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Bible verses about Unpayable Debt and Obligation
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Zechariah 3:1-5

Zechariah 3 shows a future fulfillment of the Day of Atonement. This book was written after Judah's return from Babylon. Even after that national chastening, the people were still carnal, just as Israel is today. Here, the prophet receives a vision of the high priest, Joshua. Notably, the chapter contains the same elements and sequence as Leviticus 16. It starts with the cleansing of the high priest and ends with the cleansing of the nation. What is missing is the sacrificial animals, and this is because, here, God is providing the atonement through a different means.

The essential function of the high priest was to represent the nation to God, which is part of why the Golden Calf incident was so appalling—the nation's representative was directly involved in the sin of idolatry. Similarly, in Zechariah 3:3, the high priest is depicted in filthy garments, yet in verse 4, the filth and iniquity are taken away. The high priest receives rich robes, symbolic of righteousness from God Himself (compare Revelation 19:8).

Verse 5 mentions the high priest's turban. Exodus 28:38 reveals that the purpose of the turban was to bear iniquity, so the high priest symbolically carried iniquity throughout the year. Then, on Atonement, the iniquity was symbolically transferred to the goat of departure and sent away. In Zechariah's vision, the priestly garments are filthy, and a clean turban is needed. The high priest's defilement shows that the nation had been completely unclean. But God restores the high priest, giving His explanation in verses 8-9:

Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, you and your companions who sit before you, for they are a wondrous sign; for behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription, says the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.

Zechariah makes no mention of animal sacrifices. This removal of iniquity can only come through the Messiah, the Branch mentioned in verse 8 (see also Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 6:12).

Leviticus 18:28 speaks of the land becoming defiled and vomiting out its inhabitants. The Day of Atonement is an annual type of bearing away of sin, out of the land, so the land and its people become clean before God. This national cleansing of land and nation, however, did not happen at Christ's first coming. Though the means of that true cleansing was created through His sacrifice, it has not yet been applied. God's cleansing of the land and people of Israel is still future.

The beginning of this vision (verses 1-2) contains another significant factor. Note that God rebukes Satan before He cleanses the nation. There is a possible connection here with Satan's binding (Revelation 20:1-3): In other instances of God rebuking a party, it typically goes beyond divine words and involves divine action (see Psalm 9:5; 68:30; Isaiah 17:1-3). God's rebuke may find its fulfillment in Satan's binding, and Israel's cleansing follows it.

The critical point is that atonementexpiation, satisfaction of the legal debt—can come only through Christ's removal of guilt, not through anything that happens to Satan. The nation is cleansed by God removing the iniquity, not through rebuking the accuser. In this vision, if Satan were only rebuked—and in parallel, if Satan were just bound—the nation would remain in its defiled state, still separated from God, unatoned.

David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat— Satan or Christ? (Part Four)


 

Luke 7:41-50

Interestingly, in the model prayer (Matthew 6:12), sin is expressed as debt. It is a true metaphor because duty neglected in relation to God is a debt owed to Him, one that must be discharged by paying a penalty. All have sinned (Romans 3:23), and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). We are all under a peculiar form of indebtedness that we cannot pay and still have hope!

Simon and the woman each portray a class of sinners. Though all are sinners, some have incurred more debt through the way of life each has lived. Some are outwardly respectable, decent, and clean living, while others have fallen into gross, sensual, and open transgression. In this regard, Simon was a great deal "better" than the woman, who was coarse and unclean. She had been wallowing in filth while he attained civic respectability through rigid morality and punctilious observance of civility. He had far less to answer for than she, but he had also received a great deal more from his morality and righteousness than she had. God is not so unfair as to withhold blessings from people for the right they have done. Yet, regardless of the relative size of each one's debt, neither was able to pay it!

We all are sinful and stand in the same relation to God as these two debtors. One's sins may be blacker and more numerous than another's, but upon considering degrees of guilt and the complex motivations behind each one's sins, we may not be so quick to judge the woman's sins worse than Simon's. From this perspective, they were equal. His sins were clothed with respectability, but he still could not meet his debt. Jesus says, "They had nothing to pay." That also precisely describes our position in relation to each other.

What does this mean practically in regard to Jesus Christ and our sins? No depth of guilt, no amount of tears, no amount of self-flagellation or discipline, no amount of repentance can work this into a payable debt. Some of these are certainly required by God and are good to do, but forgiveness, the payment of our debt incurred through our personal sins, is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). It comes by God's mercy through the blood of Jesus Christ (I John 1:7). We absolutely cannot pay it ourselves and still have hope of eternal life. If it could, God would owe us something—He would be indebted to us! That will never, never be.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

 




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