The story of the Old Testament is a beautiful one. Yet it is sad story. It is the tale of an amazing Kingdom that was invaded by the poisonous enemy of its righteous King. The worst part was that the King’s own servants betrayed Him. When Adam and Eve believed Satan and rejected God, it was a mutiny. It brought the twisted rebellion of their new master into the very depths of their own hearts. And because they had been given the incredible honor of being the stewards of God’s beautiful creation, they brought their corruption down upon everything else. God had given them a world without suffering or death, and they sabotaged it. The broken world where we now live is not what we were made for. Yet even in the middle of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, God continued to pursue His plan to bless humanity. He knew their weaknesses and His love was so great that in spite of their horrific betrayal, He longed to bring them back to Himself again. God made a promise that one day, a descendant of Eve would crush the head of Satan.
After Adam and Eve rebelled, they were sent away from the Lord’s Garden Temple. They had to live in the world they had chosen, yet their souls were not made to bear the pressure and contamination of evil. They passed the disease on to the souls of their children. Their children had children, and their children had children, and over hundreds of years, the number of people on earth grew to be thousands upon thousands of people. What do you think happened when there were that many people full of sin living together on earth? The people encouraged each other on to greater and more offensive sins. They rebelled against God even more and tried to live apart from Him so they could be as wicked as they wanted.
God saw all the terrible desires in the hearts of humanity and moved in history to restrain their reign of power. He divided the people into nations with different language groups, separating them from their terrible influence on each other. Then, out of all of these nations, the Lord chose one man and called him to be separate before the Most High God. This man’s name was Abraham.
God made a Covenant promise with Abraham. He said He would give Abraham so many descendants that they would be like stars in the sky or sand on the beach. Then God promised to make Abraham’s children into a nation of priests. They would represent the holy ways of God to all the other nations of the earth. They would show the rebellious people of earth the pathway to righteousness. And through Abraham’s descendants, God said He would somehow bless all the nations of the world.
God didn’t tell Abraham exactly how He would do it, but we can look back now and know. Hundreds upon hundreds of years later, God would raise up a Chosen One from among the people of Israel. He would be the Savior of the world. We know Him as Jesus. He would be the descendant of Eve, who God said would crush the head of Satan and defeat his evil Kingdom in Genesis 3:16. The most remarkable thing about Him is that He would also be God Himself. The Son of God would leave His place on the Throne of Heaven and “..make Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a Servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil 2:7). God would become a Man. And then He would offer Himself up to die to pay the punishment for the sins of humanity that started with Adam and Eve. It is a story of epic beauty. It is also true. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Abraham heard God’s promises to make His children into a great nation, and he believed. Abraham’s faith in God was the opposite of the sin of Adam and Eve that brought the terrible curse upon the world. They chose to believe the words of the Serpent, which brought death. But Abraham chose to trust in the Words of God. He depended on what God said to be his source of hope, believing more in God than in the promises of this world or the power of his own desires. That faith was precious to God, and He counted it towards Abraham as righteousness. Abraham is the great Old Testament model for the kind of faith and dependence that God longs for in all of His children…including you and I.
Over hundreds of years, Abraham’s children grew to become millions of people. Yet by that time there was a big problem. They were all slaves. They lived in the land of Egypt, and the pharaoh used them to work as slave laborers to make his empire wealthy and powerful. God had warned Abraham that this was going to happen. And at just the right time, God raised up one of Abraham’s children to speak against the oppression of the evil Pharaoh. This man’s name was Moses. God told Moses that He was going to use him to set His people free. And He did.
Through great and mighty miracles, God delivered His people from the oppression and suffering of Egypt. You may remember the amazing story when God split open the Red Sea so that His people could pass through. Then He called them out into the desert, where they were given a brand new Covenant promise. This Covenant was not exactly like the one God made with Abraham. In fact, the Covenant of Moses was one stage in God’s plan to fulfill His Covenant with Abraham. God’s promises to Abraham were everlasting and unconditional. It was God’s work to keep that covenant. There was nothing Abraham had to do to keep it, and it will never end.
God’s covenant with Moses was temporary. It was a special agreement between the Lord and His special, chosen nation. He promised them lavish blessings. He would give them a Land of Promise and cause their crops to grow so that they would always have plenty to eat. He would protect them from enemy nations that might want to attack, and He would bless them with many children. But there was something they had to do to keep their side of the covenant as well. God made a contract, or an agreement, with them that they had to obey. It was called the Law. The Ten Commandments are a part of it. This Law taught them the wonderful, pure ways of God. It taught them to worship God and cleanse themselves from sin so that His presence would remain close to them. It helped them order their way of life, teaching them how they should treat each other as God’s beloved children. The Law showed the way for humans to honor God even when they lived in a broken, sinful world. If they lived by the Law, they would be completely different from the wicked nations of the world that continued in rebellion. The normal suffering and hardship of society would be greatly reduced and the vulnerable would be protected.
If the nation of Israel did not honor the Law of their Covenant with God, the Lord had another set of promises for them. He would stop blessing their crops and animals. He would no longer protect them from the enemy nations around them, and He would kick them out of the Land of Promise that He had given them. They would have destroyed their opportunity for blessing by abusing it. They would have set a bad example to the world about what their God approved. God laid the choice out for them very clearly from their very first days as a nation in the desert.
The Covenant of the Law established the nation of Israel as God’s holy people. For about one thousand, five hundred years, their nation was defined by this Law. It was something like the way the United States and India are defined by their Constitutions. During all those years, there were times when Israel honored God’s holy Law. But more often, there were times when they lived in horrific rebellion. And so God punished His children just as He said He would. He sent other nations to come and conquer Israel and remove them from the Land of Promise. His people were sent into exile, captives of other nations.
Yet no matter how sinful Israel became as a nation, there was always a righteous remnant who were faithful to their Lord. Sometimes they were judges who helped the people return to the ways of God. Sometimes they were kings who purified the nation from their sins. At other times, God sent prophets who came with words of rebuke and warning. They also came with new promises. We will be learning more about them in the next few lessons.
The Old Testament begins with the sentence, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Then it goes on to tell the magnificent story of how God created the entire universe, just by speaking it into place. “Let there be light” He declared, and out of the deep dark of nothingness, brilliant, glorious light appeared. Can you imagine? The Bible says that the angels watched and shouted out with amazement and utter delight!
Over six days, God made the stars and the moon and sun. God formed the earth and filled the ocean deeps with water. He made the plants and trees spring up from the ground and made all the amazing array of insects and lizards and fish and animals. Can you imagine what it was like for the angels as they watched God’s creative genius come alive? How the vast space of the universe must have astonished them with its massive, flaming stars! Did they journey around those magnificent balls of fire with planets whizzing around them? Did they tour each solar system? And how they must have laughed at the sight of the first giraffe and monkey and camel! How they must have trembled with awe at the great glaciers and the mighty waves and the deep roar of the lion.
All of these came from the will of God, and they were perfectly good because He is perfectly good. When we see something beautiful and our hearts rise up with joy, it is because we behold something that shows some part of God’s beauty. The grandeur of the mountains show the grandeur of His righteousness, the vastness of the sky shows His wide, surrounding faithfulness! When God made the universe, He created a Kingdom full of monuments to His absolute goodness and glory!
Then the time came for God to make the crown of His creation. He wanted to make creatures in His very own image. These beings would be like mirrors that reflect God’s rule and power and His perfect care over the rest of His creation. To make these special creatures, He did not merely speak as He did with the sun and the stars and the trees. For their making, God came down to earth. He took a bit of the dust from the ground and formed a shape the way we form things with clay. God made the shape of a man, and then He blew the breath of life into him and made him come alive! God was the great King of all Creation, and the human race was to act as His special, honored servants, overseeing His glorious world and tending to it.
The Lord put His royal servant in a glorious Garden that He had prepared for him. It was like a sacred temple where the man would live in perfect dependence on the Lord as he served Him. He could live in constant, perfect obedience with God. There was no temptation to sin because this man only knew the goodness of God. He had no idea what temptation or evil was. And because there was no evil or sin, there was no suffering or death. It was a perfect world where man could live perfectly close to the holy, Most High God.
Out of the great, magnificent Garden flowed four might rivers. The Garden was full of lush trees hanging with the most delicious fruit that anyone could ever imagine. In the middle of the Garden were two special trees. One was the Tree of Life. The other was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The man was given total freedom to eat from any tree in the whole Garden except one. God forbade him from eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This was God’s faithful protection. The fruit of this tree was terribly dangerous for him. If he ate from it, he would understand sin and evil, and it would have great power over his soul, like a tremendous pressure his form was not built to bear. If he ate from it, he would die. The man had no idea what pain or shame or suffering was like, so he had no idea what God was protecting him from. And as long as humans obeyed God’s command, they would never have to learn the meaning of pain or death.
God gave this first man rule and authority over all His earthly kingdom. He brought out all the animals so that the man could assign them names. As he named each one, something became very clear. Though many of the animals were beautiful and clever and wonderful, none of them were a match for the man. How lonely he would be on the earth! God saw that he needed a companion and helper. So the Lord put him into a deep sleep and took a rib from his chest.. From that rib, God made the first woman. The very sight of her sent a deep and powerful thrill through the heart of the man. She was created perfectly to be the beloved helper and companion for him, for she, too, was made in the image of God. Their united love and respect for each other was meant to be the pure reflection of God’s character of love to the world. Their names were Adam and Eve, and they are the parents of every human ever born.