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Lost

February 5, 2018

          There was this oversized, blue leather sleep sofa, sectional and recliner combination that was gathering dust in the warehouse of the La-Z-Boy Showcase Shoppe in Champaign, Illinois where I worked.  The owner told me he bought the piece years before and had been unable to sell it even after slashing the very high retail price in half.  Unable to return the furniture to the manufacturer, he had shoved it into the corner of his warehouse because the grouping took too much space on the showroom floor to warrant displaying it.

          Now, Champaign is the home of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini so one day, I had this great idea and hauled the bulky furniture over to the show room floor.  I put the furniture in the front display window, found an orange flower arrangement that I placed on a table in front of the blue sofa (the U of I’s colors are orange and blue) and hung a picture of the mascot, Chief Illiniwek, behind the chair.  I put a sign by the display that said, “Illini Special: Half Price” and within a week I sold the unit.

          There is a valuable lesson about sales from that story: if the product is properly packaged people will buy it.  There is also a valuable lesson about sin from that story: if sin is packaged with beautiful ribbons and bows and made attractive we will be tempted and fall to that sin.  After all, if we could see sin for the ugly, horrible, destructive thing that it is we would all run away screaming.  But if it looks good, we will want it.

          In principle, we are all against sin, aren’t we?  The real question is how do we overcome sin?  That is the age old problem and one that is often answered wrong.  You see, since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (as Romans 3:23 reminds us) then we are all guilty of sinning and since we all sin we obviously are not able to overcome the problem by ourselves.  Throw out any false idea about being good enough or doing enough good deeds to compensate for the bad things we have done because it simply does not work.  The sooner we accept that truth the sooner we can actually understand the grace of God.  We are all lost and only Jesus can save us. 

          The 8 week sermon series I am starting today is called “Christ B.C.” which may seem rather redundant because literally that means “Christ Before Christ” but it is appropriate because to the discerning eye, our need for Jesus is clearly described in the Old Testament Scripture.  And this need for the Savior was first recognized and demanded from almost the very beginning – from the time of Adam and Eve.

 

We are lost and the story of Adam and Eve remind us of our…

I. LOST INNOCENCE

          After God created all the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1, he pronounced everything “very good.”  In other words, it was perfect or just like God wanted it to be.  Genesis 2 gives a little more detail about God’s creation of man and woman and shows how he set Adam and Eve up in paradise.  They had absolutely no worries or concerns – no bills to pay, no concern about finding shelter or food, no danger from anything and no problems to deal with.  The weather was perfect and the garden was beautiful.  Their only responsibility was to name everything God created and to take care of the planet.  The Garden of Eden symbolizes the place we all still long for and its loss is a reminder of how far away from God we have wandered.

          Sadly, this utopian state came to a crashing end in Genesis 3.  Follow along as I read our text from Genesis 3, beginning in verse 1:

          1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

          Here Satan is described as a serpent which is one of the same titles John gives him in the book of Revelation.  Now there are several things in this verse that are very strange and mysterious to us.  First, why did God allow Satan to wander about the earth?  Well, that seems to be his job according to the book of Job – going around tempting people and then tattling on them when they sin.  It’s also strange that a snake can speak and that Eve wasn’t surprised or frightened by that.  But as intriguing as these things may be it is more important for us not to miss the point here. 

          We do not know how long after creation this story took place.  Maybe the serpent had been creeping around and tempting Adam and Eve for some time.  But here we see the serpent took the simple and direct command of God from chapter 2 and turned it into a question that raised some doubts.  Did God really say that?  In other words, what kind of mean, oppressive dictator would arbitrarily deny you the opportunity to gain wisdom and to enjoy yourself?  After all, we all think if it feels good we should be allowed to do it in spite of the fact that Adam and Eve had access to and could eat from hundreds of other trees.  Denying us the fruit of one tree was not fair.

          So why did God deny them this tree?  Again, that’s a mysterious and tricky question but the answer may involve God’s desire to protect us.  He knew that part of the knowledge they would gain would be the knowledge of sin and evil.  He did not want his creation to get hurt.  We don’t want little children to be exposed to bad things likewise God does not want us to be hurt.

          But if the tree could hurt them why did God make it?  That’s also hard to really understand except to realize that God did not create robots but humans with free will.  Free will means we can make choices, good or bad, so if there is nothing that could be a bad decision how can we really have free will?  It’s the same argument the devil used in the book of Job when he said, “of course Job is faithful to you because you protect him from everything.”   

          Verses 2 and 3: 2The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "

          The seed has been planted and Eve is wavering.  Notice how she adds to God’s command: the tree is in the middle of the garden meaning that it is the easiest tree to eat from.  Why should we have to go to another tree way over there when that one is so close and convenient?  And then Eve makes the command even more oppressive than it was by adding the restriction that we can’t even touch the thing or we will die.  God said do not eat from it or you will die.

          Verses 4 and 5: 4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

          In other words, the serpent says God is lying because if Adam and Eve die who will be left?  That’s a minor issue at best (God could create new people) but the main point Satan makes goes to the heart of our pride and feeling of self-importance.  We will be like God: we will be important and powerful. And who doesn’t want that?

          Verses 6 and 7 are some of the saddest verses in the Bible: 6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

          If sin tasted nasty, we would spit it out and never do it again.  But this fruit of the tree tasted real good and Eve shared it with her husband who passively went along with her.  You see, one way we avoid admitting the shame and guilt of our sin is by encouraging others to join us in our sin.  We think that everything is ok because everyone is doing it and we aren’t hurting anybody.

          But what is most sad about these verses is the loss of innocence.  The only knowledge we see Adam and Eve receiving is the comprehension that they were naked and somehow they realized that was shameful and wrong.  The point here is not so much the physical nakedness as the realization that they have betrayed God and they pathetically try to hide from him.  They can never go back to the way things were.  Yes, there eyes had been opened – they had been opened to the evil that was lurking in the world that God wanted to protect them from.  They were no longer innocent.  They were now jaded and lost.

 

We are lost and the story of Adam and Eve also reminds us of our…

II. LOST DIRECTION

          Verse 8 says: 8Then 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 hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

          Before Adam and Eve sinned, they belonged in God’s presence, walking in the garden with him.  Their relationship with God had now been redefined and they were confused and afraid.  They did not know which way to go.  The once welcome and familiar sound of God walking in the garden was now a frightening noise to them. 

          Verses 9 and 10: 9But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

          Now God knew where they were.  He was asking, “Why are you hiding?  What have you done?”  And of course, God knew the answer to those questions too but he is confronting Adam and Eve with their sin. 

          Like scared children we always try to run and hide from God when we sin.  Just like Adam and Eve do here, just like Jonah did when he took the boat away from Tarshish we try to run and hide even though we know there is no place that we can escape from God’s presence. God doesn’t even address the running away but focuses on what they did. 

          Verses 11-13: 11And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

          12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

          13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"

          The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

          Adam and Eve were not willing to take responsibility for their sin.  Along with covering their nakedness with fig leaves they attempt to cover their sin with excuses.  Adam blames two people: he blames the woman (I can see many of you ladies nodding in an understanding of how men blame you for their troubles but we won’t go there right now) and Adam also blames God.  After all, it was God who gave Adam this woman therefore it is God’s fault.  Isn’t that how it always is?  Blame someone else for your problems: it’s not my fault it’s my parents’ fault or the environment I grew up in or live in. 

          And then Eve starts that age old excuse: the devil made me do it.  The whole problem is out of our control because we can’t fight against spiritual powers.  But notice that the serpent never twisted Eve’s arm, he never put the fruit in her hand, and he never in any way forced her to do anything that she did not first agree to do.  Bookstores are full of literature promoting gimmicks and self-help plans guaranteed to make us better (even Christian bookstores are stocked with similar schemes only with a little Scripture thrown in).  The problem is as long as all those writings focus on what we can do and how we can make better choices, they will fail. 

          We are lost and sin makes us lose our direction.  I use to own a basset hound named Gatsby and Gatsby could not go outside without being attached to a leash or chain.  The reason is that basset hounds have a very keen sense of smell and when he went outside he was intrigued by all the new and exciting smells and he would try to find their source.  Within minutes, he would wander far away from the house and have no idea how to come home.  He never meant to get lost .  Sin takes us away from God’s presence.  We don’t mean to wander so far away but before we know it we are completely lost with no way to get home.

 

We are lost but the story of Adam and Eve finally reminds us of our…

III. FOUND SALVATION

          God had several options after he caught Adam and Eve in their sin.  He could have ignored the whole thing.  Of course, doing that would have completely shot any credibility he had – why should they listen to anything he said because he might not follow through any way.  Or he could have squashed them like a defective piece of pottery and remolded his creation into something else.  God does do that later when sin got so bad he destroyed the world with a flood.

          I never understood when my dad pulled off his belt to punish me why he said, “This is going to hurt me more than you.”  I never understood that until I had kids of my own.  It is not an enjoyable thing to discipline our children but it is something that must be done if we truly love them.  So God punishes Adam, Eve and the serpent for their sin.  But for Adam and Eve, his creation, the ones he loves, he also offers a way out and from the very beginning of the Old Testament, Jesus and the salvation he offers can be seen. 

          First, look at verses 14 and 15 where God punishes the serpent: 14So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.

          15 And 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."

          The emphasis on the curse here is not that the snake will crawl (I don’t know if that means before this he walked or not) but the emphasis is that he will eat dust.  Eating dust still has the image of being beaten or defeated.  “Eat my dust” is still a common phrase, isn’t it?  In a sense, the battle between good and evil began here and God said, or in modern trash talk told, Satan, “You are going to eat my dust.” 

          Verse 15 is the very first reference to the idea that God was going to send Jesus to save us.  Satan will strike the heel of Jesus – or, in other words, severely hurt him but Jesus will crush Satan’s head or utterly destroy him.  This verse has a theological name that you can use to impress your friends: Genesis 3:15 is called the “protoevangelium.”  Or, in other words, the first mention of the good news. 

          In verse 16 God gives Eve her punishment: 16To the woman he said, "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."

          God always uses symbols, like the rainbow, to remind us of something else.  I wonder if before the fall childbirth was going to be easy.  Now it is a painful experience reminding us of our fall from the garden. But even in the pain, there is joy isn’t there as a new life begins.  And as verse 15 already hinted at, life from a baby born of a woman, will destroy sin.  The curse will actually become a blessing. 

          Finally, God punishes Adam in verses 17-19:17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,'

          "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.

          18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

          19By 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."

          Basically, Adam lost his cushy position in the garden and had to perform manual labor to survive.  Before, God provided their food and everything they needed.  Now, they had to get it for themselves and they would discover it is not easy.  Toiling for our bread is a constant reminder as well of our sin.  But then in verse 19 God also reminded Adam and Eve that part of the punishment is they would physically die, just as he had warned them they would (I wonder if they had not sinned would they have not died?).  Yet even in the punishment of death there is blessing.  After so many years of hard labor our bodies can’t take it anymore.  Death becomes a blessing as well.  The crueler punishment would have been to make them sweat and work and never die.

          This was perhaps the saddest day in history but even in the overwhelming tragedy of it all, we see hope – hope of a found salvation.  Look at verses 20 and 21:

          20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

          21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

          Adam actually named his wife twice.  First, back in Genesis 2, he called her woman, meaning out of man because she was made from his rib but now he calls her Eve meaning the mother of all the living.  They obviously saw hope in their future not despair.  They knew that everything was going to be alright.  They understood even in God’s judgment on them that he would save them.

          Verse 21 is a very interesting verse.  Remember before, Adam and Eve made clothes out of fig leaves.  The biggest problem with a fig leaf is it will shrivel up and blow away - it will not last.  God made them clothes out of skin that would last.  There is also a lesson about Jesus here that we can see in spite of objections from animal rights groups.

          Clothes that were made out of fig leaves were cheap and easy.  Picked properly, the fig tree can grow more leaves but an animal has only one skin and once it is taken the animal will die.  The animal makes the ultimate sacrifice when it gives up her skin.  Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice for us by covering our sins permanently when he died on the cross.

          We try today to cover our sins with fig leaves.  We use the fig leaf of rationalization or try to cover ourselves with the fig leaves of do’s and don’ts.  But it never works and it never lasts.  Jesus covers us with his own skin.  Only Jesus through his death and resurrection can adequately cover us.  In spite of our loss, salvation can be found.

xxxx

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