Monday, February 1, 2010

shadows of Eden, echoes of Israel

The Word for today:
Matthew 4

mark this:
Matthew 4:4--
But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' "

The Bible is the masterpiece of world literature. Nothing else comes close. I've read 'em all.

In fact, if a list were to be made of the world's great literature, it wouldn't even be appropriate to list second and third place on the same side of your piece of paper. Just write
"1. The Bible"
on one side, then flip the sheet over and write
"2. Dante's Inferno
3. Shakespeare's tragedies
4. Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov
5. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
6. Dickens' Christmas Stories
7. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey
8. Twain's Huckleberry Finn
9. Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse
10. etc.........."

No, I'm not going to treat the Bible like those dreadful, spiritually bankrupt "Bible as Literature" courses they teach in secular colleges.

Usually taught by unbelievers, those courses are drained of blood and therefore drained of life; drained of Christ and therefore drained of character; drained of sin--and thus drained of the reason for the cross. The Bible is a closed book to those unbelieving eyes:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." (1)

Those who approach the Bible to take it down will instead be taken down by the Bible.

Enough about their asinine braying. Now I want to address those who love and live by the Book. Don't let the willful biblical ignorance of the self-proclaimed "literati" ruin your own appreciation of the Bible's unparallelled artistry. You'd be missing out on a lot about God if you did.

To the degree you are able, begin to look for its sublime artistic qualities. If you can see beauty and exquisite craftsmanship in the delicate pinks and purples of the setting sun, then you can hear the exquisite poetic rhythms of his voice, his Word. You don't need to be trained in the theories of literature to see parallels and hear echoes.

If you will, "Stand in the Rain" for three years and go all the way 'round your Bible. Then start all over again. Then again. By about your third trip through you will start to notice that the scene we have before us today in Matthew 4--the temptation of Christ--is a kind of refrain. It's like something you've heard before.

Where have we heard this before? We heard it in the Garden of Eden, when Eve was tempted and fell. We heard it in the wilderness, when Israel was tested and failed.

But something--Someone--greater is before us today.

Eve grasped for what was not hers. But here is one who owned everything, and gave it all away. Satan and Eve twisted and denied God's Word. But here is one who lives by it, by its every line and verse.

Here is the new Adam. Here is the culmination of true Israel. This a new day, for this is the Morning Star. (2)

When we see this temptation and testing in the light of those temptations and testings, it adds layers of depth that the scene by itself can't convey.

Old Testament pictures and words which foreshadow and echo will deepen your understanding of Jesus' complete character when he enters, incarnate, into your New Testament:

1. Follow the giving of the law from Mount Sinai to the Sermon on the Mount to Mount Calvary, where it was fulfilled.

2. Follow the trail of blood from Eden to the cross:
God skinned animals to make a covering for the sin of Adam and Eve. The covering (called atonement) through the shed blood of another is reprised by the blood on the door at Passover, by the lamb sacrificed at the entrance of the Tabernacle, by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Behold. (3)

3. Follow the separations caused by sin--from Eden to the cross to hell.
God banished Adam and Eve to the land of Nod, East of Eden. Israel and Judah would be exiled to Assyria and Babylon. God turned away from Jesus when he became our sin on the cross. Finally, the unbeliever--whose sins are not covered by the blood--will be consigned to hell, which is permanent separation from God.

4. Follow the unity caused by sin's opposite, love--from Trinity to marriage to the body of Christ (the church).

5. Follow the grace notes on every page.
Grace is when God gives us good that we don't deserve.
God will continue to provide for Adam and Eve and Cain and the idolatrous nation of Israel, hoping they will return. He called Judas "friend" (4) after being betrayed; he restores Peter's shattered heart after being forsaken. He waits for the prodigal son to return (5). He waited for you and for me.

6. Follow the light.
From "Let there be light" (6) to the burning bush (7) to the pillar of fire to the Light of the World.

Pretty soon, more and more of these refrains will be heard. Pretty soon deep will call unto deep and Nod will echo in Babylon and the promised son will make his way up Mount Moriah in Genesis (8), long before he wends his way along that same ridge to Calvary in the book of Luke. You'll recognize The Tree of Life, in Eden in Genesis, transplanted to the New Jerusalem in Revelation.

He will breathe life into man in Genesis (9). In John, he will breathe the new life of the Spirit into the born again. (10)

He died your death. You breathe his breath. Shadows return to their substance. Echoes return to their source.
(1) 1 Corinthians 1:18-19; (2) Revelation 22:16; (3) John 1:29; (4) Matthew 26:50; (5) Luke 15; (6) Genesis 1:3; (7) Exodus 3; (8) Genesis 22; (9) Genesis 2:7; (10) John 20:22

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