ERICK ERICKSON: From Tent to Glory
In the beginning was a garden. And in that garden were two people and their God. God had created the man and woman in his image and set them above the rest of creation. But Adam and Eve sinned and thereby severed their personal, direct relationship with their Creator. God cannot tolerate sin. All of human history is about God working to have a relationship with us again, where we can walk together.
Thousands of years ago, God told a man named Abraham to leave his family behind, go to a promised land, and have only the God who spoke creation into being as his God. He promised Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Abraham entered the covenant with God by dividing animals in half. In ancient times this is how a covenant was entered. The servant would accept the king’s covenant and walk between animal parts to symbolize what would happen to the servant if he did not keep his part of the deal.
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. God was showing Abraham that if Abraham and his descendants did not keep their end of the deal, God would die in their place.
Later, God gave Moses the law and the people entered into a covenant with God. The people said they would accept God’s laws. “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words,” Moses said as he sprinkled blood over the people. Exodus 24:8. They would die if they violated the laws.
God then established a kingdom with King David. David told the prophet Nathan he wanted to build a house for God. But God replied, “I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.” 2 Samuel 7:6. God so wanted a relationship with his people, he was willing to travel through the desert in a tent. And instead of letting David build God a house, God said he would 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,” God told David. 2 Samuel 7:12-14.
So God shows Abraham that God will die if Abraham’s descendants break their covenant. But then the people tell God that they’ll die. God tells David that his heir will have a lasting kingdom, but will be punished by men for doing wrong.
How does God reconcile these promises and restore our relationship with him? He is made flesh, God incarnate in a manger. He came in human form, born to die. He takes on the sins of the world and dies in our place. From the garden he moved to a tent, then a manger, then into a grave from which he rose again to glory. God kept his promises and so badly wants a relationship with us he was not only willing to live in a tent in the desert, but to die on a cross.
This Christmas, as the burdens overwhelm you, be overwhelmed by God’s desire for a relationship with you. All you have to do is accept his gift. He is knocking. All you must do is answer the door and invite him in. Merry Christmas.