Advent Midweek 1
December 6, 2017
This Advent Season, like all Advent seasons, we place a special emphasis on the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the coming Christ. Advent means “coming”, after all. And while an exhaustive treatment of each and every prophecy of Christ would be impossible, and indeed, we would have to study the entire Old Testament, which Jesus says testifies to him... still, it seems good to zoom in on a few passages which hold a particular importance or a place of prominence in Messianic expectations. You might have chosen some other passages, and another perhaps 3 others. But these three seemed the most well-known, the most often-referenced, some of the most pivotal prophecies pointing to Christ out of all of them. So for the three weeks of Advent this year – we will consider the messianic prophecies of Genesis 3, Isaiah 7 and 9, and Micah 5.
Prophecy isn't only about the future – strictly speaking it is a word of God given through a representative or mouthpiece – a prophet. And that word can speak of the past, present, or future – for all times are in the view and knowledge of God. It can be, as it were, a word of law or gospel: A prophetic word is often a word of rebuke, a harsh word over against the powers of the day that are set against God. Even today, sometimes it's used in that sense. The prophetic word that is hard to hear. But then there is that other sense of it, perhaps more commonly intended – that a prophet is one who tells the future. And many prophecies do so. We are concerned, especially, about those prophecies concerning the Christ – that most important promise of God to send a Savior to deliver his people. That promise, or or those promises, telling of future salvation, date as far back as the Garden, as we shall see today. In fact, let's turn our attention there now.
Try to imagine the scene of Genesis 3 – the freshly minted creation in all its “very good” glory, the animals according to their kinds, the garden planted by God as a paradise for man, and the innocent and noble Adam, and his helper Eve, both created in the image of God and set above creation, blessed to be fruitful and multiply. What joy it must have been for the newborn creation – think of the “new car smell” and the smell of a newborn but only better, more pervasive, entirely thorough.
Nothing bad, only good, indeed as God declared, “very good”.
And what a start contrast to what would soon follow. When the serpent slithered in. Taking the form of one of the beasts of creation, Satan, the evil one appears with his wicked agenda. He deceives the woman. The man fails to intervene, but partakes of the rebellion with her. And so the one to whom God gave dominion over all creation, the head, as it were, was struck. Sin, death, corruption, disease, chaos of a manner we still don't comprehend – all of it came upon creation. Like the dark shadow of an eclipse – so out of place, so alien to its design, creation fell along with its appointed master. And now, the serpent becomes the prince of this world. Adam and Eve beget children in their own image, and as you read the genealogies, the refrain is unmistakable, “and he died... and he died”. Quite a contrast to, “and it was good”. What a dark day that was. What a bitter day. A day of reversal. A day of death. A day of fear.
For as they heard the Lord walking in the garden, they hid. Like young children even today who instinctively hide when they know they've done something wrong, Adam and Eve hid. But you can't hide from God. You can't hide your sins from God. Their paltry attempts to cover nakedness with fig leaves only testified to their shame. Who told you you were naked? Did you eat of that forbidden tree?
And now they await punishment. It must have been with fear and dread that our first parents stood, waiting to get their comeuppance. Waiting to hear the pronouncement of judgment they truly deserved. We've all been there, at least in small ways. Perhaps waiting in fear of an angry parent. Perhaps watching the squad car as the officer gets out and walks toward your car window. Or perhaps even as your conscience burns at the thought of your God frowning at your sinning, yet again. What would it be like to stand and answer for your sins? To face up to it, with no escape in sight? Isaiah saw God and he cried, “woe to me, I am ruined!” Adam and Eve must have felt the same. We all should before a Holy God.
Oh they tried the blame game. It was the woman you gave me, Lord, it's all her fault. Oh, no, Lord, I was tricked, tricked I tell you! It was that crafty serpent. But the blame doesn't really shift. They knew what they were doing. They are just as accountable.
And then, when all seems lost, when they had nothing left to say, when the swift and sure blade of justice was surely about to cut them down... then it happened. God spoke to the serpent.
And in that curse, a blessing. In the bad news for our enemy, is the good news for Adam and Eve and you and me and all. Martin Luther puts it this way:
“These words are spoken for the sake of Adam and Eve that they may hear this judgment and be comforted by the realization that God is the enemy of the being that inflicted so severe a wound on man. Here grace and mercy begin to shine forth in the midst of wrath which sin and disobedience aroused. Here in the midst of most serious threats the Father reveals His heart…Who points to deliverance, indeed who promises victory against the enemy that deceived and conquered human nature.”
First, God curses the serpent to eat dust and crawl on its belly. And this may seem easy to pass by. But it is good news. For God limits Satan. He cannot come at us straightaway, head-on. He is limited to working sideways, slinking and squirming, through his deception and lies. Luther comments that if Satan wasn't limited in such a way, he would destroy all life, even keep a single tree from sprouting, for he hates God's good creation so. But the curse goes on, and the news for us gets better.
Genesis 3:15 is sometimes called the proto-gospel, the very first promise of God, and the first prophecy of a savior, a messiah, the very Christ. It is a promise that God unfolds throughout the pages of the Old Testament, progressively revealing more and more, as if facets of a diamond, until it reaches it fruition in the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and return of Christ in glory.
He, the offspring, (literally the seed) of the woman, the one descendant to come – would crush the head of the serpent, though the serpent would bruise his heel. Christ, though wounded, even mortally, at the cross – would not be defeated by death. But rather, with that very wound, he trampled the head of the Serpent, delivering a final defeat and humiliation of our ancient foe, completely disarming and destroying him and his kingdom forever. And so Jesus declares, “it is finished”. God keeps his promises.
Just look at the way God does it, though. Satan thinks he is victorious, working through the woman to get at the man. But God turns it around, working through the woman, through the womb, to bring about the man – the second Adam, that would be Satan's undoing.
He who once overcame man by means of a tree – now is overcome by the tree of the cross. And we, who fell into sin by eating the fruit of a forbidden tree, are now nourished unto salvation by the fruit of the cross – namely the body and blood of Jesus given us to eat and drink. By one tree and fruit came death, but by this tree and fruit comes life. In one Adam all mean are condemned to death. But in the Second Adam all men are given life.
Through the ages, God brings this promise to fruition. Preserving the line of the promise through Noah – despite a flood that ended all other flesh on earth.
Through the line of Abraham, so old he was as good as dead, and yet God gave him a son. Through that son Issac, and his son Jacob, and his son Judah, and down through history, the seed of promise was tended.
David was also promised his descendant would sit on his throne forever, and so the line of promise continued, though david's mighty house lay in tatters.
And then an angel appeared to Mary, and announced the child born to her would be that long-awaited savior. The seed of the woman, come to crush the serpent for good.