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Posted: November 11, 2010 5:06 p.m.

Grace Notes: You’ve Been Marked

War leaves a mark. Yesterday, on Veterans Day, we honored those who have that mark from physical war. But even more serious is the ultimate battle we are all in, a spiritual battle against sin. And on this Sunday in the Church Year (Last Judgment Sunday) we talk about its end.

Our text comes from Ezekiel 9, where God is showing his prophet the destruction of Jerusalem and pointing forward to the Judgment on the last day. God is serious about judging sin, ending this battle, and in our text we see how he handles that pictured with different kinds of marks. You see, you’ve been marked.

In the text, God takes a look at his people, and he sees the marks of their sins. Here are some of his words: "The sin…is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see.’

That’s how God saw his people. Now think about this: If Jesus came back today, what would he think when he looks at us? Don’t those same words come to mind?

When you’re brooding in anger at someone you think has wronged you, "violence fills the land," right?

When you’re showing kindness to some because they are nice to you but don’t have the time of day for another who thinks differently than you, "the city is full of injustice."

Or how about what the people were saying: "The Lord has forsaken the land." Every single doubt that crosses your mind about God’s handling of the problems in your life is screaming that.

What does God see when he looks on this land, on us? He sees the marks. He sees the sins. He sees exactly the same things that made him pull his presence out of that temple in Jerusalem and let those enemies destroy it. He sees the marks.

But those aren’t the only marks this text talks about. Just as God is sending in his agents of wrath to destroy… we see another character. If you read Ezekiel 9 in your Bible, you saw those warriors. But then there was that other guy, the one dressed in linen, wearing the clothes of a priest, and instead of a battle ax, there was a writing kit (a jar of ink) he was carrying.

And then the instructions: Mark my people. Look at how God phrases it, in Ezekiel 9:4 "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it."

Those are the ones who would be spared, whether they’d physically survive that day or not, the ones with a mark could not and would not be touched. But notice it doesn’t exclude those who had the marks we had been talking about God seeing, the sin, the rebellion, the bloodshed. It’s all in their reaction to that junk, "those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things."

Yes, Last Judgment is a scary sounding day, but it is a day of more than destruction, it is the day of our preservation, of our salvation. And we’ve been marked for that by repentance, a realization of our sin, and what our marks should mean.

Now here is the miracle. Marked by our sin and marked by repentance, instead of letting us wallow in that, look at what God does. He sends the man with the writing kit out and marks his own as protected. He doesn’t mete out on us the punishment our marks have coming. Even recognizing and lamenting our marks of sin doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be punished, it just means that we agree that we deserve it.

Instead, God marks us for salvation. He took those marks of our sin and marked his own Son for destruction. And he carried it out — inflicting all the pain and torture and death that our sins marked us for on Jesus — and then, in the place of those marks, he marks us for salvation.

In such simple ways: With the splash of water made powerful by his word in baptism, and with his promises.

Isaiah 43 records one of them: "This is what the Lord says: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."

The last judgment is not scary because he has marked us as his own.

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