The First Sunday in Lent – Invocabit March 1, 2020
Text: Genesis 2:7-9,15-17; 3:1-7 3 Year Series C 20:2177
I. Life, God’s Gift.
The new world stood waiting. This was the most exciting moment of a most exciting week. For 6 days God was busy – creating. He had made many wonderful things. But why had He made all these wonders? Who was to enjoy all these things?
The shining new rivers and lakes could not talk. If they could, they might have asked, “Who is going to swim in our quiet pools? Who is going to drink our sparkling waters?” Who was going to bite into the beautiful and delicious fruit from the trees? Who was going to rest beneath their shady leaves? Who? God? He is spirit and has no such needs. The angels? They too are spirits and were in heaven with God. They must have marveled at all the things God had made. Perhaps, they too wondered: “Who will enjoy this?”
The answer came in our text. God Himself answered the “who”. He would make a creature for whom all of this was a preparation, a home, a place in which to live and work. God would make man and then woman from him. So He gathered a handful of dirt, and from the very ground He had created at the beginning of the week, at the end of the week He formed a body for the man.
Note the care with which He did this. For all other parts of creation God spoke and they appeared. But with man God formed him with his own hands. The words in the Hebrew language portray a potter delicately forming a creation to hold something special.
With particular purpose and personal attention, a potter goes to work to form the delicacies of a vase. He doesn’t just throw lumps of clay together. He takes care in his work. So, God gave Adam eyes, ears, all his members, reason, and all his senses. He gave him a heart that beat, lungs that breathed air, a brain to think, and a voice that could speak and sing praises to its Maker. And He made it all out of a clump of dirt? Yes, and that was only the half of it.
God breathed into the nostrils of the shape He had formed, and the man became a living soul. Like God he could talk, he could think, he could remember, and he was holy. Made in the knowledge of his Creator, he knew that which was right and would live in it. He also knew that which was wrong, but not by experiencing it. He hoped, he prayed, he spoke with God face-to-face, he loved His Creator above all things. It was a special bond between them, a spiritual union, a life beyond just physical. God set a garden for Adam in the land called Eden, filled with good food, where man could do meaningful work for the Lord, and where they could commune together. This was life, God’s gift to man. It is still His gift to all mankind.
Who are we? How did our births come about? A person might say, “My parents wanted to have children; they wanted me.” Another might say, “It was an accident. My parents didn’t really want children; it happened.” Yet, whether planned or unplanned, people are short-sighted, for people of themselves have no power to create life; God does. He would say, “You were born because I gave you life.” Perhaps He might say, as He told the Prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (1:5). Only with God is there life. So, if you live, it is God’s gift to you.
That’s a precious thought to each of us, dear friends. Live and it is because God graciously gave you life. It was His will and desire.
Isn’t that evident at the dawning of time. Without God wielding His power, nothing would be here. Without God delicately bending down from heaven and molding a clump of dirt into Adam, no person would exist. Without God breathing into him the breath of life, life could not arise. Life is from God; it’s God’s gift and has 3 distinct aspects: physical, spiritual, and eternal. God intended it as unending, lived without interruption in His presence in the garden.
He wants such fullness of life for us, too. He wants to say: “Today, you are with me in paradise” (Lk.23:43). He gave physical life; He gave spiritual life; and most of all He wants us to enjoy eternal life with Him. Life is God’s gift. He discludes no one from that desire. Sadly, we can disclude ourselves. That is death.
II. Death, Man’s Doing.
If the highpoint of life is living in the presence of God and sharing His existence with Him, then death must be the opposite… living outside of God, separate from Him. Death is not just the absence of breath in the lungs and a heart not beating; it’s the absence of the true God in one’s life. People around you may be alive, yet dead at the same time. Alive in the body but dead to God, they are the walking dead. It had its start in Eden.
In the middle of the good garden God made, He placed two trees – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By following God’s will concerning these trees, man would be blessed. God commanded: “You may freely eat from every tree in the garden; but you shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day that you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Death would come through disobedience.
You know the story well. “Now the serpent was more clever than any wild animal which the LORD God had made.” Like everything else, the snake had been created good. There was no evil in it until Satan entered and used him as his tool of harm. He said to the woman, “Has God really said: ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, but not from the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden. God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it. You shall not touch it, or else you will die.’”
But the serpent scoffed, “You certainly will not die. In fact, God knows that the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When she saw that the tree was good for food and that it was appealing to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate. She gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. And the eyes of both of them were opened.”
Now they knew evil by experience. They not only knew evil, they did evil. They sinned and in sinning death entered as God said it would – first spiritually and that would lead to physical death. It was man’s doing. You can’t even say it was the devil’s doing. He didn’t make them die; they died on their own by taking the matter into their hands.
But how could they have possibly chosen death over life? And wherein lay the sin?
The sin that caused death had taken place before the fruit was eaten. The first sin was not eating the fruit, although that was definitely in disobedience to God’s command. The sin began with the failure to trust the word of God and to trust His goodness. The same was true with the devil’s attempt to make Jesus fall in the Gospel Lesson. In each case Satan sought to produce in Jesus distrust of God’s Word, or false trust in God’s Word, or rejection of God’s Word. But Jesus’ trust in God’s Word was so complete that He wielded it to defeat Satan’s every attack on Him. Not so with our first parents. They threw away God’s word and trusted Satan’s.
He is a liar and a murderer from the beginning. When he speaks he speaks his native tongue (Jn.8:44f), lies, and he comes at us with similar argumentation as he did with Eve: “Did God really say…?”
Take the matter of this world’s beginning. Evolutionists say that God did not create the world in six days but that it took billions of years to evolve. God in His Word says, “In six day I created it.”
God tells us to obey our parents in everything for this is right and pleasing to Him. Instead, children argue with parents and chafe at their rules. Then disobey them. In doing so we fail to hear and trust God’s Word.
We justify what we do on our own. But it doesn’t matter, our reasoning behind lying, hating, gossiping, bearing grudges, adultery, discontentment, etc. All attacks the Word of God. It will not trust what He says; it will not follow it; it rejects it. To continue that way is death. We die apart from God, refusing to trust His Word, disobeying Him. Death is man’s doing. Yet, there is hope.
III. Salvation, God’s grace.
Ironically, the first glimmer of hope is found in the phrase: “Their eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked.”
The first effect of sin is felt. The first husband and wife could not even look at each other without discovering new thoughts of shame and embarrassment. But at least they are not past feeling in the matter of doing wrong. God’s grace allowed such feelings of guilt to arise and torment them so that they would look outside of themselves for help. And help comes through the Word.
For in the Word we find that the victory over sin, Satan, and death that we needed would come through the Lord Jesus Christ and by faith in Him. He overcame the devil’s temptations for us when we did not. He died in our death to pay the price for sin when we could not. And in its place, He gives the blessings of His perfect life to all who believe. It’s as simple as that. Trust His Word. Follow it.
Adam and Eve lost Eden, lost perfection, lost their right to live with God. Death became reality. But they did not lose God’s love. Undeserved, He promised a Savior to return them to life. That salvation was the result of His grace, promised in His Word.
God is good. In Christ He has restored to us the life that was lost in Eden. And as in such faith we pass this life, we pass it to live with Him forever. That’s His promise. God grant us faith to trust His Word in everything and follow it; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.