The Missing Child Print
Theology
Written by Toby Sumpter   
Monday, 14 February 2011 13:03

One way of telling the story of the Old Testament is as a missing child bulletin. After Adam and Eve sin and are driven from the garden, the problem is with children, incessantly. Cain murders Abel, and Cain is driven from the land. Adam and Eve are effectively childless.

God promised a seed of the woman who would come and crush the seed of the dragon. And so with good reason we are looking for a child. But Seth is born, and the genealogies come rolling out like missing child ads at the post office. Face after face, name after name, Jared begot Methuselah, begot so-and-so, begot, begot, begot. All those “begots” and the child is still missing. The child is missing because the seed of the dragon is still alive and kicking, the child is missing because these children, these ‘begotten sons’ keep growing old and dying. Even Methuselah dies.

And that problem underlines the first problem: sin. Before Adam sinned, Adam was a child. After Adam sinned, Adam began to grow old. He died under the curse of God and his body began to conform to that curse over the years that followed. The dragon kills the children; he always gets the children eventually. One after another, they die. They struggle valiantly, and in the beginning they struggled for centuries. Eight hundred years, nine hundred years, but the curse was still there, and the dragon always won.

We need a child. The child is missing, lost, and we’re searching. Generations pile up at Noah’s feet and still the children keep growing up, growing old. And the dragon keeps getting them. Where’s the child who will kill the dragon? It must be a certain kind of child, a miracle child, a son begotten differently.

Abraham is childless. He is searching for a child. Is it Eliezer of Damascus? O let it be him, Lord! It isn’t Eliezar of Damascus. What about Ishmael? He’s from Abraham’s loins. No, it has to be from Sarah’s dead womb. God will trick the barren womb into laughing. Could the laughing child be the missing child? But Isaac grows old and blind. Isaac’s laughter is eventually quelled by the dragon. Death always wins.

The tension on Mt. Moriah, the horror of God’s command to Abraham to kill his son, his only son, and offer him as a sacrifice is not just a question of justice or divine culpability for murder. The question is not only about God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah and the promised seed down from the days of Adam.

If we go back to the beginning, there is a pivotal line that pushes the tension even higher. Adam was created in the image and likeness of God. Adam looks like God. And of course Eve shares in this image bearing. But then the Fall, then Cain and Abel, then Adam and Eve are childless. Then Seth. And after the birth of Seth, Moses writes a quick recap for us before plunging into the “begots.” He reminds us that Adam was made in the image and likeness of God (5:1). Don’t forget that part. It’s underlined in red ink in the autographs. Adam was created in the image and likeness of God. And then comes verse three: “When Adam had lived 130 years, he begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”

Seth is Adam’s son. And we know this not only because the text says this, but we also know this for the same reason we know that most children belong to their father. Seth looks like his dad. There’s a family resemblance. But this pushes us back to Adam. If Seth is made in the image and likeness of Adam and is Adam’s son, then this means that Adam, being in the image and likeness of God, is God’s son. And Luke tells us this explicitly: Adam was the first son of God in human history (Lk. 3:38). But Adam grew old under sin. The son of God is missing.

And this is the point: not only is the Old Testament the story of a missing child, not only must this child be begotten differently, not only must this child be a miracle, the tension is with God Himself. God has excommunicated a son from the garden, and now God is effectively childless. In this world, in our story, even God is barren. And so the promise of the seed of the woman is not merely for humanity, but understood rightly, this humanity, this family line following Seth, then Noah, then Abraham, this family is God’s estranged family, His dying family, His children grown old. We are not merely looking for a human child; we are looking for a human child who will also be the son of God. And if Isaac dies, God has killed His own son.

Wonderfully, the New Testament writers unveil the missing child: Jesus is the Son, the Child, and He has faced the dragon. This Child is the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. He was laid on an altar on another mountain, and He bled and died under the curse. But Jesus tricked the grave into laughing, and He won the right to stay young and save His family. And though the dragon tried to devour Him, He was caught up to the throne of God where the Child rules all the nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 12:5). And so we finally realize that it was God’s Son who was missing. The missing Child was missing from God’s house, from heaven. But the epiphany of the ages has occurred, or rather the Theophany: the Son has been found. God is not childless. God is Father, Son, and Spirit.



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