Series: In the beginning... - Part Four
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
January 22, 2017
Over the last 3 Sundays we have been studying through the beginning of Genesis and what is the beginning of everything. What is foundational to our understanding of God and our own existence and purpose and destiny - who Jesus is - and what it means to have a relationship with God.
What we’ve seen is that God - who exists totally apart from His creation - God calls into existence out of nothing - everything that exists in all of it’s complexity - intricacy - its vast immeasurableness. Then the God of creation focuses His attention on this planet - creating this amazing bio-ecosystem. Then creating mankind - male and female - in His image and likeness - for His purposes - placing them in the garden that He caused to exist as a place for them to dwell in relationship with Him.
Which is amazing to consider. To try to process all that. Because we’re born and we live in this time-space universe, the idea of nothing existing apart from God is a tad hard to process. Everything we are - the atoms and what holds us together - the thoughts we’re capable of - the universe we’re beginning to be aware of - all that seems so enduring for us - what we so easily take for granted - feel entitled to - get nutted up over - what seems to us to be so permanent - all that exists simply because God wills it to exist.
That really is a foundational bottom line truth that we need to have sink into the very fiber of how we process life: Our very existence and relationship with God is all because of - all about - all for God.
And that’s only the first two chapters.
This morning we’re coming to chapter 3 - what is one of the most familiar accounts in the Bible - even to people who may not know much else about the Bible. They know about Adam and Eve - the snake and the apple. We’ve heard this since Sunday School.
We need to be careful to not take this chapter for granted. In many ways this chapter is the most important chapter in what God is telling us about ourselves. It is the ultimate answer to the “Why?” question.
Looking around at the world we live in - every time we experience tragedy and sorrow - heartache - misery - blood, sweat, and tears - when we struggle with our addictions and failures - looking at the disaster of human relations between peoples and nations - even in the natural disasters and resistance of the planet to our efforts - in our hearts we ask the “Why?” question.
Here in Genesis 3 is the only reasonable answer to the existence of these things in the world today. More so - how to live knowing why all those things exist. What difference does knowing the answer make in how I do life?
What we’re going to do today is a tad different. Rather than having us read out loud together you all can take a break. You all can follow along with the Brick Bible and I’ll read for us. Let’s look at the first 6 verses.
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’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 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.’”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
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.
Temptation and Fall verses 1-6
Verse 1 introduces us to the serpent.
Three choices. Which do you think? The serpent is a real snake that talks? Kind of like Narnia. Or, the serpent is a symbol of evil impulses in the human heart? Or, the serpent is Satan himself - looking like some kind of lizard with legs?
The Hebrew word for “serpent” means… “serpent.” Moses tells us that the serpent is a God created “beast of the field.” That identifies this serpent with all the other real time creatures that God has created.
Meaning that the serpent isn’t evil. Like all of God’s creation it was created good.
But the intelligence - the craftiness - the cunningness and cleverness of the argument and discussion - the deception behind the temptation - tell us there’s more going on here than just a talking serpent. All that is the character of Satan on display.
The point is that Satan manipulates this snake and uses its characteristics for his evil purposes. Satan, who we’re told in Scripture is the father of lies - who appears as an angel of light - attractive, reasonable, enticing - our adversary who prowls around like a lion looking for people to devour.
Satan’s strategy here is a study in temptation and the process of falling to temptation that we all know way too well.
I’ve shared about years ago - that on a morning when we were having the kind of rain we’re having these days - I was taking Nick to school. We were on Childs Avenue - over by the fairgrounds - just as it comes to 59. With all the rain - Childs - was covered with water.
I sensed we were in trouble when we passed a car that was stalled - just kind of floating on the side of Lake Childs. I could have turned back. But the challenge was there. Turning around meant admitting failure.
When the water started coming up over the hood - spraying over the hood - I’m thinking to myself, “You know we might not make this.” I talking to the van, “Come on baby. You can make it baby. Just a little bit more.”
When the van finally stalled the water was up over the door. I know that because when I opened the door the water started pouring in. There we were - right in the middle of Lake Childs - listening to the gentle lapping of water on the sides of the van.
And I’m thinking, “What kind of idiot would do something like this?”
Have you been there?
We’re bombarded with temptation all day long. Temptations to lust and envy and gluttony and pride and bitterness and on an on… Ultimately a choice to trust ourselves verses surrendering to God. It’s a universal struggle.
If God says “Don’t eat fruit from that tree” - the garden being pretty good size - if we’re Adam what is the one place we don’t go? Anywhere near that tree. Or this idea. Get an ax. God never said not to chop it down. Whack. Problem solved.
But no. There we are at the tree. Or alone with the internet. Or alone with someone we know we shouldn’t be alone with. Or listening to or watching what’s pulling us away from God. At the buffet and wondering why we’re gaining weight. Marinating in our anger and depression and wondering why we’re so messed up.
For us, that’s just dumb. Thinking we have the ability to resist temptation. That we have such great self-control. Self trust verses trust in God.
Satan’s process - bringing Eve to self-trust - Satan's process of doing that is pretty obvious. Get us focused anywhere else but on God. Arouse desire for what God has forbidden. Engage the mind not to rationally consider the facts but to rationalize the desire. You can reason this out verses trusting in what God said. The end result we know is sin and death.
Eve acts on the lie. Makes up her own rules. Falls into the sin of becoming her own god. Then the scene shifts to Adam. There’s still hope for our race. Adam is the Head. God places the responsibility on him.
The bottom line of all this comes in at the end of verse 6. Eve gives the fruit to Adam “and he ate.” Those ominous words are the beginning of the disaster of human history. Our fall into sin and death. The answer to the “Why?” question. Adam setting himself up in the place of God.
Follow along as I read: Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.
And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
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. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
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.”
“Naked” in Hebrew means… “naked”. Before the fall they were naked. Now they’re still naked but it’s like they’re looking at themselves and seeing themselves for the first time. It’s a comparison.
But now - after the fall - now they’re aware of themselves. What is the birth of being self-conscious. Which is something we all struggle with. Being self-focused verses being self-less. Being self-focused verses being God focused.
Clothing is about security. Aside from keeping warm or for physical protection - what we use clothing for is to cover ourselves because of our self-consciousness. Or we use clothing to create an impression about ourselves. How we want others to think of us.
Hiding is a reaction to guilt. They know they’ve messed up big time. Epic failure. Now they’ve got a conscience telling them, “You’re guilty.”
We get this because we live this. As humans have a universal understanding that something is messed up with us. Every culture on the planet seems to have some understanding of this. We know we don’t measure up. Especially when it comes to the moral purity - the holiness - of God - we’ve really messed up. How we deal with that - or not - has really messed our relationships - with others - with God.
Notice all the blame. Adam blames Eve. Adam blames God for giving him Eve. Eve blames the snake. All of which in a sense is true. But it ducks the issue of personal responsibility for our own sins.
It is very rare today for someone to take up front personal responsibility for their failure. It was someone else’s fault. It was fate. It was a set of unfortunate circumstances. Dumb luck. Beneath all that we blame God. God is responsible for all the suffering and the breakdown of creation.
Notice the three questions that God asks.
First: “Where are you?” Which is not about location. God knows where they are. Right?
These questions are not because God is ignorant and needing Adam and Eve to clue Him in. God is trying to get Adam and Eve to come to grips with the reality of where their disobedience has taken them. These questions are a spiritual reality check.
“Where are you?” is like asking, “How’s that going for you?” “Since you decided to eat the fruit - now that you’re in control of your life - how’s that going for you?” How’s your relationship with Eve? How’s your relationship with Me?
We could ask ourselves, “Where am I?” In the course of your life - moving from birth to death - with all that you’re working at in doing the stuff of life - how’s that going? Where are you in that process?
Maybe you don’t know. Maybe, if you’re honest with yourself, you’re not where you’d like to be. Sin messes with us. Especially in our relationship with God.
Covered in figs - hiding in the garden - having issues with Eve and God - Adam needs to come to grips with this: “I am not where I want to be.”
Second question: “Who told you that you were naked?” God never told them that. They never knew that before. Something’s changed. Meaning: “Who have you been listening to beside Me?”
We could ask ourselves the same question. What voices are we listening to besides God’s? Other people in our lives? The media? The latest post? Any voice that’s not in sync with God is evil. Any voice. Ponder that. Satan speaks to us through a whole lot of different channels.
Is our life lived under the authority of God’s word or being influenced - tempted - by something else?
The third question comes in two parts. Part one is addressed to the man: “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Part two is addressed to the woman. “What is this that you have done?”
It’s interesting that God seems to ask the woman the question more delicately. Not, “Did you disobey My command.” But, “Tell Me in your own words what happened.” God - even in our worst moments - God is still loving and gracious and merciful in the way He works at bringing each of us back to Him.
Essentially both questions are the same. “What did you do?”
That’s personal. There is no grey area here. Either he or she ate the fruit or they didn’t. It’s that simple. That black and white. There’s no wiggle room for pointing the finger at someone else and getting away with it. Both of them tried. But both of them still come to the same bottom line: “...and I ate.”
Any thought, word, or deed of ours that is out of sync with God’s will is sin. Disobedience is disobedience. No matter how much we try to rationalize it - minimize it - avoid dealing with it. Sin is sin.
We need to ask ourselves: “What sin have I not dealt with?” “What sin am I tolerating in my life?” We need to come clean with God.
The questions God asks are focused on getting Adam and Eve to deal with their sin. To move past the covering and hiding and blaming to the point of personal responsibility. “I ate the fruit. I sinned.”
Verses 14 to 19 focus on Consequences and Hope.
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. 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.”
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
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; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 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.”
Sin always results in consequences.
There are consequences for the serpent. Imagine this poor serpent who’s big opps was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here’s this poor serpent wandering along - with or without legs - we don’t know. Satan takes control of the serpent and it - and all the other serpents - end up getting cursed by God and eating dust.
We need to be reminded that the consequences here aren't about the serpent. It’s about Satan who inhabits the serpent. God telling Satan what to go do with himself. “Eat dirt.” Words that describe humiliation and shame. Satan, who through history, has been the object of total contempt and abhorrence. These words are there to remind us that Satan has been humiliated - is humiliated - will be humiliated. He is a defeated adversary.
Verse 15 is one of the most astounding verses in the Bible. The early church fathers called it the “Protevangelium” - meaning “the first gospel.”
First it predicts enmity - hostility - between the offspring of Satan and the offspring of the woman. There are two divisions of humanity. One under the influence and authority of Satan -who are living disobedient to God. The other under the influence and authority of God - who are seeking live in obedience to God.
Since the beginning - and even today - God’s people have been hunted - persecuted - brutalized - hounded, harassed, and hated by Satan and his minions and those under their influence. The consequences of sin on display.
Second - verse 15 gives us hope.
The statement about the offspring of the woman is unique in Scripture. It’s not something we find anywhere else. Every place else in Scripture descendants follow the line of the males - so and so begetting so and so. All men. Women get mentioned. But they’re not the main focus.
Here - the descendants of the woman is the focus. Specifically - notice that God moves from “descendants” plural to one descendant: “he shall” - masculine singular - descendant of the woman.
We get this because we’re 20 centuries or so on the other side of Bethlehem and the cross. The virgin birth of Jesus. Jesus - by an act of the Holy Spirit - the descendant born of a woman.
The opposition He faced. The events of Jerusalem - the hatred of the religious leaders - the crowd - the brutalizing of Jesus - the cross - His death. What God describes here in verse 15 as the bruising of his - masculine singular - heal.
We know the reality of the resurrection. The whole promise which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The removal of Satan’s authority - any claim to headship - that Satan may have had over mankind.
We know this promise for ourselves. In Christ we are the offspring of the woman. In Christ we triumph. The enmity ends in victory in Christ.
In verse 15 God puts Satan on notice of what will be future history. In the words of Stryper, “To Hell with the Devil.”
Verses 14 and 15 are the consequences given to Satan. But the hope we can claim for ourselves. The hope that’s given to the offspring of the woman. We live in the struggle - the enmity. But we have hope.
In verse 16 God speaks to the woman. More consequences.
First: Pain. Every mother here gets this.
The word in Hebrew also has the idea of sorrow that comes from “heart-breaking toil.” Meaning more than labor pains. It has the idea of laboring in the raising of children. Childbearing and child rearing. Something else every mother here understands.
Our sin effects our children. Our children have their own struggles against sin. We struggle to protect and guide them through all that.
Second consequence: Desire for your husband and his ruling over you.
The number one need of a woman? Relational security. The number one need of a man? Respect. That reality is written into the psyche and roles and relationship of Adam and Eve before the fall. Those are good things that God has given us as partners for His glory.
Our self-focused - selfish - I want to be God - sin just totally messes up the relationship between wives and husbands. Between women and men, period. What God intended as a great blessing in our relationships - because of our sin - that lies at the core of the conflict in our relationships.
In verse 17 God speaks to the man. More consequences.
First, we learn more about Adam’s sin. He listened to his wife.
Be careful. The woman is deceived. But Adam was not deceived. He was not fooled. He knew if he ate the fruit the fall and its consequences will follow. How much of that he understood we don’t know. But he did know that eating the fruit was against the command of God. Period.
There are times when the wisest thing we can do is listen to our wives. But here Adam is guilty because he listened to the voice of his wife instead of listening to the voice of God. He took his lead from the woman - not God. It was a denial of the headship that God had established for Adam.
Then God says that the ground will be cursed. “In pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”
Let’s be careful. Work is not a curse. Work is a blessing. There’s something about a man that’s not right unless that man works. Men - we find so much of our purpose - our value - our self-worth in our work. It’s the way we are. Work is not a curse. Work is a blessing.
The word for “pain” here is the same word used to describe the pain of childbearing. That man is reduced to hard, grinding, unending work and sorrow and struggle accompanied by sweat and anxiety and stress and pressure - the ongoing rat race of life where the rats are winning - that’s the consequence of sin.
Nature out of balance resisting our efforts.
Verse 19 tells us that that pain goes on until we return to the dust we came from.
Two men are talking. The one says to the other, “My uncle died a millionaire.”
The other man replies, “No he didn’t.”
“Because no one dies a millionaire.”
“What do you mean?”
The man replied, “Who has his million now?” (1)
You can’t take it… with you. We come into the world naked and we leave naked. Dust to dust. Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes.
Pain - labor - sweat - stress - death. Sin and its consequences.
Pretty hopeless. Yes?
Hang on to the hope that’s ours in Jesus.
Verses 20 to 24: Faith and Forever.
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
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—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 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.
The man calls his wife’s name Eve. Eve is the anglicization of “chavah” - meaning “life.” In Genesis 2:23 the man calls the woman… “woman.” The word is “ish-sha” meaning “out of man” because she was taken out of man “ish.” Its generic. But here, he “names” her “life.”
The man’s reason is given to us. “Adam, why did you name her that?” Answer: “She was the mother of all living.”
When God spoke to the serpent, God spoke of offspring - descendants - a descendant that would crush the head of the serpent. But when Adam named Eve - Eve - there were no offspring.
Given all that’s gone on. Knowing the reality of sin and the horrendous consequences - the pain of life that ends in death - that name “Eve” expresses faith. Faith in God and His promised triumph over evil. Yes?
Then God makes clothing for Adam and Eve. With the sacrifice of another’s life - an animal - God clothes Adam and Eve. That's forward forever thinking.
We understand this - because we’re looking back on the whole Old Covenant sacrificial system and the cross - because we’re looking back on Jesus and his sacrificed body and spilled blood - we know that what God is doing here is a foreshadowing of what God will do through Jesus. What God has done through Jesus. God clothing Adam and Eve demonstrating how God clothes us in Christ and His righteousness.
Isaiah writes, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exalt in my God, for He has clothed me with garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10)
Fast forwarding to forever - in Revelation we’re told that the Church - because of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross - we’re told that we will stand before God adorned as a bride prepared for the groom - clothed in the righteousness of Christ. (Revelation 21:2)
Then God drives Adam and Eve out of the garden. God places a angel and a flaming sword at the border. Why? To guard the way to the tree of life. Why? Because now they know good and evil like God knows good and evil. Guarding the way to the tree is an amazing act of love and grace and mercy. More forward forever thinking.
We touched on this last Sunday. God knows what’s evil because God is not evil. He’s holy - morally good. God compares everything to Himself. What’s in sync with Who God is, is good. Everything else is evil.
We can’t do that comparison thing because we’re not God. We try.
Eating the fruit is Adam and Eve setting themselves up to be the ones who get to decide. Instead of God they get to be the standard of what’s good or evil. That choice puts them totally out of sync with God. That worked really well didn’t it?
Now they know good and evil. And they’re beginning to know the horrors of sin.
Genesis 3 is the introduction to the consequences of sin. Can you imagine living forever with those consequences? That would be forever hell on earth. Which is why God’s guarding the way to the tree of life is such and act of love and grace and mercy.
Fast forwarding to forever - we see the Tree of Life again in the book of Revelation in the description of how all this transitions into eternity - the complete reversal of the curse and the consequences of sin. There by the River of The Water of Life which flows from the throne of God - planted in rows on either side of the river - are Trees of Life forever producing fruit - forever giving life. (Revelation 22:1-5)
Guarding the way to the tree is to keep us from coming by our own sinful initiative. But when we come the right way - through Jesus - Who came that we might have life - Who is the only way to life - through Jesus - clothed in His righteousness - we come to the life that God has prepared for us forever with Him. (John 10:10; 14:6)
Processing all that... one take home for us: There’s Hope!
In the midst of wherever we are there is true hope which is found only in God. But to live in that hope we must trust God with our lives.
God asks questions to bring Adam and Eve to a point of repentance. Repentance meaning turning from our sin and turning to God.
Sometimes we have this idea that repentance is what we do when we get caught. Caught with our hands in the cookie jar of sin. We try to make up for things - fix things - by trying to do all the right things.
But, that’s still all about us trying to get right with God or others. Like we get to judge what’s good and evil and how to deal with all that. That still has us hiding and blaming and aware of our nakedness and failure. There’s no hope in that.
True repentance begins when we come face-to-face with the horror of our sin. Sin that is always self-delusional. Meaning tempting us to rationalize it. Sin that is always self-destructive. There are always consequences for ourselves and others. What borders on hell on earth.
We need to take our sin seriously by allowing God to judge our lives - what’s good - what’s evil.
To repent means that we personally acknowledge the horror of our sin and we choose at the heart level that we no longer want to go there but are willing by faith to trust God for whatever He chooses to do with us - even drive us from a garden - because our forever hope is only in Him.
When our hope is only in God then we have what really is hope.
1. Quoted from sermon by Ray Stedman, “Love’s Disciplines”, Genesis 3:16-19, March 17, 1968
As a general reference for this message I used a sermon series by Ray Stedman from 1968: “Understanding Man”
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.