THE first picture we have of God after man had sinned is that of Him walking in the garden in the cool of the day, calling unto Adam, Where art thou? Genesis 3:9. This picture is both beautiful and significant. Man has sinned and disobeyed God's express command. But the Lord does not forsake Him. He is looking for Adam and calling, Where ' art thou? These are the first recorded words of God to man after the fall.
It is not without significance that we are thus introduced to God. He is portrayed as seeking Adam, a sinner who is hiding from Him. It is a picture similar to that in the parable of the prodigal son. Day after day the father watched for the son who had left home, 'and ran to meet him while he was yet a great way off. Luke 15:20. It is a picture similar to that of the shepherd who rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Matthew 18:13.
Adam did not fully comprehend the seriousness of his sin or the result of disobedience. God had told him not to cat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and said, For in the day that thou eats thereof thou shall surely die. Genesis 2:17. But Adam had never seen death and did not clearly understand what was involved. But when he saw the first sacrificial lamb lying still before him, its life blood oozing out, death suddenly took on a new and deeper meaning. He began to understand that his salvation was in some way connected with the death of the lamb, that if the lamb had not died he would have to die, and thus be without any hope for the future, without God, lost. He owed his life to the death of the lamb, and with the instruction given him, by faith he saw in the lamb lying dead at his feet a symbol of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8.
Great must have been the remorse of Adam as the full consequences of his sin dawned on him. Must the One with whom he had talked and communed in the garden eventually die for his transgression? That seemed too much., We may readily believe that Adam offered to give his life rather than that the Son of God should die. But neither man nor angel could assume the responsibility for sin. Only He who was in the bosom of the Father, who was equal with God, who was God, could effect atonement. Angels might be given a certain work to do in the plan for the redemption of man; man himself might be given the privilege of co-operating; but there was only One who could provide redemption. His name should be called Jesus. (Matthew 1:21)
In the day that thou eats thereof thou shall surely die. Genesis 2:17. This was the dictum of God. The evident meaning of these words is that Adam would die the day he sinned. Some accept the marginal rendering, dying thou shall die as meaning, not that they would die that day, but that death would then begin to work in them, and that eventually they would die. This, however, is neither the reading nor the meaning of the words. We are not denying that Adam began to die that day. He did, and in a very real way. But it is precarious for a believer in the inspired Word of God to contend that God did not mean just what He said, especially in view of the fact that the serpent made a similar charge.
But is it not a historical fact that Adam did not die that day, but lived for many hundreds of years? How, then, are we to explain God's statement? By the simple fact that as soon as Adam sinned, Christ stepped into the breach, took Adam's place, and promised to die for him, in his stead. We hold that Adam would have died that day had not Christ then and there become the second Adam., taken the burden of sin and its guilt upon Himself, and pledged His life for the life of the world. This would be in harmony with the plan laid from eternity and embraced in the everlasting covenant, and would make clear the statement that Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8.
To impress more fully upon Adam and Eve the nature of sin and the consequences of transgression, as well as to demonstrate His love for them, God clothed them in the skins of the animals slain in sacrifice. (Genesis 3:21) Their garments thus became a continual reminder to them of their sins, but also, and more, of the One who had died for them, and whose love would save them. Their garments were symbolic of salvation.
That God should make coats of skins for His children about to be banished from their home, reveals both His severity and His love; severity, in sending them away; loving-kindness, in providing and caring for them even though they have sinned. As a mother wraps warm, protecting garments about her little ones before sending them out in the bitter wind, so God lovingly clothed His two children before sending them forth. If He must send them away, they were to bear with them the tokens of His love, evidence that God still cared for them. They must not be left to struggle alone without hope and without the comforting assurance of the love of God.
It must have been with unutterable sorrow of heart that Adam and Eve left their Eden home. Here they had lived in love and peace, conversed with angels, and communed, with God. Often they had heard His footsteps in the garden, had run to meet Him. They had talked with Him face to face. They had tasted of the powers of the world to come, had joined the celestial choir in ascribing praise to God, and had united in worship as the holy hours of the Sabbath drew on.
But now they were outside. No more would they walk with God and angels. The angels who had delighted to minister to them now barred their way to the tree of life. The future looked dark. They would have to battle with thorns and thistles, and in the end death awaited them. They were learning what all sinners learn: that the way of the transgressor is hard. They were learning that their repentance in no way abated the temporal results of transgression. God's commandments cannot be trifled with, and the safety of the universe demands that the dignity of the law be maintained even while mercy is extended.
But if we conceive of Adam and Eve with bowed heads and crushed hearts leaving their erstwhile home, what shall we say of God! He had created them. He had planned for them in love. He had rejoiced over them with singing. Their future had been bright with hope. But now all seemed lost.
Disobedience was the cause of all the misery that had come to our first parents. They had forsaken God and chosen another master. They had eaten of the forbidden fruit. And now, said God, lest he put forth his hand, and take also-of the tree of life, and cat, and live for ever.... Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden.... So He drove out the man. Genesis 3:22-24.
How it must have pained the heart of God to drive out Adam. Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow might well apply to this occasion. Man was alone outside, as God was alone in the garden inside. While we may not speak of the loneliness of God in terms of humanity, we may well believe that the Creator of the heavens and the earth felt His loss as the two sinners slowly left their familiar surroundings and the gate was shut behind them. Sorrow, not anger, filled His heart, and with heavy steps-we speak after the manner of men-He returned to the garden alone. Unless we think of God as not being touched with the feelings of our infirmities, unless we conceive of Him as being utterly unlike us, a sorrow passing the understanding of man must have been His.
He drove out the man. Looking down through the ages, God saw what salvation would cost. He saw the long road man would travel, and He saw the still longer road which the Son must travel to bring man back. He saw men reject the messengers which He should send. He saw them spit upon His Son, scourge Him, revile and taunt Him, and at last drive the nails through His hands and feet. He saw Gethsemane, and He could even hear the heart-piercing cry from Golgotha as the Son in anguish and despair called out, My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me7'
But there was no other way. Hard as it was to send Adam away, hard as it was to give His Son, there could be no hesitancy. Sin had entered-dread sin that would at last nail the Son of God to the cruel tree and there could be no compromise. The security of the whole universe was at stake. God already was passing .through a Gethsemane that would last as long as sin should exist. There must be no hesitancy. God would save man at any cost to Himself.
Though sin had made a barrier between God and man, and made necessary Adam's expulsion from Eden, God did not leave him in a state of despair. His first promise was one of courage and help. One would come who would bruise the serpent's head and destroy the enemy who had led man into sin and who was planning still further evil. Said God, 'I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. Genesis 3:15. A paraphrase of this text, without doing violence to its meaning, would read, 'I will put hatred of sin into your heart.. This was a distinct promise of present help to Adam. God would help him resist and conquer sin by placing enmity to it in his heart.
Hatred of sin is vital to full salvation. Humanly speaking, no man is safe until he has learned to hate sin as deeply as he formerly loved it. He may resist sin. He may even flee from it, but as long as there is a lingering love of sin in. the heart, he is not on safe ground. As love of good is vital, so also is hatred of evil. It may truly be said that our capacity for love of the good is measured and balanced by our capacity for hatred of evil.
Of Christ it is said, Thou has loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. Hebrews 1:9. In Christ, love of righteousness was accompanied by a hatred of evil. Because of these two attributes, He was anointed for His work by God.
This combination of love and hatred must be in every Christian. They are fundamental in Christianity. It is significant that the first promise of a Savior in the Bible is prefaced by the promise of God's help in conquering sin by giving man a capacity for hatred of evil. This hatred is a great factor in our struggle with evil and-our eventual victory over it. Were it not for the fact that God implants in the heart of every Christian a hatred of evil as well as a love for the right, there would be little hope for us.
This principle is forcibly illustrated in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain was wroth, and his countenance had fallen. He had murder in his heart and was ready to slay his brother. But God intervened-issued a warning and held out a promise. If thou does well, shall thou not be accepted, and if thou does not well, sin lies at the door. Genesis 4:7.
The expression sin lies at the door, is a most significant one. Sin is likened to a beast of prey ready to spring upon the man who allows it the opportunity. It couched as a tiger or lion couches when ready for the attack. In mercy God warns Cain that sin couched at the door; . . . but do thou rule over it. Verse 7, A.R.V. But Cain need not despair; he need not be overcome. Do thou rule over it, are God's words. This is more than a statement; it is a promise. Man need not be overcome. There is hope and hell) in God. Sin is not to have dominion over us. We are to rule over it.
Originally it was God's intention that man should have free communion with his Maker. This was the plan He attempted to carry out in the Garden of Eden. But sin thwarted the original design of God. Man sinned, and God sent him forth from the garden. He was now separated from God, and henceforth sorrow would be his lot.
But God conceived a plan whereby He and His people might again be united. If they could not live in Paradise, where they could enjoy open communion with Him, why should not God go out and live with them? And so in the fullness of time God sent word to His people: Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8. Wonderful love! God could not bear to be separated from His own, and so His love devised a plan whereby He might live among them! He would go with them on their journeys to and fro in the wilderness, and at last lead them into the Promised Land. God would be with His people again. True, there was a separating wall now,
for God dwelt in the sanctuary, and man could not approach Him directly. But God is as near as sin will permit. He is among His people.
In the New Testament we are told, They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23. The Christian ideal is fellowship with God, oneness with Him, no separation. Enoch walked with God. Genesis 5:24. Moses talked with Him face to face. (Exodus 33:11) But Israel was not yet ready for such an experience. They needed to be taught lessons of reverence and holiness. They needed to learn that without holiness no man can see God. (Hebrews 12:14) It was to teach them this that God commanded them to make Him a sanctuary that He might dwell among them.
Before God asked them to build the sanctuary, however, He proclaimed to them the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20) He gave them His law that they might know what was required of them. They stood before the mount that burned with fire. They heard the thunders and saw the lightning, and as the Lord began speaking, the whole mount quaked greatly, and the people trembled. (Exodus 19:16-18) The manifestation was so impressive, and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake, and the people entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any More. Hebrews 12:21, 19. The people, however, could but see and acknowledge the justice of the requirements of the Lord, and both before and after the proclamation of the law answered: All that the Lord bath said will we do, and be obedient. Exodus 24:7. (Exodus 19:8; 24:3)
The people must have had little realization of their inability to do what they had promised, or they would never have essayed so tremendous an undertaking as to keep all that God commanded them. From past experience they might have known that without divine aid they could not keep the law. Yet they promised to do so; though not many days afterward they were dancing around the golden calf. The law forbade worshiping idols, and they had promised to keep the law; yet here they were worshiping one of their old idols! In their worship of the golden calf they gave a demonstration of their inability or unwillingness to do that which they had agreed to do. They had broken the law which they had promised to keep, and now it condemned them. It left them hopeless and discouraged.
God had a purpose in permitting this. He wanted Israel to know that in and of themselves there was no possible hope of their ever keeping the law of God. Yet commandment keeping was necessary for holiness, and without holiness no man can see God. This brought them face to face with the hopelessness of their own condition. The law which was given them for life only brought them condemnation and death. Without God they were without hope.
God did not leave them in this condition. Even as in the Garden of Eden the slain lamb prefigured Christ, so now through sacrifices and the ministration of blood God taught them that He had provided a way of escape. Abraham understood this when the ram caught in the thicket was accepted in, the place of his son. Doubtless he had not fully grasped the significance of his own answer when Isaac inquired of him, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? Genesis 22:7. To this Abraham had answered, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb. Verse 8. When the knife was raised, God said, Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him. Verse 12. As Abraham looked about him he saw a ram caught in a thicket, and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. Verse 13. Of this Christ says, Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad. John 8:56. In the ram caught in the thicket, which died instead of his son, Abraham saw Christ. He rejoiced and was glad.
The lesson which Abraham, had learned God was now about to teach Israel. Through the slain lamb; through the bullock, the ram, the he-goat, the turtledoves, the pigeons; through the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar of burnt offering, upon the altar of incense, toward the veil, or upon the ark; through the teaching and mediation of the priesthood, Israel was to learn how to approach God. They were not to be left in hopelessness as they faced the condemnation of God's holy law. There was a way of escape. The Lamb of God would die for them. Through faith in His blood they might enter into communion with God. Through the mediation of the priest they might vicariously enter the sanctuary, and might, in the person of the high priest, even appear in the very audience chamber of the Most High. To the faithful in Israel this prefigured the time when God's people will with boldness enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. Hebrews 10:19.
All this God wanted to teach Israel through the sacrificial system. To them it was the way of salvation. It gave them hope and courage. Though the law of God, the Ten Commandments, condemned them because of their sins, the fact that the Lamb of God was to die for them gave them hope. The sacrificial system constituted the gospel for Israel. It pointed the way to communion and fellowship with God.
There are professed Christians who do not see much of importance or value in the God-ordained temple services; yet the gospel plan of salvation as revealed in the New Testament is made clearer by an understanding of the Old Testament. In fact, it may confidently be said that he who understands the Levitical system of the Old Testament can much better understand and appreciate the New Testament. The one foreshadows the other and is a type of it.
The first lesson God wanted to teach Israel through the sacrificial system was that sin means death. Again and again this lesson was impressed upon -their hearts. Every morning and evening throughout the year a lamb was offered for the nation. Day after day the people brought their sin offerings, their burnt offerings, to the sanctuary. In each case an animal was slain and the blood ministered in the appointed place. On every ceremony and on every service was stamped the lesson: Sin means death.
This lesson is needed as much in our time as it was in the days of old. Some Christians hold sin too lightly. They think of it as a passing phase of life. Others consider sin which mankind will outgrow regrettable but unavoidable. All need the lesson impressed indelibly upon the mind, that sin means death. While the New Testament states that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), many fail to grasp the importance of the statement. A more lively conception of sin and death as inseparably connected would help much in an appreciation and understanding of the gospel.
Another lesson which God wished to impress upon Israel was that forgiveness of sin can be obtained only through confession and the ministration of blood. This served to impress Israel deeply with the cost of forgiveness. Forgiveness of sin is more than merely overlooking faults. It costs something to forgive, and the cost is a life, even the life of the Son of God.
This lesson is important for us also. To some the death of Christ seems unnecessary. God could, or should, these think, forgive without Calvary. The cross does not seem to them an integral and vital part of the atonement. It would be well if Christians today contemplated more than they do the cost of their salvation. Forgiveness is not a simple matter. It costs something. Through the ceremonial system God taught Israel that forgiveness can be had only through the shedding of blood. We need that lesson now.
A study of the Old Testament regulations concerning the manner of approaching God will pay rich dividends. In the sacrificial system are found the fundamental principles of godliness and holiness, which find their complete fulfillment in Christ. Because some have not mastered these fundamental lessons, they are unable and unprepared to go on to the deeper things prepared for them of God. The Old Testament is fundamental. He who is thoroughly grounded in it will be enabled to construct a superstructure that will not fall when the rains descend and the winds blow. He will be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. Ephesians 2:20.
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