Old Testament, Part 2
The Old Testament of the Bible is a difficult book for many people. It comes from a culture with which we are unfamiliar. The names of many characters and the locations where they lived seem to be from another planet. It comes from ancient history which seems to have no importance for today. Yet, I believe there are many important messages that God has planted in the Old Testament that are critical for our spiritual lives today.
In my last blog I presented what I consider to be central points from the opening three chapters of the Old Testament. In this blog I want to present one of the little talked about themes that surfaces at the conclusion of those opening chapters.
Adam and Eve were created by God. Their initial existence was one of innocence. They had not sinned. They had not rebelled. They were innocent of wrong doing and they were ignorant of wrong doing. In addition, they were intimate with their creator, God. The implication of these opening verses is that God walked where Adam and Eve lived and they conversed and shared a type of communion.
This intimate spirituality was lost when Adam and Eve chose to break with God’s order. I wrote about that break and the consequences in my last blog. God had warned the man and woman that “you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (2:17). They ate. Innocence and intimacy died. What else would God do? Destroy the two who represented the highest level of God’s creation? Come up with an alternative plan?
It appears that what God chose to do was twofold: First, like a parent, God chose to punish the disobedient children with consequences. I mentioned those consequences of the four broken relationships last week. God did not look the other way and ignore what had taken place. God modeled good parenting.
The second action of God is found in Genesis 3:21. It reads:
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Even though this theme is not fully developed at this time, it appears that the seed of atonement is being planted in this act. What is atonement? Here is its definition from The Complete Word Study Dictionary.
kāp̠ar: A verb meaning to cover, to forgive, to expiate, to reconcile. This word is of supreme theological importance in the Old Testament as it is central to an Old Testament understanding of the remission of sin. At its most basic level, the word conveys the notion of covering but not in the sense of merely concealing. Rather, it suggests the imposing of something to change its appearance or nature. It is therefore employed to signify the cancellation or “writing over” of a contract (Isa. 28:18); the appeasing of anger (Gen. 32:20; Prov. 16:14); and the overlaying of wood with pitch so as to make it waterproof (Gen. 6:14). The word also communicates God’s covering of sin. Persons made reconciliation with God for their sins by imposing something that would appease the offended party (in this case the Lord) and cover the sinners with righteousness (Ex. 32:30; Ezek. 45:17; cf. Dan. 9:24). In the Old Testament, the blood of sacrifices was most notably imposed (Ex. 30:10). By this imposition, sin was purged (Ps. 79:9; Isa. 6:7) and forgiven (Ps. 78:38). The offenses were removed, leaving the sinners clothed in righteousness (cf. Zech. 3:3, 4). Of course, the imposition of the blood of bulls and of goats could never fully cover our sin (see Heb. 10:4), but with the coming of Christ and the imposition of His shed blood, a perfect atonement was made (Rom. 5:9-11).
Broken relationships can be atoned for and thus a healing process can begin. We need to know this Old Testament lesson in our world today. Adam and Eve had a lot to learn and it began with forgiveness and reconciliation.
There is one more powerful message anchored in these early pages of the Old Testament that ought to transform us: God initiated the forgiving process. This is what sets the Judeo-Christian faith apart from all other religions. All other religions say, “Do these religious things and God might forgive you. Do these things often enough and God might love you. But, you must do these things first and then maybe, if your ‘doings have been good enough,’ you and God will be reconciled.” Contrast this to this message from the Old Testament that says:
When humans had rebelled,
When humans were broken,
When humans were in sin,
God initiated reconciliation and offered atonement.
God already loves us! God already wants us to be reconciled! God has already initiated the process for us to become right with God! And what action is required of human beings? People must believe God’s has made this offer, accept if for themselves, and begin to live once again in a right relationship with God. Listen to how the most famous verse of the New Testament describes this process that is anchored in this early action from the Old Testament:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
How about you? Do you want to accept God’s offer? God wants you to.
Next blog? OT Part 3: How to live once again in a right relationship with God and with one another.