Moses’ Farewell Speech: History marching to the beat of its drum

Moses’ Blessings & Curses in Deuteronomy

Moses lived about 3500 years ago and he wrote the first five books of the Bible. We call them the Pentateuch or the Torah. His fifth book, Deuteronomy, contains his last proclamations made just before he died. These were his Blessings to the people of Israel – the Jews, but also his Curses.  Moses wrote that these Blessings and Curses would shape history. All peoples, not just by the Jews, should pay attention to them. So he wrote this for you and me to think about. The complete Blessings and Curses are here. I summarize the main points below.

Timeline with Moses. The Blessings and Curses given just before he died.

The Blessings of Moses

Moses began by describing the blessings that the Israelites would receive if they obeyed The Law.  He gave the law in the earlier books and they included the Ten Commandments.  The blessings were from God and would be so great that all other nations would recognize His blessing. The outcome of these blessings would be that:

Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you.

Deuteronomy 28:10

… and the Curses

However, if the Israelites failed to obey the Commands then they would receive Curses that would match and mirror the Blessings. The other nations would see these Curses so that:

You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you.

Deuteronomy 28:37

And the Curses would extend through history.

They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever.

Deuteronomy 28:46

But God warned that the worst part of the Curses would come from other nations.

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed … until you are ruined. They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land.

Deuteronomy 28:49-52

It would go from bad to worse.

You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. … Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.

Deuteronomy 28:63-65

God established these Blessings and Curses by a covenant (an agreement) between Him and the Israelites:

You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today.

Deuteronomy 29:12-15

In other words this covenant would be binding on the children, or future generations. In fact God directed this covenant at future generations – both Israelite and foreigner.

Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it. The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger. All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

Deuteronomy 29:22-24

And the answer will be:

And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”

Deuteronomy 29:25-28

Did The Blessings and Curses happen?

Nothing neutral about them. The Blessings were delightful, but the Curses were utterly severe. However, the most important question we can ask is: ‘Did they happen?’ The answer is not hard to find. Much of the Old Testament is the record of the history of the Israelites and from that we can see what happens in their history. Also we have records outside the Old Testament, from Jewish historians like Josephus, Graeco-Roman historians like Tacitus and we have found many archeological monuments. All of these sources agree and paint a consistent picture of the Israelite or Jewish history. Review the summary of this history, given through the building of a timeline here.  Read it and assess for yourself if the Curses of Moses came to pass.

The Conclusion to Moses’ Blessings and Curses

But this Farewell Speech of Moses did not end with the Curses. It continued. Here is how Moses final conclusion.

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors

Deuteronomy 30:1-5

After Moses, successive writers in the Old Testament continued with this promise that he first stated. There would be a restoration after the Curses.  These later writers made bold, troubling and detailed predictions. Together they make an astounding set of predictions that are happening today.

Шта су десет заповести? Шта они уче?

Мојсије је написао првих пет књига Библије. Ове књиге описују рођење израелске нације пре више хиљада година . Мојсијева мисија је била да роди ову нацију да постане светлост околним народима. Почео је тако што је извео Израелце (или Јевреје) из ропства у Египту кроз спасавање познато као Пасха . На Пасху је Бог ослободио Израелце на начин који је указао на будуће ослобођење целог човечанства . 

Мојсије у временској линији. Десет заповести је дато за његовог живота.

Али Мојсијев позив није био само да изведе Израелце из египатског ропства. Његов мандат је такође био да их води новом начину живота. Тако их је, педесет дана после Пасхе, Мојсије одвео на гору Синај где су научили о Закону.

Моунт Синаи

Које је заповести добио Мојсије? Комплетан Закон је био прилично дугачак, са 613 специфичних наредби. Али Мојсије је прво примио сет од 90 отрова камена, познатих као Десет заповести . Ових десет чинили су сажетак Закона – морални предуслови пре свих осталих. Десет заповести (понекад се називају Декалогом) су Божја активна моћ да нас убеди да се покајемо . То је оно што испитујемо у овом чланку.

Део Деутерономије свих душа, који садржи најстарију сачувану копију Декалога,
непознати аутор, фотографија Шаи Халевија , јавно власништво, преко Викимедиа Цоммонс-а

Десет заповести

Ево десет заповести које је Бог написао на камену. Затим их је Мојсије записао у књигу Изласка из Библије.

И Бог рече све ове речи:

 „Ја сам Господ Бог твој, који сам те извео из Египта, из земље ропства.

 „Немој имати других богова осим мене.

 „Не прави себи лик у облику било чега што је на небу горе или на земљи испод или у водама доле.  Не клањај им се нити им се клањај; јер ја, Господ Бог твој, Бог сам љубоморан, који кажњавам децу за грех родитеља до трећег и четвртог колена оних који ме мрзе,  али показујем љубав хиљаду нараштаја оних који ме љубе и чувају моје заповести.

 „Немој злоупотребљавати име Господа Бога свог, јер Господ неће сматрати невиним никога ко злоупотребљава његово име.

 „Памти суботни дан светкујући га.  Шест дана ради и ради сав свој посао, 10  а седми дан је субота Господу Богу свом. На њему немој радити никакав посао, ни ти, ни твој син или ћерка, ни слушкиња или слушкиња твоја, ни животиње твоје, ни било који странац који живи у твојим градовима. 11  Јер је Господ за шест дана створио небо и земљу, море и све што је у њима, а седмог дана је починуо. Зато је Господ благословио суботни дан и посветио га.

12  „Поштуј оца свога и мајку своју, да би дуго живео у земљи коју ти Господ Бог твој даје.

13  „Не убиј.

14  „Не чини прељубу.

15  „Не кради.

16  „Не сведочи лажно против свог ближњег.

17  „Не пожели куће ближњег свога. Не пожели жену ближњега свога, или његову слушкињу или слушкињу, његовог вола или магарца, нити било шта што је ближње твоје.”

Излазак 20: 1-17

Стандард десет заповести

Данас, понекад заборављамо да су то биле наредбе , а не сугестије или препоруке. Али у којој мери треба да се повинујемо овим заповестима? Следећи стих долази непосредно пре давања десет заповести:

 Тада Мојсије оде Богу, и Господ га позва са горе и рече: „Ово треба да кажеш Јаковљевом потомству и шта ћеш рећи народу Израиљевом…

Излазак 19:3

Ако ми се потпуно покоравате и завет мој будете држали, онда ћете од свих народа бити моје драгоцено власништво. Иако је цела земља моја,

Излазак 19:5

Мојсије је забележио следеће непосредно након давања Десет заповести.

Затим је узео Књигу завета и прочитао је људима. Они су одговорили: „Учинићемо све што је Господ рекао ; послушаћемо.”

Излазак24:7

Десет команди – није вишеструки избор

Хајде да размислимо о овоме. Понекад на школским испитима наставници постављају више питања (на пример 20). Али онда од ученика захтевају да одговоре само на нека питања. На пример, ученици могу да изаберу било којих 15 питања од 20 на које ће одговорити. Сваки ученик би изабрао 15 најлакших питања на која би могао одговорити. На овај начин наставник олакшава полагање испита.

Многи људи третирају Десет заповести на исти начин. Они мисле да је Бог, након што је дао десет заповести, значио: „Покушај било које шест по свом избору од ових десет“. Размишљамо на овај начин јер инстинктивно замишљамо Бога како балансира наша ‘добра дела’ са нашим ‘лошим делима’. Ако наше добре заслуге надмашују или пониште наше лоше несавршености, надамо се да је то довољно да заслужимо Божју наклоност. Или бар можда добијете пропусницу за небо. Из истог разлога, многи од нас покушавају да зараде верске заслуге кроз верске активности. То често укључује; одлазак у цркву, џамију или храм, молитву, пост и давање новца сиромашнима. Надамо се да ће ова дела уравнотежити време када не поштујемо једну од десет заповести.

Међутим, искрено читање Десет заповести показује да то није било како је Бог дао. Људи треба да слушају и држе СВЕ команде – све време. Сама потешкоћа да се ово постигне натерала је многе побуњенике против Десет заповести. Познати атеиста Кристофер Хиченс напао је Десет заповести из овог разлога:

 „… затим долазе четири чувена ‘схалт нот’ која јасно забрањују убиство, прељубу, крађу и лажно сведочење. Коначно, постоји забрана похлепе, забрана жеље за ‘твојим суседима’… покретним стварима. … Уместо осуде злих поступака, постоји чудно формулисана осуда нечистих мисли…. Захтева немогуће… Човек може бити насилно уздржан од злих поступака…, али забранити људима да о њима размишљају је превише…. Ако је Бог заиста желео да људи буду ослобођени таквих мисли, требало је више да се побрине да измисли другу врсту.” 

Цхристопхер Хитцхенс. 2007. Бог није велики: Како религија све квари. П.99-100

Цхристопхер Хитцхенс

Зашто је Бог дао десет заповести?

Али мислити или да Бог може прихватити 50%+ напора, или да је Бог направио грешку захтевајући немогуће, значи погрешно разумети сврху Десет заповести. Бог нам је дао десет заповести да нам помогну да идентификујемо своје проблеме.

Хајде да то илуструјемо примером. Претпоставимо да сте тешко пали на земљу и тешко повредили руку. Међутим, нисте сигурни у унутрашње оштећење. Да ли вам је кост у руци сломљена или не? Нисте свесни да ли ће бити боље или вам је потребан гипс на руци. Дакле, урадите рендгенски снимак руке, а рендгенски снимак открива праву ситуацију. Да, заиста, сломио си кост у руци. Да ли вам рендгенски снимак лечи руку? Да ли вам је рука боље због рендгенског снимка? Не, рука ти је још увек сломљена. Али сада знате  да  је заиста сломљена, и морате да ставите гипс на њега да бисте зацелили. Рендген није решио проблем, већ је  разоткрио  проблем, тако да га сада можете правилно третирати.

Команде откривају грех

Исто тако, Бог нам је дао десет заповести како бисмо могли да видимо проблем дубоко у себи, свој грех. Грех  значи „пропуштање“ циља  онога што Бог очекује од нас у начину на који се опходимо према другима, себи и Богу. Библија то каже

Господ гледа са неба

на цело човечанство

да види да ли има ко разуме,

ко тражи Бога.

Сви су се окренули, сви су се покварили;

нема никога ко чини добро,

ни једног. (Псалам 14:2-3)

Сви имамо овај унутрашњи покварујући проблем греха . Ово је толико озбиљно да Бог каже за наша ‘добра дела’ (за која се надамо да ће поништити наше грехе) да:

Сви смо ми постали као нечисти,

и сва наша праведна дела су као прљаве крпе ;

сви се смежурамо као лист,

и као ветар греси нас односе. (Исаија 64:6)

Наше праведне заслуге у религиозним обредима или помагању другима рачунају се само као „прљаве крпе“ када се одмере нашим гресима.

Али уместо да препознамо свој проблем, ми тежимо да се поредимо са другима. Чинећи ово, меримо се према погрешном стандарду. Алтернативно, неки теже да стекну верске заслуге. Други одустају и живе само за задовољство. Стога је Бог установио десет заповести тако да:

Зато нико неће бити проглашен праведним у Божјим очима делима закона; него, кроз закон постајемо свесни свог греха . (Римљанима 3:20)

Испитивање наших живота и сагледавање наших греха у супротности са стандардима Десет заповести је као да гледамо рендгенски снимак да бисмо видели сломљену кост у нашој руци. Десет заповести не ‘поправљају’ наш проблем. Уместо тога, они јасно откривају проблем тако да ћемо прихватити лек који је Бог обезбедио. Уместо да наставимо у самообмани, Закон нам омогућава да тачно видимо себе.

Божји Дар дат у покајању

Лек који је Бог обезбедио је дар опроштења грехова. Он га бесплатно даје кроз смрт и васкрсење Исуса Христа. Чланак овде објашњава ово потпуније. Бог нам једноставно проширује овај Дар живота ако верујемо или верујемо у Његово дело.

знајте да се човек не оправдава делима закона , него вером у Исуса Христа. Тако смо и ми поверили у Христа Исуса да се оправдамо вером у Христа, а не делима закона , јер делима закона нико неће бити оправдан. (Галатима 2:16)

Може нам се дати праведност баш као  Аврам који је био оправдан пред Богом . Али то захтева да се  покајемо . Покајање значи ‘променити своје мишљење’ и укључује окретање  од греха  и  окретање ка Богу  и  Дару  који Он нуди. Као што Библија објашњава:

Покајте се , дакле, и обратите се Богу, да вам греси буду избрисани, да дођу времена освежења од Господа

Дела 3:19

Обећање за вас и мене је да ако се покајемо и обратимо Богу, наши греси неће бити урачунати у нас. Уместо тога, ми ћемо примити Живот.

Та прва Пасха и Аврамов тест открили су Божји потпис у Његовом плану за нас. Исто тако, одређени дан када је Бог Мојсију дао десет заповести такође указује на долазак Духа Божијег да се настани у нама. Свети Дух нам даје способност да следимо Бога на начин који сами не можемо.

Passover Sign of Moses

After Abraham died his descendants were called Israelites.  500 years later they had become a large tribe.  But they had also become slaves  of the Egyptians.

The Exodus

Moses, the Plagues and the Exodus in Timeline

The Israelite leader was Moses. God had told Moses to go to Pharaoh of Egypt and demand that he free the Israelites from slavery.   This began a struggle between Pharaoh and Moses producing nine plagues against Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Even so, Pharaoh had not agreed to let the Israelites go free. So God was going to bring a deadly 10th plague. Click here to read the full account of the 10th Plague in the Bible.

God decreed that every firstborn male in the land would die that night from God’s Angel of Death. But those who remained in houses where sacrificed lamb’s blood painted on the door frames would live. If Pharaoh did not obey, his firstborn son and heir to the throne would die. Every house in Egypt that did not sacrifice a lamb and paint its blood on the doorposts would lose a firstborn son. So Egypt faced a national disaster.

In Israelite (and Egyptian) houses with lamb’s blood painted on the doors the promise stated that everyone would be safe. The Angel of Death would pass over that house. So this day was called Passover.

Passover – A Sign for who?

People think that the blood on the doors was only for the Angel of Death. But notice what the Bible says

The LORD said to Moses … ” … I am the LORD. The blood [of the Passover lamb] will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.

Exodus 12:13

The LORD was looking for the blood on the door and if He saw it Death would pass over. But the blood was not a sign for Him. It says that the blood was a ‘sign for you’ – the people, including you and me.

But how is it a sign? After this happened the LORD commanded them to:

Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for generations to come. When you enter the land … observe this ceremony… It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD’

Exodus 12:27

The Remarkable Passover Calendar

In fact we see at the beginning of this story that this 10th plague began the ancient Israelite (Jewish) calendar.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,  “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year…

Exodus 12:1-2

Starting at this time, the Israelites began a calendar that celebrated Passover on the same day every year.  It marked their new year. For 3500 years Jewish people have been celebrating Passover every year to remember this event.  Since the Jewish calendar year is a little different from the Western calendar, the Passover day moves each year on the Western calendar.

Jesus and Passover

This is a modern-day scene of Jewish people preparing to celebrate Passover in memory of that first Passover 3500 years ago.
This is a modern-day scene of Jewish people preparing to celebrate Passover in memory of that first Passover 3500 years ago

If we follow Passover celebrations in history we will realize something remarkable. Notice when the arrest and trial of Jesus happened:

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.

John 18:28

They arrested and executed Jesus precisely on Passover of the Jewish calendar. This was the same day all Jews were sacrificing a lamb to remember those lambs in 1500 BCE that caused Death to pass over.  Remember from Abraham’s Sacrifice, one of the titles of Jesus was:

The next day John (i.e. John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world… ’”.

John 1:29

Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’, was sacrificed on the very same day that all the Jews alive then were sacrificing a lamb in memory of the first Passover that started their calendar.  This is why the Jewish Passover occurs at the same time as Easter.  Easter commemorates the death of Jesus and since that happened on the Passover, Easter and Passover happen close together.  (Since the Western calendar is different they are not on the same day, but usually in the same week).

Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs

Think back to that first Passover in Moses’ day where the blood was a ‘sign’, explicitly for us.  Think what signs do by considering these signs.

Signs are pointer in our minds to get us to think about the thing the sign points to
Signs are pointer in our minds to get us to think about what the sign points to

When we see the ‘skull and crossbones’ sign it makes us think of death and danger. The sign of the ‘Golden Arches’ makes us think about McDonalds. The ‘√’ on Nadal’s bandana is the sign for Nike. Nike wants us to think of them when we see this on Nadal. Signs are made to direct our thinking not to the sign itself but to something it points to.

God had said to Moses that the first Passover blood was a sign.  So what was God pointing to with this sign?  With the remarkable timing of lambs sacrificed on the same day as Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’, the sign points to the coming sacrifice of Jesus.

Two Signs – Pointing to Location and Date

It works in our minds like shown in the diagram.

The Passover is a Sign in that it points to Jesus through the remarkable timing of Passover with Jesus' crucifixion
The Passover is a Sign in that it points to Jesus through the remarkable timing of Passover with Jesus’ crucifixion

The sign points us to think about the sacrifice of Jesus. In the first Passover the Israelites sacrificed lambs and painted the blood painted so that death would pass over them .  This sign pointing to Jesus tells us that likewise the ‘Lamb of God’ was also sacrificed and his blood spilt so death would pass over us.

With Abraham’s sacrifice the place where the ram died so Isaac could live was Mount Moriah – the same place where Jesus was sacrificed 2000 years later.  That allows us to ‘see’ the meaning of his sacrifice by pointing to the location. Passover also points to Jesus’ sacrifice, but from a different perspective. It points to the day of the calendar – the calendar started by the first Passover.  In two different ways the most important stories in the Old Testament point directly to the death of Jesus using sacrificed lambs. I cannot think of any other person in history whose death (or life achievement) was foreseen in two such dramatic ways. Can you?

These two events (Abraham’s sacrifice and Passover) should show us that it is reasonable to consider that Jesus is the center of a Divine Plan.

But why has God placed these Signs in ancient history to predict the crucifixion of Jesus?  Why is that so important?  What is it about the world that requires such bloody symbols?  God shows the hopelessness of our situation when he gives the Ten Commandments.

Abraham: How God will Provide

Abraham lived 4000 years ago, traveling to modern-day Israel.  God promised him a son that would become a ‘great nation’. But he had to believe and then wait until he was very old to see his son born.  Jews and Arabs today come from Abraham, so we know the promise came true and that he is an important person in history as the father of great nations.

Abraham in Timeline of History

The Test: The Binding of Isaac

Abraham was now very happy to watch his son Isaac grow up into a man.  But then God tested Abraham with a difficult task.   God said:

“Go get Isaac, your only son, the one you dearly love! Take him to the land of Moriah, and I will show you a mountain where you must sacrifice him to me on the fires of an altar.”

Genesis 22:2

This is hard to understand!  Why would God ask Abraham to do this?  But Abraham, who had learned to trust God – even when he did not understand

… got up early the next morning … and left with Isaac and two servants for the place where God had told him to go.

Genesis 22:3

After three days travel they reached the mountain. Then

…when they reached the place that God had told him about, Abraham built an altar and placed the wood on it. Next, he tied up his son and put him on the wood. He then took the knife and got ready to kill his son.

Genesis 22: 9-10

Abraham was ready to obey God.  Just then something remarkable happened

But the Lord’s angel shouted from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am!” he answered.

“Don’t hurt the boy or harm him in any way!” the angel said. “Now I know that you truly obey God, because you were willing to offer him your only son.”

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in the bushes. So he took the ram and sacrificed it in place of his son.

Genesis 22: 11-13

At the last moment Isaac was saved from death and Abraham saw a male sheep and sacrificed it instead.  God had provided a ram and the ram took the place of Isaac.

Now let’s ask a question.  At this point in the story is the ram dead or alive?

Why do I ask?  Because Abraham will now give a name to the place, but many miss its importance.  The story continues…

Abraham named that place “The Lord Will Provide.” And even now people say, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” 

Genesis 22:14

Another question: Is the name that Abraham gave to that place (“The Lord Will Provide”) in the past?

Looking to the future, not the past

It is clearly in the future tense.  Many people assume that Abraham, when naming that place, was thinking of the ram. God had provided it by getting the ram caught in the thicket. Then Abraham had sacrificed in place of his Isaac.  But when Abraham gave the name that ram was already dead and sacrificed.  If Abraham was thinking of that ram – already dead and sacrificed – he would have named it ‘The LORD has provided’. He would have named it in the past tense.  And the closing comment would read ‘And even now people say “On the mountain of the LORD it was provided”’.  But the name looks to the future, not the past. Abraham is not thinking of the already dead ram.  He is naming it for something else – in the future.  But what?

Where is that place?

Remember where this sacrifice occurred, told at the beginning of the story:

(“Go get Isaac, …. Take him to the land of Moriah”)

Genesis 22:2

This happened at ‘Moriah’. Where is that?  It was wilderness in Abraham’s day (2000 BCE), with only some bushes, a wild ram, and Abraham & Isaac on that mountain.  But one thousand years later (1000 BCE) King David built the city of Jerusalem there, and his son Solomon built the First Jewish Temple there. We read later in the Bible that:

Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah…

2 Chronicles 3:1

Mount Moriah became Jerusalem, the Jewish city with the Jewish Temple. Today it is a holy place for the Jewish people, and Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel.

The Sacrifice of Abraham and Jesus

Let us think a little about the titles of Jesus.  Jesus’ most well-known title is ‘Christ’. But he had other titles, like:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

John 1:29

Jesus was also called ‘The Lamb of God‘. Think about the end of Jesus’ life. Where was he arrested and crucified? It was in Jerusalem (which is the same as ‘Mount Moriah’). The Bible states very clearly that:

He [Pilate] learned that Jesus was under Herod’s authority. Herod was in Jerusalem at that time, so Pilate sent Jesus to him.

Luke 23:7

The arrest, trial and death of Jesus was in Jerusalem (= Mount Moriah).  The timeline shows the events that have happened on Mount Moriah.

timeline of major events at Mount Moriah
Major events on Mount Moriah

Back to Abraham.  Why did he name that place in the future tense ‘The LORD will provide’?  Isaac had been saved at the last moment when Abraham sacrificed a lamb in his place.  Two thousand years later, Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’, is sacrificed at the same location. He did this so you & I could also live.

A Divine Plan

It is like a Mind has connected these two events separated by 2000 years of history.  What makes the connection unique is that the first event points to the later event by creating the name in the future tense.  But how would Abraham know what would happen in the future?  No human knows the future, especially that far into the future.  Only God can know the future.  Foreseeing the future and having these events happen at the same place is evidence that this is not a human plan. Rather, it is a plan from God.  He wants us to think about this like below:

Abraham's sacrifice at Mount Moriah is a sign pointing to sacrifice of Jesus
Abraham’s sacrifice at Mount Moriah is a sign pointing to sacrifice of Jesus

Good News for all nations

This account also has a promise for you. At the end of this account God promises to Abraham that:

“…and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me”

Genesis 22:18

If you belong to one of the ‘nations on earth’ then this is a promise to you. It concerns a ‘blessing’ from God.

So what is this ‘blessing’?  How do you get it?  Think of the story.  Just like the ram saved Isaac from death, so Jesus the Lamb of God, by his sacrifice at the same place, saves us from the power of death.  If that is true it would certainly be good news.

The sacrifice of Abraham on Mount Moriah is an important event in ancient history.  Millions remember and celebrate it around the world today, especially in the Islamic traditions. But it is also a living story of life for you 4000 years later.  Its theme continues with Moses.

Getting Righteousness – Abraham’s example

Previously we saw that Abraham obtained righteousness simply by believing. That all-important sentence puts it like this:

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Genesis 15:6

Belief is not about the existence of God

Abraham in History Timeline

Think what ‘believe’ means.  Many people think that ‘believe’ means believing that God exists.  We think that God just wants us to believe that He is there.  But the Bible states it differently.  It says,

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James 2:19
Abraham and his wife Sarah
Distant Shores Media/Sweet PublishingCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here the Bible uses sarcasm to say that simply believing God exists makes us as good as the Devil.  It is true that Abraham believed in God’s existence, but that is not the point of his righteousness.  God had promised Abraham that He would give him a son.  It was that promise that Abraham had to choose to believe or not. He had to make this choice even while he was in his 80’s and his wife was in her 70’s.  He trusted that God would somehow fulfill that promise to him. Belief, in this account, means trust. Abraham chose to trust God for a son.

When Abraham chose to believe that promise of a son then God also gave him – ‘credited’ him– righteousness. In the end Abraham got both the fulfilled promise (a son from whom a great nation came) and also righteousness.

Righteousness – not from merit or effort

Abraham did not ‘earn’ righteousness. God ‘credited’ it to him. What is the difference? If you earn something you work for it – you deserve it. It is like receiving wages for the work you do. But when something is credited to you, it is given to you. You do not earn or merit it, but you do need to receive it.

We think that doing more good things than bad things, doing good deeds, or meeting obligations allows us to deserve or merit righteousness.  Abraham proves this idea false. He did not try to earn righteousness. He simply chose to believe the promise offered to him, and then righteousness was given to him as well.

Abraham’s Belief: He bet his life on it

Choosing to believe in this promise for a son was simple but it was not easy.  When he was first promised a ‘Great Nation’ he was 75 years old and he had left his home country and traveled to Canaan.  Almost ten years had now passed and Abraham and Sarah still did not have a child – let alone a nation!

“Why has God not already given us a son if he could have done so”?, he would have wondered. 

Abraham believed the promise of a son because he trusted God. He did so even though he did not understand everything about the promise. Nor did he have all his questions answered.

Believing the promise required active waiting. His whole life was interrupted while living in tents waiting for the promise. It would have been much easier to make excuses and return home to Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). His brother and family still lived there. Life was comfortable there.

His trust in the promise took priority over normal goals in life – security, comfort and well-being.  He could have disbelieved the promise while still believing in the existence of God. He could have given up on the promise and still continued with religious activities and good deeds.  Then he would have maintained his religion but not have been ‘credited’ righteousness.

Our Example

The rest of the Bible treats Abraham as an example for us.  Abraham’s belief in the promise from God, and the crediting of righteousness, is a pattern for us. The Bible has other promises that God makes to all of us.  We also have to chose whether we will trust them.

Here is an example of such a promise.

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

John 1:12-13

Today we know that the promise to Abraham came true.  It is undeniable that the Jewish people today exist as that nation that came from Abraham.  But like Abraham we face a promise today that seems unlikely and raises some questions.  Like Abraham, we must choose to trust this promise – or not.

Who pays for Righteousness?

Abraham showed that God gives righteousness as a gift.  When you get a gift you do not pay for it – otherwise it is not a gift.  The giver of the gift is the one who pays.  God, the giver of righteousness, will have to pay for righteousness.  How will He do it?  We see in our next article.

The Ageless Promise to an Unnoticed Man

Today’s global news headlines will quickly be forgotten as we move on to other amusements, championships or political events. The highlight one day quickly becomes forgotten the next. We saw in our previous article that this was true in the ancient time of Abraham. The important achievements that held the attention of people living 4000 years ago are now forgotten. But a promise quietly spoken to an individual, though overlooked by the world back then, is growing and still unfolding before our eyes. The promise given to Abraham 4000 years ago has come true. Perhaps God does exist and is working in the world.

Abraham in Timeline of History

Abraham’s Complaint

Several years have passed since God spoke the Promise recorded in Genesis 12. In obedience Abraham had moved to Canaan (the Promised Land) in what is today Israel. But the birth of the promised son did not happen.  So Abraham began to worry.

Then the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Genesis 15:1-3

God’s Promise

Abraham was camping out in the Land waiting for the start of the ‘Great Nation’ that God had promised him. But nothing had happened. He was now around 85 years old (ten years having passed since his move). He complained to God that He was not keeping His Promise. Their conversation continued:

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Genesis 15:4-5

So God expanded His initial Promise by declaring that Abraham would get a son that would become a people as uncountable as the stars in the sky. 

A map of the Land of Canaan or Holy Land, as divided among the twelve tribes which God promised to Abraham and his seed

Bowles, John, PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

Abraham’s Response: Everlasting Effect

How would Abraham respond to the expanded Promise? What follows is a sentence that the Bible itself treats as one of its most important sentences. It helps us to understand the Bible and it shows the heart of God. The sentence reads:

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Genesis 15:6

It is easier to understand if we replace the pronouns with names, it would read:

Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD credited it to Abram as righteousness.

Genesis 15:6

It is such a small, simple sentence, but it is truly significant.

Why?

Because in this little sentence Abraham obtains ‘righteousness’. This is the one – and the only one – quality that we need to get right standing before God.

Reviewing our Problem: Corruption

From God’s point-of-view, though He created us in the image of God something happened that corrupted us. The Bible says:

The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

Psalm 14:2-3

Our corruption has resulted in our not doing what is good –causing emptiness and death. (If you doubt this, read the world news headlines and see what people have been doing the last 24 hours.)  The result is that we are separated from a Righteous God because we lack righteousness.

Our corruption repels God in the same way that we would keep away from the body of a dead rat. We would not want to go near it. So the words of the prophet Isaiah in the Bible come true.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Isaiah 64:6

Abraham and Righteousness

But here in the conversation between Abraham and God we find God declaring that Abraham had gained ‘righteousness’, the kind that God accepts. This was true even though Abraham was not sinless.  So, what did Abraham ‘do’ to get this righteousness? It simply says Abraham ‘believed’

That’s it?!

We try to earn righteousness by doing so many things, but this man, Abraham, got it simply by ‘believing’.

But what does believing mean?  And what does this have to do with your righteousness and mine?  We take it up next.

An Ancient Journey that Affects us Today

Even though Israel is a small country it is always in the news.  The news continues to report on Jews moving to Israel, on the technology invented there, but also on conflict, wars and tensions with surrounding people. 

Why?

A look at Israel’s history in the book of Genesis of the Bible reveals that 4000 years ago a man, now very well known, went on a camping trip in that part of the world.  The Bible says that his story affects our future.

This ancient man is Abraham (also known as Abram).  The Bible records God’s first steps in fulfilling His primeval promise, taken with Abraham.

Abraham in Historic Timeline

The Promise to Abraham

God made a promise to Abraham:

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;

I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:2-3

Abraham’s name became Great

Some today wonder if a personal God exists who cares enough to help our troubled lives and give us hope. In this account we can test this question. Here God made a promise to a specific person, parts of which we can verify today. The account records that The LORD directly promised Abraham that ‘I will make your name great’. We live in the 21st century – 4000 years later. Today the name of Abraham is one of the most globally recognized names from ancient history. Jews and Arabs today trace their ancestry from him.  The recent US-sponsored peace plan changing the geo-politics of the Middle East, The Abraham Accords, was named from him.  This promise has literally, historically, and verifiably come true.

The Dead Sea scrolls contain the earliest manuscripts of the Bible. They date date to 200-100 BCE. This means that this promise has, at the very latest, been in writing since long before the name ‘Abraham’ became known outside of the Jewish nation.  The fulfillment did not come about by simply writing it down after the name of Abraham became known.

… by means of his great nation

What is equally astonishing is that Abraham really did nothing noteworthy in his life. He achieved nothing that normally makes one’s name ‘great’. He did not write anything extraordinary. Abraham did not build anything noteworthy. He did not lead an army with impressive military skill . Nor was he a statesman, or a teacher. Abraham did not even rule a kingdom. He did nothing really except camp on his journey, pray in the wilderness, and then have a son.

If you lived in Abraham’s day and predicted who would be most remembered thousands of years later, you would have bet on the kings, generals, warriors, or court poets living back then to be remembered today. But their names are all forgotten. But the man who just barely managed to have a family in the wilderness is a household name around the world. His name is great only because the nation(s) that he fathered kept the record of his account. Then individuals and nations that came from him became great. This is exactly how God promised it long ago (“I will make you into a great nation … I will make your name great”). No one else in all history is so well-known only because of descendants coming from him rather than from great accomplishments in his own life.

…Through the Will of the Promise-Maker

And the people today who descended from Abraham – the Jews – were never really a nation which we typically associate with greatness. They did not build great architectural structures like the pyramids of the Egyptians. They did not write philosophy like the Greeks, or administer over far-flung colonies like the British did. All of these nations accomplished their achievements as world empires stretching their extensive borders through extraordinary military power.

But the Jews never attained such great imperial power. The Jewish people’s greatness is mostly due to the Law and Book (Bible) which they birthed; from some remarkable individuals that came from their nation; and that they have survived for these thousands of years as a distinct and somewhat different people group. Their greatness is not really due to anything they did, but rather what was done to and through them.

The “I wills” stamped into History

Now look to the Person that was going to make this promise happen. There, in black-and-white, it says repeatedly that “I will …”. The unique way their greatness has played out in history fits once again remarkable to this declaration that it was going to be the Creator who would make this happen rather than some innate ability, conquest or power of this ‘nation’. The media attention paid around the world today to events in Israel, the modern Jewish nation, is a case in point. Do you constantly hear of news events in Singapore, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, or the Central African Republic? But Israel, similarly-sized as these with 9 million, is constantly and regularly in the global news headlines.

Human events have no preset bias for Jewish people. History could have unfolded along so many different paths. Think how likely it was for this promise to have failed in some way. But instead it has unfolded, and continues to unfold, as it was declared those thousands of years ago. Perhaps the power and authority of that ancient Promise-Maker can penetrate the confusion that governs our lives.

The Journey that still shakes the World

The Bible then says that “So Abram left as the LORD had told him” (v. 4).  He began a journey, shown on the map that is still making history.

This map shows the journey of Abraham
Abraham’s long journey would have been done by foot alongside a caravan of people, possessions and livestock
Cleveland Museum of Art, PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

Blessings to us

This journey extends far beyond Abraham and his physical descendants. The blessing was not only for Abraham because it also says that

all peoples on earth will be blessed through you

v. 4

This should make you and I take note. Regardless of your nationality; no matter what your religion; whether you are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick, educated or not – the ‘all peoples on earth’ has to include you also.  This promise for a blessing includes everybody alive from back then until today – which means you. How? When? What kind of blessing? In following the account of Abraham we understand better.

We have just verified historically and literally that the first part of the Promise to Abraham has come true. Do we not then have a reason to trust that the Promise to you and to me will also not activate? Because we can see it operating still 4000 years later, we know this promise reaches across history. But we need to unlock it – to understand the Promise, know how it can ‘touch’ us. We find out in continuing to follow the account of Abraham. He shows a pattern we can follow. We see this next.

The Final Countdown – Promised in the Beginning

We have looked at how mankind fell from their first created state. The Bible tells us God had a plan based on a Promise made at the beginning of history.

The Bible – Really a Library

© Jorge Royan / www.royan.com.ar / CC BY-SA 3.0

First, some facts about the Bible.  The Bible is a collection of books, written by many authors.  It took more than 1500 years to write all these these books from start to finish.  This makes the Bible more like a library and sets it apart from other Great Books. If just one author, or a group that knew each other, wrote the books of the Bible its unity would not surprise us. But hundreds and even thousands of years separate the different authors of the Bible.  These writers come from different countries, languages, and social positions.  But their messages and predictions connect with each other and the facts of history recorded outside the Bible.  The oldest copies of the Old Testament books (the books before Jesus) that still exist today are from 200 BC.  Existing copies of the New Testament date from 125 CE and later.

The Gospel Promise in the Garden

We see at the very beginning of the Bible an example of how the Bible predicts into the future. Though it records the Beginning, it was written with the End in mind.  Here we see a Promise when God confronts Satan (who was in the form of a serpent) with a riddle just after he brought about the Fall of mankind.

“… and I (God) will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

You can see that this is prophetic by “will” repeated in the future tense.  The text specifically identifies five different characters. They are:

  1. I = God
  2. you = serpent or Satan
  3. The woman
  4. The offspring of the woman
  5. The offspring of serpent or Satan

The Promise predicts how these characters will relate in the future. The diagram illustrates their future relationships.

Relationships between the characters depicted in the Promise
Relationships between the characters in the Promise

It does not say who ‘the woman’ is. But God will cause both Satan and the woman to each have an ‘offspring’. There will be ‘enmity’ or hatred between these offspring and between the woman and Satan. Satan will ‘strike the heel’ of the woman’s offspring. But the offspring of the woman will ‘crush the head’ of Satan.

Who is the Offspring? – a ‘he’

We have made some observations, now for some deductions. Because the ‘offspring’ of the woman is a ‘he’ we can discard some possibilities. 

As a ‘he’ the offspring is not a ‘she’ and thus cannot be a woman. 

As a ‘he’ the offspring is not a ‘they’.  This rules out a group of people, or a race, or a team, or a nation. At various times and in various ways people have thought that a ‘they’ would solve the human situation. But the offspring, being a ‘he’, is not a group of people whether a nation or those of a certain religion as in Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, or Muslims.

As a ‘he’ the offspring is a person and not an ‘it’.  The offspring is not a philosophy, teaching, political system, or a religion – since these are all ‘it’s. An ‘it’ like these would have been our preferred choice to fix the corruption since people are always thinking up new systems and religions. God had something else in mind – a ‘he’- a single male human.   This ‘he’ would crush the head of Satan.

Notice what is not said. God does not say that this offspring will come from the woman and the man, but only from the woman. This is especially unusual since the Bible almost always records only the sons coming through fathers.  Some see the Bible as sexist because it just records fathers of sons. But here it is different – there is no promise of an offspring (a ‘he’) coming from a man. It says only that there will be an offspring coming from the woman, without mentioning a man.

A much later Prophet builds on that Promise

Hundreds of years later, an Old Testament prophet added the following:

the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Isaiah 7:14, 750 BCE

More than 700 years after Isaiah, Jesus was born (the New Testament says) from a virgin – fulfilling Isaiah. But is this scripture foreseeing Jesus even this early – right at the beginning of human history? This fits with the offspring as a ‘he’, not a ‘she’, ‘they’ or ‘it’. With that perspective, if you read the riddle it makes sense.

Jesus born in Bethlehem of Judea
Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

‘Strike his Heel’??

But what does it mean that the serpent would strike ‘his heel’? One year I worked in the jungles of Cameroon. We had to wear thick rubber boots in the humid heat because the snakes lay in the long grass and would strike your foot – your heel – and kill you.  After that jungle experience it made sense to me.  The ‘he’ would destroy Satan, the serpent. But ‘he’ would be killed in the process.  That does foreshadow the victory gained through the sacrifice of Jesus.

‘The woman’ – a Double Meaning

So, if this Promise at the Beginning concerns Jesus, then the woman would be the virgin woman who gave birth to him – Mary.  But there is a second meaning.  Notice how another Old Testament prophet refers to Israel.

O Israel, … I will make you my wife forever, … I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.

Hosea 2:17-20. 800 BCE

Israel, in the Bible, is referred to as the wife of the LORD – a woman.  Then, the last book in the Bible, describes a conflict which this woman will go through with her enemy

I saw a woman clothed with … a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth.

Then …I saw a large red dragon … in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born.

She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. …

This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels…

When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child… And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children… 

Revelation 12:1-17, 90 CE

Since Jesus was a Jew, he is at the same time the offspring of Mary, the woman, and Israel, the woman.  The Promise came true both ways.  The ancient serpent is in enmity with Israel, ‘the woman’, and has declared war on her.  This explains the unique troubles that Jews have suffered through their long history, and it was predicted in the very beginning.

The offspring of the Serpent?

But who is this offspring of Satan?  In the last book of the Bible, many pages and thousands of years after the Promise in Genesis, predicts a coming person. Note the description:

The beast you saw was once alive, but now it is not. However, it will come up out of the bottomless pit and go away to be destroyed. The people who live on the earth will be amazed when they see the beast, because it was once alive, is no longer living, but will come again. These are the people whose names have never been written in the book of life since the beginning of the world.

“You need wisdom to understand this.

Revelation 17:8-9, written by John ca 90 CE

This describes a fight between the offspring of the woman and Satan’s offspring. But it is first revealed in the Promise of Genesis, at the very beginning of the Bible, with the details filled in later. The countdown to a final contest between Satan and God started long ago in the Garden.  It could almost make you think that history is really His-Story.

The Biblical Account continues

The drama of that day does not end with this Promise. God next moves to clothe them, a move full of symbolic meaning.

The Biblical account then relates the cataclysmic flood which destroyed almost all of mankind, followed by the origin of different languages and races. After these events God took His first step to complete this Promise above. He did so by calling a man to go on a long journey.

Corrupted (part 2) … and Missing the Target

Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

The Bible describes us as corrupted from the image God made us in.  How did this happen? The book of Genesis in the Bible records it. Shortly after being made ‘in the image of God’ the first humans (Adam and Eve) were tested with a choice.  The Bible describes their conversation with a ‘serpent’.  The serpent has always been understood to be Satan – an spirit enemy to God.  In the Bible, Satan usually speaks through someone.  In this case he spoke through a serpent:

Temptation in the Garden

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

Genesis 3:1-7

The Choice

Their choice (and temptation), was that they could ‘be like God’. Up to this point they had trusted God for everything, but now they had the choice to become ‘like God’, to trust in themselves and be their own god.

In their choice to be autonomous they were changed. They felt shame and tried to cover up. When God confronted Adam, he blamed Eve (and God who made her). She blamed the serpent. No one accepted responsibility.

Levi Wells Prentice, PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

Consequences of that Choice

What started that day has continued because we have inherited that same independent nature.  Some misunderstand the Bible and think it blames us for Adam’s bad choice. The only one blamed is Adam but we live in the consequences of his decision. We have now inherited this independent nature of Adam. We may not want to be god of the universe, but we want to be gods in our settings, separate from God.

This explains so much of human life: we lock our doors, we need police, and we have computer passwords– because otherwise we will steal from each other. This is why societies eventually collapse – because cultures have a tendency to decay. This is why all forms of government and economic systems, though some work better than others, they all eventually breakdown. Something about the way we are makes us miss the way things should be.

Sin – to Miss

That word ‘miss’ sums up our situation. A verse from the Bible gives a picture to understand this better. It says:

Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. (Judges 20:16)

This describes soldiers who were experts at using slingshots and would never miss. The word in Hebrew translated ‘miss’ above is יַחֲטִֽא .  It is also translated sin through the Old Testament.

The soldier takes a stone and shoots it to hit the target. If he misses he has failed his purpose. In the same way, God made us in His image to hit the target in how we relate to Him and treat others. To ‘sin’ is to miss this purpose, or target, that God intended for us.

This missed-the-target picture is not happy or optimistic.  People sometimes react strongly against the Bible’s teaching on sin. A university student once said to me, “I don’t believe because I do not like what this is saying”.  But what does ‘liking’ something have to do with truth?  I do not like taxes, wars, or earthquakes – no one does – but that does not make them untrue.  We can’t ignore any of them.  All the systems of law, police, locks, and security that we have built into society to protect us from each other suggest that something is wrong.  At least we should consider this Biblical teaching on our sin in an open-minded way.

God Declares His Help

We have a problem.  We are corrupted from the image we were first made in. So now we miss the target when it comes to our moral actions.  But God did not leave us in our helplessness. He had a plan to rescue us, and this is why Gospel literally means ‘good news’ – because this plan is the good news that He saves us.  God did not wait until Abraham to announce this news; he first announced it in that same conversation with Adam and Eve.  We look at this first Good News announcement next.

But corrupted … like orcs of Middle-earth

Previously we looked at what the Bible means when it says that God created people ‘in the image of God’.  This explains why human life is precious.  However, the Bible continues on from creation to explain a serious problem.  We can see the problem from this Psalm (song) in the Bible.

The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:2-3)

This says that ‘all’ of us have ‘become corrupt’.  Though God made us ‘in the image of God’ something has wrecked this image in all of us.  We reveal corruption in a chosen independence from God (‘all have turned aside’ from ‘seeking God’) and also in not doing ‘good’.

Thinking Elves and Orcs

Lord-of-the-rings-orcs
Orcs were ugly in so many ways, but they were simply corrupted elves.

To understand this, compare orcs and elves from the movie Lord of the Rings. Orcs are ugly and evil.  Elves are beautiful and peaceful (see Legolas).  But orcs had once been elves that Sauron had corrupted in the past.  The original elf image in the orcs had been wrecked.  In a similar way the Bible says that people have become corrupted. God had made elves but we have become orcs.

For example, we know ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour.  But we do not  unfailingly live by what we know. It is like a computer virus that damages the proper workings of a computer. Our moral code is there – but a virus has infected it. The Bible starts with people as good and moral, but then also corrupted.  This fits with what we observe about ourselves. But it also brings a question: why did God make us this way? (Knowing right and wrong but corrupted from it). As the atheist Christopher Hitchens complains:

Legolos
The elves, like Legalos, were noble and majestic

“… If god really wanted people to be free of such thoughts [i.e., corrupt ones], he should have taken more care to invent a different species.”  Christopher Hitchens.  2007.  God is not great: How religion spoils everything.  p. 100

But he misses something very important, the Bible does not say that God made us this way, but that something terrible happened after God made us. The first humans revolted against God and in their rebellion they changed and became corrupted.

The Fall of Mankind

This is often called The Fall.  God created Adam, the first man. There was an agreement between God and Adam, like a marriage contract of faithfulness, and Adam broke it. The Bible records that Adam ate from the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’ even though they had agreed that he would not eat from that tree. The agreement and the tree itself, gave Adam a free choice to remain faithful to God or not. Adam had been created in the image of God, and placed into friendship with Him.  But Adam had no choice regarding his creation, so God allowed him to choose about his friendship with God. 

Just like the choice to stand is not real if sitting is impossible, the friendship and trust of Adam to God had to be a choice.  This choice centered on the command not to eat from that one tree.  And Adam chose to rebel.  What Adam started with his rebellion has gone non-stop through all generations and continues with us today. We look next at what this means.