Article by Rick Delay, author of the article Tola’at.
THURSDAY MORNING, 0715 HOURS, DECEMBER 26, 2019, Post-Christmas, Third Day of Hanukkah
Exiting the chow hall, I was struck by the majestic beauty of the snow-laden mountains and the misty clouds swirling like cherubim along the summit peaks. The rising sun set in motion a kaleidoscope of colors radiating off clouds that change by the minute. I was looking at the magenta, then purple, then scarlet hues of sunlight shimmering off the first wave of marauding clouds from an approaching Pacific snowstorm. Suddenly a burst of sunlight broke cleanly through a small break in the clouds; the golden streaks of sunlight seemed to bounce off the backside of the jagged snow-capped mountain, shooting up into the overcast sky. Against this purple-gray canopy of clouds, the display of golden light resembled the royal crown of an august King.
Turning to my friend, David, I exclaimed, “David, it looks like the crown of a king!” He nodded in agreement.
Oddly enough, my thoughts immediately turned to a humbler crown of thorns and of thoughts I had been musing over for several days regarding another symbol of humiliation and disgrace – the cross.
Think of it: How can a blood-stained timber morph into a red cross and be seen by a wounded soldier, in need of medical help, as a sign of hope? The cross was an instrument of capital punishment! Seriously, would we put a symbol of a red electric chair on the side of an ambulance to promote hope? How about a gallows?… “Please donate to the Red Gallows to help the victims of Hurricane Hugo.”
Remember how the thorns that made up His crown first entered as a curse in Genesis when death’s sentence was first announced? Or how about the ram whose head was caught (crowned?) in a thorny bramble bush to become Isaac’s sacrificial replacement? The LORD first appeared to Moses in a fiery ceneh bush … a thorn bush to announce His Name and His plans to save the children of Israel from bondage … yet the bush was not consumed, and neither will Messsiah be consumed: having endured the consuming fire of God’s wrath on our behalf, He is resurrected three days later.
I was struck by how Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) had morphed these infamous forms of execution and shameful humiliation into the ultimate relics of sacrificial love – the grisly stake is now fabricated from precious metals of silver and gold into harmless ornaments that grace the necks of countless millions around the globe. The crown of thorns is lovingly adored as the truest crown fit for only one King.
The reason I had been contemplating the cross and the crown of thorns that morning was that I had become overwhelmed over the years with the shame of the crimes I had committed which landed me here in the middle of the Mohave Desert (on a prison-yard outside of Kingman, near the Arizona/California border). How could my shameful situation be redeemed and turned into something good in the same manner as the cross and the crown of thorns? Was it even possible?
Past musings over the fine mess I had made would predictably end with a gigantic heave and cry of, “I wish I could wake up from this nightmare; I wish this tragedy had never happened.” The most awful aspect is remembering the victim of your crime, which awakens you in the middle of the night in a cold sweat unable to speak – looking like a horrified and wide-eyed Jimmy Stewart smack-dab in the middle of “Pottersville” – and like George Bailey on that steel bridge you want to live again, you wish you could go back to the way things were. You long for Bedford Falls.
Even more overwhelming was the thought of eventually serving my sentence and being reunited with my family. How could I ever face them again? My wife hasn’t spoken to me in 19 years. My sons and daughters grew up without me, and now my grandsons and granddaughters are of the same age as when I left their parents twenty years ago. How would I face my brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces, high-school friends and former co-workers. Every get-together would dig up thought skeletons no longer fit for a closet.
Billy Bush is back on TV at his old job as a news-magazine show host, yet I’m unable to watch him without thinking of his and Trump’s leaked locker-room, “grab them by the….” Tape; and who can think of Bill Clinton without thinking of that blue, stained dress? Was Jacob able to forget the unstable-as-water Reuben defiling his bed? (Gen 49:4)
Am I to suffer a similar fate whenever I show up for Thanksgiving, graduations, weddings? I’ve become that uncle. How do I explain the time gap of 20 years in my work history in a job interview, or the fact that I wear an ankle bracelet?
My one comfort is that my dad passed away before having to witness my incarceration. Yo’ve probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned my dear mother. She passed away while I was in prison … (words fail me here).
Overwhelmed in spirit, I can only pray: In Thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in Thy righteousness. (Psa. 31:1 KJV)
THURSDAY AFTERNOON, 1445 HOURS. Showers of blessings. The Pacific storm has arrived with rain so thick that the prison yard is hardly visible.
God has promised to take away our shame and disgrace, to remove all vestiges of infamy.
Israel, you are saved by the LORD, saved forever!
You shall never be put to shame or disgrace in future ages. (Isa. 45:17 RSV)
How can the LORD God be my glory and the lifter of my head, and wipe away my shame?
Through the cross He bore the shame and disgrace of my sins. Wearing a crown of thorns He bore my curse (of death).
Messiah is unlike any earthly king. He lives to serve us. On the cross He wears a crown of thorns and carries the curse of sin upon Himself. He bears our sorrows and our griefs as He pays the price for our redemption. The horror and shame of our sin is, was, and will forever be met by the overflowing flood of His blood and vanquished like the Egyptian charioteers who succumbed to the foamy billows of the Red Sea.
We can toss away our fickle and feckless fig leaves and put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh. Dressed in royal robes of righteousness and quality garments of praise.
These two elements of humiliation – the cross and the crown of thorns – like Zu Zu’s petals, have been transformed into emblems of great joy and glory. His spit-and-blood-stained face, looked beyond the humiliation and saw us two thousand years ago. With great love, the determined Lion of the Tribe of Judah roared, “IT IS FINISHED!”, and rocked our present world; now, He gently wipes away our tears as He restores both you and me to Himself.
“Thank-you, thank-you, Lord!” With all my heart I thank You! Bless Him, praise Him, forever we love Him – the One who has loved us with all His heart, with all His soul, mind, and strength. He whose name is Jealous deserves to have us love Him in return with all our heart, with all our soul, mind, and strength; and we must learn to love one another even as He has loved us.
This King of kings wears the greatest crown of all…a crown of glory. A transformed crown that pierces our hearts with His Love. There is none like it. None more cherished. It seals His right to rule because His is Good, His mercies endure forever.
CONCLUSION: When we are found in Him we become new creations. Old things are passed away; all things become new. (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Cor. 6:9-11)