A long time ago there was a man named Abraham. God came to Abraham and and told him that He would make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars and inheritors of all the earth if Abraham would leave his family behind, go to a promised land, and have no other God besides He who spoke the universe into being.
In that age of limited literacy and writing, to enter a covenant with a king, a vassal would divide animals in half and walk between the parts of the animals. Both sides got the symbolism. The king would bestow great honor on his servant and the servant would die if he failed to keep his end of the deal.
Abraham cut the animals in half. God then put Abraham in a deep sleep and “[w]hen the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces,” Genesis 15:17. Abraham would have understood this vision was a vision of God passing between the pieces.
Hundreds of years later, Moses received the law from God and the people replied, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey,” Exodus 24:7. Then Moses sacrificed animals and sprinkled the blood on the people saying, ““This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words,” Exodus 24:8. It was strong symbolism to the people that if they accepted the laws, which they did, and then violated the laws, they would die.
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Later, after God had established David as king, David told God that he wished to build God a home. God responded kindly to David telling God that he would build him a hom for He had dwelled all those years with his people in a tent. God did not need a house from David, but he was going to turn David into a house, or rather a dynasty. “When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands,” 2 Samuel 7:12-14. God then tells David his house will endure forever.
This all created a conundrum. If Abraham’s descendants did not keep the covenant, God said He would die. But the people said if they did not keep the covenant that they would die. And on top of that, God promised King David an eternal dynasty, but one whose head would be punished by man should he do wrong. If God died and the people died, there would be nothing nor would there be any descendant of David. But if God were made flesh and dwelt among us as man, and in human form descended from David, God could keep all his promises and still mete out justice.
So into this world came God incarnate because God loves us and wants a relationship with us. And he knows we, as sinners, cannot meet his burden, but he can carry ours and stand in for us in judgment. All we have to do is accept his gift that, we remember this week, lay first in a manger before walking out of a tomb. Merry Christmas.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.