THE PRINCIPLE OF SUBSTITUTION

Scripture Reading: Jonah 1:11-16

“So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.” (Jonah 1:15)

God taught Abraham the principle of substitution (Genesis 22). God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah and Abraham began the process to do so. But God stopped him and instead provided a ram to be the substitute for Isaac — “And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son” (Genesis 22:13).

The sacrificial system in the Old Testament is based on the principle of a substitutionary atonement for sins. God provided a means for his people to escape judgment and to find forgiveness.

Jonah voluntarily offered himself — “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then, the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you” (v. 13). Jonah not only took responsibility for the storm, but he also was willing to die in order to save the lives of these pagan sailors. As we have seen, Jonah’s actions were probably motivated primarily out of pity for the sailors who were innocent victims because of Jonah’s rebellion against God.

Of course, the one true, ultimate substitution was made by the Son of God — “But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5,6).

There is a huge difference between what Jonah did and what Jesus did. Jonah admitted that he was the problem; it was his sin that caused the trouble. Jesus, on the other hand, was completely innocent and yet He willingly offered Himself in our place — “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus, Lamb of God, You voluntarily laid down Your life for me. You took the just punishment that I rightly deserved and died in my place on that dreadful cross. Thank You for the love You have for me and for the sacrifice You made on my behalf.

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