I was at my last church for a few months before we went through a few incredibly challenging years. Some issues came up about former leaders, pulling the church out of it ministry affiliation, talking through differing opinions. We then had to restructure the church to be independent. Slow going. Then we had to work through a lawsuit based on some terrible false allegations and all kinds of questions on that. And then we had to work through the senior pastor transitioning. I have talked to pastors with challenging circumstances but have yet to meet one that I thought or they thought their challenges came close to what we were going through.
I remember being in an elders meeting where we were facing some crucial decisions and you felt the weight of them pressing on you, and then on of the older guys on the team who had been at the church a long time, who always had sage wisdom, and a gift for comic relief, spoke up and said guys, these reminds me of a scene in Lord of the Rings.” Those nearby leaned in to glean from him and he said, “yes, it’s like when things aren’t looking good for Froddo and Sam Wise, the evil guys are pressin down upon them, and Sam turns to Froddo and says, “We never should have left the shire!” We got a laugh, but we also took encouragement. There are obstacles in life and if you knew the challenges you probably never would have done them.
You have probably heard similar sayings when things go wrong. Maybe it’ s, “Totto, we’ re not in Kansas any more. Maybe its “Houston, we have a problem.”
Last week we looked at God’s creation of the world. A good world in which a sovereign God created all things and called people to live under his rule. It’s a beautiful and illuminating account of creation. You might read that and then say, “What happened??” Well, we are not in Kansas, we are not at the shire, and neither are we in the garden of delights. Today we are looking at what went wrong with the world, the fall of creation.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." 11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12 The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
14 The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."
16 To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
17 And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." 20 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. 22 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever--" 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:1-24 ESV)
● The Temptation
The serpent comes to the woman and tempts her to disobey God. People have debated if the serpent was an actual snake that walked or if Satan used the snake to do his bidding. What we do know is evil is in the world, and the serpent that tempts Eve is the leader of that evil. Later identified as Satan.
And Satan tempts her to questions God’s authority and goodness. “Did he really say... How outlandish is that. Surely you don’t believe.” It’s a subtle attack that fits the nature of a serpent. The serpent is not a ferocious lion that comes directly at you in all it power displayed. It hides and moves slow and stealthily. Satan continues to tempt people to doubt God’s word. Jesus temptation was of over God’s word.
● Questioned God’s command (“Did God really say?” )
● Contradicted God’s judgment (“You shall not surely die.” )
● Slandered God’s goodness (Paraphrase God’s trying to keep something from you)
People do not wake up focused on denying God, desiring to go to hell, or to serve Satan. It often comes in subtle distractions and denials. Not a great big one. Don’t give in!
It also means that you don’t trust everything that comes into your mind. You don’t do just whatever you want. Eve is essentially a relativist. She says there is no absolute truth, there is nothing I need to conform to or follow.
Now you may ask, why would God test them like this. I don’t know. We are not given an answer. You may have challenges and you are asking “why this God?” There are answers to this question. But what’s more important is to note that God simply wanted his people to walk with him. And this is a fundamental question for us today. What do you want out of life? Are you content to just walk with God.
● The Sin
Last week we talked about how God rules the world through his Word. Its how he acts in the world. People know God through his word. In Genesis 2:16 God gives further instructions on how to image him by commanding the man not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The man should have instructed his wife. Their failure is a failure to know and trust God’s word. I mean you have one thing that you should do. How hard can it be!? Don’t be surprised at your kids disobedience.
In this temptation note v3 that Eve doesn’t get God’s word right. She says not just that you shouldn’t eat it, but that you shouldn’t touch it. She is the first legalist. She goes above what God requires. You could see how vulnerable she is here. I can imagine Satan curled around the fruit and saying see you won’t die! Eve adds to God’s word and Adam fumbles it. Like so many problems with couples today ! Satan is between Adam and Eve, between them and God’s word. **Couples** where can you grow closer in your unity, partnership, and devotion?
She is ultimately swayed to failure because of an alleged benefit. It was good for food. Just as with any sin we see the benefit of it, but we fail to see it severs us from God.
But the biggest draw is that “You will be like God,” that is equal to him. Knowing and doing the same things God knows and does. The idol of self rears its ugly head and it continues to do so in us. Sin is rational in that we always have a reason, but it is also irrational in that the reason never makes a lot of sense. It is impossible for a creature to become equal to the one creating. The sin was not one of imitation but of substitution. Us substituting ourselves for God. We want to be the one in authority.
The Fall leads to a downward spiral. They disobey God, and then they feel shame. They realize they are both naked and so they try to hide. They become afraid because they heard God coming. They Blame shift. The man says its the woman’s fault, she says its Satan’s fault. They have no sorrow, no contrition, no move toward God for reconciliation.
And this pattern continues today. How often do you think you can gain some benefit by going against God’s commands. It then leads to a spinning of stories. The fall of Adam and Eve is not unlike the fall many of us have experienced. The amazing thing with this narrative is that it is so easy to identify with. Even though it’s thousands of years old, you see it play out every day.
3. The Consequences
Just as a person breaking the law today deserves punishment, that also happens with God. We want forgiveness right away, but for true forgiveness one must be aware of the severity of their offense. There are consequences for their disobedience. God is faithful to his words, both to bless and to punish. We do well to heed what he says. There is grace here, but there is a sobering judgment.
The world changes because of this first sin. God said death would come and it does come, but it is not immediate. He delays the ultimate consequence, so they will experience God’s mercy. The battle of good and evil continue as the seed of the serpent and seed of woman are in conflict. We see that today.
Husbands and wives contend against rather than complement each other. In this interim there is pain. Life is made difficult because of the fall.
Two things to understand about people from here one is they are guilty and corrupt. From this point on the consequences of the fall affect all people every day. It changed the world. The world is now under judgement.
1) They are now guilty, like criminals who have broken the law and deserve punishment for their wrong doing. 2) They are also corrupt, like a batch of apples that is rotting and oozing, and corrupting whats around it. We are corrupt in our nature.
The Bible says we have a sinful nature. Its part of who we are. A few chapters later, “5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:1 ESV).
Its why I get angry when a kids drops his dinner plate. Its why I can look past someone in need. Its why someone cuts me off in traffic and I considering ramming them with my car!
We can all feel this corruption in our hearts. We see it in what others say and write. The philosopher Cicero said, “Man is a disaster.” Joseph Conrad’s book titled Heart of Darkness says it. Sin propels people to do the unthinkable.
Woody Allen: Fertilized desire. Woody Allen in seeking to justify his infamous affair with his former lover’s adopted daughter thirty-five years his junior declared, “The heart wants what it wants. There’s no logic to those things.
~” Secular philosopher and professor of religion at San Francisco State College wrote a book called, “Why Can’t we be Good,” says that even though social theorist, therapists, politicians, and everybody else are working like crazy to write books about how people should live, they forget that everybody basically knows how to live and they just don’t do it. Nobody has the strength to do what we should. Needleman is lost on how people can know what they should do but they can’t and won’ t. Needleman doesn’t know why.” Keller 19.
The Bible says it's sin dwelling in us. The enemy is within!
The movie The Lord of the Rings displays this so well in the characters by the name of Gollum, a villain. But he wasn’t always Gollum. He was once Smeagol, a relatively innocent, fun-loving hobbit who happened upon a magical ring of power. Once he found it, he was consumed by it. The ring became “his precious” possession. It made him invisible . It gave him unnaturally long life . But it came with a high price tag. The ring consumed him . It led him to murder. It drove him away from all that was good to seek comfort in the dark places of the earth. It promised life and power but only delivered darkness and misery. The ring turned him into a monster.
The problem is inside of us. We take it wherever we go. Look at the founding of America. Devoutly religious pilgrims came here to practice their faith. In one generation many of those had fallen away. The people coming out of Egypt saw God’s amazing victories and yet would not trust him to provide food. We live in a prosperous and affluent city, kids struggle with identity, contentment, getting along with their parents. Parents fail to find way to enjoy their kids. Why does that happen? Because sin is inside us. Its crouching at the door waiting to devour us (Gen 4:7).
Sin does to us what the ring did to Smeagol. It turns us into monsters. Sin makes us do things we thought we’d never do. We yell at our kids. We say mean and unkind things to our spouses. Some harbor grudges or unforgiveness. Some commit adultery. Some commit murder.
What’s your ring of power? What has promised you happiness but instead delivered misery? Money, new toys, spouse, cars, kids, family?
Our ultimate problem is not that we need more education. It not that we need better government programs to take care of us. It’s not that we need a raise and need to be promoted to better position. It’s not that we are married or we are not married and it’s not that we need kids or don’t need kids. These solutions just make smarter criminals, wealthier sinners, married or unmarried malcontent people. Our problem is not economic, it not educational, it’s not governmental. Its nothing outside of us. Our problem resides inside us in the double helix of our DNA. It’s in the core of our being. It is so hard to know that our problem is inside of us.
Lymes, in my heart.
This pushes your to find a remedy for your problem. It cause Paul to cry out Romans 7:24 “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Some people think this depiction is too low a view of people.
Adam and Eve first attempted to solve the problem themselves.
They tried to hide from God. You can hide from your parents and might fool them, but you can’t fool the creator of all things who is everywhere present. He will find out.
They also tried to cover their themselves. Sin is gross. Corruption is gross. You want to cover it and hide it. They took fig leaves to cover their shame. Fig leaves are not my first choice for a swim suit. Their usefulness also crumblies with time. It may have been a conceivable idea for the first week. After they dry out they become scratchy and crumble. This is the same with our attempts to cover our sin. We lie about what we have done and at some point people begin to see through it. We say things like “this is what makes me happy” but we feel sick inside. We try to hide in a carton of ice cream, in our office, in the sports page, but those excuses wither and leave us even more empty. Temporary reprieves can divert our attention from the problem but they are incompetent to heal the problem. (suicide?).
God is the one who provide the right remedy. They had to give an account to God. The Bible teaches that every person will have to stand before him and give an account of what we have done. You never get away with it. This is a fearful thing. But let me also tell you how comforting this is for us as we live in an evil age. It sobers me to know that I will be judged by God for how I have lived. It also gives me hope that the wrongs done to me will not go unpunished. All the wrongs in the world where people “got away with it” will be made right.
The Lord provides a suitable covering. What an act of love. The one offended. The one who we wronged is the one who comes with the peace offering. Its bewildering. The sternness and love of God. He sees the pathetic garment they made to hide from him and he comes with a better one. These garments were of skin and would have required the slaughter of an animal in order to be made. That is a significant foreshadowing of a more permanent solution that will solve the problem of sin.
Additionally, in the curse there is also hope. In the ongoing battle between the seed of the serpent and the woman it says, the woman’s seed “ will crush (Satan’ s) head, and (Satan) will strike his heel." (Gen 3:15 NIV). The battle goes on but it will end with the woman’s seed crushing the head of the serpent. That’s a mortal blow. One day all the effect of sin will be wiped away!
This story is a profound story. It illuminates who we are and helps us understand the world we live in. It makes sense of who we are and the challenges that press upon us and also come from within us. The biblical story gives us a profound understanding of our significance as people and bearers of God’s image, but it also gives us a more profound understanding of our own wretchedness that what people today are comfortable hearing.
It also gives us a profound understanding of the love of God. A love that doesn’t give up. Commentator BRuce Waltke said, “The proof of love is the unwillingness to abandon the object of love even when love fails to achieve its desired end.” p92
AS we see the story unfold, we will get a better glimpse of how amazing this God is. We will see the brilliance of God’s image in people, but we will also see just how dirty and fragile this clay image is.