Who Done It?
Not long ago Victoria and I were watching a detective movie. We were both enjoying the drama of trying to piece together the evidence and clues, guessing who the murderer was. We both had different opinions about the identity of the perpetrator and we both argued our case to the other as the movie went on. It turns out we were both wrong.
The best Who-Done-It shows mess with you like that. They present a whole list of potential culprits. They make all of them look a little guilty; there is motive, that look in their eye, a similar weapon to the one used, a previous criminal record, sinister music playing each time they appear on the screen. You watch as the detective starts putting all the clues together, connecting red threads across the evidence board, having different people in for questioning.
Eventually, through evidence and alibis, certain potentials get struck off the list and we are left wondering who did it as the clues begin to zone in and focus on the actual culprit. When the big reveal comes, you’re stunned, but as the penny drops part of you says “ah, of course”. I don’t know if you’re like me, but after a movie like that, I want to immediately watch it again, only this time I’m “in-the know-from-the-get-go”.
Who Is It?
Not far into the Bible there is a promise given. A promise that the Seed of the Woman will crush the head of the serpent. Adam, the head of humanity, created to image God, was driven out of the garden of Eden for rebelling against God. He and Eve, instead of trusting God to give them wisdom, chose to disobey, trusting in created things to bring about that wisdom. The result was shame, separation from God, curse, pain, death, sorrow, the break down of human relationships and exile from the garden. As the next chapter unfolds we see that, not only is Adam fallen, but his house is fallen too; one of his son’s murders his other son and is driven further into exile, where he establishes a violent house and city. Towards the end of chapter 4, the whole situation is pretty bleak.
But there is that promise. The promise that the serpent will be crushed, that deception and rebellion will come to an end, that the curse of pain and sorrow and death will be lifted, that humanity would experience blessing and abudance to truly be fruitful and multiply, and that exiles will be brought back into the garden to dwell with God again. In other words, the promise of the crushed serpent is the promise of a new creation.
The Bible is the greatest who-done-it ever. As we read the unfolding story we need to be reading it as if we are watching the detectives of the who-done-it movie trying to figure out who the Seed of the Woman is, only these detectives are the prophets of the Old Testament (1 Peter 1v10-12). They are asking 'who can come to perfectly image God and lead his house into a new creation?' The Old Testament writers are constantly placing before you potential Genesis 3:15 fulfillers, pointing out their victories in such a way as to suggest they may be the Serpent Crusher, then they show their failures, assuring us that this one is not the one we are looking for, breaking our hearts a little, while casting our eyes upon another.
To illustrate; each main character of the biblical narrative is like a diamond held up in the spotlight to be scrutinised and examined to see if there are any faults or imperfections. At first, the diamond may look perfect, however, as the story unfolds, eventually cracks are revealed. When we get to Jesus we gasp as we see His righteous beauty, His delight in fearing and obeying the Father and we are stunned to see that perfect holiness perfectly mingled with perfect compassion.
Before we get to Jesus on the pages of scripture, humanity remained outside the garden, waiting for a leader, a head of humanity, one who will pass the test, slay the serpent and open the gates to come back in again. But eventually each time, the potential saviour comes back down the mountain, bitten by the serpent, with defeat and failure on his face. Leaving us to wonder, once again, who it could be.
Until the flow of scripture arrives at Jesus. We watch in awe as a man resists all temptation, lives a perfect life, but is tortured and murdered, only to rise again to defeat the serpent. Then he gladly throws open the gates and ushers exiles in again.
It’s Not You
Because we tend to forget that this is the flow of scripture, we often fall into the danger of turning the Bible, especially the narratives, into a collection of cautionary tales and moral lessons. We read ourselves into the stories. We immediately attempt to find applications for our own lives. We read as if we are David, standing before the giants of whatever obstacles we are currently facing at the time. As if we are Joseph, with a vision from God that no one else will get behind, but no one can take away from us. As if we are Noah, being asked to do something that no one else will support. For pastors and leaders this is especially so. We read ourselves into the lives of men such as Moses, Joshua and Nehemiah.
When we limit the characters of the Bible to moral or spiritual examples we are missing the entire weight, depth, focus, point and flow of these stories. They are not just moral tales. They are so much more than moral tales.
So I hope you’ll join me on the exciting search for the Seed of the Woman. Although we know the end of the story, we can read it all again, tracing the many streams of different characters until the story converges at the breathtaking waterfall of *Spoiler Alert* Jesus Christ.
(In anticipation of some possible concerns regarding the above claims, I do believe that there are examples for us in the stories of scripture. There are many passages in the New Testament that point to the Old Testament stories as examples and warnings. We are warned about the lack of faith of the Wilderness Generation (1 Corinthians 10v6-11, Hebrews 4v11), we are warned about the rebellion of Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Peter 2v6, Jude v7), we are encouraged to suffer patiently and to pray fervently by the examples of Job and Elijah (James 5v10-11, 17) and more).