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Pastoral Letter 28th March 2021

牧聲 二零二一年三月二十八日
28/3/2021
by
Rev. Christopher Chan

Micah and Easter

We are going through a preaching series on the book of Micah at present, and Good Friday & Easter are just one week away. Rather than having to strain to focus our minds on two diverse topics, I can see the Lord’s good purpose in placing us in this situation. The message of Micah, in fact, provides a great foundation for understanding the Easter message.

Micah repeatedly presents two attributes of the Holy God, which due to the sins of His people are brought into a dilemma: His loving kindness & mercy on the one hand, and His righteousness & justice on the other. The heinous sins of Israel & Judah over decades incurred the wrath of the Holy and just God. His justice demanded severe punishment of His people according to His own Law, that “the wages of sin is death”. Yet, His loving kindness and covenantal love towards them was limitless, never desiring that His people should perish. “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (of the penitent)*, but who will by no means clear the guilty…” Ex 34:6-7 Should He punish His people as His justice demands, or to spare them as His mercy desires? How can this dilemma be resolved? In Micah’s time, through the prophet, God pronounced judgement on Israel and Judah in the form of impending invasions and exile by the mighty powers of Assyria and Babylon respectively. However, as He was passing these sentences, He also comforted and promised future restoration to these wayward people. This reminds us of a contemporary situation of a loving parent dealing with a recalcitrant and wayward teenager. The wrongdoing calls for severe chastisement for the child’s good, yet as the child suffers the pain, there is greater pain in the parent’s heart, and the parent cannot help but to console and encourage the child in the midst of the chastisement.

This is very much the Easter message. The Holy God must deal thoroughly and justly with our sins, the severity of which is seen in the enormous price that Christ had to pay on our behalf: the sinless creator of the universe being insulted, mocked, crucified by sinful men, and going through both physical and spiritual death. Yet God is infinitely merciful, He gave us His only begotten Son, the second Person of the God Head, to take our punishment, so that we are spared of eternal death, and given eternal life. Christ’s resurrection signified that this substitute atonement has been completed (“it is finished”). The greatest exchange in history accomplished: Our sin and punishment for Christ’s righteousness before God.

Prayer: Our gracious, merciful, righteous and just Heavenly Father, we praise you that you are never changing. As your loving kindness was manifested to your people in Micah’s time, it is wonderfully extended to us today through your suffering servant, our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray that you give us the strength and will to respond to your amazing grace by living out our new lives as Christ’s true disciples.

* Added by author for explanatory purpose

彌迦書和復活節

我們主日的講道系列正講解《彌迦書》,而下周便是受難節和復活節了。你是否覺得難以把注意力分散在兩個不同的主題上? 我看到主奇妙美旨在當中,因《彌迦書》的信息對了解復活節的信息提供了一個很重要的基礎。

彌迦一再重申聖潔的神兩方面的屬性:一方面是祂的慈愛與憐憫,另一方面是祂的公義與公平。由於祂子民的罪惡,將神兩方面的屬性陷入兩難之中:以色列和猶大幾十年來犯下滔天罪行而招致聖潔而公義的神之憤怒。神的公義需要衪按照祂自己的律法對子民進行嚴厲的懲治,“罪的公價就是死”。然而,祂的仁愛恩慈和立約之盟愛是無限的,絕不希望祂的子民滅亡。“耶和華,耶和華,是有憐憫有恩典的神,不輕易發怒,並有豐盛的慈愛和信實,為千萬人存留慈愛,赦免(悔改的人之)*罪孽、過犯和罪惡,但萬不以有罪的為無罪……”(出34:6-7)祂應否按祂的公義判斷、嚴懲和責罰祂的百姓,或按祂的恩慈憐憫的屬性饒恕他們呢?如何解决這兩難之局?在彌迦時代,神通過先知向以色列和猶大宣布審判,分別是被亞述和巴比倫兩強大帝國的入侵和擄掠。但是,當祂宣判之後,祂也立刻安慰並應許將來復興這些悖逆橫梗之民。這叫我們想起了一個滿有愛心的父母需管教一個頑固任性的年輕人之情境。為着子女的益處,所做的錯事須嚴厲懲罰。然而,當孩子處於被責罰之痛苦時,在父母的心也承著更大的切膚之痛。父母在忍痛不可收回懲罰中,也忍不住安慰和鼓勵孩子。

這就是復活節的主要信息。聖潔的神必須徹底地和公義地對付我們的罪惡。在神的眼中,罪惡的嚴重性在基督必須代替我們付出的捨身巨大代價中得以體現:無罪、完美的宇宙創造者被有罪的人侮辱,嘲笑,被釘死在十字架上,並經歷肉體和靈性上的死亡。神是無限慈悲的,祂賜下祂的獨生子給我們,就是三一神的第二位格,接受了本來我們當得的懲罰,使我們免於永死,反之得到永生。基督的復活表明這代贖的工作已經完成(“成了”)。歷史上最大的交易完成了:我們的罪和懲罰換取了基督在神面前的公義。

禱告:我們滿有恩典,慈悲,公義,和公正的天父,我們讚美袮,袮永遠不改變。在彌迦時代袮對子民所表現的仁愛恩慈,今天藉着袮受苦的僕人,我們的主耶穌基督,這奇妙的大愛也臨到我們身上。我們祈求您賜予我們力量,藉著作基督的真門徒去活出我們的新生命,來回應袮奇異的恩典。

*作者為解釋含意所增添

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