Christmas, God's Plan from the Beginning
This Christmas season as we work our way toward Christmas our theme this year is “Fulfilled”. We will be looking at various prophecies about the coming of Christ. One of the things that make the birth of Christ so remarkable is that this birth was predicted for thousands of years. The fulfillment of prophecy underscores the significance of His birth.
There are many Old Testament prophecies; some are familiar and some are not. There are prophecies about the Messiah in Genesis, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Psalms and Micah to name a few places.
These are not obscure prophecies. The Jews all knew that these prophecies pointed to a coming Messiah. Christians were not the first ones to see the significance of these words.
This morning we look at the very first prophecy of the coming of Christ and we find it in a rather strange place: in the Garden of Eden.
The Bible (and Jesus) refers to the creation account in Genesis 1 as a historical fact. Jesus referred to Adam and Noah as historical (rather than mythological or symbolic) people. The Apostle Paul in Romans 5 talked about Adam as a historical figure (if he was not, Paul’s argument falls apart).
If you recall the narrative, God created Adam and then Eve. He placed them in a Garden (of Eden) and provided abundantly for their needs. He surrounded them with fruit trees and we are told that God would visit them in the Garden. There was only one prohibition . . . only one law. They were not to eat of the Knowledge of Good and Evil tree.
It is natural to ask: Why did God even put this tree in the Garden if He didn’t want man to eat from it? Only God can answer that question. Others ask “Was God surprised by what happened?” The answer is NO. God knows all things. So . . . we ask, why did God do this if He knew what man would do? This question called “the Problem of Evil” has been wrestled with from the beginning of time. No one has a good answer to these questions. To quote R.C. Sproul . . . “what we know is this: Evil is bad. Second, we know that God must have a good purpose for allowing it or it wouldn’t exist.” That’s all we can say.
Regardless of God’s intentions, Adam and Eve failed. They did not do what God said. They are held responsible for their actions.
You know the story. Satan (in the form of a snake) appeared to Eve and convinced her that God’s one rule was designed to keep her from being as significant and important as she could be. He questioned God’s Word and said God would not carry through on the punishment that He had promised for disobedience. Eve ate, and so did Adam.
The problem with our society today is we don’t see the big picture. This was not “just taking a bite of fruit”, it was making the decision that God was not to be trusted; it was an act that said I believe that I have a better grasp on things than God does. It may even be that they doubted the heart of God and believed He was trying to keep them from being all they could be. As we will see, the ripple effect of this rebellion was considerable. This was no “little sin”. (There is no such thing as a little sin).
Most believe that Satan actually became “the Devil” well before this time when Satan wanted to usurp God’s position (which is impossible since Satan too is a created being. Only God is eternal). (Many believe this is what Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 is describing.) This was before Adam and Eve were ever on the scene. Because of this he was kicked out of Heaven and he took one-third of the angels in Heaven with him (now known as demons). What Adam and Eve didn’t realize (and what we do not realize) is that they were part of a supernatural battle. This was about allegiance. Would they trust the serpent or would they trust the Lord? You know what happened.
Immediately the two knew that what they did was wrong. They knew they were naked and felt shame (a result of sin). Instead of coming clean and pleading for mercy, they tried to hide from God. Once God confronted them, they turned on each other, blamed the serpent and even blamed God (“The woman YOU gave me . . . “)
This account explains the beginning of the “sin problem” we all have to address. It explains how there came to be distance between God and His creation.
13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”
14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:13-15)
The Lord did not take this act of rebellion lightly. If you follow the account in Genesis 3 you see that this “one little sin” impacted many things. First, it impacted the relationship between God and His creation. This was a greater betrayal than when one partner cheats on the other in marriage. The created rebelled against the One who created and sustains them.
Second, it impacted the harmony between Adam and Eve. Later in the text we are told women would spend their lives struggling against men as a result of sin.
In chapter 4 the ripple effect of sin is shown when Cain and Abel offer sacrifices and Cain felt free to make up his own rules for sacrifices. When he was rebuked he killed his brother! In the chapter after that we read of the first person to marry more than one wife. By the time we get to Noah evil is pervasive and so rampant that the only solution was to wipe everyone out and start over with Noah. This shows the impact of that one sin on society.
We also see that sin has a natural consequence. In other words it impacts nature. As a result of Adam and Eve’s sin childbirth became painful and labor would be difficult. Apparently weeds and stuff didn’t come along until the balance of nature was violated with this “one little sin”. I believe the “natural disasters” happen because the balance of nature has been thrown off when by sin! This was NOT a little sin.
The Lord addressed the serpent Satan. He told him that he would be cursed and made to crawl on his belly (which begs the question, “What were snakes like before the fall???”)
Then the Lord says there will be hostility between the offspring of the woman and the “offspring” of the snake. I don’t think this means human beings are going to hate snakes (even though most of us do). It means Satan and mankind would be in a continual battle. And of course history tells us that this is exactly what happens
The children of Adam and Eve fight and Cain killed Abel
Satan enticed men to try to reach Heaven (and take over) by building the Tower of Babel.
Satan enticed Abraham to help God out by fathering a child by his handmaid (resulting in today’s Jewish/Israeli struggles.)
He enticed David to commit adultery and so on . . .
When Jesus came on the scene Satan turned up the heat.
He tried to label Mary as an immoral woman so she would be killed
He had Herod try to kill baby Jesus
He tempted Jesus in the wilderness
He sent demons to expose Him
He enticed Judas to betray Him
He incited the religious leaders to oppose Him
He moved to have the Jews kill Jesus “for the good of the nation”.
Satan of course, vastly underestimated Jesus. When Jesus died, Satan thought he had won. He believed he had taken God’s best punch and defeated God’s plan. However, when Jesus rose from the dead he knew he had lost in his bid to rule over creation. However, as we know so very well, the fight continues.
Then the Lord says this,
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.
Who is “He”? It is a descendent of Eve. It is the one who would be known as the Messiah. He is talking about Jesus!
Satan did strike a blow. Jesus was after all beaten and crucified. God said Satan would merely strike the Lord on the heel. However, the Lord was going to strike Satan in the head. How did He do this? Not simply by the miracles he performed and the demons he cast out. He did this by defeating death entirely by the Resurrection. Jesus paid the price for the sin of Adam and Eve and all their descendants who would put their trust and hope in Christ. This is the first promise of the coming Savior.
This promise of a Messiah is impressive for a few reasons.
First, what Adam and Eve deserved was death. The Lord had told them that if they ate the fruit, “If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” To eat of the fruit was an act of treason against a Holy God. This promise of a Redeemer was an act of mercy. God withheld His just wrath and even at this first sin God had a plan to rescue Adam and Eve by providing a substitute to bear the penalty they had earned . . . the very Son of God. In fact, when God killed some animals so that Adam and Eve could be covered with their skins it was a picture of what Jesus was going to do. Through His death and resurrection He would “cover our sin” so that God saw us as just and righteous in His eyes.
Adam and Eve (just like you and me) still died after many years. But that death was not a punishment. It too was an act of mercy. When sin entered our world it meant that disease, decay, pain and suffering entered our world. Death is necessary so we can trade our old sin-stained body with the new body that is ours because of Jesus. To not die would be to be condemned to remain in our broken and diseased body forever. (Just imagine if this is what Hell is . . .never being delivered from this broken body.)
Second, just as Adam and Eve plunged us into alienation from God because of their sin, Jesus in like manner makes it possible for us to now stand before God as if we had never sinned. Jesus un-does the damage that was done in the fall of man in the Garden. This is what Paul argues in Romans 5. Paul says just as all of us were impacted by the sin of Adam and therefore all were condemned, likewise by the sacrifice of the One man (Jesus) we can be made right with God.
Third, we are reminded that we are in a spiritual battle for all of our earthly lives. This battle does not stop because we turn to Jesus as our Savior. In truth, that fact intensifies the conflict. As long as we are unwilling to make a commitment to Christ we are serving the Kingdom of the Devil. When we declare our allegiance to Jesus we become an enemy of Satan and he will do everything in his power to minimize or negate our effectiveness as a follower of Christ.
Fourth, we see a graphic example of the ripple effect of just one sin. Our children are impacted by our sin and selfishness. Sin affects us physically, emotionally, and psychologically. It is not true when we say, “But I wasn’t hurting anybody but myself”. That is not true! Our sin has a ripple effect on our health, our relationship with God, on our relationships and even in the environment. Disease is a result of the corruption of sin on our world. There would be no cancer, leukemia, diabetes or anything else if sin had not entered the world.
Fifth, we see that the plan for saving people was not a backup plan. Ephesians 1 tells us that God had a plan to save us from before the creation of the world! God’s intention all along was to save His creation.
Isn’t this something? God makes the world and His creation rebelled against Him. God did not get mad . . . He provided a way out. The Lord’s plan was perfect. He would send a messiah who would satisfy the demands of justice and the people who respond to His message would be made new.
What are we to learn from all of this?
First, we should learn that sin is nothing to play with. The reason the world is in the state that it is in is because people have taken their freedom and used it to sin against the Lord. Ignoring what God has told us only gets us into big trouble.
Second, we learn that God is more loving than we can grasp. God’s plan of redemption was not something that was made up by the church. It was not even designed by the Jews. God’s plan of redemption truly was from the foundation of the earth.
Think then about what the birth of Christ really meant. This was not simply the long-awaited Jewish Messiah finally being born. This was the One who had been promised since the creation of the world. Jesus was God’s solution to the sin problem (which is the source of every other problem). Jesus was God’s rescue plan. He was the One that would make it possible to someday unravel the mess that we had created. He is the One who would make kit possible for us to live on in the new Heaven and new earth (which is the only way to purge the effects of sin fully from our environment.)
“For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” (Col 1:19-20)
Third, we are challenged to put our faith in the Lord Jesus. Since He is God’s rescue plan we would be foolish to ignore Him or seek to diminish what His arrival means. This isn’t simply about the redemption of us personally . . . Jesus is the one who came to redeem the world from the mess it is in. He is a cosmic Savior.
If we learn anything from the Genesis account it is that it is not for us to try to “tweak” God’s plan of redemption. Our job is to receive the One who has come and to do so gratefully.
Are you suffering today? Are you suffering from disease, allergies, or chronic conditions? Are you sore from Arthritis? Are you feeling the sting of a fractured relationship or battling a besetting addiction? Do you fell tossed aside by the world? Do you feel distance between you and God? All of these things are the result of the sin of man. Medicines, counselors, good works and exercise are things that treat the symptoms. The One who treats the core problem is Jesus. That’s where we must turn first for ultimate healing. That healing may not necessarily take place in this life but it will happen ultimately because of His grace. What you suffer is a reminder of the need that we all have to be made brand new by God’s redemption plan.
So at the start of this Advent season I pray you will open your heart and life to the One who came to rescue you. Cry out to Him. Adore Him. Follow Him. Tell others about Him this Christmas. Rely on Him. Turn to Him for forgiveness, new life, and a new beginning. We need the One who came to us in Bethlehem to fulfill God’s promise made in Eden. We need Him desperately.