One morning this fall, wrapped in a warm blanket and settled in my cozy chair, I set out to read my daily Scriptures and devotion, having no clue that the prayer at the end would ignite in me a new searching, a new longing:
“Come, Holy Spirit, and help me learn to behold Jesus in such a way that You can make me like Him.”
I remember just sitting there with tears rising in my eyes, everything in my spirit resonating with these words. So moved, I captured my thoughts in that moment:
“I read that prayer and wonder how to behold Jesus in such a way. What do I need to see in Him? What facets of His being and character do I need to behold so that I can be like Him?”
These questions have been driving me toward greater understanding for weeks now. And, what I’ve been discovering is…love is the key. When we behold Jesus “in such a way,” we’ll see His love–for God and for us. And, it’s that love that helps us become like Him.
Men Who Model Such Love
We can look to the Old Testament to discover the love we hope to understand and have. First in Moses, then in Abraham.
In Numbers 14, Moses lives out godly love. He steps up and intercedes for the grumbling Israelites who have not shown one ounce of love for their leader–or their God. God is ready to be done away with the people and start over with Moses. But Moses looks to God and asks for mercy on behalf of the people he leads. He calls on God’s abounding love to forgive the sins of the people.
And God listens. He hears Moses’ heart and forgives the Israelites.
Moses’ intercession is motivated by the love God has shown him. Moses has known God’s love firsthand, so instead of turning his back on the grumbling people, he loves them with the perfect love he’s been given. And that very love compels God’s patience and kindness.
Abraham, another man of faith, demonstrates his love and trust of God when he willingly lays his only son on a sacrifice altar at God’s request. At first glance God’s demand seems anything but loving, but as we read the entire encounter, we realize with relief that it was never God’s intention for Abraham to kill Isaac (Genesis 22). This was a test of faith and love.
Hear the faith and love in Abraham’s response to Isaac’s questioning:
“And Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’ So they went both of them together.”Genesis 22:7-8, ESV
Isaac’s inquiry is preceded by our word, behold, and its inclusion aids our understanding of Isaac’s confusion. It also helps build the tension in the scene–our breathing catches and our minds race with similar questions as we await the climax:
“Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ 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 22:10-13, ESV
Abraham’s obedience demonstrates that his love of God is greater than his love of Isaac, which is how God knows Abraham’s loyalty and faith are pure and holy. Fittingly, behold, announces the miracle of the ram’s appearance. We’re meant to see that God steps in and supplies the sacrificial animal. And Abraham’s beholding of the ram becomes his understanding, his clarity. He sees that his faith is not misplaced. God does provide.
Love for people–it is motivated by God’s love.
Love for God–it comes from a heart that trusts God fully.
Love from God–it is the source for making us more like Jesus.
God Who Lavishes Such Love
God demonstrates His love most completely when He sends His only Son to earth, weak and humble, to live among us. Just as God brings the ram to Abraham at the just right moment, He also sends the Lamb of God to be the world’s ultimate sacrifice–and His timing is perfect.
Jesus’ baptismal scene becomes for us a marker of God’s intention, an anointing of the Messiah–the Savior God promises, the holy sacrifice we need.
“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” Matthew 3:16-17, ESV
As we read this passage, the word behold catches our eye and causes us to anticipate the coming actions and truths. Behold. The heavens open. The Spirit descends. Behold. A voice says, “This is my beloved Son.” Two beholds for the pivotal moment in history when this man, Jesus, is made known as the Son of God. Sent out of love, for love. And given for the world (John 3:16).
Moses and Abraham understood this kind of anchoring, perfect love. It kept their hearts tethered to the heart of God. It enabled them to obey with a trust that defies worldly common sense.
Jesus came to earth with such love, embodying the love of His Father for the world’s good, for our benefit–even when that love compelled Him to endure humiliation, persecution, and execution.
This is the love we’re called to behold during Advent. This kind of patient, kind, and humble love empowers us to obey God just as our forefathers did. This kind of God-honoring, trust-building love makes us able to behold God more fully. And, each day, as we allow this love to be our motivation for all we say and do, we become more like Jesus.
Behold, the love of God has come down to us!
- For me, some albums are a must-hear during Advent–or it just doesn’t feel like Christmas. And Point of Grace’s “A Christmas Story” is one of them. While writing the final paragraphs of this post, I kept thinking of the phrase “love came down.” I finally decided it was a song and went in search of it. Turns out, there are several, but imagine my surprise to see Point of Grace’s song, “When Love Came Down” on the list. Subconsciously, this song poured out its truths as the words filled my page. Haha! So, I’ve added it to our Behold! playlist. Enjoy!
- You’ll also want to hear what Maverick City Music says about beholding–that we become what we behold. Hello. But, what that tells me is that if we want to become like Jesus, we really do have to behold Him!
- And, Francesca Battistelli’s song, “Behold Him,” implores us to lift our eyes and behold Him so that we’ll feel the thrill of hope and remember we are not alone. Our worries shrink in His presence. Our faith grows. Because love.
- In your journal this week, write about where else in Scripture you see the perfect love of God working in and shining through someone. I mentioned Moses, Abraham, and Jesus. I’d love to hear who else you think of. 🙂 Post your thoughts in the comments.