The Seed of the Woman - Genesis 3:14f - Garden of Eden - So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
We think of the promises to Adam and Eve, in God’s purposes as revealed back even in the Garden. Right there in Genesis three, God speaks to the woman, and to the man, and to the serpent. That the seed of the woman will bruise the serpent’s head. The seed of the serpent will bruise the heel of the woman’s seed. One is a death blow – a capital blow (head = caput), which happened to Satan in the death of Christ and in His resurrection, victorious over the grave and sin and hell – over the old Serpent, the Devil. That’s one seed.
The Seed of Abraham - The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me." This involved & included: covenant: promises, covenant blessings (and curses) - land, health, prosperity, long-life; covenant responsibilities – love, defend, worship, fight for, honour; covenant symbols: Sabbath, Circumcision, Passover.
There’s another seed where God. Finlay Edge talked about this when I was a young pastor. Through you and through your seed I will bless all the nations (the ethne – the peoples) of the earth. God comes to Abraham one day and says, in effect, I have not given up on this old world, I want to fix, to reclaim the world, I want to bless the world, I want to bless all the peoples of the world – and I want to do it through you; will you be my man? In fact I will bless you and make you to be a great people; and through your and through your seed (note singular), I will bless all the nations of the earth.’
It’s not talking about nation-states as we might today, say the way some colonial power divided up countries without awareness or care that they were dividing traditional tribes and provoking new problems that they thought they could solve but doling out pieces of geography on a map as if they were pieces of a game of RISK. It’s talking about different cultures, sub-cultures, people-groups in the world. We’re talking about Somalis as opposed to Oromos.
We’re talking about ski-crowd, as opposed to horse-back-riding crowd, or hockey moms and dads who are elsewhere other than church most winter Sunday mornings. The ways in which humanity slices and dices society – and also some aspects of the way that God has made us.
Abraham believed and obeyed God – and (says Paul in Romans), God credited righteousness (right standing and rightness) to him. Note ‘seed’ is singular and Paul goes on about this in Galatians to say that, really, Jesus is the promised ‘seed’ of Abraham, and – if you and I are ‘in Christ’ than we are blessed with faithful Abraham, with Jesus heir to all the covenant promise and blessings AND to join with Jesus (and God and Abraham, in spirit, in blessing all the ethne (the peoples) of the earth.
Ours is a missional task because, in paying attention to God (His Word, His will) and seeing that he so loved the cosmos (Jn 3:16 – that is a holistic word: of people, places and things – holistic, the whole of the world and all of its life, structures, purposes, outcomes, etc.) St. Paul takes great pains in his letter to the Galatians to tell us that God was not talking only about, or primarily about Old Testament Israel, as the seed of Abraham – as sons and daughters, as servants of the living God. Of course, they are the children, the seed of Abraham (physically speaking), but Jesus in the Gospels told the heart-harded Pharisess of his day that God was well able to raise up children of Abraham the very stones around them (afterall he has already made all of us human creatures out of the dust and elements of the earth and the rest of us, in fact the larger part of us, physically consists of water.
Paul points out that the true circumcision, the true Israel, is no longer physical Israel but the Church, the NT Israel of God. It’s no longer physical, national but the spiritual seed. (That’s why Baptists only baptize those who by faith and repentance come to Christ as the spiritual seed of Abraham, rather than baptizing (in an Old Testament, even Judaizing way) those who are mere physical descendants of believing parents). The church is comprised of those who are circumcised in heart and who have been baptized as a sign of that being ‘cut off’ and that ordeal that implies may I be cut off and my progeny; may I be cursed and drowned if I renege on my covenant commitment and promise to you, O Lord Christ.
Paul in Galatians that ‘the Seed’ is singular, not plural – and that it refers to Jesus the anointed one (Messiah, the Christ). And if we are ‘in Christ’ we are the children of promise of faithful Abraham, to us now resound the covenant promises, blessings – and responsibilities. All of the covenant promises and all of the covenant purposes now are ours who with Christ are called bless all the ethne of the earth.
Paul sees the church as inheriting the corporate vocation of God's covenant people, Israel. Paul is concerned with defining and maintaining a corporate identity for his young churches, which are emphatically countercultural communities. His letters should be read primarily as instruments of community formation.
A loving, purpose-full God sends human messengers forth to declare his truth and reveal his plans - and to model His loving, righteous ways. As with Abraham, the father and founder of the by-then idolotrous, wandering-at-heart nation, Israel, God reveals that He wants to bring all of the world's peoples (and all places and things) back in line with God's original creation purposes - that He wants to bless all the peoples of the earth; and that He wants to do it through His People, all of them His servants - individuals, a nation, a Church that unique reveal and bridge His mercy and grace to all.
This calling and sending of individuals, a nation, pre-eminently in a Son and His Church, reveals the mission-heart of God, who through such frail instruments is re-creating all that has been distorted, marred or thwarted, vis a vis original Creation purposes. Isaiah is to speak for God - and so today are we as His Church, Christ’s Body on earth. Like him, we too are to go and (by the total witness of our lives and our lips) to call out to those who will hear, who will see their own need for cleansing and restoration for (and to) the purposes God has uniquely called them.
God comes still to us - as individuals, as His People, the Church today. We worship His holiness and power. We bow before Him. We acknowledge again our unworthiness to be near Him, let alone to serve Him. We are in awe that in fresh and powerful, still compelling ways, He reveals Himself and ourselves anew to us. And we remember that He comes near that (such privilege !) He might again release us to the tasks of showing and telling His purposes - His love, mercy and grace - everywhere, in all of life, to all people.
Abraham was ‘called out’ before he was ‘called to.’ Perhaps one cannot live a mission–shaped life if one does not leave somewhere, some people, some family, some friends, some things that are precious. One cannot go without having a sacrificial heart, willing to do without, do with less; willing to strike out in a new way for God along Life’s Journey – following, heeding, obeying.
One can live in the same house and with the same people and have ‘gone out’ and one can travel miles away and never really have ‘gone out’ in obedience and faith. The geography is not necessarily the point; the obedience, the heart-attitude, the inclination and intent is.
Abraham – God called – I want to bless all the peoples of the earth; and, guess what? – I want to do it through you. Through you I will bless all the peoples of the earth. Will you join me in this great reclamation project? Will you be my man in this? Will you dare to believe that through you and through your ‘seed’ this will be accomplished. You will be the father of faith, the father of peoples, the father of this faithful/obedient way of joining in what I am doing – called, elect for these purposes; unique, set aside, special, holy and active instruments and conduits of my grace, forgiveness, mercy, new starts – so that people through the second Adam (indeed the true ‘Seed’ of Abraham) can be fully restored to true humanity, to original creation-mandate purposes.
The Seed that is Jesus - I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12)
Jesus – ‘seed’ (singular) - not seeds. See Paul's argument in Galatians 3:16 - The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ.
This means that all who are ‘in Christ’ are called not only to the blessings and responsibilities of Abraham and the People of God. We are also called to mission - the Mission of God; Jews and Gentiles by the Spirit of Jesus as a Light to the World.