Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Fall

I cringed when I heard him ask the question, because I knew that my answer would be long winded and probably a bit overwhelming. I tried to dodge it and pointed out the nice spread of food we had at our monthly potluck. But this was one stubborn individual. He still persisted and hit me with the question again. This time I tried to talk about the weather and how it was nice to have weather. He didn't buy it, and once more he asked "Pastor, what is your favorite passage of Scripture?"

This was a question I have been asked quite often, but during my tenure as a pastor of a small church in New Jersey, I got asked it almost every week by any number of people. It could have a been a church member, a towns person, or the local clerk at the deli next to my apartment. Everyone wanted to know what the new, young pastor's favorite Scripture was. And it was hard because a lot of people didn't like to hear my answer all the time. Many people assumed it would be John 3:16, or a passage about health and wealth, or a certain Scripture that would bolster their spirits. But my passage didn't do that for most, because my favorite Scripture passage is Genesis 3, the fall of man.

Sure we all know the story right? God had created the perfect place for mankind, free of want, free of sin, free of death, complete communion with God, it was perfect! There is no other word to describe what the garden was, other than perfect. Stop and ponder that for a moment...what is perfect? As a believer perfection is what God is. God is without sin, without blemish, without fault, without evil, without any wrong. So this garden is something that we cannot fully grasp! Sure we can grasp the concept of what the Garden of Eden was and the symbolism it holds, but its unique quality of being perfect is something we can only grasp at the fringes of.

In this perfect garden, man and woman walked and talked with God. They would walk in the cool of the day, or in the evening, or whenever they wanted to, and they would talk with God about everything. If this isn't proof that our God is a relational and personal being, than I don't know what is. But think about having a personal relationship with God where you actually walked along with Him. You could hear Him and talk directly to Him. I am not speaking in the spiritual sense that we as believers now communicate to God with; I am talking about a full-body, physical, visual, actual personal relationship like you would have with your best friend, a parent, a sibling, or your spouse. This was a relationship we will not know until heaven.

Then to top it off they had everything they needed in the garden. Food, shelter, animals, companionship, love, relationships, unity with God, and complete peace. Do you see what this garden was? Do you see the breadth of the love that God had when He sculpted this for Man and Woman? This was an absolutely amazing place to live and flourish.

But all of that, every single bit of it, was destroyed through a selfish act of disobedience. Perfect was gone in an instant because Man and Woman decided that they knew better. And no this is not why I like this story, at least not completely. I will explain that portion shortly. But here we see just how deprived and selfish and prideful and corrupt and conceited and stupid we can be. And please do not kid yourself into believing you wouldn't have made the same mistake. We all would have. Maybe not at the exact time that Adam and Eve did, but you would have and so would I. It is in our nature to rebel and to be something we are not (i.e. God).

Adam and Eve listened to the lies of Satan and believed that God was hiding something (knowledge) from them. They pushed aside everything they knew about their Father who had created them, loved them, cared for them, and protected them, and threw it all into the wind on the word of a serpent. Why you may ask? It is simple really, their lust for knowledge and the power it held outweighed their ability to reason and to remember all they had and knew. Selfishness took hold. Pride gripped their heart. Reckless abandon grabbed hold of their minds. Surely God couldn't have all the knowledge right? They needed it too! Why should God have to know everything? It isn't like He created the world and us, or is an all-powerful, all knowing Deity, right?

When you think about it, anguish and sadness should grip your heart and soul as you see this play out. And not just for Adam and Eve but for all of mankind. We are so far from perfection and so broken and sinful, that this story completely lays out our need for a Savior. We cannot do this on our own. This is evident because Adam and Eve then ran and played hide and seek with God! Now come on! Seriously?!?! He made the garden; don't you think they would have known that God knew all the hiding spots? Well isn't true when caught in a sin, we run and hide, or try to cover that sin up out of shame and despair and embarrassment? This is exactly what they did.

They knew they had wronged God. They had broken His commandment, and the penalty for that was death. God told them they would die for this! Would you want to die? It was here, during their time of brokenness, depravity, frailty, and utter despair that God approached them. He asked them what happened. He didn't accuse or attack them; He just asked what was going on and why they were hiding. But in their sinful and flawed human nature, they played the blame game which has now forever transcended the time of man. Adam said Eve did it, and Eve said the serpent did it, and the serpent said nothing because he knew the axe was about to drop.

And drop it did. God pronounced judgment on all three of the guilty parties. He told man that he would have to work, and work hard to get by (sounds like today's economy doesn't it?), and that he would die. He told Eve she would serve her husband, and that childbirth would be painful from now one. Perfection is gone here folks! No more is life easy and happy and perfect. Pain, sorrow, and death has entered in. God then curses the serpent and Satan. He tells Satan that he will forever be attacking the kingdom of God and that he will strike at God's own Son, but that wound will not kill Christ, but instead Christ will crush the serpent.

In that little bit of text we see such provision because God is already establishing a way back to Him. He had every right to walk away and not look back on the humans who wronged Him. But instead He has compassion on them and provides a Savior for mankind. But a problem still persists...there is no blood shed. Sure Christ's blood will be shed in the future, but God had called for death for this sin at this time. God needed to be appeased.

But again God spares mankind and He takes an animal and makes clothing for Adam and Eve. We don't see this completely laid out in Scripture. There is no text that says "Behold, God took an ox and shed its blood in place of mankind." But what we do see is God makes a provision of skins for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness which was a direct proclamation of their sin. And in order to obtain skins, an animal needed to be killed. So blood was shed for the sin that was committed.

Lastly God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden and this is another great act of salvation and faithfulness. Now you may be thinking "how is forcing them to leave paradise an act of salvation? He just kicked them out of the one place they were safe!" But in truth they were not safe there. They already knew sin, and if they then went and ate of the Tree of Life they would forever be bound to their sin. They would go on living in an eternal state of death, and what greater punishment is there than that? God showed such compassion and grace when He forced them to leave. Yes their lives became hard due to their own fault, but God made such provisions for them in light of all they did.

Do you see why this is one of my favorite passages now? Do you see the grace that is here? Do you hear and see the love God has for us? Do you see His plan for redemption and salvation? Do you see the need for a Savior? Do you see that ultimately God wins, and that we win with Him? This is an amazing passage of Scripture, one we all know, but one that we sometimes stick on the shelf with the other "Bible stories from Sunday School." But do not do that. Embrace what happened here. Acknowledge our depravity, our sinfulness, and our need for a Savior because only in that will you be free from the death that is rightfully ours.

This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture because God's love, compassion, wrath, faithfulness, understanding, sacrifice, redemption, and overwhelming control is fully evident. It takes so long to explain why this passage is so profound and alive, but doing so is key. We cannot forget that this passage is what has allowed for us to be saved through Christ. God alone provide the sacrifice and atonement for us. I guess when people ask me what is my favorite passage of Scripture, I can say "Have you read about how we messed up, God forgave us, God died for, God saved us, and calls His? Well that is why Genesis 3 is my favorite passage."

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