We are aware that many things that Jesus did, said and experienced, are fulfillments of prophecies in the Old Testament. Some of these prophecies were explicit and mentioned in the New Testament of having been fulfilled.
Some of these prophecies, however, were also implicit – meaning that they were not directly and explicitly revealed. These were events in the Old Testament that implied that they would find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Today I want to tell you about one such event in the Bible. I’ve called it: Jesus in the darkness – Calvary of the Old Testament.
We read in Gen.15:8-9 that, when Abram (God has at that time not yet changed his name to Abraham) having listened closely to the promises that God had given him, asked: “Lord God, by what shall I know that I shall inherit it?”
He was actually asking God to give him some proof that He would honor His promises. And God said: “Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.” That was it! Nothing more. What was God actually telling him?
Let us use an example from everyday life: If my friend undertakes to do something for me and I should ask him: “How will I know that you’ll really do it?”, he may answer me: “Bring me a pen and paper!”. I will immediately know what he means: he is going to write his promises on paper and sign it. I may even write down my friend’s promises myself and then let him sign it.
Abram knew immediately what God was telling him – He would make a covenant with him. This is equivalent to our signed contracts today.
Now we have already seen that Abraham was a very rich man. He surely did not become that rich without having made many covenants (i.e. contracts) with others. So he knew the rules of how a covenant was made.
So Abram went and got the animals that God had specified, slaughtered them, prepared them for the making of the covenant that God had implied, and waited.
Now while Abram was waiting for God to come and make the covenant (like we would sign a contract today), let us for a moment consider how such a covenant was usually made. The two covenanter’s, after they have agreed on the detail, would walk side by side through between the divided animal carcasses.
That was the “signature” of the “contract”. But there was always a “fine print” attached to such covenant-making. The fine print was an automatic, unspoken “self-accursing” phrase that went approximately as follows: “I swear that I will honour the stipulations of this covenant. If I should violate any one of them, may I then be accursed, and may then happen to me what has happened to these animals.” What an undertaking to sign! (Sometimes the covenant-makers would afterwards eat a “covenant meal” together).
So while Abram was waiting for God to come, he fell fast asleep and, before the sun had actually gone down, “a horror of great darkness fell upon him!” (Gen15:12). This is important to note: a great darkness even before the sun had set. And during that darkness (while it still should have been daylight!) God added some more to His already existing promises.
And then came the making of the covenant – in the darkness of after-sunset: God passed between those carcasses in the form of “a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp”. Some Hebrew scholars would understand this Hebrew phrasing as really describing a furnace that was burning so fiercely that it spewed smoke and fire that even lit up the surroundings.
Notice here also: The smoke and the fire! Two of the three signs of God’s wrath and punishment in the Old Testament. (The third one is water.)
But did you notice something strange and unusual in the making of this particular covenant? God passed between those carcasses alone! Alone! Why? What would the consequences thereof be? And what about the “curse of the covenant”?
Would not this curse be for the account of God Himself in the case of any violation of the covenant? After all, He implied that He represented not only Himself but also Abram as “signatory” to the covenant.
Now, what if Abram (and his posterity – which God had included in the covenant) should violate the covenant? At whom would the curse of the covenant and the wrath of God then be directed?
Now I must confess: what I’m about to explain, is merely my own understanding of this situation (or dilemma, if you will!).
Jesus in the darkness
The first thing that caught my attention about this narrative, is that “a horror of great darkness” fell upon Abram even before the sun had set – that is, it was still daylight.
Where else in the Bible do we find that darkness fell before sunset? No other place than when Jesus was dying on the cross of Calvary – His crucifixion – forsaken of God and accursed – bearing the curse of the covenant violation.
I understand that God, in His loving mercy, already knew that no man could stay true to the covenant. By implication, He anticipated the violation of the covenant, by Abraham and his posterity.
He knew that no mere man is able to bear His righteous wrath and “live to tell the tale”. And in His loving mercy, He already had His plan of salvation worked out in the person of Jesus Christ.
God would not let the curse come down on man – in spite of their sins and iniquities. Did you notice what happened at man’s falling into sin (Gen.3:14-19)? God cursed the serpent and He cursed the ground because of man’s folly, but He never cursed man! Yes, He pronounced punishment, but not a curse.
Now someone may ask: If God then does not let the curse come down on those He loves, why then did it come down on His beloved Son Jesus?
Here we must tread carefully. Remember that we can never really comprehend God so as to explain why and how He acts like He does. He said: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways” (Isaiah.55:8).
Remember also that Jesus is actually God Himself who has taken on the flesh of man. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. (John.1:1) “And the Word became flesh, and lived among us” (v.14). Jesus Christ is God over all (Romans.9:5). He actually is the true God (1John.5:20).
God, Himself took the curse of the covenant violation, alias sin, upon Himself and died because of it – for you and for me – because He has chosen and elected us even before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:4).
And we may note that all according to His plan of salvation, long before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, God has already revealed: “for he that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut.21:23).“
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone having been hanged on a tree (Gal 3:13”); 14 “so that the blessing of Abraham might be to the nations in Jesus Christ”.
In the darkness of Calvary, Jesus, being accursed of God in our stead, cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mat.27:44-45).
And that is why I call the narrative of the covenant in Genesis.15: Jesus in the darkness – Calvary of the Old Testament. Jesus made it happen!
Jesus in the darkness by Gideon Aggenbag.
Part two of the Series – Jesus in the Old Testament.
Read part three – Covenant messengers sent by God.
Mind On Jesus