Jesus, the Serpent-Crusher

CUPCAKE

Genesis 3:15

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.

Throughout the Old Testament God makes a lot of promises about the coming Saviour, the Messiah. This is the first of them.

The context:

God’s work: God created everything, and it was very good (Gen 1:31). He made everything that exists – the world, plants, animals, the ocean, land, sky. He even made the stars and other planets. He created Adam and Eve to rule the world under him, to have authority over the animals, to work the garden and to have children.

He gave them all they could ever need or want, and only gave them one command: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Satan’s work: But as we know they disobeyed God. The serpent (Gen 3) tempted Eve to eat the fruit, to make the rules for herself and usurp God as ruler of the world, and she ate, and she gave some to Adam and he ate.

They both disobeyed God. They tried to rebel against God and set up their own rule, and in so doing they destroyed his perfect world. They tried to make clothes for themselves to cover their shame, and they tried to hide from God (much like we do when we disobey God), but all their attempts couldn’t save them or restore them.

The consequences: God had told them that to eat the fruit would mean death. In his mercy he didn’t send that punishment straight away. Instead he laid out for them the consequences of their sin: Hardship, Suffering, Pain, Death.

The Promise

But in the midst of these just and right judgements, God made a promise. He promised that one of Eve’s children would crush the serpent’s head and be “crushed” himself on the heel.

Obviously for Adam and Eve this was a vague promise. But it was hope: God wasn’t abandoning them like they deserved. He was promising to send someone to (at least in some way) fix the situation.

The Picture

God also showed his mercy to them in providing them clothes of animal skin. Their attempts to make clothes had failed. They couldn’t cover up their shame or nakedness. Just like us – they couldn’t do anything to make themselves right with God.

Although we’re not told directly, I think it’s safe to assume that for God to provide them with animal skins as clothes, some animals had to be killed. An animal had to die to cover up their shame.

The fulfilment

What does all this have to do with us, today, now?

God is the only God, and he is Faithful. He keeps his promises. He kept his promise to judge them for their sin, and he has kept his promise to send a Serpent Crusher.

Jesus came into the world around 2000 years ago. He lived a life without sin. He alone didn’t deserve the punishment for sin: Death. Yet he willingly died on the cross.

In his death he took my sin, and the sin of everyone who puts their trust in him. He took that sin, and he took the punishment for it on himself, so we can be forgiven.

Like the animals sacrificed to clothe Adam and Eve, Jesus was sacrificed to “clothe” us. To cover our sin and shame with his perfect sinless righteousness.

Jesus has crushed the serpent. Jesus destroyed the work of the devil.

Will you put your trust in Him?

1 John 3:8

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

 

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Lessons from David and Goliath

Recently I spoke to my church’s youth group from 1 Samuel 17 – the story of David and Goliath, and I found it really exciting how many parallels there are to Jesus, and some of the lessons we can draw out of that passage. I’ll start with those lessons and then look at Jesus and David.

The world loves the story of David and Goliath – most people think that it’s all about conquering you’re own giants, about being yourself in the face of fear and hardship, of overcoming hardship on your own strength.

They’re dead wrong. The whole point of the passage is that David trusts God and acts on that trust when no one else does. The whole point is that David can’t do it – but God can, and God will vindicate his name.

God makes Israel wait 40 days before he gets David to rescue them. God doesn’t promise us that he will rescue us from our struggles here and now, and he definitely doesn’t promise immediate rescue. In fact he tells us that everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12).

God doesn’t promise to save us from depression or financial difficulty or broken relationships. He doesn’t promise to heal us of cancer or other sickness.

But he does make big promises. He promises that he works everything for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28), and that these hardships are for our growth and to purify us (1 Peter 1, James 1:2-4). And he promises that although he may not “rescue” us from them in this life, if we trust in him then we already are rescued from them, and will be free of them in heaven (Revelations 21).

Will you trust God with you’re giants? Will you wait on his timing to save – be that in this life or through death and into his arms?

 

Here are some of the cool parallels I was talking about before:

David obeys his father. He has been told that he will be king of Israel. He has every reason to be proud and selfish and not do the low jobs that his father makes him do. But instead he obeys selflessly and humbly.

Jesus obeys his Father. Jesus is God, he has every right not to come and give his life for us, the people who have rejected him. Yet he obeyed his father to the full – even to death on a cross. He gave up his glory and humbly gave his life for us to save us. Philippians 2.

David is a good shepherd. He looks after his Fathers sheep – he makes sure that when he goes away to obey his father more fully that he provides someone else to care for the sheep.

Jesus is THE good shepherd. He looks after his Father’s sheep – us. He is the good shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep. And when he did that in obedience to his father. and when he rose again and went to heaven, he sent someone else to look after the sheep – the Holy Spirit (John 14).

David was to be a king after God’s own heart. David trusts God and obeys God fully – and his willingness (in fact eagerness) to fight Goliath shows his faith in God. Yet David did sin and stuff it up.

Jesus is THE true king after God’s own heart. He did not sin.

David conquered Goliath and saved God’s people from slavery to the Philistines

Jesus conquered sin and death when he died for us and rose again, freeing us from slavery to sin.

But Jesus did more than David, as we’ve already seen. He didn’t just fight the enemy and win. He gave his life to win the victory for us, and rose again to prove it.

Will we trust Jesus? He is the true and better giant conquerer. He is the one who crushes the serpents head. He is the saviour – will you trust in him?

He is the only one who can save us from our biggest enemies – sin, satan and death. But he does if we repent and believe and follow him. Will you?

 

Note: Another common misconception about David and Goliath – people think Goliath was a giant in temrs of “Jack and the Beanstalk” Giant. No – he was probably about 3m tall. Only about a foot taller than the tallest man recorded in the 20th century. Not all that unfeasible.

The Gospel.

I was listening to a sermon last Sunday night (Click here if you want to take a listen) and the speaker encouraged us to take some time to write down the gospel. Obviously that could take a lifetime – no amount of writing can truly express what God has done for us. But nevertheless I decided to give it a go. The result is below.

What is the gospel? That’s a big question. But briefly: God created us (Humanity, Adam and Eve) perfect and in perfect relationship with him. Then they (and by consequence all of humanity) sinned – they rebelled against God, and the consequence of that sin was that death and suffering entered the world. Since that point every human being has disobeyed God. Therefore since God is good, just, holy and perfect, since he cannot stand sin, we all deserve his punishment. That punishment is hell – God’s wrath against sin and rebellion toward him. Yet he chose a people (Israel), rescued them from Egypt and told them his law. He did this to show them that they cannot keep his requirements. We cannot save ourselves.

But in his mercy, grace, love, compassion and kindness God then sent his son – Jesus – into the world as a man. Fully God and fully man means that Jesus was perfect – he didn’t sin or disobey God. But he could also die. He could take our sins on himself since he hadn’t committed any and he could die the death and suffer the punishment that we deserved. We crucified him, spat on him, mocked him, and yet it is his death that opens the way for us to come back into relationship with God.

If we put our faith (trust) in Jesus as the only one who can save and if we repent of our sin and rebellion against him then we will be forgiven for all the sins we have committed (and will commit). They are entirely dealt with by Jesus on the cross when he suffered God’s wrath for us. When we put our faith in him and turn from our sins to follow him we are made new creations (2 Cor 5:17), we are moved from enemies of God to children of God (Romans 8), Objects of wrath to co-heirs with Christ. This is not because we in any way deserve it. We deserve only hell. But it is because in his amazing grace God saw fit to glorify himself not only by showing his justice, perfection and holiness in judging sin, but by also showing his mercy, love, kindness, grace and compassion.

In Jesus we see God’s justice and judgement against sin and his awesome and marvellous mercy and grace toward a people who don’t deserve it (that’s you and me if we are Christians).

The result? Jesus rose again – he dealt with sin and so the consequence of it – death – could not hold him. He proves that he paid the price in our place by his ressurection. And he also proves that all his promises are true. He rose again, and so shall we – all people, Christians and Non-christians, will rise again and sit before God in judgement. Those who have not accepted Jesus as their personal saviour and Lord will face God’s punishment for their sins – the punishment that every human being deserves (i.e. hell). Those who have turned to Christ have been forgiven. Our sin is removed – it was placed on Christ and he died for us, taking God’s wrath that we deserved in our place. Since we are forgiven and adopted as God’s children we will be accepted into heaven to be with God eternally, glorifying him and delighting in his presence and his character for all eternity.

Are you a Christian? Are you interested? There is a cost. If we are truly sorry for sinning against God then we will turn from it. We will work hard to obey God and live his way – not because that saves us, but because we are saved. We will give our whole lives to God, submitting to him as king and LORD of our lives. Not in the hopes that we can be good enough to make it to heaven but as a response to the complete and full forgiveness we have in Jesus, our love for him and our thankfulness. And that’s hard. We are also called to tell people – which makes sense, since it’s such a glorious and wonderful gospel. But the result of that will often be that we are mocked and persecuted.

Are you willing to give your whole life for Jesus?    

Psalm 43, Jesus and The Gospel.

I read Psalm 43 today as part of my bible reading and by God’s grace it occurred to me that Jesus is all through this Psalm – and it was so encouraging to see God’s faithfulness in completing his promises and to remember that he is sovereign and everything that happened in Jesus was his plan all along.

Verses 1-2

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
    against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
    deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
    why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?

These are words that David wrote about 1000 years about Jesus. And they are quite general – on one level they are simply David crying out to God for vindication and questioning why God seems absent from his sufferings.

Yet these are also words that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write (2 Peter 1:21), and thus we can trust that God had his perfect plan in them, and they point exactly to Jesus. Jesus was perfect and righteous, and therefore he alone deserved vindication from God (and that came when he rose again). He suffered and died at the hands of an unfaithful and rebellious nation – the Jews rejected him, their creator and God, preferring their self-righteousness and legalism. And likewise so did we, preferring our sin.

The words that specifically caught my attention are “Why have you forsaken me”, which are the same words Jesus cries out on the cross as he suffers the punishment that we deserved. When we put our faith in Jesus he takes our sins, and he takes God’s punishment for them, dying in our place when he died on the cross. He was rejected by God when it should have been us who were rejected by God (for we reject him and his way when we sin). He was forsaken by God so we could be adopted as God’s children. What a wonderful saviour!

Verses 3-4

Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

These are actually the verses that caught my attention first up. Who is David’s light? Who is the truth? Who is the ultimate fulfilment of both of those images? Jesus! He is the light of the world (John 8:12), and in fact he was the one who created light on day 1 (Genesis 1, John 1). Likewise he is the way, the truth and the life – the only way we can be made right with God. He is the only one who can save us from God’s wrath against sin – only by faith in him and repentance can we be forgiven. (So have you put your faith in him? – 1 John 1:8-9)

In John 1 we learn that Jesus is the word, and God’s word is truth. God also spoke to bring creation into existence. And in Psalm 119:105 we learn that God’s word is a “lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path”. This then links into the second line of v3 – Jesus alone can lead us. He alone can lead us to God’s holy hill – to heaven. Because of our sin we deserve hell, God’s wrath. Yet Jesus saves! He lights the way, he is the truth, and if we follow him we have access to God! We will go to heaven to be with him (2 Corinthians 4:16-18*, forgiven for our sins (Acts 2:38) and adopted as God’s children (Galatians 3:26, Romans 8)! What a glorious gospel!

And so we have a resolution to the issue of Psalm 42 and 43. Why are you downcast O my soul? There’s no reason to be for we are forgiven! For even if the whole world falls apart. Even if the mountains fall into the sea (Psalm 46), we are forgiven and nothing can separate us (Christians) from the love of God (Romans 8).

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

 

Soli Deo Gloria.

Nath.

Justice

If God doesn’t exist then where does Justice come from?

Micah 6:8 – “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

This verse tells us that God has taught us what is good and just, he alone is both good and just. In Genesis 2 we learn that we were created in the image of God. And even though we sin, we still maintain at least the shadow of that image, and one result of that is a longing for justice.

On one hand we have the bible claiming that we get our concept of justice from God. But then we have the world telling us that God doesn’t exist. If God doesn’t exist, then why does justice exist? It seems to me that the concept of justice is anti-evolutionary. It goes against the idea of survival of the fittest. And yet it is constantly what we are calling for and looking for in our own lives and in the world.

The whole push of social justice is preventing the strong from oppressing the weak. It’s one of those ideas that most people agree with – the weak should be protected and not oppressed. That stands in complete opposition to the theory of evolution.

Evolutionary theory says that the strongest survive. It claims that it’s good for the weak ‘weeded out’ of society so that we can progress. It claims that it is natural and even “good” for the weak to be destroyed so that the strong can continue to improve.

If this is what is natural, then why do we long for and seek justice for the oppressed? It would be right and natural for the weak to be trodden on and for no one to defend them. In fact it would be stupid and unnatural to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

If God doesn’t exist then justice shouldn’t exist because we should accept every injustice as a natural outworking of the survival of the fittest. If we die or are oppressed it would be because we are weaker and it would simply be the way things are. And yet everything in us cries out against injustices. We hate it when we are oppressed or treated unfairly, and we have a great sorrow for those who are suffering around the world unjustly while the ‘stronger’ (politically, economically, etc) thrive on corruption.

The truth is that God does exist and so does justice. He will judge, he decides what is right and wrong, and He will be call us all to account. And that bring up the question of where you stand with God.

The Gospel.

Romans 3:23 tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. We have all disobeyed God. We have all rejected his way. Because he is just and perfect that means we’ve done what is wrong. And since God is perfect he must judge evil. That means we all deserve his punishment for sin: hell eternally.

And yet in his great mercy and love and grace God sent Jesus, his one and only son into the world as a man. Jesus lived perfectly – he alone did not deserve to die or be punished for sin. Yet he took our sin and suffered God’s wrath against it in our place when he died on the cross. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death”. Jesus took our sins and died when he alone didn’t deserve it. And he rose again. Since the result of sin is death, and Jesus dealt with sin, death could no longer contain him. It had no right to hold him since he had defeated sin.

And that’s why we know that there is complete forgiveness in Jesus. He rose again, proving sin had been conquered. And he tells us to “Repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15) – if we put our trust in Jesus as the only one who saves and if we turn from sin then we will be completely forgiven by him. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

God’s justice is satisfied in Jesus so that he can rightly show us mercy, love and grace. Have you put your faith in him? Only he can save!

Don’t believe everything they tell you.

John 7:52 – They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

In this passage we see the Chief Priests and the Pharisees rebuking Nicodemus when he stands up for a fair treatment of Jesus. But in doing so they simply prove their ignorance and arrogance. These people were the religious leaders of their day. They were the best of the best, the teachers, the trusted elders. They were the ones you would turn to for your the answers to your questions. They were wrong.

These religious leaders claim that no prophet came from Galilee, yet we know that Jonah and Nahum both came from Galilee.

2 Kings 14:25 – He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.

 

Nahum 1:1 – An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.

Both Elkosh and Gath-hepher were located in Galilee.

So what?

I think that there’s an important point for us to learn here: We can’t just take it for granted that what we are told about the bible is the truth. We can’t just expect to be fed good spiritual food. Instead we need to do some research ourselves. We need to put effort into our walk with God if we want to grow – not because God can’t grow us by himself, but because he calls us to be faithful with what he’s given us.

There are so many false teachers out there that we know about. We know of Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen. We know about the Prosperity gospel. But when Jesus talks about false teachers he says they are like wolves in sheep’s clothing. They’re disguised. They aren’t easy to recognise. We need to test out what we are being taught with the only standard that we know is true: God’s word. We need to be like the Bereans who tested Paul’s words out by studying what God’s word said – they were commended for it.

God wants us to ask questions. He wants us to test out people’s words about him with the true standard: his own words. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that it’s wrong to ask questions. Don’t believe anyone who says things that don’t line up with scripture.

Start now: Is what I’ve written true? Were Jonah and Nahum really from Galilee? Is what I’ve said biblical and true?

Acts 17:11 – Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

 

The Gentiles

Here’s something that I don’t think we usually think about as Western Christians: We are the Gentiles.

We are the ones who never had a part in God’s promises to his people or his covenant. We are the ones who were historically always outside of God’s people. We, like the Jews do not deserve God’s salvation – but we, the Gentiles didn’t even have God’s direct promise of salvation.

And yet in his mercy and grace it was always God’s plan to save us. To forgive us for our sins if we put our trust in him just as he has forgiven all the Jews who put their trust in him. Even though we entirely had no part in it, God in his awesome love decided to save us also to bring glory to himself. He made us as much part of his people and his family as the Jews who turn to him!

We truly have no room for pride or to think we were worthy.

What a glorious God we have! He saves us though it is 100% entirely undeserved. He is truly worthy of Praise!

Isaiah 49:6 – ‘he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”‘

 

 

We’re the gentiles. The ones who rejected God, the ones he didnt choose first up, the ones without the heritage in Gods word. What grace!