In Matthew 1:18-23 we read: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”
These verses tell us that Jesus came to accomplish the purposes of God and in so doing fulfilled prophecy which God had foretold many years earlier.
It is almost an oversimplification to say that Jesus came for just one purpose – yes He DID come in order to die – but wrapped up in that statement is much more. Today, I would like to focus on one aspect of the reason Jesus came – SUBSTITUTION.
In a sense, we will look at the PREQUEL to the Christmas story.
We read in Genesis 3:6-7 “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.”
They somehow knew that they needed a covering for their sin, but the covering THEY came up with was inadequate and required more…
Gen. 3:21 “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and [God] clothed them.” Implied is the death of the animals to provide the “skins” – for without the shedding of blood there can be NO remission of sin!
A little later in Genesis, we have the account of Abraham being required to sacrifice his son Isaac. But we read in Gen. 22, He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place ‘The LORD Will Provide’ (YHWH Yireh), as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided." (prophetic!)…. v.18 "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
Let’s fast forward about half of a millennium….
In LEVITICUS 16 we read about the Law of Atonement
“The LORD said to Moses…:”
Please read Leviticus 16: 5-10, 16, 20-22
“Then Aaron shall offer the bull for the sin offering which is for himself, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household”(v.6).
And in v.7-22, the goats are substitutes as well. “The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities…”(v.22)
And now, one more example: The Passover
God, who tells the end from the beginning, says in Exodus 4:22-23, before Moses ever gets to appear before Pharaoh: “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me. If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”
Please read Exodus 11: 4-7
“Thus says the LORD, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die…”. A cry would go out unlike any other…
And God would make a distinction – something He talks about throughout Scriptures (another topic for another day) – but please note that the distinction was NOT simply because they were Jews – the distinction was based on obedience to God ! !
We read in Exodus 12: 12-13 “For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Note that a Jew who did not obey would suffer loss! So, God judges the refusal of Pharaoh to submit AND judges the idolatry in the land – God IS a jealous God and we are to have NO other gods…. (“I AM THE LORD”)
Interestingly, EXODUS 13 immediately follows with the Consecration of the Firstborn
See Below - Exodus 13: 1-2, 11-12, 14-15
"Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”
“Now when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, you shall devote to the LORD the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the LORD."
"And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’"
Okay, so how was this to happen; what was every person to do in order to obey this command?
The answer is found in Numbers - Chapter 3
5 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi near and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him.
11 Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine. 13 For all the firstborn are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the LORD.”
38 Now those who were to camp before the tabernacle eastward, before the tent of meeting toward the sunrise, are Moses and Aaron and his sons, performing the duties of the sanctuary for the obligation of the sons of Israel; (substitution – Jesus is our high priest!)
Firstborn Redeemed )v. 40-51
"Then the LORD said to Moses, “Number every firstborn male of the sons of Israel from a month old and upward, and make a list of their names. You shall take the Levites for Me, I am the LORD, instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the sons of Israel.” So Moses numbered all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, just as the LORD had commanded him; and all the firstborn males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel and the cattle of the Levites. And the Levites shall be Mine; I am the LORD. For the ransom of the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites, you shall take five shekels apiece, per head; you shall take them in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), and give the money, the ransom of those who are in excess among them, to Aaron and to his sons.” So Moses took the ransom money from those who were in excess, beyond those ransomed by the Levites; from the firstborn of the sons of Israel he took the money in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, 1,365. Then Moses gave the ransom money to Aaron and to his sons, at the command of the LORD, just as the LORD had commanded Moses."
Several chapters later, in NUMBERS 8:14-18:
“Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine. Then after that the Levites may go in to serve the tent of meeting. But you shall cleanse them and present them as a wave offering; for they are wholly given to Me from among the sons of Israel. I have taken them for Myself instead of every first issue of the womb, the firstborn of all the sons of Israel. For every firstborn among the sons of Israel is Mine, among the men and among the animals; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself. But I have taken the Levites instead of every firstborn among the sons of Israel."
Paul, a good Jew (a “Jew of the Jews” and a “Pharisee of the Pharisees”) and a good Christian, would have understood this “substitution” that we are talking about, and also understood the LOVE that goes along with it (a la John 3:16-17-“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”) Paul says, in Romans 9:3-5 “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." Paul wished that he COULD (which he could not!) substitute for all of Israel that they might be saved!
Jesus said, in John 15:12-13 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” This is what Jesus was born to do.
According to Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (The purposes of God made plain…)
God has never changed His requirements! But, knowing that we could never meet His requirements, He chose to provide a SUBSTITUTE – and ONLY HIS Substitute is acceptable to Him ! ! We in fact can ONLY be accepted, IF we are “in the Beloved” (that is, in Christ!)(Ephesians 1:6). Jesus was in fact born in order that He might die – as my substitute and yours. And ONLY Jesus, because He is God, can become substitute for ALL men. Romans 5:19 “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”
John writes in 1 John 2:2 “He is the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world”
1 John 4:9 – “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins”
And the result is TRUE forgiveness ! –
Romans 8:1 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
That is the part of the Gospel message that we want to share with you today.
A great song to go along with this message is: His Robes For Mine