Sunday, 4 July 2010

In the Beginning, Christ ...?

I passed a bookshop yesterday that has a 'new release' book called "CHRIST IN GENESIS". I haven't bought it yet, and don't want to until I put down my own thoughts first - just in case I get accused of copying!

Some folk will think this idea is out of sequence: surely Jesus wasn't born until the beginning of the New Testament? But most Christians will think straight away of the beginning of John's Gospel:
"In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. ...
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."
The idea that Christ was one with the Father before creation, and was the agent of creation itself, is certainly a part of orthodox Christian theology. But I was thinking of something else - the idea that Christ's purpose in coming into the world was prophesied in the Old Testament, and 'fore-shadowed' by the events described.

The story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4) always puzzled me. Yes, of course Cain's jealousy and murder of his brother was wrong, but it all came about because God rejected Cain's sacrifice of his 'fruits of the soil' in favour of Abel's 'firstborn of his stock'. After all, Cain worked the soil and Abel tended flocks. Only with the benefit of hindsight (i.e. the New Testament) do we understand the symbolic significance of blood sacrifice.

But the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son Isaac (Genesis 22) to God's inexplicable request is even more striking. When the 'angel of the Lord' called out to Abraham at the last minute to revoke the request, the Lord provided a male sheep caught by its horns in a nearby thorn bush as a substitute.

The significance of this event as a fore-shadowing of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the Cross really hit me the last time I read this familiar story. Not the climax - but just before, when Abraham had taken the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on the back of his son Isaac for him to carry. I had not made any connection before with Jesus carrying the wood of his own cross to the hill at Calvary.

When they arrived, Isaac said to his father,

The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?

Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."

We used to have an embroidered text on the wall at home when I was a small boy. It said "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found". It is certainly true when you read Genesis.


  1. Yes it is true Phillip!
    Such a Faith as Abraham!
    Beyond all!

    Years ago while taking a shower, it suddenly hit me.
    Jesus sacrifice!!!
    I had read it.
    I had known it.
    But suddenly I was hit with the revelation of the true fact ....
    Jesus died for me, BEFORE, I even sinned, BEFORE..
    I cannot tell you what that meant to me personally.
    He pathed the way.
    He made the escape.
    He took my blame.
    Before...because he knew, I would sin...
    His sacrifice is beyond all... His blood shed.
    More than I deserve.
    Bless you Phillip.

  2. Crystal Mary, thanks for your personal take -for that is what it is all about. Bless you too.

    The timeless nature of Christ's sacrifice is summed up by one of the most startling of Jesus's own statements about himself:

    "Before Abraham was, I am."

  3. Phil, I don't know if this is the post you referred to on my blog or not; if not, draw me a picture, I AM a little slow at times.

    I've backed off from Bible study a bit lately, may God forgive me. However, one thing I've learned is that the harder I dig, the more God opens things to me. I know that I’m not discovering these previously unrealized meanings on my own, HE's just rewarding my efforts by giving me moments of better vision. Unfortunately, I've also come up with a question or two that I can't safely discuss online, since it might confuse a non-Christian or further weaken an already weak one. Some discussions are, indeed, unproductive.

    As for Abraham, I would not have had his faith. Knowing God mostly from the scriptures, rather than having an ongoing, walking-talking relationship like Abraham's, I would have assumed that I was misunderstanding God's request (or command).

  4. Great post Philip, I was talking to somebody just the other night about the same issue - that the incarnated "Jesus of the Gospels" is (in a sense) a limited view of the much bigger "Jesus of the Bible". An old man's advice to me when I was wee was, when reading the Bible, to "look for Christ on every page". Some folk have said that "the Angel of the Lord" may have been Christ, possibly Melchizedek, and definitely the fourth figure in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were Old Testament appearances of Jesus.

    I also realised a while back that the Bible doesn't ask us to believe in God, it calls us to trust in Christ. I'm currently re-reading "Vintage Jesus" by Mark Driscoll and getting a lot of good stuff out of it.

  5. And God said, "Let there be light ..."; the light (for us) is Christ. Genesis is full of Christ.

    There are four references to the wood in Genesis 22: verses 3, 6, and 9 (twice). I am reminded of God's feelings, "He who, yea, has not spared his own son ...", Romans 8: 32.

  6. David

    "Genesis is full of Christ"

    Yes, all creation began with Light, and John said that Jesus is the 'Light of the world' - but the darkness doesn't understand him. But I think we need to be cautious on taking this one too far as Genesis says God created Light on the first day. John says that Christ was with God and was God in the beginning. I think that is a distinction John was careful to make as he describes Christ as the 'Word' in that case, and later as the 'Light that came into the world'.

    The parallel references to deadwood being the instrument of sacrifice in Genesis and the Gospels are full of meaning to me. I am reminded of the contrast with the 'living branches' and the 'Tree of Life' itself in Revelations and Genesis.

    As always, thanks for your insight and thoughts (and of course your poetry!).

  7. Mark

    "Look for Christ on every page"

    Thanks Mark, that sums it up perfectly! I love the other points you make about the "Angel of the Lord" when the passages that mention his visits and quote him with the tag "then the Lord said to Abraham".

    "Melchizedek" - Well, that one is worth a blog on its own! Hmmm ...

  8. Good thoughts and discussion, Philip. Of course Jesus is the "seed of the woman" in Genesis 3:15. As we are discussing, he is the "ram caught in the thicket" in this part of Abraham's life. Jesus is a "priest in the order of Melchizedek (14:18-20)and later Joseph is a type of Christ in many ways: rejected by his brothers, but later their savior. In a sense he was dead and became alive again.

    How are we benefitted from seeing these prophecies and foreshadowings of Jesus? I guess we see that God's redemptive plan was already in place - Jesus is the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth."

  9. My Bible Study group is slowly working its way through the Old Testament. It is amazing how many times we run into something that foreshadows events of the NT.

  10. Gary

    Thanks for your insight. There does seem to be a mixture of actual 'pre-incarnate' appearances of Christ (like Melchizadek), as well as 'pre-figuring' stories (like the Joseph one you mention) foreshadowing Christ's incarnation. I hadn't thought of that distinction before.

    Although it's not in Genesis, the story of Jonah and his 3 days in the whale is referred to by Jesus himself as the only 'sign' the Pharisees would have of his death and resurrection.


    Where is your group up to at the minute? I believe that reading and studying the Bible right through from the beginning will bring its own reward, as it is a progressive revelation.

    In terms of the foreshadowing aspect, what a treasure-house the Psalms are. My very best wishes to you and your Bible study group.

  11. Whether they were basing it solely on John 1:3 or had parallel scriptures with it, I don't know, but I've often heard it said that the Father was the architect and the Son was the builder.

    As for Christ being on every page, it's probably much more obvious to us folks looking back than it was to those folks looking forward. On a related note, I've heard that Jews no longer openly study Isaiah 53, because it tells them things that they don't want to hear.

  12. Great study on God's Word. I really enjoyed reading this post. God's blessings too you. Lloyd

  13. Great post Philip. Glad to see others are picking on that fact that Christ is the theme, the center of Scripture.

    Christianity isn't about following rules (per se), nor is about conquering the world...nor is it just a 'get out of jail free' card for those who wish to escape eternal torment.

    It's about knowing God, being reconciled with our Lord and Creator, knowing who He is, His ways, and understanding something of His glory.

    And how do we know him? Through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

    Abraham's faith is staggering, but there is one interesting little clue in the text that some have brought out. The fact that he arose and cut wood himself is interesting because being undoubtedly one of the wealthiest men of that time, that would have been servant's work.

    You can almost imagine a restless, sleepless night, agitated and upset...he rises early and he personally chops the wood. Maybe it was an act of piety, maybe it's nothing of note, we just don't know, but it's interesting.

    One testimony to the veracity of Scripture is even the 'heroes' appear very human, flaws and all.

    It's a beautiful testimony to God's power that he uses a weak and worthless lot (all of us) to accomplish his means. Satan's power cannot overcome and defeat the Church. Empires fall but the Church (even as a seemingly pathetic remnant) continues.

    Thanks for the post.

    John A.

  14. John A.
    Good thoughtful comment. Our concept of God is sometimes made small (or smothered) by church packaging. When you think of the immediate relationship Abraham and the other patriarchs had with God without churches or temples, scripture, mosaic law, or anything, it makes you think about the depth of our basic 'instincts' regarding the Creator are smothered by worldly issues.

    If birds had the gift of 'intellectual' thought, they would never be able to navigate from continent to continent each spring, but would be thrown into confusion.