I set stage for this blog with the question, What is Christian Salvation and Why Would Anyone Want It? If you haven’t read that blog first, you might want to take some time to read it. I set this piece up with my own story, but I am no different than anyone else who has encountered the God of the Bible and the salvation that He offers.
In this piece we will get into some detail on the meaning of salvation, sin that poses the problem for which salvation is the solution, and righteousness, which is, perhaps, more misunderstood than the other two.
To begin with, salvation means, generally, “preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss”; theologically, it means “deliverance from sin and its consequences” according to Google. Righteousness means, generally, “the quality of being morally right or justifiable” according to Google.
These definitions are simple and easy enough to understand generally, but they have very specific and nuanced meanings in context of faith that belie the richest and deepest of Christian truths.
We live in a specific cultural and historical time and view things through cultural, historical and other contexts that are familiar to us. Things in the Bible often do not make sense to us immediately because the filter through we see things with modern eyes distorts the context in which the stories in the Bible were told. Whether one believes the Bible is God’s word, no one can understand it without understanding the context.
The story of Abraham and Isaac is hard to understand in modern context. Why would anyone think to sacrifice a child? It’s barbaric, and a God who would ask such a thing must be barbaric too! So, the thinking goes.
Before going further, I think we need to stop and consider a couple of things. First, Abraham clearly was doing what he thought God was asking of him. He was willing to do it, even it would hurt him terribly. This was his only son.
In fact, Isaac was a miracle. Abraham and Sarah thought they were past child-bearing age, but God had promised them a child. Now, God seemed to be urging him to take that child’s life. It could not have made sense to Abraham. It went against what God had promised.
Yet, Abraham was convinced that he must do it, or at least follow through with this urging from God to wherever it leads.
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. (Exodus 15:23-25)
Moses had just led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea that God parted for them. All the women had taken up timbrels and followed Miriam dancing and celebrating, exalting God for rescuing them from the Army of the Pharaoh. From there, Moses began to lead the newly freed nation into the wilderness.
They had wandered only three days, but it was three days without water. They found water at Marah, but it was too bitter to drink. So, the people began to get restless and “grumbled” to Moses. This is only the beginning of the grumbling, a theme that would continue throughout the years wandering in the wilderness. Even after God did miraculous things, like part the Red Sea and rescue them from certain capture and calamity, the people were quick to fall back to the habit of complaining.