Sermons

February 10, 2019

The Kingdom Rejected

Dave Zuleger (South Campus) | | Genesis 3

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And 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 midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely 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 were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, 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?” And 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, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of 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 fruit of 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 deceived me, and I ate.”

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.”

The man called his wifes name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.—Genesis 3:1–24

Introduction: The Kingdom or Chaos? 

God’s presence and power among his people fulfill the purpose of the glory of God to be spread and enjoyed to the ends of the earth.

When we left Adam & Eve in the Garden last week, we had confirmed that God had created a place where he would dwell with his people to advance his kingdom. These people were made in his image as male and female to show the unity and diversity of our triune God—where each person has equal worth and value, but is unique. Their call was to spread the glory of God as image bearers to the ends of the earth. Human beings were made to gladly obey God and carry out his kingdom purposes. They were fully known and fully loved by God and each other and were dwelling in perfect peace in the Garden. But that’s not where we are now.

What did you see the last time you turned on the national news or checked your Twitter feed? Perhaps applause over abortion—the sinful killing of those made in God’s image. Perhaps further tension between ethnicities one way or another—the sinful dividing of people made in God’s image. Perhaps another serial case of sexual assault—the sinful abuse of people made in God’s image. Perhaps another campaign for changing marriage or sexuality—the sinful redefining of people made in God’s image. And often these things will be presented as talking points by people who are just trying to win the next election—the sinful exploitation of people made in God’s image.

Or, survey those around you that you know. Some are afflicted with terminal diseases or chronic pain. Some are being consumed by sinful addictions of alcohol and drugs. Some are experiencing a broken relationship with his/her spouse, or with a parent(s)/child, or with a sibling, or with a long-time friend. Misunderstandings turn into unresolved bitterness. There is gossip. There is sexual sin outside of marriage that leads to painful brokenness and the objectification and abuse of women—whether in person or on a screen.

Or, we can look inside ourselves and see so much left that is corrupted. We want the fruit of the Spirit but instead we are angry, sad, impatient, bitter, harsh, envious, and out of control. Our hearts can be dark places that we’re almost afraid to take a long look at. It’s sometimes easier to try not to think about what we actually feel and just keep moving.

And as we think about where these things come from, we can connect them to a world that is in the chaos of sin. More and more we’ve made the goal of our existence getting whatever we want whenever we want it apart from glad obedience to God or care for the glory of God. And it hasn’t led to the happiness the world thought would come. 

The Prideful Rejection of the Kingdom (vv. 1–6)

Now, we go back to the Garden where it all went wrong.

First, something to point out that I didn’t have time to last week. The idea of being an image-bearer of God is royal in nature. Often, in the Ancient Near East, kings would have statues or “images” of themselves spread throughout their kingdom to show where they had authority. Similarly, humans are meant to spread throughout the whole earth to show the glory and kingdom of God over all creation.

In the Garden, we have these royal representatives dwelling in perfect harmony and joy with God and one another, with every provision they could ever need, and the opportunity to keep it that way forever as they bring this harmony of the Kingdom to the rest of the earth. But then comes the prideful rejection.

The serpent shows up in verse 1 and is said to be more crafty than all the other creatures the Lord had made.

Remember last week I said that the idea that God creates and governs his kingdom by his word runs as a theme throughout this series? Well, it’s no surprise that the serpent begins to twist the word of God almost immediately: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any of any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1).

Remember back in Genesis 2:16 that God said they could eat from every tree except one? Right away, the serpent is trying to cast doubt on God’s word. Remember we said glad obedience to the King is where true joy and freedom are found? Well, here the serpent seeks to enslave by beginning to take the gladness out of obedience and replace it with doubt. Maybe God is unfair. Maybe he’s a bit overbearing. Just forget that he’s given you a perfect place to enjoy and his perfect Presence with a perfect partner.

Eve responds in verse 3 and starts out well by saying, “We may eat of the trees in the Garden.” Good start. She goes on, But God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” Now, maybe Adam reported it wrong or maybe Eve is starting to try to build up extra rules beyond God’s word to create safety, but either way, that’s not what God said. He only said, “Don’t eat of that one tree.” He said nothing about touching it. So, now twice God’s word has been distorted and misquoted instead of gladly obeyed. Extra rules never stop sin. Glad obedience and trust in God’s word stops sin. 

The serpent sees the opening and keeps going in verses 4–5, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened knowing good and evil.” Again casting doubt! “God’s just full of himself! He’s selfish. He wants to keep all the good stuff for himself. He’s not fair. It’s just a bunch of empty threats to keep you from gaining the glory and place you could just so easily take yourself right now!” Don’t we sometimes hear these whispers in our own circumstances?

And apparently, Eve starts to think she deserves better, and she deserves what she wants right now. Verse 6 records her noticing that the forbidden fruit is “good for food” and a “delight to the eyes” and “was to be desired to make one wise.” Now, do you want to know what’s striking about this? Back in 2:9 it says that every tree was “pleasant to the eyes” and “good for food.” So, what’s new about this tree? Eve wants the God-like wisdom. She smells the so-called independence of being out from under God’s word and free to do things her own way and choose her own path.

Don’t we do this same thing? We know deep down when we sin that we are disobeying God’s word and walking into guilt, bondage, and shame, but then we make excuses. “It’s not that bad. In fact, it might be good! God is always hard on me anyways. I’m just going to do it this one time.” We doubt the goodness of God’s word in favor of our own ways. 

And notice that Eve eats the fruit and gives to her husband to eat who was “with her.” Her husband was supposed to guard the Garden, and he had just gotten done singing a song about this beautiful wife the Lord gave him. Then he stands there and lets her talk with a snake who is distorting God’s word—and then follows her into disobedience. Satan has distorted their relationship through distorting God’s word and they pridefully reject the Kingdom they were given to spread as image bearers of God, and they decide to be their own rulers. 

The Painful Ruin of the Kingdom (vv. 7–24)

We get to verse 7, and we see that they do have some new knowledge—knowledge of their own nakedness. Before they had known only good. Now, they also know evil. Like the serpent had said, their own evil. The perfect peace of the Garden is broken. Adam & Eve try to cover themselves up by sewing fig leaves—playing hide-and-seek with a 2-year-old.

Isn’t this how it feels the moment after we sin? “Oh no! I’ve been here before.” The guilt and the shame floods in and we try to make it better ourselves. Sometimes we tell ourselves lies about how it wasn’t that bad. Sometimes we try to numb ourselves with entertainment. Sometimes we plead with God, “I’ll never do it again.” But, we can’t escape the reality that we are guilty. We cannot cover our own shame.

Here, see very clearly that Adam & Eve are objectively guilty, and shame is the appropriate reaction after sinning against the Creator King who had lovingly cared for them and dwelled with them.

In verse 8 they hear the Lord coming (his personal name is used) and they hide from his presence. This is heartbreaking. Their perfect fellowship with their King is gone. In verses 9–11, God finds Adam. And even though he could destroy them both for their disobedience, he mercifully pursues them and gives them a chance for confession and repentance. Don’t miss this. God knows what has happened. Yet, he asks. God could destroy. But, he pursues. This is a God who is still pursuing relationship with his image-bearers although they’ve broken his word. Perhaps God is pursuing you in your sinful rejection of him right now and asking you to just confess and repent. God gets the man to admit he knows he’s naked and then asks if he ate from the tree. The man knows deep in his soul it was his job to protect the Garden.

But, in verses 12–13, instead of a sweet moment of confession and repentance, we get blame-shifting. Adam blames his wife and God. It was the woman you gave me. This is no longer “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Adam knows he’s guilty, but he blames and throws his perfect partner under the bus in a massive show of sinful passive-aggressiveness. And the woman, who also knows she’s guilty, has her chance at confession and repentance, and instead she blames the snake. 

Now, listen, here’s how sin is tricky. What Adam & Eve say here is technically true. Eve did give the fruit to Adam. The snake did deceive her. But, how quickly we justify ourselves to wiggle out from under the guilt and shame of sin. Don’t be deceived twice. The way out of the first deception of sin is confession and repentance, not self-justification—not ever. 

Then, in verses 14–24, we get the reversal of all of the perfect harmony of the Kingdom. The Lord God curses the serpent, but then he also curses the people he created because they did not gladly obey his word. He curses the land, saying it will bring about thorns and thistles. He curses the woman, saying childbirth will be painful and she will want to dominate her husband but instead will be ruled over. And this is where we have the unhealthy relating of men and women up to this day. God curses the man and his work, saying work will be difficult and demanding. 

The perfect place painfully ruined. The relationship between man and woman, painfully ruined. The joy of working to spread the glory of God, distorted. No more naked and unashamed. Just the guilt of sin and the heavy shadow of shame. And listen, God must do this. He is holy. He cannot simply give this a pass. But again, we see his mercy in his not destroying them.

Perhaps most sad of all of this is that man and woman are banished from the Garden and have to go “east of Eden,” out of the presence of Yahweh, their personal King and God. This is what sin does. It breaks vertical fellowship with God, it hinders our purpose to spread his glory, it spreads into our horizontal relationships, and it brings all sorts of thorns and thistles into the picture. Instead of gladly advancing the Kingdom in glad obedience, sin disgraces the Kingdom in heartbreaking and horrifying treason.

We need to let this land on us. When we sin, it’s not just that we feel bad. We’re objectively guilty. And the shame that comes is a built-in warning of love from our God that we need to come back to him quickly. Sometimes, we try to just completely do away with shame over sin in our culture. But, when we sin, we are guilty, it is treason, and the shame is a loving warning. I’m not talking about other people shaming you in abusive or sinful ways … you just say “NO” to that and remember that you’re safe in Jesus. But, I’m talking about the feeling that comes when you have sinned.

However, when we feel that shame, it is not meant to be held onto and turned into self-pity, nor is it meant to prompt us to try and sew our own fig leaves and hide from God. Instead, we are meant to hear God saying, “Dave, what did you just do?” And walk out of the bushes and into the light and say, “I sinned. I’m sorry. It was wrong. I wasn’t thinking about who I am as an image-bearer. I wasn’t thinking about the Kingdom. I wasn’t thinking about how trustworthy your word is. I wasn’t thinking about how good it is to dwell in your presence and fellowship with you. I wasn’t thinking of the other people I’d hurt with my sin. I justified my sin and made myself king for that moment, and now all I can do is plead for mercy and help.”

We’ve all been infected by this pattern of sin that we’ve just seen play out in the Garden: Sinful people selfishly throwing off glad obedience to God’s good word and instead making ourselves king for a moment. Sinful people, forgetting who we are, what we were made to do, and how good it is to be in God’s presence in his kingdom. Our sin leads us to a place of unrest, broken fellowship with God and others, and death. 

Application: The Promised Recovery of the Kingdom

But, there’s hope in Genesis 3. Satan came to corrupt the people of the Kingdom and therefore destroy the purpose of the Kingdom. But, God is not done with his kingdom people or kingdom purposes.

In verse 15, we see that the kingdom of light will always be at war with the kingdom of darkness, as God says that an offspring of the woman will come—Satan will bruise his heel, but the Offspring will bruise the head of the serpent. In other words, even though there will be a war, the outcome is already sure. The Kingdom of God will overcome. That means that the purpose of that Kingdom—to spread the glory of God to the ends of the earth through his image-bearers—must also succeed.

But, how can this be when the image-bearers have already failed so deeply? They are guilty, ashamed, and have broken fellowship. This is where a surprising turn happens in redemptive history. In Genesis 3:21 it says this:

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

God takes the initiative here. The fig leaf coverings that Adam and Eve had sewed for themselves were not going to cover their shame. But, God sheds the blood of an animal, a sacrifice is made, and through that blood sacrifice the shame of their nakedness is covered.

Again, God has every right to keep his promise of death for their sin in this moment—but instead there is a death in their place that forgives their sin and covers their shame.

This is the surprising turn in the kingdom of God. The way he will advance his kingdom through sinful, treasonous image-bearers is to pay for their sins and cover their shame by a substitute death.

We find out later that the offspring of the woman talked about is Jesus. And God sends his Son, Jesus, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and Jesus lives a perfectly obedient life that we could not live. Then as the God-man, he dies the death we deserved to die. And the beauty of all of that is that by faith in Jesus we get forgiveness for our guilt and covering for our shame. We get restored relationship with God. We get access to his presence once again by the Spirit. Jesus takes on our sin. We take on his righteousness.

God advances his kingdom and defeats the devil through the death of his Son to ransom sinners. The cross where Jesus died the death we deserved to die and where the Father turns his face away from his Son becomes that definitive blow to Satan’s attempt to overthrow God’s kingdom. Because at the cross, life is poured out to all who trust in Jesus, and the Father promises to never turn his face away from them.

God redeems his kingdom people. And God advances his kingdom purposes through those redeemed people. We just saw a picture of God’s kingdom advance as he saves sinners in the picture of baptism. 

And then God will use those redeemed he brings into the Kingdom to join other redeemed sinners in a blood-bought family who begin to live a life of self-giving love for the kingdom of God.

Some of you feel deep guilt over your sin—but you are forgiven by the death of Jesus! And some of you feel deep shame over your sin. You know it’s paid for, but you wonder how you could ever confess it or ever move on from it. You wonder how you could ever be of use in the Kingdom. Let’s think about shame.

Shame comes when we realize that God can see all of us, and we imagine that what he sees is not good. We know our sinful acts and our sinful thoughts. There’s pride and pornography in this room. There’s self-righteousness and selfishness in this room. There’s lying and lusting in this room. There’s apathy and anger in this room. There’s gossip and grumbling.

But, here’s the beauty of God advancing his kingdom through the death of his perfectly obedient Son. Jesus takes our sin. We get his righteousness. So that when the Father looks on us, he sees us as he sees his Son! He sees us clothed in perfect, pure righteousness. That’s how the Father views you. God paid for our guilt and covered our shame. The cross has become our tree of life. Death is defeated. Sin is paid for. Shame is covered.

God is still advancing his kingdom and he is doing it by redeeming a people who long to lay down their burdens of shame and use their ransomed lives in any way their King sees fit to advance his kingdom—a people who long to live in glad obedience to their crucified King.

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