June 21, 2016
We had our driveway resurfaced yesterday. It has needed to be done for quite a long time now. Ellen has been nag… whoops, I mean “gently reminding” me for the past several years; “Can we get the driveway done!? Huh, huh, huh, huh… can we, can we, can we… now… soon!” Our house was built sometime in the early 1970’s. I don’t know if the black top was put in then or not but I’m sure it has never been replaced after its original installation. It was a mess. Big holes and more crack’s than a politicians promises. Honestly, I’m not good at asking other people to do things. When the engine in my car went, I replaced it in my garage. When my roof needed to be repaired, I got some friends and we put on a new one. When our dryer or washing machine breaks, I go online and figure out the problem and fix it. The downside of all of that is that there are more things to repair than I have time or the inclination to tackle. The upside? Well it does give me a certain sense of accomplishment. But there are some things that are just not possible for me to do. The aforementioned driveway was one of them.
This is somewhat of an aside. When I was in seminary all those years ago I worked for a construction company in the summer. Primarily we dug foundations, installed sewer lines and water lines and many other jobs that required a back hoe. On occasion we worked with companies that installed parking lots and driveways. You may know that when the “hot top” shows up in the back of a dump truck it’s close to 300 degrees. It can stay in the truck for quite some time before it begins to cool and thus harden. I remember my astonishment when the men working with the black top would go out at coffee break and buy corn on the cob and bury it, husk and all, in the 300 degree hot top. They would then dig it out at lunch time pull off the husks, pass around the butter and salt and have fresh corn. “Doesn’t it taste like asphalt?” you might ask. Nope… the husks protect it from all of that. Pretty cool huh?! (Dave Clark, if you are reading this… thank you along with Bob, Gordy, Wayne… for three of the best summers of my life.)
As they were paving over top of my old driveway (they don’t dig it out since it provides a “good base” you know) I thought “this has to be an illustration of something in the Bible.” I mean, isn’t everything? Keep in mind that my old driveway is still there with its cracks and pot holes. It’s just “covered” with something new. But it has not ceased to exist. Okay are you ready, here comes the segue… one of the great theological questions in all of Christendom is this, if humanity is “saved” through the blood of Jesus, and if one cannot be “saved” without the sacrifice of Christ, then how were folks in the Old Testament saved?
Some might say “through the sacrifice of animals.” Well, not really. The simplest way to put this is that the blood of animals was a temporary fix. Sin was still present, but it had only been “covered.” Not unlike my old driveway. The only way to totally, fully reconstruct the driveway would have been to dig the entire thing up and lay a new base, then replace the top. Not unlike what took place in order to make salvation possible.
Hebrews 10 – Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All
10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
So if they were not saved by the blood of animals… well… how were they saved? Look at what Paul says:
4 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham.
The short of it is this… they were saved by faith in God. But that does not mean they didn’t still need the blood of Christ to be shed. How can that be we ask, since Jesus came “after” them? Ahhhh!!! Great question! “After” is a “time” question, i.e., it’s a designation of the passing of years, centuries, eons… But God does not live in “time,” does He? So “time” means nothing to God. The blood of Christ applies to eternity both forward and backwards.
Back to the driveway (sort of). In the 7 Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, one of them is entitled The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace is one of the main characters in the book. He is a wholly unlikable kid; a brat and a selfish deceiver. At one point in the story, he is turned into a dragon. One might think that would be fun, but that is not how it’s portrayed. He is alone, in physical pain and everyone is wary of him. The only way for him to be restored is for the Lion Aslan (the Christ figure) to literally tear his dragon flesh away so that he might return to his original form. The tearing of the flesh is described below as Eustace recounts the story to his friend Edmund.
“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”
Eustace’s’ sin was so deep that dreadful pain had to transpire in order for him (us) to be restored and made new again. A mere shedding of skin wasn’t going to work. In order for us to be “made righteous” in God’s sight, and in order for those in the O.T. to be made the same, something eternal, painful and dreadful had to happen. Not the simple killing of an animal. It required nothing less than the torture and dreadful death of God Himself.
I’m sure my driveway having not been completely replaced will be fine. But outside of embracing the love and blood of Jesus we will not be. Seriously, where are you today?