Saturday, December 03, 2011

Devotion 3. The First Sacrifice and the First Clothes.

After Adam and Eve sinned they faced God’s judgment. The man, the woman and the snake (Satan) all received punishments from God that affected them and all mankind to come. They were driven from God’s presence and the perfect place God prepared for them. All things that were easy became hard. They would die.

They also experienced shame for the first time. They realized they were naked. Originally they were both naked and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:25). After their sin, they were ashamed to be naked in front of each other. They made little coverings for themselves out of fig leaves. When the Lord came to see them, they hid. They were afraid because they were naked (Genesis 3:10). In their state of shame, they could not face the holy Lord.

Yet, in the midst of his judgment, God also extended grace. The Bible describes it in one simple sentence. Genesis 3:21 says “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

God looked at his disobedient children and gave them grace. He relieved their shame by giving them clothes. Interestingly, humankind has turned clothing into a badge of honor, making them from rich and ornamental fabrics. But, speaking theologically, clothing is a badge of shame. It is a constant reminder of our lost innocence. It is a symbol of original sin.

The skins came from an animal. An animal had to die to cover the sin of men and women. This sacrifice foreshadowed the sacrifices to come. We see it in the very next generation. Abel’s sacrifice was the firstborn of the flock with its fat portions. God accepted it. Cain brought an offering of plants. God rejected it. God had instructed them, probably after the first animal was slain, to kill an animal and offer it as a sacrifice for sin.

I wonder if God let Adam and Eve see the killing of the animal. It would have been shocking to them. They had never seen an animal killed. They never used parts of animals for clothing or food. Animals were companions. But this animal was killed and skinned to make their clothes. Although they were relieved of the shame of their nakedness, they would have realized the great cost of that relief.

Our guilt and shame is also relieved by the shedding of blood. Ephesians 1:7 says “in him we have redemption trough his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us…” We should also realize that our relief came at great cost: the death of the one sinless God-Man, Jesus Christ.

But another theme emerges from this event. The story shows us that the clothes made by the man and woman were not good enough to cover their shame. That is why they hid even though they were wearing the fig leaves. But God’s clothes were sufficient.

Paul picked up the theme in Colossians 3. He wanted to illustrate that our “self” without Christ, or made by our own hands, is sinful, corrupt and unacceptable to God. But our self in Christ is acceptable to God and holy. He said “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10) Then, in verse 12, he continued with “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience…”

The image for the self is clothing. He is saying to take off the clothing that goes with the traits of those who rebel against God and put on the clothes that reflect the transformed nature given by Christ.

The old clothes made by our own hands are not sufficient. They represent our work to make ourselves acceptable to God. But no work can do that. Those clothes will in reality be stained with sin. As Isaiah said, all our supposedly righteous acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight. (Isaiah 64:6).

When Christ comes into our lives our natures begin to be renewed in knowledge after the image of God our creator. He gives this to us, as he did to Adam and Eve, as an act of his grace and mercy, not our worth.

John’s picture of believers in heaven finalizes this thought. In Revelation 7, the faithful are those who are dressed in white robes. How did the robes get to be white? Not by their own doing. Rather, they had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

If you have never put your faith in Christ and committed to follow him, Christmas would be a great time to do it. Put off the dirty self made clothes that God sees as filthy rags. Give up trying to please God by your works, or by hoping God will think your good outweighs your bad. Put off those clothes you made and put on those made by Christ, washed in the blood of his death for your sins and acceptable to God.

And if you are a Christ follower, do not put those old dirty clothes back on. Those clothes for Paul represented the acts and attitudes of the old sin dominated nature. Rather, seek those things of Christ, keeping on the robes of mercy and grace, living in them daily.
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