Tag Archives: Sacrifice

“God is a gardener” by Andrew Wilson

“God is a gardener.

We know this from the second chapter of Scripture. “The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east” (Gen. 2:8), and this garden is complete with trees, fruits, vegetables, flowers, rivers, minerals, onyx, gold, birds, animals, human beings, marriage, sex, life, and the presence of God himself (Gen. 2:9–25).

It is not just lush and idyllic—the Greek word for garden here, paradeisos, gives us our word paradise— but enormous as well, and probably mountainous, given that it serves as the source for four rivers.

It is more like a primeval Yosemite than a vegetable patch or a manicured lawn. By planting a garden, placing humanity in it, and walking alongside them in the cool of the day, God is showing us the connection between his creativity, his love, his abundance (every tree that was pleasant to the eye and good for food, every beast of the field, every living creature, and so on), and above all his presence.

Eden is a place of life, love, and harmony because God lives there. The first garden is a temple, and from now on all temples will be gardens.

That might sound like a stretch, until we study the designs of the tabernacle and the temple in detail (which, since they are lengthy and a bit repetitive, most of us don’t). They are full of garden imagery, pointing us to the verdant, lush, life-giving bounty of the gardener God who lives there.

Consider: the temple is made out of cedar trees, “carved in the form of gourds and open flowers,” and the floor is boarded with cypress (1 Kings 6:15–18).

Like Eden, it is guarded by cherubim, built on a mountain, entered from the east, and adorned with gold and onyx (1 Chron. 29:2). The doors of the sanctuary are made of olivewood, carved with palm trees and flowers in bloom (1 Kings 6:31–32).

The bronze pillars are festooned with hundreds of pomegranates, and “on the tops of the pillars was lily-work” (1 Kings 7:20–22).

The panels are set with livestock (oxen) and wild beasts (lions), and as you walk across the court, you find yourself surrounded by fresh water (1 Kings 7:23–29). There is a tree-shaped lampstand outside the Holy of Holies, and a further ten made of pure gold (1 Kings 7:49).

It would have felt like an orchard, a well-watered garden, a paradeisos. It spoke to Israel: the God of the garden lives here. Welcome.

So gardens are places of abundance and divine presence. But they are also places of romance and love. The first marriage and the first love song took place in a garden (Gen. 2:18–25), and this profound mystery is a picture of the love between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31–32).

Numerous biblical couples get together in garden-like places, under trees or at wells or both.

The Song of Solomon is full of plants, trees, flowers, orchards, fruits, fountains, and gardens, reinforcing the connection between our intimacy with God and our intimacy with one another.

This connection, interestingly, is still reflected today, every time a couple gets married surrounded by carnations, arbors, garlands, lilies, trellises, and petals of confetti.

We design our wedding venues like a garden of love, not least because we first knew love in a garden. Yet the garden is also a place of tragedy.

We do not just remember paradise; we remember paradise lost. Eden was not just the garden of love but the garden of love spurned.

Life was rejected in favor of the knowledge of good and evil, marriage was spoiled, and verdant abundance became thorns and thistles and pain in childbirth.

As human beings, we were meant to take the garden with us, filling the earth with the life and harmony we found there, but instead we were exiled from it, frog-marched out by the eastern exit, with cherubim on guard to prevent us from coming back.

From that day on, we lost our unrestricted access to the presence of God, both in the temple-like garden and in the garden-like temple. We have been pining for it ever since.

The human story has been a long and often disastrous series of attempts to get back to the garden.

It is fitting, then—as well as glorious beyond words—that our access back into the garden, with all the abundance and presence and love that goes with it, was secured in two gardens.

The first, which we know as the garden of Gethsemane, reversed the decision of Eden, replacing Adam’s “not your will but mine” with Christ’s “not my will but yours.”

The second, as Jesus stepped out of the tomb just a couple of days later, reversed the consequences of Eden.

Where Adam brought death to everyone in a garden and then went to hide, Christ brought life to everyone in a garden and then made himself as visible as possible.

This connection may be what John is hinting at when he says that Mary thought Jesus was the gardener (John 20:15). In more ways than one, he was.

The result, as Jesus had said while being crucified, is that those who trust him can be brought back to God. “Today you will be with me in [paradeisos]” (Luke 23:43).

We are welcomed into the abundance and vitality of a new and better Eden.

The cherubim blocking your way have been stood down.

The serpent has been crushed.

The garden of love is open, and the Gardener has been preparing a place for you.

When we finally see it, in the final two chapters of Scripture, we get the most delightful sense of déjà vu—there is a river and a tree and leaves and fruit and gold and onyx and a wedding.

And in the midst of it all is God himself, so bright that there is no need for the sun, and so present that there is no need for a temple (Rev. 21:22–23).

Welcome home.”

–Andrew Wilson, God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 81-84.

1 Comment

Filed under Andrew Wilson, Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Creation, Eschatology, Jesus Christ, Pierced For Our Transgressions, Poetry, Providence, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Reading, The Gospel

“The new creation will be dust free” by Andrew Wilson

“A Christian understanding of humanity places a strong emphasis on the image of God, and the essential dignity and grandeur that it confers to all people.

We are kings, priests, ambassadors, rulers, made for a little while lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honor (Ps. 8:5), and that has crucial implications for the way we treat one another.

But alongside that (vital) emphasis on dignity, there is also an appropriate humility that comes from remembering that “I . . . am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27) and that “he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14).

Knowing that we come from the ground keeps us grounded; the Latin word humus, which means “soil” or “earth,” gives us the words humility and human.

And there is such reassurance in knowing that God, in his compassion and fatherly kindness, sees us not only as princes, expected to rule the world, but also as dust and ashes, expected to fail sometimes and cry out for rescue.

As Hannah sang so beautifully, one of his favorite hobbies is lifting people from the dust and ashes—marginal, broken, poor, and needy people like her, and indeed like me—and seating us with the princes (1 Sam. 2:8). We are dust, and to dust we shall return.

We may find it liberating, unsettling, or terrifying, but it is true nonetheless: one day the cells that compose us will be swirling in the autumn leaves, wedged between sofa cushions, and hidden behind radiators. The same is true of all the world’s most powerful and influential people.

As with Ozymandias in Shelley’s famous poem, their apparently invincible empires will finally turn to dust. So will we. But only for a while.

Ultimately, as Daniel saw, “those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). Dry bones in a death valley will be filled with divine breath and raised to life (Ezek. 37:1–12).

In Adam we are all dust people, and we decompose accordingly, but in Christ we then rise to become heavenly people for whom dust and decay, mortality and corruptibility, are things of the past.

Paul, describing the resurrection to people who couldn’t quite believe it, explains that “just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49).

Our future, Paul says, will be modeled not on the man who came out of the soil but on the man who came out of the tomb.

So get all your hoovering done now. The new creation will be dust free.”

–Andrew Wilson, God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 12-13.

Leave a comment

Filed under Andrew Wilson, Bible, Christian Theology, Creation, Jesus Christ, Pierced For Our Transgressions, Poetry, Providence, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Reading, The Gospel

“Except the Lamb” by Andrew Wilson

“Farm animals are substitutes.

They might be sinfully fashioned as replacements for God, like a golden calf or a bull’s head.

They might represent people in worship, like a ram rising as a smoky offering into the presence of God.

They might take the consequences of sins upon themselves, like the two goats on the Day of Atonement.

But they are imperfect substitutes. They cannot measure up to the reality they represent.

They don’t offer themselves willingly; they have to be sacrificed over and over again, day after day, year after year, giving us a regular reminder of how sinful we are; and although they can cleanse us externally and ritually, they cannot cleanse us internally as well, making us perfectly holy and releasing our consciences forever.

For these reasons, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). Livestock always fall short.

Except the Lamb.

There is one farm animal who is worshiped not just by a handful of idolatrous Israelites but by every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev. 7:9–10).

There is one farm animal who offers Himself so willingly, sheds His blood so unreservedly, and ascends to God so permanently that He is able to take billions of people with Him, straight into the presence of God.

There is one farm animal whose substitutionary offering for sin is so perfect that it can save anyone, cleanse the conscience, and last forever.

In Genesis, a ram substituted for one young man (Gen. 22:13).

In Exodus, a lamb substituted for each family (Ex. 12:3).

In Leviticus, a goat substituted for the nation (Leviticus 16).

In the gospel, a Lamb substituted for the entire human race.

‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29)”

–Andrew Wilson, God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 31-32.

Leave a comment

Filed under Andrew Wilson, Bible, Christian Theology, Creation, Jesus Christ, Pierced For Our Transgressions, Poetry, Providence, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Reading, The Gospel

“Your omnipotence is never far from us, even when we are far from You” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Your omnipotence is never far from us, even when we are far from You.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Confessions (trans. Henry Chadwick; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 400/1992), 25. (II.ii.3)

Leave a comment

Filed under Augustine, Bible, Christian Theology, Christology, Doxology, Incarnation, Jesus Christ, Love of God, Pierced For Our Transgressions, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

“The one able to ascend is the Adam-like high priest, with blood, on the Day of Atonement” by L. Michael Morales

“The tabernacle was not merely the earthly house of God, but the way to God– the way of YHWH. Now, keeping in mind the parallels between the garden of Eden and the tabernacle, one may discern readily how the entrance into the holy of holies, ‘the archetypal priestly act,’ comprised a liturgical drama: the annual re-entry into the garden of Eden.

On the Day of Atonement Adam’s eastward expulsion from the garden of Eden was reversed as the high priest, a cultic Adam, ascended westward through the cherubim-woven veil and into the summit of the cultic mountain of God.

At the heart of the Pentateuch, we find an answer to the question Who shall ascend into the mountain of YHWH? The one able to ascend is the Adam-like high priest, with blood, on the Day of Atonement.

This is the way YHWH has opened for humanity to dwell in His Presence. Within the narrative progression, then, atonement, along with its elements of purification and ransom, is that which enables the return to YHWH God, a reversal of Eden’s expulsion.”

–L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus (ed. D. A. Carson; vol. 37; New Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, IL; England: InterVarsity Press; Apollos, 2015), 176-177.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Communion with God, Jesus Christ, Leviticus, Pierced For Our Transgressions, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel, Worship

“How you loved us, good Father” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Inasmuch as He was a man, He was a mediator, but inasmuch as He is the Word, He is not in the middle, because He is equal to God, and is God in the presence of God, and one God together with Him.

How you loved us, good Father, who did not spare your only Son, but handed Him over for the sake of us, the wicked!

How you loved us, for whose sake Your Son, through not considering it an act of robbery to be Your equal, was subjugated and reduced clear to death on the cross!

But He was the only one among the dead with free will, having both the power to lay down His life and the power to take it up again.

For our sake, He was both Your victor and Your sacrificial victim, and the victor because He was the victim.

For our sake He was both Your sacrificing priest and Your sacrifice, and He was the priest because He was the sacrifice. He was born from You yet acted as our slave, thereby turning us from Your slaves into Your sons.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. Sarah Ruden (New York: Modern Library, 2017), 341-342.

Leave a comment

Filed under Augustine, Bible, Christian Theology, Christology, Doxology, Incarnation, Jesus Christ, Love of God, Pierced For Our Transgressions, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

“The blood of the lamb” by Timothy Keller

“Imagine you were in Egypt just after that first Passover. If you stopped Israelites in those days and said, ‘Who are you and what is happening here?’ they would say, ‘I was a slave, under a sentence of death, but I took shelter under the blood of the lamb and escaped that bondage, and now God lives in our midst and we are following Him to the Promised Land.’

That is exactly what Christians say today. If you trust in Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice, the greatest longings of your heart will be satisfied on the day you sit down for that eternal feast in the promised kingdom of God.”

–Timothy Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (New York: Dutton, 2011), 172.

1 Comment

Filed under Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Exodus, Jesus Christ, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel, Tim Keller