JULY 12, 2015

Rev. Dr. Richard Meyer

(Play Audio)


            This morning we continue our sermon series based on this book by Tremper Longman III Old Testament Essentials .  Last week we looked at the first essential   Longmans first essential Creation and this week we turn to his second essential the Fall.  Its described in the third chapter of Genesis and the chapter begins with one of the best opening lines in literature, right up there with Call Me Ishmael from Moby Dick and It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, from A Tale of Two Cities.  Look at the opening line of the third chapter of Genesis.  Its a classic.


            Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. 


            Nothing prepares us for that sentence. After all, at the end of Genesis 2, everything was hunky dory. God had pronounced everything in creation good, and last Sunday we left Adam and Eve living in harmony with God, with each other and with their environment. The appearance of a creature working to undermine the relationship between God and the human creatures catches us by surprise.  Who or what is this serpent and from where did he come?

            Because of New Testament references Christians have rightly identified the serpent with Satan, but it is doubtful that Adam and Eve would have done so. Since the walking serpent was a well known ancient Near Eastern symbol of evil, the original audience of Genesis would have recognized the danger inherent in the appearance of this creature, but in the innocent world of the story itself, Adam and Eve were likely clueless.

            The serpents evil intentions are revealed in his provocative question to Eve


            He said to the woman, Did God say, You shall not eat from any tree in the garden? The woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 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.’”


            Note a couple of things about Eve here.  First, she defends God making here the first apologist or defender of God, and second, she is the first legalist since she insisted that God not only forbade eating from the tree, but also from touching it. God, by the way, never said anything about not touching the tree. Thats what legalists do.  They add to Gods law, often making God look ridiculous, as well as preventing people from enjoying life. Lets continue.


            But the serpent said to the woman, You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.


            By the way did you catch the fact that the scriptures do not say the fruit was an apple?  Of course, it doesnt hurt to visualize the forbidden fruit as a big, juicy Golden Delicious, but the scriptures do not say that. Also, lets not overlook that fact that when the serpent tempts Eve, Adam does not speak up. The text makes it clear at the end of verse six that Adam was with her, yet he remains silent and watches Eve as she takes the forbidden fruit and eats it. Remember that God told them they would die if they ate the forbidden fruit? Only after Adam sees that Eve is still alive does he take some from her and eat himself. What a guy! Instead of protecting his wife, Adam uses her as a guinea pig to test Gods command.

            Christian radio host and author Nancy Leigh DeMoss has this to say about this first couples sin: When we find something we like at the store, one of the first things we do is look at the price tag. She goes on to say, She that is Eve acted on her immediate desires without considering the price tag.

            Thats a common error we make. We dont look at the price tag, the potential long term affects of our actions. Of course, even when we know the price tag, we sometimes buy it anyway. At a weight loss group the instructor held up an apple and a candy bar. What are the attributes of this apple, she asked, and how do they relate to our diet?

            Among the answers that came from the group: Low in calories and lots of fiber.

            She then detailed what was wrong with eating candy, and concluded, Apples are not only healthier but also less expensive. Do you know I paid seventy-five cents for this candy bar?

            The group stared as she held aloft the forbidden treat. From the back of the room a small voice spoke up, Ill give you a dollar for it.

            Thats human nature. To prefer whats bad for us instead of whats good for us.

            Lets continue


            They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, Where are you? He said, I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself. He said, Wh told yo that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? The man said, The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit from the tree, and I ate. Then the Lord God said to the woman, What is this that you have done? The woman said, The serpent tricked me, and I ate.


            Disobeying Gods command changes everything in Adams life, in Eves life and even the serpents life. No more walking around for the serpent. God decrees the serpent will crawl on its belly and eat dust all the days of its life.

            So the serpent pays for its crime. And so do Adam and Eve. To Eve, God says verse 16  I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.

            Adam paid, too. To Adam, God says the middle of verse 17 Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

            Notice that it is not Adam who is cursed, but the ground that is cursed. Adam already had been given dominion over the garden. He was already responsible for its upkeep. But now it will no longer be a joy to maintain.

            There is another punishment, the most deadly of them all, which is visited on both Adam and Eve. God banished them from the Garden of Eden.  The last verse of the chapter reads, He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

            And thats where we live todayEast of Eden, in a state of brokenness and estrangement. None of this was Gods original intent us. Lets not blame God for broken homes, broken bodies, broken neighborhoods and a broken world. Thats on us.

            Why did Adam and Eve disobey God? Who knows? Why do you and I disobey God? Theres something within us that is in rebellion. We dont want anyone, not even God, telling us what to do. Why did the first man and woman sin? Why do you and I sin?

            Years ago I enjoyed watching the Flip Wilson Show, especially his character Geraldine and her signature line The devil made me do it. I think my favorite Geraldine routine was the time she came home with a new dress and her husband asked, Why did you buy the new dress?

            Well, honey, the devil made me do it.

            Didnt you say, Get thee behind me Satan?’”

            Yeah, but he said it looked good in back, too.

            Bad theology. All throughout scripture we see that Old Redlegs does one thing. He tempts and we make the choice whether to give in or not. So, we cant blame the devil. We are responsible for our own actions.

            It is significant that God put an angel with a flaming sword at the entrance to the Garden of Eden. This is the Bibles way of saying that never again on this earth will people live in a perfect paradise. Never again on this earth will people live in perfect innocence and intimacy. We had our chance, and we blew it.

            But wait, there is hope. You see, there are three gardens of note in the bible. One, of course, is Eden, where humanity first cried out, Not your will, but mine be done.

            The second garden of note is Gethsemane, where a lonely figure cries out, Not my will but thine be done. Later, on a hill nearby, Jesus hangs on a cross. And like the original Adam, he is naked but not ashamed. He died on our behalf so that the curse of death may be removed.

            There is a final garden of importance to us. It is at end of the Bible, in the very last chapter of Revelation


            Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more.


            In Christ, the curse of death has been removed. Christ made it possible for innocence and intimacy to be restored. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil will be transformed into the tree of life.

            And that is our hope. This broken world is not Gods final word because one man kneeled in a garden and prayed, Not my will, but thine be done, then he allowed himself to be sacrificed upon a cross and as a result death no longer has the final say over us. Thanks be to God for Gods great gift in Jesus Christ. Amen.

[1] Many thanks to two sources for this message Tremper Longman IIIs Old Testament Essentials and a sermon by King Duncan titled The Garden of Temptation.