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It’s not uncommon to hear people speak about “the God of the Old Testament” in contrast to “the God we meet in Jesus.” There seems to be a wide-spread sense that there is something different about how God presents himself in the first part of the Bible versus how we see him in Jesus.

Obviously, there is a change in “covenant.” Even a cursory reading of the New Testament makes it evident that something changed from life “under the Law” and the way we experience life with God after the death and resurrection of Jesus and the sending of the Spirit. But the perception of a “different God” might be due, not to a change in God, but to our misreading the story presented us in the Bible.

If we go all the way back to Genesis and begin reading the account attentively, it’s surprising what we can discover about what God intended all along and what he was like all along.

We get God’s original “instructions” to mankind in Genesis 1:28:

God blessed [Adam and Eve]; and God said to them, “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.”

Apparently, God intended Adam and Eve (and their descendants) to do these things. Although precisely how they would accomplish these ends was left unspecified, what he wanted for them was clear. They are to:

Be fruitful and multiply–increase in number

Fill the earth–spread out across the planet and inhabit it

Subdue it–exercise appropriate rule over the inhabited world

Rule over creatures–have mastery over all other living things

So, how did they do? What we see is that within a very short while, they end up stumbling over the fourth part of this set of instructions–they do not rule over all other creatures.

In Genesis 3, we are introduced to “the serpent” and are told that he was one of the “beasts of the field”–the same term used to refer to “every living thing” that was to be ruled by Adam and Eve. They are to master, rule over, even this serpent. But, clearly, they do not.

Adam and Eve give in to the craftiness of the serpent and the resulting “fall” has cataclysmic impact. This living thing got the upper hand with Adam and Eve, contrary to what God intended for them. But notice what God does.

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise [literally, “crush”] you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (3:14-15)

What is happening here? Let me suggest that God, in grace, is “taking up the slack.”

Adam and Eve failed to fully carry out God’s intentions for them. They did not truly rule over every living thing; the serpent got the upper hand. But only for a moment. Now God steps in and ensures that what he wanted for Adam and Eve will be carried out. God makes it so that “enemy-ship” exists between the serpent and his seed and mankind. This sets the stage for the necessary “rule over” condition. God then ensures that whatever impact the serpent and his descendants may have on mankind (a heel injury), “the seed of woman” will overcome, providing a fatal wound to the serpent and his kind.

God ensures that his initial intent that Adam and Eve and their descendants rule over every living thing will be carried out.

This is God stepping in to ensure that what he wants for mankind will be realized–in spite of Adam’s and Eve’s failure and sin. This is grace! And it’s there in Genesis 3.


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