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The Necessity of the Atonement

May 25, 2011

One thing that differentiates genuine Christianity from some counterfeits, such as Islam, is that the Living and True God is too holy to simply ignore sin. Instead, God’s holiness and justice demand satisfaction for sin. There are a number of ways that this can be seen in the Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testaments. The following is one example

2 Samuel 24:10-25

And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.”

For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,

Go and say unto David, “Thus saith the LORD, ‘I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.'”

So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, “Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me. “

And David said unto Gad, “I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.”

So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, “It is enough: stay now thine hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.

And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, “Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.”

And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, “Go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite.” And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.

And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground. And Araunah said, “Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant?”

And David said, “To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people.”

And Araunah said unto David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.” All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, “The LORD thy God accept thee.”

And the king said unto Araunah, “Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.

There are a few points to notice from this passage. First, notice that God chastises David for his sin. This chastisement comes upon David, even after he expresses remorse for his sin and asks for forgiveness.

Second, notice that God sends this chastisement upon those whom David as King represents. There is a federal headship of Israel that is found in David, such that David’s sins are not only brought against David but against Israel in general.

Third, notice that David foreshadows the coming penal substitution of Christ, when he requests that the people of Israel be spared but that the sin be placed against him and and his father’s house, that is to say, his family. David’s theory is that the people have not sinned, but David has sinned. Nevertheless, God has placed the iniquity of our transgressions on Christ, the son of David, and he has borne them for us.

Fourth, notice that although God first desires not to destroy Jerusalem, and God stays the hand of the angel in advance, God does not simply say “never mind.” Instead, God demands sacrifice. It is on the basis of the sacrifice (which itself foreshadows Christ’s work on the cross) that God’s wrath against the land was propitiated.

From this we can learn that God did not have to wait until the coming of Christ to spare those who trusted in Christ. There was no need for a limbus patrem in which the patriarchs waited for Christ’s sacrifice to be performed. God could and did show mercy to the ancient based on the expectation of Christ’s sacrifice.

From this we can also learn to trust in God and not in man. David shows us the way in which we should repent of our sins. We ought humbly to go to God and confess our sins to Him. We ought to cast ourselves on his mercy – and we ought to avail ourselves of the sacrifice of Christ to turn away judgment from us.

We should not falsely imagine that God will be happier to judge us than to spare us. Rather, we should see from this passage that although God is a holy God who cannot ignore sin, nevertheless God delights in mercy and spares those who turn humbly in repentance and faith to Him.


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