The Fall and the First Promise
Many people enjoy discovering things about their ancestors. When I moved to Collinsville, I was reminded that one of my ancestors had once served as a pastor in the area. It didnít take very long for me to discover that Charles Schliepsick, one of my great-great grandfathers, had been a pastor at St. John Lutheran Church, in Maryville. A few years later I was told about an incident that had happened in his life. A man had become so angry with Schliepsick that he fired gun into the front window of his house, but thankfully no one was hurt. Thatís about all I know about my ancestor. Sadly, the stories of our ancestors are quickly forgotten. Today, however, we have a great opportunity to remember one of the most important stories of two of our most important ancestors: Adam and Eve. The account of our first parents is one of the most important sections of the Bible. The things we discover there are not just interesting facts from the past. They are important realities that define who we are and what our future will be.
I must begin by pointing out that Adam and Eve were real people. St. Luke concludes the genealogy of Jesus by noting that Jesus was the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God (Luke 3.38). In our first lesson today St. Paul affirms that Adam was as real as Moses when he says, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to MosesÖ" (Romans 5.14). The evolutionary theory denies that there ever was an Adam who was created in one day by the divine power of God. Instead of believing the Bible, proponents of this theory cherry picks certain facts while ignoring thousands of others and cement them together with one guess upon another finally to arrive a fairytale for adults Ė a fairytale that frees them from the Creator and from the rest of the Bible. From here they can make the Bible say whatever they want it to say.
Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day. Their only ancestor was God. They are the beginning of human life on earth. God placed them in a paradise. There were no barriers between God and these first two people. He gave them the duty of producing a family and taking care of the world that God had created. But at some point after they were made part of this creation ripped itself away from God. A group of angels rebelled against God. Unable to oppose God, they turned on that which was precious to Him Ė Adam and Eve. They took advantage of one of the most incredible features of these two people Ė that they were created in the image of God. Included in this image was a free-will. God did not force them to love Him since forced love cannot be love at all. These angels took advantage of that to tear Adam and Eve away from God. What happened after that is the greatest story that has ever been told Ė a story of which we are all part of even today.
1. Satanís Method of Temptation
Genesis 3:1-6 NKJ Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 "For God knows that in the day 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, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
The first part of the story of our first parents is sad. It begins with Satanís method of temptation. Satan did not attack them physically. He knew that as long as Adam and Eve trusted and obeyed God, there was nothing he could do to them. His attack was on the spiritual nature. What is that? It is that part of us that is capable of knowing God and either loving or hating Him. The "blood" of the spirit is Godís word. If our spirit is filled with the word of God, then our spirit is with God. If our spirit is filled with the "blood" of Satanís lies, then our spirit is with him. Satanís method has always been to replace Godís word in our spirits, in our hearts, with his lies.
Notice the three steps he takes with Eve. First, he gets Eve to question Godís word, "Has God indeed saidÖ?" Thankfully Eve had kept up with her learning by heart and she immediately responds (she didnít have to go look it up!) with Godís command not to eat of the tree in the middle of the Garden. So Satanís first effort fails. Second, he denies Godís word: "You will not surely die." Thirdly, he adds a false promise to Godís word: "your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Notice at this point that Eve really doesnít know what "evil" is. She knows what "good" is. Seven times God has said that all that He created from his word was "good." The only thing He had said about evil was to avoid it Ė they were to avoid eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Ė the tree in the middle of the garden. But now Satan tempts her. "Disobey God, like I disobeyed Him. Try this evil and see what it is like." So Adam and Eve both accepted Satanís lies into their spirits. They gave evil a try. That is the root of all temptations even to this day. When a man sits in front of a TV with pornographic shows, he has a choice. Watch or donít watch. God says "Donít watch. That is evil." Satan says, "Watch, try it out. See what happens." And before the next few minutes pass his spirit will be filled with passions that that show will not satisfy. A young person sees an opportunity to ridicule a classmate Ė to hurt them verbally by demeaning them. God says, "Donít do it. I love her as much as I love you. If you hurt her, youíre hurting me." Satan says, "Try it. See what happens. It might make you happy." Out of your mouth come the verbal arrows that stick like poison darts in her soul. They are sad. They are hurt. But Satan says, "Look how funny that was." The humor fades, but the hurt hangs on.
2. The Four Effects of Sin (Shame, Fear, Blame, Death)
Genesis 3:7-14 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." 11 And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" 12 Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." 13 And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." 14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.
Adam and Eve soon discovered what happens when we invite evil into our spirits. First of all they were ashamed. They tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. An evil spirit is not a pretty thing. It is not like the good that God had originally created. In whatever way it can be seen, we prefer that it be covered up. Even today people are constantly trying to put on a "good front" before the world. If they canít keep it covered, they assure us that whatever evil is pulsating through their souls is actually good. Second, they were afraid of God. Before evil entered into their lives they loved God and would have run to be with Him. Now they avoid Him. What once was a kind "spiritual magnetic attraction" has now turned into a "spiritual magnetic repulsion." The same is true today. I challenge anyone to sin and pray at the same time. No, before we sin, we have to hide from God. Third, they blame the problem of evil on someone else. In Adamís case, he blames Eve. In her case, she blames the serpent. Even today the very nature of evil is to avoid all responsibility. Evil thrives and grows in the dirt of disavowal and denial.
For the fourth effect we have to turn to one more passageÖ
Genesis 3:16-21 16 To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." 17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
The effect of evil is to destroy what God made good. The goodness of childbirth and family life will be filled with pain and hardship. The God-given headship of man and support of his help-mate will constantly be twisted and distorted. Human beings from now all will notice the "love-hate relationship" in all relationships. The ground will be cursed. It will be difficult to stay alive. Work will be hard, and the results will often be disappointing. Finally, we will die, and return to the dust from which our first parents were originally made.
3. The Promise of Salvation
This is quite a story so far. For me, it has the total ring of truth to it. This is the way the world is. Man has never been able to overcome the effects of sin and evil. But that doesnít mean that God canít. We can only wonder how God felt as He watched all of the good He made become infiltrated with evil. That must be the universal sorrow. But Satan had no idea how great and powerful God really was. He had no idea how much love God was capable of showing. In the aftermath of this devastating and destructive deception God had one more move to make. He challenged Satanís lying evil with the promise of salvation.
Genesis 3:14-15 14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."
Satan is cursed. Enmity or hatred is fixed between him and Eve. But then God says something amazing. There will be hatred between all of Satanís "seed" (all who follow in his rebellion against God) and her "Seed." Notice how our Bibles capitalize this word. The word "seed" can refer to many seeds or to one seed. The second time it is used it is referring to a singular descendent of Eve. God tells Satan that this special descendant of Eve would "bruise" his head. This translation is a little misleading. The word used in two other places in the Bible (Job 9.17 and Psalm 139.11), and in the first case it refers to an "overwhelming" storm, and in the second case it refers to "overwhelming" darkness. A better translation might be "crush." This descendent of Eve would crush and overwhelm Satan. He, on the other hand, would crush His heel. Here is the first promise in the Bible having to do with the destruction of evil. As we continue reading the Bible and connecting one promise to another, we see that this special person is Jesus of Nazareth. St. John said of Jesus, "For this reason the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3.8).
Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. Now God also covers them with garments made from the very animals He had created. These animals were sacrificed to cover the sin of our first parents. But they also foreshadow the ultimate sacrifice that God would make for them and for us. Jesus, the Seed of Eve, would eventually give His life in order to cover all sins. Satan would try to tempt Him also, but he would fail. Losing the spiritual battle with Jesus, his only option was to go physical. He rallied the evil forces of this world Ė all of its deceit, hatred and violence Ė against Jesus in one last attempt to overwhelm Him. But in this he also failed. To the end Jesus showed the love and faithfulness of God. One life, one righteous life, reversed the tragedy of generations.
As we continue in the season of Lent we are going to refresh our spirits with these exalted truths: We, like our first parents, need to be saved. God, in His infinite love, gave His Son to become the sacrifice for our salvation. This is the truth that the Holy Spirit sends to the ends of the earth. Those who reject it remain lost in the original rebellion. Those who are transformed by it are reunited to God. The key to paradise is in your heart. God only asks that you share that key with others and live faithfully unto death. Then you will awaken to the Tree of Life. Amen.
Pastor Michael P. Walther
First Sunday of Lent, February 10, 2008
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
618-344-3151 / fax 618-344-3378
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2008
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