“…the whole earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen. 6:11b-12).
The story of Noah and his ark has always been a difficult story. Knowing the context of the story is helpful though.
So, what was going on before God destroys the world with a flood?
Well, just a few chapters earlier we see that God made an incredibly good and beautiful creation (see e.g. Gen. 1:31). We see God made people–all people–with dignity and worth (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-2). We see God gave people good things to do (Gen.1:28).
But, we also see, humans didn’t listen. We see that in the Fall of humanity (Gen. 3), the first murder (Gen. 4:8), and the growing corruption and violence (Gen. 6:5). In Genesis, we go from God and good creation to growing corruption very quickly (that’s also representational of my own tendency).
It was not God who “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” That’s what humans had already done. Humans damaged and defiled the very thing that would have brought them endless delight. Humans turn from fresh fulfilling water to putrid puddles.
But, that’s not it. Humans also hate. They hate humans that were made with the dignity of God. They hate and they hurt. They abuse and injure. And even kill.
Before God destroyed the world in the flood, humans destroyed the world with their sin. In God’s act of destruction, He was actually bringing a type of deliverance. He could have, and in a sense considered, destroying the world completely (Gen. 6:6-7).
Yet, God worked through Noah, a mediator (Gen. 6:8ff), as He does, to bring salvation through judgment. God provided a type of rescue when wrath was deserved.
Ultimately we know, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, took the wrath of God and the violence of the world on Himself. When we understand the whole context of the story of Noah’s ark, we see it is not God at fault. He is not the guilty party for the destruction of the world.
Instead, we see we are at fault. We carry out atrocities. We turn from God, where alone there is life, to trifles and trivialities. We hate humans, who have eternal value and being, and love things that perish in a moment.
When the story of Noah’s ark is understood in context, from the perspective of the whole of redemptive history, we see how amazing it is that the LORD is both just and the justifier of the one who trusts in Jesus alone for rescue (see Rom. 3:25-26).
I want to say at the start that I understand it can be hard to sit there and be engaged. I’ve been there. I want to challenge you, however, to lean in and listen. The events we’re talking about here may be some 2500 years in the past but they have amazing significance today.
Plus, the book of Esther is an amazing book. It is a true work of literature. There is a heroine, suspense, irony, reversal, and surprising coincidences. Basically everything you’d want in a story.
The book of Esther tells “the story of events surrounding the rescue of the nation of Israel from the threat of extinction while it was in exile in Persia… The more profound and universal purpose of the story is to explain how God’s providence can protect his people.”
Whoever you are, wherever you come from, and no matter where you are spiritually, this year has likely brought many challenges to you. I believe the book of Esther offers some much-needed perspective on things.
As we saw the last two weeks, God’s people are in exile, under the reign of king Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus, as the King of Persia, has a ton of wealth. So he shows his wealth by having a party for 180 days (1:4). With that much partying it is no wonder that he seems to be somewhat of a drunk and pushover. However, it appears that he’s trying to combat his pushover persona (but not his potential alcoholism!) with the help of his friends and so he makes an example of his wife Vashti who did not obey his every whim.
In Herodotus’ Histories, it says that that the “king of Persia could do anything he wished.” And so, that’s what he did. He gets rid of his old wife and throws a lavish beauty pageant to find the most beautiful and pleasing bride in the kingdom (2:2-4). In somewhat of a Cinderella story, the king “fell in love” with Esther or at least more than all the other women and so he put the royal crown on her head and made her queen (v. 17).
Israel is in Exile. God’s people are not in the Promised Land. They have a foreign ruler. And can you imagine, that ruler was allowed to do “anything he wished.”
We too are in exile, we too are not home. It may be different than Esther’s exile but we are in exile too. We see this truth in Scripture in various places. For instance, 1 Peter 1:1 talks about us being “elect exiles” and verse 17 tells us how we are to conduct ourselves throughout the time of our exile. First Peter 2:11 says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” Philippians 3:20 reminds us “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Hebrews 13:14 says that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”
So, just as Esther was in exile, we as Christians are in exile too. This book is relevant and has a lot to encourage us in the midst of the challenges of exile.
More and more our exile is a very visible reality. The Public Religion Research Institute did a study on religious affiliation in America. Here are their findings:
“The American religious landscape has undergone substantial changes in recent years… One of the most consequential shifts in American religion has been the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans… In 1991, only six percent of Americans identified their religious affiliation as ‘none,’ and that number had not moved much since the early 1970s. By the end of the 1990s, 14% of the public claimed no religious affiliation. The rate of religious change accelerated further during the late 2000s and early 2010s, reaching 20% by 2012. Today, one-quarter (25%) of Americans claim no formal religious identity, making this group the single largest ‘religious group’ in the U.S.”
The study also found “about two-thirds (66%) of unaffiliated Americans agree ‘religion causes more problems in society than it solves.” They also “reject the notion that religion plays a crucial role in providing a moral foundation for children.”
It is not just America, however, that is becoming increasingly less affiliated. The Church in America also has less and less commitment.
One recent study conducted by Barna Group for the book Faith for Exiles found that out of the around 1,500 people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine that grew up in the church (as Christians) the majority no longer go to church. 22% are now considered “ex-Christians.” 30% may identify themselves as Christians but they no longer go to church. 38% describe themselves as Christians and have attended church at least once in the last month but do not have the core beliefs or behaviors associated with being a disciple of Jesus. Only 10% were found to be regularly involved in the life of the church, trust in the authority of Scripture, affirm the death and resurrection of Jesus, and express a desire for their faith to impact their world.
Dedicated Christians are more in more considered odd. Christians are more and more on the fringes of society. If things don’t change, these trends will just continue in the future. The reality of our exile status will be felt more and more.
So, friends, Esther has a lot to teach us about our exile. Let’s go to the first scene…
1. Haman’s Plot (Ch. 3)
Scene 1 starts with Haman, the antagonist or bad guy of the story, being promoted (3:1). It seems like he’s promoted because the beauty pageant was his idea.
Haman soon became furious at a Jewish man named Mordecai because he would not bow down to him. But instead of just taking it out on him, Haman wanted to destroy all the Jews throughout the whole kingdom (3:5-6). So, we see a big problem introduced in the plot.
Haman decided which day the Jews should be destroyed on by casting a lot. Lot is the word “pur,” so that’s where the name Purim, the Jewish holiday, comes from. Because Haman cast lots to decide what day the Jews would be destroyed on. However, as Proverbs 16:33 reminds us the lot (pur) is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. And so we see, even when the name of the LORD is not mentioned we see God is sovereign over human affairs and He will keep His promises to protect and bless His people. He will not let His people be wiped out.
Haman was so eager to destroy the Jews that he offered to pay the king ten thousand silver talents, the
equivalent of eighteen million dollars today, of his own money if the king would allow him to destroy the Jews. The king agreed and a decree was sent and Haman and the king sat down to drink (again).
Then in Esther 3:13-15 it says, “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel.”
Things clearly are not looking good. What can possibly be done? Let’s look next at…
2. Esther’s Plan (Ch. 4-5)
In scene 2 we see Mordecai appeal to Esther (Ch. 4). Mordecai hears about Haman’s plot to kill the Jews and so he talks to Esther about it. Mordecai says, in Esther 4:12-14, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:12-14)
Imagine how scary that must have been for Esther. She could be totally rejected, she could be killed. Yet she moved forward. She just had one thing to say to Mordecai. She said: “Hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I will also fast. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (4:15-16).
In the next scene, scene 3, we see Esther before the king (Ch. 5:1-8). Esther has her first banquet with the King. Esther goes to the king and says, “Please join me for a feast that I prepared and invite your friend Haman too” (5:4). Then, at the feast, Esther says let’s feast again tomorrow and we’ll talk more then (5:8).
(It’s funny, is Esther delaying? Is she nervous? Is she buttering him up? We don’t know…)
In scene 4 we see Haman’s exaltation and anger (Ch. 5:9-14). After the feast, Haman leaves and he is joyful and glad. But then he sees Mordecai on the way home and he doesn’t rise in respect before him or tremble before him. And so Haman is ticked off and his wrath is renewed (5:9).
Haman was able to contain himself, however, and made it home. When Haman was home he had his friends over and was talking with them and his wife. He was recounting how good everything was going and he told them that he even got to hangout with the king and his new bride (5:12). “However,” he said, “It’s all pointless to me, so long as I see Mordecai still alive” (cf. 5:13).
So, his wife and friends said, “Build a frame six-stories high and have Mordecai executed on it.” When Haman heard that idea, he said, “That’s it!” And with great excitement he had the structure built so that the entire city could see Mordecai his enemy impaled.
Haman was haughty. He thought he could have Mordicai and all the Jews murdered and get away with it. But, next we see…
3. Haman’s Downfall (Ch. 6-7)
In scene 5 we see Mordecai’s triumph and Haman’s fall (Ch. 6-7). As we flash to scene 5, we see Esther getting herself together and preparing for her talk with the king.
But, the king couldn’t sleep. So, he did what any self-respecting king would do, he asked for a bedtime story.
The king gave orders for the book of memorable deeds to be brought and read to him (6:1). And before the
king got bored and fell asleep the story was recounted how Mordecai protected the king from an assassination attempt (6:1-2).
And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been given to Mordecai for what he did?” The king was told that “Nothing had been done” (v. 3).
That’s when, guess who walked in?…
Haman walks into the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai impaled.
However, before Haman could ask his question, the king asked him a question. The king said to Haman: “What should be done to the man whom the king wants to honor?” (v. 6)
And Haman thought to himself, “Who would the king want to honor more than me?!” (v. 6).
So Haman said to the king, in 6:6-9, “For the man whom the king wants to honor, I would get the royal robes out, and the best horse that the king has, and your favorite royal crown. And I would give it to him. And I would have a parade for him and lead him through the street and say: ‘This is what happens to the person that the king wants to honor!’”
Then the king said to Haman, “Great! Good ideas! Now hurry; and go do all that you just said for Mordecai the Jew! Do everything that you just said! (v. 10)
Haman clearly is not doing very well.
Haman eventually goes home (“rough day at the office”). And his wife and friends concur that this is not a good situation… Obviously.
Haman can’t hide in shame. He has a feast to attend, Esther’s special feast to which he is a very special guest.
At the feast, Esther makes a request of the king. She says, in chapter 7 verse 4, “Please let me keep my life and the life of my people.” “For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated” (7:4).
Then king Ahasuerus said to queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?!” And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! [Pause for effect…] This wicked Haman!” (7:6)
Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.
The king stood up in his anger from his wine-drinking and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from queen Esther. But, the king returned from the garden just as Haman was falling on
the couch where Esther was. And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence?!” (7:8)
At this point, Haman had no hope.
One of the servants said, “The six-story structure that Haman prepared for Mordecai is standing at Haman’s house ready to go.” (7:9)
And so, Haman was executed on the stand that he had prepared for Mordecai (7:10).
Wow. What a reversal. What unexpected deliverance. Of course, the stories not quite through but that’s all we’re covering until next week. So, let’s look at the…
Closing Scene (Takeaways Until Next Time)
There is so much to be gleaned. There are four takeaways I want to spend the remainder of time looking at.
1. God uses People
Esther is the unexpected star of the story. Ironically, Esther means, “star” and she was the star. There are 37 references to Esther by name. “Esther is an orphaned, exiled female. She is a most unlikely leader. Her only qualification is that she has won a beauty contest. Yet she joins a long line of unlikely heroes in the history of Israel.”
God uses unlikely people and deliverers in unexpected ways. It’s actually kind of His standard operating procedure. God used Moses, a man with a stammering tongue. God anointed David to be king, the youngest and most unexpected of his brothers. God uses small armies to bring deliverance. God puts His treasure in jars of clay so that it will be clear that the power and glory belong to Him (see e.g. 2 Cor. 4:7). And God uses the foolishness of the cross to bring salvation and shame the “wise” (see 1 Cor. 1:18-31).
Where did the rescue come from? Esther? Mordecai? Xerxes? God? God uses means to accomplish His ends!
What we do matters. Our lives and our decision matter eternally. They ripple through the corridors of time. There was and never will be a meaningless moment. John S. Dickerson in his book,The Great Evangelical Recession, has said:
“The stakes are eternal. The victims or victors are not organizations or churches, but souls that will live forever… We can feel a bit like Frodo, the hobbit, in The Lord of the Rings. We are tiny creatures entrusted with an impossible task—to rescue humanity from unthinkable evil… All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
My family used to live in the D.C. area. We saw where the plane hit the Pentagon on September 11th. Leah and I have been to New York city and have seen where the Twin Towers used to be. We have been by the monument in Pennsylvania that commemorates the passengers in the plane that went down in on September the 11th instead of careening into the White House.
Think about the decisions that were made in that plane on that fateful day. Think about the weightiness of those decisions. Think about the effect of those decisions upon themselves and upon all of America.
We don’t often see the impact of our decisions that starkly but what we do or don’t do matters. It matters for us. It matters for others.
What we do matters. It matters eternally. God uses mere humans as His mouthpiece. God uses humans to do His will.
Friends, our lives matter, our actions matter, our voices matter.
If we knew a millionth of the magnitude of our lives we’d be moved to wonder. Our lives and our every action have significance because this world and this life is not all there is.
And for Christians, this is multiplied ten-fold. We are mouthpieces, ambassadors, commissioned by the one true God.
God gives us wit, wisdom, and human will. Will we use what God has given us? Will we rise to the occasion and work to reach this lost world with the good news of Jesus? Or, will we just sit back? As we’ve seen with Esther, it won’t be easy and it will be scary but who knows whether you have not come to this place in your life and this place in history for such a time as this (cf. 4:14)?!
Friends, let’s live fierce purposeful lives because we have purpose. Our lives matter more than we can know.
That, too me, is very challenging and very encouraging. The other side of the coin, however, is very comforting and encouraging too. Let’s look at that now…
2. God is Sovereign
Haman has such hatred of the Jews he contrives of a pogrom and even bribes the king the modern equivalent of somewhere around $18,000,000 so that he can exterminate them. It does not look like rescue is going to come. How could it when the wicked one in power is willing to go to such lengths to destroy?! What hope was there really?…
Friends, if God’s not sovereign and He doesn’t save then that leaves it to you to save and be sovereign. If God is not Lord, then you have to be lord. It falls to you. Everything falls to you. You then have to govern the universe, at least your universe. You then have to rescue yourself or there will be no rescue…
In Esther there are 250 appearances of the Hebrew word for “king” or “to rule” and zero explicit references to God. The only other book that doesn’t explicitly mention God is the Song of Songs. In Esther it looks like Satan, “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31 cf. Eph. 2:2), is in charge. But, he’s not. There’s someone unseen and unmentioned who really rules. And it’s Yahweh, the Creator and all-powerful One. He is God. He is in charge. We may not see Him. But we know Him. And we know He’s the boss.
The truth is though, from our perspective God is often not in view. We don’t see Him. And it looks like there is no hope. No rescue. We only see ourselves and earthly rulers. We either tremble in fear or we place our hope in them or we do both. We often think about earth and those who seemingly rule on earth. But the reality is, as Esther shows us, that there is someone orchestrating everything behind the veil…
In the book of Esther we see that God is present even when it seems like He’s not. “The book of Esther asks us to trust in God’s providence even when we can’t see it working. That requires a posture of hope, to believe that, no matter how horrible things get, God is committed to redeeming his good world and overcoming evil.”
And so, we need to trust like Mordecai. We must not bow down to any earthly powers. And we need to fast and pray and ask others to fast and pray in times of need. We need to rely on God even when He seems absent. We need to lay our lives down in service to God with a heart that says, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Especially as we consider that Jesus did perish to purchase our salvation.
As Mark Dever has said, “How could little orphan Esther end up as queen, Mordecai as prime minister, and the exiled Jewish people in prosperity, popularity, and safety!” Only because God is the one truly on the throne of the universe. How could salvation come through the death of Messiah Jesus, because Jesus is Lord and the Son of God.
Our hope is in a Ruler, in a King. But, He is no earthly ruler. He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is the one and only Sovereign. As David Platt has said, “This world is not a democracy. This world is a monarchy, and God is the King.”
Sometimes when things look the worst, is when God shows His power the most. Actually, at the end of all things, when Jesus comes back, things are going to look very bad and be very bad. But then Jesus is going to show up on the scene. And He’s going to vanquish His foes. He will arrive not on a lowly donkey but on a white horse of war. He will destroy His enemies with the sword of His mouth (Rev. 1:16; 19:15, 21). There will be no Haman, no human, and no supernatural force to stand in His way.
Elliot Clark said this in his helpful book, Evangelism as Exiles:
“Hope for the Christian isn’t just confidence in a certain, glorious future. It’s hope in a present providence. It’s hope that God’s plans can’t be thwarted by local authorities or irate mobs, by unfriendly bosses or unbelieving husbands, by Supreme Court rulings or the next election. The Christian hope is that God’s purposes are so unassailable that a great thunderstorm of events can’t drive them off course. Even when we’re wave-tossed and lost at sea, Jesus remains the captain of the ship and the commander of the storm.”
That leads us to our next consideration…
3. God Punishes His Enemies
Another important thing Esther teaches us is that God always punishes His enemies. We also see that God will certainly deliver His people. Therefore, we can be comforted in our struggles, courageous in our obedience, and confident and joyful in our waiting.
It must be said, however, that if you are an enemy of God, that is bad news. The worst news.
But we can have hope. Even though we’re all naturally enemies of God because of our wrongdoing. We can have hope because…
4. God Saves in Unexpected Ways
The book of Esther amazingly goes from fast to feast! God brings about all sorts of unlikely plot twists. Here’s a picture that shows us the plot of Esther:
God rescues in unexpected ways. He always has.
The story of Esther is intricately and intrinsically linked to the cosmic story of rescue. It is through the deliverance that happens in the book of Esther that the deliverance from Messiah Jesus can happen. If Haman’s pogrom would have succeeded then God’s promise would not have. God, however, keeps His promises. He did and will provide the rescue we all need. Jesus, the Messiah, the Promised One, was born of a woman, as a Jew, and a descendent of David. Jesus did strike a death blow to Satan, the serpent of old, when He died on the cross and rose victorious over death and sin, and He soon will send Satan to the fiery pit.
So, just as Esther brought rescue, Jesus brings eternal rescue. Esther and Jesus are similar in some ways but also very different. Unlike Esther, Jesus had “no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected” (Is. 53.2-3). And unlike Esther who brought an amazing plot reversal akin to resurrection, Jesus actually brought resurrection, and final victory over Satan, sin, and death. So, Esther is good and we’re thankful for her but Jesus is clearly much better.
Esther brought reversal—from Jewish destruction to Jewish deliverance, from Mordecai being impaled high above the crowd to Haman being impaled high above the crowd, from a pogrom against the Jews to Jewish peace. But Jesus brings ultimate reversal. The dead shall rise. In the end, the last shall be first, and the first last. Those who weep will be comforted and rejoice.
The ultimate reversal is that victory comes through the cross. God works, and has always worked, in unexpected and glorious ways.
Lee Beach, the author of The Church in Exile, has said, God “is able to use marginalization and weakness for his missional purposes, and the church in the post-Christendom age needs to embrace this very Esther-like perspective at its core as it seeks to be the people of God in a foreign culture.”
So friends, even as we face challenges in the changing world that we find ourselves in, we know that we serve the LORD who is all-powerful even when we can’t see Him. Even when we can’t see Him present, we can trust His promise. He will be with us. He will help us.
We know that He, in Messiah Jesus, has already provided the rescue we most need. So, we continue to live faithful lives in hope and trust.
Lastly, I have a challenge for you. One recent study by the Pinetops Foundation has said, “The next 30 years will represent the largest missions opportunity in the history of America. It is the largest and fastest numerical shift in religious affiliation in the history of this country… 35 million youth raised in families that call themselves Christians will say that they are not by 2050.” What if God strategically raised you up for such a time as this? What if God want you to be on mission in exile?
To be honest, I don’t know what God is calling me to do about this. I don’t know what he’s calling you to do about this. But, perhaps, God has brought you to this point for such a time as this (cf. 4:14)? I want to take some time for us to pray and reflect on what God is leading us to do about the 35 million youth raised in Christian homes that are projected to leave the path of life for the path of destruction.
Esther took her life in her own hands, risked it all. What might God be calling you to?
Let’s take some time and ask our Father what He would have us do.
 Ryken, Ryken, Wilhoit, Ryken’s Bible Handbook, 207.
 Of course, it may not mean that the party was 180 consecutive days.
 Herodotus, Histories, 3.31.
 Haman is an Agagite which means he was a Canaanite which were longtime enemies of the Israelites. This comes into the plot of the story later on but this point is not made explicit.
 Charles F. Pfeiffer, Old Testament History, 489. That book, however, was published in 1973 so the figure would be higher today.
 Herodotus talks about such a book in Histories 8.85, 90.
 “Reversal seems the most important structural theme in Esther” (Dumbrell, Faith of Israel, 300 as quoted in Schreiner, The King in His Beauty, 224).
 Lee Beach, The Church in Exile, 79.
 John S. Dickerson,The Great Evangelical Recession, 126.
 Illustrated Summaries of Biblical Books by the Bible Project. “Even though God is never mentioned, Yahweh is King, and the Jews are his people. No plot to annihilate them will ever succeed, for Yahweh made a covenant with Israel and will fulfill his promises to them. The serpent and his offspring will not perish from the earth until the final victory is won, but they will not ultimately triumph. The kingdom will come in its fullness. The whole world will experience the blessing promised to Abraham” (Thomas R. Schreiner, The King in His Beauty, 225).
 Dever, The Message of the Old Testament, 462.
 Elliot Clark, Evangelism as Exiles, 42.
 See Dever, The Message of the Old Testament, 457ff.
 See Ibid.
 Beach, The Church in Exile, 79.
 “The Great Opportunity: The American Church in 2050,” 9. This is a study put out by the Pinetops Foundation.
Peter refers to this Davidic Psalm in Acts chapter 2. He said: “Fellow Israelites, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us today” (Acts 2:29). In short, David’s dead and his body rotted. David did, however, as a prophet tell us that one of his descendants would sit on his throne (v. 30). So, David seeing that in advance “spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: ‘His body was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay’” (v. 31).
Paul says it a little differently. He says King “David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption” (Acts 13:36). King David saw corruption. His body decomposed. So, David is not the “Holy One” that the Psalm refers to.
Paul goes on to say, “But He whom God raised up did not see corruption” (v. 37). Ding, ding, ding! Jesus is the Holy One! He is the long-awaited Messiah and forever King!
David knew that the LORD would place one of his descendants on the throne. How did he know this? Because…
“But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8’He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!'”
—Ps. 22:6-8 (Matt. 27:35-44)
It is hard and painful to think of Jesus being mocked. And yet He was mocked and mocked ruthlessly. Jesus was mocked by the chief priests, the scribes, the elders (Matt. 27:41), by robbers (v. 44), and by soldiers (Lk. 23:36).
It didn’t stop there, though. The condemned would be crucified naked. The cross was an instrument of shame as well as pain. Much of the mocking that Jesus underwent occurred as He was vulnerable and stretched out on the cross.
The Righteous One becomes the Rejected One. The Great Exchange took place, the righteous for the unrighteous. Barabbas goes free and the beautiful Savior is bludgeoned. So in Barabbas’ deliverance, we see our own.
Psalm 22 has an amazing amount of parallels with Jesus’ experience on the cross on Good Friday. It says he is surrounded by rough enemies that want to harm him (v. 12), he is attacked by their words (v. 13), he is exhausted and close to death (v. 14), he experiences fatal dehydration (v. 15), his hands and feet are pierced (v. 16), his bony frame is exposed (v. 17), and his garments are divided and cast lots for (v. 18 cf. Matt. 27:35).
Reading this Psalm you almost expect David to say something close to “Father, forgive them” because the account of Jesus’ crucifixion is foreshadowed so many times (see also Ps. 69:4, 9, 21). Instead, in somewhat of a parallel passage to this Psalm and in great contrast to Jesus, David calls for God’s burning anger to overtake his enemies (69:24), he pleads that God would “add to them punishment upon punishment” (v. 27), and that they would be “blotted out of the book of the living” and “not be enrolled among the righteous” (v. 28).
Messiah Jesus instead Himself receives punishment upon punishment, His life is blotted out, and He joins the unrighteous on a cursed cross (see Is. 53:9 and Matt. 27:38) to save His enemies, those who are far from Him. Jesus is the perfect lamb of God, the lamb without blemish, that takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:19).
Jesus came to His own people and they did not receive Him (Jn. 1:11). Jesus was hated, rejected, and persecuted (Is. 53:3; Jn. 15:18). His friends abandoned Him (Ps. 88:8, 18; Matt. 26:56), even after making a pledge of undying loyalty. Yet, even while He Himself was being betrayed He protected His friends (Jn. 18:7-8)
Jesus, as Hebrews says, can sympathize with us (Heb. 4:15). He knows what it is like to experience betrayal of the worst kind.
Jesus was troubled in His spirit because one of His dear friends would betray Him. And it’s no wonder that He was troubled. Have you ever been hurt by a close friend? It hurts.
Yet Jesus was betrayed, as the Scriptures said He would be (Jn. 13:18).
Judas, Jesus’ “familiar friend” (Ps. 55:13), betrayed Him with a kiss (Matt. 26:48-49). Jesus used to walk with Judas in the very same garden in which He was betrayed (Jn.18:2-3). Jesus had also recently shared bread with Judas.
Jesus felt the blow of a backstabber but His pain would be far worse than any knife could inflict.
Psalm 115 is part of the Hallel Psalms. Hallel means, “praise.” Jesus would have sung the Hallel Psalms (Ps. 113-118) with His disciples on the eve of Passover. Psalm 114 speaks directly of the exodus. From a New Testament perspective, we know that the salvation which began in Egypt would be finally filled in and through Jesus.
The Hallel Psalms were probably the last psalms Jesus sang before His suffering and death (Mk. 14:26). Jesus would have sung Psalm 115 knowing that He was Himself definitively showing God’s glory, love, and faithfulness. It is amazing also that Jewish people concluded the Hallel Psalms with the prayer:
“From everlasting to everlasting thou art God; beside thee we have no king, redeemer, or savior; no liberator, deliverer, provider; none who takes pity in every time of distress or trouble. We have no king but thee.”
Truly! Apart from Messiah Jesus, there is no “no king, redeemer, or savior; no liberator, deliverer, provider.”
As we see in Psalm 115, idols are inept but God is a God of steadfast love and faithfulness. Whereas idols are inept God is involved. In fact, so involved that He came to this broken world in the form of Jesus Christ.
Idols are silver and gold but God came in flesh. Jesus has a mouth and with it, He spoke words of life. Jesus has eyes, and He saw this broken world and wept. Jesus has ears, and He heard the world’s bitter cries. Jesus has a nose, and He smelled the putrid smell of death. Jesus has human hands, and they were pierced. Jesus has feet, and they carried a cross, and were pinned to a cross. Jesus has a throat, and with it, He cried out: “my God, my God, why have Thou forsaken Me?!”
All throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, we see two distinct groups. God has called particular people from all nations. As James Hamilton has said, “People are either seed of the serpent, on the side of the snake in the garden, or seed of the woman, on the side of God and trusting in his promises.”
The careful reader of Scripture can see the enmity between the two seeds in Genesis and in fact through the whole Old Testament. There are physical decedents of Eve that are spiritually seed of the serpent. This is not just something we see in the Old Testament though. We see it through the whole of Scripture (cf. e.g. Matt. 13:38; Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 3:8). We see two distinct seeds with two distinct ends from the beginning of Genesis (cf. esp. Gen. 3:15) to the end of Revelation (cf. e.g. Rev. 21).
Notice that in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 there are two groups: (1) those who did not believe and thus receive judgment and (2) those who do believe and thus enjoy the presence of God and marvel at Him. And notice Jesus separates the goats from the sheep based on what they did in their earthly lives (Matt. 25:32ff). People are gravely either goat or sheep, wise or fool, darkness or light, faithful or faithless, in Christ or damned.
As I have said, the Bible shows two different humanities, one lost and the other saved, one in heaven and one in hell. This is what we see throughout the story of Scripture and this is what we see reflected in other places in the early church’s teaching. For instance, the Didache (50-120AD) says, “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways” (1:1).
Genesis chapter 20 is a peculiar passage. We can ask many questions of it. Why is it there? What purpose does it serve?
Yet with all of Scripture context is king. When we begin to see the passage as it is meant to be seen, in it’s broader context, it makes more sense. So let’s look briefly at the broader context. What are some things from earlier on in Genesis that could shed light on Genesis chapter 20?
The first promise we see in Genesis is of a seed that will come and crush the head of the serpent. A descendant of the woman, who by implication of destroying God and mans enemy, will set things back the way they were supposed to be. When we look at Genesis we see glimpses of hope for this very descendant.
Genesis 3:15 is the protoevangelium. It is the first gospel. However, quite ambiguous at first, and at times the line of the seed looks hopeless; we, as the story continues, see the serpent-crushing-seed in full glory. Thomas R. Schreiner rightly says, “We can fairly say that the OT is animated with an eschatological hope. Gen. 3:15 forecasts a day when the seed of the woman will triumph over the seed of the serpent,” though as we will see, “subsequent history appeared to mock the promise.”
We will look at what the immediate understanding of the pronouncement was to Adam and Eve at the outset of Genesis. We will see that they had hope that a seed would be born that would bring some form of deliverance but beyond this we cannot be sure of their understanding. Then we will briefly trace the development and understanding of the Genesis 3:15 promise through the OT and see that we leave the scene still looking for the promised hero of the story. Finally, in the NT we see things happen and come together in ways that could never have been imagined, something like true fiction. We look at the birth of the seed of the woman and explore the culmination of the promise in the victorious King in Revelation who has once and for all crushed the head of the serpent of old.
As we look at this theme in Scripture, we cannot merely look at a word study. In part because the verb for “crush” in Genesis 3:15 is seen only four times in the Old Testament. It is seen twice in our passage and once in Job 9:17 and once in Psalm 139:11 but in both of these cases it is not used with the same imagery. However, we should not make the false conclusion that we do not see Scripture return to this theme. It is more helpful as we look at this passage to look at the scenarios or links that are used to recall the Genesis 3:15 promises and not merely a word study. As Hamilton says the “announcement of judgment on the serpent provides fundamental imagery that is reused and interpreted throughout the rest of the Old Testament” even if שׁוּףּ is not used. As Hamilton says elsewhere, “the themes of biblical theology are broader than individual words.”
In the immediate understanding of the verse, the seed refers to a singular seed but as we see, as the story continues, it also entails a collective aspect. The immediate understanding of the text is seen by the name Adam gives to his wife. Adam names his wife Eve, that is, life-giver, and not death (Gen 3:20). Through this, Adam shows that he has hope. Perhaps, he even hopes to once again enter back into the garden and enjoy renewed and undeterred fellowship with God once the evil serpent gets what is coming to him. Stephen G. Dempster says, “in light of the immediate context, the triumph of the woman’s seed would suggest a return to the Edenic state.”
Later we see that Eve bore Cain and thought she had the serpent crushing seed. She said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD” (4:1) Michael Horton explains that without the definite article, we are especially dependent on the context. Therefore, in light of Genesis 3:15 this verse could be understood to mean, “the man,” that is, the seed. Adam and Eve had hope. They expected a seed (singular), in their lifetime that would bring some form of deliverance, though we cannot be certain as to the extinct of the deliverance for which they hoped.
However, as we read on in the story we see that Eve’s hope is unfounded. Cain was the seed of the serpent and killed his brother Abel (cf. John 8:44; 1 John 3:8-15). Yet she continued in expectation. We see this with the birth of Seth (Gen 4:25). The curse wrought because of rebellion in the garden was not revoked and death spread to all men. We see this in the refrain, “and he died,” in Genesis chapter five yet we see hope of deliverance through Enoch’s experience.
In Genesis chapter six, we do not see the crushing of the serpent as is hoped for but we do see preservation of the line of the seed of the woman, and in fact of all humanity. Actually, careful reading of Genesis will lead one to see the importance that the book places on seed and their preservation. This is especially clear and miraculous in light of the NT and the barrenness of certain women at crucial points along the line of the seed.18
In the first chapters of Genesis, we see a foggy hope of a seed to come that will crush the head of the serpent. However, it is not until further down the road of revelation that the identity of that seed becomes clearer. In fact, we do not even know if the promise is ultimately fulfilled through a collective seed or a singular seed at this point of the OT.
There are important pieces that we must gather from the first few chapters of Genesis that are important if we want to fit the puzzle together at the end. We must note the hope established from the beginning (to reenter Eden?). We must see the importance placed on the seed of the woman. It is also important to remember the crushing language employed. It is with these and similar themes that we can trace the serpent crushing seed through Scripture. At first, the promised one is vague but as we continue, we pick up more pieces that fit in place in unexpected ways. To culminate in what the apostle Paul will call foolishness.
T.D. Alexander sums up well for us. “Although Genesis 3:15 hints at reversal of the alienation arising from the disobedience of Adam and Eve, for the fulfillment we must read further. Here, however, we find the first brushstroke on the biblical canvas concerning a future king through whom God’s salvation will come to humanity.”
We have seen what the immediate expectation was but what do we see as story of Scripture develops? What more information do we see surface that gives us a hint to the prophesy’s ultimate fulfillment? We have seen that Adam and Eve hoped for a singular seed to be their victor but how do we understand the collective seed and the promised enmity between the two seeds? We have seen that Abel, instead of crushing the serpent, was crushed himself by the serpents seed. We have seen that Seth too, did not crush the serpent. So where is the promised one?
As we ask these questions, we will see a line traced through Genesis and the whole Old Testament, a line of seed and their story. Specifically, a line that has hope, hope in God and His promises, hope in an offspring. As Hamilton says, “People are either seed of the serpent, on the side of the snake in the garden, or seed of the woman, on the side of God and trusting in his promises.” The careful reader of Scripture can see the enmity between the two seeds in Genesis and in fact through the whole Old Testament. There are even physical decedents of the woman, i.e. seed, that are spiritually seed of the serpent.
The Genesis narrative does not go on very long before we see more seed/offspring promises. However, the Abrahamic promises do not continue the language of “crushing” but, as we have seen, we do see the promised enmity. The promise to Abraham is obviously important in many ways but we cannot dive into them here for our purpose. What we do need to see, however, is Abraham’s seed will be given the land (Gen 12:7 cf. Gal 3:16). The land promised, is significant because the righteous seed brings prosperity to the land as they crush and conquer the heads of the serpent’s seed. Thus, maybe Adam and Eve would have been right to think that the promised one would bring in some form of Edenic state.
Hamilton says, “The blessing of all the families of the earth through Abram and his seed (12:3; 22:18) directs readers of the Genesis narrative to a seed of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head, repeal the curses, and open the way to Eden.” Though we do not have times to look at all the accounts, there are many times in the OT when the two seeds are seen in conflict crushing each other. The seed of the woman is seen time after time crushing the seed of the serpent to obtain the Promised Land, a type of Eden.
In the New Testament, we see Jesus is the Promised Seed, the Good News. At the close of the OT as we saw there is no serpent crushing seed on the horizon. But there is good news, stretching back all the way to the beginning of the story. This is not the end of the story. The genealogies link Jesus all the way back to David, Abraham, and even the seed of the woman. The “seed” referred to in Genesis 3:15 and 12 is the same seed. The curse evoked because of sin, is revoked in the promised blessing to Abraham’s seed, who is also the seed which will defeat the serpent; namely, Jesus of Nazareth.
This is the good news; Jesus is the good news. Notice the genealogies point to Jesus as being the Christ that was promised to defeat “the Serpent of old” (Matt 1:1-18; Luke 3:23-38 says, “Jesus… the son of Adam,” i.e. seed of the woman). Jesus’ genealogies recall the promise in the garden, the Abrahamic promise, and the 2 Samuel 7 promise. It is significant “that Jesus is named as being born of (i.e., the seed of) the woman (Gal 4:4) and the seed of David (Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8).” Alexander says, “The NT presents Jesus Christ as the one who brings to fulfillment the divine promises associated with the unique line of seed descended from Abraham.”
We see all through out Scripture that if God did not faithfully and sovereignly (e.g. think of the entail barrenness of women within the line of promise) preserve the line of promise His promise in Genesis to defeat the serpent of old and bless the nations could never have been fulfilled. However, God is a God of covenant loyalty, He keeps all of His promises, so God stepped into the altercation between Abraham and Abenelech and God graciously prevented the line of promise from being destroyed.
Clearly God is our Savior. We don’t nor can we save ourselves. Genesis 20 is just demonstration of this truth. God preserves us and keeps His promises to us even when we fail in big ways.
The promises of God do not come to fruition because we or Abraham is good enough. The promises of God come to fruition because God is a good and faithful God. He is gracious and merciful. Let’s praise the LORD in humility!
 Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 25. Similarly, Hamilton says, “From start to finish, the OT is a messianic document, written from a messianic perspective, so sustain a messianic hope” (James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 10, no. 2 : 30).
 I do think it is clear that they would have realized that the problem was not just any “snake” or snakes in general but the snake that tempted them. The supernatural snake is the problem. I believe this would have been clear to them. They had seen other snakes before that in the garden and after they were expelled as well. In addition, they presumably heard God’s judgment on the snake since they expected its promised foe. So contra Robert Alter who says, “The serpent is by no means ‘satanic,’ as in the lens of later Judeo-Christian traditions” (Genesis: Translation and Commentary [W. W. Norton & Company , Inc.: New York, 1996], 13). I believe, it was not just the “later Judeo-Christian traditions” that saw the satanic nature of the serpent but even Adam and Eve understood this to some degree.
 “Too much biblical theology has fallen prey to the word-study fallacy and has failed to see that themes can be developed with synonymous terms. Charles Halton has shown that ‘ancient writers felt no compulsion to provide direct links with their allusion….instead, they borrowed imagery and fused it with their own rhetorical purposes.’ I would suggest that this is exactly what happened in the Old Testament with Genesis 3:15,” says Hamilton (God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. [Wheaton: Crossway, 2010], 77.).
 Cynthia Long Westfall says a “’scenario’ is a linguistic term that is used to indicate ‘an extended domain of reference’ or associated bundles of information that lies behind a text. A scenario includes setting, situations, specific items, and ‘role’ slots” (“Messianic Themes of Temple, Enthronement, and Victory in Hebrews and the Epistles” 210-229. In The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments Stanley E. Porter ed. [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007], 212).
 Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, 77. On the same page he also gives a list of “Imagery from Genesis 3:14-19 in the Old Testament” in Table 2.4. As Hamilton points out, we see imagery of broken heads in Num. 24:17; Jud. 4:21; 5:26; 9:53; 1 Sam. 17:49; Is. 1:4-5; 7:8-9; 28:3; Jer. 23:19; 30:23; Hab. 3:13; Ps. 68:22-24; 74:12-14; 110:6, broken enemies in Ex. 15:6; Num. 24:8; 1 Sam. 2:10; 2 Sam. 22:39, 43; Is. 14:25; Jer. 13:14; 23:29; 48:4; 51:20-23; Ps. 2:9; 72:4; 89:24; 137:9; Dan. 2:34-35; Job 34:22-25, trampled enemies in Josh. 10:24; 2 Sam. 22:39/Ps. 18:39; Is. 63:3, 6; Mal 3:20-21; Zech. 10:5; Ps. 44:5; 60:14; 108:14; 91:11-13, enemies lick dust in Is. 49:23, Mic. 7:17; Ps. 72:9, and stricken serpents in Is. 27:1; 51:9; Ps. 58:5-7, 11; 74:12-14; 89:11; Job 26:12-13; 40:25-41:26.
 James M. Hamilton Jr.,“The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham.” Tyndale Bulletin 58 (2007): 265.
 T. D. Alexander, “Seed” 769-773. In The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology T. Desmond Alexander and Roger S. Rosner eds. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 769.
 Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, 280-81.
 Similarly, Edmund P. Clowney, has said, “The term ‘seed’ is ambiguous in Hebrew: it can refer to descendants as a corporate group, or to an individual descendant. Genesis does not specifically resolve that ambiguity. But as it holds before us the line of fathers and sons, it surely points to a second Adam, a Seed who is appointed like Seth, called like Noah, chosen like Shem, and made a blessing to all the earth as the Seed of Abraham” (The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1988], 42).
 See John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God (Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2010) 57-58, Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003) 68, and Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, 79. It may also be significant that after Adam names Eve, presumably in an act of faith, God sacrifices an animal to cloth them and cover their guilt (Gen 3:21).
 Admittedly, even once we come to the NT it looks at times that the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 still has a singular and a collective aspect to it and this may be true but it only has a collective aspect to it because of the singular seed. Paul says that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet (Rom. 16:20). Yet how are they identified with God’s people, it is through the Christ that crushes Satan and death. I could list other things that identify Jesus, the Christ, as finally and ultimately fulfilling the promise to Adam and Eve but this must suffice here. It is true that we (collective) will crush Satan under our feet; I do not want to be at odds with Paul, only we do it as we are in Christ.
 Alexander, The Servant King, 19.
 Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, 84.
 Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, 84.
 In Table 2.9., Hamilton shows the “Seed Conflict in Genesis.” On the individual level we see Cain and Abel (4:1-16), Ishmael and Isaac (21:8-9), Esau and Jacob (27:41), lastly the Sons of Israel and Joseph. On the collective level we see Pharaoh and Egypt and Abraham and Sarah (12:10-20), Kings of the world (Sodom) and Abraham and his men, Lot, Melchizedek (14:13- 24), Abimelech and the Philistines and Abraham and his people (21:22-34), Abimelech and the Philistines and Isaac and his people (26:14-16), the men of Shechem and Simeon, Levi, and Israel (Dinah) (34:1-29), lastly the Sons of Israel and Joseph (37-44). See Ibid.
 Hamilton, “The Seed of the Woman and the Blessings of Abraham,” 261.
 We could explore many passages further. For instance: Matt 22:44; Luke 10:17-19; Acts 2:35; Rom 16:20; 1 Cor 15:25; Gal 3:16; 4:4; Eph 1:20-22; Heb 2:5-9, 14-15; 10:13; Rev 12; 22:16. We could also look at the two collective seeds in the NT, those who follow Satan and those who follow their Savior.
 Of course everyone is the finally the seed of the Eve but this is a literary devise showing the significance of Jesus.
 Hamilton cites Wifall in “The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman,” 43.
 Alexander, “Seed” in The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 772.