He had dropped his candy cane, and the sticky surface now wore a fairly even coating of dirt and dust. Through his sobs, I could just make out the words, “Wash it, Mama!” but this candy cane had seen a lot of action. It would be far easier just to give him a fresh start. Showing him a wrapped, pristine striped candy, I reached for the dirty, sticky one, but his cries intensified! Toddler logic had bonded him forever to the dropped and dirty candy cane.
I washed his hands, cleaned up the candy cane under running water, and added my son’s response to the growing list of things I did not understand about little boys.
Of course, the truth is that there are many things I don’t understand about myself either…
For instance, although God offers me forgiveness, I continue to curate a slide show of past sins and failures. While he extends freedom and wholeness, I cling to self-protective behaviors and habits that bog me down in defeat.
When it comes right down to it, we’re all a little unwilling to make the exchange from grit to grace.Tweet
Isaiah 61 lands like good news for the tight-fisted and the fearful:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me… to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;Isaiah 61:1, 3
God’s Gift of “Instead”
Instead is a word that calls for exchange. In Isaiah 61, God’s Messenger is inviting Israel to clean off the ashes of mourning from their heads and to put on a beautiful garland of laurel leaves for celebration. He longs for them to exchange the tears running down their faces for a fragrant application of oil, a symbol of joy and plenty. He wants to see their bodies dressed for vigorous participation in his glorious world instead of languishing in weakness or lifeless malaise.
The God-Sent Messenger Isaiah writes about in chapters 56-66 is the self-same Messiah announced in chapters 1-39 as a Coming King and in chapters 40-55 as a Suffering Servant. Putting pen to paper, the prophet was thinking mainly about restoration of Jerusalem and a return from exile to their homeland. How could he have known that on that restored land, seven hundred years later, God the Son would show up, clothed in flesh and proclaiming the fulfillment of God’s glorious “insteads” on an entirely different level?
Jesus roamed the villages and the country roads of Palestine making exchanges:
He offered an easy yoke in exchange for a heavy burden.
He invited his people to trade their thinking about a distant and disapproving God for a Heavenly Father and showed them how to pray in that manner.
He implored them to exchange a posture of outward obedience for a life of service from the heart.
Make the Exchange!
The gospel is rich with the goodness of instead, and God invites YOU to make the ultimate Christmas gift exchange: your sin for his righteousness, once and for all, and then every single day for the rest of your life.
And lest you are tempted to grip that dirty candy cane of yours, thinking perhaps it’s all you deserve, let me remind you that you cannot sin yourself outside the grace of God. Even if the dark place where you are functioning today is a pit of your own making, God’s offer of exchange is still good, and it comes to you with love.
You can exchange your brokenness for his wholeness and his holiness.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted.”Isaiah 61:1
It’s a gift I take with joy every single day, and I’d love to share it with you. Click here for my contact information. I’d love to help you make the exchange, to trade your ashes of disappointment for a garland of hope, your mourning over sin traded in for the oil of a glad salvation, your listlessness for the joy of a God who makes all things new.
Praying for you,
The gospel is rich with the goodness of instead, and God invites YOU to make the ultimate Christmas gift exchange: your sin for his righteousness, once and for all, and then every single day for the rest of your life.Tweet
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