First Friday of Lent | Robert O’Brien

Psalms 31, 95
Deuteronomy 7:12-16
Titus 2:1-15
John 1:35-42

When I was perusing the passages for this devotional, I was struck by some of the harsh, violent language in them. For example, “And you shall consume all the peoples that the LORD your God will give over to you. Your eye shall not pity them . . . (Deuteronomy 7:16).” Or the last two verses of Psalm 95: “For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’ Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” I’ll admit, these wouldn’t have been my first choices for passages, but the more I thought about it, the more appropriate I found them. Let me explain.

On this third day of the Lenten season, reflecting on the way things were before Christ’s coming can give us a more powerful understanding and appreciation of the new covenant that followed. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says that we were all once children of wrath—the same wrath that caused God to swear that the evil generation mentioned in Psalm 95 would never enter his rest. As unbelievers, we also would have been the peoples that were to be consumed without pity by God’s people. These aren’t the prettiest images. But on the other hand, Christ dying a bloody, torturous death on the cross isn’t exactly the nicest image either. Because of his gruesome death and glorious resurrection, however, we are no longer subject to the horrific truths of wrath and consumption that God proclaimed against the sinful nations of the Old Testament. Christ took those awful things for us, and because of this sacrifice, we are now able to enjoy the wonderful rest, peace and freedom of God.

In the events of Christ’s death and resurrection, we see the gruesome come before the glorious, the hurt before the healing, the blood before the bliss. The story of Easter is all of these things together. Without the ugly truth of the cross, there is no beauty of resurrection. So, as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, let us remember where we were before his resurrection, and let us be thankful that because of the Easter story, we are no longer there.

ROBERT O’BRIEN
Senior, Religion & the Arts

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