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the promise and the rescuer

The promise


Throughout the Old Testament we see God trying to teach people about his holiness and the need to follow his commands and laws in order to draw near to him. God loves and wants a relationship with his fallen creation. We see God knew he was ultimately the only one who could rescue his creation and we see this foreshadowed numerous times. We consistently see God choose unlikely people and raise them up to accomplish this goal. When reading the scriptures in Hebrew we also begin to see the word tome appear to describe these people living lives pleasing to God. They were trying to live life as God had instructed. This doesn't mean they were perfect. Far from it. After sin entered the world it was impossible to follow all of God's commands. Despite their flaws, we see Abraham, Job, David and Solomon all described with the word tome, as living with integrity and seeking to serve God.

One of the most important accounts in the Old Testament which explains the Gospel and God's promise to restore his creation is Genesis 15. God made a covenant with Abram (Abraham) promising if he obeyed, God would provide him a son and all the families of the earth would be blessed through him. God promised the land before Abraham would be for his offspring and said they would be delivered from slavery 400 years later. In Genesis 15:8 Abraham asked God “how will I know” these promises will be fulfilled? To show his commitment to this promise, God asked Abraham to gather some animals to bring to him. Abraham knew what God was doing and brought the animals, cut them in half and separated the pieces to prepare for a blood covenant. 


To understand what was going on we need to know how contracts were handled during this time period. Rather than signing a contract, the different parties acted out the contract. When entering into a covenant or promise it was customary for people to cut animals in two and then both parties would walk between the pieces signifying if they broke the terms of the contract, they should die and be laid on the ground. Abraham was expecting to be asked by God to walk through the prepared blood covenant. Instead darkness fell over him and he went to sleep. Later in the evening Abraham is awoken by God who passed through the pieces in a pillar of fire alone. God was saying if he were to break this covenant promise, he would be torn into pieces. Because God went through alone it also meant if Abraham were unable to live up to his end of the covenant, God would be torn into pieces and die. God knew Abraham and his descendants would be unable to honor the covenant and knew one day He would need to die to fulfill this promise.

The book of Exodus recounts the events of God fulfilling his promise to deliver Abraham's descendants from slavery. God raised up Moses to help lead his people out of Egypt and back to the land they were promised. Pharaoh resisted and God brought plagues upon the land to show his power as the one true God contrasted against the Egyptian gods of the time. The very last plague visited on the Egyptians before Pharaoh capitulated and let them go was the death of every first born son. Only those who covered their door posts in the blood of a spotless lamb were spared as the angel of death passed over their houses. This is how the Passover celebration began and was foreshadowing the coming death of another spotless Lamb to atone for the world's sin. 


When God's people had been rescued out of Egypt he gave Moses his law in the Ten Commandments. The purpose of the law was to instruct or guide them how to live as God wanted which would prove to be impossible. Once they were given the commandments, God told Moses to build the Ark of the Covenant to hold the commandments. The Ark would serve as the place where God would dwell among his people and be able to draw near to his servants. God had Moses build a tent or tabernacle to house the ark. Separating God and the Ark from his people was a veil. The veil served to protect people from God's holiness. Before anyone could draw near to him, a burnt offering was required. The burning of the animal signified what should have happened to the person coming to meet with God since they were not without sin. (Remember the danger of God's holiness to sinful people.) The need for the sacrificial burnt offering is important because it is foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice required by God to fulfill his covenant promise.


We eventually see King David raised up to lead God's people as a man with a heart of integrity who sought to serve God's will. He knew the importance of the Ark and seeking God's guidance in leading his kingdom. David's life is one we look to as someone who sought a deep relationship with God. Many of the Psalms were written by David and they give us a glimpse into the prayer life of a man who's soul longed to be near to God. David would go down in history as one of Israel's greatest kings. Through David's son Solomon, God would have the Temple built to house the Ark with specific instructions on how to build it and what must be done in order to approach him. The Ark was again required to be hidden behind a veil which continued to separate God's presence from his followers. 


The rescuer

God knew when he originally promised Abraham the world would be blessed through his son, ultimately he was going to need to come to earth and be made vulnerable in human form so he could physically take our place in the covenant and die. God, rather than seeking ultimate power through his throne, humbled himself and came to serve in the most unlikely form: a baby boy born in a manger. His mother Miriam (Mary) was told by an angel to give her son the name Yeshua (Jesus) which means to rescue, or deliver. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" John 1:14. We are able to trace Jesus' lineage and title to David's throne all the way back to Abraham when we look to the scriptures. Both Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 give us the account of Jesus lineage. For a more in depth and detailed look please visit The Genealogy of the Messiah. This is one reason why Jesus is referred to as a king. He was the rightful heir to King David's throne.  Jesus would go on to live the tome life we were supposed to live in order to fulfill God's law and covenant with man. He became the spotless Lamb needed to save us from God's justice towards sin in the world.

Long after sin entered the garden through Adam and Eve, and centuries after God's promise to Abraham, Jesus would find himself in a different garden, the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). Showing his vulnerability and knowing what was required of him, Jesus pleaded to our heavenly father to find another way to fulfill the covenant. This time, God was asking Jesus to obey about another tree (the cross) to redeem creation. Through obedience, Jesus took our place, was crushed and separated from God on the cross (Matthew 27:46), and died fulfilling God's promise to Abraham. The veil in the temple separating us from God was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50-51). God moved out of the temple and now through Jesus' death, his Spirit lives inside each of us. This is why you now hear our bodies referred to as a temple. "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own." 1 Corinthians 6:19.


Jesus obedience to our Heavenly Father lead to the redemption of God’s creation from the fall of man and the restoration of the tree of life through the cross. We are no longer separated from God's presence if we believe this and follow him. We are promised eternal life with our heavenly father (John 3:16). There is nothing we can do to earn the gift of life Jesus promises us. He alone paid the price for our sin with his blood and God's grace pours down on those who know this and choose to follow Jesus. We are washed clean in God's eyes when we accept this gift. No sin is too great. Jesus now stands as our representative before God having made the ultimate sacrifice to atone for our sins. We are no longer under the Mosaic law since it has been fulfilled in Christ.


Following Jesus death, he appeared to over 500 people. The apostle Paul over 20 years after Christ's death recounts this in 1 Corinthians 15:6. Many of these people whom Jesus appeared to became fearless and went on to die telling the world what they had witnessed. The gospel spread throughout the world as peoples lives were changed and they found the rest for their souls Jesus promised. When we look to the garden of Eden, we see the life God wanted us to live. When we look to Jesus, we see the life he wants us to live through his example. We ought to strive to live by his example and reflect God's glory to the rest of the world in thanks to him for rescuing us from our sin. 

Jesus invites us in to a life of discipline. He invites us to follow him and become his apprentice in Matthew 11:28-30. "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." When we follow Jesus into his call for apprenticeship, we are promised eternal existence in his presence in a new creation without blemish.

Additional Resources:
Timothy Keller sermon - Abraham and the Torch 
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