Monday 10 September 2012

Read with me: Genesis 3

I preached on Genesis 3, three years ago and referred to the manuscript I used then in studying this chapter which you download here. The most memorable sermon I have ever heard preached on this passage was one delivered by Don Carson many years ago at Eden Baptist. You can download the MP3 by clicking here (not the exact same one, but similar in content).

Notes on Genesis 3

[3:1] “The serpent” Introduced as one of the creatures in the garden, a created being. He is described as “crafty” - clever, pragmatic, shrewd. On Sunday we met those who were “wise in their own eyes and shrewd in their own sight,” who “call evil good, and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20-21)

[3:1] “Did God actually say...” The serpent asks a seemingly innocent question, but subtly twists God’s words - “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden.” Look back to 2:16 - “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden...” Sneaky!

[3:2-3] “We may eat...but God said, ‘You shall not eat.” The woman replies with God’s word but adds her own spin, “...neither shall you touch it...”

[3:4] “You shall not surely die.” The very first thing the serpent questions and twists in God’s word is the reality of judgement. Again, Isaiah 5:19, “Let it come that we may know it.”

[3:5] “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God...” God’s motives and generosity is questioned. Note that what the serpent says is not entirely untrue. In verse 7, the eyes of the man and women are opened. In verse 22, God even says, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.” Yet, the promise of the serpent is entirely false. They do not become like God. In disobeying God and listening to the serpent, they become even less than human.

[3:6] “Saw that the tree was good for food... a delight... desired to make one wise.” The word sin is never used in this episode (the first occurrence is only in 4:7), and yet here sin is defined for us: not merely as the rule-breaking, but as rule-making. The man and woman wanted to be like God - that was the temptation. They wanted to define what was good and evil for themselves.

[3:7] “The eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Previously in 2:25 the man and the woman were naked and not ashamed. Now they cover up their shame. Their eyes are opened and they can see “good and evil,” but what they now see is the evil of their actions and motives. “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Cover-up is the theme of the ensuing verses.

[3:8] “God walking in the garden in the cool (Spirit) of the day...” is not a quaint description of an afternoon stroll, rather a holy God whose awesome unmistakable presence now fills the garden. “The man and wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD...”

[3:11] “Who told you that you that you were naked? Have you eaten...?” God confronts the man in judgement. He has nowhere to hide.

[3:12] “The woman whom you gave...” Adam’s response is to pass the buck. He denies any responsibility but shifts it all unto the woman... and even assigns blame unto God! The woman does the same in verse 13, “The serpent deceived me.” Notice that what has occured is a reversal of the created order. The woman listens to the serpent; the man listens to the woman, and now the man attempts to tell God to listen to his explanation. Such then, is the order of God’s judgement upon man and creation.

[3:14] “Cursed are you above all... beasts.”
[3:15] “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” There is war between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Embedded in this word of judgement is the promise of the gospel - the protoevangelium (or first announcement of the good news). The serpent crusher will himself, be crushed.

[3:16] “To the women... I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing.” The word for “pain” in Hebrew sounds like the word for “tree.” Pain is a reminder of sin and points forward to judgement. God is saying to the woman, because of the “tree”, you will experience “trauma”. Because you “ate” from the tree I forbid you from eating, you will suffer “agony”. Notice that this greatest pain will occur at the point of her greatest joy - at childbirth.
[3:16] “Your desire will be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Here is conflict between the wife and her husband. She will want to influence and dominate. He will overrule.

[3:17] “And to Adam... Cursed is the ground because of you...” Adam’s work becomes toil. He has to work, for he has to eat, but no longer will it be pleasurable, but frustrating. The curse on the ground is symbolic of rebellion. The same way in which Adam rebelled against God’s rule, so now creation will rebel against Adam’s rule. “Thorns and thistles,” (verse 18) will grow, frustrating the work of the gardener.
[3:19] “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,” Like the woman, every meal is a reminder of his mistake, every drop of sweat, now a reminder of his sin. Man does not die as much as he now lives with death every day.

Understanding death:
     Remember God’s word of warning in 2:17 - “In that day... you shall surely die.”
     Here we see that God’s judgement of death is not simply the termination of life
     The DNA of death is introduced into created order - it is seen in pain, it is seen in conflict, it is seen in frustration, it is seen in futility
     Death itself is a pointer in two directions:
Backward - to our sin and rebellion against God
Forward - to God’s final and certain judgement for our sin
     Man continues to live each day - with death.
     Yet, in the midst of death, we see hope for new life. God gives the promise of the son who will one day bring and end to death.

[3:20] “Eve...the mother of all living” Eve sounds like life-giver. There is hope and this hope will come from their offspring.

[3:21] “garments of skin and clothed them.” Their nakedness and shame is covered. Sin is real, so is shame. God makes provision for both.

[3:22] “knowing good and evil,” The man and women now know good and evil, but it is not as God knows this, through doing good, but as the serpent does, through doing evil. They are now like God, in that they have assumed autonomy.

The ironic thing is, God has made the man and women like himself, in his image (Genesis 1:27). Adam was given authority like God in naming the creatures. He was put to work, like God, in the garden. He was a son of God, sharing his rule and dominion over all of creation under God. Yet, in defying God’s word, the man and the woman were now less than God, and less than human.

[3:24] “The tree of life” The last mention (perhaps even, the only other mention) of the tree of life in the bible, occurs in Revelation 22:2 - “yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” A time will come when man will be invited to take and eat from this tree, symbolic of eternal life, but also that of healing and salvation.

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