Skipping Israel

Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command to refrain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and so were banished from his presence. That, in short, is the sad ending the opening narrative of Genesis.

Similarly, many Christians are taught, have we all sinned against God and have, by our own actions, banished ourselves from God’s life-giving presence.

Therefore, we need Jesus. In particular, we needed his death and resurrection on our behalf to bring about a renewed offer of humanity-in-communion-with-God.

It’s a familiar painting, if you grew up in some variety of the evangelical church. On a personal level, the picture portrayed is that I have sinned, therefore I need Jesus. From a scriptural perspective, the sketch is Adam and Eve sinned, therefore they—and all humanity with them—needed Jesus.

It’s all true. But if that’s the story, why does the Bible include so much more in the story? I don’t know about your Bible, but mine is, like, you know, a long book with several hundreds of pages of text after Adam and Eve’s story before you get to the New Testament.

What I’m trying to ask is why, in our summation of the Gospel, do we skip from Genesis 3 to Matthew 1? In short, our Gospel has had no need of Israel.

Old Bible by Felicia Atkinson under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In my estimation, it’s a grave mistake to remove so vital a piece of God’s history with his people. It’s like tearing a great big hole in your Bible. It’s bound to elicit the wrath of … or at least blind us to things we ought to be seeing.

So we must ask, what was God trying to do with Israel for all those pages?

When we looked at the basic narrative of structure of Adam and Eve’s story, we found that the Creator had a goal of sending his life-giving presence into the whole world. And we saw that he had chosen humanity, represented initially by Adam and Eve, to be the agents through whom God’s governance was administered on the earth. The story crumbed, of course, in Genesis 3.

But is that the end of the story? Is there a possibility the narrative of Genesis 1-3 may be rescued? Is there a chance the heroes God had chosen to govern his good creation on his behalf may be redeemed and the Creator’s purposes renewed? In short, does the Lord close the book at Genesis 3 and move on to a better tale? Or does he continue writing?

You know the answer, naturally. Among the great and beautiful truths about the God of the Bible is his relentless persistence. God never stops doing good and he never gives up when something goes wrong.

But his salvation for humanity does not move directly to Jesus, as our shorthand Gospels have taught us to think. No, God moves to rescue humanity and continue the story begun in Genesis 1 with another humble individual.

Abraham is sent now to save what Adam and Eve had fumbled.