome the serpent and the curse of God on his creation.

The question is: how? How could God make things right? Contrary to popular opinion, God will never sweep our sins under some cosmic rug and forgive us on a whim. That is equivalent to a wicked judge who would let a convicted murderer go free, against the credible testimonies of a dozen eyewitnesses. Imagine if the judge's gavel came down and he said, "I am slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. I am forgiving and kind. Therefore, this murderer can go free." Outcry and anarchy would ensue! Justice has not been served.

This is not the way with God. Sins must be paid. Justice must be served. So, how does God make things right? How does he pass over sins and acquit the guilty? The answer is Christ, our substitute.

Paul says that "all this is from God" - all this exchange of new and old, all this reconciling work is from God. To reconcile carries with it a meaning of exchange or a transaction in order to bring about peace. This is what we mean when we say we are "reconciling our differences." We are coming to an agreement, an even exchange, a transaction, if you will, that will bring about peace between two former opposing parties. In this case, all this is from God.

It is we who have wronged God. We are in the dock. He is the judge who must execute justice against the guilty. And yet his response is both just and merciful, for he has graciously provided a substitute to bear our punishment that fits our crime. He has poured out his wrath upon his own Son.

Some make the argument that Christ was the recipient of "cosmic child abuse," but such a claim is to deny the deity of Christ. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are co-equal persons of the Trinity, so God's decision to send his Son was mutually agreed upon by all persons. Paul tells us in Philippians that Christ willingly humbled himself to death, even death on a cross - a sign of one bearing the curse of God (Deut 21:23).

Christ, our substitute, bore the sins of man upon himself, though he had done no wrong. Upon him God counted the sins of us all. "He made him to be sin" means that God considered Jesus as a sinner; not that he was a sinner, but that he was treated as a sinner. This is the exchange that brought about peace, that God, "not counting men's sins against them" counted them toward his Son.

As David writes, it was Christ who was made a worm, yet it is us who trust in God that are delivered because of Christ. It was Christ who was cut off - an immediately recognized sign among Jews as someone unclean and cursed by God, someone outside the covenant and promises of God - and it was us who were brought in through this reconciling of wrongs, through this exchange, through this substitutionary work of Christ.

But who exactly was being reconciled?

Paul clearly states that it is the world he was reconciling to himself. Who is the world? Some believe today that God is only against the homosexual and the abortionist. This is simply not true. God is, of course, against the homosexual and the abortionist, but he is also against the whole world because the whole world is guilty of sin. This means the liar, the thief, the one who hates his neighbor, the one who is disobedient to his parents, the one who lusts after another, the one who thinks of himself as more important than anyone else in the world, and the one who does not love God with all his heart and all his strength is justly condemned before God. But thanks be to God that he is reconciling sinners of all kinds to himself through Christ!

So what do sinners get from this exchange? Christ gets our sins, but what do we get? Once again, we gain the righteousness of Christ, the Perfect One! It is not as though we are righteous, just as Christ was not an actual sinner, but it is that we are considered, judiciously declared, righteous, just as Christ was declared a sinner. This is why we still sin, for righteousness has not yet been fully manifested in us, and it won't until the day of glory. But we have this sure hope, that God has declared all those who trust in Christ as righteous. Just as God accepted the lamb's blood on the doorposts when he passed over the Israelites in Egypt, so he also accepts his Son's blood that covers the doors of all his people's hearts, so that we go free, for the punishment has fallen on his Son.

Let us, therefore, enter into God's presence with thanksgiving, for he has accepted us through his Son, who has made peace for us on God's behalf. What a merciful and loving God!

Let us also take part in the ministry of reconciliation, preaching this message of atonement in Christ, imploring others on Christ's behalf: "Be reconciled to God!" This is the only hope of the world. Apart from trusting in his work, we are forced to pay the penalty ourselves: eternal hell, enduring forever the infinite wrath of God against sinners. May today be the day of salvation. Amen.