January 3, 2018
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment…How much severe punishment do you think [we] will deserve who have trampled under foot the Son of God, and regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which [we are] sanctified and have insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:26, 27, 29
You’ve probably heard the news that President Trump has shrunk two national monuments, both in Utah. Bear Ears National Monument lost around 85% of its land, while Grand Staircase-Escalante is reduced by nearly half.
Of course controversy dogs the decision. Utah state officials believe the actions will pave the way for energy development: for example, a uranium company says it will give easier access to Bear Ears’ plentiful uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill. Coal is abundant at Grand Staircase. Environmentalists, naturally, are opposed, fearful of what that energy development could look like. And coal isn’t the only attraction at Grand Staircase—it’s loaded with dinosaur fossils.
Perhaps the greatest outcry is from Native Americans, who object to the loss of protection over land they consider consecrated. Five tribes which use the area for religious ceremonies lobbied for years to preserve Bear Ears’ cliff dwellings and archaeological sites. One Navajo called the indifference toward their sacrosanct soil “just another slap in the face.”
Hebrews 10 emphasizes another, much more serious disrespect—that of Jesus’ death on our behalf. When it comes to God, Bible teacher John Piper writes, “all we want to hear is the sweet side—the tender side, the warm side….[But] whatever your view of God, the Creator of the universe and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, if it does not include [judgment], it is a distorted, unrealistic view.”
Hebrews 10:26 and 27 lay out two choices we must make, Piper notes: accept His sacrifice for sin (thoughts, words or deeds contrary to God’s character) or face terrifying judgment.
“[S]in is what God is angry about, [but] He has made a provision for escaping His anger, namely, the sacrifice of His Son in the place of sinners. The love of God provides escape from the wrath of God by sacrificing the Son of God to vindicate the glory of God in forgiving sinners. That’s the gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ—the essence of Christianity—makes no sense at all apart from the wrath of God. If there is no wrath and no judgment to escape, then Christ was sacrificed in vain.
“But He did not die in vain. He died so that you and I and anyone who believes on Him might be saved from the wrath of God and have everlasting life in the love of God.”
Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears and everything else of this earth will pass away, and the treatment of hallowed Indian terrain will be a moot issue. What lasts is our response to this decision right now: trample on the sacred ground of Jesus’ atonement for sin, or accept it.
As the writer of Hebrews posits, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
Something to think about in this new year.