Before the sun peeked over the horizon this morning, I was laying at the edge of wakefulness when I heard a gentle whisper “we carry a message, not a stone.” As I contemplated those words, more words started flowing. Of course, the bed was warm and I wasn’t quite ready to greet the dawn; so the words that I write now will not be as eloquent as the words given first thing, but I will give it my best shot. A song popped into my head as I thought about the words – it’s about a rescue story. Have you heard the song by Zach Williams? Check it out sometime.
The story opens with the snake slithering in and speaking a message of deception. The enemy said (Genesis 3:4-5) “you will not surely die” and “you will be like God.” Eve looked at the fruit and saw it was pleasing to the eye and desirable for wisdom, she took some and ate it (Genesis 3:6). In the previous two chapters in Genesis, God created a perfect world. Sin had not entered into the picture. Two chapters of God’s perfect world were undone by a deceptive snake. Eve believed the lie and sin entered in with one bite. The rest of the Bible is God’s rescue story.
I have entered the reading of Leviticus for my quiet time reflections. I am working my way through the offerings the Israelites were supposed to burn on the altar. It’s a hard read. Animal parts, burning on the altar, blood splattering. Animal after animal was offered to cover the sin problem, but it was never permanent. It was a symbol of what it would take to become a permanent solution – a perfect Lamb – without blemish (sin) – sacrificed outside the city for the sake of all.
God takes sin very seriously. I know, we don’t like to think of Him that way – the God of wrath. But sin to Him deserves wrath. It is an abomination to Him. No matter the sin, it’s all against Him. He does not take this lightly and nether should we.
When Adam and Eve took that bite, they surely did die. The perfect relationship was broken and they were condemned to die. The enemy said they would be like God knowing good and evil. However, God had already created Adam in God’s likeness (Genesis 1:27). The enemy suggested God was withholding from them – the knowledge of good and evil – God was withholding something they needed – wisdom. But they already had everything they needed – a right relationship with God and every need was already fulfilled.
At the right time, God sent His Son not to condemn us for our sins, but to save us (John 3:16-17). Jesus is our hope and our salvation. He is our light in the darkness and ever present hope in despair. He is our redeemer and our rescuer. He doesn’t leave us in our despair, but lifts us out and puts us on a solid rock. This is the message we carry. Our job is not to condemn the world – carrying a stone to throw, but share the message of hope to this condemned world.
For those caught in sinful situations back in Old Testament times, stoning was the punishment depending on the sin. When caught, the community would take the one caught outside the village and throw stones until the sinner was dead. It was a harsh sentence. Everything seemed harsh back in that day, didn’t it? But again, sin was taken much more seriously than it is today.
Even the message we receive today about Jesus isn’t as harsh as it was in that day. Jesus cleaned the temple area with a whip – driving out money changers and animals. He spoke “woes” to the religious elite. Jesus’ message began with (Mark 1:15) “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Many heard His message and felt it was too harsh. Many turned away. Jesus said that the road was narrow to heaven and few would find it. Seems harsh, right?
We have often heard there were many roads to heaven. But if that were the case, Jesus didn’t have to pay the price for our sins and die a cruel death. The animals were offered as a sin offering until Jesus was able to do it once and for all. Face it; we have a sin problem. Confess it and turn from it. And be rescued once and for all.
As followers of Jesus, we don’t carry a stone but a message of hope, of peace, of joy and an everlasting love, mercy and grace. Many will reject it, but many will come to know Him and turn from their sinful ways. I know I did and I am so grateful for my rescue story!
Throwing stones reminded me of the story in John about the woman caught in adultery. Her punishment should have been stoning according to the Law of Moses. The crowd threw her at the feet of Jesus. I will leave you with Jesus and this woman’s interaction. We all have a come to Jesus moment. What we do with it means the difference between life and death.
When they (the Pharisees) kept on questioning him (Jesus), he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:7-11