Archive for the ‘Genesis 3:1-21’ Category

The Fortress Awaits!

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Lent 1 (A), March 9, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” [John 20:31]

I chose our text this morning as a guide for examining the message that’s communicated in all three of our readings.  What is that message?  God wants good for His children; He wants you to have a “good” and eternal life in and with Him!

How could God who alone is good, desire any thing but good for us?  In the first two chapters of Genesis we learn all about God’s goodness.  Each time He completed a stage of creation we hear… and it was good!  Like the comforting purr of a kitten the word good is repeated over and over.  But on the sixth day, the last day of creation, God created something good that would reflect His goodness and love to the rest of creation, but it also would give the devil an opportunity to strike out at God.  “God said, “Let us make man in our own 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.” [Genesis 1:26]

“And God said (to Adam and Eve), “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.  You shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of lie, I have given every green plant for food.” [Genesis 1:29, 30]

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to work it and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” [Genesis 2:15-17]

The Garden of Eden, Paradise, eternal life with God the creator, the land of milk and honey, was a perfect place for perfect people.  All of God’s good creation existed within His perfection; it was the perfect picture of peace.  When God created man is His image, in essence He was creating a people who also had the power to create; that is man was created as a rational being who could conceive an idea and then work towards its conception and completion.  Man alone was the one creature that God gave full charge over the rest of creation.  In essence, God was telling Adam and Eve that they would be His ambassadors to the rest of creation. All of creation was their’s to manage and put to use; all except one tree, “the tree of Knowledge of good and evil.”  That tree was to represent God’s presence or authority over man and the creation that He had given them to be stewards over.

Now we must not misunderstand the significance of this one tree.  It was not as if God created man and then said, “I’m leaving, but that tree will remind you of my love and the good times we had together.”  No, God was no absentee father and man was not a latch key kid!  After all, scripture clearly says that man and God walked together in the garden in the coolness of the day, and man was not afraid.  Man knew God and loved Him.  The tree instead represented the otherness of God.  It reminded man that while they were as god to creation, they were not God!

Martin Luther called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil “Adam’s Altar”.  I like that idea.  There at the tree Adam and Eve could return to God the true worship He was due as an act of obedience.  But this was just the opportunity that the devil would exploit.  You see, Satan was craftier than all of creation, including man!  The devil, disguised as a serpent began to craft innocent questions in order to create thoughts that then caused doubts in the minds of Adam and Eve, doubts in regards to the truthfulness of God’s Word.  “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”

How Eve should have answered the devil was, “No, God never said that.  Why do you question His Word?”  But instead, Eve replied the truth of God’s command, but then she added a little something to it.  “God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the garden.’” But now listen to what she added, ‘neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  Now, Eve has demonstrated her weak spot so to speak, the kink in her full armor of God.  I believe that she was attracted by the beauty and splendor of the fruit.  And the rest as they say is history, the history of the fall of all of creation.  But where pray tell was her husband?  He, who was her spiritual head, was right there with her and never once did he intervene by rebuking the attack of the devil.

So there you have it, the loss of paradise.  A perfect home for perfect people, enjoying the love of a perfect Father, undone by a carefully crafted lie, “You will not surely die.”  Now Adam and Eve knew shame.  Their shame was not their nakedness but the nakedness of their sin before their perfect Father.  They no longer went out to meet their Creator God joyfully, but hid as he approached.  They knew that their loving Creator-Father had now become their judge!  And once found out, neither of them accepted responsibility for their sin, but instead they began making excuses and shifted blame to each other and even onto God Himself!

But Satan’s trick and our sin would not win the day.  God’s love would not let them go; He would not give them up.  God would not abandon them in their guilt.  He would send a Savior who would come and crush the power of sin and the devil forever.

“You ask who this may be?  The Lord of hosts is He, Christ Jesus mighty Lord, God’s only Son adored.  He holds the field victorious.”  [LSB 657 vs. 2b]

In our Gospel reading, Jesus the Son of God and the Son of man performs perfectly the task that Adam could not accomplish; He defeats the devil.  Armed with only the Word of God, Jesus led by the Spirit of God entered the wilderness to right the wrong of Adam and undo the sin of our first parents.  His victory over the devil using only the true Word of God is also our victory, as He sends the devil running.  His righteousness becomes our righteousness by faith.  Just as in the garden, the battle being fought is really over obedience to God’s will, which is communicated in His Word.

As Satan addressed Jesus, he used the same tricks that Eve fell to.  Through deception, He attempted to plant doubts and half-truths, and then finally blatant lies in order to attack and already weakened Jesus.  But this was Jesus, the Christ, and the Son of God who enters the fray as your Champion.  Notice the decisive and bold stand that Jesus takes in our place: “Be gone, Satan!”  For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’”

Dear friends, the truth is that all of Satan’s attacks were meant to deter Jesus from His Divine appointment to become our Savior.  The devil tried every trick in the book to prevent Jesus from doing what Adam could not.  And now, the devil tries the same thing against us.  Think of how most temptations still come to us today: “If you are really God’s forgiven child then why do you still struggle with guilt and sin?  If you are truly a Christian, blessed by God, why are you experiencing all of this trouble, pain, and loss?”

Dear friends, Jesus knows what it is like to fight off questions about God’s truthfulness, which undermine the message about His forgiving love.  He knows how the devil tempts us to take short cuts as a way of getting to our treasured goal.  He knows what we all go through in those tough times of life when our baptism seems so long ago and far away.  He knows what is like to doubt the trustworthiness of our Heavenly Father.  And that is why Jesus wielded the sword of God’s Word against the devil.  He did it to crush him and send him running in defeat, a defeat for you!

“Though hordes of devils fill the land all threatening to devour us, we tremble not, unmoved we stand; they cannot over power us.  Let this world’s tyrant rage; in battle we’ll engage.  His might is doomed to fail; God’s judgment must prevail!  One little word subdues him.” [LSB 657 Vs. 3]

What is that little Word?  Jesus!  God Saves!  It is the name of Jesus that is your fortress.  Blessed is the name of the Lord.  The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous run into it, (that is they cling to their Savior Jesus by faith), and are safe. [Proverbs 18:10]

Through Jesus alone, the pattern of death begun by Adam is over. [Romans 5:12–19] Jesus is that seed of the woman who would smash the head of our enemies: sin, death, and the devil.  Upon the cross, that ancient serpent shrieked when he heard the last Words of our Savior: “It is finished.  Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  For Jesus, these are Words of victory, but for us, they are words that bring faith.  Words that assure us the battle is over and won!

Just as Adam’s one sin led to death for all of mankind, so also Christ’s obedient death and then resurrection, brought justification and new life to all who are baptized in His name and continually flee to the fortress of His Word and His cross in repentance and receive God’s forgiving love.

What an unspeakable gift God has given us through Jesus Christ!  It is literally paradise restored.  As God’s new people sealed by baptism into Christ, we can once again walk with God without fear.  We can look forward to the day when we die in faith and are welcomed back to Eden restored, where our Savior has gone to prepare a place just for us.

But for now we live and walk by faith.  And as we live, it’s God’s will that we would drink up every one of His promises that declare, “He who began the good work in us” will complete it through the new and greater Adam, Jesus Christ.  We declare boldly by faith to our enemies, that no one, not even the devils can snatch us out of the Father’s hand or the Son’s abundant gift of grace.

“God’s Word forever shall abide.  No thanks to foes, who fear it; for God Himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.  Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day.  The Kingdom’s ours forever!” [LSB 657 vs.4]

So follow Jesus. The fortress awaits and paradise is restored!  AMEN!

The Desire of God!

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

The First Sunday in Lent (A), March 13, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

In last week’s message we learned that the purpose of God’s Word is that you would know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  St. John put it this way:  God speaks so  “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” [John 20:31  Think of it friends, all of God’s Word has been divinely prepared and preserved for you today, right now at this very moment so that you would hear him speak to you. 

This message of God comes from the very heart of God.  We hear God speak to us in the very first Words of Genesis where we discover how God created all things.  Listen:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be…” [Genesis 1:1-3a]

 In that little bit of scripture we discover a couple of things about God.  First we learn that God is indeed all powerful. He created everything by simply speaking it into existence!  But we also learn that God is personal.  Think about that for a moment.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One; One God and One mind and heart, yet He exists in a dialogue of three persons.  Now, God could very well have thought all of creation into existence, yet He chose to speak.  He spoke because He is a personal God!  So in the beginning, there was God, but there was no one for Him to be God for! 

 So God created something that He could be a God for; something that would be able to relate to Him in the same manner as He relates to Himself.  “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” [Gen.1:26]  “(Then) the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. [Gen. 2:7]

Again, we learn that God wanted to be God for someone; He wanted to be God for you and me.  He created us in His image; He created us to have dominion and rule over the entire earth in His authority just as He has dominion and rule over us.  Listen: (So) God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” [Genesis 1:28]  Can you see the beauty in this Word of God?  Do you understand that God created the entire world as a cradle for people with whom He could relate with; they were made in His image, and designed to relate to Him and multiply, and care for the earth!  Do you see how passionate in His love God is for all of creation?  It was that same love that moved Him to empower us with the ability to reject Him by choosing evil over good.  Listen and you will understand: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” [Gen 2:15-17] 

Many people love to say that God is love; they say it so quickly, but I wonder how many realize the infinite depth of that love.  God loves us so much that He not only gives us the ability to reject His love, but He also made the decision to share His love.  Listen: “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” [Genesis 2:18]  Why did God do this?  Friends, God did this because He is love and love is not only passionate it is sacrificial.  It was God’s eternal love that motivated Him to share Adam with Eve!

 So, from all of this we now learn what the Garden of Eden was; it was a perfect place for perfect people, who related to a perfect God and one another in a perfect way; intimately and free of guilt and fear.  But God also created us to reflect His love and care towards each other and all of creation.  So when we hear that we were created in His image, that doesn’t mean that we were designed to look like Him; no, it means that we were created to act like Him; to reflect His character, His heart and priorities.  We were created to relate to Him and others as God relates to us—in love!  But something happened which caused us to lose that character of God; listen: “Now the serpent was craftier 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’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 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.’”  Now let me interject here and point out that God never said that if they touched the fruit they would die; that was Eve’s addition.  It was the first act of legalism and many such additions to God’s Word have followed ever since.  Remember this; legalism always turns a loving God into an angry God! 

Well now, seeing an opportunity, the devil pounces: “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  When 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. 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. [Genesis 3:1-7]

So what happened?  I’ll tell you what happened; they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and it’s been that way ever since!  It always starts the same way; it starts with Satan planting a seed of doubt.  Then once He gets us to doubt, He uses deception.  What did He say to Eve?  He said, “You will not surely die.”  What he meant was you won’t die immediately, but you will die eventually!  He was implying that God was holding back the best from us.  He was implying that we may think like Him, but we don’t know like Him.  And so began the insatiable desire of man to know the mysteries of God.  It is the prize that Satan has been promising to give ever since the fall! 

Now you see the beginning of our own sinful nature.  Can you see why Adam and Eve were to blame for the fall and not God; why we are to blame for our own sin?  It always starts the same way.  First we allow seeds of doubt to grow into discontent, and from there it’s just a simple turn towards sinful desires.  And once those sinful desires rear their ugly heads, full-blown disobedience… sin is sure to follow!  And disobedience and sin always come with a price, a big price.  Forever things were changed in a moment; the greatest blessing we could ever have or want was lost; we lost our relationship of love and trust with our Creator!  How?  Well, we chose knowledge over trust in God and when that choice was made we lost our ability to relate to Him in innocence and love!  Listen to how scripture explains it: “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.”  [Genesis 3:7]

In just one moment of sin, our peace and trust in God’s care was replaced with shame and guilt! But that wasn’t all; no there’s another thing that always follows sin and that is denial.  Listen: “Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” [Genesis 3:13]  Do you hear the denial? “The serpent YOU made.”  And ever since that great fall, God has been getting blamed for the things that sinful men and women do.  We’ve lost both our relationship with God and the ability to physically live forever! But there are other ways that we are suffering because of that sin.  Listen: To the woman (God) 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.” [Genesis 3:16]  From that point on, the created order of things had changed.  No longer would the woman measure her worth through God’s love and care, but now she must turn to her relationships with others, but because they are sinful also, they will fail her as well!

So where did that leave Adam and Eve?  The same place it leaves God and you and me; we all long to return to what we lost in Eden.  We long to be in a relationship with each other.  God knows the way back because He made the way.  But we are never happy waiting on God; we don’t like to do things His way, so we take matters into our own hands and we try to fix what is broken on our own.  Listen again: “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.” [Genesis 3:7]  Nothing’s changed much since then has it?  Like Adam and Eve, we’re still trying to cover up and hide our sin!  We are still trying to get back into Eden through our own work and cover-up!

But God has a plan; a plan to restore what we lost; to fix what we messed up!  But in order to understand God’s way and follow His plan we have to first admit that there is only one person who’s never changed; we have to first confess that God is right and we are wrong!  That dear friends is simply called confession!  And to make our confession come a little easier, God wants each of us to know that He still wants us to return to Him and relate to Him in love and trust.  He wants us to remember that we were created to be in a close relationship with Him and each other; a relationship free of guilt and fear.  How will God accomplish all of this?   By forgiveness and grace! 

 Listen to God’s way of doing this very thing as He put the devil on notice: “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.” [Genesis 3:15]  This was the first proclamation of the Gospel as God promised that He would defeat the devil and restore our fallen and broken relationship.  This is the same promise that He has repeated consistently through many different prophets.  Listen to God speak this same promise through the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” [Isaiah 7:14]

What one man destroyed through choice, the God man, the child of the virgin would restore through another choice. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” [Romans 5:12-14] 

It was God’s love for the world, for you that moved Him to send His son to us in our flesh.  It was God’s love that moved Him to take away the leaves that we used to cover our shame and provide the skins of animals in its place.  Here is the first teaching of God that demonstrates to us that our sin is so serious that it requires more than a mere cover-up… it requires the shedding of blood!  “(So) the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. [Genesis 3:21]  But animal blood was only a temporary solution to a permanent problem.  Human blood must be spilled for human sin. This is where the sending of God’s Son Jesus Christ becomes God’s way back to Eden.  Through the tree of knowledge sinful mankind lost their relationship of love and trust with God, but God raised up another tree, the cross of Jesus Christ!

 Through the cross we learn that God’s gift of love and forgiveness is the only way back to Eden.  “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin.  For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.” [Rom. 5:15-17]

 What do we learn first in the book of Genesis and then throughout the entire Bible?  You don’t get back to Eden through Eden.  You get back to Eden through the cross of Jesus Christ!  So God’s desire for you this morning is simply this; that by reading His Word you would believe and trust in His love and work for you through Jesus Christ and then be saved.  God desires that you would rest in the work of Jesus Christ, which was given to you in your baptism, and then be brought back into a right relationship with Him; a relationship of love and trust!

So here is the simple message of the cross, a message that you can speak to your neighbors.  God is creating a community of people who relate to Him by faith and one another in love so that He can bless them, and through them be a blessing to the world, by reconciling then to him through the one man, Jesus CHRIST!