January 28, 2015

Substitutes, Wise Sayings, and God’s Promises

Mothers and fathers are known to want to do it. Sometimes a friend will offer to do it. I’m talking about people who are willing to take someone’s place to spare that person or keep them from harm or danger. It is a loving thing, not done thoughtlessly, yet sometimes offered spontaneously.

In the story of Joseph who is a type of Christ, another person also demonstrates the character of Jesus Christ. This time it is Judah, the older brother. He finds out that the person in charge of the grain in Egypt (Joseph, but none of the brothers know it at this time) wants to keep Benjamin, his little brother while they take the grain back to their home. Judah pleads with the man. Instead of leaving the boy and risk breaking the heart of their father, he offers himself as a substitute. “Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers.” (Genesis 44:33)

This points to Jesus who did that for us. The ‘enemy’ of death put its claim on us, and sin gave him had good reason, but the Lord offered to take our place. Jesus died for sinners so that we might return to our Father and live forever. Praise His amazing willingness to be our substitute.

The next reading reminded me of an artist who taught me a great deal about plein air painting, that is, painting outdoors where the light is constantly changing and sometimes the weather raises havoc with your work. The verse says, “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4)
My art teacher said, “If I let the weather keep me in, soon I will not go out at all.” He painted summer and winter, wind or rain, and when it was -40, he painted in his car until the paint became too stiff to use. His name was Paul Braid, and although he has died, his work is still available because he never let anything stop him from doing what he did best. 

The Lord put this same wisdom in His Word and I need to hear it over and over. When confronted with anything I don’t want to do, it is easy to find an excuse to keep me from doing it. My father called anyone with excuses a “can’t-man” and for him, that was the worst kind of worker. God often uses His Word, Paul’s reasoning, and my dad’s value system to keep me from giving in to procrastination.

The third reading today gave two promises from God. The first is one He made to Israel as they struggled to be the children of God and failed so many times. How precious are these words: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10–12)

Instead of struggling to remember and do the will of God, God Himself comes into the hearts of those who will believe in Him and welcome Him into their lives. He brings with Him new life, rebirth, a new creation. I am new because Jesus lives in me. When He is joyful, I feel His joy. When He grieves, I feel His sorrow. When He says ‘do this’ I know what He wants.

The second promise is that Jesus will return. The first time He came to die for my sin. The second time will be different: “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28)

Most of the times that I yearn for the second coming are times of pain and struggle, but there are days that I think of Jesus and just want to be with Him, to enjoy His smile, to feel His touch, and to celebrate the fact of no more sin, ever. Because He said He would come, I know it is true and eagerly look forward to that day.

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