We come now to the last of our considerations under the above theme. And it is fitting that in doing so we consider the death and resurrection of our Lord. In our previous three articles we have looked at amazing victories or obstacles overcome, which from a human standpoint were “against all odds”.

Unquestionably, by far the greatest victory ever achieved in the history of mankind was the total defeat of Sin by the death (and subsequent resurrection, of course) of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Although we know that despite the opposition from men, God’s purpose and providence would ultimately prevail, yet try and enter into the intense feeling of this time and appreciate that, from a human standpoint, the rout of sin by the Lord was a victory “against all odds”.

Everything was against the Son of God – but, amazingly, King Sin was defeated on his own territory! It was not through any strength of his own, however, but by total reliance on his God and Father.

Psalm 22 taken from the NET version sets the scene: “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the Lord,’ they say, ‘let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him’” (v7–8). “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment” (v11–18).

That’s how the Lord felt. What were his chances of survival – what were the odds?

Deliverance from the horrible pit

The Messianic Psalm 40 graphically captures the agony of our Lord. There, in verse 2, the writer describes his bitter experience in the horrible pit, trapped in the miry slippery clay with no apparent avenue of escape.

What was this pit? Well, in the ultimate sense it typified the grave from which the Lord ultimately came, but in the immediate context, surely it represented despair. In Strong’s the word “horrible” is defined as “uproar” and, by implication, “destruction” and “tumult”. The Amplified Version translates this as a “pit of tumult and destruction”. The AV margin has “a pit of noise”. In the context, the pit described by the Psalmist was surely the noisy clamouring of the people opposed to the Son of God – people who were shouting for his death! The word “rushing” in this verse is the same as translated “horrible” in Psalm 40:2. So we can see how the horrible, tumultuous ridicule from the crowd, with their rage and blasphemy, not only at his trial but also whilst he hung on the cross, was almost too much for the Son of God to bear.

Matthew describes in graphic reality what our Lord had to bear from the mocking crowd bent on his destruction: “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth” (27:39–44).

The challenge of loneliness

Here was the greatest test – hanging there on the cross, with all its shame, without an apparent human friend, hearing the blasphemous taunts and ridicule from the unbelieving crowd. Never before had he ever felt so alone – even feeling separated from his God.

Psalm 22 captures the intimate closeness Jesus enjoyed with his Father: “But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly” (v9–10).

Brother Cyril Tennant, in his exposition of Psalm 22, beautifully describes this oneness between the Father and Son: “One of most wonderful things in Jesus’ life must have been the fullness of fellowship which he experienced with his Father. It was unsullied by any act of disobedience; there was no barrier whatsoever caused by sin: it was his continual source of comfort and of strength” (Studies in the Psalms, pages 103–104).

In his last moments on the cross, however, Jesus felt the full weight of the crushing burden God had placed upon him. For a brief period as he hung on the cross to face the cruelty of men, Jesus experienced what it was like bearing our nature and the sins of the world by being made “sin for us”.

And hanging there with the dreadful burden laid upon him, the cry came from his lips: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (Psa 22:1).

In this time of great extremity, God could not help him – could not intervene. The Lord knew it and the desolation he felt for the first time in his life was shattering.

It was necessary, even if for a brief time, that the Lord felt the extremity of being caught like the ram in Genesis 22 – in the thicket of humanity, ravaged by sin. Like the ram, there was no escape for the Lord – he also was seized upon by the Jewish rulers and certain death was to follow.

Brothers and sisters, in this dreadful scene, is it just possible that we can capture the feelings of both Father and Son?

“Is sin so dark …”

We have the Father looking down and witnessing this awful scene, but it was necessary in order to remove the effects of sin. As much as it grieved the Father, He knew it was not possible to withhold His Son from death but that he must be offered up like the ram of Genesis 22 that we might live. The power of sin had to be destroyed and God had to send His Son and allow him to be crucified.

And on the other hand we see the Son, with eyes of agony, looking up to his Father, his God, crying out about the desolation of it all: “My God, my God – is sin so terrible that it has come to this – I have never, never been separated from you before, Father – why hast thou forsaken me, left me to bear this ordeal alone?”

The first two verses of our hymn 221 are so apt here:

“Was it for me thy flesh was wounded sore, Thy body lifted high upon the cross of shame? Was it for me the King of Glory bore So meek the scourge, and ruthless men defame? Was there no way for any man’s to live But thou must die, no joy but through thy grief? Is sin so dark that God cannot forgive Save through thy sacrifice, and our belief?”

Can we picture the Father saying to His Son – “I am sorry, son, but that’s how it must be and you know this.” So Father and Son like Abraham and Isaac went both together and faced the ordeal. Abraham named the place where Isaac was to be offered “Yahweh Yireh” – “Yahweh will provide,” and we can be so thankful that Yahweh did provide for you and me what no one else could provide – an acceptable offering for sin – even though it involved the terrible suffering of His beloved Son.

Facing Gethsemane

There was no escape from that battle – and this is what Jesus keenly felt and hence uttered, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” (John 12:27).

“Then they went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John with him, and became very troubled and distressed. He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay alert.’ Going a little farther, he threw himself to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour would pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (Mark 14:32–36 NET).

The Lord was in great anguish – but no one was able to save him from death. And yet humanly speaking, even though against all odds, deliverance was just around the corner – just like as it was for David, Hezekiah and the Jewish people, as we have considered in previous articles.

If trust in Yahweh was maintained then He would not fail to help. “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded” (Psa 22:4–5).

Despite his agony the Lord never wavered in his trust: “But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns (v19–21). The following words picture our victorious Lord in the Kingdom praising his Father for hearing his cries: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him” (v22–25).

Universal worship is the final outcome: “A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this” (v30–31).

For the joy set before him Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is (now) set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). So, brothers and sisters, what does all this mean to us? What do we learn from the theme: “against all odds”?

Tell others about God’s goodness

Well, we also may be facing great problems in life – everything seems hopeless – with no apparent solution. Like the Psalmist, we may feel as though we are caught in a horrible pit. But always remember that just like days of old, God can pull us out of that pit, even in our darkest hour.

So if we are in a deep pit of depression, despair, anxiety, sorrow, lack of faith, or whatever issue is confronting us in life, let us have trust in our God – He will never let us down – He can pull us out of the most difficult of situations – even if they appear “against all odds”.

And to those who are on the verge of leaving the Faith, don’t despair – God can lift us out of our horrible pit in our darkest hour. When that happens we will have cause to exclaim like the Psalmist, “I relied completely on the Lord, and he turned toward me and heard my cry for help. He lifted me out of the watery pit, out of the slimy mud. He placed my feet on a rock and gave me secure footing. He gave me reason to sing a new song, praising our God. May many see what God has done, so that they might swear allegiance to him and trust in the Lord!” (40:1–3 NET).

“Gave me a secure footing” – what a joy it is, brothers and sisters, to have this security in the midst of the shifting sands of society and life all around us.

And having been blessed – we will see life in a new perspective as seen in these four attributes of God in verse 5: “O LORD, my God, you have (1) accomplished many things; you have (2) done amazing things and (3) carried out your purposes for us. (4) No one can thwart you! I want to declare them and talk about them, but they are too numerous to recount!” (NET).

So we will then have cause to tell others about God’s care, deliverance and mercy: “I have told the great assembly about your justice. Look! I spare no words! O LORD, you know this is true. I have not failed to tell about your justice; I spoke about your reliability and deliverance; I have not neglected to tell the great assembly about your loyal love and faithfulness” (v9–10 NET).

Here are wonderful qualities of God. Let us endeavour to be more open and talk about our experiences. Talk about God’s mercy, love, reliability and deliverance in our life. We can be of great help to others in their life and in turn give them greater hope for the future. Let us recognise the great value of us speaking to others about God’s goodness. Through our experiences we can encourage others to believe that, whatever our difficulties, God will “do it.” “I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it (whatever the “it” may be for all of us) and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints” (Psa 52:9).

With renewed vigour we will feel like Hezekiah when delivered, as seen in Isaiah: “Lord, use this hard time to make my spirit live again. Help my spirit become strong and healthy… People who are alive, people like me, are the ones who will praise you. Fathers should tell their children about how faithful you are. So I say, ‘The LORD saved me. So we will sing and play songs in the Lord’s Temple all our lives’” (38:16, 19–20 ERV).

Let us make sure we are playing our part for the up and coming generation in the Truth. Cause them to see how wonderful the Truth is and how powerful and reliable our merciful God is. Let us instil confidence in the next generation so they can go forward in faith.

Against all human odds, God’s purpose will prevail and through His mercy we shall share in the glories of the age to come.

Let us be like Abraham, “Who against hope (all human odds) believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom 4:18–21).