double for our sins

Isaiah 40:1-11

For Sunday, December 7, 2008
Second Sunday of Advent

One of the great joys of the Word of God can be reading it with other people. I’ve been cultivating this both at work and at home. At home, I am cultivating the habit of reading a passage to my wife and three boys and then discussing it with them. It’s a joy to try to bring the text down to the level of my boys – ages 12, 11, and 6 – and to see the profound impact the Word has on them as well as the insights they can produce. The other day we sat down for dinner and my 6 year-old asked, “Daddy, can we read the Bible again?” Very cool.

At work a few male colleagues and I meet over lunch for a bi-weekly Life Transformation Group. The idea isn’t mine – Google it, but it is this: meet together for mutual accountability, Bible reading, and prayer for those in your spheres of influence, and your lives will be transformed together.

We read this passage this past Thursday. We catch up over lunch, and then having deposited our trays, we return to our table, where I pass out copies of a selected reading for the week. We take a few moments to read the passage silently and then share our reactions or questions.

One of the guys asked a great one: “In v. 2 why does it say that Jerusalem has received double for all her sins? Is this double punishment? That doesn’t seem to fit the context.” I looked this up in my favorite quick reference, “New Bible Commentary (IVP)”, which indicates that it could mean either punishment or blessing. Interesting… Digging a little deeper, I went to one of my next favorite references, the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament. Their answer is that “double” means essentially both punishment and compassion. The compassion of God looks back on the wrath of God and views that wrath as having been twice what it should have been. If God sees the wrath as having been doubled, how much more then will the love of God be poured out in multiples. This certainly fits the context. Makes sense to me and very good news.

God disciplines us as children. Where we need to apologize, let us not rationalize, but let us do so forthrightly. Then let us enter into our Father’s redemptive embrace and see just how much he loves us. We have indeed received double for all our sins, yet having turned the corner of repentance, how much more shall we now receive in blessing?

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas.

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