Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sin and its aftermath

Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1472-1553

When God came into the garden after the first human sin, they tried to hide from him (Gen 3:8). But hiding from God is impossible (Ps 139:7-12). First, God confronted Adam, who started making excuses (Gen 3:8). He didn't answer God's "where are you?" with an obedient "here am I." Instead, he wined, "I was afraid." And when God challenged him about this guilty shame, he blamed "the woman you put here with me" (Gen 3:12)--a blasphemous hint that this was at least partly God's fault. Next, God challenged the woman, who didn't repent either, but blamed the serpent for fooling her (Gen 3:13).

No one can compose a sincere confession using excuses. And anguish over sin's embarrassing consequences doesn't constitute the sorrow of repentance either. "The kind of sorrow wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in death" (2 Cor 7:10 NLT).

So God judged Adam and Eve. At all three points of God's design for humanity, sin cost dearly.
  1. God created his image and likeness to rule with him in the kingdom of God. The serpent promised autonomous rule, without allegiance to the Sovereign's rule. When the LORD saw that they had gained the knowledge of good and evil through rebellion, he disqualified them from rule and exiled them from the realm (Gen 3:22-24). God told Adam that he would now serve (Heb. 'abad, "serve, work") the ground that he should have subdued (Gen 3:23, cf. Gen 1:28). "Scorning man's kingly dignity, the ground would no bring him a tribute of thistles and a crown of thorns."*
  2. God creation man for rest in the kingdom of God. But human sin and divine judgment doomed man to frustrated labor. God told the woman, "I will greatly increased your pains in childbearing" (Gen 3:16). This marred her key contribution to the commission to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Gen 1:28). And God's curse on the ground frustrated man's ability to fulfill the commission to be fruitful and subdue the earth. This curse underlies the Old Testament covenantal curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. It prompts complaints from the "Teacher" (Eccl 1:2, 4) in Ecclesiastes. And even Paul reflected it (Rom 8:20-23).
  3. Image by Amy Watson, via flickr
  4. God created man for close fellowship one with another and with their God. The serpent's attack brought alienation between the husband and wife, and between God and man. First, shame interrupted the couple's marital intimacy. The serpent had promised god-like shrewdness (Gen 3:1, Heb. 'arum), but they found only shameful nudeness (Gen 3:7, Heb. 'erom). So they invented makeshift clothes to hide from each other. And God told the woman, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you" (Gen 3:16). Marriage suffers from the fall. Second, shame interrupted the relation between God and man. Adam showed it first by hiding, but God affirmed it. To keep man from usurping eternal life, the LORD banished him from the garden and thus kept him away from the tree of life (Gen 3:22-23). The cherubim guarding the gate served the same purpose that the temple curtain did. It kept the unholy away from the holiest place on earth. God imposed other expressions of that exile throughout redemptive history. We he foreshadowed at Eden's closed gates, he impose in the tabernacle and temple architecture. What he taught by that sign, he imposed by exiling Israel from the holy land. And these Old Testametn examples foreshadowed what the church does when it excommunicates the defiant sinner (1 Cor 5:1-13). Finally, God will impose ultimate exile when he sends sinners off into the eternal lake of fire (Rev 20:11-15).
In this season, when the Lord has once again come to walk among us, let us not hide, complain, and make excuses. Confess your sins, repent, and seek God's forgiveness:
But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts (1 John 1:7-10 NLT)
* Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (Eugene, Oreg.: Wipf & Stock, 2006), 135–36; referring to Gen 3:18; see Matt 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2, 5.

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