I call to you with one lung exploded, from breathing the dust of the earth,
With my tongue eroded from licking the crust of the Earth,
Thus begins one of my favorite songs. The artist is a band big in the 90s called The Choir. It is a modern day Psalm of redemption. The imagery is raw and grotesque. Then again so is our sin. I once heard my Old Testament professor, Thomas Howe ask why Jesus had to be beaten to a bloody pulp before he was crucified. The short answer is that Pilate didn’t intend to crucify Jesus but to beat him to satisfy the bloodlust of the crowd. Only after he caved to their demands did he crucify Jesus. The longer answer is found in Isaiah 1.
Where will you be stricken again,
As you continue in your rebellion?
The whole head is sick
And the whole heart is faint.
From the sole of the foot even to the head
There is nothing sound in it,
Only bruises, welts and raw wounds,
This is the description of Israel in their sin. Israel is imagined as a beaten and bloody because that is what the ravages of sin looks like from God’s perspective. Jesus represents the sacrifice for our sin and so he must be a beaten and bloody mess. So beaten and bloody that people can’t recognize him. The image given by God is distorted as it was in the fall.
The songwriter captures the moment of repentance:
A tear away from reconciled, a prayer away from whole
The writer knows the most fabulous secret of Christianity. Forgiveness. Redemption is not a matter of appeasement but of repentance that counts on the Grace of a faithful and just God. C.S. Lewis was once asked what makes Christianity so different from any other religions. He is supposed to have said, “Simple, Grace.” Grace. Undeserved favor. The songwriter is a tear away from reconciled and only a prayer away from whole because Grace is there to meet him. Accepting grace is repentance. Lewis says the problem is that a only a bad person needs to repent but only a good person can repent perfectly. He described Repentance like this.
this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen.
Here’s the songwriter again:
I cry to you with two eardrums blistered, from laughing with preachers of night,
With my vertebrae twisted from dancing with creatures of night,
A day away from sanctified, a breath away from whole,
Restore my soul, restore my soul.
The cry is for Grace to be restore what sin has destroyed. Restore my soul to what it was. Restore the image to what God made it. The Psalmist says something similar:
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation. David cries repentant for the sin of adultery with Bathsheba. David prays to be restored to that place where God’s salvation brings him joy and he also prays to be made willing to follow God’s commands and that this spirit will sustain him.
The Choir draws a stark image of corruption that God must make whole
I crawl to you with ten fingers smoking, from turning the pages of sin,
With my spirit choking from earning the wages of sin,
A bridge away from justified, a step away from whole,
Restore my soul, restore my soul,
Restore my soul.
No matter where we are, we are only a step away from whole. A moment from justified. 1 John reminds us that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us. The words “faithful and just”, my Old Testament professor would say, seem odd here. Shouldn’t it say merciful and loving or full of grace? But John says forgiveness and cleansing is not just loving it is justice. Forgiveness is justice? Yes because of Jesus. Because of Jesus being made like sin so that we might be made righteous.
If you need it, take a moment and ask God to restore your soul. Maybe you’ve been turning the pages of sin, earning the wages of sin. Your spirit is choked. You are only a bridge away from justified, a step away from being made whole.
The music may not be to your liking but here’s the video for the Choir’s song.Ω
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