The Story of Scripture, Part 10 – A New Covenant for Sinners

Having conquered its enemies under King David, the nation of Israel flourished. It reached the peak of its glory during the reign of King David’s son, Solomon. Unfortunately, Solomon yielded to a life of sin and sent the nation into a fast downward spiral. Israel’s condition became more and more severe as they slid down the track of idolatry and all-round rebellion. Even after God had sent them message upon message (through the prophets), warning them to repent of their ways, the downward cycle of sin continued.

This eventually led to their severe chastisement. God brought the Babylonians upon them to destroy their temple and have them taken off into captivity. Exile was a devastating experience for the Israelites. They had broken their covenant with God, and were undergoing the severe consequences of their transgression: no temple, no city, no land. All was taken away, and never was their sin so clearly before them. Yet, very purposefully, it was during this time that God’s covenant grace was most clearly revealed as God sent his prophets to console the people with news of the coming Saviour and the New Covenant;

Jer 23:5-6;

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.” 

Jer 31:31-34;

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Isa 53:5-6;

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us 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. 

Zec 9:9;

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Mal 4:5-6;

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

The Story of Scripture, Part 4 – Light Shines Amidst the Darkness

Gen 4:25;

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.

Now exiled from Eden, Eve gave birth to her first son, Cain. Though she had surely anticipated that he would be the promised Savior, he turned out to be quite the opposite, even murdering his own brother and putting on full display what it would now be like to live in a fallen world.

Even so, sin spread rapidly; like an aggressive cancer. At the same time, however, we read of the way that God remained faithful to His promise, and started to preserve for himself a godly remnant.  Eve gave birth to another son, Seth, which then served to begin the lineage that would eventually lead to Christ, the promised Son. 

To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.

And so we see the beginnings of a theme and contrast that stays consistent throughout. The shining light of God’s promise against the background of vast, dark human rebellion.

In that regard, the next major figure in this lineage of grace, is Noah.

Gen 6:5-8;

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 

Once the effects of the fall were painfully evident, God unleashed judgement, and destroyed everything with a flood. However, because of the promise that he had made to Adam and Eve, God gave Noah instructions to build a boat that would keep him and his family safe. This was to act as a powerful foreshadowing of the predicament that man was in, and that his only hope was in the promise of grace through the coming Messiah. While the whole world will be subject to judgment, those (like Noah and his family), who have trusted in the promise of God’s word, would be saved. 

When the flood was over, God made a covenant with Noah: a covenant that promised the preservation of humanity. Though it had now been clearly shown that man deserved to be destroyed for their sins, God would nevertheless preserve a stage of humanity from whom the Saviour would come. In this sense, it would be by God’s common grace to all that the stage is preserved, so that special grace could be given to those who would place their trust in the Ark of God.

To confirm this, God established the rainbow as a covenant sign. The bow, which was an ancient symbol for war, would remind the world that the next time that God’s wrath would be aimed at man, it would be aimed upwards upon himself (in Jesus Christ) rather than downwards as it had been, upon the sons of men.

The Story of Scripture, Part 3 – Bad News and Good News

We ended on the last post, talking about Adam’s tragic failure, and the entry of sin. For the first time in human history, mankind began to run away from the presence of God. The whole world was now ruined by their rebellion. But the question was this: how would God respond to a world that had chosen to go its own way?

Firstly (as one might expect), God brought judgment. He told them that they would return to the dust. And while the idea of physical death was frightening enough, mankind would also face the reality of spiritual death and eternal judgment in hell.

At this point things would seem very dark indeed if it were not for the precious promise revealed in Gen 3:15.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Here, in seed form, is the first promise that God would send a Saviour. It is the first glorious fore-hailing of Christ. God promised to crush all the evil forces that Adam and Eve had unleashed in their foolish rebellion (Gen. 3:15). And it is really in this moment, just after our consideration of what was lost in the garden, that we are able to appreciate the purpose of this redemption most clearly. As Kline says: “The purpose of redemption is to bring to pass, in spite of the Fall, the realization of the eschatological goal of a consummate revelation of God’s Glory, as originally set for creation.”[1]

Put as simply as possible, a second Adam was needed, to do what the first Adam had failed to do. And this is exactly what is here promised. God told Adam and Eve that this salvation would come through their own offspring!Once again, we consider this image:

Can you imagine the incredible amount of joy and hope that they must have found in this promise?

Gen 3:20, says this: 

“The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”

Adam and Eve go on to trust that God would save them through the coming Messiah. One day, there would be another federal head; another great prophet, priest and king — a second Adam. And even so, Adam named his wife ‘Eve’ – meaning, mother (not of the dead, as would otherwise have been the case) but instead; mother of the living, and this because of the coming Saviour.

Even so, God killed an innocent animal for their sake, as a foreshadowing of the very manner in which the promised Son would bring about their redemption.

Gen 3:21 ;

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” 

God shed the blood (source of life) of the innocent as a substitute for the guilty so that they could be covered. However, until the foreshadowed reality was consummate, as a consequence of the fall mankind was no longer able to dwell in the presence of God.

In that regard, here is yet another haunting image to consider.

From this point, the next several millennia of human history are recorded for us in a few brief chapters (Gen. 3-11). It is a story of two interwoven developments. On the one hand, we see the increasing darkness of sin. On the other, we see God’s faithfulness to His gospel promise. We will explore these developments in the next post.

Notes;

 [1] Kline, M. G. (2006). God, Heaven and Har Magedon: A Covenantal Tale of Cosmos and Telos (p. 14). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

The Story of Scripture, Part 2 – High Treason

In the last post we emphasized that the time in the garden was a time of probation for the first Adam. By working for six days and then resting on the seventh, God had already modeled for this first federal head, that if he would work to keep these commandments, that he too (along with all of his posterity after him) could enter into the covenant blessing of an eternal Sabbath rest; never again having to fear the possibility of disobedience to the Creator.

We also mentioned that during this period of probation, God placed one specific restriction upon them: they were not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. By submitting to God’s word, Adam and Eve would have the chance to learn the joy of living as trustful and dependant creatures.[1] “The Lord of the covenant, the Lord of the Edenic sanctuary in its double role of home-protectorate and temple, was thus man’s Father and his God.”[2] In this way, even as the second Adam would later demonstrate, “from the very beginning man was taught to pray trustingly: ‘Our Father which art in heaven,’ and to add worshipfully: ‘Hallowed be thy name.'”[3] . But also, due to Adam’s great eschatological hope of future sabbath kingdom blessing (of which the garden was but a prologue), “man would learn to continue his Lord’s prayer: “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”[4]

Chapter three in Genesis sets the context for the entire Bible. At this time, a fallen angel (Satan) entered into the garden with all malice, duplicitously taking the form of a snake and offering to Adam and Eve another ‘word’. Deceitful and rebellious to the core, this word challenged the very goodness and truthfulness of the Great Suzerain, and promised more satisfaction than could be derived under their current treaty arrangement.

The evil one had thus revealed his rebellion, and this was the time for Adam to exercise his sacred office. He alone (as the great prophet, priest and king), was invested with the responsibility and authority “to repulse Satan’s profane encroachment into God’s sanctuary. . . Taking his stand as God’s warrior-priest, guardian of the holy ground of Har Magedon, he must declare the evil one evil, condemn his trespass, and repulse him. This task, signalized by the name of the tree of the knowing of good and evil, was indeed the critical task.” [5]

Tragically, as we know, Adam fails to discharge his duty. Indeed, he fails at multiple levels. At the heart of this failure, however, Adam and Eve are both shown to accept Satan’s word, and join in with the rebellion against Yahweh. And due to Adam’s kingly and federal office, this treasonous act had cosmic significance, sending “shock-waves throughout the whole of creation.”[6] The whole world was now ruined by their rebellion. And for the first time in human history, mankind began to run away from the presence of God. But, the real question was this: How would God respond to a world that had chosen to go its own way? We will look at God’s profound answer in the next post.

Notes:

  1. Bartholomew, C. and Goheen, M. The Story-Line of the Bible.
  2. Kline, M. G. (2006). Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (p. 61). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Kline, M. G. (2006). God, Heaven and Har Magedon: A Covenantal Tale of Cosmos and Telos (p. 68). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.
  6. Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, “The Story-Line of the Bible”.