Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sermon: Genesis 3: 8-24 Sin, Separation and Salvation

I wonder if you’ve heard the old story about the new minister who called at a particular house. He thought the lady of the house was at home, but there was no answer, so he left a visiting card and on the back he wrote a Bible verse: Revelation 3:20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock...’ The next Sunday, the lady slipped a card into his hand, with another verse on it: Genesis 3:10. He opened his Bible to find: ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’

It’s a nice wee story, but the original setting of Genesis 3:10 is no laughing matter. Last week, we were thinking about the temptation of Adam and Eve leading to the first sin - as they disobeyed the one command God had given them in the Garden of Eden. We finished last week as we saw their eyes opened, as they realised they were naked.

Our reading today takes up the story, spelling out the consequences of that first sin - the situation we still face to this very day. All the way through the reading, we discover that sin leads to separation: between God and people; between people and people; between people and the creation. The first separation we see is between God and the people made in his image. It seems that God came to walk in the garden in the evening time, and he comes just like any other day. Except, something has changed.

Adam and Eve, aware of their sin and shame, go into hiding. They hid themselves from God, not wanting to face him any more. We have been in hiding ever since. So often you hear people talking about trying to find God - they go off on great expeditions, or take all sorts of drugs, or whatever it might be. But God isn’t missing. God isn’t lost. It’s we who are lost; us who have hidden ourselves.

And God comes looking. As children, we used to play hide and seek in a neighbour’s huge garden with trees and hedges. The one who was ‘it’ had to go looking to find those hiding. It’s not Adam and Eve saying ‘Where are you, God?’ No, God comes looking: ‘Where are you?’

Adam explains that he was afraid and he hid, because he was naked. As God gently asks how Adam knew he was naked, we see the next level of separation beginning. Look with me at verse 12: ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ God, you know, it’s not my fault. It’s all her fault. She led me astray. And you know what, God? You gave her to me - maybe you’re to blame! Eve passes the buck as well, blaming the serpent. It was once said that Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on! (Sorry for those corny jokes, that’s the last of them, for this morning, at least!)

Sin brings separation. It cuts us off from God, but it also separates us from each other. Adam and Eve try to pass the blame. It’s always some one else’s fault. Have you ever heard yourself saying that or thinking that when you’re confronted with your own sins?

That separation is completed as God pronounces a curse on the serpent, Eve and Adam. Things will never be the same again. Paradise is well and truly lost. The serpent is cursed in the way it will exist; for the woman, pain in childbirth is increased, as well as the frustration of wanting to rule over her husband but having him rule over her; and for Adam, the ground is cursed because of him - joyful work becomes toil - thorns and thistles. There’s also the promise of death - returning to dust, just as God had promised in 2:17.

Right at the end of the passage, there’s the final separation, as the way to the tree of life is shut off, and Adam and Eve are removed from the garden. We’ve been cut off from God ever since. But is that it? If that’s all that we find in this chapter, it would be very bad news indeed. It would be sin, separation, curse. Entirely hopeless.

But in Romans 5:20 the apostle Paul says that ‘where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more.’ And here, even where the very first sin was committed, we find the grace of God abounding to Adam and Eve.

For a start, the death they deserved to die was graciously postponed - in the day they ate of the fruit they died spiritually, but they continued their earthly existence. God could have justly ended the whole creation on this very day, but he shows grace in allowing them to continue and to multiply.

But more than that, his grace is displayed even in the curse. Look at verse 15. Here he is cursing the serpent (who we saw last week, is the devil and Satan), now there is no grace for the devil, but there is a gracious promise for us: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’

God describes how things will be - opposition between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman. That is, one offspring, one descendant who is in view.

Now, I know that before baby Nathan was born there was great expectation in the Beacom house, Mark hoping for a baby brother to play football with to balance up the odds against the two sisters. And behold, it was a boy. But there’s even greater expectation for the offspring of the woman. ‘He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’

In other words, there’s going to be a final confrontation. The devil will strike his heel, will inflict a tremendous blow; but in the same moment, the devil’s head will be crushed, he will be finally defeated. You see, the devil may have won this first encounter, but the promise has been given of a future rescuer; the separation of sin will be overcome by the Saviour, who will defeat the Satan.

There’s even a hint that this will be a costly victory. You see, in verse 21 we’re told that the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and his wife and clothed them. They are clothed, their shame covered, by the death of an animal, whose blood was shed for them, which died in their place.

On this side of the cross, we know what this first declaration of the gospel is pointing to - the death of our substitute, the Lord Jesus, who takes our sin upon himself; who dies to cover our shame and give us his own pure spotless robe of righteousness; who as he died on the cross was struck by the devil - his heel struck - it looked as if the devil had won; but Jesus rose from the dead, he crushed the devil’s head as he rose victorious, and reigns forever more.

Adam and Eve were promised God’s grace in the aftermath of their first sin; that same promise of grace comes to us in the gospel, if we will be receive it, and trust in the Lord’s death. This is our prayer for Nathan, that he too will receive the gospel and trust the Lord. Because as he does that, and as we too share in it, we will share in the Lord’s victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. As Paul says to the Christians in Rome: ‘The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet.’ (Rom 16:20) Amen!

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 30th September 2012.

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