Missing the Forrest for the Trees

From Pastor Todd’s Weekly Email
Genesis 1-2 get more attention for what people want it to say than what we read or don’t read. John H. Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton, contends most readers make the mistake of reading Genesis 1-2 as though it was written to them rather than for a particular culture, a specific people, in a certain context. We do believe the Old Testament communicates and is for all people, but it was not written to us. This means we really should work to learn how to understand Genesis 1-2 and how it functioned among the people to whom it was written. Walton continues and lets his readers know this is one of those “easier said than done” experiences.

Engaging debates over the issues of origins may be important. But, this can often lead to us missing the forest for the trees. And, since what we have in our text for this Sunday is a story and one that functions in a particular way in the unfolding drama of God’s love lived and demonstrated to us in Jesus, the Christ, we need to keep our eyes on the story lest we miss its point examining the characters. (It would be a mistake to read too much into that last sentence. I hope to make this clear. So, I encourage you to keep reading before looking for the delete key and assigning your pastor a label so you may quickly dismiss the important point.)

Apart from the story in Genesis 2 and 3 we must look elsewhere to find a reason for the Jesus of history (that is he really lived) and the Christ (that he really is the fulfillment of the promise of God). When we discover the story of Genesis 2 and 3 and the implications of over-stepping our humanity, as well as re-narrating the design of God, the need for someone to demonstrate what it really looks like to live into our God-designed humanity and do so in a way that honors the extent and descriptions of love we read of in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In other words, if our story went awry in the Garden, then it makes sense we have been looking not for Eden but the right story to live out of for all our lives.

The Bible points to these “reaches” as sin. That is, when we over-step what it means to be human, when we violate our neighbors, and when we disregard the manner for the lives we have been gifted, we have missed the mark. Our story has taken a twist. The Apostle Paul follows out this line in Romans 5, our Epistle text for Sunday. If, by the demonstration of what living in the wrong story of God looks like in Adam – and the effect is illustrated in the lives of all people – Paul points up how much more we may look forward to when living in the right story of God in Jesus Christ – and the effects demonstrated in his lived life.

Some of you may find this description a bit different than what you are accustomed to. My attempt is to offer a picture in a language we may more readily understand. This takes into account our context, our language, and our culture. This is the kind of think Walton thinks helpful when we consider the stories of Scripture and how we understand these stories may well be for us even though they are not “to” us.

Lent is a reminder of the move Jesus made when he “resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem.” All his life, that is his words and actions, would culminate in standing against the way the story of “Adam” had become so ingrained in who we are and what we do and how the consequences had been felt throughout human history, that he would give his life to win the victory over sin and death that we may also have victory over sin and death.


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Jesus invites people into his life and his way. He takes what is and points to the new way of the Kingdom of God.  Come see what this journey is all about!

One way to think about the mission of Jesus - He calls into question the way things are and points to the way things may be in the Kingdom of God. 

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