Every month this year, I have drawn and mailed something for each of my grandkids. Since they all call me Papper, these are Papper Papers. I try to find a monthly theme for the art, keeping in mind that they’re all under four years old. (And some have a higher truck tolerance than others.)
This month, my concept comes to me from Isaiah 40. In the previous chapter, Israel receives the terrible news that, in response to their long history of rebellion against God, they be taken into captivity. And yet, before the echo of that thunderous pronouncement can fade away, God comes to them with comfort.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:2)
That last verse, and its explanation, fascinates me.
There’s some debate about what the word double means in this context. This much is certain: it is not saying God unjustly gave Israel twice the punishment that they deserved. He didn’t, in his anger, overstep the line.
The Hebrew word for double – so my commentary tells me – means “to fold over, fold in half.” It is used in Job 11:6 to describe wisdom as ‘two-sided,’ meaning that there is a hidden, spiritual reality behind what we can see.
This certainly holds for the verse above. Israel has received their fitting portion of punishment for their sins. But the payment for their transgression goes far beyond what they experienced. There is a heavenly counterpart: the work of the Suffering Servant, about whose work on their behalf they are soon to hear much more.
Jesus, is, of course, that Suffering Servant. It is good to be constantly reminded, as we struggle here on earth with the consequences of our own sins and of the chaos of a sin-broken world, that Jesus received the whole of God’s wrath on our behalf. His payment and ongoing prayer for us is the reality on the flip side of what we experience.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)
Not that any of these Papper Papers (not yet folded) make that obvious. Propitiation doesn’t lend itself to cuteness. And how does one draw an invisible actuality? (Does handing a blank sheet of paper count?)
But I can at least give a little taste of the joy of discovery.
When I gave the monkeys to my granddaughter, she was delighted to find one on the front and the back. After that, she kept it open to see both at the same time.
That's the trick, isn't it?
Jesus, we love you for how you took on our punishment. And for how, in heaven right now, you intercede on our behalf. Too often, we fail to see this second half to our story – the spiritual reality that, in many ways, is more authentic than the life in front of us. Help to see this flip side.
Reader: What amazes you most in what Scripture teaches about the heavenly realms?