December 4, 2012

Who abandons who?

“God abandoned me.” 

I’ve said it. Everyone says it, or thinks it. Even Jesus said it. 

It never happens. My conclusion is based on the promises and fidelity of God. He said to Joshua,

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)

This promise is repeated in the New Testament (Hebrews 13:5) and given again by Jesus to His followers…

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

We might feel as if God has abandoned us, but because of His promises and His faithfulness, it is a false feeling. He said He will stick like glue and He does. 

But what about Jesus? When He was on the cross, He “cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46) 

Most think that because of the sin He bore, and because God cannot look at sin, the Father turned His back on Jesus. I do not believe that.

First of all, what Jesus said is a quote from the first part of Psalm 22, an oft repeated passage used by Jews in distress. Jesus had no strength to say it all, but His listeners knew it all. The psalmist felt abandoned but later affirmed that God had not hidden his face, but heard his cry.

Second, Jesus affirmed several times that God is always with Him.

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. (John 16:32)

And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him. (John 8:29)

When I sin, I feel like God abandoned me, but the opposite is true. It is me who abandoned Him. This is just as Jesus predicted of His disciples, “And they all left him and fled.” (Mark 14:50) It happens. 

As God the man, Jesus never sinned, but on the cross He bore our sin. It seems to me that under that weight, He would feel just as we feel even though it was not His sin. He felt alone and abandoned. However, in this situation, no one actually abandoned anyone. Jesus was being perfectly obedient, even as our sin came between Him and His Father. His Father was keeping His Word and was “always with Him” as Jesus “always did the things that pleased Him.”

Unlike Jesus, I sometimes abandon the God I love. I am prone to wander. But He never leaves me or forsakes me either, just as He did not leave His dear Son. If He did, I would be forever lost, but He does not — and this is why I am forever His.

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