Easter arrives early this year. The commercial world has eagerly set out its stall, and the world of nature vibrates with the joy of regeneration. But behind all the seasonal activity, lies a deeply profound and life changing significance.

Picture, if you will, an elderly man and his young son making their way, step by step together towards the mountains of Moriah. The father, Abraham, knows that under divine instruction, he is approaching a place of extreme testing and sacrifice. Would his nerve hold? Would his faith and trust crumble when the dreadful moment came? Could he actually without dissent, offer Isaac, the son of his love, and on whom rested the covenant promises of God, upon the altar as directed?

Isaac has a question. “My father, the fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for sacrifice?”

Abraham replies, “God himself will provide a lamb.”

And God did so. Right at the last moment of Abraham’s trial, God provided a ram caught in the thicket, a substitute for Isaac, and Abraham received the promise that through his offspring all nations would be blessed.

Generations later in the history of Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites were about to embark on the journey of a lifetime out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt. That night the angel of death would pass over the land, taking the firstborn of every family except for those whose homes were marked by the blood of a substitute lamb.

As the feast of Passover is remembered to this day, the vital importance of the saving mark of the substitute lamb preserves the central theme in memorial, of God’s provision of the Paschal Lamb.

Around the fields of Bethlehem, the shepherds would keep watch over their very special flocks. These were the lambs reared for the temple sacrifices for the trespasses of the people, the substitute Paschal lambs.

As Jesus began his ministry, John the Baptist stood beside the River Jordan. Upon seeing Jesus, John turned to his own disciples and announced, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

He had seen God’s provision, the one who would offer himself as that final sacrifice, once for all. (John 1v29)

“Paschal Lamb, by God appointed
All our sins were on Thee laid;
By Almighty love anointed
Thou hast full atonement made.
All Thy people are forgiven
Through the virtue of Thy blood;
Opened is the gate of heaven
Peace is made for us with God.” – J. Bakewell (1757)

As we view the array of symbolic Easter gifts and take part in rituals both of fun and of memorial worship, let us contemplate the endless blessings afforded to us by faith.

Where human demerits are exposed by the light of divine holiness, there is forgiveness.

Where guilt blights peace, there is freedom and deliverance.
From the mastery of addiction, there is an escape and an open road of new beginnings.

Over the chasm of failure and default, there is a bridge to eternal blessing, life hope, joy and great expectations.

Enjoy this very special season and carry all its gifts into the rest of the year.

Happy Easter to all.

Iris Niven.

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