Genesis 22:8 - God Provides the Lamb
Song of Solomon 2:11 - Spring!
Song of Solomon 8:7 - Love
Luke 4:19 - Jubilee!
Romans 3:23 - Sin vs. the Glory of God
Romans 4:8 - Blessed!
Romans 5:6 - Your Older Brother
God Provides the Lamb
“God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:8, ESV)
How difficult it must have been for Abraham to take that three day journey to Mount Moriah, knowing what God had requested of him. How painful it must have been to premeditate the action of sacrificing his beloved, promised son. So when Isaac asked where the lamb was for the offering, the question must have been like pouring salt into the wound. Or at least, that’s how I imagine it. Yet, Abraham’s words, recorded here for us, don’t give us any idea of the emotions Abraham was feeling. All they tell us is of Abraham’s faith that God would provide in his hour of great need.
Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:8, ESV)
The phrase “will provide” is Strongs #7200. It’s the same word as in Genesis 17:1 “appeared” and means “to see, to present, to provide, to perceive, to look on.” This makes the New Testament references even more interesting:
John 1:29 records John the Baptist pointing out Jesus and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.”
Peter records Jesus also as being the Lamb of God in 1 Peter 1:19.
John praises the Lamb as worthy to receive glory and honor in Revelation 5:12.
In John 1:36 when John the Baptist pointed out Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” one of those who heard him was Andrew. Andrew turned and followed Jesus, and then went to get his brother Simon Peter! Andrew definitely perceived the provided Lamb!
We have a great need too. We are on a death walk, much like Abraham was, unless God provides a lamb in exchange for our lives. God has already provided the Lamb. Only this time, it is not Abraham’s son; it is God who has sacrificed His beloved and only begotten Son that you and I might live. The parallel is unmistakable. You need that Lamb to live. And the good news is that God has already provided the Lamb, His Son. Now we can all walk on together.
for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. Song of Solomon 2:11
Sometimes the most simple pleasures give the greatest joys.
I remember as a kid walking out the front door of our home in Casper, WY. Mom said, “It smells like spring!” After a long, cold, snowy, windy winter, the smell of spring is indeed delightful - so delightful, in fact, that I have a mental video taped memory of not only walking out the door, but I can almost even smell the smell.
My children like to tease [read: hassle] me about Wyoming, but living in Wyoming gave me a deep appreciation for the turning of the season, the coming of spring, and a deep appreciation for rain. I can remember Mom quipping that we’d gotten a six-inch rain, the rain drops were six inches apart. It doesn’t rain much in Casper - snow, yes; rain, not so much. I think that’s why this verse in Song of Solomon impacted me as a child - that, and the way the King James Version continues: for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone; the voice of the turtle is heard in the land. To a six or seven year-old, the idea of a turtle’s voice is a curiosity to say the least. More modern translations say, “the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land,” and that makes more sense. In the winter, many of the birds leave (especially in Wyoming). This spring, in our family, we’re eagerly anticipating being able to hear the voice of some birds again soon - like hummingbirds. The winter is past; spring is here.
Other than the warmer temperatures and the return of the birds, what delights you about spring? I love seeing the new growth. The trees are budding, the crocuses are popping their heads up, and we’ve seen some daffodils already. I noticed the Forsythia is almost out. I love the spring flowers. Think of the mantle of white on the Bradford pear trees. I love the pink of the crabapple and the redbuds, the perfume of the honeysuckles, and the smell of the earth as it warms up. It’s a return to visible life by these trees and flowers who have been dormant all winter.
Driving down the road, you see other evidence that spring is here. New little lambs and calves dot the pastures. Foals and crias (baby alpacas) frisk by their mothers. Puppies, ducklings, baby birds, and kittens. It’s a time of new life - all over the place. What a delight to see the baby animals! Such a simple pleasure that gives such joy!
I think the return to visible life impacts us on a spiritual level too. After all, it is in the spring that Jesus Christ was crucified and died, and then was resurrected to life. We memorialize that event every year at Passover. We, as 1 Corinthians 11 says, proclaim His death until He comes. And yet, it’s not just Jesus’ death that we proclaim, because if the Father had not raised Jesus from the dead, there would be no resurrection for any of us. There’d be no hope of eternal life. None of us would be new creatures in Christ. We would all be dead in our sins.
Praise God! Jesus Christ did rise from the dead! Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are bought by His blood from slavery to sin and given new life as new creatures in Christ, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
So we eagerly look forward to spring. All through the winter, we mentally mark off the time - waiting for spring. Spring came yesterday, astronomically. Tomorrow is the New Year. Passover is two weeks away. God’s spring holy days, the Days of Unleavened Bread, are finally almost here. We’ve had a long, hard, cold winter since the last holy days (the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day); we can hardly wait for the celebration and worship of God with our whole church family during these days!
For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.
You know, perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps simple pleasures don’t give the greatest joy. Perhaps these are really, truly, the most profound and wonderful pleasures - and most of the world just doesn’t recognize them for the blessing, for the gift, they truly are! They just don’t know what they are missing. But these profound and wonderful pleasures give us the most profound and wonderful joy - joy unspeakable!
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised. Song of Solomon 8:7
How much water do you need to drink to quench your thirst? How many buckets of water do you need to put out a blazing fire? I’m always amazed at how much water is required to put out a fire. Every time we have a bonfire, we have the hose nearby - just in case. But even after the fire has died down, after the main bulk of the fuel has been consumed, it takes a lot of water to put out the remaining embers. And, even when you think it’s out, many times there’s still enough heat left to smolder and perhaps begin burning again later. I remember that happening a couple of different times over the years - burning a pile of leaves, weeds, branches, thinking it had been quenched, and then smelling smoke and, perhaps, even seeing some flame spring back up again hours later. It’s what makes a forest fire so difficult to extinguish.
This is the analogy, the image, that Solomon uses for love. There is a love that is so strong that lots of water, even a flood of water, cannot put it out.
That’s an amazing thing! That’s the kind of love that we all want. We want to have the kind of relationship with another person that the love we share is not easily extinguished. It’s the kind of love that endures through hard times and trials of live, through our mistakes and failings, through time and distance. 1 Corinthians 13 describes the kind of love we want!
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
It is the kind of love which would be willing to die for the other person.
Where do you get this kind of love? Solomon says, “If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.” You can’t buy it. It’s not Love Potion Number 9. You can’t trade anything you have for it. As the song says, “I don’t care too much for money. Money can’t buy me love.” This kind of love grows and blossoms over time as it is tended and nourished. But truly, if you have this kind of love towards another person, it really is a gift from God.
God, who is Love, is really the source of the kind of love which cannot be extinguished, the most desirable kind of love for which we’d be willing to give almost anything - even all the wealth of our house. Why? Because we’ve seen God’s love, we’ve experienced God’s love in our lives. His love, the love described in 1 Corinthians 13, is so great that He, Jesus Christ, was willing to give His life that we would be reconciled to the Father and that we would have eternal life. And the Father’s love for us is so great that He was willing to give His Son, His only begotten Son whom He loves, as a sacrifice for us while we were still sinners. And as Jesus was making that ultimate sacrifice for us, dying on the cross even though He was innocent of any sin, He was utterly despised by the religious establishment, the government, the carnal human beings gathered around to watch.
Solomon’s description of the kind of love that is possible between a man and a woman, in marriage, deeply foreshadows the kind of love that Jesus had, and has, for His Bride, the Church. Despite the reviling and persecution and scorn He suffered, Jesus’ love for each of us was strong and deep enough to endure torture and death. And that’s what we memorialize during the Passover service, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and the Wave Sheaf offering. We celebrate a love so strong that it could not be quenched nor drowned. It could not be bought with all the money in the known universe. But it was freely given to you and to me.
. . . to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:19
Happy New Year’s!!
Today is New Year’s Day. Most people think that New Year’s comes in January, but not according to God’s calendar. God created the year to start during the spring - when everything is getting green, new buds are popping out on the trees, and everything is new. What a beautiful time for the new year to begin!!
God also designed in His calendar a very special year: the year of Jubilee. Once every fifty years, on the year of jubilee, slaves were released, debts were forgiven, and everyone returned to the land that was their inheritance given to them by God. Think about that!! If you had made some really bad decisions and had gotten yourself into debt, those debts were wiped clean. If you’d made some really, really bad decisions and had to sell your family’s inheritance to pay those debts, the debts were wiped clean and you got the land back! If you’d really, really, really made some bad decisions, so bad that you had to sell yourself into slavery - to work for someone else to pay off a debt - in that fiftieth year, not only would your debt be forgiven, you were also set free! The Year of Jubilee was a time to proclaim liberty throughout the land! It was a wonderful year. It was a time for great celebration! Everyone was free from debt to other people!
God designed the Year of Jubilee, and the idea of freedom from debt, to demonstrate to His people that they were also in debt to Him. Once they sinned, they had a debt that could only be paid in blood.
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9:22
Once they sinned, they were sold as slaves to sin.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, geveryone who practices sin is a slave to sin. John 8:34
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. Romans 7:14
But Isaiah prophesied about a time when the Messiah would come, when things would be set right again:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
This is what Jesus found in the scroll on that Sabbath in the synagogue in Nazareth. He read this out loud to the people, and then sat down and began to teach them. We don’t know what all He said, but he started by saying, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:22)
In a powerful say, Jesus began His ministry by telling the people in His hometown that He was the Messiah, that good news would be proclaimed to the poor, that the blind would be healed, that the oppressed would be liberated. Think about Jesus’ ministry. He healed blind people. He set people free from demon possession and long-term illnesses. He proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of heaven. He also forgave people of their sins. He even brought back to life those that had died. Jesus lived His life on this earth, giving people a taste of what it means to be free from their sin debt.
And then, Jesus died on the cross so that the sin debt of all who would believe on Him might be canceled.
But what Jesus did, in dying for your sin and for my sin, was even greater than that! He restored to us the inheritance that we lost - the inheritance that Adam sold way back in the Garden of Eden when he sinned. Jesus gives us back our inheritace as children of God, with the assurance of eternal life in His kingdom.
What Jesus did is so huge, it’s hard to comprehend all the ramifications! So God, in His mercy, gives us pictures to help us understand. One of those pictures was the Year of Jubilee - called the year of the Lord’s favor. Remember: it was a year when all debts were forgiven, when the inheritance was given back, when slaves were set free.
But Christians don’t have to wait for that fiftieth year for their sin debts to be forgiven and to be given the promise of their inheritance. They know that Jesus is the Jubilee! He is the One who has set us free and the Holy Spirit inside us testifies that we are the children of God. We’ve been adopted into His family! When you respond to God’s call and confess that Jesus is Lord of your life, you get to experience Jesus as your Jubilee. You get to experience being set free from sin and death.
I can just imagine the joy people must have felt when the high priest would proclaim the Jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus is our Jubilee, and because of what He did, we get to experience the Lord’s favor.
It’s New Year’s today. You’ve got two weeks before Passover will be here, two weeks to think about the liberty that Jesus gave to each of us when He died. As we celebrate the Passover, we proclaim the Lord’s death ‘til He comes. But He proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor.
Sin vs. the Glory of God
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
There are three really interesting phrases in this verse:
The first is “fall short.” It literally can mean “to be left behind in the race and so fail to reach the goal, to fall short of the end; to be inferior; to fail; or to be wanting.” It’s the same word that we see in Hebrews 11:37, “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—“ It’s the word translated in this verse “destitute.” It means lacking everything or coming up short. It’s like running a race and being left behind by the rest of the runners, or running the race and not even being able to reach the finish line. The mental image this definition brings to mind is the warped wall in American Ninja Warrior. The contestant has to race up this curved wall fast enough to get enough momentum to vault himself up high enough to grab the top of the wall and pull himself up. Too many times the contestant falls just short of the goal - and he finds himself out of the competition.
The second is “have sinned.” It’s the Greek word #264 which means to miss the mark, thus not qualified to share in the prize. Again, this word, which is translated so often as trespass or sin, has a rich word picture of a competition in which the contestant falls short or misses the mark. But it has an additional meaning of inherent consequence: not being qualified to share in the prize. So imagine that you’re in an archery competition and your arrow is nowhere near the target. You don’t even qualify for a prize because you have missed the mark or goal!
The third phrase is “glory of God.” It’s the Greek word doxa #1391. The Blue Letter Bible lexicon defines the word “glory” (when speaking of God): “splendor, magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace, the kingly majesty which belongs to him as supreme ruler, majesty in the sense of the absolute perfection of the deity.”
Phillips, Craig, and Dean sing, “How great You are; how small I am! How awesome is Your mighty hand, and I am captured by the wonder of it all! And I will offer all my praise with all my heart for all my days. How great You are! How great You are!! How great You are!!”
Think of how great God is! He’s the Creator and Sustainer of everything. He’s our Savior and Redeemer. He’s our Provider, our Healer, our Defender, our Sovereign! God’s conversation wth Job starts with God asking, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth” (Job 38:4), and then God continues with more humanly unanswerable questions. One of my favorites is, “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?” (38:22-23). Our God is so absolutely, incredibly awesome! And us, His creation? In Ecclesiastes 5:2 Solomon wrote, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” David said it very graphically, “I am a worm . . .” (Psalm 22:6). Isaiah wrote, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). The contrast between who He is and who we are is enormous!
Indeed, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
But I have good news. God is changing us. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are being changed into the image of Jesus Christ. There will come a time, because of God’s work in us, that we will share in the glory of God. Paul writes about the work God is doing in each of us: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17).
I can’t help thinking about all these things as we prepare for Passover. The Passover is so very special to those who love God, who recognize just how great God is, because it reminds us of how God made the way for us to be reconciled to Him! Jesus, the dearly beloved Son of our Heavenly Father, was crucified that our sins, our missing the mark, would be forgiven and so that we would have a chance to share in His glory. That’s hard to completely wrap our minds around!
Passover’s just a little over two weeks away. It might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about this verse: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And then think about God loving us, you and me, anyway.
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. Romans 4:8
Do you know why there are traffic signs? It’s so that cars can get from one place to the other with as few accidents as possible. They remind drivers to slow down for curves. They let drivers know when it’s their turn at intersections. The traffic is supposed to flow - move from one place to another more easily and more quickly. But many people don’t like to obey the traffic signs. They drive too fast. They roll through stop signs. They pass in no-passing zones. They don’t yield to oncoming traffic. And sometimes they get away with it. But sometimes, there’s a penalty. Sometimes when you don’t yield to oncoming traffic, it causes an accident. Sometimes when you don’t yield, the driver who is supposed to be able to go first will shake his fist at the unyielding driver. And sometimes, a policeman just happens to be right there when you don’t obey the signs.
That happened to me one beautiful August day. I was on my way to school - one of my most favorite days of the school year: a teacher work day when I could spend all day in my room getting it ready for a new crop of students. I was excited, and in a hurry, because I wanted to get to school. I didn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign. I slowed down and kinda rolled through it. To my chagrin, there was a policeman also pulling up to that stop sign. He flashed his lights and pulled me over. It was, I think, something like a $80 fine. Kinda put a damper on my day.
God’s laws are kinda like traffic laws. They are there for our benefit, to keep us from getting hurt, to help us get along well with others, and to make life work well. But sometimes we don’t like to obey God’s laws. We cut corners and hope that no one is watching so that we can get away with breaking them. Only, unlike the policemen who can’t be everywhere at once, God knows exactly when we don’t obey His laws. And we aren’t getting away with breaking them. Breaking God’s laws is called sin, and there will come a day when God will judge the whole world because of their sin. The payment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). That’s much worse than an $80 fine, and it will put more than a damper on a day.
But there was another day when I was driving down the road and broke a traffic law. I was taking the kids to skating and was going 35 mph in a 20 mph zone. A policeman happened to be right there. He flashed his lights. I pulled over. My heart sank. But, he didn’t write out a ticket. He just gave me a warning. I deserved a ticket. I was speeding. But he, for whatever reason, decided to overlook my transgression. I didn’t have to pay the penalty for transgressing the law.
So when Romans 4:8 says, “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin,” how does that work? Is it like what happened with the policeman just giving me a warning? No. Unfortunately, what happened with the policeman just makes the whole thing more confusing because he really didn’t do his job. His job is to enforce the law. I broke the law; he should have given me a ticket. Don’t get me wrong: I’m very grateful that he was willing to just give me a verbal warning, even if he didn’t have the authority to extend that kind of mercy. Because he’s a police officer, the just thing would have been to give me a ticket. God is always righteous. He always does the right thing, the just thing. So when His laws are broken, there is a penalty that must be paid. But God is also loving. So God provided a way for those penalties to be paid - in the crucifixion of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus died for the sins that you and I commit. When we break God’s law, we can ask for forgiveness. If we have a relationship with God, if we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are forgiven for our sin. We don’t pay the penalty - but Jesus did.
The traffic laws of man are sometime very hard to honor. To come to a dead stop at a lonely 4-way in the middle of Iowa with nobody around seems like a waste of brake lining and gas. There are times when the laws of man just don’t fit the situation very well.
Even though God’s laws are also often difficult to keep, they always fit our situations when properly understood. Because we belong to God, we are expected to learn His ways and to imitate Jesus Christ, who never broke God’s laws. We are, through obedience, to be conformed into the image of Jesus. When you sin against God, and ask for forgiveness, there’s an understanding that you don’t intend to keep breaking the same law. You are grateful for God’s mercy, for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and you don’t want to continue living in a way that is not pleasing to God. Jesus didn’t die so that people could trample all over a law that is intended for their good, the laws that keep them safe and help their relationship with God and with other people. On the contrary, the gratitude and love that we feel towards God for paying for our sin should be a huge motivator to do what He says from here on out. We should want to please Him. He has shown such love towards us; how do we repay Him?
Passover is just around the corner. We’re going to be thinking and talking a lot about the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. But don’t just stop with what Jesus did. Consider what it means to you: blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.
Do you know how blessed you are? Are you ready to obey God’s laws?
Your Older Brother
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6
Have you ever wanted something just out of reach? Your arms were just too short. The goal was just out of reach. When you look around, there’s nothing to make you taller, except your older brother. Older brothers can be wonderful! My older brother rescued me more than once and if I’d needed help reaching something, he would have helped.
What if you don’t have an older brother? Maybe you could borrow someone else’s. Perhaps your friend has a nice older brother who might be willing to help you out. That would be wonderful . . . as long as he was available when you needed help.
But what if you weren’t particularly nice to your friend’s older brother? What if, every time you saw him, you hit him? Do you think he’d still help you?
Think of this analogy when reading Romans 5:6: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Jesus Christ is the only One who can help us reach the goal. What goal? The goal of eternal life in the kingdom of God. That goal is totally out of our reach. We all have sinned. We cannot, in any way, earn our salvation. We can’t get where we want to go. We are completely unable. But Jesus can, through His shed blood, His death, and resurrection, help us reach that goal.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6
Our gracious Heavenly Father planned for Jesus to die and to be raised from the dead. It was our Father’s plan. It wasn’t an accident. It didn’t happen whenever. God planned for Jesus Christ to die, at the right time. Do you know what we call that time? Passover. Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. He died exactly at the right time, on the day that God’s people had been observing Passover for hundreds of years. They remembered the Passover event in Exodus when the Death Angel passed over the houses where the blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels. In a very similar way, Jesus’s death, the death of the Lamb of God, paid the price for our sins so that we wouldn't have to die.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6
Remember our story of the friend’s older brother helping you reach the goal? Remember wondering if he’d help you even if you were not nice to him? That’s the truly amazing part of what Jesus Christ did. He died on the cross, for you and for me, while we were still sinners. We hadn’t repented of disobeying God. We hadn’t been sorry for doing what we want instead of what God wants. God’s ways didn’t matter to us. But Jesus died for us anyway. Romans 5:6 says He died for the ungodly. The ungodly are those people who fight against God, who disobey Him, who don’t listen to His commandments. Jesus died for them, for us, anyway.
Oh, and that older brother part? Because we call God our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ is our Older Brother. He is the One, the only One, who can lift us up to reach the goal. He is the One who died at the right time, on Passover. He is the One who died even though we were not nice to Him.
Passover is coming up this week. I hope you spend some time thinking about your Older Brother.