In my previous post I explained how many of us miss what it means that we are forgiven of our sins because we only see it as being forgiven, and that’s it. As I said, since immersing myself in the Old Testament for several years, I realized that in the gospel God was literally saving us from himself. That’s why the gospel is such good news, such very good news. We rightly deserved his wrath and anger against our sin, the just wages of which is death. God could never have forgiven us simply because he wanted to without his justice being satisfied. That’s the way it is with any law that is broken, or any offense given; recompense must in some way be made. We live in a moral universe where right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice exist. Why would this moral dynamic not apply to the Creator of this universe.
One of the first things you’ll notice as you start reading the Old Testament is the serious nature of this thing called sin. Not even three chapters in and the whole thing goes to hell! Don’t eat of one tree, God tells Adam. All the rest, the whole of creation is yours to enjoy. But the devil tempts Eve (where was Adam?), she and Adam eat, and the rest is fallen history.
God tells Adam that the sentence for disobedience is death (“when you eat from it you will certainly die”), but when they ate they didn’t physically die right away. We get some sense of what kind of death this is from Adam and Eve’s response to “the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day”: they hid. This is what sinners by nature do; they want nothing to do with their judge, jury, and executioner. They, we, know, every one of us, that we are guilty. As I often say, we can’t even live up to our own standards, let alone those of a perfectly holy God.
Adam and Eve’s initial response perfectly captures the human dilemma. Once they ate, once they disobeyed their maker:
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Sinful human beings are always in the futile process of sewing fig leaves together trying cover their nakedness before God. That’s what religion is (and too often the Christian religion as we live it), our futile efforts to earn God’s favor without taking into account his wrath and judgment against sin. We think we can save ourselves, but the penalty, death, has to be paid, so that’s simply not possible.
In the very next chapter we begin to see how ugly sin is when Cain kills his brother Abel over some petty jealousy. It gets so bad that God wipes out all the inhabitants of earth in a flood, except Noah and his family. Sins wages, death, we’re called in by God. This is very difficult for modern people to stomach, that God is perfectly just in exacting death for our sin. This become more clear as we continue to read through the Old Testament. God gave a hint to Adam and Eve, and us, that he would provide a solution to the problem they created, and that his solution would involve violence. Here is what the Lord God tells the devil in the form of the serpent:
15 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.”
This offspring, or seed, points forward in the whole of redemptive history to Christ. It takes over 2000 years for God to get across his message as to what exactly this crushing and striking would entail, and why it was necessary. It is often not pretty, frequently disturbing, and ultimately comforting. The story is so counter-intuitive at so many places, so unlike a story made up from human imagination, that it has a powerful verisimilitude to it, something that rings true and real. Knowing the story deeply and in detail is imperative if we’re to fully grasp the wonder of our forgiveness before a holy God. I’ll explore this more in my next post.