“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn Mine hand upon the little ones.” (Zechariah 13:7)
The most common understanding of this passage is that God Himself would smite (kill) His Shepherd and as a result, the sheep will be scattered.
Jesus, who said He is “the good Shepherd” (John 10:11), applies this prophecy to Himself:
“Then saith Jesus unto them (the disciples), All ye shall be offended because of Me this night: for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep (the disciples) of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” (Matthew 26:31)
Jesus adds an extra understanding to the text by inserting the word “I” – “I will smite the Shepherd.” This has led many to conclude that God is the One who killed Christ as a scapegoat in order to let us go free. However, since there’s no record of God Himself descending to earth and nailing His Son to the cross, we would have to accuse God of mind-control as He caused the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers to kill Jesus.
If you haven’t read any other article concerning the character of God on this website, let it be known that throughout Scripture it speaks of God hardening hearts (Exodus 7:3), sending evil spirits (1 Samuel 16:14), destroying lives (Genesis 6:7; 1 Corinthians 3:17) and sending strong delusions (2 Thessalonians 2:11). These are all idiomatic Hebrew expressions where God is said to “do” that which He simply “permits” to be done. When God says, “I will smite the Shepherd” it is to be understood as one of these idiomatic expressions. “I will smite” simply means God will permit the Shepherd to be smitten by sinful man.
If this is true, how do we harmonize this with Zechariah saying it would be God’s “sword” which will smite the Shepherd? Many times throughout Scripture God has said He would destroy certain nations. How did He do this? Again, God is not the cause of the destruction, but He did allow soldiers from other nations to come in and do the destruction. It is spoken as God doing it because He is the One who ultimately allows it to happen.
Listen to David’s prayer when he says, “deliver my soul from the wicked, which is Thy sword” (Psalm 17:13). David defines God’s sword in this circumstance as being the wicked, whom God was permitting to oppress David (verse 9). This is in fulfillment of what we read in Leviticus:
“And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of My covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.” (Leviticus 26:25)
Likewise, God would permit wicked men to oppress the Shepherd as a sword. During the time of Jesus’ trial, Matthew tells us that “the chief priests, and the elders, and all the council” used the testimony of “false witnesses” against Him to secure His death sentence (Matthew 26:59, 60). In Proverbs 25:18 we read, “A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.”
"Smitten of God"?
Isaiah brings out this truth so clearly when He prophesied of the Messiah’s death saying:
“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4, 5)
Let’s look at this in another translation:
"However, it was our sicknesses that He Himself bore, And our pains that He carried; Yet we ourselves assumed that He had been afflicted, struck down by God, and humiliated." (Isaiah 53:4; New American Standard Bible)
Isaiah is prophesying that we would mistakenly believe that God is the One who killed Jesus instead of killing the sinner. It says we would think, or perceive, Him to be smitten (killed) by God, but the reality is He was smitten (killed) “because of our transgressions.” The Kings James says, “for our transgressions.” The Hebrew word translated “for” is מִן (min) which denotes “from” or “out of.” Therefore, He was wounded “from” or “out of” our transgressions. Another way to read it is “He was wounded BY our transgressions”; "He was bruised BY our iniquities" and not by God. Isaiah 53:6 magnifies this truth even further:
“All of us like sheep have wandered, each to His own way we have turned, and Jehovah hath caused to meet on Him, the punishment of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 (Young’s Literal Translation)
In our blindness we naturally read these texts as God’s anger against us, but instead of punishing us, He places that punishment onto His Son instead. However, what if we read this another way? Can you see that the punishment laid upon Christ was “our punishment” in the sense that WE are the ones punishing Him?
Peter says that Jesus “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus allowed our sins to punish and kill Him. He bore our hostility towards Him; for when we hurled “insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats” (verse 23). Instead, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
"You will find the basis of our study this evening in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and the third verse: 'He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.' In connection with this I will read several other verses of the same chapter, and also a translation, which will enable us to obtain the thought more clearly:
'Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.'
The other translation reads:
'Surely he bore our griefs, yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was pierced through by our sins; he was crushed by our misdeeds. The chastisement of our peace lay upon him, and in his wounds there became healing for us.'
'All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.'
'The Lord let all our misdeeds come upon him.'
'He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living. For the transgression of my people was he stricken.'
The other translation:
'From distress and judgment was he taken; and in his generation who thought that he should be plucked out of the land of the living for the misdeeds of my people, punishment to them.'
'Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief. 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.”
The other translation:
'It pleased the Lord to let him be crushed; he hath made him sick; when his soul hath given a trespass offering, he shall see seed and live long.'
The thought is clearly enough expressed in the Authorized Version, but since we are liable sometimes to receive the wrong thought, the translation helps us to see it more clearly." (George E. Fifield, General Conference Daily Bulletin, Vol. 1, p. 14, February 12, 1897)
Let's take a look at that tenth verse in more detail.
“It Pleased the LORD to Bruise Him”?
“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You 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.” (Isaiah 53:10)
Again, this should be interpreted as God giving Jesus over to be bruised by man. George Whitehead wrote:
“There are still those that reject and disesteem Christ, and that esteem him smitten or plagued of God, and even to have undergone the wrath and vengeance of his Father in their stead ... Whereas, first, God had never any such wrath nor revenge, against his innocent Son, to execute upon him; nor will he so clear the guilty in their sins: It pleasing the Lord to bruise him, was neither in wrath, nor to take vengeance on him, nor yet actually or immediately by himself to bruise him, but permissively.” (George Whitehead, The Nature of Christianity, in the True Light Asserted: in Opposition to Anti-Christianism, Darkness, Confusion and Sin-pleasing Doctrines, 1833, p. 25)
And Samuel Whitman notes:
“An objection no doubt will be raised, founded upon the fifty third chapter of Isaiah, the ninth and tenth verses. 'He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.' It is asserted, you say, by the prophet, that it pleased the Lord to bruise his well beloved Son. Answer; and it is equally true, that God said, that the serpent should bruise him [Genesis 3:15]. From this, it is evident, that in whatever sense the hand of God might be concerned in the event, it was not from his immediate hand, but by the power of Satan through divine permission.” (Samuel Whitman, A Key to the Bible Doctrine of Atonement and Justification, 1814, pp. 298, 299)
Although the Hebrew word חָפֵץ (chaphets) can mean "to be pleased" or "delighted", it also carries the meaning of "to incline" or "bending down." Here's what Strong's Concordance says:
A primitive root; properly, to incline to; by implication (literally but rarely) to bend; figuratively, to be pleased with, desire -- X any at all, (have, take) delight, desire, favour, like, move, be (well) pleased, have pleasure, will, would.
This meaning of "to incline" or "to bend" is intended to communicate that God was willing or allowing this bruising to go on. The International Standard Version has it: "Yet the LORD was willing to crush Him ..." Again, the true meaning here is that God was willing or allowing this crushing or bruising to take place, not that God was directly killing His Son. But why is He pleased or willing to do this? The answer is in the phrase, “He shall see His seed.” He is not pleased that His Son is to go through all this grief, but is pleased or willing to have Him suffer because He knows the results of what this will accomplish. Christ will see His seed, or His spiritual offspring. His life and death will draw people to the Father:
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” (John 12:32)
“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
The author of the book of Hebrews says it was because of “the joy that was set before Him” that Christ “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is (now) set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). What is this “joy” that was set before Him? You and I!
This is all in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy that, after the Shepherd is smitten, “the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn My hand upon the little ones” (Zechariah 13:7). Remember, Jesus refers to “the little ones” as His disciples who would be offended at Him and “be scattered abroad” (Matthew 26:31). Some look at the phrase, “I will turn My hand upon the little ones” as something negative, as if God would turn and pour out destructive wrath upon them. Look how it reads in the Contemporary English Version:
“The LORD All-Powerful said: My sword, wake up! Attack My shepherd and friend. Strike down the Shepherd! Scatter the little sheep, and I will destroy them.”
However, it actually means that the LORD would turn His forgiving and protective hand upon them who were the great “joy” set before Him. Notice how John Gill describes this phrase:
“ ‘and I will turn my hand upon the little ones’; the same with the sheep, the disciples of Christ; yea, all that Christ died for, and to whom God is gracious for his sake; even all the little ones that believe in him; who are few in number, little in their own sight, and contemptible in the eyes of the world; pusillanimous, fearful, and of little faith, as the apostles of Christ were at the time he died: on these the Lord turned his hand; not his chastising hand … but his hand of grace and mercy, power and protection; which was upon the apostles in their ministrations, succeeding them to the conversion of sinners, and preserving them from their enemies; and all the elect are saved in consequence of the death of Christ, and redemption by him.” (John’s Gill’s Exposition of the Bible)
In Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, he defines the phrase as meaning God would take care of His little flock:
“ ‘And I will turn mine hand upon the little ones’ – I [God] will take care of the little flock, and preserve them from Jewish malice and Gentile persecution. And so this little flock was most wondrously preserved, and has been increasing from year to year from that time to the present day.”
One of the conclusions that Matthew Henry comes to is that this phrase is to be understood as a promise:
“These words, ‘I will turn my hand upon the little ones’ may be understood … as a promise that God would gather Christ’s scattered disciples together again, and he should give them the meeting in Galilee. Though the little ones among Christ’s soldiers may be dispersed, they shall rally again; the lambs of his flock, though frightened by the beasts of prey, shall recover themselves, shall be gathered in his arms and laid in his bosom. Sometimes, when the sheep are scattered and lost in the wilderness, yet the little ones, which, it was feared, would be a prey (Num. 14:31), are brought in, are brought home, and God turns his hand upon them.” (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible)
Let’s look a little deeper into the Hebrew words found in the phrase, “I will turn My hands upon the little ones.”
- “I will turn” – שׁוּב (shub) – This is a Hiphil verb meaning that the correct translation would be along the lines of “cause to return” or “bring back.” Some texts that use this verb in exactly the same way are as follows:
“And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring (shub) you word again (shub), as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.” (Numbers 22:8)
“And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore (shub) thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.” (2 Samuel 9:7)
“And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again (shub) to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.” (Jeremiah 23:3)
“And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again (shub) into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” (Jeremiah 29:14)
“And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return (shub), and will build them, as at the first.” (Jeremiah 33:7)
The Berean Study Bible translates that last verse in Jeremiah 33:7 as, “I will restore (shub) Judah and Israel from captivity and will rebuild them as in former times.”
So, as you can see, in all of these instances the context is restorative and not destructive.
- “My hand” יָד (yad) – The word “hand” in Scripture also carries the meaning of “power.” The two words are interchangeable.
“And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand (yad). So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.” (Job 1:12)
“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand (yad) to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27)
“… Is my hand (yad) shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver?...” (Isaiah 50:2)
It is important at this point to realize that the “power” and “hand” of God represent Christ:
“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23, 24)
“Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64)
“Who (Christ) being the brightness of His (the Father’s) glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3)
- “upon the little ones” – צָעַר (tsa'ar) which denotes “on/upon/toward those who are insignificant, despised and also those who have been brought low.”
So, the context here is that after God allows the Shepherd to be smitten (meaning that this is a deadly blow which takes the life of the Shepherd) the sheep will be scattered (speaking of the disciples) and in His great mercy God will restore His great Hand/Power (Jesus) to those who have been brought low through the loss of the Shepherd (meaning He will restore Jesus to the disciples).
"Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand (power/strength), And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young." (Isaiah 40:10, 11)
This restoration of Christ (the “power” and “hand” of God) to His disciples began on the Day of Pentecost when Jesus’ Holy Spirit (which He had previously breathed into His disciples, John 20:22) was fully manifested; for Jesus had promised …
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Christ Died to “Make an End of Sins”
In the 9th chapter of Daniel, we read a prophecy concerning the coming Messiah:
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)
Some commentators believe that Gabriel is telling Daniel that his people (the Jews) better shape up before the Messiah gets here, and thus they have a certain allotted time to finish transgressing and to make an end of their sinning. This kind of teaching only promotes fear and force, which is not the way God works. Deadlines are an application of force to achieve an outcome for the one who controls the time. The pressure of a deadline which is combined with the threat of punishment or death is actually psychological abuse. Many refer to “a time of probation” which is a set time God gives us in order to behave, and if we are not good by the deadline, then we all “better watch out” because Jesus is coming to town!
However, properly understood, we are the ones who close our own probation. God is forever merciful (Psalm 100:5; 107:1; 136:1; Ezra 3:11; Jeremiah 33:11), and so it is mankind who ends God’s mercy by not accepting it. Once you become so hardened in your heart not to accept God’s free forgiveness, there’s nothing more that God can do, and thus you close the door of opportunity. Paul calls this condition in man “a reprobate mind” and “having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (Romans 1:28; 1 Timothy 4:2).
Others say that when the Messiah came, He finished the transgression and made an end of sins by dying on the cross, thus satisfying God’s justice and wrath. However, it is spoken of in the sense of mankind’s rebellion (transgression) and sin coming to completeness, or to its fullness.
Paul reminds us that we all have inherited a natural hatred towards God and His Son through sin when he wrote, “the carnal mind is enmity (hostile) against God: for it is not subject (submissive) to the Law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). John tells us that “sin is the transgression of the Law” (1 John 3:4); therefore, committing sin is the revelation of our hatred towards God and His Son.
This hatred was manifested in all its fullness when man murdered Christ. Mankind’s rebellion and sin (hatred towards God) was “finished” and “ended” (came to its fullness/was fully revealed) when we condemned and murdered the Son of God.
The prophecy foretold that man’s rebellion and sins will be brought to the full “to make reconciliation [or, atonement] for iniquity”, and this will “bring in everlasting righteousness.” How does this work?
“Moreover the Law entered (privately into the heart/mind), that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Romans 5:20)
God permits our sins to abound (or come to the full) in order for us to be convicted of that sin. He does not do this to condemn us, but to reveal to us the proper diagnosis of our disease, so that we in turn seek His grace. Christ came into the world to reveal the true character of God our Father (John 17:4). This character is the opposite of our character and what we expected God to be like (Isaiah 55:8, 9; John 1:10, 11), and this caused our sin to abound by retaliating back and killing Christ, thus bringing the rebellion and the sinfulness of mankind to its fullness. We hated His purity and holiness of character because it was a constant rebuke to our selfishness and corruption.
When we realize that God gave His Son over to us and allowed Him to suffer the deadly results of our rebellion and hatred towards Him, we begin to fully see His love for us.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
In seeing our rebellion and sin come to its fullness in the murder of the Son of God, we are to be convicted at the heart, turn to Him in repentance and accept His everlasting forgiveness so we may be changed and live unto His “everlasting righteousness.”
“For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh [He exposed our sin and hatred of Him]: That the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3, 4)
In the New Covenant framework Christ did not die to satisfy His Father’s anger against us but rather He died because of our human anger against Him. He reveals our rage and hatred towards God and our fellow man.
"By taking on human form in its fallen condition and then allowing humanity to exhibit all the virility of our animosity against the purity of God, what Jesus exposed was our iniquity, perversity, twisted thinking and hatred of God, not God's supposed offense over sinners breaking His rules.
'But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation. We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.' (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)
"Since God was in Christ all throughout His life on earth, why do we imagine that it was God who was bruising Jesus and putting Him to grief? This all comes from the most subtle and sinister lies the enemy has ever invented, that God is more concerned about everyone keeping His rules than He is even about His love for His only Son. This lie has done more damage to God's reputation than any other accusation the enemy has alleged against God and must be disarmed if we are to be drawn back into saving trust. What does it mean that Christ was made to be sin on our behalf? According to the penal view it means Jesus was punished by God for our sins. But that is founded on a logic of legal fiction which is against the law. It is never right for an innocent person to be punished for someone else's crime. Yet religion teaches that God did this very thing to Jesus implying that God is unrighteous.
'Woe to those who are mighty to drink wine, and champions at mixing strong drink; who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice for the innocent!' (Isaiah 5:22-23)
"This notion that God engages in punishing the innocent on behalf of the guilty originates with the father of lies and is designed to further undermine our appreciation of God's trustworthiness. This is the intoxication of the wine of Babylon that has distorted true justice all throughout history. Yet modern Christianity asserts that Jesus in essence bribed God to acquit guilty sinners by denying justice to His Son, the innocent one willing to take the punishment supposedly due to sinners. God is not unrighteous and will never participate in the intoxicating wine of such lies of Satan, for in God is no darkness ... Many will object that until the demands of a broken law are satisfied, fellowship is impossible to be restored. But we must realize that God's laws are not arbitrary but are creation principles that operate on cause and effect, not by rewards and punishments imposed artificially. When this correction is installed in our logic we can begin to see more clearly how salvation and the cross of Christ are intended to reconcile us to God, not appease an offended deity angry over broken rules.
"... By letting us unleash all the venom of our world's animosity against God on Jesus, He knew that the lies behind all that animosity would be inevitable be exposed and would at last be discredited. This is what was pleasing about all the evil that happened to Jesus from God's perspective, not that it would placate some pagan notion that God was furious at sinners but that sinners would come to see the lies that kept them angry and hostile towards God.
"... Jesus came to reveal the trustworthiness of God's heart, and because He did so in such a spectacular way He exposed all the deceptions of the enemy. He has proven that He can be trusted to represent God truthfully and consistently and that all of Satan's allegations are groundless, false and sinister. This is the method by which God achieves victory over evil – by making Himself vulnerable instead of using His infinite power to overwhelm His enemies. By making His own soul a sacrifice to allow sin to be exposed, He defeats the power of evil and the true power of love is finally seen." (Floyd Phillips, It Pleased God, biblicalconcepts.blogspot.com, August 12, 2018)
This work of reconciliation has been committed to us, to do as He did:
"Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:16-19)
When we come into repentance, Christ reveals how we are to act under trial — to bear it with loving grace, not condemning any man. Even when we did this to Him, His amazing love still forgave us and was thinking how to reach and teach us. Such precious and amazing love. The love of God will be so overflowing in God’s people that they will be willing to lay down their lives for the sake of the lost; they will be willing to allow the wicked to kill them and they will not have any thoughts of harm towards them but only love (Revelation 12:10,11). The manifestation of this love in human hearts will bring the entire world to a decision. A love like this does not allow a passive response. Those who behold it will either melt under its power or they will brace themselves to resist it.
“Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?”
Upon the cross we hear Jesus’ cry: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Did God really forsake Jesus, or was Jesus experiencing what the unbelieving sinner experiences when trials and tribulations come? When Jesus said these words, He was quoting from the 22nd chapter of the book of Psalms:
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:1, 2)
This is the mental anguish that crushes the unbelieving sinner who has lost their true identity as being a child of God and therefore does not trust in God’s everlasting free forgiveness and grace. Sin has hidden (clouded) the merciful face of God, causing them to believe He has turned away His face and abandoned them (Isaiah 59:2), when He is right there by their side as can be seen from reading verse 24 of the same chapter in Psalm 22:
“For He (God) hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard.” (Psalm 22:24)
It wasn’t God who turned His face and rejected Christ, it was us!
“He (Christ) is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” (Isaiah 53:3)
God’s silence at the cross causes us to perceive God is the One who’s abandoning Christ, but the sorrow comes directly out of the rejection He is facing from men. It is because we hid our faces from Him that He was pierced with sorrow. In the collective rejection of Christ, in that moment of realization that there was no one on the planet that wanted Him, He experienced in His heart the reality that: “There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Roman 3:11).
When the human race cried out, “Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!” (John 19:15), the heavenly Father does not protest. He allows us to project this onto Him. How? In His silence. The only pulse Jesus can feel is the collective human pulse of rejection. The voice of humanity, aided by Satan and his angels, drowned out the voice of God. God allowed us to sit on His throne to judge and condemn His Son. Why did He let us do this? That our offense might abound.
“These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.” (Psalm 50:21)
This is how God delivered up His Son. He allowed us to drown out His voice. He did not retaliate. He did not speak but let us have our own way.
“He (God) who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Again, to whom did God deliver up His beloved Son? When the chief priests and Roman soldiers came to take Jesus away, He said, “When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). God delivered Christ over to us, and within 24 hours we put Him to death!
In Hebrews 2:9 we read that “Jesus … by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when the power of darkness overshadows the face of God. In that darkness Christ could not sense the abiding presence of His Father, just as the wicked in the end will not be able to sense the Father’s presence due to their disbelief in His everlasting mercy. They, as did Christ, will sense they are forsaken. And as we wrongly “did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”, the wicked in the end will wrongly believe they are “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”, when in fact it is only the disease of sin running its deadly course (James 1:14, 15).
The collective rejection of mankind weighed upon Christ so heavily that He felt shut out from His Father. However, Jesus prevailed in believing that His Father would not ultimately forsake Him but raise Him from the dead. Jesus shattered the darkness when He prayed: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). The faith of Jesus overcomes all of our false ideas about the character of God. He was tempted to believe God had abandoned Him, which is what sin causes every man to believe when times get tough, but His perfect faith did not surrender to this lie. This is why all who believe must possess “the faith of Christ” and must live by that same faith:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)