CDPCKL · The Firstborn Exchange Program (Exodus 13:1-16

The Firstborn Exchange Program (Exodus 13:1-16)

Back in the Book of Genesis, there is a very strange story about human sacrifice — or, what was almost a human sacrifice. 

Way back near the beginning of the Book of Genesis, God had called a man named Abraham out of the ruins of a civilization that had been built on a plain beside a great river. God had promised Abraham that, if Abraham followed God to a new land, God would transform him into a great nation that would one day bless all peoples on earth. 

And Abraham had agreed. So God led Abraham across the wilderness, to a land of mountains, and Abraham settled down on one of the highest mountains in that country. And there on that high mountain the Lord appeared to Abraham in flames of fire and made a covenant with him. God said, “Listen: your descendants will eventually become slaves in a foreign land, but after a 400-year countdown I will punish that nation, and your nation will come out with great possessions and take over this mountain country where you are living now.” And then God sealed his promise with a special ritual that involved the sacrifice of animals, blood spilled out on the ground. 

But Abraham had a problem: he was already quite elderly, and he had no son. And without a son, how would he ever become a great nation? 

Well, if you are familiar with the story of Abraham’s life, then you know that Abraham really thought he needed to help God solve this problem: he tried a variety of creative work-arounds, until finally God appeared to him again — on the same high mountain — and said, “Stop! Listen: I am God Almighty; I do not want or need your help. But you know what I do want from you? Walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then we will be able to proceed properly with our covenant.” 

And Abraham said, “*sigh* Okay.” 

No, that’s not true. Actually, he fell facedown. He finally gave up trying to help God, and committed to walking before him faithfully and being blameless. 

And that is when God said, “All right! Now we are ready to proceed. So look: I am going to give you a son from your wife Sarah, her firstborn. But this is the faithfulness I want from you in return: after he is born I want you to officially give him back to me by circumcising him. This will be a sign that you will be his foster father for a while, but that you have agreed to give him back to me whenever I ask.” 

Basically, this was the point: God had promised to save Abraham’s nation from slavery in the future, and he had sealed that promise through a special ritual that involved the spilling of a lot of blood. Now, God wanted Abraham to promise to give Sarah’s firstborn son back whenever God asked, and God wanted Abraham to seal that promise through a special ritual that involved the spilling of a little bit of blood. 

Well, Abraham agreed. So God gave him Isaac, and Abraham circumcised Isaac just as God had asked. And so in this way Abraham walked before God faithfully and was blameless. 

But then, when Isaac was a young man, God came to test Abraham, to find out whether Abraham would actually keep the promise he had made. He said, “Abraham! I want you to take your son, your only son, whom you love — Isaac — and go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” 

And Abraham passed the test. He did not question. He did not complain. He took his only son Isaac to a special mountain, built an altar and gave him back to God. 

Now, this is astonishing to us. We read that story and we think, “What kind of terrible God is this? And what kind of terrible father was Abraham?” But when we do that, we are being unfair: we are standing in distant judgement upon the conditions and cultures of that time instead of entering in so we can at least try to understand. 

See, in Abraham’s culture, pagan gods were always asking for human sacrifices, child sacrifices. So when God said, “Abraham! Here I am to collect the son I loaned to you. And the best way for you to give his spirit back to me is by releasing his spirit from his body!” — well, this made perfect sense to Abraham. 

But the thing that is supposed to astonish us about that story is the same thing that astonished Abraham: God actually stopped him from sacrificing Isaac. It turns out that Abraham’s God is nothing like the pagan gods, he does not ask his people to sacrifice their own children on altars of any kind. Instead, in Abraham’s case, God provided a ram — a male sheep — in exchange for Isaac. The animal died so that Isaac could live. 

And that is when Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. That was Abraham’s statement of faith. Basically, Abraham realized that, since on the mountain of the Lord God had provided a substitute sacrifice in the past, he could now say with confidence that “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” in the future. And from that point onward Abraham lived knowing that his future was secure in God’s hands. 

So Isaac continued to be both Abraham’s firstborn son and God’s firstborn son. And, sure enough, Isaac went on to become the father of a great nation, the Israelite nation. 

And if you have been reading with us through the Book of Exodus then you know God’s prophecy to Abraham came true: his descendants did become slaves in a foreign land — the land of Egypt. And God has been working to punish that nation. 

And if you recall, God’s first move was to lead a man named Moses to a mountain on the far side of the wilderness and appear to him there in flames of fire, just as he had appeared to Abraham. And God said, “Look, Moses, I want you to go and tell Pharaoh to release my people. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. This will give me a chance to punish Egypt like I promised Abraham I would. Then, on the last day, after I have torn Egypt right down to its foundations, say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” 

So that was an interesting comment! We learned that, since Isaac was God’s firstborn son through circumcision, the nation of Israel, descended from Isaac, was also considered God’s firstborn son — as long as they continued to practice circumcision. Which is something we talked about last time we were together in Exodus. 

We also learned from God’s comment that Egypt is not God’s firstborn son, it cannot be. There can be only one firstborn, right? Which means that every other nation on earth is second or third or lastborn. And we have been learning that all of God’s lastborn nations really need to be careful not to mistreat God’s firstborn nation, or they will be punished! 

However, we have also been learning that, while it is not possible for lastborn nations like Egypt to become God’s firstborn nation, it was possible for people from lastborn nations to join God’s firstborn nation…as long as they agreed to practice circumcision, and continued to give their own sons back to God through circumcision. And all this was made very clear last time we were together in Exodus, when we read that many other people from many other nations also followed the Israelites out of Egypt. 

Of course, if you do recall God’s first few meetings with Moses, then you will remember that Moses himself struggled to understand these concepts. During his time away in the wilderness he had married a pagan woman, and then he had refused to circumcise his own firstborn son — Moses was basically an Israelite father with a pagan family! Fortunately, Moses’ wife was a quick-thinking woman, so when God showed up to punish Moses for his unfaithfulness, Moses’ wife quickly circumcised their firstborn son and transformed their whole family into an Israelite family, members of God’s firstborn nation. So Moses’ own wife and their sons were really the very first foreign converts, the first of the many other people from many other nations to join the Israelites through circumcision. 

So, where are we now in the narrative? 

Well, just a few weeks ago in our reading the prophesied last day of Egypt finally arrived. And just as God had told him to, Moses warned Pharaoh that, because Pharaoh had refused to let God’s firstborn son go, God was going to kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son. And that is exactly what has happened: At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt. Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Up! Leave! Go!” And they did. 430 years after they first arrived, God called this nation called Israel out of the ruins of a civilization that had been built on a plain beside a great river. And they have come out with great possessions, just as God had promised Abraham. 

And now, of course, we want to know what is going to happen to them! Where are they going to go? We already know they have left the city of Rameses — which they were forced to build — and they are moving in an easterly direction. They have taken their dough before the yeast was added, and they are carrying it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in wet cloth. They are driving huge flocks and herds ahead of them, and a lot of the larger animals — cows and oxen and donkeys — would be saddled with heavy loads of gold and silver and all kinds of extra clothing plundered from the Egyptians. In the closing words of the last chapter: on that very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions. 

So what happens next? 

[1] The Lord said to Moses, [2] “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.” 

If the Book of Exodus was an action movie, this is where the critics would say, “Too much exposition! Show, don’t tell! Move on to more action!” 

However, Exodus is not an action movie. This is an epic full of profound literary symbolism. And as any student of literature could tell you, symbolism is showing not telling. 

But symbolism does need to be explained at some point so the reader can interpret it properly — and it looks like that is what Moses is doing here. He is pausing the action right at the point of greatest tension in order to go back and give a deeper meaning to the symbolism God first introduced through Abraham and his son Isaac: 

God had given Isaac to Abraham, and Abraham had given Isaac back to God, trusting that God would give Isaac life. Well, that firstborn son went on to become the father of Israel, God’s firstborn nation. And so now God is making it clear that he wants his firstborn nation to do with their firstborn what Abraham did with his firstborn. 

Why? What does it mean? Well…let’s read on and find out. 

So at some point during the preparations for the Passover night — or perhaps even while they were marching out of Egypt by their divsions — [3] Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand.” 

Okay, Moses. How are we supposed to commemorate it, by consecrating all our firstborn? 

We are supposed to commemorate it like this: 

Eat nothing containing yeast.” 

And this strikes us as a bit strange, for a couple of reasons. 

First of all, God was just talking about consecrating firstborn sons. But Moses turns around and starts talking to the people about not eating yeast. What does not eating yeast have to do with consecrating firstborn sons? 

Second of all, this is not the first time we have heard this thing about not eating yeast, is it! Moses already mentioned it four times in Chapter 12, and now as we scan through the next few verses we see that he hits all the same points yet again: 

This Passover feast has got to happen in the month of Aviv. For seven days no one can eat bread made without yeast. Actually, it’s stricter than that: nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. 

And we remember from before that, if someone eats yeast during this festival, they will be cut off from the community! — which seems a bit strict for such a small thing, don’t you think? 

And then, when the kids ask, “Why?” the same answer is given as before: “Because this is how we remember what the Lord did for us.” 

Now, what do we learn from all this repetition? 

I guess, at a basic level, we learn that God thinks this is really really important. He really does not want his people to eat yeast during these seven days of commemoration! 

But each time Moses has repeated God’s instructions over the last few sermons it has only served to confuse us further. We get the “don’t eat yeast” bit, but we want to know why? And we are not satisfied with the “Because this is how we remember…” answer, right? We want to know, like, seriously: God, what is your obsession with yeast? 

Well…unfortunately yeast is a symbol that is not explained in this passage. Just like circumcision in Abraham’s time, where God said, “Do it, or die,” without really explaining why circumcision was so important, so also during the Exodus God has been saying, “Do it, or die,” without really explaining why not eating yeast is so important. Like circumcision in Abraham’s time, eating bread without yeast is Moses’ time is a symbol to be experienced without explanation, and apparently God thinks the experiencing is sufficient explanation. 

So: let’s move on with our yeast questions unanswered, shall we? 

[11] “After the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your ancestors, [12] you are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb.”

Ah. Okay. Moses has returned to God’s original topic: the consecration of the firstborn. 

All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord. [13] Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons.” 

Mmmm. Yes. So let’s pause and make sure we understand this bit: 

The firstborn of every female associated with Israel — human and animal — must be given to the Lord, just like Isaac was. And this means they have to be sacrificed in some way. 

However, as we have already noticed, God is not interested in literal child sacrifice, nor is he interested in the sacrifice of every kind of animal. Some animals are meant to be sacrificed: sheep, goats and cows. Others are not, like donkeys and chickens. 

So the firstborn of a cow, a sheep or a goat has to be literally sacrificed to God, their lifeblood spilled out in God’s presence. But the firstborn of a donkey or a chicken or any other kind of animal is not to be literally sacrificed to God — their lives are to be redeemed — exchanged — with the lifeblood of a lamb. That way the donkey or the chicken or whatever gets to live while the lamb dies in its place. 

In the same way, every firstborn son is to be redeemed — exchanged — for the price of a lamb, just as Isaac had been, so they can continue to live as the sons of Israel and the sons of God at the same time. 

So what is going on here? Basically, God wants his firstborn nation to keep on symbolically acting out Abraham’s almost sacrifice of Isaac, and the way Isaac’s life was redeemed by God’s gift of a sheep in Isaac’s place. 

Which is interesting. But it still does not tell us why. We are left asking, “What does this mean? Why does God want his people to keep acting out this ancient drama?” 

The good news is that God knew we would be asking that question, and he included the answer here: 

[14] “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. [15] When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ [16] And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.” 

So the short answer is that — just like not eating yeast during Passover week — consecrating the firstborn of every womb is another kind of commemoration. It is a kind of sermon that is acted out. 

Every time a family brought a firstborn animal for sacrifice, or every time they exchanged the price of a firstborn son, they would remember that God had once claimed all the firstborn of Egypt by killing them. They would remember that God could have claimed all their own firstborn by killing them also, but instead he chose to claim them by letting them live, just like he once did with Isaac. Which means that every living firstborn that left Egypt really belonged to God, along with all the children descended from them. So it is only right for every generation of Israelites to give all their firstborn over to God as a way of acknowledging that they actually owe everything to God, even their existence as a nation. 

Basically, the firstborn concept symbolizes the future fortunes of a nation. When Abraham gave Isaac to God, he was entrusting his entire future to God. When God killed all the firstborn of Egypt, he was symbolically killing Egypt’s future. When God let all the firstborn of Israel live, he was symbolically promising to give Israel a future. And so now all God is asking is that his people respond to his gift of a future by symbolically giving that future back to God, trusting that he will give it back to them. 

So all these symbolic rituals that Moses has been describing for the last chapter and a half are all about remembering how God gave his people a future in the past. And every time they act out these rituals, the Israelites will not just be remembering the past, they will also be symbolically giving their future back to God. 

And that is why God keeps repeating these instructions. He is saying: perform all these symbols in exactly these ways. Do not change them. Do not move the pieces around. Because every element of these rituals has been carefully designed to point backwards to the redemption of Israel on this night, and to point even further backwards to the redemption of Isaac on the mountain, and from there to point forward to a time whenOn the mountain of the Lord it will be provided,” when God’s firstborn nation will finally be exchanged with the life of a perfect sacrifice. 


Okay. But this leaves us wondering what we are supposed to do in response to God’s commands here. Are we supposed to be sacrificing the firstborn of all our pets, or exchanging them somehow? And what about our firstborn children, what are we supposed to do with them? 

Well, one tempting application might be to say this: God wants you to dedicate your firstborn sons to pastoral ministry, and he wants you to make sure your firstborn daughters all grow up to marry pastors. 

But that is not actually the point of this passage. 

In fact, a little while later, God makes it very clear that he definitely does not want every family to dedicate their firstborn children to the ministry. 

About two years after this point in Israel’s story, God returned to this topic and gave his people a lot more detail about how exactly to consecrate and then redeem each firstborn son: 

First, he told Moses to consecrate all of the men of the Levite tribe. Basically, the Levites were set apart to serve as the priests and pastors for God’s people. The Levites were the ones who were called into ministry. Second, God helped the Israelites understand that he had just taken the Levite men in exchange for their firstborn sons. Each family would offer to dedicate their firstborn children to the ministry. But then the Levites would say, “No need, one of our sons will be a priest or a pastor in your son’s place. So take your son back now to work on your farm or in your business.” And to symbolize this exchange, each family would pay the Levites five silver coins for each firstborn son. 

From this, the Israelites learned that the true exchange value of a firstborn son is not an animal, but another human being. It is true that Isaac’s life was exchanged with a sheep, but that was extremely symbolic — clearly Isaac was way more valuable than a sheep! But for a firstborn son’s life to be exchanged with a Levite’s life, well: this brought the symbolism of the exchange program a little closer to reality. 

And about 500 years later, beginning in the time of King David, God’s prophets took this firstborn son exchange program idea and developed it still further. They looked at the way God’s firstborn nation had completely failed to walk before God faithfully and be blameless. They saw how God had allowed the lastborn nations of the world to enslave Israel again as a consequence. And the prophets began to talk about how God would someday send a true firstborn son of David who was also the firstborn son of God, a king who would punish the lastborn nations of the earth just like Moses once punished the lastborn nation of Egypt. 

And from this, the Israelites learned that the true exchange value of a firstborn nation cannot be a system of sacrificed animals, or even a tribe of priests; the true exchange value of a nation is a king who is both son of David and son of God. 

So what we are discovering here is that God’s instructions for consecrating firstborn children developed over time, just like his instructions for the Passover. A few weeks ago we saw how the symbolic details of the Passover meal actually changed over time, while the underlying substance remained the same — all pointing forward to a completed reality that actually looks very different today. Well, in the same way, the whole symbolic firstborn exchange program was also designed to develop over time, always pointing forward to a completed reality that actually looks very different from the original. 

That is why it is not appropriate for our application today to be, “Dedicate all your firstborn to full-time pastoral ministry.” That was not Moses’ application. Moses’ application was: “Consecrate and redeem your firstborn sons in order to remember and relive the way God consecrated and redeemed Israel as his firstborn nation.” 

So what is an appropriate application for us, in that case? 

Well, in order to understand our application we have to finish the story of the development of the firstborn son exchange program. This is the rest of the story: 

About 1000 years after King David, a man named Jesus from Nazareth showed up in the nation of Israel. And this man Jesus claimed to be the promised son of David and son of God, sent to punish all the lastborn nations of the earth and lead God’s firstborn nation into a new creation. Which a lot of Israelites were excited about! — at first. 

They got a little less excited when Jesus announced that, before launching his lastborn punishment program, he was going to give people from all the lastborn nations a chance to come and join God’s firstborn nation. The leaders of Israel were especially annoyed, and in the end — when Jesus would not shut up about it — they killed him. They got him crucified, nailed to a Roman cross, during the Passover week, in Jerusalem. They even made sure to kill him in a way that spilled his blood but did not break any of his bones. And so, without meaning to, the disobedient leaders of Israel actually made sure Jesus became the final, true Passover lamb. And we talked about all that a couple of weeks ago. 

But by killing Jesus in this way, in that place, they also made sure Jesus became the final, true sacrifice lamb who died in exchange for Isaac’s life. More than 2000 years earlier, Abraham had traveled to the mountain of Jerusalem and prophesied that, one day, “On the mountain of the Lord a substitute will be provided for all my descendants.” Jesus was the fulfillment of Abraham’s prophecy. 

But there is yet another layer of meaning to Jesus’ death in that place, at that time, in that particular way. When he was hung on that cross, according to God’s written law, Jesus fell under God’s curse. He died…just like all the firstborn children of Egypt had died, which was the lastborn nation of Moses’ time. Which means that Jesus the firstborn Son of God became like the lastborn nations so that the lastborn nations could switch places with him and become part of God’s firstborn nation. Basically, the Son of God became Egypt, so that Egyptians could become the sons of God. 

So Jesus is not just the Passover lamb for Israel, he is not just the sacrificed lamb for the sons of Isaac, he is God’s firstborn priest and king given in exchange for all the lastborn peoples of the earth. 

So Jesus actually did exactly what what he said he would do: he gave people from all the lastborn nations a chance to come and join God’s firstborn nation. 

We were asking why God wanted his people to keep acting out the ancient drama of the firstborn exchange program. And now we understand why: he wanted them to experience this symbolism by faith, without receiving a full explanation. But now we have a privilege they did  not have: we have received the explanation, we have experienced the reality, and that reality is Jesus Christ, who became like us in death so that we might become like him in life. 

And now that we understand all this, what is our application supposed to be? 

Well, if you are here today and you are not a Christian, this is what God is calling you to do: ask Jesus to exchange his life for yours. 

See, you have a problem, we all do: we were all born into the lastborn nations of the earth. We were all born under the rule of gods who delight in child sacrifice. The gods of this world want you to sacrifice your future to them in hope that they might actually give you a future — but they make no promises. 

Friend, it is time for you to escape. It is time for you to come and meet the only God who takes no pleasure in child sacrifice. In fact, he hates the idea so much that he sent his own firstborn Son, Jesus Christ, to exchange his firstborn life for our lastborn lives. This is the only God who sacrificed his own future in order to give you one. And all you have to do to receive this gift is ask for it. Ask God to exchange Jesus’ life for yours, and you will find yourself adopted into the family of the firstborn. 

That is what you should do, right now, if you are not a Christian. 

But now: what about the rest of us who have already been adopted into the family of the firstborn, what is our application? 

This is where we are going to return to the yeast concept, and finally get our question answered: why was God so obsessed with yeast here? What did it mean? Why was it so important? Why did breaking this rule result in being cut off from the community of Israel? 

This is why: the bread-without-yeast concept — just like circumcision and just like the firstborn exchange program — started as a symbol to be experienced, and the experience was the explanation for a long time. 

See, during the Exodus God told the Israelites to leave the yeast out of the dough for the sake of speed: they would not have time to let the dough rise anyway. Basically, God told them to keep their breadmaking simple. 

But leaving out the yeast was also a very visible symbol of faith in God’s future provision. Flat dough without yeast is…flat, and small, it does not look like it is enough to feed a whole family in the wilderness. So the strong temptation would be to add a little bit of yeast and blow it up, multiply it, transform it into a whole meal instead of just a flat, dry snack. 

So at a deeper level, when God said, “Avoid yeast during Passover week,” he was saying, “Avoid the temptation to believe that you can feed yourselves in the wilderness. Keep your breadmaking simple. Trust me to feed you.” 

That was the meaning of the original symbolic experience of eating bread without yeast for Passover week every year. That is why eating yeast during that week was punished so severely: because eating yeast during Passover week was the same thing as saying, “I do not believe God will provide for our future.” 

But just like circumcision, just like the Passover, just like the firstborn exchange program, the bread-without-yeast concept was also designed to develop into a completed reality. And Jesus is the one who completed it. 

In his teachings he began to warn people to “watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” The Pharisees were religious leaders who had become obsessed with complicated religious rules. They had taken the simplicity of God’s ancient exchange program, and they had added a bunch of religious rules to it. Basically the Pharisees did not trust that God could spiritually feed his people with such a simple message. So they added “yeast” to it, and blew it up into this huge doughy religion that only very smart and special people could follow. 

And this is why Jesus condemned the Pharisees, and cut them off from the community of God’s people: because by adding “yeast” to God’s Word, they were saying, “We do not believe God can actually provide salvation through this exchange program.” 

Then Paul the apostle took what Jesus said about yeast and applied it to a non-Jewish pagan culture. Pagan converts to Christianity did not need to worry about the Pharisees’ false teachings, but they did need to get rid of the pagan false teachings they had grown up with. When they mixed the “yeast” of their pagan background with the simplicity of Jesus’ exchange program, they also got a terrible, complicated mess where — just like the Pharisees — they had created a religious system that only very smart and special people could follow. So Paul says in this first letter to the Corinthian church, “Your boasting is not good! Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are.” 

And this is why all the New Testament writers condemned false teachers and cut them off from the community of Jesus’ Church: because by adding “yeast” to the simplicity of Jesus’ Gospel, false teachers are saying, “We do not believe God can provide salvation through Jesus Christ alone.”  

So, brothers and sisters, this is our application for today: 

As we contemplate the glorious completion of God’s firstborn exchange program, we must avoid adding yeast to it. When people ask us what is Christianity, we must keep it simple: “Christianity is an exchange program. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” That’s it! Really. Truly. When we are talking to someone who wants to join Jesus’ Church but they are worried about how much they will have to pay God, we say, “The price has already been paid for you.” 

Now the reason we have to remind each other to “watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees“ and “get rid of the old yeast“ is because we are all tempted to add things on to Jesus’ gospel exchange program. We are tempted to say things like, “If you come to Jesus, all your problems will disappear!” or, “If you dedicate your firstborn child to Christian ministry, God will give you extra blessings,” or other things like that. In many ways, our Christian faith just seems too simple in comparison with all the other religions in the world. And so we are tempted to change it. To force it to rise into something more impressive. To turn it into something special and complicated so that only special and complicated people can really get it. 

Brothers and sisters, don’t do that. Instead, like newborn babies, let us crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it we may grow up in our salvation, now that we have tasted that the Lord is good. Our journey through the wilderness is costly, yes: it costs us our entire lives, really! But unlike every other religion or philosophy on earth, it does not cost us our children. We follow the only God who sacrificed his own firstborn so we would not have to. 

So let us press on. Let us keep on preaching the simple foolishness of the cross, trusting that God’s promises really are sufficient to carry us all the way to the mountain on the far side of the wilderness. Every time we keep it simple, every time we return to Christ alone, we are declaring along with Abraham that, “On the mountain of the Lord it has been provided, and it will be provided.” 


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