My sister is eight years younger than me, which gave me a tactical advantage over her for a good four years (after which point she started keeping pace with me in every quantifiable way). But at some point before she wised up, when she was old enough to appreciate having money in her piggy bank but young enough to be lacking some key fiscal principles, I used the age gap to my advantage.
We had just met one of Dad’s friends, Roger, who had collected a massive bag of loose change from his car and given it to us. Jackpot! As the oldest, I took it upon myself to distribute the money among the three of us kids. After all the coins had been split evenly, inspiration struck.
“Meghan,” I said, “wanna trade?” She looked at me skeptically. “I’ll give you all my big bronze coins for your little silver ones.” She agreed, and my plan worked flawlessly…until we got home and Meghan dashed inside to share the news of her trades with Mom. At that point Mom ordered all the pennies and dimes to be swapped back, along with an “abuse of power” tax from my stash.
The truth is, trades tend to be sketchy business. As adults, we are wary of the inevitable catch; we know that the other person is in it for what they can get out of the deal.
As I read Isaiah, I’m amazed how many times God talks about trades that will take place when he comes to redeem his people. From a human perspective, God’s trades seem too good to be true. We bring God everything we have, but even our best offerings are worthless. And yet God doesn’t hesitate to take our ugly things on himself and give us the good things that are in his hands—things of beauty and great value.
In the book of Isaiah, we read about God’s mind-boggling trades—the gifts he gives us in exchange for our worthless things:
Gold for bronze
Silver for iron
Bronze for wood
A crown of beauty for ashes
Blessing for mourning
A double blessing instead of shame
We hand him our sin, and he gives us salvation. We give him our brokenness, and he gives us healing. We extend our unworthiness, and he bestows on us his grace.
I was at a Vacation Bible School event for fifth and sixth graders recently, and they were singing—or more accurately screaming—the words to this song as they ran and danced around the sanctuary:
I’m trading my sorrows
I’m trading my shame
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord
I want to have that same kind of boundless joy as I remember the trade God has made with me. It was the ultimate unfair trade. In an unprecedented move, the one with the power took the loss himself… and gave us everything instead.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.