Text: Gen 3. Preached at Werribee Church of Christ 29/8/04
It’s human nature to resist change, and opt for the status quo. Anyone who’s ever tried to bring about any kind of new direction in a nation, a company knows all about that! And if you’ve ever tried to shift anything in a church, you’ll certainly know about it!! But someone once said that “Status quo” is Latin for “the mess we is in”. i.e. the life we now have may be familiar .. but it is a long way from perfect
How often have you heard someone say that ever since the day “x” happened, the world has been changed for ever. In the last 3 years, it’s been said about the events of 9/11 .. but before that it was said about the bomb on Hiroshima .. WW1 (‘the war to end all wars’) .. technological advances throughout history .. But the Bible says the trouble started before any technology .. any wars .. even before any breakdown in any human relationships .. It started when the first people stepped out of alignment with the plans and purposes of God, who had formed them for himself, for his glory, and for his fellowship.
So far this month we’ve spent 3 weeks getting a picture of the world as God planned and created it at the beginning (Gen 1, 2). If we were to try to represent that world graphically, it could look something like this image [OHT image] .. What God created was a world centred on relationships – perfect relationships of mutuality .. a world in which people lived in perfect fellowship with God, as supreme objects of his love and blessing, and submitting gladly to his sovereign rule .. a world in which people lived in perfect trust and harmony with eachother (“I will make a helper suitable”) .. a world in which people managed and cared for the earth selflessly under God and were freely and abundantly blessed with all the earth’s harvest.
Just soak up that image .. A perfect world of perfect relationships. How do we know that? .. God stepped back and looked at his creative masterpiece and saw that it was (very) good. That’s the image conveyed in chap 1. Then in chap 2 the writer zooms in for a closeup on God’s creation of mankind .. and the chapter ends with a very moving statement of the total trust between people and God, and people and eachother: 25 the man and his wife were both naked, and unashamed. .. which I believe carries at least two layers of meaning – It means that man and wife enjoyed a sexual relationship of 100% delight and openness .. But more deeply, it also means that in God’s perfect world the relationships between people and God, and between people and eachother were relationships of utter joy and trust. People could stand in the very presence of God, and of one another, with no shame .. no guilt .. no sense of unworthiness .. just freely, openly, joyfully.
A perfect world of perfect relationships .. but then the trouble started .. when the voice of a rival, a pretender, a deceiver spoke a different word to humanity .. a word which promised freedom .. but delivered just the opposite 1 “Did God say, … 4 “You will not die;.
Man turns from God
I could spend some time digging into the significance of the image of the serpent as we read it here in Gen 3. But the subject of Satan, or the devil, in the Bible is really another sermon or two in itself. So to cut to the chase, I’ll simply ask Scripture to interpret Scripture to us. And we can do that today by jumping forward to Rev 12:9 The great dragon …, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. In other words whatever angles we could take up in exploring what the image of the serpent or snake would have conveyed to the first readers of Gen in the ancient world – and it would have conveyed a rich tapestry of meaning – it’s clear from Revelation that the Christians of the first century AD understood very clearly that it meant Satan himself.
So Satan himself appears in the garden, and he presents a very attractive offer, based on a subtle perversion of the truth. 1 … “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman gets it right, to begin with. She gives the correct version of God’s words in v2 … “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 middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But now he’s got her thinking: 4 … “You will not 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.”. i.e. God isn’t as good as he says he is .. he hasn’t told you the whole story .. he’s holding back the best bit .. Just try it, and you’ll see. .. Tantalising ..
The Devil’s strategy has never changed. His strategy is always to convince us that we could have just that bit more of the abundance we already enjoy, if we just listen more carefully to his seductive offer. That’s what he attempted with Jesus in the desert – “You could have even more power than you already have, if you just worship me.” .. And it’s the same here. Food delights us – and it’s meant to. God has said that all the fruit of the earth is ours for food, except for one. Satan wants to say “Why not that as well? Why miss any of it?” And he says it to you and me today, every day, in a myriad of ways: “You could have more money, if you just leave a few boxes empty on your tax return. .. more pleasure if you just have an extra fling with that woman at the next desk, or if you just glance at that magazine again .. you could have a better job if you just fiddle your resume a bit. .. Did God really say ‘You can’t have it?’ What a killjoy! .. Why be short-changed? Why settle for some of it with God – when I could give you the lot?”
The test .. And it’s as if all of heaven and earth waits in suspense. Will mankind trust their Creator and submit to his loving plan & rule? Or will they gamble the lot on a stranger’s seductive promise? .. And verse 7 is the saddest word in all history: They trust the promise of someone less than God .. they’re eyes are opened (the devil was right with that bit – a good half-truth there!) .. but instead of wisdom they get shame. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. .. And did they remember, I wonder, with deep pain the final words of Creation, complete in its beauty, from 2:25 the man and his wife were both naked, and unashamed. .. If this were reported in a tabloid newspaper, the headline might read “Tragedy in Paradise!” No wonder Rev 12 describes the serpent – Satan – as the deceiver. It was all a lie. They were conned. Man has not, man has never, become like God in wisdom .. Instead, they cannot even face God, or eachother, out of utter shame. So in v7 they hastily cover themselves, and in v8 they hide from the God who loved them and made them for himself. “Tragedy in Paradise!”
The world comes apart
And that’s only the beginning of it. What happens from here on, and escalating on through to chap 11, is the disintegration of every relationship in God’s once perfect world. If you’ve ever been a boy – or a parent of a boy – you’ll know well what inquisitive creatures boys generally are. I remember something I once tried was an investigation into the construction of a golf ball. I got my pocket knife, and peeled off the outer plastic covering, to find a tightly compacted core of thin layers of rubber. And if you break the top layer of rubber, the next one snaps, then the next one .. and bit by bit the whole thing comes apart .. until there’s not a great deal left, just disintegrates. That’s what happens to the world in Gen 3 – 11.
Have a look again at the image we looked at earlier [OHT image] .. The people who are standing completely unashamed before God in 2:25 are hiding from God in shame in 3:8 – a fracturing in the relationship between God and humanity ..
That’s not all .. Gone as well is the perfect oneness that first existed between people. We’ve gone from 2:23 “this at last is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!” – to 3:12 (the blame game) “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” .. And right there is the beginning of all hatred of women, all wife abuse, all rape, all marriage breakdown, all adultery, all divorce .. And as we’ll see next week, it only gets worse from there … as the relationship between people and eachother fractures further
And we still haven’t seen it all .. From chapters 1 and 2 where the entire created world is there for man to manage under God and enjoy .. where all the fruit is theirs as food to be freely enjoyed – we move to the tragedy of 3:17b cursed is the ground because of you; in toil 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 until you return to the ground. … the third once perfect relationship of creation is also broken ..
Why is the world the way it is? Why is there bitterness and enmity and violence between people and nations? Why is there pain and breakdown in human relationships? Why is there sickness of body and mind and heart? Why is pollution of the planet and the atmosphere spinning out of control? Why are there floods and droughts and disasters? .. God’s word tells us that the answer to all those questions and others like them is fundamentally the same … Man has rejected God’s authority, and fractured the core relationship in the universe, the one on which every other relationship depends – man’s relationship with his God .. and when the core relationship is damaged, the shockwaves affect every other relationship in the cosmos, and the entire creation is “out of whack”.
… and it was so
Now let’s try to tie all that together, and shine the spotlight on God and me and you: 2:17 [the day you eat the fruit from] the tree of the knowledge of good and evil … you shall die.” … 3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; … 24 He drove out the man; and … he placed the cherubim, [as sentries] to guard the way to the tree of life. What God said happened! Which shouldn’t have been a surprise, since he spoke the entire universe into being. (Gen 1: “God said .. and it was so.”) Well the same God said: “If you eat from that tree you will die.” .. And it was so – they ate .. and they died.
This isn’t just the story of the life of a man called Adam and a woman called Eve; it’s the story of your life and my life. And it begs some honest questions: When will you recognise that God was right .. that God really does know how to live your life far better than you will ever know .. that his word, his voice is the one you should have trusted .. that what you decide in regard to God and his authority over you really does have consequences .. that some of those consequences are spiritually deadly?
But that’s not the end of the story. It’s not for nothing that Christians speak of something called “good news” (gospel). The NT writers wrote because they were convinced that that was so. The end of Gen 3 looks like the news is very bleak indeed. There’s only one road leading to the tree of life, but (it’s as if) there’s a locked gate across that road, and the sign says “No Entry” .. and if you’re cut off from life, there’s only one alternative. ..
Except that God has already come personally searching, and has mounted a rescue mission. .. Now that’s incredibly generous isn’t it? You have spat in God’s face .. you have told him you know better than he does .. you have treated his word lightly .. and you have suffered the cruel consequences of your choice – you’re cut off from the life of perfect relationships for which you were created, and the future is only death .. you only got what you deserved .. And yet he comes searching for you .. and even though you’re hiding from him, too ashamed to look in his face – he calls to you and says “Where are you?” (And that is a statement of God’s regard for you today .. If you are hiding from him today .. if you are ashamed today, so ashamed that you cannot look God in the eye .. Then he is calling you today, and saying “Where are you? .. Won’t you come?”)
And that rescue story begins in Gen 3:9 .. and it doesn’t end until the closing chapters of Revelation. And there, at the start of chap 22, there’s a river that flows right through the centre of the city. Note that: It all starts in a garden with 2 people; and it ends in a city with a multitude of people. Now, the river of life flows right through the centre of the city, and it flows out from the throne of God and the Lamb (And if you’ve read Rev 5 you know that the Lamb is Christ crucified and risen, who by his blood shed on the Cross, has defeated death) – the river of life flows out from his throne .. and on its banks is none other than the tree of life .. and there’s no gate .. no sign .. no guard .. no sword to keep you back .. Anyone who wishes can reach out and take the fruit of that tree, and live forever.
… which means there’s one more honest question still to be asked: When will you admit to God how desperately you need his Son to readmit you to life – the way it was meant to be?