Anticipating Jesus in the Torah

© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro /  Museo Arcivescovile - Ravenna

Advent Week 1: Anticipating Jesus in the Torah

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Genesis 12:2-3

Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Genesis 49:8-10

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’

Deuteronomy 18:15-16

Over the next four weeks, this devotion will focus on anticipations of the Messiah in the Old Testament. During the Christmas season, it is easy to become busy-bodies and neglect the mystery of the incarnation. Advent devotional books, lighting the advent candles every week in the service and participating in corporate worship services that direct our gaze to the glory and mystery of the Son of God taking on human flesh are all helpful things for us to fight against the culture of busy and distracted holiday seasons.

This week, we go back to the beginning. In the beginning, God created the heavens, the earth, and all that filled it. He created humans: male and female he created them. He gave a place to live and to be fruitful. But they opposed his instruction and rule. The creatures defied the creator. They were allured by the taste of the fruit of the tree that God had told them not even to touch or they would die. They touched it and they died, but there was still a glimmer of hope given. One of the most interesting things about the storyline of Genesis is that there is always a lingering question, ‘Is this the day of the restoration?’ or ‘Is this the man who will fix this mess?’ The answer is always, ‘No this is not, but we will continue to wait with expectation and hope.’ You see when Adam and Eve were cursed and kicked out of the garden, they didn’t have to wallow in the mire. They didn’t just give up the ghost right then and there. They were cursed yes, and they were removed from paradise, but they were given a glimmer of hope. In the curse of God to the serpent, he said, ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’ In other words, the serpent, who is the devil, and his offspring will forever be opposed to the seed of the woman. The serpent even will get to strike the heel of the woman’s seed, but in return the woman’s seed will strike the death blow to the serpent; bruising the head of the serpent is akin to chopping it off with a garden hoe. He’s a goner. So there is this anticipatory promise in the curse that there will be judgment against the serpent and redemption of humanity from this terrible state they’ve got themselves into.

However, the promise is just a shadow in Genesis 3. When God calls Abraham, he begins to fill in the picture a little bit. This crushing of the serpents head will coordinate with Abraham’s seed bringing blessing to all the families of the earth. There will be someone, a descendant of Abraham and of Eve, who will bring blessing to all the families of the earth. You could say, Babel dispersed the cursed humanity, but Abraham’s descendant would bring blessing to this dispersed humanity and will gather them back in (and we coincidentally see in Acts 1 a prophetic reversal of the curse of Babel as all languages are spoken and understood.)

As we proceed further through Genesis, we continue to anticipate a person who will do this marvelous thing. But in every generation, there are issues. Each individual shows his cards as unfit to bring such a blessing so that at the end of Genesis, we are left scratching our heads. Not only has this promise not been fulfilled, but Abraham’s descendants have left the land promised them by God. There is some hope at the end of Genesis when Jacob blesses his son Judah. In Genesis, Judah is not a hero. He’s sleazy. He is contrasted negatively to Joseph (whom God uses to save the descendants of Abraham). Judah is off sleeping with a supposed prostitute who is actually his daughter-in-law. He is not fulfilling his responsibility to her, and is found out, yet in the blessing, Jacob seems to promise the right of rulership to this wicked son. Not only that, but he says, ‘To him shall be the obedience of the peoples.’ The rule of Judah’s descendant will be broader than the small nation of Israel. Unlike Joseph who dreamed his brothers would bow down to him, Judah will rule over the peoples. These are the nations.

Finally, in our survey of the anticipations of the Christ in the Torah, we come to Deuteronomy 18. Here Moses prophesies that Yahweh will raise up a prophet in the future. On the one hand, you might have thought Joshua or Elijah or Isaiah is that prophet, but that isn’t the case. None of them were like Moses. Moses was in the presence of God on the mountain for forty days. He requested to see God’s glory and was permitted to see his backside. As far as prophets in the Old Testament are concerned, Moses is unique, and this coming one is also unique.

It is only when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, arrives that we have a prophet in the likeness of Moses. In fact, he is greater than Moses. Not only is he a prophet, he is also a king in the line of Judah, and he is a priest in the line of Melchizedek (which we will see when we look at anticipating Christ in the books of Poetry). He is the ultimate prophet, priest, and king.

So this advent season, it is healthy for us to remember the tension that was building up in history even during the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is fitting for us to consider how they longed to see a resolution to the problem of evil and death. They hoped for the day when the serpent’s head would be bruised, and it was when our savior, the Son of God, took on flesh and lived among humanity who beheld the glory of the only begotten son of God. But we don’t have to simply imitate the anticipation of the first coming of the Christ. We must also live with anticipation for his second coming when he will finally finish his work of redemption. At his first coming he overcame sin and death. But we are waiting for his second coming when this victory will be fully realized: when our tears will be wiped away, and death’s sting will be no more. Advent is pointing us to remember what we are waiting for. We are awaiting the hope of glory.

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