Reading Ramblings – June 29, 2014

Date:  2014 Narrative Preaching Series #2, June 29, 2014

Texts: Genesis 3; Psalm 51; Luke 4:1-13

Context: As we continue our narrative journey through the Old Testament, it is critical that we move directly from Creation to the Fall, since this is exactly what the Bible does.  How is it that God could deem his creation good in Genesis 1, and yet we struggle with the difficulties and calamities and disasters and cruelty that we read in the headlines and hear about on the nightly news?  Genesis 3.  The Fall.  Humanity’s rejection of God’s way in favor of our own way. 

Any discussion of good and evil and God’s role in our world today must be filtered through Genesis 3.  Any criticism of God must first pass by Genesis 3.  Our sinful efforts to abdicate responsibility for our own suffering and pin it on God are  neatly nipped in the bud by Genesis 3. 

Genesis 3— Now we are introduced to a new character, embodying the likeness of a serpent.  This is Satan, but Satan in some animal form.  Watch as he carefully misstates God’s commands.  Watch as Eve reasserts God’s command but also extends it.  Eve knows the command not to eat the fruit of this tree.  But as she assesses the fruit with her own senses and judgment, the command of God becomes secondary to her own conclusions.  Nor is Eve alone in this—Adam is right there with her when she tastes the fruit.  Eve had to consider her course of action; Adam’s participation is immediate. 

Watch the efforts to shift responsibility and blame.  Adam doesn’t answer God’s question, but begins by attempting to put God on the defensive.  I’m naked—how can you expect me to come out to see you like this?  You created me this way!  God’s questions are not to elicit information He does not already know, but rather to treat humanity as a responsible party, not only capable of answering but required to.  Adam next shifts the blame to Eve, even blaming God for giving him Eve, the woman he had just composed poetry for a few verses earlier!  Eve shifts the blame to Satan.

In speaking judgment, God reverses the order, beginning with the serpent, then moving to Eve and finally to Adam.  The serpent has done this.  Eve has eaten the fruit she was not supposed to.  Adam listened to his wife (rather than listening to God).  The specific guilt of each one is identified and the consequences enumerated.  Not just death, but suffering.  Strife.  Enmity.  Yet in the midst of this the promise that one day, things will be different.  One day, God will raise up an offspring of Eve’s to crush the serpent, even as the serpent wounds him.  The first Gospel proclamation comes here in Genesis 3. 

Psalm 51—This is a beautiful, poetic example of confession and absolution.  We plead to God for mercy.  We acknowledge that we are sinful by nature, from birth, and that ultimately all sin is first and foremost sin against God.  But we also know that God will purge us and cleanse us.  We are bold to ask to be made clean, we are bold to expect that our brokenness will be restored.  We are bold to pray even for the very Spirit of God to be given to us in exchange for our sinfulness! 

Our response is worship and praise; teaching and sharing with others the goodness of God that has been extended to us. 

Luke 4:1-13 —  Before Jesus begins his formal ministry, one thing must be determined.  Will He be obedient to God, or will He rely on his own judgment as Adam and Eve?  If Jesus would not obey, then nothing in his ministry would have any meaning or power.  But if He would remain obedient, then God would redeem creation through is life, suffering, and death. 

So it is that God the Holy Spirit leads Jesus directly to Satan to be tempted.  So it is that Satan, cocky and confident from thousands of years of confusing God’s people, approaches Jesus to tempt him.  Maybe Jesus will succumb to the simple temptation of food, as Adam and Eve did?  No such luck.  When Jesus responds in faithfulness, Satan attempts to use that very faithfulness as a pretext for sin, challenging Jesus to move from trust in God to testing God.  Still no luck.  Finally, discerning some measure of Jesus’ purpose, Satan offers him a shortcut.  Do you want to be like God? Your ancestors did.  I can give it to you.  No need for suffering and wandering and persecution and that awful death business.  Just take my shortcut and I’ll do all the rest.  

Jesus is able to stand in for us and take upon his shoulders our sin and judgment because He is innocent.  Completely able to choose equally between obedience and disobedience, good and evil, and He is completely committed to only choosing obedience.  He becomes the perfect, innocent sacrifice.  Our sins are taken from us and put on him.  Our punishment is taken from us and put on him.  Because He is the Son of God, and because He himself is without sin, He can take ours.  His obedience makes possible our return to the innocence and obedience of Eden. 

 

We cannot fix ourselves.  Sin is too pervasive.  It is not simply what we do, it is who we are.  Only if our very natures are transformed, only if God himself lends us his righteousness and perfection can we ever hope to be declared innocent, pure, clean, whiter than snow. 

 

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