“…who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” (2Tim. 1:9)
Pastor and hymn-writer Samuel Stennett (1727-1795) wrote a poem called “The Harmony of Divine Perfections," in which he attempts to describe what took place “before the ages began.” Here it is, with my comments. (You might want to read this slowly…)
When first the God of boundless grace disclosed His kind design;
To rescue our apostate race from misery, shame, and sin,
Quick through the realms of light and bliss, the joyful tidings ran;
Each heart exulted at the news, that God would dwell with man.
The heavens were thrilled that God found a way to undo the damage our first parents caused by defying God’s rule.
Yet, ‘midst their joys, they paused awhile, and asked, with strong surprise,
But how can injured justice smile, or look with pitying eyes?
Will the Almighty deign again to visit yonder world;
And hither bring rebellious men whence rebels once were hurled?
Their tears, and groans, and deep distress, aloud for mercy call;
But, ah, must truth and righteousness to mercy victims fall?
Does the dilemma sin caused ever fill us with "strong surprise?" How can justice smile at rebellion without doing damage to the very nature of what it means to be just? In God’s economy, He can’t forsake His eternal standards of truth and righteousness simply because we cry out for mercy. The reconciling of God’s perfect holiness and perfect love at the cross will forever be one of the most glorious mysteries of our salvation.
So spoke the friends of God and man, delighted, yet surprised;
Eager to know the wondrous plan that wisdom had devised.
How often do I marvel at the beauty, power, and incomprehensible wisdom of God’s design for salvation? Not often enough.
The Son of God attentive heard, and quickly thus replied,
“In Me let mercy be revered, and justice satisfied.
“Behold, My vital blood I pour a sacrifice to God;
Let angry justice now no more demand the sinner’s blood.”
Do you hear the Savior’s submissive voice echoing through the ages to bring you hope, life, and freedom? Do you feel His particular love for you today? He demonstrated God’s lavish mercy toward you, while at the same time giving you reason to worship God forever for His unswerving, unerring justice.
And he did this because of his “own purpose and grace.” Although we can’t know exactly how God worked out his plan to save us, we know it wasn’t conceived in a board room, as God the Strategist mapped out the most efficient way to solve a messy problem. It was purposefully designed by a loving God – Father, Son, and Spirit – “before the ages began” to rescue us from His own consuming holiness. May our response be like the end of this poem:
He spoke, and heav’n’s high arches rung
With shouts of loud applause;
He died, the friendly angels sung,
Nor cease their rapturous joys.