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Bloodline: Tracing God's Rescue Plan from Eden to Eternity

Bloodline: Tracing God's Rescue Plan from Eden to Eternity

by Skip Heitzig


Learn More | Meet Skip Heitzig

1
OUR RESCUE OPERATION BEGINS
GENESIS AND EXODUS

Every story worth reading has a beginning, middle, and end, and the greatest story ever told is no exception. The first two books of the Bible, Genesis and Exodus, are among its most famous, full of well-known characters and legendary events—from the beginnings of life on earth and humanity’s sad fall to its worst impulses to the massive theme of deliverance and redemption, it all starts here. And God is here, too, the one who has no beginning and no end, the Lord and Creator of all, and the one who will pursue His stubborn children through thick and thin because of His unsurpassed love and mercy.

SUPERMAN IS ON HIS WAY

At some point before the creation of the world, one of God’s best and brightest angelic beings turned from serving Him and rebelled. Lucifer’s insurrection caused a momentous upset in the created order. Though he had been created in a perfect state, his swollen pride became his downfall. It seems that this dark prince, aka the devil, got cocky about his own beauty, intelligence, and position, and wanted the kind of recognition that only God deserves. So God justly cast him out of heaven. Lucifer came directly to earth and showed up in the Garden of Eden sometime after God placed humans there.

Jesus, the Superman of God’s redemption story, later said that He was there to watch it all happen: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). The story of redemption began in the Garden of Eden when our Hero was first foretold. The plot thickened after the initial creation events, and redemption’s scarlet thread was then woven from its starting point in Eden through the family line of four great patriarchs, the roots of the nation through whom this Messiah would come.

The Darkest Day
    Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

All the misery in the world started with this simple question. Up to this point, God had given mankind only one negative command: not to eat fruit off a singular tree. Everything else—all the good things in Eden—was theirs to do with as they pleased. However, the fact that God had to give such a command at all tells us something else: He gave us free will. From the start, we had the ability to choose our actions. And, as the saying goes, “No one likes to be told no.”

Prohibition often becomes an invitation. Satan knew it and played off it. He questioned God, God’s Word, and God’s motives. Eve’s first mistake was engagement. She couldn’t have known any better, but once she started up a conversation, she was doomed. Satan is too intelligent, too devious, and utterly single-minded: He wants to destroy what God loves. God had established His creation and called it good, and now Satan was coming in to set up his MO of deception and destruction.

Where did this serpent come from? How did he end up in Eden, messing with God’s beloved children? Like in school, the answer is in the back of the book: Revelation 12 identifies the enemy of Israel—of all mankind—as Satan. Formerly one of God’s chief angels, Lucifer’s pride drove him to seek God’s throne. He was fired, so to speak, from his high position, and the battle lines were drawn: Whatever God loves, His adversary would hate, and whatever received God’s blessing would become the target of Satan’s attacks. When God made Adam and Eve as the pinnacle of His creation and called them good, Satan immediately moved to destroy the unblemished connection between the first two humans and their Maker. His ongoing war against God is a key factor in the story of redemption. His agenda is the serpentine evil that winds its way through history, a counteractive attempt to unravel God’s good plans.

This was the darkest day in the history of the human race—where all our problems began. This is where “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). By a single, simple act—a bite of a piece of fruit—the sin virus was introduced into the human bloodstream. Adam brought spiritual darkness that has permeated every generation since.

Thankfully, God wasn’t content to leave it like that. When He made the world, the first thing He did was turn on the light. After the fall, He enacted His plan to send the ultimate Light, Jesus Christ, who said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). As dark as that tragic day in Eden was, the light of Christ provides a path back to God’s embrace. This is why confession of sin is so necessary. When you confess sin and invite God to reveal your flaws, you’re letting Jesus bring recovery to your fall. That was God’s plan, going all the way back to Eden.

The Cure for the Curse
    I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. (Genesis 3:15)

When Satan entered Eden, he had one plan in mind: to bring about the corruption and consequent destruction of mankind. He went for the jugular, getting Adam and Eve to doubt that God was really in charge, that He really had their best interests at heart, and disguising their disobedience as a pathway to blessing.

When Adam and Eve fell, however, their decision brought a curse that affected them and every other person ever born. The curse brought sin and death into the world, marring God’s creation. Childbirth and work, for example—two things God intended to be blessings—became painful and toilsome. Adam and Eve’s disobedience produced disaster. So right away God set a plan in motion to rescue fallen people everywhere. Genesis 3:15 is the first messianic prophecy, called by theologians the protoevangelium, or “first gospel,” because it contains the first promise of redemption. God stated that the woman would have a Seed (the Messiah) who would eventually defeat Satan and end the curse of sin and death.

While Jesus is the promised Redeemer whose shed blood and resurrection made salvation possible for all people, Satan hasn’t gone down quietly. His sole objective is to keep as many people as possible infected with the curse—and all he has to do to accomplish that is keep us in our default position as sinners in need of God’s grace.

Jesus is the only antidote for the disease of sin; He is the cure for our curse.

The Beginning of the Rescue Mission
    Now the Lord had said to Abram...I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

God’s promise to Abraham established the path of salvation for mankind—a nation that God would choose to bless and use to bless the entire world. This group of people would be the means of fulfilling the promise of Genesis 3:15. From them, the Seed would come, the one who would deliver Israel and all the nations of the world from sin’s deadly grip—effectively crushing the head of the serpent.

In God’s promise, we also see the dynamic of redemption: It’s all one-sided. Mankind would not be able to save itself from its grave condition. No amount of good works or intentions, no religious commitment, no manmade institution or system would be able to release us from sin, death, and separation from our Creator. In the end, only God Himself, coming in the form of a mortal and subject to death, would be able to conquer sin’s consequences.

Abraham received God’s promise by faith, another condition essential to receiving God’s gift of salvation. God made him the father of the nation through whom the Messiah would come and blessed him with a multitude of descendants, both physical and spiritual. Although every person who has ever lived can trace his or her human heritage back to Adam and Eve, our spiritual inheritance in Jesus Christ began with Abraham.

Genesis, then, is a book about beginnings—not just the beginning of the universe, but the beginning of all the trouble in the world. It also presents the beginning of the nation of Israel, through whom the Messiah would come. Jesus would descend from the lineage of Israel’s four major patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph—a genetic line intertwined with a red thread that connects creation to the cross.

The fall was catastrophic, causing an insurmountable gap between God and us, and it would take a miracle to stitch up the wound. God knew this and immediately began preparations to send His Superman to the rescue. It would not be an easy journey, but God stamps His promises with yes and amen—they are as good as done.

Foreshadowing Forgiveness
    “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:20-21)

No one would set out God’s plan for Joseph as an ideal pathway in life. For an offense no greater than being sheltered by his father as a favorite son, Joseph was roughed up by his brothers and sold to slave traders. Abruptly extricated from his family and his familiar life, Joseph marched in chains across the desert to Egypt, where instead of a father, he now had a master. Framed by the boss’s cougar of a wife, Joseph ended up in prison, where he helped a pair of Pharaoh’s servants and was promptly forgotten. But God gave Pharaoh nightmares and directed his attention to the young Hebrew languishing in his dungeon—and even though that was the turning point in Joseph’s fortunes, the shedding of rags for riches, it was a tough row to hoe.

Faith in God fueled Joseph’s hope, however, and furthered his perseverance. He understood that God’s purposes were bigger than his individual life, but that they also included him as a crucial player. God never forgot Joseph, and He never forgot His promise to Abraham—or His pledge to crush the head of the serpent. Just as He orchestrated every moment that led to Joseph reconciling with his brothers and seeing his father again, He superintends every moment of every life, and all within the grander scheme of redemption.

All the knots we as humans have tied, and the ones that get snarled in our path, fall under God’s sovereignty, and none of them prevent God’s scarlet thread from reaching its milestones—the formation and preservation of a people chosen by God to be His special possession and bring forth His Messiah, and the ongoing work of the gospel in the hearts of hundreds of millions of people down through history and on until Jesus returns.

Joseph’s story is the case study in God working everything together for good for those He loves, those He has called for His purposes. He orchestrated the moment bringing Joseph and his brothers together to reconcile, while at the same time preserving the future of His people and saving thousands in Egypt and Canaan from starvation. Each of the brothers knew this was a pivotal moment, a God-sponsored encounter that would change their lives forever. However, the contrast in outlooks between them and Joseph is noteworthy. The difference shows us what it is to live connected to God and His scarlet thread, as opposed to trying to unravel life on our own, which inevitably leads to knots and breaks in our path.

While Joseph’s brothers were goaded by fear over the cost of their sin, Joseph himself was governed by faith. He lived by his theology, putting his beliefs into practice. He believed in God’s sovereignty and providence, and determined that no matter what happened in his life, he was going to trust the Lord. Whatever anger and frustration he felt over his brothers’ betrayal melted away in the warmth of God’s loving mercy—something Joseph had seen firsthand. Joseph was a type of Christ, who extended mercy, liberation, and reconciliation to those who deserved it the least.

As with Joseph, the first and most crucial step in softening your attitude toward someone who has wronged you is expressing your gratitude to God. You will then learn to take on God’s big-picture attitude—to “save many people alive”—and put your experiences in the proper perspective as part of God’s bigger plan. Hint: Put your enemies on your prayer list and watch what happens—they won’t stay your enemies for long.

During the journey of Genesis, God’s redemptive plan went from a garden to a group. It included a family that became a nation. And that nation would grow strong on the foreign soil of Egypt, as God predicted to Abraham. But eventually, this growing group became suffering slaves, and deliverance became necessary. What happened in Egypt became a template for what would happen at the cross.

DELIVERANCE!

The book of Exodus is one of the clearest pictures of redemption in or out of Scripture. The scarlet thread is unmistakable in this second book of the Bible. Though exodus means “an exit,” the only way Israel could exit the bondage of Egypt was by acting in faith on the bloody sacrifice of an innocent lamb. God established His covenant with the Jewish nation based on this deliverance, which anticipated the new (and final) covenant through “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

From this point forward, Jews around the world would annually point back to and commemorate their ancestors’ deliverance from Egyptian slavery. New Testament authors would also repeatedly use the vivid imagery found in Exodus to show its fulfillment in Christ. As the book opens, Prince Joseph had been dead for more than 300 years, and Israel’s position had gone from favored status to vassal state to vanquished slaves. Egypt was faced with the need to deal with this burgeoning Jewish minority, and Pharaoh set oppressive measures in place. The messianic bloodline was prospering but oppressed; the need for rescue couldn’t have been greater.

I Am God (and You’re Not)
    God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)

When God met Moses at the burning bush, He did something He hadn’t done before: He told Moses His name. “I AM WHO I AM” seems straightforward in English, if a bit mysterious, but the truth is that no one is exactly sure how to pronounce it in the original Hebrew. Scholars’ best guess is called the tetragrammaton, or YHWH, generally pronounced Yahweh—or in Greek, Jehovah. It has been translated as “The All-Becoming One,” or “I Will Be That I Will Be”—indicating that God is God at all times, past, present, and future.

“I AM WHO I AM” speaks of God’s self-sufficiency, self-containment, and omnipotence. He needs no one and nothing. Yet even though He is all-powerful, He chooses to engage with us in very personal ways. And His name suggests that whatever you need in your life, God will become that for you. When you need provision, He is Yahweh-Yireh (Genesis 22:14), “the Lord Our Provider.” Because you need righteousness, He is Yahweh-Tsidkenu (Genesis 15:6), “the Lord Our Righteousness.” Wherever you go, He is Yahweh-Shammah, “the Lord Who Is There” (Genesis 28:15).

Later, God reintroduced Himself to the world by another name—Jesus, who appropriated the name I AM for Himself with seven “I am” statements in John’s Gospel, all pointing to His sufficiency to become what we desperately need—light and life and salvation. He told the Pharisees, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). He meant that God’s redemptive plan to eradicate our sin through the blood of His Son was not an afterthought. It was, as we saw in Genesis 3:15, the original plan in response to original sin. Jesus is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

When God introduced Himself to Moses, He told him he was standing on holy ground. What made it holy? God did. The holiness came from God’s presence in that place of connection. The winding path of redemption’s scarlet thread is improbable; it only succeeded (and succeeds today) because of who God is. I AM means that your past is forgiven and your future is secure, and it also means that God is ready to work in your life right now. Redemption is possible because God does the impossible.

Passed Over
    Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13)

Now the theme of deliverance through redemption is seen in bold relief. The tenth plague God visited upon Egypt was different than the first nine. Not only were its scope and intensity more powerful and deeply personal—the death of the firstborn—but so was the way it played out. For this final plague, God required His people’s participation. As an act of faith, they were to take a lamb’s blood and smear it on their doorposts on the appointed night; in response, the plague would pass over them, sparing their lives and setting the stage for their deliverance from bondage in Egypt.

Jewish families were to select their lamb and keep it for five days until the Passover. They would see that cuddly little critter each day, and the kids would no doubt grow attached to it. When it came time to offer it up, there was a real feeling of sacrifice—an object lesson in sin’s offensiveness to a holy God and its ultimate cost.

It makes no human sense to do such a thing, but it makes Godsense. There’s nothing intrinsically healing about lamb’s blood on your doorposts, but in God’s economy, the lifeblood of an innocent was required to atone for sin. Every year since then, with rare exception, Jews the world over have celebrated the Passover—the emancipation God provided for those who took that step of faith. Nowhere else in the Old Testament is there such a clear prefiguring of the cross, of an innocent Lamb being sacrificed to pay sin’s price once and for all.

Similarly, we should always be sensitive to what it cost God to send His truly good and perfect Son to die for us. A lamb changed the lives of Israel, and the Lamb of God changes lives today all over the globe, bringing fellowship with God in the only way possible—covering offenses with His life-giving blood—His death. No matter how long it’s been since you made Jesus your Lamb—your Savior—it’s good practice to regularly refresh the impact of what He did for you.

Remember that everyone needs that blood covering; it’s the only way to avoid God’s ultimate judgment. In Egypt, the penalty for not being in a blood-smeared house was the death of the firstborn. At Calvary, God sent His firstborn to die as the Lamb who could save anyone in any house ever (Hebrews 1:6). Be thankful for the price that bought you back to His love and be diligent to invite others to get covered by the blood of the Lamb, God’s perfect Passover for all people.

Unlocking the Power of the Law
    Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. (Exodus 19:5)

You are God’s precious treasure, worth the best gift He had to offer, His Son. He gave the law because He is holy, but He understands that the problem with the law is the inability of the human heart to keep it. So when Israel said, in essence, “Sounds good; we’ll do it all” (Exodus 19:8), God responded, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them” (Deuteronomy 5:29).

Because this was a conditional covenant—hinging on an if-then proposition—God knew the people would have a problem keeping their part of it: obeying His voice and upholding His covenant. And more often than not, the apple of His eye proved to be rotten to the core. That’s sin’s effect: We simply can’t keep the law, but it serves as a tutor to lead us to Christ. That’s what the new covenant in Christ is all about. The Old Testament anticipates the New; in fact, the Old requires the New. “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

In the New Testament, the if is removed. God showed your value to Him in what Christ did for you. After all, the value of something is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. Jesus shed all His prerogatives in heaven to come to earth and buy you back from sin. You matter to Him. So the scarlet thread of redemption woven throughout Scripture thickens into a rope by the time the New Testament dawns.

That voice in your head telling you that you’re good for nothing is stuck in the old covenant. It’s only half the story. God’s law shows you that you have a sin problem, but His grace in Jesus shows you the solution. Do you think of yourself the way God thinks of you? You are precious to Him—and He has a purpose for you. He told Moses, “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Priests stand as mediators between God and men, but under the new covenant, our priesthood means serving as witnesses to what Christ has done to build a bridge that connects us with God.

The apostle Peter picked up on that when he called the church “a royal priesthood…His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). God’s grace made a path through the perilous terrain of sin and pride—something the law illustrates repeatedly.

Camping with God
    Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. (Exodus 40:36-37)

After a lot of ups and downs, Israel got serious about following God. The people all came together to finance and build the tabernacle according to the instructions God gave Moses. Once the tent of meeting was finished, the pillar of cloud that had guided Israel through the wilderness came down and “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:35). For generations afterward, through the time of David, God not only led Israel by cloud and fire, He lived among them—and they let Him lead.

By the end of Exodus, Israel had become a theocentric nation, with God dwelling in their midst. The tabernacle was at the center of Israel’s life geographically, spiritually, and culturally, with blood sacrifices punctuating community life. The cloud, which rabbis later called God’s Shekinah glory, was proof of God’s presence among them. God established a clear precedent: He wants to dwell in your heart, taking the place of highest importance, guiding, protecting, and providing for you. John referenced this when he wrote about Christ in John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (literally, “He tabernacled among us”). Jesus came as God’s Son from heaven and camped out on earth for thirty-three years. When people saw Jesus, they were seeing God.

That’s the message of Exodus: God wants to deliver you from sin’s slavery and take His rightful place at the center and as the substance of your life. Your heart is meant to be His tabernacle. As Paul later wrote, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). When you’re walking with God, anywhere you are is a holy place, any time is a holy moment because He is there with you. He redeemed you to live inside you. You are His tent now.

The two great themes of Exodus are redemption and revelation—key concepts that still apply today for each of us. If you haven’t received God’s redemption in Christ yet, consider this your revelation. If you have and are now engaged in that ongoing process of becoming more like Jesus, consider the state of your relationship with Him: What is He calling you to do, and are you willing to take the next step and do it?

The deliverance completed, the Israelites were now depending completely on God in their desert sanctuary. His glory could be seen over the tabernacle as they camped around the foot of Mount Sinai. The next phase of redemptive history was the inauguration of a system of sacrifices to honor God and an education in what it takes to pay redemption’s price—in blood.


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