Jesus, the Seed (Mike Riccardi)

Selected Scriptures   |   Saturday, December 14, 2013   |   Code: 2013-12-14-MR



Well, we do come together at this time to remember the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ—to celebrate Christmas, in the truest sense. And of course, the challenge with that is always to battle the familiarity. Between the tinsel, and the ornaments, and the gingerbread cookies, and the familiar carols, we can all be tempted to domesticate Christmas, and cease to marvel in worship at what God has accomplished.


And that’s true even with the Christmas story. Let me ask you this: When you think about telling the Christmas story, where do you think about starting? The baby in the manger? Caesar’s census? Herod’s decree? The magi and the star in the east? The angel’s visit to Mary? To Joseph? To Zacharias?


I’d like to suggest to you that the Christmas story doesn’t start at any of those points. The story of Christmas actually starts with the creation of the world. And in our time together this evening, I’d like to tell the Christmas story, from the beginning, probably in a way you’ve not heard it told very often. But I hope it will serve to deepen your appreciation for Christmas, and deepen your worship for the Christ of Christmas.


The Beginning


Well, at the very beginning, God created Adam and Eve. And when He created them, He gave them a mandate—a commission, as those uniquely made in His image, to rule over the earth in righteousness. He commands them, Genesis 1:28 tells us, to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Mankind’s purpose in life is to bring glory to God by manifesting His presence as His vice-regent throughout all creation.


But immediately Adam and Eve fail in that commission. We remember the story: the serpent deceives Eve by causing her to doubt God’s loving provision for them; Adam disobeys the command of God and eats the fruit of the forbidden tree; and in that moment of mankind’s rebellion against God, the entire human race is catapulted into spiritual death and damnation (Gen 3:1–7).


The Bible teaches that in a mysterious but nevertheless real way, all of humanity—even all of you, and me—all of us were united to Adam in his disobedience, in such a way that when he sinned, we sinned. And so from that moment, every member of the human race is born sinful. We come into this world as enemies of God, spurning his commandments and standards for our lives, and desiring that we should be the lord of our own lives. The final two lines of William Ernest Henley’s famous poem is the treasonous cry of every human heart: “I am the master of my fate: / I am the captain of my soul!”


And as a result of our sin, we are both (a) alienated from God—unable to be in relationship with Him in the way that He has created and designed us to be—and we are (b) accountable to God—required to pay the penalty of breaking God’s laws and belittling His glory: which is utter spiritual destruction.


The Seed of the Woman


But just as immediately as Adam and Eve sin against God and fail in their commission to glorify Him by ruling over creation in righteousness—just as immediately, God graciously promises that He will send the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent and undo the damage of man’s curse into sin (Gen 3:15).


And the story of Genesis, and really the story of the whole Old Testament, becomes the story of answering the question: “Who is this seed by which man will be redeemed and restored to God?”


Eve thought it might have been her son, Abel, because Genesis 4:4 tells us that “the Lord had regard for Abel.” But you know the story of Cain and Abel, that Abel’s brother Cain killed him right away (Gen 4:8)—a picture-perfect illustration of how far the human race had fallen from their relationship with God in the garden, in just a short time.


Some years later, Eve bore her son Seth, and she believed that he might be the promised seed. When Seth was born, Eve said in Genesis 4:25, “God has appointed me another offspring—which is the same Hebrew word that is translated seed in Genesis 3:15—in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” But we quickly learn that Seth wasn’t that promised seed.


Fast forward to the time of Noah in the next chapter, and we learn that Noah’s father, Lamech, thought that Noah might be the seed. In Genesis 5:29 he said, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.” But, of course, saving the world was the one thing that Noah couldn’t do, because, as Genesis 6:5 tells us, every intent of the thought of man’s heart was only evil continually. Far from saving the world, Noah saw God destroy the world by means of the flood. Aside from this, even after the flood, and after God established His covenant with Noah, Noah becomes drunk and has that shameful scene with his sons (Gen 9:20–29). Noah will not be the seed.


The next scene is the Tower of Babel, where mankind is again rebelling against God’s command—this time the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (cf. Gen 9:1). Rather than humbly obeying their Creator, man pridefully conspires to make a name for himself, Genesis 11:4 tells us. This is not the way man as God’s vice-regent is to conduct himself. As a result, God confuses their languages, creating the various languages of the world that we know today. And in so doing, God makes it virtually impossible for man to learn of the seed even when he does come, because even if he did come, no one would be able communicate that to each other! If mankind will benefit from God’s promised seed, it will be entirely by God’s grace.


The Seed of Abraham


And then immediately after the Tower of Babel, God chooses Abraham out of all the nations. He enters into covenant with him and promises to make a great nation (12:2) from his descendants (12:7). And that word, “descendants,” is again that same Hebrew word for seed. And God promises to give that seed a land (12:7), and then also to bless the entire world by means of that seed (Gen 12:3). And so the seed of the woman is now narrowed down to the seed of Abraham. The seed will come from this particular nation that God would make out of Abraham’s descendants.


And so as the rest of the book of Genesis unfolds, that covenant with Abraham is ratified with his son Isaac and then his son Jacob. That section of Scripture chronicles the making of that great nation of Israel.


Finally, through the life and circumstances of Jacob’s son Joseph, the Abraham’s descendants find themselves in slavery in Egypt.


The Faithful Israelite


And it’s in that context that the Lord raises up Moses to be the mediator through whom God would accomplish Israel’s redemption from slavery.


And so through Moses, God takes His people Israel, whom He’s already joined to Himself in covenant with Abraham, and enters into covenant with them as a nation at Mount Sinai. The Mosaic Covenant, then, is not merely a list of commandments by which one becomes the people of God. Rather, it is a covenant that graciously reveals how those who are already God’s people are to properly relate to Him.


And Israel is quick to affirm their intended obedience. They hear all the words of the covenant that God spoke to them, and in Exodus 24:3 they say, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” But Moses could barely get down the mountain before the people had fallen into idolatry. Though God had just commanded them not to worship any idol or graven image, Exodus 32 tells us that they made a golden calf, and attributed their redemption from Egypt to it, rather than to Yahweh.


And that incident sets the stage for the showcasing of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God’s covenant throughout the rest of the Old Testament. As soon as they enter the Promised Land of Canaan, Judges chapter 1 tells us that they disobey God’s commandment to fully drive out the pagan nations there. Rather than maintaining the pure worship of Yahweh, they fall into the syncretism and idolatry of the nations.


The Righteous Deliverer


And so the repeating story of the book of Judges is of (a) Israel’s falling into sin, (b) their experiencing the oppression of the nations as a result, (c) their crying out to Yahweh for deliverance, and (d) His provision of a deliverer who would give them rest from their enemies. But this happens over and over again. They enjoy peace for a little while, and in that peace they forget God, and so it’s not long before they are immersed in another conflict.


And so the people begin to wonder: “When will Yahweh send a judge who will finally deliver us from our enemies?” That’s why there’s that refrain in the book of Judges—you see it in chapter 17 verse 16, chapter 19 verse 1, and again at the final verse of the book in chapter 21 verse 25. That constant refrain is: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” When would a righteous king come, deliver Israel from her enemies, and establish moral purity among the nation?


Well, at the time of Samuel, the last judge, the people rise up, announce they no longer want Samuel to lead them, and demand a king to rule over them like all the nations. 1 Samuel chapter 8 verse 5 says that the people said to Samuel, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” And of course, this was displeasing to Samuel, but God says, just two verses later, “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” But God—so patient, so longsuffering—nevertheless raises up Saul the son of Kish to be king over the nation. Would this be the answer to the promise? Would Saul be the righteous king and the strong deliverer Israel was hoping for?


No. We learn from 1 Samuel 9:1 that Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin, and way back in Genesis 49:10, Jacob prophesies that the promised king of Israel would come from the line of Judah. And besides that, Saul also shows himself unfit to be a righteous deliverer. In 1 Samuel 13 he usurps the authority of the priests by offering unlawful sacrifices to Yahweh, and in chapter 15 we learn that he fails to fully destroy the Amalekites as God commanded him (15:9, 17–33).


The Son of David


It’s at that time that God raises up David and enters into covenant with him. In 2 Samuel 7, starting in verse 12, God says to David, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” And so God promises that one of David’s descendants—again, one of his seed—will reign on the throne of Israel forever and establish an everlasting kingdom.


So now, we learn that the promised seed will be (a) the seed of the woman, (b) the seed of Abraham, (c) of the nation of Israel, and now (d) the Son of David.


Now, one might have supposed that David himself was that righteous king. After all, Scripture speaks of him as being a man after God’s own heart, and the greatest king in the history of Israel. But Scripture also tells us that, because of his military exploits, David was a man of bloodshed (2 Sam 16:7–8). And of course we are familiar with the fact that he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then arranged to have her husband killed in battle in order to have her for himself (cf. 2 Sam 11).


And then you might have thought that David’s son Solomon, the man of peace, would have been that righteous king. But Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and Deuteronomy 17:17 says that Israel’s king must not “multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away.” And 1 Kings 11:3 tells us that that is precisely what happened. Solomon was not the promised king.


Then, Israel may have looked to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. But at this point the monarchy is divided into the ten northern tribes of Israel and the two southern tribes of Judah. The unity of Israel is devastatingly wounded.


And that brings us to the books of the Kings, where we learn of the history of the wicked kings of Israel and Judah. While there was a smattering of righteous kings in Judah’s history, the constant refrain throughout that historical narrative is that each successive king would do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. No less than 27 times in the books of 1 and 2 Kings do we read, “He did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father and in his sin.”


The Mediator of a New Covenant


And this cycle of wickedness continues literally for centuries, until the people stand upon the precipice of the Babylonian exile. The northern kingdom, Israel, had fallen to Assyria in 721, and in the late 600s BC Judah would be taken captive by Babylon. And during this time, the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesy of a coming New Covenant.


If we had more time we could spend time in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36. But suffice it to say that in those chapters, the prophets declare that God will restore Israel to their land (Ezek 36:24, 28), and will put His law in the hearts of His people (Jer 31:33) so that they will walk in His ways (Ezek 36:27). At that time, God’s law would become power from within rather than pressure from without. He will forgive their sin (Jer 31:34; Ezek 36:25) and cause His Spirit to permanently indwell them so as to ensure their obedience (Ezek 36:27). He will bring salvation to His people through the New Covenant!


But even after Israel returns from exile, they experience no such restoration. They rebuild the temple that the Babylonians destroyed, but Ezra and Haggai tell us that Zerubbabel’s temple is nothing like the glory of Solomon’s temple—so much so that, even though the young people were shouting for joy, the old men and women who had seen the first temple were weeping, because it reminded them of those lost glory days (Ezra 3:12; Hag 2:3). Ezra 9 records how the people intermarry with the nations, in direct disobedience to God. And Malachi tells us that the priests treat the temple sacrifices of Yahweh with disdain (Mal 1:6–14). But even so, through the prophet Malachi, God continues to promise what He’s spoken before. Malachi 3:1 says, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming.” And in chapter 4 verse 2, He says, “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”


And for 400 years, that was God’s final word.


Good News of Great Joy


But after those 400 years of silence, an angel miraculously appeared to an old priest named Zacharias, and told him that he and his old wife, who was barren and bore no children, were going to have a son! And that that son would be the forerunner who would prepare the way for the Lord!


Though it would take some convincing, Zacharias would eventually proclaim of his son, in Luke chapter 1 verse 76: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on ‘before the LORD to prepare His ways’; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, ‘to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,’ to guide our feet into the way of peace.”


And not long after that, that same angel appeared to a young virgin named Mary, from an obscure Galilean town named Nazareth, who was engaged to a young man named Joseph, who was a descendant of David. And the angel told Mary that even though she had never known a man, she would be with child by the power of the Holy Spirit Himself! And that the son she would bear would be the promised Messiah, the Savior of His people from their sins!


The Annunciation


And in the opening chapters of the Gospel of Luke, both Zacharias and Mary declare that in the person of this baby Jesus, God is now fulfilling all the promises that He made throughout the thousands of years of history of the Old Testament!


In Luke 1:54–55, Mary declares that God “has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”  In chapter 1 verses 69 to 73, Zacharias proclaims that God “has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant– as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—[…] to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father….” In chapter 1, verses 32 and 33, the angel declares to Mary that her child “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end,” exactly as God had promised to David one-thousand years earlier!


This Jesus was the Son of Mary—fully God, but also fully man—and therefore could properly be called the seed of the woman. He is the Seed of Abraham, a descendant from Abraham’s line. In fact, in Galatians 3:16, Paul would refer to Jesus directly as the seed of Abraham! He is of the nation of Israel, the perfect embodiment of what an Israelite was to be (Isa 49:3). In contrast to all of those failures throughout all of Israel’s history, Jesus would live a perfect, sinless life—as Galatians 4 says, he fulfilled God’s law perfectly!


And as we just heard, He is the Son of David, the promised King that will reign on David’s throne forever!


And that little baby, dear friends, was born to die, and then to rise from the grave three days later. And by His death and resurrection, by the sacrifice of Himself, He is the Mediator of those New Covenant blessings that Jeremiah and Ezekiel promised. Through Him, we have the forgiveness of sins and the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit (Luke 22:20; Heb 9:15).


This, dear friends, is what Christmas is all about. The entirety of human history—dating back to Adam and Eve, the first human beings ever created—all of history finds its culmination, its climax, and its resolution in that baby in the manger! “The Son of God appeared for this purpose,” the Apostle John says, “to destroy the works of the devil!” And He has done that, my friends, by accomplishing perfect righteousness in His life of obedience, by paying sin’s penalty in His death on the cross, and by conquering sin and death through His resurrection from the dead! And He is coming soon, to banish all evil and unrighteousness from the earth, and to set up His kingdom wherein He will rule in righteousness forever.


And if you’re visiting with us here tonight and you don’t know this Jesus personally, as the Lord and Master of your life and as your Savior from sin, it falls to you now to repent—to turn from your life obsessed with sin and with self, and put your trust in Jesus Christ to pay for your sin and to provide your righteousness. You say, “But I’m a pretty good person, I do good things, I try to do right by family, I don’t hurt anyone.” But you see, friend: the perfection of God’s holy standard is just so high that none of us could ever achieve that standard by our good works. God demands perfection, and not one of us can lay claim to perfection. If we are going to have the penalty of our sin paid, and be restored to fellowship with the Holy God who created us, we must trust in the doing and the dying of Another—of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the faithful Israelite, the Righteous Deliverer, the Son of David, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.


I urge you to do that tonight. And don’t leave here without speaking to someone about it—whether myself or the friend you’ve come with. Be reconciled to God through Christ, even tonight, for that is the true meaning of Christmas.