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Curse & Promise

Creation and Fall  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:58
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Fallen - that is the state that we find ourselves in. We know it, whether we’re always ready to admit it or not, but we do know that we are not perfect, neither are we in a totally uninhibited relationship with our God. Despite what we might desire - we are covered in a cowl of sin.
Last week we looked at the entrance of sin in to the world, and today, we’re going to be looking at God’s immediate response to it.
After the woman and the man had eaten of the fruit fo the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their eyes were opened, and they saw that they were naked and hid themselves, from each other and from God. The uninhibited, innocent, open relationship they had once had with one another was not broken. They made coverings for themselves, and when they heard God they hid. And God in that grace filled question calls out, “Where are you?”
There’s a great tension that we live with today that illustrated in what happens next. The narrator of Genesis tells us in vs. 10:
Genesis 3:10 ESV
And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
AND - that’s a pretty significant word because it doesn’t seem to make any room for delay. Adam responded to God’s call as he had all of his life. Yet, he also reveals something new - he’s hiding from God because he feels exposed. And why does he feel exposed? Because he’s no longer sure he can trust God, he’s been deceived. He has put himself in a position of judging God’s Word. The serpent had taught him well, “Did God really say…?” Thus he exposes his separateness from God.
And then God asked them who told them they were naked, and had they eaten from the tree he’d told them not to eat? Then vss. 12 & 13 demonstrate both the man and the woman’s new ability to deflect the blame. Yes, it was my mistake, but it’s your fault!
And that’s where we pick up our passage for today, Genesis 3:14-19.
Genesis 3:14–19 ESV
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
There’s a curse and a promise that is proclaimed to them there, and we’re going to discuss that today. The curse is the fallen world, the promise is that they will live in the fallen world.

The curse and the promise are proclaimed over Adam’s life in his fallen state in terms of four great ideas: enmity with the serpent, the pain of childbirth, the toil of work, and death.

Now there is a curse and promise in each of those, so let’s use that as our outline for this morning.
enmity with the serpent
This is ultimately pointing to the division between man and God.
Now remember it was a pious question that the serpent first asked, “Did God really say…?”
But it was a pious godlessness.
Yes the question sounds pious, and in fact one could say that this is the first theological discussion recorded in Scripture. But it wasn’t to discover what God really said, instead it was to instill a distrust, to suggest doubt, into humankind. Now, living in the world that has been destroyed humankind is to live in that world with temptation. The temptation to doubt God’s word, or accept it.
No longer would Humankind posses God’s word in peace and tranquility; instead in the fallen world that they and we now live in we would hear it in the pious question that distorts and misrepresents it. There would no longer be an unquestioning obedience to God’s word. Now there would be a battle, a struggle against God.
In this fate of the curse though God has also given the promise of victory. A victory that must be fought for, and won again and again. This battle will trample the serpents head underfoot. The battle for God’s word will also leave scars on humankind.
Seeking after God’s Word our lives will be marked with scars and victories as we will be locked in an ongoing battle as long as we live.
2. the pain of childbirth
The eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil brought into the world what in the Hebrew is described as tob and ra. Tob can be used to mean “good, pleasing, pleasant, delightful, delicious, happy, glad, joyful, pleasurable” while ra means “bad, evil, disagreeable, displeasing, unpleasant, harmful, painful, suffering,”
The unity between the man and the woman has been ruptured at the innermost point. The deep pleasure experienced in the communion between man and woman now also brings the suffering and pain. That which is to be the ultimate union and ecstasy on earth in the coming together of a man and woman also produces incredible pain which any woman that has borne children will attest to.
3. the toil of work
In working with teenagers they tell me that work is hard. I’ve often laughed and said that’s why they call it work! In Scripture what we see is that this too is a result of the fall.
The ground that once produced all the fruit humankind could possibly desire and for which Adam only needed to stretch out his hand and take, now is cursed, and will mean worry, woe, toil for Adam to produce the fruit. The ground that has provided for him is now an enemy of sorts - the other created things rebel against humankind in the fall.
Adam and Eve in the fall basically announce that they can live out of their own resources, their own thinking, etc. God and the Creation say, “Um…not really.”
The ground no longer just gives forth its fruit, it must be worked, it must be weeded, it must be tilled, it becomes unfruitful without the pain of Adam and indeed all of humankind.
Humankind has been divided from nature.
So far we’ve seen the separated-ness of man from God, man and woman, and man from nature. Finally we come to death.
4. death
Isn’t that a wonderful, uplifting topic for the week after Easter?
Actually it is. First the bad news.
As man and woman, Adam and Eve are condemned to die. Death has now entered the picture. In our world we forget that this is the first mention of death actually going to happen. There’s been mention of it, but how? There had been no experience of death before. I don’t know how to describe that - I’ve never lived in a world without it!
Let’s look at the paradox in which human being now live.

The world is changed and destroyed in that human beings in their dividedness can no longer live with God, with one another, and with nature; yet, in this dividedness between tob and ra, they also cannot live without God, without one another, and without nature.

Yes, the result of the fall has been God’s curse and death. And it has also been God’s grace and life. Fallen Adam lives on his way to death. His life is a life that is preserved on the way to death. Why?
Remember the serpents suggestion? “You will not surely die!”

The serpent was right: You will be like God; you will by no means die, that is, die the death that means ceasing to exist.

They continue to exist on their way to death.

But the Creator was also right: On the day that you eat from it you shall die, that is, die the death that means being sicut deus.

The promise is that Adam will return to the dust. That sounds like a curse, but it is not.

Yet now death becomes for human beings, who live because they are preserved in compassion, a promise held out to them by the God of grace. Adam cannot but understand this death, this turning into dust, as the death of his present existence in death, his being sicut deus. The death of death—that is the promise this curse carries.

Bonhoeffer summarizes this all up so much better than I ever could. He says, and I quote:

Adam understands this death of death to mean sinking back into the nothingness out of which God created the world. To him the final promise is nothingness, nothingness as the death of death. For this reason Adam sees his life as preserved for nothingness. After all, how should Adam, who has fallen from faith, know that the real death of death is never nothingness but only the living God, indeed that there is no such thing as nothingness, that the promise of the death of death never means nothingness but only life, Christ himself? How should Adam know that, in this promise of death, already the end of death, the resurrection of the dead, was being spoken of? How could Adam hear announced already in the peace of death, and returning to mother earth, the peace that God wishes once more to conclude with the earth, the peace that God wishes to establish over a new and blessed earth in the world of the resurrection?

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