In the Old Testament (Covenant), God punished the sin of a man in the son of that man. This concept is very difficult for many to grasp, but any student of the Bible knows it is true. When God revealed Himself to the Hebrews, His covenant people in ancient days, He said, "I visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children" (Exodus 34:6-7). God is not always the way you think He is, but He is always the way He says He is. He punishes the sin of a man in the son of that man.
When Noah became drunk and fell naked on his bed, Ham came into Noah's tent and did something sinful to Noah. Genesis 9:24-25 says that when "Noah awoke and saw what Ham had done," he said, "Cursed be Canaan" (Ham's son). Of course, when the Israelites came into "the land of Canaan," the fulfillment of that curse was seen by the Canaanites utter destruction, commanded by the Lord (Deuteronomy 20:17).
It's easy to gloss over King David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba. We read that King David orchestrated the murder of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, and we groan at David's attempts to cover his sin, but we identify with him because we do the same thing. However, very few of us seriously contemplate that God punished David for his sin by striking his infant son with death.
We are not Hebrew. It is difficult to understand living under the covenant God had with the Hebrew people. The Old Testament is a record of God's dealings with the Hebrews, but we often spend too little time reading the Old Testament Scriptures. The Hebrews understood that God punished the sin of a man in the son of that man.
That's why the disciples of Jesus, all of them Hebrew, were walking through Jerusalem and came upon a man born blind from birth and asked a question of Jesus that puzzles us who live in a different culture. The disciples asked Jesus, "Teacher, who sinned? This man or his parents?" (John 9:2). That question doesn't make sense unless you understand that God revealed Himself to the Hebrew people as the God who punishes the sin of a man in the son of that man.
Likewise, in the Old Covenant culture (e.g. that is from Genesis to Malachi, or from Adam to Jesus, or better yet from "the first Adam to the last Adam"), a deed of courage and honor was credited to the father. When something stellar is done by someone today, we will say "Who is he?" But in the Old Covenant days of the Hebrews, people would ask, "Whose son is he?"
This is true of young David when He killed Goliath, an act that caused the entire nation of Israel to celebrate. After David killed the giant, King Saul, who knew David well, asked the shepherd boy, "Whose son are you, young man" (I Samuel 17:58). King Saul was saying, "Your father deserves the praise and glory for your heroic actions."
In the same manner, Jesus commended Peter for the confession Peter gave of the Christ by saying, "Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah" (Matthew 16:17). Jesus, raised among the Hebrews in Hebraic culture, once told His disciples "I do what I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13).
Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Messiah, conceived by the Holy Spirit of a virgin, sent by the Father to glorify Him through the noble, courageous act of delivering sinners from their just punishment. "You shall call His name Yehoshua," said the angel, "For He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). "For God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, will not perish but have immortal life" (John 3:16).
We quickly grasp that Jesus is Emmanuel - God with us. But why is the name "Son of Man" used 84 times in the New Testament?
Answer: Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. That means everything in the Old Testament (and I mean everything) finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "These very Scriptures (the Old Testament) testify of me" (John 5:39).
Jesus came to fulfill the Law of the Hebrews (the Old Testament) and to make that Law "obsolete" (Hebrews 8:13) in order to establish a New Covenant with the nations.
Jesus is the Son of Man because the God who sent Him, the very God who punishes the iniquity of the fathers on the children, has sent His Son as the Son of Man to take punishment for the sin of man on a rugged cross on a hill called Moriah.
Some wrongly dismiss the Old Testament as an errant description of who God is. Others ridicule the ancient Hebrews for not fully understanding God for who He really is.
Count me in as one who believes the Hebrews were chosen by God as the people through whom He would reveal Himself to the world in the form of shadows.
On a sunny day, if you see a shadow coming around the corner of a building, you know that a person is soon to follow. When you read the Old Testament, you see shadows in the Law, the Prophets, the sacrifices, the rituals, the Temple worship, and all the rest of God's dealings with His people. Don't fall in love with the shadow and seek to imitate its form. The Substance has come, and to know Him is far better than to worship the shadows and kiss the pictures (the Law). The Person whom the shadows represent has arrived. The Son of God and the Son of Man has come.
Jesus came to establish a new agreement between God and sinners. God doesn't change, but He sends His Son to fulfill all righteousness. The Son of Man has come (literally, your son), so that the righteous punishment from God due your sins can be placed on your Son, fulfilling the Law. The honorable, noble and courageous act of the One "who knew no sin but became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21) redounds to the glory of the Father - for the Father, in love for sinners, has sent His Son as our Son (e.g. "the Son of Man), to pay the price for our sin. There is no greater love than this. The Father, the Son and the Spirit in covenant together redeems sinners.
Now, for those of us who "embrace the Son of Man," the good news is powerful. It's the answer to our sin, and it is the solution for peace with God and a life full of good promises from God. "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are all "Yes" in Christ. And so through Him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God' (II Corinthians 1:20).
Two Closing Illustrations
Recently I ministered to a young mother who fell asleep while nursing her baby. When she awoke, her newborn infant son lying dead on the floor. The guilt and excruciating agony in this mom was overwhelming. I'll never forget the question she cried out to me, "Is God punishing me for my sin by taking my son?"
Most evangelicals would quickly say, "Oh no! God would never do anything like that to you." Yet, if you study the Scriptures, that is exactly what God does. He punishes the sin of man in the son of man.
At least, that's what God did in the OLD COVENANT.
But He sure doesn't do it now in the NEW COVENANT.
I was able to confidently assure this woman who lost her child that the love of God abides on her, and never would she experience punishment from God in this life because her trust is in the Son of Man (which it was). I was able to show her "The Good News' in Jesus Christ, and help her understand that any punishment due her sins was poured out on God's Son who came as the Son of Man in order to bear the sin of man. I showed her Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
After focusing on the gospel, this woman in time began to understand the love of God in a deeper and fuller manner, even though she went through the terrible agony of losing a child. She came to realize that events in this life are not punishments from God, for the punishment from God due her sins has already been meted out on the cross. God forsook the Son He loved that He might never forsake those who love the Son.
After our Easter services at Emmanuel (2017), a beautiful young teenage girl spoke with me in the lobby. The details of her life are stunning. She lost her parents and most of her siblings in a tragic tornado as they drowned while taking shelter in a drainage ditch. All of them were swept away by a ravaging flood. This beautiful young girl survived, but her family was killed. Doubts about God's love and goodness for her had flooded her heart since that tragic day.
When she heard the gospel on Easter it set her free.
"God will never punish me for my sins because the Son of Man has come to bear my punishment on the cross. I am free from the fear of God, but more importantly, I am now captivated by the love of God because He sent His Son - the Son of God - to represent me as my son - the Son of Man - that the Law of sin and death might be fulfilled in Him. All the promises of God are now freely mine through the Son, and I have no reason to fear any punishment from God, but desire to grow in my understanding of His daily love, mercy and grace for me. I want to know Christ and Him crucified!"
That indeed is Good News.