The Supreme Test
My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?” —Matthew 27:46
“It is finished!” If our eternity depends on that cry of relief, of achievement, of triumph from the cross, and it does, no less does it rest on that cry of desolation, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Indeed, the One who suffered for our sins could not have uttered, “It is finished,” had He not first cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He must be forsaken and left solitary to bear the weight of our sins under the wrath of God, that we might be saved, pardoned, forgiven, and set free.
As a Lamb without blemish and without spot, Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, His fitness was amply demonstrated in eternity past when He was the constant delight of Jehovah (Prov. 8), in creation where everything that was made by Him was very good (John 1:1-3. Genesis 1:31, 2:3), through the years of man’s temptation and provocation before Bethlehem’s manger. (Hebrews 3:8. Isaiah 1:4; 43:24), and during the period of His manifestation (Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:29; 12:27-28; 17:1-4). From every test He emerged triumphant and untarnished.
We men, the males of the human race, are in a way only half-men for we need an helpmeet, a counterpart to give us balance. We even speak of a man’s wife as his better half. Certain qualities in mankind are masculine, certain are feminine. Courage, strength, and wisdom might be considered as masculine qualities; faithfulness, tenderness, thoughtfulness for others, and virtue are some of the feminine qualities. In our Lord Jesus Christ as Son of Man were all qualities perfectly blended. He was in that sense self-sufficient, complete. Although there never was such a man as He in all strong qualities, He lacked no tender quality. Single-handed He could drive the hucksters from the temple, yet He could weep with Mary over the loss of her brother. He could call to Him the little children His disciples would have driven away, yet He could stop the mouths of those who tried to trick Him in His speech. He could cry, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” while undergoing without a murmur the agonies of the cross.
When David sinned by taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite and then having him set in the forefront of the battle to be slain, so as to cover up his own sin of adultery, Nathan the prophet came to him with a parable of a poor man possessed of one little ewe lamb, brought up and nourished as one of his own children, which lay in his bosom and was with him as a daughter, and of a rich man with flocks of his own who took the poor man’s lamb and dressed it to feed the traveller who had come to the rich man.
Convicted of his crime, David in Psalm 51, written on that occasion, cries to God, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest and be clear when Thou judgest.”
Nathan may have seen in the lamb Uriah’s wife and Uriah’s life, but David saw his own heinous sin, not as the robbing of Uriah of his wife and his life, but as being that which took God’s Lamb, brought up with Him, in His bosom, daily His delight. Our sins, my sins, David’s sin brought God’s Lamb down from heaven’s glory, down from the Father’s side to the cross of Golgotha. This may well speak of that aspect of Christ’s suffering which was on account of the believer’s sins; our unfaithfulness, our trespasses which when exposed give the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme.
The particular point to be made here is that we have the Lord Jesus Christ viewed in His perfection of those qualities which in mankind are tender characteristics.
In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed on the night of His betrayal, “O, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” And again, “O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me except I drink it, Thy will be done.”
In the agony of that hour, in anticipation of that cup, He sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground, and went out, to His betrayal, to trial, to mockery, to crucifixion, where to its bitter dregs He drank that bitter cup.
In Numbers chapter 5 instructions are given to put lepers and every one with an issue of blood outside the camp, which is where Christ suffered; and for trespassers to add a fifth part with the principal in recompensing for a trespass, even as He, in restoring that which He took not away, gave back infinitely more than had been taken away.
Then follows in that chapterdetailed instructions for the strange and awful rite of testing for unfaithfulness when the spirit of jealousy comes upon a husband and he brings his wife to the priest. He is suspicious that she has turned aside and committed adultery. Yet he has no evidence. He brings her offering: the tenth of an ephah of barley meal, without oil or incense, for it is an offering of jealousy, “An offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.”
The priest brings her near and sets her before the Lord. He takes holy water in an earthen vessel, and of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle, and puts it into the water.
Then the priest sets her before the Lord, and uncovers her head. Now she is immediately in the presence of God without her husband standing between her and Him, as normally. The priest puts the offering of memorial in her hand, which is the jealousy offering, while in his hand he holds the bitter water that causes the curse.
The priest then charges her by an oath and says, “If no man hath lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleannesss with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man hath lain with thee beside thine husband …” Then he adjures her with an oath of cursing, and says, “The Lord make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell. And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot.” And the woman shall say, “Amen, amen.”
The priest writes the curses in a book, and blots them out with the bitter water. Then he causes the woman to drink the bitter water that causes the curse, and the water that causes the curse enters into her and becomes bitter. Next he takes the jealousy offering out of the woman’s hand, waves it before the Lord, and offers it upon the altar. He takes a handful of the offering, as a memorial thereof, and afterward causes the woman to drink the water.
When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come to pass, if she had been defiled, and has committed unfaithfulness against her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her for bitterness and her belly shall swell and her thigh rot or shrink and the woman will be a curse among her people.
Israel may well be typified by the unfaithful wife, and so too, sadly, might be the Church.
The bitter cup consisted of holy water, symbolic of the Word that declares to us His will, and the dust of the floor of the tabernacle which speaks of the record of the walk before God in this wilderness.
In our unfaithful walk there is much contrary to the Word of God, so that there is far from a blend of Word and walk. When the bitter trials come from God to bring to remembrance the strayings, the defilements of our path, the unfaithfulness of our walk even when treading His courts, the testings bring out murmurings and complaints. The bitterness of the cup brings out the bitterness in us, and we, with Job, seek to uphold our own cause and put God in the wrong.
At last, stripped of pride, position, self-conceit, hypocrisy, made to bare ourselves in the light of His holiness, we must cry with Job, “I abhor myself;” and with Peter, “I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
What about the faithful wife; what would be the result for her of this trial of jealousy? “But if the woman have not been defiled, and be clean, then she shall be clear, and shall conceive seed” (Num. 5:28, J. N. D.).
Who then is typified by the faithful one made to undergo this ordeal? Is not our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, pictured here, as in the aspect of God’s Lamb He was made to suffer for our sins, our unfaithfulness, our turning aside from Him Who bought us with a price, so that we are not our own? His faithfulness has paid the price of our unfaithfulness.
There was being meted out to Him all the punishment due to our sins, He was made to drink so bitter a cup as none other have ever tasted or could ever taste. When all His earthly days were reviewed in that hour, when every step He trod, every thought and deed passed in review, what must He say, He who was under an infinite load of sin? Would all this searching, all this cup bring one sin to remembrance, one act, one word, one thought, one period of silence when He should have spoken, one neglect to do or go what or where He should, one jot or tittle not in absolute harmony with the word and will of God?
No! Thanks be to God, No! There was none, for out of that depth of suffering and anguish, as He drained to the last drop that bitter cup, He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” In Him was no cause of forsaking, no iota of reason why God should turn from Him.
Furthermore, under punishment for sin not His own, forsaken by God when there was no cause in Him for such forsaking, He was faithful, loving, uncomplaining. The bitter cup found no bitterness in Him. The word of God and His earthly path blended perfectly, and His will was to do the Father’s will even when that will ordained the death, the forsaking of the cross, the punishment for sins not His own. Now His heart in longing for His God cries out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
The faithful wife subjected to the trial of jealousy might well be glad to be thereby vindicated. Yet she might also resent her husband’s suspicion of her and never feel toward him the same as before. The perfect love of the Man Christ Jesus for His God remained unchanged.
God ever knew the spotless perfection of His Lamb, and there was no need on His part for the trial of jealousy, but through that trial He would make more evident the infinite righteousness of the Holy One.
None can ever challenge the perfection of that Lamb, for the very suffering and death which purged our sins constituted the supreme test which proved His spotlessness.
What then is the outcome of His endurance of that test? What was it for the faithful wife? “She shall be clear, and shall conceive seed.” What did David say in Psalm 51? As cited in Romans 3:4, he said, “That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged.” What did Isaiah write? “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:10).
Our salvation is a result of the cry, “My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?” equally with the cry, “It is finished!” Our eternal welfare hangs no less on the one than it does on the other.