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" I lift up my eyes to the hills --- from where will my help come?" (Ps 121:1)

Justice. We have been analyzing the consequences that the sin brought into the history of humankind. Truly, man got involved into a problem he could not solve. God’s justice demanded that the punishment for sin —death— should be carried out. If the punishment is not carried out, how can justice take place? God could not overlook sin and declare human beings as innocent. On the other side, man was a slave of the devil, now the "ruler of the world" (Jn 12:31). Who could take away from the devil the dominion over the earth that God had given to man, who voluntarily had surrendered himself to the temptation of Satan?

God does not lag behind. However, God has shown that he has not left man alone to his fate. When he cursed the serpent, God made a promise: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel" (Gen 3:15). From the seed of the woman would come someone who could confront the devil, evidently someone who would not carry the seed of sin within him, someone who could reverse the consequences of the rebelliousness of humankind, someone capable of finishing with sin, with its inducer and with death. A glimpse of Light was caught upon in the horizon, a hope for all humankind.

God’s love. God had created human beings in his image out of love. Now human beings have distorted this likeness to their Creator, losing the life in the spirit, so God now said: "You are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Gen 3:19), thus indicating what awaits us and what we really are without him. However, God continued loving human beings, wanting to restore his image in the latter. For this, God’s Spirit searched for friendship and communion with men that were just, of upright heart, to whom he did show mercy and saved from dangers and evils. The history of God’s relationship with humankind shows itself as a love history and a history of salvation.

  • We see this, par example with Enoch. Of him the Scriptures said: "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him" (Gen 5:24).
  • Or with Noah and his family: "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God" (Gen 6:9). And God established a covenant with him to save him from the floods and to use him to repopulate the earth.
  • The story of Abraham is also very meaningful. Abraham was not only God’s friend, but also received from God the promise of becoming father of many nations and another great promise: "I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, from everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you" (Gen 17:17), thus blessing the descendants of Abraham.
  • God confirmed his covenant with the descendants promised to Abraham: his son Isaac, his grandson Jacob (or Israel) and the sons of Jacob: Joseph and his brothers who gave origin to the tribes of Israel.
  • Joseph saved his brothers from famine, later on Moses saved the Israelites from slavery to Egypt, and many other men and women were chosen by God to be instruments of liberation for his people, of salvation from their enemies and to guide them towards God: Josuah, Gideon, Samuel, Elijah or Esther among others.

Especially in the days of Moses, the people saw in a powerful way the salvation of God: they were saved from death in Egypt, when the angel of death passed by, they were saved from their enemies while crossing the Red Sea, or saved from the deadly bite of the desert snakes.

Covenant. God always desired to protect from destruction a remnant among men and to establish a covenant with them, be it through the floods, making them escape from a perverse generation, or later on handing down to them his Laws and forbidding idolatry to the people he had chosen. This struggle for justice kept alive the hope that a holy people would be set free from the wrath that justice demanded on account of sin. However, transgressions to the Law, kept this people in condemnation. Someone had to obey all the Law, all the justice, someone who must not transgress the Law but should embody it in its integrity, only a just could bring salvation to all the people, and not only save them of the curse of sin, but also from the curse of the Law, since failure to observe the Law would made them deserve the curses contained in the Law.

Redemption. In the Laws that God gave to his people he established that every seven years, in the year of mercy, all that has been pledged as payment of debts should be returned. This presupposed a great relief, postponing by one year, the payment of debts, and allowing the recovery of all that was pledged till that moment inclusive of the work as slave to some relative or some land whose fruits have been compromised by the debt: "Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts. And this is the manner of remission: every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it from a neighbor who is a member of the community, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed" (Dt 15:1-2).

But there was a day all waited for. Every seven sabbatical years, after forty-nine years, the redemption and the pardon of all debts took place, coinciding with the day of the feast of the atonement for sin: "Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month —on the day of atonement— you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family" (Lev 25:9-10). This was an opportunity that was coming once in a lifetime. And it presupposed total freedom from all charges and the complete remission of all debts for all inhabitants, allowing them to begin a new life, a recovery of freedom to whomsoever had lost it, recovery of lands, and reunion of families that had been separated by slavery. Truly, it was a new opportunity.

Shadow and Light. All this Salvation History that we have been remembering in broad sketches is nothing else but the shadow of the Light that presupposed the definitive liberation, the definitive salvation from all evils. If God has intervened in favor of a people through men sent by him, couldn’t he send someone special, to whom all humankind could look at, to save them from all evils?

Precisely, for all these acts to be possible, taking into account that this was going to be a definitive salvation, there was the need to bring forward and to feel the reach of a sufficient and complete work. These were not the battles of a war of an uncertain end, they were fruits of a victory that went beyond time.

If Enoch was saved from death it was because someone walked with him and brought him close to redemption; if Noah was saved from the waters it was because someone was with him, directing the Ark; if Moses crossed the Red Sea it was because someone opened it to him and for the people of Israel and who walked before them, someone before whom death, sea, and waters had to move backward. Someone whom was expected during centuries, had made himself present amongst them.

The sentence that hanged over humankind said: "You shall die" (Gen 2:17). What relief could then humankind expect? Only the redemption of a year of special grace, a time of definitive jubilee, during which someone assumed the debt, the sin, the guilt and the death of humankind, one who could restore life to those who had died, and could give new life to humankind. An unique opportunity, that could present itself only once, but which could be sufficient for the one who invoked remission, as in the Old Covenant, but this for once. A New Covenant was necessary, that could bring about definitive salvation. However, who could seal this New Covenant between God and humankind? Who could be the redeemer and savior?

Questions for sharing:

  • What God’s justice demands?
  • God’s love for man motivated him to do what?
  • Of what, or of whom the salvation history speaks to us?

 

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