Rifling Satan's Fold
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel. Genesis 3:15
In this first week of Advent 2014 we are once again reminded of the many centuries’ long, march through darkness to light; from the dark and evil tyranny arising out of Eden to the light of the world making His entrance into the life of humanity in the midst of manure in a cattle stall. Advent is a fairly brief four week season of the year which seeks to focus the direction of our thoughts to the nature, value, and lesson of faithful waiting; first, for the darkness to be pierced by the Light of the World and, second and last, for this Light to return as He promised. The first shining of the eternal light appears in obscurity; the second in blinding, unfiltered brightness which will purify or destroy all peoples (Malachi 3:2f and 4:1f). Advent presents a story of persevering truth which affects the destiny of all who have ever lived, now live, or who are yet to live. “This Babe so few days old has come to rifle Satan’s fold. (from Britten’s Ceremony of Carols)
When my late-wife went with her parents to visit China a few years before her death, what impressed her most about the visit was not the Great Wall of China, or the many exotic sights of this vast Asian Empire, but the sheer volume of people, wherever you turned, she recounted, there were people, myriads of them. Such was not the scene in Eden when the death knell of sin descended upon the race of humanity. Only a “massive crowd of two encountered the would-be destroyer of the height of God’s creation. We cannot imagine what it must have been like to live in a world consisting of only two human beings; and for a time, Adam quite alone of any human companionship. The dark and foreboding cloud of sin infecting everything descending upon two, the only two, must have been unimaginably crushing. I say this because the “escape of many today from the weight and guilt and effects of sin is to think, well, there are millions of others in the same boat as me. There is illusionary comfort in co-sinning numbers when God knows you individually.
Yet as the lethal germ of sin took hold in these two and consequently the hundreds of billions to proceed from them, the promise of hope, the antidote to the germ, was given nearly spontaneously with its undeniable power to heal all who would have ears to hear in each generation. Advent is not only the march of darkness to light; it is the march of the few to the mass of humanity who now inhabit the earth, many of whom will live in the new heavens and the new earth.
This spark of light, the promise made in ages past was preserved through millennia and found its fulfillment in the “fullness of time according to God’s calendar, purposefully indefinite to obscure the wiles of the Stalking Lion. There is controversy surrounding this first promise of the coming Messiah, as some do not see it as the first proclamation of the gospel (the protevangelion, as it is called). But I stand with the great Reformer, Martin Luther, who sees the promise of Genesis 3:15 as purposefully indefinite and obscure to confuse the Deceiver of men, who unlike God is not omniscient. Luther wrote that because the promise was not crystal clear and specific that Satan feared all women down through the ages as potential deliverers of the One who would crush his head.
Mothers would hope for each new born to be the Seed who would crush the great Liar and Destroyer, as God would mock the wiles of Satan by keeping him in the dark. This obscurity increased Satan’s care and worry, and it kept the hearers of God’s Word within a halo of hope in which God has never left us bereft in darkness. Prophesies given by God through His prophets sharpened the promise into greater specificity as time marched inexorably toward His planned fulfillment. Isaiah divulged this would be no normal birth; rather the “mother of God would be a virgin.
I think Luther got this understanding of Genesis 3:15 exactly right, and our conversations in heaven with many mothers from the centuries between the first promise to the birth of the promised Redeemer will one day bear this out. The references to Seed and the Seed of Abraham and David in the New Testament show that the Apostles like the Prophets understood Genesis 3:15 as the first promise of the hope of the Christ who would win victory over Satan on the cross of Calvary.
Advent proceeding from the fourth Sunday before Christmas to Christmas Day is a richly meditative time to think deeply about the history of redemption from Eden to the incarnation of the Redeemer, and from the First Advent in the House of Bread (Bethlehem) to the promised Second, when Jesus returns to claim His bride. You have a family connection within the familial bonds of Christ with all those individual saints who kept the promise alive in their hearts and their mouths through the centuries awaiting His birth, and also with all those who through the centuries-anno-domini who eagerly anticipate His final advent, just as the Bible always describes it, SOON.
It will take a lot of eternity to fellowship individually with all those who have preceded you, but it shall be so. Acquaintance with them now through the Word and the testimony of history will only enrich that future conversation. But the conversation once begun which continues from today to the eternal future is your living daily conversation with the Rock of Ages, the bright and morning star; even so come quickly, Lord Jesus!
“Joy to those who long to see thee, Dayspring from on high, appear; come, thou promised Rod of Jesse, of thy birth we long to hear! O’er the hills the angels singing news, glad tidings of a birth; ‘Go to him, your praises bringing; Christ the Lord has come to earth.’
(2nd verse of Charles Wesley’s Carol-hymn, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, 1744)
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