One Momentous Theological Point.
I once read, in a book teaching effective communication, that building a sermon around one major point is extremely effective. I remember laughing to myself because I struggle to zone down my sermon points from like 20 theological conclusions to the good old fashioned three Baptist alliterated points, that is all points being organized to begin with the same letters or sounds. However, when I read this passage earlier this week I could not evade this one momentous point: God shows Himself to be glorious by choosing redeeming those who are running from Him.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not meaning for that point, as momentous as it is, to be the only conclusion drawn from the opening pages of God’s self-revelation. Hear me when I say: There is a lot, and I really mean A LOT, going on in the first three chapters of the Bible.
It opens with a line revealing that God is the eternal, all-sufficient, all-powerful, all-Sovereign Creator of every atom, every creature, every being in existence, whether visible or invisible (Colossians 1:16).
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.Genesis 1:1, ESV.
Now, there are a lot of people, far more intelligent than me, who argue, theorize, and advocate for various theological positions on exactly how God carried out that amazing action of creation. However despite those arguments, I am not able to name a single Christian, laymen or scholar, or even a secular agnostic who struggles with interpreting the opening verse of the Bible—Notice I am saying interpret, not believe. A person can interpret a text correctly and not believe it. That’s because it is crystal clear in what declares—from it’s first word the Bible claims that there is one God and that He has created all things.
The opening chapter also reveals a very clear truth about this God who creates all things. Over and over again, Moses emphasizes that God’s creation is declared to be good. And, Moses isn’t just talking about grass, trees, and butterflies. In fact, Moses makes this expression with greater intensity by using the Hebrew word meoth, which we translate as very, following the completion of God’s apex creature—Man. And, if you’re curious as to why the Christian worldview holds humanity as the apex creature of all creation, then Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, provides us with an astounding reason. He writes,
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.Genesis 1:26-27, ESV.
This was the original design for which mankind was formed. We were made for the glory of God with the purpose to be like little royal mirrors reflecting the glory of God as we filled the earth and brought order by ruling as God’s ordained kings and queens over every square inch of God’s good creation.
That was God’s design. Glorious for His Name, and good for His creatures.
Yet, it doesn’t take a PhD. for a person to look around and realize that what was originally designed for creation is not what creation is currently doing. What happened?
Moses doesn’t leave us hanging here either. As the third chapter of Genesis opens Moses tells us about the tragic defection of Adam and Eve. And by defection, I mean that our ancestral parents deserted their God-designed, God-glorifying and good purpose for an alternative, self-exalting, sinful purpose. You know this narrative well, but let’s refresh our minds nonetheless.
The tragedy opens with serpentine talk. That’s right, a speaking, slithering, seductive snake, identified later as Satan, the deciever of the whole world (Revelation 12:9). And his opening line is definitely deception masked as a question: Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’ (3:1) Now we know that is a bogus question. We know that because Moses has already told us what God had said. God gave them every tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet the devil twists the knowledge of the good provision of God to seem like a gloomy restriction, that’s why he replaces every with the word any. Subtle deception can cause significant destruction. However, and I find this to be the greater mystery, Eve doesn’t get it right either. The serpent altered God’s Word, but Eve adds to it,
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.’”Genesis 3:2-3, ESV.
Now, I have heard all types of speculations about why Eve felt the need to make this addition. Some suppose it was Adam’s addition meant to go above and beyond to ensure obedience to the one command. Some suppose it was a mere expression of growing animosity against God’s authority over mankind. Regardless of the reason, the devil’s eyes must have lit up when he sensed Eve’s ignorance of God’s Word. Think again if you think that Scripture memorization isn’t important! The door to tempt disobedience was now wide open, and Satan wasted no time at seizing the opportunity,
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.”Genesis 3:4-5, ESV.
There is now a direct confrontation occurring in the heart of Eve. Will she trust and obey the Word of God or the words of the serpent? Of course, I know you already know the answer,
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 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.Genesis 3:6, ESV.
Well the devil told them a half-truth didn’t he? Verse 7 tells us that their eyes were indeed opened, but that it wan’t accompanied by the freedom and divinity they expected. Instead this eye-opening experience was accompanied by fear, shame, and guilt (3:10).
Now, I have said for years that the next verse, in my opinion, is one of the most tragic verses in all the Bible. It shows in full color the result of this tragic defection chosen by our ancestral parents,
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.Genesis 3:8, ESV.
The God they were made to reflect, they were now running from. The God who created them for the purpose of enjoying Him, was the God they were now seeking to evade. The God who alone could make them eternally happy, they were now hiding from. I don’t know how else to say it: this is a tragedy of tragedies.
The God who chooses to redeem those running from Him.
Now, here is the window that I have wanted to bring you to this evening. Everything up to this point has been to get you to walk up close and to press your face against the glass of God’s Word so that you can behold, rejoice over, and celebrate the glorious nature of our great God.
People always talk about the ‘great but’s of the Bible.’ I don’t know if this verse makes that list for you, but I’m going to tell you that it should.
Look at verse 9 with me,
But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”Genesis 3:9, ESV
You are an idiot if you think God didn’t already know what had happened here. The God who knows all things does not need to ask, and yet here He chooses to. God’s wanting to reveal something to you about Himself, that’s why He does this. He’s not ignorant. He’s being intentional. That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to record this.
So, here’s the question we need to ask: Why does God do this? Why does God call Adam to Himself, instead of killing him for disobedience? Let me give you my best explanation, which I get from this text and believe to be consistent with it, and the rest of Scripture.
First, I need to explain Adam’s hiding. You see there is a reason that Adam and Eve run for cover like a wild fugitive. That is they sense that they are guilty. They have disobeyed God, and they know it. Now I could stop right there, but that would be bad preaching, and by God’s grace He is keeping me from doing that. We must take the extra step here. The reason Adam and Eve are running as guilty fugitives is because they know what God had said would be the judgement for this act of disobedience. He said it clearly in Genesis 2:17, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
So, I think I am on solid ground when I say that Adam was hiding, not just because he knew that he was guilty, but because he expected the God who created him, was now going to destroy him. He was anticipating that the Lord would kill him. Strike him down dead in his tracks. And so, he hid among the trees of the garden when he heard The sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
You know, the Bible often surprises me. What I mean is that sometimes I read a passage and think, ‘I am shocked by this. I did not see that coming.’ Truly His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. When I read verse 8 of Genesis 3, I think, ‘Uh-oh. Trouble in paradise.’ But, when I read verse 9, I am shocked. I am astounded. I am surprised by the mercy of God! Adam did not deserve this mercy. God was not obligated to give this mercy. Yet The Lord, in the revealing of His glory, chose to give it. I think that’s the purpose of the ‘but’—to stop you dead in your tracks and cause you to marvel at the simple fact that instead of killing Adam immediately, God calls him and invites an explanation.
But why would God choose to do that?
Because when confronted with the problem of sin, God doesn’t just get frustrated and give up. He glorifies Himself—He puts His excellent nature, character, and reputation on bright display for all to see. He chooses to act in a way that reveals Him to be all wise, all sovereign, all powerful, all good, and all satisfying. He chooses to act this way because His glory shines brightest, not by blowing the earth up and making a new one—take note the purposes of the Lord God are not thwarted by a serpentine devil. His glory shines brightest by Him acting intentionally to redeem those who are running from Him.
That’s why God calls Adam out from the trees. That’s why He enters into a conversation that He already knows all the answers to. That’s why He doesn’t immediately kill our ancestral parents! Because God wants you to know that His design is not destroyed by the devil. He will have victory. His Word will not fail. He wants you to see His glory on bright display like a flashing neon sign saying, I’m not giving up. I will redeem. I will save.
But, that doesn’t mean that His justice is ignored. That’s why I just don’t understand these contemporary preachers who want to talk about how God is love, to the point that they act as if He is not also just. God is love, absolutely; and He is also Just. And it is through the combination of those shining rays that we are called to marvel at His glory, which means that to ignore one of those attributes is to ultimately miss the glory. Don’t do it. See God as He reveals Himself in the Scriptures. He surprises us with His merciful nature, and then confirms His justice in the pronouncement of curses. And yet, intermingled in those curses are the overtones of salvation. Eve will have relational problems and pain with childbearing, but she will still have off spring. Judgment, yet mercy. Adam will return to dust when he physically dies, yet he is prevented from eating of the tree of life which would have enslaved him forever in this fallen state. Judgement, yet mercy.
You see, these judgements, which we still experience today, are overshadowed by a grand promise of future and absolute victory over Satan and the suffering he has caused. A promise of judgement on the devil and sin, which unlike what we experience, shows no mercy to the serpent.
God shows His glory by redeeming you through crushing Satan’s head, while bruising His heel.
Look at Genesis 3:15 with me.
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.Genesis 3:15, ESV.
If I am telling you that the momentous point here is that God redeems those who are running from Him, and that He does this for His ultimate glory, then it must occur in the surprising way of saving us through judgement—because that is how God is revealing His glory in His Word. It will come in a way that puts His sovereign grace, mercy, and Holy fierce justice on bright display. And, I think that is exactly what we get in Genesis 3:15——a verse that has often been tagged as the Protoevangelium (first good news).
There is a fierce judgement on the devil that comes from the seed of the woman. That is to say that an offspring of the woman will one day crush the head of the devil. Yet, this doesn’t come without suffering to the offspring for His heel will also be bruised in the working of this salvation. This is why I like to say that the Old Testament is leaning on its tip toes towards the coming of Jesus Christ. For it was Jesus who was bruised for our iniquities, yet who gives us final victory of sin and death. Yes, at Calvary God put His glory on bright vivid display by bruising His Eternal Son’s heel through His suffering the punishment for sin. Yes, at Calvary Satan was disarmed by the triumph of God over sin, and this is confirmed by His resurrection from the dead three days later!
So, I think this is the place that I have sought to bring you to. Yes, to Calvary and the empty tomb so that you can behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. So that you can worship, rejoice over, and celebrate the God who redeems those who are running from Him, by crushing Satan’s head while brushing His own heel.
The tragedy of Eden began to be reversed at the cross, and it will come to completion when Christ returns and crushes the head of Satan once and for all. There is so much more I could say but that’s the glimmering ray of glory I have seen this week—The God who chooses to redeem.