Free to Forgive

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, February 11, 2019

Numbers 14:19 – 23  In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” 20The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.  21Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth,  22not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.

Many times we confuse forgiveness with the removal of consequences. That’s the lesson we learn from today’s Bible story.

When Moses asked God to forgive the people of Israel for their rebellion, he was asking God to restore His relationship with them. Moses understood fully the consequences of sin and did not ask God to remove those consequences. Moses did not ask God to deny His nature of justice. What Moses did ask was for God to “lift them up” above the consequences into the incomparable fulfillment of relationship with Himself.

The story is told in Spain of a father and his teenage son who had a relationship that had become strained. So the son ran away from home and fell into a life of sin. His father, however, began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally, in Madrid, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.” The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office 800 “Pacos” showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers.

Each of us is a Paco. We have rebelled against God. We are afraid of the consequences of our sin, so we try to hide our sin. But when the Father extends His arms of love in an act of forgiveness, we run to Him. Even though the consequences of our sin may remain, the restoration of relationship with the Father completely overshadows any of the pain of our sin.

When God forgave the Israelites, He told them they would still pay for what they did. But the fact that they were not separated from God was intended to make their consequences bearable. If our focus is on relationship with Christ, then the sufferings of this world will seem insignificant, even when caused by our own sin.

Imagine the joy you could bring to another person’s life if you offered them the same love. They are suffering in their sin. They need to be forgiven. They need to know that someone will love them even while they are suffering the consequences of their sin.

I remember the day many years ago that I had a young man in my office who confessed to me that he had been stealing from local stores. He even stole a larger item from outside a business and dragged it behind his car to his back yard. He wanted to know what to do. I told him that he must immediately go and confess in person to the people from whom he had stolen and return the merchandise. He was scared. He knew that meant being arrested and charged with theft. He knew it meant paying restitution and possible jail time.

As we talked, I led him to understand that the pain of the guilt he would carry by not confessing would be much more severe than the pain of the court system. He also began to understand that his greatest need was to know that he and Jesus were in right relationship, and if that were true than nothing could separate him from the love of God. He agreed that he wanted the love of the Father more than the stuff, and more than his image and reputation. He confessed and faced stiff fines and jail time, but he learned that the love of God is far more satisfying than what the world can offer.

As a part of our conversation, I promised him that I would go through this with him, and that nothing he had done could stop me from loving him and serving him. That was a key turning point. Even though he had not sinned against me personally, I was still tempted to separate myself from him until he got his act together. The Holy Spirit showed me that what he needed was someone to walk with him while he got his act together.

Maybe that’s what God is showing you also. Have you separated yourself from someone because of their sin, when God may be calling you to forgive them and walk with them through the restoration process? That takes time and energy, and it’s hard work – but isn’t that what Christian community is all about? While we tend to think that the person who has committed the sin is the one in prison, maybe we are really the ones in prison because of our unforgiving spirit.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.

Pastor John

Forgiven to Forgive

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, February 8, 2019

Exodus 34:1 – 7 1The LORD said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.  2Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain.  3No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.” 4So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands.  5Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD.  6And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,  7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.

I am in awe of the nature of God expressed in this passage of Scripture. The nation of Israel has rebelled against God. While Moses was receiving the law of God on the mountain, the people were making a golden calf to replace God as their focus of worship.

Moses, in his anger at discovering their sin, smashed the tablets of stone that had been personally engraved by the finger of God. His anger had caused him to disrespect and dishonor what God had given him. God punished the people who had sinned, and then He invited Moses back onto the mountain to replace the engraved stones.

When Moses received the first tablets they had been carved by God himself. This time Moses had to carve the tablets. With each strike of the hammer on the chisel Moses must have felt the guilt of knowing that he had allowed his anger to destroy something God had given him. He would have to carry those tablets to God with the shame of knowing that they were not God’s original design. No matter how closely he tried to duplicate the originals, they would still be man-made and not God-made. Imagine the fear and shame Moses must have been feeling as he approached the Presence of God on the mountain.

When Moses arrived, the LORD came down in the cloud and stood with Him. Then he passed in front of Moses and spoke. He did not destroy Moses’ spirit with words of condemnation and shame. He did not speak in anger. God did not strike Moses down. Instead, He declared His nature. It is a declaration of hope for us all.

He said, “I Am the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.

What incredible words of hope for all of us who have sinned. Spend a moment and review each statement and bask in the wonder of God’s forgiveness.

God is compassionate

God is gracious

God is slow to anger

God is abounding in love

God is abounding in faithfulness

God has sufficient love for everyone

God forgives wickedness, rebellion, and sin

The nature of God in this story challenges me. How do I respond when someone has hurt me with wickedness, rebellion, or sin? Maybe this illustration will help us apply God’s nature to our own choices.

A small boy at a summer camp received a large package of cookies in the mail from his mother. He ate a few, then placed the remainder under his bed. The next day, after lunch, he went to his tent to get a cookie. The box was gone.

That afternoon a camp counselor, who had been told of the theft, saw another boy sitting behind a tree eating the stolen cookies. He said to himself, “That young man must be taught not to steal.”

He returned to the group and sought out the boy whose cookies had been stolen. He said, “Billy, I know who stole your cookies. Will you help me teach him a lesson?” The puzzled boy replied, “Well, yes—but aren’t you going to punish him?”

The counselor explained, “No, that would only make him resent and hate you. No, I want you to call your mother and ask her to send you another box of cookies.”

The boy did as the counselor asked and a few days later received another box of cookies in the mail.

The counselor said, “Now, the boy who stole your cookies is down by the lake. Go down there and share your cookies with him.”

The boy protested, “But he’s the thief.”

“I know. But try it—see what happens.”

Half an hour later the camp counselor saw the two come up the hill, arm and arm. The boy who had stolen the cookies was earnestly trying to get the other to accept his jackknife in payment for the stolen cookies, and the victim was just as earnestly refusing the gift from his new friend, saying that a few old cookies weren’t that important anyway.

The Apostle Paul said it this way in Ephesians 4 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

As you have been forgiven by God, go and forgive others.

Pastor John

 

We Are Covered

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Exodus 32:30  The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

God called Moses to lead the people of Israel out of their bondage and slavery in Egypt. Deliverance from slavery was a beautiful picture of the deliverance from sin that God provides. It was time for God to use Moses to introduce that deliverance to the people. God called Moses up onto a mountain for a personal consultation about the law. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, along with all the social and spiritual regulations for everyday life. Included in those laws was the gift of God’s grace for the forgiveness of sins through the atoning sacrifices that would be offered in the tabernacle.

The word atonement is formally introduced to the people of Israel. Atonement means to cover over.  It is the word God chose to describe what happens to our sin when we confess it and repent. Our sins are covered over by the blood of the sacrifice for sin so that God’s justice is satisfied. Until this time in history, the Hebrew word for atonement had been used only twice. Both uses of the word give us a beautiful picture of what we are to understand about forgiveness through an atoning sacrifice for sin.

The first time the word is used is in Genesis 6, when Noah is building the ark. In the description of the building process we are told that Noah covered the inside and the outside of the ark with pitch. This made the ark waterproof and allowed the boat to float without fear of springing a leak and sinking. When the judgment of rain came to destroy the sinners, the people inside the ship were saved because the ship had been covered.

The only other time the word is used prior Moses was also in Genesis, when Jacob was about to meet his brother Esau for the first time since stealing the firstborn’s inheritance from him. Jacob sent three groups of servants ahead of himself with livestock as gifts for Esau. He told the servants, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.”  The word pacify that Jacob used is the word to cover over. Jacob hoped his gifts would make atonement for his sin against his brother and they would bring peace between them.

Whit those events in mind, God introduces atonement to Moses. The sacrifices they would offer on the altar of God would cover their lives against judgment for sin and bring peace between them and God. But Moses also grasped a far deeper meaning when he came down off the mountain. While Moses was on the mountain receiving the law of God, the people of Israel were rebelling against God and making idols. When Moses came down from the mountain he saw the golden calf that had been crafted, and he was furious. He knew that God’s judgment against sin would be swift and severe. God’s judgment for sin is death, and eternal separation from His glory. The names of sinners are blotted out forever from His book of life. But Moses also knew that God was willing to forgive based on a sacrifice that would pay the penalty for the sin.

Moses now does something incredible – he offers himself to God as the sacrifice. Exodus 32:31-34 explains that Moses asked to be the substitutionary sacrifice for the people of Israel. Before any of the sacrifices of animals took place on the altar, Moses knew that the blood of those animals was insufficient to pay for the sins of mankind. He knew that a person would have to die for the sins of people. He volunteered to be that person.

God rejected his offer because Moses was also guilty of sin and deserved the punishment of eternal separation from God. When God says to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book” he is telling Moses that he is not qualified to be that sacrifice.

But Moses had not been a part of this sin. Why was he guilty? Was it because he had sinned previously in his life? Yes, but the real reason is that Moses was born with a sin nature that is eternally separated from God. So are we. Unless a sufficient sacrifice is offered for that sin, we cannot be forgiven. Moses tried to be that sacrifice for his people, but he was not qualified.

But in His great and eternal love for us God sent a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins – Jesus Christ. He was born of a virgin so He had no sin nature from an earthly father. He lived a sinless life so he did not deserve to be punished with death. He gave Himself voluntarily so that our sins could be covered by His blood and we could be at peace with God. In the New Testament the Apostle John says it this way – This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  (1 John 4:10).

Hallelujah! Our sins are covered and we are forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

Now, as a result, be like Moses and put your life on the line to bring forgiveness to others.

Pastor John

Fake Repentance

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Exodus 23:20 – 21 (NIV) “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.

University of Maine officials fired a 20-year employee of the university in February of 2006 after she admitted she had allowed off-campus hockey players to eat breakfast for free, which is a violation of NCAA rules. Head coach Shawn Walsh required the players to eat breakfast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the season. When they would come through the line at the cafeteria, the players told her that they didn’t have any money and that they didn’t have any meal tickets. She felt sorry for them and she let them pass and eat free. The daughter of the fired woman said, “They knew she was a softy and if they came in saying they were hungry and they didn’t have any money she’d let them through.”

I’m afraid that many people today think God is a softy too. To pursue their own goals and accomplish their own agendas, they have redefined God so they can justify their choices and behavior. They believe that the compassionate and loving heart of God will overshadow any sense of justice He might have. No matter what they have done, they believe that a moment spent on their knees in an act (and it is an act) of humility will earn the forgiveness of God, knowing all the while that in their hearts they have no intention of changing their ways. They truly believe they can fake God out with their false remorse and that God will respond with forgiveness.

When the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land, God gave Moses His law. The law was designed to accomplish two things. First, it would reveal the holy nature of God, and second, it would reveal the unholy nature of man. The law brought to light our sinfulness. Then God promised that He would send an Angel ahead of them to bring them to the place that had been prepared for them. God warns the people to be careful not to rebel against the Angel. He also warned them that if they did rebel, they’d better not try and weasel their way out of it. The Angel would offer them no forgiveness for rebellion that persisted. The reason is this – the Name of God was in the Angel.

When the Bible speaks of the Name of God, it means more than just a series of letters in the alphabet that spell out a word. In the Bible, a name represented the character and reputation of the person. It embodied the fullness of that person’s nature.

My grandfather’s name was Jacob, and he hated it. He always went by his initials when he signed anything, and everyone who didn’t call him pastor called him “van”. He refused to use the name Jacob because the name means “deceiver” and he did not want anyone to think that was his nature.

With the Name of God in the Angel, the Angel would respond to every situation in the exact same way that God Himself would. The Angel was the exact representation of the nature and character of God. There would be no compromising the holy nature of God based on man’s attempts to negotiate a settlement. There would be no forgiveness for rebellion based on an insincere attempt at appeasing the nature of God with acts of remorse. Black and white justice would be the rule, because it is the perfect nature of God and it is the perfect expression of His love. True love cannot allow someone to believe they are forgiven when they are not. True love brings a person to true repentance.

There are two important lessons for us in this:

  1. Don’t try to fake out God with insincere repentance. You cannot earn the favor or forgiveness of God with acts of remorse that don’t come from a true heart of humility before the holiness of God.
  2. Don’t let other people try to fake you out. Each of us who knows Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord has the Name of God in us. We are to be the representation of God’s nature and character to the people of the world. That means loving them with the love of God. But love does not overlook sin. Love does not condone sin for the sake of peace or acceptance. Love does not compromise holiness with compassion. Love does not let people pass through the line because they have a good story to tell. Love seeks to bring people to true repentance so they can be truly forgiven.

We are to forgive others as God forgave us in Christ Jesus. We are to offer forgiveness freely, but not cheaply. Our forgiveness was only granted when we asked for it with a broken and humbled heart of repentance. It is only in that moment of brokenness that the true love of God can be experienced.

We show the true love of God to others when we join the Holy Spirit in His ministry to bring them to the same point of repentance.

Pastor John

Repentance Required

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Exodus 10:16 – 17 Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you.  17Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord your God only to remove this death from me.”

Four hundred years have passed since yesterday. No, you were not a victim of cryogenics. I’m referring to the time line between the life of Joseph and the coming of Moses to deliver the nation of Israel from slavery to the Egyptians. The current Pharaoh, or ruler of Egypt, is a cruel dictator who abuses the Jewish people for his own purposes. God has heard the cries of the people and has appointed Moses and Aaron to bring His message of deliverance to Pharaoh.

Everything about Pharaoh is self-centered and self-serving. His heart has become hardened to any form of compassion for people. When presented with the opportunity to let the people of Israel leave his land, he refuses. He even challenges the power of God with his own demonic miracles.

Moses began a series of plagues that would eventually force Pharaoh to submit to God’s authority. God turned the Nile River into blood. Pharaoh simply went into his house and ignored the problem. The plagues continued. God sent frogs and gnats and flies, but Pharaoh refused to listen to God. God sent more plagues. All the livestock of the Egyptians died. God covered all the Egyptians with boils. When Pharaoh refused to comply with God’s command to release His people, God made an important statement to Pharaoh. He said, “You are still exalting yourself.”

Here we discover the root of the problem that keeps us from experiencing true forgiveness from God – we exalt self over God. Remember that because it will be important in a moment.

When Pharaoh again rejects God’s direction, God sends a plague of hail that destroys anything and everything that was outside. Pharaoh finally admits he has sinned. But Moses is given insight into the true condition of his heart and says to Pharaoh, “I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God.” Pharaoh’s admission of sin was still short of God’s forgiveness because it was only an admission of wanting relief from the consequences. He had not yet seen God for who He was. He had not come into agreement with God about his nature of sin.

Pharaoh models what far too many of us live each day – false repentance based solely on the hope of relief from pain and suffering. The proof is in the fact that as soon as the hail stopped, Pharaoh sinned again and turned his back on God. His intentions were clear. He would say whatever was necessary to accomplish his own desired outcomes.

So God sends yet another plague – locusts that covered the face of the land. That’s when Pharaoh again admits sin, but this time in what appears to be a more personal and sincere way. But he is not sincere. Pharaoh admits he has sinned, but he is asking for forgiveness for that sin only, and for God to remove from him the consequences of that plague only. His statement of confession and repentance is nothing more than an act of self-preservation. It will not be honored by God with forgiveness.

Pharaoh was not forgiven because he refused to repent of his sin nature. He may have admitted individual sins, but he only did so to avoid consequences or to be relieved from the pain and suffering that resulted from his choices. He never admitted to God that his very nature and character was sinful and needed to be forgiven and transformed. He wanted mercy for his actions, but permission to keep on being who he was. He was still exalting himself. God does not forgive anyone on those terms.

What about you? Do you believe you are a Christian because you have asked God to forgive your sins so that you can avoid the fire of hell? Or did you repent of who you are as a sinful person? If you have never come face to face with the holiness of God and seen your own deserved doom, then you are not saved. If you have never confessed your sin nature, not just individual sins, then you are not saved. If you have never come into agreement with God about the true condition of your heart, which is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), then you are not saved. If you have never surrendered all of self and crucified it on the cross of Christ so that you consider anything from your flesh as worthless and dead, then you are not saved. If you have only come to God so that you can learn to behave like a Christian and hopefully somehow earn the favor of God, then you are not saved.

HOWEVER, God will forgive those who agree with Him about their sinful condition and repent of it, turning from self to the Savior.  

The Scripture is clear. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and there is no other way. But grace cannot save if we hold on to anything from our own lives that we consider to have worth before God. Grace is the undeserved gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is not grace if we believe in any way that we deserve it. We are saved when we see ourselves exactly the way God sees us – guilty because of our sin nature and deserving of eternal death.

When we reach that point of humility, God will forgive us, save us, and exalt us to the glorious position of His child.

Salvation comes to the humble, and being truly humble means leaving everything of worth from your life on the altar of repentance, and receiving only the worth of God into your life.

Have you done that?

Pastor John

Wrong Ships Docked in Port

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, February 4, 2019

Genesis 50:15, 19-21 15When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” …  19But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  21So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

One of the big stories in the news for the past month has been the safe return of a teenage girl who had been kidnapped. Her parents were killed by the alleged abductor, and she was held captive by him for three months.

It reminds me of another story from twelve years ago of a missing teen who had been found after being gone for four years. He had been abducted from his community by a man who lived within an hour of the boy’s home. This man lived without suspicion with this boy as his own for the entire time.

In both of these cases, and many more like them, the issue of guilt and punishment is important. But for healing to take place in the hearts and minds of those families and victims, the real issue that must be addressed is this – how do we forgive the one who committed the crime?

It is important for us to forgive people who have wronged us. But how do we forgive when the crime against us has been so brutal?  We must not be deceived into thinking that we will feel better if we stay angry. No matter how severe the sin that was committed, the long-term effects of unforgiveness are worse. Bitterness and resentment are the thorns that will grow in the soil of an unforgiving heart, and they quickly choke out any harvest of the fruit of the Spirit that you could experience.

Joseph had to make such a choice. Put yourself into his story for a moment. Imagine that several family members had conspired to kill you because of jealousy. Instead of killing you, they decided to ship you off to a foreign land as a slave. They then informed your parents that you were dead.

It’s time for your first choice: rebel against your new master and attempt to rectify the situation or surrender to your plight and do your best to succeed for your master.  Joseph chose the latter because he trusted God with the outcome of his life. Could you?

Joseph kept choosing to trust God with the outcome of his life, even though the difficulties continued. He was thrown in prison after being falsely accused of adultery. He was lied to by two prison friends who promised to help him get released but they didn’t. Then, when he was finally in a position of leadership and had the power and authority to bring justice to those who had hurt him, he forgave them and gave them the best that he had. He could have had them all killed or assigned them as slaves, but instead he chose to trust God. In one of the greatest statements of faith in the entire Bible Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”

What would your choice have been? I suspect that for many of us we would have docked the ship of resentment in the harbor of our heart waiting for the day we could sail it on the sea of revenge. Maybe you have one or more ships like that already tied up.

I heard an interesting statement the other day on a radio program that involved finances. It was this – “Don’t sit and wait for your ship to come in if you haven’t sent any out.” That principle applies here. Don’t wait for the ship of God’s blessing to come into your heart until you have sent out the ships of bitterness and resentment. God’s blessings do not sail on the waters of unforgiveness. Where there is resentment there will be no hope. Where there is bitterness there will be no joy.  Where there is unforgiveness there will be no peace.

Think carefully and prayerfully right now. Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to call today and reassure them and speak kindly to them as Joseph did to his brothers? No matter what they did to you, the pain you are enduring because you have not forgiven them is greater than the pain of the sin that was committed. Untie those ships and send them out to the sea of forgiveness where they will be sunk by the grace of God and buried forever. That will open the port of your heart for God to pour out a blessing on you – the blessing of restored relationships.

Pastor John

Jehovah-Jireh

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, February 1, 2019

Genesis 22:13-14

13Abraham lifted up his eyes and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  14So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

The story of Abraham and Isaac is a marvelous picture of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for our sins so that we could be forgiven. The story is filled with incredible truths and we could spend days on their applications, but for today let me show you just one.

Twice in this story our key word nasa (the Hebrew word for forgiveness) is used, and both times it is translated as lifted. If Abraham had lived his life according to the flesh and the rules of society, he would never have agreed to take his son, his one and only son from his wife Sarah, and make a trip to a mountain to kill him as a sacrifice to God. Isaac was the son God had promised him, and now that he had him, and had an inheritance to pass on to him, he would never in his human reason consider such a thing. But Abraham’s eyes were not on the world and what he had, but they were on God and what God would do.

When I go on a trip, I can’t wait to see the finish line. The closer I get to the destination the more excited I become. But I remember a time in my life when that was not true. Twice within 14 months the final destination of a trip was the home of a parent who had just died or was about to die. I did not look forward to that destination. In fact, the closer I got the more I wanted to hang my head and cry.

But look at Abraham. Three days into the journey he looks up and sees the destination. He knew where the place was. He didn’t have to look up to know where he was. He could have hung his head the closer he got, but he didn’t. He lifted up his eyes and saw the place where the sacrifice would take place, and he hurried on.

I think it’s significant that he lifted up his eyes on the third day. Why? Because I believe Abraham had a clear vision of faith that saw the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sin that would take place on a hill called Calvary. He lifted up his eyes and saw what God was going to do for all of us. By faith he told Isaac that God himself would provide a lamb. Some translators conclude that the verse should read God would provide himself as a lamb.

Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw Jesus as the Lamb of God. Then, at the moment he was prepared to sacrifice his son as a statement of his absolute faith and trust in God, even when it made no human sense, God intervened and told him to stop. Without any other words, Abraham again lifted up his eyes and saw the ram that the Lord had provided for the sacrifice. Then Abraham gave the mountain a new name – Jehovah-Jireh, meaning the Lord sees and will provide.

Listen, my friend, the Lord sees your need. The Lord has lifted up his eyes towards you. The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. (Psalms 11:4)  The Lord sees that your greatest need is the forgiveness of your sin. The Lord sees that you are not able to forgive yourself. The Lord sees that you need a Savior who can rescue you from your sin and its consequences. And when the Lord sees, the Lord acts. He has provided a Lamb as a sacrifice for your sin. All that is necessary is for you to lift up your eyes towards the place of sacrifice and see the Lamb God has provided for your sin. Stop hanging your head in shame. Don’t be afraid of the final destination. On the mountain of the Lord there is forgiveness. Take all that is precious to you in this life and put it on the altar of sacrifice. Be willing to give up everything of earthly significance, and God will rescue you from your sin.

For those of you who have already done that, consider this: What have you taken back off the altar? In what areas of your life are you not lifting up your eyes to the Lord and trusting Him to be your provider? If our eyes are fixed on the world and the provision of the world, we will get only what the world can provide. When our eyes are lifted up and fixed on the mountain of sacrifice – the cross of Calvary – we will experience the provisions of heaven, the riches of glory available through Jesus Christ.

The greatest of those riches is the knowledge of complete and unconditional acceptance by God, which is only possible through the forgiveness of our sin. Forgiveness is only possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. So, lift up your eyes. Or, as the Psalmist puts it:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life;

the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

 Pastor John