I'll be happy to provide text references but to do so in the body might be off putting (more off putting than the undertaking itself), so here's the story. God created the heavens and the earth. He created man, the bible says, he created them, male and female, in his own immortal image and likeness on the 6th day. So that man would never forget who their Creator is and for man's benefit, he rested from his work of creation and sanctified the seventh day. God placed Adam in the garden of Eden with one proviso, don't eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because on that day God said he would surely die, he would become mortal. God then made Eve from Adam's rib. Eve was seduced by that serpent, the evil one and she ate the forbidden fruit and then gave it to Adam to eat and their eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked and worked to cover themselves.
God asked what happened and Adam blamed Eve. God placed a curse on Adam that now only through his work would he be able to sustain himself. Eve's child bearing was cursed to be painful and God placed enmity between her seed and the serpent. The serpent was cursed to eat the dust and crawl on his stomach and God said that Eve's seed would crush the serpent's head and the snake would only bruise her seed's (offspring's) heel. This was the introduction of sin into the world and God's foretelling of the eventual remedy, his plan of redemption.
Much happened after that but I'll skip to Abram and God's call to him to be the father of many nations. Abram was like the rest of us, a flawed, sinful man, until he responded to God's call with belief and trust. It was his belief that caused God to credit him with righteousness (rightness, right standing, effectively to be seen as sinless) even though he failed to respond appropriately many times after God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees. The bible says that when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect. I would have said, say what? Brother was 99 years old, pre viagra and God told him that he would have more children and changed his name to Abraham. Sarai his wife's name was changed to Sarah and she bore Issac which means laughter because she was pretty old too and when she overheard God promise Abraham that she would have a child, she laughed. Who said God doesn't have a sense of humor?
God later asked Abraham to sacrifice Issac and offer him as a burnt offering. Abraham intended to comply. He took Issac and wood for the sacrifice and headed up Mt. Moriah. Issac, who had likely done this with his father many times said to Abraham, father, I see the wood for the fire, I even see the knife but where is the lamb? Abraham replied, God will provide himself, a sacrifice. Before Abraham could kill Issac, God, Jehova Jireh (God The Provider) stopped him and Abraham saw a ram, caught in a thicket, which was used for the sacrifice. The sacrificial system came into place because something has to die when sin occurs and God killed animals to cover Adam's body and his sin. But God only required human sacrifice only once (for all time, past, present and future) and it wasn't going to be someone else's son.
God's promise with Abraham was kept with Jacob, the deceiver, who tricked his father Issac and stole his brother's birthright to inherit Abraham's, God promised, blessing. God changed Jacob's name to Israel and he had 12 sons but only 2 from his favorite wife, Rachel; Joseph and Benjamin. Through Joseph, God saved Israel's entire dysfunctional family and eventually, Egypt. In the process, Israel, the Hebrews, moved into Egypt and after a time, there was a Pharaoh in Egypt, "who knew not Joseph." He decided that the Hebrews had grown too numerous. So, he enslaved them and killed their first born. Through the intervention of God, one escaped death and was ironically raised in the palaces of Pharaoh as a prince of Egypt. His name was Moses because his surrogate mother drew him from the water. I won't go into the story of Moses in Egypt except that the last plague on Egypt was the visitation by the angel of death. The Hebrews slit a lamb's throat and covered the doorframe of their residence with the blood of the lamb. We'll move on to Sinai where Moses received God's law because, as a friend of mine says about other things, ninja's got to be told!
There in the desert, God gave them the law and had them create a sanctuary for him so that his presence would always be with them in a cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. The sanctuary reinforced remembrance of the past and foretold what was to come. It consisted of a courtyard and two chambers. The courtyard is where the people would place their hand on the head of the bull or the lamb to transfer guilt from themselves to the animal and the animal's throat was slit and then burned on the alter. The priest would take some of the blood to the first chamber of the sanctuary called the Holy place, where he would sprinkle the blood on behalf of the sinners, every day. Once a year, the sanctuary would be cleansed on the Jewish day of Atonement (at one ment) and (among other things like sending the scapegoat into the wilderness to symbolically carry the people's sins away from them) the high priest would enter the Most Holy Place that contained one piece of furniture, the arc of the Covenant, where he would offer a blood sacrifice. In the arc, were Aaron's rod which represents judgement, the 10 commandments law and a golden bowl of manna which represented God's providence - Jehova Jireh. On the lid of the arc was the mercy seat which sat between our sins and God's justice.
Over the centuries, Israel kept failing to keep God's law of love (which is a reflection of his character) and God punished them. God would show them over and over that it was impossible to keep his law by working at it. Yet, he was merciful and Israel's response, too often to the requirements of the law, was to ignore it altogether through the worship of other gods or to become harsh. The prophet Habakkuk told them that without faith, not their self-righteous acts, it is impossible to please God and with a few notable exceptions, they continued to stray. God would punish them and relent, punish them and relent again. Through the prophet Jeremiah, he foretold a time when no longer would a man say to his neighbor, follow the law or love the Lord because it will be in their hearts and minds.
The prophet Isaiah foretold of one who hath nor form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes, we are healed. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
The prophet Daniel foretold of a holy one who would establish a kingdom of grace and then a kingdom of glory. Wise men continued to study the scriptures and looked for the coming king of grace and glory. When Herod, King of Judea, appointed by Rome, heard of the coming king, the messiah, like Pharaoh before him, he had all the children, 2 years and younger, slaughtered. And like before, only one escaped into Egypt. God had decided to fulfill what he promised through his prophet Isaiah to send Immanuel, God with us! There was no need for Ancestry.com. Matthew, the apostle, gave us the rundown of his lineage. In it was the prostitute Rahab, who helped Joshua win the battle of Jericho and Ruth, a former priestess of Moab who, before turning to God, officiated over human sacrifices to their god of stone and then there was David, the King of Israel that committed adultery and had his lover's husband executed. To get a hint of how important faith is to God (and how gracious and merciful he is to those who have faith), see what he says about the adulterer and murderer David, long after he was dead and gone in 1 Kings 14: 7-8. An inauspicious start for a would be king who himself was born in a cave used to keep animals.
This lowly man brought a message from God saying, for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. The bible says, his name shall be called Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Jesus liked the theme Jehovah, his father, used with Moses, "I am, that I am." Jesus said of himself, when you're hungry, I am the bread of life; when you're thirsty, I am the living water; If you fear death, Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; If you don't know what to do or how to get it done, Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh to the father but by me; If you find yourself in darkness, Jesus said, I am the light of the world.
Back to this sin business. What's the big deal? Most of us can't even recite the 10 commandments but we know that we're wrong (even when we may be technically right) because this knowledge is programmed into the human DNA. It's the feeling that won't let you sleep when you've done something wrong or that causes you to lash out at someone else when you've messed up. It's over generosity in attempted compensation for the thing that won't let you rest. It's knowing, even when no one else knows. If sin hasn't completely destroyed that mechanism in you, the manifestations are almost always self-destructive or unattractive (and ultimately fatal). But can you change your behavior or proclivities through psychology, will power or a self-help program? Perhaps for a time but as the prophet Jeremiah asked, can a leopard change his spots or the Ethiopian his skin? He also said the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?
God had been pointing to his plan of redemption, the plan to save man, since the Garden of Eden and it was in yet another garden, Gethsemane, that he who knew no sin, became sin for us and offered himself as our sacrifice on Calvary. He rested on Sabbath from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night in the tomb because even in his death he remembered The Creator and rose on the first day of the week to begin his work of intercessory grace on our behalf. With his death, he became the lamb, slain from the foundation of the earth. He became Abraham's ram caught in the thicket. He sacrificed himself to save us all from condemnation and guilt and to set us free from sin by applying his own blood on our behalf as our high priest in the heavenly sanctuary. How do we obtain this grace?
The apostle Paul, the best expositor of grace, ever, explains, for by grace are you saved and not of works, lest any man should boast. In the book of Romans, particularly Romans the 5th chapter, he explains it best. Earlier in the letter to the church at Rome, Paul writes that he isn't ashamed of the Gospel because it's the power of God unto salvation (from sin). He then writes about the righteousness of the law of God (the 10 commandments) but says that no one will be justified, made right with God by keeping the law. Hearkening back to the prophet Habakkuk, Paul says that only faith in God's atoning (at one ing) death in exchange for our unrighteousness, can make us right with a Holy God. He further explains, that being justified by faith, we now have peace with God. He explains that God made this sacrifice not only while some of us were actively sinning against him, we were, in fact his enemies. He knew that we were helpless and without strength against sin and so he offered us a free gift; grace! We don't have to confess, repent or do anything to be acceptable to God, we simply accept his offer of grace by faith and he justifies us before a Holy God. But there's more!
Not only does he offer us grace and peace, he offers his life in exchange for ours. Remember how Jeremiah asked can the leopard change his spots? How can we who are sinful, really do anything different? At Calvary, he exchanged his life for ours in more ways than one. In his letter to the church at Philipi, Paul says, let this mind be in you, that was also in Christ Jesus. What does that mean? He makes the perfect life, the victorious, overcoming life Jesus led while on earth, available to us through the Holy Spirit. The writer of Hebrews declares for we don't have a high priest that's unfamiliar with our struggles; but in all points he was tempted like as are we, yet he did not sin. But there's more still!
Again Paul in his letter to the church at Philipi writes, He who began a good work in you will perfect it. In other words, relax, don't be uptight about this. It's his work from start to finish! The author of Hebrews writes, look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame... Getting the picture? Not only is he justifying you, releasing you from condemnation and death and freeing you from sin, he is willing to abide in you, to make changes you can't make yourself and not a bit of it has anything to do with your worthiness to receive these gifts of grace. It has nothing to do with your repentance or confession and it certainly has nothing to do with your will power or effort. He's offering liberty, not bondage. He is help for the helpless and when you yield to his work in you, he is life giving and life changing.
As the songwriter said,
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains!
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
So, enjoy the candy but try Jesus, He's sweet, I know!