Martin Luther’s first thesis is this, “When our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
Though we have been saved from the penalty of sin, we have not been saved from sin itself. There is no promise of complete blindness to the temptations of the flesh, upon salvation. In fact, we are encouraged much to be aware of temptation and persevere through it (James 1, Matt 26:41, 1 Cor 10:13, Gal 6:1, 1 Peter 5:8-10)
Upon my salvation, I adopted a plasma shield theology: I believed that Jesus’ blood acted as a force keeping me repelled from temptation or further sin without my having to do a thing. My life suddenly became hakuna-matata and all was carefree, so long as I was loving the Lord. Unfortunately, I attended a church that preached this grace filled message without calling it plasma shield theology…I just like Halo.
This would make us completely oblivious to the broken world in which we live, fill us with a false sense of righteousness, and pull away from the beauty in God’s final judgment and redemption.
Isaiah 59 paints a beautiful, and honest, picture. In verse 1, we see the sad reflection of humanity, the reflection of a people who are devastatingly broken and completely immersed in sin.
“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor is his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt.” (v.1-3)
Sin is a heavy thing to contextually understand. It separates us from God. It removes the communion that our souls can share with him. It severs our intimate relationship. It blemishes our soul and breaks our divine purpose. It damns us to death.
Our sin is only satisfied with death.
Verse 3 makes me think of Macbeth every time I read this chapter.
In Act V Scene I, a paranoid Lady Macbeth, while examining her blood stained hands, speaks one of the most memorable lines from Shakespeare’s collection of plays:
“Out, damn’d spot! Out, I say!”
If you are unfamiliar with the plot of this story, I will try my best to give a brief, and adequate, description:
The play begins with Macbeth valiantly winning a war for his country, and the king praising him for his heroism. Macbeth opens his home to the king, and his wife, Lady Macbeth, begins to plant little seeds of “You’d be a much better king, honey.”
The two plot to murder the king while he sleeps.
Macbeth is hesitant to follow through, but Lady Macbeth gives him an encouraging pep-talk and all is go.
The king is murdered, and almost immediately after the act, Macbeth hears a voice (I believe it was the voice of the three witches, you know “Double, double, toil and trouble…”, yes, that is from this play) telling him that he will never know rest again.
Shaken, and slightly in disbelief that he has actually gone through with this horrendous plan, he runs back to Lady Macbeth to try and wash all the blood away before everyone breaks into pandemonium.
Macbeth becomes king (since the prince is M.I.A), but he and Lady Macbeth are plagued with paranoia. They are always seeing the blood on their hands, and the only way out of the madness is death. Lady Macbeth gets there more rapidly than her unfortunate husband; by the end of Act V, she has killed herself by jumping through a window.
As if Macbeth wasn’t already off his rocker, the mourning of his wife loosens his screws a little more. His life has been full of nothing but death from Act II, forward; from the murder of the king, to the killing of anyone catching on to his web of lies, to his wife’s suicide. The only conclusion for Macbeth is death as well. He has no allies, he speaks no truth, and to maintain his throne he would just have to keep killing anyone and everyone. (The best reenactment I’ve seen of this terribly bloody play, is an old black and white Japanese film called Throne of Blood. I highly recommend it.)
Just as it did for Macbeth, death is the only thing our carnality can yield.
That may sound dark, but our sinful broken nature demands death.
Death it got.
“Their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know, there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.” (v.7-8)
Do you see the parallel to Macbeth?
Our sin leads us into deeper sin. Our hearts are corrupt, our thoughts are wicked, and our actions reflect as much. Innocent blood is on our hands. From the life that we took, we have inherited life eternal.
The best part of this chapter is the prayer of repentance:
“For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.” (v.12-13)
We must always repent.
We will always sin. Nowhere in the scriptures does it ever read that we will never sin again.
We will. Sin is our human condition.
As Jesus warned to his disciples in Matthew, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Though our heart is to live a life pleasing to God, we must be constantly aware that we are of a fallen, broken world, and temptation to sin abounds.
Be encouraged in repentance, knowing that redemption will play its part.
Our sin was so big, it demanded the death of God; and His life He willingly gave.
“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Romans 5:30