Read an Excerpt
THE ONE YEAR BOOK OF Discovering Jesus IN THE Old Testament
By NANCY GUTHRIE
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2010 Nancy Guthrie
All right reserved.
Chapter One Genesis
Before He Made the World
Usually it makes sense to start at the beginning. But when looking for footprints of the eternal Jesus, we have to start before the beginning-before the "in the beginning" of Genesis 1:1-because the Bible repeatedly speaks of a time before time when God's plan for the world, centered in Jesus Christ, took shape.
What was the plan God was making before time began? Paul tells us in a letter he wrote to Timothy: "God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time-to show us his grace through Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 1:9, emphasis added).
Since before time began, God has wanted to show us something-something significant that puts the glory of who he is on display. He has wanted to show us his grace-to shower his forgiveness on people who don't deserve it. Jesus has always been and will always be at the center of that plan.
The sending of Jesus into our world as a man who died for sin was no afterthought to fix what Adam and Eve ruined. Sending Jesus was no plan B but God's glorious plan A from before the beginning! "God chose him as your ransom long before the world began," Peter explained (1 Peter 1:20). Paul put it this way, "Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure" (Ephesians 1:4-5).
Before the beginning, God knew that he would make us and that we would reject him. He knew that we would need a Savior and that the only One who could save us would be his own Son. From eternity past, Jesus has been the center of God's plan. And into eternity future, Jesus and his work on the cross will continue to be the center of God's glorious plan.
[??] You who loved me before time began, how could I ever question your plans for this world and for my life? Your magnificent plan to display your glory and your loving plan for me began before the beginning, and I am humbled and quieted before such a Sovereign God.
"In the beginning God created" (Genesis 1:1). How did God create? He spoke each aspect of creation into being. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, we continue to see the power of God's creative word as it comes again and again through the prophets: "This is what the Lord says."
It is no accident that the first words in the Gospel of John are exactly the same as the first words in the book of Genesis. John writes: "In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him" (John 1:1-3, emphasis added). This sheds light on the mystery of who the "us" was when God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us" (Genesis 1:26, emphasis added). John tells us, "The Word was with God, and the Word was God." John wanted us to understand that Jesus is the agent through whom everything created was called into being. He tells us that Jesus is the logos, the outward expression of all God is. So every time we read the phrase "then God said" in the first chapter of Genesis, we know that it is Jesus, the living Word of God, accomplishing God's creative work.
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see- such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16) If everything was created not only through him but also for him, that means everything that exists, exists for Jesus. Nothing in the universe was created or exists for its own sake, but rather to make the glory of God more fully known.
[??] Creator of all there is, I marvel at what you have made, what you have spoken into being. Seeing you as Creator helps me to see what I was made for. I was made for you, and I am yours.
His Spirit Fills the Emptiness
God's story begins with God's Spirit hovering, filling what was empty with his own power and life: "The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (Genesis 1:2-3).
So from the very beginning, and over and over again in Scripture, we see that this is who God is and the nature of what he does: God, through his Spirit, fills up what is empty to accomplish his purposes in the world. God filled Sarah's empty womb. "It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead-a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them" (Hebrews 11:11-12).
The same Spirit who filled the emptiness of earth and the emptiness of Sarah's womb was at work when the angel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
This earth was filled with the light of Christ as he walked upon it, and even as he left this earth, he promised the Spirit would still be at work. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere-in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Jesus promised that the Spirit of God would come and fill the emptiness his followers felt at his departure in a way that would comfort them and empower them to impact the world around them (John 14).
[??] Spirit of God, how I thank you for coming upon me and overshadowing me, making new life where there was deadness, bringing light where there was darkness. I simply cannot create new spiritual life on my own. I need your power to work inside me so that Christ can be born in me.
The True Light
The world began as one huge mass of unarranged material shrouded by impenetrable night. Then, on the first day of creation, "God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day' and the darkness 'night'" (Genesis 1:3-5).
It wasn't until the fourth day of creation that "God made two great lights-the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night" (Genesis 1:16). Before that, there was light in the world, but no sun in the sky.
John identified the source of this light when he began his Gospel with a poetic tribute to this Light. He recognized Jesus as the Light that penetrated the darkness even before the sun was set in the sky:
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:1-5)
"The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world," John wrote (John 1:9). This Light is no mere reflector of the sun's light but is the source of light, the One who spoke the sun into being.
Jesus later spoke of a time to come when "the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light" (Matthew 24:29). For those who have rejected the true Light, that will be a day of deep mourning. But for those who have embraced the Light, that day will usher in a new way of living in the Light. Jesus himself will be present among his people, and we will live with him in a city that "has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light" (Revelation 21:23).
[??] True Light, your radiance penetrates the darkest places in the world I live in and the darkest places in my heart. Shine on me now and into eternity.
Made in His Image
The final creative act on day six of creation began with this divine deliberation: "God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us'" (Genesis 1:26).
What does it mean to be made in God's image? We are in God's image in our ability to think and feel and love, in our ability to understand right from wrong, and in our ability to make choices. We're like him in that he is Spirit and we have a spirit. We are patterned after our Maker.
But something terrible happened to that divine image when Adam and Eve sinned. The image of God in humans became distorted and damaged. So now, although we are still in his image, aspects of that image have become twisted, and the sinful nature we inherited from Adam and Eve has been passed from generation to generation. We long for the day when that marred image of God in us will be restored to its original beauty. Yet God has planned to do something even greater than restore what his image in us once was in the Garden. God intends for the original image of God in humankind to be restored and even superseded by the greater glory of becoming a new creation in Christ.
Jesus is "the visible image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15), "the exact representation of his being" (Hebrews 1:3, NIV). And "those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29, NIV, emphasis added).
God intends to conform us to the image of Christ-and the completion of this process is still in the future for us, on the day Christ returns and we are given resurrection bodies. Yet we are, even now, being glorified-our inner lives and characters are being gradually changed into his likeness by the sanctifying power of his Holy Spirit. This is not something we do, but something we receive. The righteousness and holiness that are the image of God in us are created in us, not elicited from us. "We are God's workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10, NIV).
[??] I am your child, made in your image, but you have not yet shown me all of what I will be like when you appear. But I know I will be like you, for on that day I will see you as you really are.
He Fulfills Our Destiny
God created humanity with a magnificent destiny in mind:
God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground." So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground." (Genesis 1:26-28)
Psalm 8 celebrates this magnificent destiny of human beings: "You made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority" (8:5-6).
But when we read these verses in Psalm 8, we're struck that they do not line up with the reality we're now living in. God made the world and gave it to us to cultivate and nurture. But this was before sin's ruin entered the world and everything changed. Now nothing is the way it was created to be. Rather than ruling over the earth, we are painfully subject to a cursed creation. Rather than being fruitful, we find ourselves living in futility.
The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 8 and confirms the disconnect between our destiny and our reality when he says, "We have not yet seen all things put under their authority." Then he points us toward the answer, the ultimate, perfect man who has fulfilled everything God originally intended for humanity: "What we do see is Jesus" (Hebrews 2:8-9).
We know Psalm 8 is not yet fully true of us. But it is true of Jesus. And through our identification with Christ, our oneness with Christ, we also fulfill the destiny originally designed for us.
[??] Fulfiller of humankind's destiny, here I am, living in this in-between time that is marked by tears and pain and death. But as I identify myself with you I can say, "Because I am in Christ, all things will one day be under my authority. I will rule with Christ in glory forever and ever!"
He Was Made Restless so We Can Rest
Genesis offers us a day-by-day account of the creative work of God in making the world, as well as the rest he enjoyed after that work was done.
God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.... On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. (Genesis 1:31; 2:2-3)
God looked over what he had done and saw that it was good, so he could rest. But when we look over the work of our hands, the attitudes of our hearts, the words on our lips, and we realize that they are not good, we wonder how we will ever be able to rest.
The writer of Hebrews points the way: "All who have entered into God's rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world" (Hebrews 4:10). There is only one way we can rest from our labor: by depending on the work of another whose works are infinitely good.
The writer of Hebrews wants us to understand that the reason we can rest is because of the work Jesus has done. When we enter into Christ, we can rest, not because we are good or because what we've done is good, but because Jesus is good. He has given us his own goodness as a gift.
Our rest is made possible because of the restlessness Jesus endured on the cross in our stead and the work he accomplished for our benefit. On the cross, Jesus writhed in agony, struggling for breath. But it was not mere physical agony. Jesus was experiencing the restlessness that is continual for those who persist in rejecting God. It was our restlessness he took upon himself, not his own. On the cross, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV). Jesus experienced the infinite restlessness we deserve so that we can enjoy his all-encompassing rest.
[??] Jesus, only in you can I find the rest my soul craves. Only through being united to you can I be confident that God looks at my life and says, "It is good." You have accomplished the work that I never could. So I choose to rest in you and your finished work, now and for eternity.
Excerpted from THE ONE YEAR BOOK OF Discovering Jesus IN THE Old Testament by NANCY GUTHRIE Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Guthrie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.