With God’s perfect creation now desperately marred by the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin, it seemed as if all was lost. God’s creation that he had once described as “good” was now full of evil. Adam and Eve had children, and when they had become adults, their second child, Cain, murdered their firstborn, Abel. Through the generations, the evil only increased.
“The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” Genesis 6:5-6 (NIV)
But, God had not given up on his creation. God chose certain people throughout history to bless and establish covenants with. The largest of these covenants was made with a man named Moses. The Mosaic Covenant, as it’s often called, comprises the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy in the Bible. This covenant outlined how Israel, the country God had chosen to establish his covenant with, would live in relation to God and restore the Eden that had been lost in the fall. Israel was to be the country through which God would bless the world and restore the relationship that had been lost through sin. But, unfortunately, the rest of the Old Testament reveals that they couldn’t live up to the standards God had set forth in the Law (Law = Mosaic Covenant). The standards were too high. Indeed, part of the reason God established the Law was to show mankind that we could never achieve the perfection we lost through sin. We could never restore the broken relationship between us and God through our own efforts to be good. The Law showed us that we were hopeless and helpless before a perfect God, and it revealed our sin all the more.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 (NIV)
But, God was orchestrating a plan. God promised salvation to those who had faith, and he promised that one day he would send someone who would undo the curse brought about through sin. This “Messiah,” or “Christ,” would break the bondage of sin and restore man into right relationship with God. One of God’s prophets, Isaiah, foretold of this coming Messiah over 700 years before his birth:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
This Messiah, as promised in Genesis 3, would be a man who would “bear the sins” of the people he represented. He would be “pierced” and murdered to pay the penalty of our sins, though he himself would be sinless. He would pay the price for the sins that mankind had committed, and would commit in the future. Through his death, salvation would be offered to mankind.