Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Paradise Lost

But with the snap of the forbidden fruit, everything changed. A cloud hovered over the sun shrouding the world in darkness. A frigid wind shot through the garden and entered my heart. I shivered. I was cold, naked, and ashamed. Grabbing some fig leaves, I frantically tried to sew together some clothes for my husband and me. I needed covering.

Shadows to my right, a scuffle, and the deafening cry of a bleating lamb. Then, footsteps. My heart was pounding. I found a tree and dove behind it. Cowering there, I heard the footsteps grow ever closer. Oh God, save me, I breathed.

The footsteps stopped. A familiar voice called out, "Where are you?"

Dare I answer? What if He found out what I had done?

It was quiet for a moment, and then my husband spoke, "I...I heard you and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

"Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

Adam grabbed my arm, pulled me out from my hiding place, and shoved me forward. "This woman, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

I stared hard at the ground but could feel those eyes of sparkling jewels shift to me. I was certain I had met my end.

"What is this you have done?"

I could not look up. What would anger look like on such a face? Would a scowl cross that holy countenance? If the world was made with a word, what kind of destruction could a shout bring? And who could blame Him? It's what I deserved. He gave generously, and I took from him the one thing that was not mine to have. I broke the only commandment he spoke.

"You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

I was heavy with guilt and had a sudden urge to beat my fist against my forehead. A lump grew and lingered in my throat. How could I have been so foolish?!

Then I remembered the serpent and his slippery words. "Did God really say?...You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

My anger transferred to the slimy snake. He had made it sound so convincing. Greatness... God was holding me back...God was keeping something from me. But now I see that serpent for what he really is, the father of lies.

My face contorted as I fought to beat down the lump that swelled in my throat. My eyes burned until tears could no longer be contained. Best to look up now and meet my ruin rather than prolong it.

"The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

I looked up and what I saw sent a new pain into my chest. But this pain did not destroy me. No, it was healing me. My Maker's cheeks were just as smitten with tears as my own, his hands were stained red, and adorning his shoulder was the skin of a lamb.

The Lord turned to the serpent who sat with a satisfied smile and spoke, "Cursed are you. You will crawl on your belly and eat dust. You have set yourself up as a war maker and you will continue to make war against the woman and her children. You will nip, bite, and scratch at her heels." The Lord glanced in my direction, and I saw a twinkle of hope spark in his eyes." But He will crush your head."

Then God turned to face my husband and me. He told us the new order of things, that life could now only come on the heels of great pain. "The ground," God said, "will poke, cut, tear, scratch, and gnaw, but by the sweat of Adam's brow and through much toil, life will spring up yet again." And to me he said, "As Adam will labor to bring forth life from the earth, you will likewise labor to bring forth life from your womb." With these words, God slung the sheep skin off his shoulder and laid it before us. "Put this on. It will cover you."

When we were clothed, God led us out of the garden. As we left, I turned back for one last view of my home and saw cherubim brandishing swords and barring the way to the tree of life.

There has not been a day gone by when I haven't longed to go back. I wake up from dreams I can't remember with a distinct feeling of homesickness in my heart. I ache for the day when He will come and crush the head of the serpent of lies, make clear the way to the tree of life, and carry me home.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Let there be light

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1).

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2).

Darkness. Emptiness. Nothingness. Until...

And God said, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3).

With a word, light spilled from the river of God's mouth and drenched the darkness. Into the emptiness God's voice rang, and a sphere answered in appearance. God gave the water globe an atmosphere and puffed clouds into the sky. Daisies, daffodils, and day lilies popped up and peppered the countryside. Great sycamores and mighty oaks grew and stretched their branches upward straining toward the source of light. God took a pinch of his radiance and stuffed it into the sun. The water creatures splashed in the light of God's glory, the birds soared beneath its wings, and the land creatures danced in its rays. Night fell, but not even darkness could drive out the light. The moon reflected the sun's glory; the stars pierced the night sky.

All things were created by him and for him (Colossians 1:16).

Then God bent down. He gathered a clump of dirt and fashioned a man. The breath of God was the kiss of life, and the man inhaled. His eyes opened, and he looked full into the face of his Creator.

Out of man, God made woman. Together, they labored, loved, and laughed. They drank deep from the living well, and God walked among them.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:31).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Every story whispers His name

"Wait a minute, Jesus is in the Old Testament?"

I couldn't help but let out a chuckle and think, "Where have you been these last three months?" You see, since the beginning of August, our Kingdom Kids class has been scouring the Old Testament stories for signs of the promised Messiah. For 12 weeks, we've bent our ears and listened for whispers of Christ in the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and David. How had this child missed what we had been emphasizing for so long? I was about to let out a sigh of frustration, when I realized it was not a lack of listening that had prompted the question; but rather, it was a moment of recognition. Jesus is in the Old Testament, as well as the New.

This is a truth that even many adults miss. I was part of a conversation about curriculum when a woman spoke, "Why do we spend so much time studying the stories of the Old Testament? We should stick to teaching about Christ because he's the one who saves us." She's right that Christ should be at the center of our teaching and preaching, but she was mistaken in thinking that the Old Testament was not about Jesus.

Jesus is the one who would crush the head of the lying serpent and clear the way back to the Tree of Life. He would be the ark that saves the people from the flood of God's wrath. He would come from the seed of Abraham and bring blessing to the whole world. Like Joseph, Jesus would be punished even though he had done nothing wrong. Like Moses, he would release the captives from bondage and lead them safely to the Promised Land. He would be the Passover lamb that was slain so that his blood would cover the people. He would be the mediator between God and man. He would be the true Yeshua who would remind the people that "Yahweh saves." He would be the son of David, a king whose kingdom would never end. He would be the fulfillment of the temple, God's dwelling with man. He would be the suffering servant, the stump of Jesse, and the holy branch. He would love his wayward wife, Israel, as Hosea bought back the prostitute, Gomer. He would descend into darkness, like Jonah, and emerge three days later.

No, Emmanuel had not yet been born, and no, the Word had not yet become flesh, but Christ inhabits the Old Testament as well as the New. As Sally Lloyd Jones puts it in The Jesus Storybook Bible,

"There are lots of stories in the Bible but all the stories are telling one big Story - the Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this story and at the center of the story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers His name. He is like the missing piece of a puzzle, the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together and suddenly, you can see a beautiful picture."

I also like how Timothy Keller puts it in this video:

Today marks the start of the Advent season. Journey with me through the stories of the Old Testament as we prepare for Christ's coming.