Our Substitute

Read: Genesis 22:1-14

“The Lord will provide.”

As we well know, we are sinners. And as the Bible tells us, the wages of sin is death. Our sin earns us death. It causes our separation from God. It has made us dirty, unclean, unrighteous. And because of that unrighteousness, there is nothing we can do to fix it. The only possible solution is a substitute. We need a substitute.

There have been many images of Jesus drawn from this passage, but the one I want to focus on is the ram. The substitute. Instead of Isaac’s life being offered, God faithfully and graciously provided a substitute. The ram took Isaac’s place on the altar.

While this story is not a perfect analogy of Jesus taking our sins on the cross, it does point us toward this beautiful truth: Jesus took our place. The Lord provided for himself the lamb – who would take away the sin of the world.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see that God had given animals as a substitute for the sacrifices for His people’s sin. The sins of the people would be symbolically laid on the animal, which would then be sacrificed – enduring the consequence of sin (death) on behalf of the people. But that’s exactly what it was – a symbol. As Hebrews tells us, the blood of these animals couldn’t actually take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). They were never meant to be the final plan. They were never meant to be the final substitutes. No, they were meant to point toward the greater Substitute, Jesus Christ. Christ, who became sin that we might become His righteousness. Christ, who endured death that we might have life. Christ, the perfect sacrifice. The perfect substitute.

Jesus took YOUR place on that cross. Just let that truth sink in.

What amazes me is that God didn’t have to provide. Nobody forced Him. He definitely didn’t owe it to us. But because of His great love and grace, He did. He had provided a substitute for Isaac. And He provided His only Son for us. Rejoice with me in that today. No matter what you may lack, the Lord has provided what you truly need – a Savior. A Substitute.


The Sovereign Lord

Read: Psalm 2 

Do you ever get tired of this world? Tired of the evil, the oppression, the rage?  

This psalmist lived in the same world as you and me. Many things may have changed, but there has always been evil and oppression, nations fighting each other, leaders taking advantage of their people. But this psalmist sees something we can often forget about. He sees God’s Anointed as the One who will reign over all things. 

This is a Messianic psalm. It pointed toward Jesus centuries before He came, showing us what God’s plan was all along. 

His plan was – His plan is – to set King Jesus over all the earth. To make Him the King of kings and Lord of lords that we see in Revelation (Rev 19:16).  

The Apostle John, the writer of Revelation, also lived in this broken and evil world. He wrote the book while he was imprisoned on an island, sent there because of persecution under an evil leader. He knew the worsts of the evil of this world, and yet he was also given the same perspective of the psalmist – he was given visions of the glorified Jesus, on His throne. Visions of the raging nations and oppressive rulers and all the evil and brokenness of this world being defeated forevermore. He saw visions of the day when it would be proclaimed that “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev 11:15) 

That day, God will fulfill His promise to His Son – “I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” (Psalm 2:8)  

The rulers and nations and people of this world may plot and do evil, but they cannot take away the possession of the Lord. The King of kings will reign forever – and the way of the wicked will perish.  

The promise at the end of this psalm is a promise for us, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” The wicked will one day be destroyed. But because of God’s grace, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, those who take refuge in Him will get to reign forever with the Son. We will get so very tired of this world, but when we look to Jesus – when we trust that God will do what He said He will do – we will have the strength to patiently endure, until the day we don’t have to endure anymore.  

Have you taken refuge in Jesus, resting in His grace and His promises? Are your eyes on Him as you endure?  

How does knowing that evil will one day be destroyed and Jesus will reign change your perspective in the here and now? 

God is Our Refuge

Read: Psalm 11, 1 Samuel 23:14 

Imagine being David, fleeing and hiding from King Saul – who is seeking your life purely because of his jealousy. If you look up a map of David’s journey, you will see that he went all over the place trying to elude Saul. Trying to find refuge.

A refuge is a place of shelter or protection from danger. And everywhere David went, from the city to the wilderness, that is what he was trying to find. Shelter. Protection. Safety from danger.  

But as he was physically trying to find places of refuge, his soul knew a crucial truth. No stronghold, no hiding place, no weapon, no person was sure to keep him safe. No, his true refuge was the Lord. David’s true protection and safety only came from Him.  

David knew that “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man” (Psalm 11:4). First, he knew that God was the one truly on the throne, not Saul. Secondly, He knew that God was “a God of seeing” (Genesis 16:13). God saw David, and God saw Saul. He knew the situation. And third, David knew that because God was righteous, “the upright shall behold his face.” In the end, the wicked would be defeated, and the righteous would see God. 

Knowing that, David could live in the face of this enemy. And because our God does not change, we too can confidently take refuge in Him. He is still on the throne, He is still the God who sees us, and He is still righteous and just. 

The strongholds of this world will fail us. It is God who keeps us safe.

Is there anything that you are “fleeing” from, that you need to take refuge in God from? 

What “strongholds” of this world have you put your trust in, that you need to hand over to God? 


The Promises of God

Read: Jeremiah 29:10-14

Have you ever felt homesick? What about abandoned? Alone? Forgotten? Jeremiah was writing a letter to people who were probably feeling all of those things.

This passage is part of a letter to Jewish exiles, taken in captivity from their homes to Babylon. They weren’t taken there for no reason – the Babylonian exile and siege in Jerusalem were God’s judgment on Israel for their grievous idolatry and sin. But throughout this book that details God’s wrath and judgment, we see glimmers of His great mercy, love, and hope.

Through this letter, God gives His captive people promises that they can hope in and hold on to through this time of exile.

First, He promises them deliverance. The consequences of their sin would last for a time, but in His mercy – they would not last forever.

Then, He promised them that His plans for them were good. This didn’t mean that they were exempt from sufferings. It meant that their sufferings had a purpose and an eventual end. Then the best promise of all – a future and a hope. Yes, this future and hope pointed to the time of deliverance from the Babylonians, but it ultimately pointed to when we would be delivered from our sins. This promised future and hope was Jesus Christ himself.

God then promised them that if they sought Him with all their heart, He would be found by them. He was reminding them that even in this foreign place, where I’m sure they felt abandoned and forgotten, He was with them. He was close. He would be found by them, if only they would seek wholeheartedly.

And lastly, He promised them restoration. The exile would one day be over, and they would be restored to the Promised Land.

We too are in a kind of exile. We too are in a foreign land, waiting and wishing to go home. And we too can hold on to these promises given to exiles. We can know that God promises to work everything for our good – not necessarily keeping us from suffering, but working through our suffering (Romans 8:28). We have a future and a hope in the resurrected Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-7). We have God with us always through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). And we have the promise of deliverance from this world and complete restoration in heaven (Revelation 21:1-5).

As we live in this in-between, may we hold on to these promises and patiently endure. Because this exile won’t last forever – the day is coming when we will be delivered and all will be restored. The day is coming when our future and our hope is not something we look forward to, but something we live in. Hallelujah.

Which of these promises do you need to hold on to the most in this time of waiting?


God so Loved the World

Read: John 3:16-18

Sometimes we need to return to the basics. Sometimes we need to look at John 3:16, even when we could say it in our sleep. Sometimes we need to be reminded of God’s love, even when we hear and read and talk and sing about it all the time.

God’s love is described over and over in His Word as steadfast, faithful, and enduring forever. The proof of this is right here in this verse – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…” God’s love endured from the beginning of time – even after the Fall, even when His people doubted Him, when they forsook Him and worshipped idols. Over and over and over again His steadfast love endured through the wickedness and sin and rejection of Man until all that wickedness and sin was laid upon His Son, nailed to a cross.

I think we can often get confused by the love of this world. It is a weak, surface-level, selfish love. It really isn’t love at all. God doesn’t offer us that kind of love, He offers us a true love – a love so much deeper and full and satisfying and lasting. A love that gives us life. A love that changes everything.

It changes our future. Because of His love, God sent His Son to save us and to give us everlasting life. The Bible makes clear that we were in darkness, headed to the grave. And without God’s love intervening – without His love staying steadfast and faithful – that’s exactly where we would be. But instead, we now have life. We have a future. We have the hope of living in the presence of this love forever.

But it also changes our now. It changes the way we live here, today. 2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 John 4:11, Matthew 22:37-39 – These verses all make clear that the love of God should permeate through us, and should control and cover everything we do. Because God has loved us, we love others. Because God has loved us, we turn away from darkness and sin.

Because God has loved us, we are forever changed. We are forever alive. We are made His children. We are made His heirs. We are made free. And we are called to let that love pour out of us, into the world.

In what ways has God’s love changed you and your life?

In what ways does your love for others need to become more like His love?


Will You Give it Your All?

Read: Matthew 28:16-20

I just finished reading “Through Gates of Splendor,” a book about five missionaries who gave their lives fulfilling this commission. One thing that struck me the most was this quote from Jim Elliot, one of the missionaries: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Will most of us give up our lives, like these men, in order to go spread the Gospel? No, probably not. But fulfilling the Great Commission, making disciples, spreading the Gospel – it does come at a cost to everyone. Our money. Our time. Our energy. Our comfort. But in reality, is any of this actually ours? Isn’t it really God’s money and time and resources that He’s graciously given us to steward?

I bring up the story of these missionaries not to point out how they went to another country to preach to savage tribes. I’m telling it to point out their hearts – hearts that were changed by God, and therefore wanted to see other’s changed by God. Hearts that were firstly motivated by their love for God, and secondly by their love for people. May our hearts be motivated by the same.

And are we prepared to share this Good News not only in planned evangelism, but in the opportunities God gives us in our everyday lives? Yes, God works greatly through missionary work – but most of our Gospel conversations will happen around dinner tables. At work. During our everyday lives, through relationships. Are we working to build those relationships? Are we “…prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”? (1 Peter 3:15).

To be honest, these verses can be scary. Sharing the Gospel can be scary. It costs us our comfort; it costs some people their very lives. But the last sentence of the Great Commission gives me so much peace, and I think Jesus said it for that purpose. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He goes with us. The King of kings, the Prince of peace, the Good News himself – He never leaves us alone. By His power and grace may we go, and as we go, may we tell of Him.

Do you feel prepared to tell someone the Gospel?

If not, what is a step you can take to prepare yourself?

One great way to make disciples is to share your personal testimony. I encourage you to take some time this week to think over your testimony and how to share it with others.

Remember – He is with you always!

The Greatest Commandments

Read: Matthew 22:34-40

613 laws. Which one was the greatest? It wasn’t just one, it was the heart behind all of them. Love God and love people.

“On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” These two commandments really do sum up all of the laws. All of God’s commands. All of what God wanted, and wants, from His people.

First, He wants us. He commands us to love Him with all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds. All of our LIVES. Loving Him is laying down our lives at His feet – because He laid down His life for us. Loving Him is taking up our cross and following Him – because He took up a cross for us. The cross is the proof of how much He really does want us. How much He really does love us. And we love because He first loved us.

Yes, we love HIM because He first loved us, but that also means we love others too. Jesus didn’t just die for us. He proved His love for the whole world on the cross. And if we are to follow in His footsteps, we are to love the world too. Not just the world as a whole, but the world as individuals. The co-worker with a bad attitude, the hard-to-love family member, even the person that cuts us off in traffic. I think that there are times when we could all use a reminder that these are people created in God’s image that He loves. And therefore, it’s people He’s called us to love too.

But remember, we can’t love God and our neighbor on our own. We can try, but it won’t be long until we put ourselves and our feelings first. That’s why Jesus promised us the Helper, the Holy Spirit. When we rely on His strength, not our own, He will guide us and grow us in loving God and loving others well.

Have you been relying on your own strength or the Holy Spirit to love God and others?

What are specific ways that you can show love to God and people this week?