I’ve been thinking a great deal about the faithfulness of God lately and how the Bible is really all about Him. I know, we tend to make it about “us” and our salvation but it is really about the wonder, grace, compassion, and goodness of God who has never given up on us.
In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve made a wrong decision and through that decision sin entered into the world. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12 Adam and Eve’s sin was they stopped trusting God and decided they should become God. They decided to make life about what they wanted and what they wanted was to elevate themselves to godhood.
The result was their world changed, but God didn’t leave them without hope that things could be right again. He says to Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 Without getting into the theology behind this verse we can recognize it for what it is. Satan will strike the heel of Adam’s offspring but that offspring will crush his head. This, of course, is a reference to Satan’s final destruction at the hand of the Messiah.
That statement of fact, given in the garden, is formulated as promise in the giving of the great covenant to Abraham. (See Genesis 12, 15, 17) There Abraham is promised three distinct blessings. His descendants would be so numerous that they would be like the stars of the sky, the land would be his and through his “seed” would come the Messiah that would fulfill God’s vow of Genesis 3:15 and as a result set humanity free from the power of Satan, death, and sin.
In Genesis 15:12-17 we see that it is God Himself who will fulfill the promise to crush the head of Satan and it is God Himself who will have His heal bruised (think the cross). Instead of Abram (Abraham) having to promise to do all the work, as in Middle Eastern Suzerain treaties, God declares His faithfulness to the covenant and takes upon Himself the curses and penalties for Abraham and his descendants failures to live up to the covenant. He will bear the sins of the world and give His life that those sins and trespasses can be forgiven and forgotten. Abraham may not have known all the ins and outs of what God was doing and going to do through Abraham’s offspring but he trusted God.
Remember, when he was upset that Sarah was barren and couldn’t have children, God came and assured him that she would have a child even though she was old and well beyond the child bearing age. Genesis 15:6 says that Abraham believed and “it was reckoned unto him as righteousness.”
The promise of Satan’s defeat and God’s ultimate victory over sin is repeated to Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph and when God strikes into the very heart of Egypt to free his people who spent four hundred years in slavery, the people remember God’s promises.
God leads them out of slavery and across the desert and into the Promised Land. Is this where the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 is to take place? But once again the people rebel and turn away from God to put their own interests and desires before “trusting” and “loving God.” They are in the land of milk and honey (a type of the garden) and are repeating the same mistake as Adam and Eve.
God had renewed the covenant with them at Mount Sinai and given them the commandments and regulations for proper conduct as followers of God before they entered the land. Along with the covenant promises of what God would do for them if they would stay faithful came the curses (See Deut. 30) of what would happen if they turned their backs upon Him and ignored His help and directions for a successful life. The final curse was they would go back into captivity.
Sure enough after generations of rebellion and refusal to put their trust in God but instead spending their time worshipping demons (false idols), the Kingdom of Israel was overrun by the Assyrians and the majority of the Israel carried off to captivity to never return. The two and one half tribes that still remained in the land in their little Kingdom of Judah, unfortunately, didn’t learn from the fate of their fellow Israelites. They continued living in rebellion, indifference, and outright distain even though the great prophets, such as Jeremiah, of the Old Testament spent years warning them of their coming fate if they didn’t repent and put God first in their lives again.
They also go into captivity under the Babylonian Empire. But God’s faithfulness never wavers. Just as He brought them out of Egypt He brings a remnant (all who would go) out of Babylon and they return to the promised land, rebuild Jerusalem (somewhat), and work on rebuilding the Temple.
Skip ahead to the time of Jesus. The Jews are once again in captivity but this time under the Romans. They have spent much of the last four hundred years living under the yoke of different nations and even fought one major war against their Syrian overlords where they won a brief time of freedom and independence. But with the coming of the Romans they felt they were no better off than when in captivity in Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.
However, something was happening. Some of the Jewish spiritual leaders were reading Daniel 9 and believed that they were nearing the end of the seventy-week times seven prophecy (9:24) and then the Messiah would return. Many of the Jews believed that in a real sense they were still in exile and the promises of deliverance from captivity was still future. Without getting into it they believed the Shekinah glory had never returned to the temple after their exile to Babylon.
Yes, they had a beautiful big temple but God’s glory was not there as it had been in the wilderness sanctuary and Solomon’s temple. What they needed was the return of the Messiah who would lead them out of exile, forgive them their sins for their past idol worship, defeat the Romans, restore the Temple greatness, and set the Kingdom up on Mount Zion. Then God (YHWH) would return, set up His kingdom and all the nations of the earth would come and worship and be grafted into Israel.
Paul comes along and says basically you are right, the time is at hand for the coming of the Messiah and He will lead us out of exile but it will be a spiritual Exodus that He leads delivering us from sin, Satan, and death. Yes, He will free us from bondage, but a bondage that enslaved us through the law that could only point out our failure and sin. Through the forgiveness of sin He will set up His Kingdom (in fact it has already broken through when Satan, death, and sin were defeated at the cross) and freedom will reign.
All the hopes, dreams, and desires of the Jews have been fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah but they missed it and crucified Him instead of worshipping Him. Yet, the faithfulness of God continued in His mercy and love. He didn’t cast the covenant promise to Abraham’s descendants aside and say “now I’m going with the gentiles.” No, He is faithful to His covenant promise to Adam, Abraham, the children of Israel, and in a very real way to us.
The point of the law was to show the children of Israel that they, as humans, could not defeat Satan and crush his head. They themselves were sinful (remember the golden calf while Moses is receiving the Law) and needed a savior so when they measured themselves up against the Law (Torah) requirement they realized they couldn’t save themselves or anyone else. In a very real sense this was Adam’s great failure in the garden. He thought he could save himself (be independent of God means the same thing).
The promise to Abraham was that through his “seed” (singular) would come redemption and the fulfillment of the covenant promises. What the law did was reveal that Israel couldn’t do the job of saving the world so one representative, the Messiah, God Himself would carry the mission upon His heart. Remember, Genesis 15 where God says He will fulfill the covenant promises and carry the curses for the failure of humanity to live up to their end of the covenant. The penalty they should pay—He will pay.
God is faithful and that faithfulness led Him to the cross. Paul was a monotheist and he didn’t believe Jesus was a second God or someone who wasn’t God. He believed Jesus, the Messiah, was fully God and the Father was in Him and He within the Father. In a very real sense God was crucified upon the cross for our sins.
This leads me to one last thought. People often believe that Jesus’ death was to appease an angry God who cast His wrath out upon Jesus as our substitute so that we don’t have to take the penalty upon ourselves. But what if it is true that God Himself hung upon that cross; who is He appeasing—Himself?
No, God died the horrible death of crucifixion because He was (and is) faithful to His covenant promise to Adam. He died on that cross because He loved us and longs to have us home in the garden again. The whole point of the last chapters of Revelation is that we are returned to the garden to be with God once again.
The wrath of God is poured out upon sin itself not upon us or Jesus. Jesus died for us, not to make the Father love us, but He died because the Father already loves us. The Spirit, the Father, and Jesus (God) love us. Listen, if God has been faithful throughout the long history from Adam to the time of the Messiah, is He going to stop being faithful to us now?
No. At the cross our salvation was assured and now we simply need to live in the comfort of God’s loving arms that stretch around us and the world calling us all home to the Garden.