The Promise in the Midst of a Curse

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden - Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

There is something wrong, my friends!  There is something wrong with this world!  There is something wrong with this nation!  There is something wrong with your neighbor!  There is something wrong with me!  And there is something wrong with you!  That something is sin, an awful, broken condition that goes all the way back to Adam and Eve’s and their fall into sin in the Garden of Eden. 

Sin.  Not simply a “mistake” or “error.”  No, what happened with Adam and Eve was not merely “poor judgment” or “misinformation” as some may label it.  It was lawlessness.  It was rebellion.  It was outright disobedience to God’s specific command.  And their sin had enormous consequences for all of creation, a creation that God had declared “very good” upon its completion in six days. 

The sin of Adam and Eve brought misery on the entire human race, for there is no such thing as a “private sin.”  Every sin has consequences that are suffered not just by the offender but by many others as well: spouses, children, whole families, complete strangers, even whole nations.  And as we discover today, not just for those living in the present time, but for generations to come. 

A famous Lutheran theologian (Gerhard, IV, 315) explained, “We must not regard the sin of our first parents and its consequences, as if they had respect only to them, and did not in any way affect us; because afterwards Adam begat a son, in his own image and likeness, Gen. 5:3.  As he [Adam] was, such also did he beget his children, despoiled of the image of God, destitute of original righteousness, subject to sin, to the wrath of God, to death and damnation.… Adam perished, and we all perished in him” (quoted in H. Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, p. 238). 

And as goes man, the highest of God’s creatures, so goes all of creation, which also groans under the weight of sin’s wages—death, decay, and decadence—all waiting in eager expectation for the day of our redemption.

Our text for this morning, Genesis 3:8-15, picks up the account right after that first sin, and shows us the devastating consequences—both personally and universally—of that first sin.  Let’s take another look.

“The man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” and they ran out and said, “Here we are!  We’re sorry, we blew it, please forgive us…” 

No.  You know the story.  “They hid from the Lord God…”  That’s what you do, too, isn’t it, when you sin?  You hide.  Don’t be surprised because you haven’t been to church in a while, or that you struggle to get out of bed on Sunday morning to get to worship services, or that other people don’t seem to want to go to church.  You’re still hiding!  Deep down inside, you know of your sin and don’t want to come to the light where it can be exposed.  That feeling is called shame.

A feeling of shame was the first consequence Adam and Eve experienced because of their sin.  This became obvious when the Lord God came into the garden looking for them.  How did they respond when they heard the sound of His footsteps?  “They hid themselves.”  Here, surely, are symptoms of a frightfully serious condition: foolishly imagining they could hide their own transgression or protect themselves from God’s punishment.  For what can be termed more horrible (or more foolish) than to flee from God and to desire to be hidden from Him? 

“Where are you?” the Lord asks.  Of course, He already knows the answer.  But His is a call of anxious love.  God is moving to restore His fallen children to Himself.  He wants Adam and Eve to realize the dangerous situation they have put themselves in.  He is really asking, “Do you know where you are?  Do you realize what has happened here?” 

At the same time, God’s words are also a call of stern justice.  The Creator is demanding an answer from His rebellious creature.  “What have you done that you should be hiding?”  God is trying to give His creatures an opportunity to repent.  To say, “Here I am.  I confess.  I blew it.  Please forgive me.”

Instead, Adam answers, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  What Adam says is true… so far as it goes.  He’s experiencing emotions he’s never felt before.  From this time on, fear will mark man and woman’s relationship to their Maker, rather than love and trust. 

Adam’s response shows the ugly effects of sin.  It is evasive and deceptive.  It is also stupid!  So thoroughly has sin deprived Adam of all discernment and good sense, the man wants to inform God that he is naked—God, who created him naked.  By this, he betrays and condemns himself with his own mouth.  This is always the case.  Sinners accuse themselves by their excuses and betray themselves by their defense—especially before God. 

In the same way the ungodly will condemn themselves at the Last Judgment, when the dark recesses of human hearts will be revealed and, as though in open books, the evil deeds of every single being will be read.  All who attempt to cover themselves with their own righteousness will be cast into the fiery lake.  Only those who cast themselves at God’s mercy for the sake of Christ will be saved. 

Such is the nature of sin: unless God immediately provides a cure and calls the sinner back, he flees endlessly from God.  And, by excusing his sin with lies, the sinner heaps sin upon sin until he arrives at blasphemy and despair, until finally the sinful person would rather accuse God than acknowledge his own sin.  But before you point your finger at Adam or wag your tongue at “those sinners out there,” take stock.  You do the same thing when you have become guilty of sin.  Every son and daughter of Adam and Eve prefers to accuse God rather than acknowledge his or her sins before Him.  And that is a dangerous stance to take.              St. John warns: “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  But he adds: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8, 9).

God’s questions become more pointed as He seeks to bring the sin of these two trembling sinners out into the open.  “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten of the forbidden fruit?”  Obviously, God knew what had happened.  But He was giving the man an opportunity to take responsibility, to repent. 

Adam seeks to shift the blame to Eve—and even to God Himself.  “It’s not my fault, God.  It was that woman You gave me.  Perhaps if You had made her a little better this would not have happened.”  There is no end to sinning once it has turned away from the Word.  Adam doesn’t want to acknowledge his sin; he wants to be regarded as pure and innocent.  And the Lord sees no need to continue such a fruitless and foolish line of conversation for the time being.

So the Lord confronts Eve: “What is this you have done?” again, giving her the opportunity to take personal responsibility.  But she attempts to shift the blame, too: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”  And that’s been a pretty popular excuse ever since the fall: “The devil made me do it.”  Of course, the devil never makes us sin; he just displays our options and packages them attractively.  

In Eve’s answer we note something else that must have been distressing to God.  Both she and Adam are concentrating on the sinful deed of eating.  God is much more concerned about the sinful attitude that produces the sinful deed.  After all, sin does not begin with the hand but with the heart. 

Let this be a warning.  Sin is just as deceptive in your lives today.  You also sense the consequences of your sins much more readily than the attitudes that produced the results.  From your first parents, you, too, have learned to love yourself and to fight for yourself and to blame others, even if that means disagreeing with the faithful God who has come to save you.

God turns to the serpent, allowing Adam and Eve to listen.  God wants them to hear this judgment and be comforted by the realization that God is the enemy of that being which inflicts so severe a wound on mankind.  Here, grace and mercy begin to shine forth from the midst of the wrath which sin and disobedience aroused.  Here, in the midst of the most serious threats the Father reveals His heart.  This is not a father who is so angry that he would turn out his son because of his sin, but one who points to deliverance.  Here is a promise in the midst of a curse. 

God wants His man and woman to know that although Satan has won his little victory here, he will not triumph permanently: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”  

These words also show us another consequence of the fall into sin—enmity, the quality or state of being an enemy, a feeling of hostility or ill will.  The enmity God speaks about is on three different levels.  First, He tells Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman.”  There had been friendship between Eve and Satan.  She had regarded him as her friend.  She had believed him when he spoke.  And if God had not intervened, Eve and all her descendants would have gone to live forever with this “friend” in hell.  Fortunately, God’s promise to send a Savior to redeem lost sinners creates faith in Eve’s heart, and that friendship she had once felt toward Satan is now replaced with enmity. 

The enmity God announces is also going to extend further between Satan’s followers and those of Eve’s descendants who will share her opposition to the evil one and her trust in God’s grace.  This hostility exists between God’s believing children and the unbelieving world down to this day.  Perhaps you’ve never thought about it before, but what a blessing it is that you have learned to look upon Satan as your enemy!  For though he is a deadly foe, the devil is a much more dangerous friend.

This enmity will reach its climax in one of Eve’s descendants—her Seed.  God warns Satan: “He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”  It is at this one descendant of Eve that Satan directs his most vicious enmity, realizing just how much was at stake.  Herod seeks to kill the newborn King of the Jews.  For forty days in the wilderness Satan tempts Jesus to forget His Father’s plan.  And then, on that evil Friday that Christians call “Good,” Satan strikes his enemy’s heel with a ferocity that costs the Savior His life on the cross.

Yet Satan’s enmity will prove futile.  Death will not hold this Holy One, the Seed of the woman.  In rising again to life, Jesus will forever crush the head of the serpent.  Just as it is through the woman that Satan brings sin and death into the world, so it is through the woman’s offspring that God will conquer sin, death, and Satan.  St. Paul writes, “When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). 

Paradise will be restored in Jesus—the second Adam—who will fully obey the Law of the Creator, the Law the first Adam broke (Romans 5:18-21) and give up Himself for His bride, the Church that He might sanctify her. 

The scene in Genesis 3 is so bad that generations of believers have puzzled over how God could have permitted such a disaster.  While there is a mystery about the fall into sin that will escape our complete understanding, it is natural to ask what caused this condition.  The consequences were so catastrophic! 

Perhaps an example will help us begin to understand it.  Do you recall when you were a teenager?  Most of us are familiar with that delicate period that comes before independence and adulthood.  There is a time when parents must permit young adults to have their own will.  As painful as it can be, parental love risks rejection and failure.  To pressure them to the point they lose their own will would be wrong.  We want our children to become responsible adults, not robots. 

That’s what God wanted too.  He did not program Adam and Eve for rigid obedience that permitted only zombie-like compliance.  No, in a remarkable extension of His grace, He created Adam and Eve with their own will!  They could freely love and obey Him.  But that freedom opened another possibility.  They could freely reject His love and disobey as well.  That’s what freedom means. 

When our own sin and the sin of others bring pain into our lives we sometimes second-guess God.  Might we have been better off as robots?  But such thoughts grow out of sinful, prideful hearts, hearts that accuse God—along with Eve and Adam.  Could our Creator be holding out on us?  Could He deny us the best things, giving us only the second-best gifts?

You know the answer to that.  You’ve seen the answer to that in Jesus, who hung and bled and died for you on a cursed cross.  God is not a withholder.  He gives you His very best.  God’s love for His creation moves Him to redeem rather than destroy you.  While you endure the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve—the shame, blame, and enmity—you can take comfort in the promise of a Savior and rejoice in the knowledge that Christ Jesus has won God’s victory over sin, death, and the devil for you.  God gives you a promise in the midst of a curse. 

The Seed of the woman has crushed Satan’s head.  In Him, you have forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.  Indeed, you are forgiven for all of your sins.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 Now may the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.


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