The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).
Here is the beginning of animal sacrifices: God sheds blood in order to make clothing for Adam and Eve. He made them from the skins of animals, and therefore those animal lives were sacrificed to clothe Adam and Eve. This is but a picture, as all animal sacrifices are but pictures—a kind of kindergarten of grace—in order to teach us the great truth that God eternally attempts to communicate to us as men and women. Ultimately, it is God Himself who bears the pain, the hurt, and agony of our sins. As John the Baptist said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away [who is continually taking away] the sin of the world! (John 1:29)….
Paul uses a wonderful phrase in Ephesians: accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6 KJV). When we have acknowledged our guilt, when we have acknowledged that what we have done is contrary to what God wants, and we stand there with nothing to defend ourselves and no attempt to do so, but simply in honest acknowledgment of our own doing, then we are accepted in the beloved.
In our area where I grew up in Montana, we had many sheep farms. Spring was the lambing season when the little lambs were born. But spring in Montana is not like it is in California. Sleet storms can come whirling down out of the north, and snow can still be three or four feet deep on the prairies. Often there are long, protracted seasons of bitter cold during lambing season. When the sheep must bear lambs in that kind of weather, many of the lambs and ewes die. As a result, sheep farmers have many mothers whose newborn lambs have died and many newborn lambs whose mothers have died. It would seem that a simple way to solve the problem would be to take the lambs without mothers and give them to the mothers without lambs, but it is not that simple. If you take a little orphan lamb and put it in with a mother ewe, she will immediately go to it and sniff it all over, and then she shakes her head as though to say, Well, that’s not our family odor, and she butts it away and refuses to have anything to do with it. But the sheep farmers have devised a means of solving this. They take the mother’s own little dead lamb and skin it and take the skin and tie it onto the other little orphan lamb. Then they put the orphan lamb with this ungainly skin flopping around—eight legs, two heads—in with the mother. She pays no attention at all to the way it looks, but she sniffs it all over again, and then she nods her head. The little lamb goes to work at the milk fountain, and all is well.
What has happened? The orphan lamb has been accepted in the beloved one. There came a time when God’s Lamb lay dead on our behalf, and God took us orphans and clothed us in His righteousness, and thus we stand accepted in the beloved, received in His place. That is where repentance brings us. That is the way you begin the Christian life. But if you think that is where it ends, you are wrong. We must be continually repenting of those areas where we fail or fall back upon a way of living that God has said is not right. I must repent of my self-dependence—and so must you.
Teach me, Lord, to continually repent. Thank you for clothing me in the righteousness of Jesus, that I may be accepted in the beloved.
Ray C. Stedman