Friday, March 21, 2008

Geography of the cross, finding the way back into Eden

On a day that remembers the darkest day (from which floods of hope breakforth!) I thought found my self riffing on some Biblical Geography. This is the Cross meets "We've been feeding on Genesis with our local church" with a twist of Reeves...


Man in the garden, walking with God. Everything is as it should be. Man ruling the world under God's rule. The glory of that really requires more than three sentences.

Then man overthrows God and incurs just curse for his rebellion. The curse manifests in many ways, one of which is being kicked out of the garden and sent East. Two angels with swords block the east side of the garden. Don't think light-sabres, think the most tragic picture as man is shut out from the presence of God. Ejected from Mt. Eden into the wilderness he was meant to rule under God.


A garden in the west. Man to the east of it. Man continues to multiply and fill the earth until the flood when things are reset due to sin, but sin remains. Less than 100 years after the flood comes Babel and man once more attempts to overthrow God. Man is scattered. These are the days of Shem. A man blessed by God.


Shem is told that his family will be served by cursed Canaan. But, Canaan occupies land in the west (Eden?) and Shem's guys are out east in Ur. Then God calls Abram of the house of Shem to a land. We're meant to see the connection between Shem and Abram, hence the genealogy in Genesis 11 that connects the two. The land God leads Abram too transpires to be Canaan.

Two problems. First, the land is occupied by the Canaanites who will have to be overcome. Secord, the land is promised to Abram's offspring. Abram has no children, he's old and his wife is barren. Shem is waiting on God's promise but it's hard to see how it'll come through. There are hints but how's it possible?

Nonetheless Abram's offspring is made the conduit of divine blessing to the nations. If you curse Abram's offspring God curses you. If you bless Abram's blessing God blesses you. What you do with Abram's offspring is really really important. And the direction of travel is blessing - God designs to use Abram's offspring to bless the whole world. Against all odds, via the offspring of a moon-worshipper (Abram - see Joshua 24v2) God will bring blessing to the world. You'd expect curse but God is the blesser - and he speaks to Abram... and he appears to Abram (as The Lord of Glory - Acts 7v2). It's stunning. It's absolutely stunning that this man isn't struck down dead but God - such is God's glory that he blesses and promises more blessing!

The challenge then is to have offspring and to stay in the land. The people multiply but keep finding themselves out of the land. It's like trying to solve a rubix cube - you fix one thing and everything else moves out of place. Somehow they've got to get back in the land. Before long they're out in Egypt for several generations but eventually they're bought into the land and this time with some models. Models of God's big picture. Models including a tent with a curtain on which are two angels - Eden, right? - that represents the place you want to get to but can't. The place that is where God is.

Only centuries later when Jesus who is the one 'Abraham's Offspring' dies on a Roman cross. As he dies, in Mark's account, Mark moves the camera from the hill outside the city where Jesus dies to the curtain at the temple. This initially looks like an unnecessary interuption to the narrative. But, look closer: we see the curtain torn - the way that had been blocked by the angels is opened wide. Mark is telling us that the death of Jesus is about getting God's people into his place... back into the land promised to Jesus. This is the good news of the gospel - that in Jesus, Abraham's offspring, we can get back past the angels and into the presence of God. The journey completed! All the pieces in place. And we did none of the work, it was all him.


Genealogy matters. Who are they? Abram, of Shem.
Geography matters. Where are they? Canaan, in the west.