my Kinsman Redeemer won me - twice
Ps 23:3 ”He restores my soul: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.”
Years ago while earning a graduate degree and working at a local hospital, I encountered a guy from my apartment complex who lived at the opposite end of the building. He spied me seated beneath a large oak tree hovering over a picnic table late one evening as I waited for my laundry to finish. He walked over and sat himself down at the table to engage in some small talk. We'd seen one another before in passing but judging from the traffic at his door at all hours of the day & night by all sorts of fascinating people, there were a few suspicions about his “livelihood”, though admittedly, I had no direct evidence to make accusations. He seemed pleasant enough so we chatted a bit. Soon into the conversation, he mentioned having seen a fish symbol plastered on the rear bumper of my car and surmised from it that I was a Christian. He smiled, saying that he was agnostic even though his daddy was a preacher. He then indicated that he was well-versed in both bible and church doctrine after which he quickly moved on to his true motive for speaking with me: he wanted to put me to the test with a seemingly unsolvable scenario concerning my alleged Creator.
Him: “Say a certain human card-player plays poorly and ends up with a losing hand. Let’s say the Lord takes over that losing hand. He, being omnipotent can win, but with such a lousy hand, He’d have to cheat. If He cheats, then He breaks His own law, thereby sinning against Himself. Yet if He loses, then this “proves” He’s not omnipotent and therefore proposing this Being as worthy of worship is a lie!” After cleverly spilling out this sophist puzzle, my neighbor smiled, very pleased with himself.
I could have replied with all sorts of huffy defenses or ended up stammering as he expected would happen. Instead, my answer completely threw him for a loop. Fact? The Lord can’t cheat. He would lose the hand, precisely because of His “limitation.” If YHVH has a limitation, I said, then it would be His righteousness. And if righteousness is a limitation, then so be it. The Lord is righteous and there's no going around the Law. His nature will not allow it. My neighbor wasn’t expecting that response. The sophist ended up stammering and changing the subject.
Fortunately, I had discerned the Lord's nature and motives long before encountering the sophist. My Father and His Son Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth had already earned my respect. Here's why:
My response to the neighbor goes hand-in-hand with why our Lord couldn't skirt the Law in order to get us into the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was conditional - it was "the old schoolmaster" as Paul labeled it (Gal 3:24) for we were "under the law" that is, because it was chosen by us, (not YHVH, God) in Eden. IF you keep all facets of the Law... then you will be My people...then this covenant will be everlasting. The Old Testament is rife with criteria. But we're not perfect. None of us, Hebrew or not could ever keep all of the covenant and so both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah fell. Jerusalem fell in 70 a.d. forty years after rejecting the Messiah. No covenant can be everlasting if it depends on imperfect humans to fulfill it. This was a huge problem. The Lord couldn't just allow His human children to be sinners in the eyes of the Law and be allowed to join an everlasting covenant, because after all, God-hating beings expelled from Heaven (Satan and his minions) could under the Law, rightly demand the same leniency in protest.
So the Lord had Himself born into flesh. Once related to us, He offered to take on punishment for all humans. His perfect payment and resurrection would silence the Law's automatic spiritual death sentence on our heads. Thankfully, His new covenant is actually between “Him and Him” (Father & Son); which makes it easy for us - our blood flows through His veins and His genome is human (not angelic), so we, His relatives, those of whom take an oath in communion to recognize His sacrifice automatically qualify for the unbreakable covenant of eternal life. He had defeated death long before I was born; He had saved my life - and had won me to Him for the very first time.
This righteousness came with a steep price. The Son of God in His role as a Son of Man was able to do “all things” yet He could not cross over the line into lawlessness. He left His high position of peace and worship, humbled himself without reservation or shame to our level, had little rest or safe abode while He was here, answered the temptations that we all face, withstood Satan's taunts under great duress, was nearly killed more than a few times while preaching from town to town, endured the doubts of His immediate family and disciples, was beaten nearly to death and allowed Himself, the humble King, to be stripped, called a phony, further taunted and spat upon while dying. If after enduring all that to save others is not love and true righteousness - when everyone you know has given up on you, then nothing is.
Once I came into existence, after having studied and discerned enough to understand His communion, I began to recognize the enormity of His work. He had won me for the second - and final time. He deserves endless respect and love just for who He is and for the hell He endured to bring us to Him so that we might have endless life. For that, I gladly cast my crown before His throne. Worthy is the Lamb of God indeed.