the Bible in 4 weeks
Yep, that’s right, I just wrote “the whole Bible in 4 weeks.” That may sound a bit crazy, but it is, nonetheless, our mission in the four weeks leading up to Christmas. See, we believe the only way you can really understand the significance of the Nativity is to experience the love story that is the entirety of the Bible. You cannot truly know the deep meaning of Jesus’ birth without knowing the narrative that begins with Creation and extends to resurrection (and beyond).
five chapters, fifteen hundred years
Our time this week will be focused on Genesis chapter 6. The timetable from Creation to the birth of Christ contains about 4,000 years of human history. Fifteen hundred of those happen in the span of Genesis 1-6. So doing the math, you can tell the first six chapters of Genesis are very significant to the story of us. They are the foundation upon which the rest of the Bible rests.
Our story begins with the first man and woman (Adam and Eve). God created Adam on the sixth day of Creation and placed him in the middle of the lush garden (Eden) He had created to tend it and watch over it (Genesis 2:15). He created Eve soon after, and they both were set free in the garden to enjoy and partake of it … well, most of it. There was a single tree that God forbid them to eat from (Genesis 2:17). It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Everything God had created to that point was perfect. Adam and Eve had no context for anything other than God’s perfection.
It was not long before Adam and Eve found themselves at that tree where a fallen angel in the form of a snake tempted them to eat from it. The sense of temptation was strong. What was it that God didn’t want them to know or experience? What kept them from being just like God? The snake spoke directly to Eve and assured her that God’s consequence wouldn’t happen … “You won’t die!” (Genesis 3:4) Eve ate and then offered it to Adam, who also ate. In an instant, EVERYTHING (and I mean in Adam and Eve as well as all creation) changed. Adam and Eve are instantly aware that they’re naked. They feel and understand their rebellion against God as they consumed the knowledge of the difference between good and evil. The consequences of their rebellion and decision to eat was death. Not the immediate death that the snake assured them wouldn’t come, but the death of God’s perfect creation both within them and in the world around them. And because of their sin, we inherited this knowledge of the difference between good and evil.
God did three things because of their sin…
- cursed the snake
- cursed the woman (pain in child-bearing)
- cursed the man (it will be work to tend to the created world)
It sounds a little funny to say, but there’s really nothing else God does other than those three things. God has given his most precious creation the freedom to choose, and now the freedom to continue choosing. For the next 1,500 years God allows this narrative to play out. God does not directly intervene. He does not punish people for the choices they make. People live to be 900 years old. God observes, but He does not act.
And then we arrive at Genesis chapter 6, and the problem that’s been brewing…
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.
This is what unchecked human freedom looks like. This is what we will do when “freedom” becomes the highest value. So where was God’s heart in response to this problem?
The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.
And how was God moved to respond?
So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.
The problem began with sin (which was ushered into the world by Adam and Eve’s choice to eat of the tree God told them not to) which exploded in the human race as a result of unrestrained freedom. It was what they chose and it is what we choose apart from God. And here is God’s regret … everyone He created makes evil decisions with dire consequences. No one is immune from that. You, me, Mother Theresa … none of us, because of the curse of sin. Because of sin and how it separates us from God, our decisions deserve drastic punishment.
the flood changed it all
They sinned. They sinned all the time. God decides to wipe the slate clean (every human being, animal, bird, creature), except…
It’s the biggest “but” in the Bible (Hehe, he said “but”)
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
God in His mercy found one soul who was worth sparing. God in His mercy does not eternally punish everyone who has sinned. Noah found favor with God and God spared his life.
The world changed forever with the flood. God started over with His creation and the world was different, People now didn’t live for 900 years, they were not given the same unchecked freedom as before the flood.
the connection with Christmas
Okay, so how does this all connect with Christmas? God’s mercy demands a plan. God’s mercy births a plan of redemption. That plan requires a sacrifice. Something, actually Someone, who can bear and pay the penalty for sin … all sin. God’s plan of redemption requires a sinless, spotless lamb … it demanded Jesus — Immanuel, God with us, God in human flesh. And it required His life as ransom for ours.
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
The prophecy of Isaiah, given to him by God 700 years before Jesus was born, was fulfilled with Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus was the only one capable of paying the penalty for our sin, and Had to be born like all of us to die for all of us. God’s mercy and plan of redemption required a cradle and a cross.