The Messenger on the Rocky Hill
A few weeks ago on a schools-just-started Friday afternoon, my son and his girlfriend’s family were baptized by the Waterloo Cascades on the Spring Creek River. He’d chosen to be baptized when he was in third grade, but wanted to renew his commitment as a young man.
One after one – a first grader, middle schooler, a high school student, two college students and two parents were baptized.
One of the things I noticed – that struck me – is the tight grip of trust the one being baptized had on the arm of the one baptizing. It drove home the need of believers to help, to be a source of strength, assurance and acceptance, to new believers – even before they dedicate their life to Christ. Then, after they died to Christ and rose in Him, the need of support still – and encouragement – as they eventually find their footing as a child of Christ.
Then – something unexpected happened. A goat appeared – reminding all there that God always provides when we give ourselves to Him. That goat climb down from the rocks above us, after the last person was baptized and the children were playing in the rocks at the water’s edge. I thought of Abraham, when he’d taken Isaac to sacrifice Him at God’s command – and when God realized Abraham’s faithfulness, a ram appeared:
“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
Matthew Henry in his commentary, explains that ram so very well: “It was not God’s intention that Isaac should actually be sacrificed, yet nobler blood than that of animals, in due time, was to be shed for sin, even the blood of the only begotten Son of God. . . . Christ was sacrificed in our stead, as this ram instead of Isaac. . . .A new name was given to that place, for the encouragement of all believers, to the end of the world, cheerfully to trust in God, and obey him. Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide; probably alluding to what Abraham had said, God will provide himself a lamb. The Lord will always have his eye upon his people, in their straits and distresses, that he may give them seasonable help.” ~ Matthew Henry Commentary.
That afternoon, the goat came down that rocky, steep hillside to celebrate with us – celebrating, reminding what Jesus has done for us:
That lamb who came to greet this newly baptized son and precious family, seemed to be reminding all of us more keenly of just what Jesus did for us, so very glad, that merry goat, that He wasn’t needed to make things right.
My memory hummed with this scripture, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! ” ~ John 1:29
The goat was a messenger, calling out,
“Jesus! Jesus! The most perfect sacrifice of all!
Because of Jesus! Jesus! you have no need of me at all.
Jesus! Jesus! How the Redeemer loves you all.”
The world is suffering, here and abroad. Families are hurting. Communities are hurting. That goat reminded me then and reminds me now of whose I am and how much He loves you and me, and all those suffering today in a world that more and more doesn’t seem to make sense. We belong to the one who fights for us, redeems, brings us to Himself.
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage, I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33
Abraham needed the ram in the thicket. We don’t need the goat from the rocky hillside.
I am remembering, Father and Redeemer, King and Creator, that you have made each of us. That we are your servants, your creation, your children. You never forget a single child lost or found. Thank you for blotting out our transgressions like a cloud and our sins like a mist. Thank you for making a way for each of us to return to you without the goat on the mountain or the lamb in the valley. Thank you for sending your Son to redeem us, to be the final blood sacrifice to cover our sins. Let me sing for joy like the heavens and shout aloud to the depths of the earth of what you have done – because the Lord still today redeems His children, pursues the lost ones until found, revealing His glory! (taken from Isaiah 44: 21-23).
I have overtones of Leviticus and the scapegoat floating into my brain because of your beautiful thoughts here on Jesus’s substitionary death. Further than the Palestinian wilderness, he carried our sins “as far as the east is from the west” and has made us cleaner even than a newly baptized son.
I love the imagery of God’s tending to the business of salvation, visible handles for my brain.
Michele, After reading your comment, I went to Leviticus 16 and read about the scapegoat. I’d forgotten all about that. Even more clearly is the goat a symbol to carry our sins away. I love how God gives us that visible imagery to help the bigness of it all sink in even deeper. Thank you for adding so much dimension to what I was trying to get across! Shalom, friend! ~ Maryleigh
What a beautiful and rewarding experience to be witness to.
It felt like what all baptisms should feel like. I was honored they asked me to take photos (especially after so many years of not smiling for photos) and they decide you just might be good enough to do THEIR photos – that was so sweet, too.
Maryleigh, this is such a precious experience for you all to remember always. John 16:33 is a Scripture that has been coming before me repeatedly over the last week. May we remember to take courage each day, for our Lord has overcome, and He comes to each of us in our time of need. Grateful you shared the day, your thoughts, and your photos!
Oh, this gives me chills, Maryleigh. I love that the goat appeared at that moment and I love all the significance you drew from it!
Mary Leigh, what a beautiful blessed experience. I imagined myself there with you all as you experienced God’s light shining upon everyone. Blessings.
Hi Mary Leigh,
As soon as I began reading your story, I thought of the scapegoat. What beautiful imagery He provided your family–and us.
Peace and grace,