Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Divine Satisfaction: The Scandal and Glory of the Christian Religion

But the Lord was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief

וַיהוה חָפֵץ דַּכְּאוֹ

According to Ronald Williams, “The conjunction w+ can be used as the beginning of a clause that is in some way opposed to what precedes it. When w+ is used in this way, it can often be translated ‘but.’[1]
 The NIV translates this conjunction ‘yet’ while the NAS renders it ‘but.’ Both of these English words convey similar aspects of the conjunction but it seems that NAS is slightly more forceful. The disparity from the last clause in v 9 to this clause in v 10 is nothing short of glaring. The servant never engaged in any violence and there was no deceit of any kind found in his mouth. And yet God is pleased to crush Him. Grogan remarks quite simply, “The Servant’s gentle ingenuousness is asserted at the close of the stanza.”[2]

Despite the character of the servant, which, by the way, is impeccable, God takes great pleasure in crushing him. The Hebrew word hps is the word translated ‘pleasure.’ When used of God it can mean to delight in, have pleasure in, or pleased to do a thing.[3]
It is used in Numbers 14:8 when Joshua gives his speech about the Children of Israel taking the land, “if the Lord is pleased with us.” David uses this same word in II Sam. 22:20 in his psalm of deliverance. He says that God rescued him because God delighted in David. Closer to Isaiah’s use, we see Manoah’s wife, the mother of Samson telling him that “if God wanted to kill us…” Quite literally, “if God was pleased to kill us He would not have accepted our offering. Eli’s sons are facing God’s judgment and the last clause of I Sam. 2:25 literally states, “for it pleased the Lord to kill them.” Of course, the meaning is that the Lord wanted to kill them because of their rebellion and rejection of His law. It appears that in the same way the Lord was pleased to crush His righteous servant.

The Hebrew word for crush is dk’. This word is in the piel stem. Waltke-O’Connor comments on the significance of the use of the piel stem in Hebrew, “The piel is associated with causation: the piel causes a state rather than an action (as the Hiphil, for which we reserve the term causative, does). Since the object of causation is in a state of suffering the effects of an action, it is inherently passive in part.”[4]

Because of the use of the piel stem, emphasis is on the crushed state of the righteous servant and on his passive role in arriving at that state. This tells us that the focus is on the state, and role of the righteous servant. It seems harsh that God would direct such wrath toward His righteous servant without good cause. What is the basis of this punishment? Is not God just? How then can He justify punishing His servant who has done nothing wrong? Geoffrey Grogan comments, “Verse 10a is almost shocking in its apparent presentation of arbitrary disregard for personal righteousness, but then the reader recalls the substitutionary nature of those sufferings, already declared in vv. 4-6 and to be referred to again later in this stanza. At once God is seen not to be harsh but astonishingly gracious.”[5]
An answer to these questions begins to come into view when we read Grogan’s comments as he reminds us of Isaiah’s words just a few sentences earlier.

Edward J. Young makes this observation on the idea that God took pleasure in bringing His servant to a crushed state: “In the Lord’s pleasure there was neither caprice, nor does the language mean that the Lord took pleasure in the servant’s being bruised on the part of others, but rather that it was the Lord’s pleasure Himself to bruise the servant.”[6]

That is to say, it was not in the crushing that God was pleased, nor was it even in the crushed state that God was actually pleased, but it was in the results that pleased God. God is pleased when justice prevails and because of the crushed state of His servant, God is able to dispense grace with prevailing justice.

Such a state brings great pleasure to God according to Scripture. How was God able to pull this off? I have heard many people say that if justice were done, they would be in hell. However, is this really the case? To make such a statement, as innocent as it sounds, not to mention pious, actually accuses God of injustice. To argue that God should have sent me to hell is quite different from saying I did not deserve God’s kindness. Should involves ought. Ought involves moral imperative. God has not violated any moral imperatives in dispensing grace. Christ’s suffering freed God to dispense grace while at the same time remaining holy and just. Because of the crushed servant, we can experience God’s grace and justice at the same time. It is here that we see the concept of satisfaction distinctly emerging in the atonement of Christ. There are two facets of this divine satisfaction. The first concerns how this satisfaction made by Christ turns away God’s wrath. By standing in our place, bearing the guilt of our sin, Christ successfully turned God’s wrath from us. God’s wrath is hot against sin. Churches today seem to have abandoned any doctrine of wrath in their language about God and His relationship with His creation. In his book, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Morris comments, “Above everything else, the concept of the wrath of God stresses the seriousness of sin. On the Old Testament view sin is not just a mere peccadillo which a kindly, benevolent God will regard as of no great consequence. On the contrary, the God of the Old Testament is One who loves righteousness (Pss. 33:5; 48:10; etc), and whose attitude to unrighteousness can be described as hatred.”[7]

Those who reject God along with His message, preferring to live in a state of unrighteousness have hanging over them at this very moment, the divine wrath of a God who will see justice served.

The second facet under consideration in the idea of satisfaction is that of divine favor. One can turn to the word propitiation to capture both sides of this idea of divine satisfaction. The word propitiation is a very interesting word. The word appears seven times in the LXX. One of those occurrences is outside the canonical books, in II Macc. 3:33. The sense of use ranges from guilt offering, atonement, and restitution. In Lev. 25:9 and Numbers 5:8 it is translated atonement from the Hebrew kpr. This word means to wipe off or smear on. Richard Averbeck tells us that the noun forms are attested in Akkadian, meaning purification, and Arabic meaning, penance, expiation, and atonement. In late Hebrew, the noun also could mean ransom or even fine. [Dictionary of Old Testament Exegesis] In this sense the word means to wipe something away, to remove something, or to smear on, to cover a surface. It is not difficult to see the concept of sin being removed and the righteousness of Christ being applied. Hence, the God removes His wrath and in its place, and adds divine favor. As for the suffering servant of Is. 53 just the opposite occurs. God removes His favor, and in its place, adds divine wrath.
This word is translated forgiveness in Ps. 129:4 in the LXX and Dan. 9:9. The Hebrew word Ps. 129:4 (130:4) is slh. It means to practice forbearance, pardon, fogive. J.P.J. Oliver comments, "Considering the fundamental theological importance and frequent occurrence of the subject matter it address, slh is used sparingly in the OT literature, and then primarily in cultic contexts. In all instances, however, God is the subj. of the vb. and its derivative forms (TWAT 5:861). Hence the denotation of slh is an act of pardon by God alone.
The word hilasmos is used only twice in the NT and both times it occurs in I John. The idea is that Christ has turned God’s wrath away from us resulting in God directing His favor, or as we so often call it, grace, toward us. Paul has this in clear view as he writes to the church at Corinth, where is says that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. The purpose of the cross was not only to bear God’s punishment for sin, but it was also to remove the obstacle which stood in the way of a right relationship between God and man. Paul went on to say that the reason that God made Christ to be sin on our behalf was so that we might become the righteousness of God. Clearly, by removing the guilt of sin, the whole purpose was to turn God’s favor toward us once more. Contrary to neo-evanglicals who seem to think they can dismiss historic Christian orthodoxy, the doctrine of divine satisfaction within the framework of the atonement of Christ is essential to the Christian system of thought. Without it, you might have some sort of a religious system, but make no mistake about it, it isn't Christian in any sense of the word.

In conclusion then, any view that is dismissive of sin or that fails to take the fallen, depraved nature of humanity seriously also fails to take the God that is, seriously. The low view of sin that permeates Christianity in our modern era and especially in western culture unavoidably produces a low view of God and an optimistic view of man. This paradigm creates a distorted and cheap view of the gospel. This view unavoidably debases the sufferings of Christ. The cross loses its replete, and deep display of the justice and mercy of God. It is only when man remains the wretched sinner, worthless, vile, and wicked, that grace retains its unfathomable position that mystifies the human mind on the one hand and justifies the sinner on the other. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, that is something to be thankful for.



[1]. Williams, Ronald J, Williams' Hebrew Syntax, 3d ed. (Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 153.
[2]. Grogan, Geoffrey W, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelien, Frank E, vol. 6 of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1986), 304.
[3]. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “Delight,” in BDB, 1906 ed., 342.
[4]. Bruce K Waltke, and M O'Connor, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, In: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 400.
[5]. Grogan, Geoffrey W, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelien, Frank E, vol. 6 of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1986), 304.
[6]. Young, Edward J, The Book of Isaiah: A Commentary By Edward J. Young (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman's Publishing Co., 1972), 354.
[7]. Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of The Cross (3rd Revised; reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdrman Publishing, 1965), 174-75.

2 comments:

  1. Ed, I am new to your blog and I plan on following closely. What I have read so far is outstanding in my opinion and when time allows will follow up with a comment. However,
    I'd like to address the new color of your page. The dark background with light print is very hard on sensitive eyes and I end up with an aching head. I'm wondering if others experience this too. I also believe the white background is more professional looking but that's just an opinion. Thank you. Yours in Christ.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the feedback. Adjustments made.

    ReplyDelete

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