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The popular “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” website shared an interesting fact recently. From 1915 onward, the German army had to use stinging nettles to make uniforms due to a shortage of cotton during WWI. Several other articles attested this fact.

During the Great War Great Britain and the USA controlled the cotton industry. Consequently, cotton was one of many imports withheld from Germany. Therefore, the German Empire used a substitute that grew in abundance throughout Europe. They harvested the European stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) to spin its fibers into yarns and weave them into a linen-like fabric. In 1915 alone, Germany harvested 15,000 tons of stinging nettles for this purpose and this amount doubled in subsequent years. The uniforms which soldiers wore into battle typically had a combination of 85% nettle fiber and 15% cotton.

Now, as you’ve probably already suspected, there’s a bit of a problem with using stinging nettles for clothing. The stem and leaves of these nettle plants are covered with stinging hairs. When rubbed against, these hairs act like hypodermic needles, puncturing the skin and injected stinging chemicals (such as histamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine, among others). The barbs at the end of these stinging hairs give off a burning sensation that can be quite painful.

So, in order to use this plant’s tough fibers for clothing (or its leaves for food) the plants must first be soaked in steaming hot water. This softens the stinging hairs and removes the toxins.

Using stinging nettles for clothing is nothing new. Archeologists have discovered clothing dating from 3,000 years ago that was made from nettles. Its texture is similar to linen made from flax.

This process illustrates a truth in the Scripture. The Bible teaches that those who put their faith in Christ become clothed with God’s righteousness. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). All those who put their faith in Jesus Christ have their sins washed away (1 John 1:7; Acts 15:8-9) and forgiven (1 John 1:9). But Christ does something more. He makes us the very righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 1:21). In fact, in all the New Testament passages which speak of God “justifying” us by faith (e.g. Romans 3:20, 24, 28; 4:2; 5:1. 9; 8:30; Galatians 2:16, 17; 3:11, 24; 5:4), the Greek verb is dikaio’o is used which means “to declare or to make righteous.”  In fact, the Greek words for “righteousness” (dikaiosune) and “righteous” (dikaios) are both derived from the Greek dikaio’o.

Think about that for a minute. God makes us righteous to the very extent and standard of His own spotless and pure righteousness. We cannot become any more righteous than that. No one can. Nor can we add anything to God’s righteousness. Good works will not make us any more righteous than what Christ has already made us. Fasting will not make us more worthy to receive anything from God above what He’s already made us in Christ. Ascetic living cannot possibly make us any more acceptable to God than what God’s righteousness has already made us in Jesus. And God has done this freely as a gift when we believed in Jesus (Romans 3:24-26).

Therefore, we never need to live with a sense of guilt or in fear that we live under God’s frown. God has clothed us with Christ (Galatians 3:27) and when He looks at us He sees the righteousness and perfection of His Son.

But there was a terrible cost to Jesus in all of this. You see, before we could be made the righteousness of God in Christ, Jesus had to first “become sin” on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, before we could be clothed in linen made from stinging nettles, Jesus had to swallow their painful barbs and poison. God had to punish and pout out His wrath upon Jesus for our sins, before we could be clothed with God’s righteousness. By doing so, Jesus satisfied God’s holy justice and quenched God’s wrath against our sins. This is why Jesus is called the “propitiation” or “satisfaction” (Greek: hilasterion/ hilasmos) for our sin (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:7; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

This reality should always come to mind whenever we partake of Holy Communion. The cup we share, according to Paul, is a partaking of Christ’s blood which was poured out for the forgiveness of sins (1 Corinthians 10:16; Matthew 26:28). Therefore, the cup He gives to us is of forgiveness, Christ’s righteousness, and eternal life.

Yet, remember that Jesus partook of a very different cup. When He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, He said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done” (Matthew 26:39).

To what cup did He refer? There’s no mystery here. Clearly Jesus was referring to the cup of God’s wrath and indignation against humanity’s sins. Check out all the verses which speak of “the cup in the Lord’s hand” (Job 21:20; Psalm 11:6; 25: 15, 17; 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 49:12; Lamentations 4:12; Ezekiel 23:21; Revelation 14:10-11). What Jesus Christ drank, down to its dregs, was the cup of eternal fire and brimstone. He endured wrath and damnation for us, so that God might pour out His love upon us (Romans 5:5; 1 John 3:1), clothe us in His righteousness, and make us His true children.

Don’t be afraid of God’s righteousness. It’s free of all barbs and stings. Jesus has removed and swallowed them all so that we may be clothed in God’s righteousness. And now the Holy Spirit of God can rest comfortably in our hearts to be our constant companion, teacher, and everlasting resource.


PRAYER:  Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for all that You have done for me. Thank you for bearing my sins upon the cross, then suffering the full fury of God’s fiery wrath, then rising from death triumphantly, and then ascending into heaven where You intercede for me continually. And thank You, Lord Jesus, that You are coming back soon to consummate the work of salvation You began in me and take me to heaven to be with You forever. By Your grace and power, help me to trust in You completely and to ever rejoice in Your salvation. Amen.


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