Genesis 3 - The Shattered Covenant and the Gracious God
[Text: Genesis 3, but we’ll start with 2:25]
Scripture intro: Breaking. Severing. Rending. Shattering. These words don’t bring to mind pictures of wholeness and goodness. They are violent words that paint images in our minds of destructive change and they perfectly describe the events in the Story of Redemption this morning.
[read text and pray]
Intro: What happens when something shatters? It happens all the time, really. Coffee mugs are made to hold coffee. When they shatter we sweep up the pieces and throw them away. You toss it because it can’t achieve its purpose. If it can’t hold liquid, then in the trash it goes. What about this pot? It’s made pretty well and it achieves its purpose quite well, actually. It can hold soil and water and life can flourish inside it. But if it shatters … (crash)… what can be done but just throw it away? It can’t fulfill its purpose anymore and so in the trash it goes.
It is very likely that the part of the Story of Redemption that we just read was given to Israel soon after they arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai (soon after the Exodus). Things were amazing there. Smoke, fire and cloud descended on the mountain as God met with His people. Things were terrible there, too. Like we read in the Scripture reading today, at the slight delay of Moses the people of Israel abandoned the covenant they had just committed themselves to keep and shattered it by worshiping an idol of their own making. When their covenant breaking was called out, they must have been asking themselves, “Why can’t we get this right? Why is this world so broken? Why am I so broken? Why do I worship things that aren’t God? How can I put the shattered pieces back together? Why haven’t we been thrown away like shattered pots?”
FCF: Have the questions in your head ever echoed those questions? Have you felt the difference between how you know life should be and how it is, actually? We can all sense that Gennie Stuart’s life shouldn’t have been as hard as it was. Have you ever wondered why rebelling against God seems to come so…naturally to us? In our passage today we learn why our parents divorced each other, why the pain of a child’s death stays with us our whole lives, why we feel separation from God and try to play games with him every single day…and we hear the beginning of his plan to make all of it right again. It’s all going to come back to the idea of “covenant.” And what we see in this passage is that the LORD keeps his covenants because that’s who He is, the Covenant Keeping God.
The part of the Story we’re looking at today presents three things:
I. The rebellion that shattered the Covenant
II. The consequences of the shattered Covenant
III. The grace of the Covenant God
Look at your bibles and let’s consider the first part…
The rebellion that shattered the Covenant (vv. 1-6)Rebellions have instigators and accomplices. In v. 1 we get introduced to the instigator.
i. Aren’t told origin or name. The bible doesn’t present talking animals as normal, so we must understand that this serpent is, in some way, acting as the mouthpiece of some Dark Power. Later in the Story we discover that this power is Satan, the Devil, who has been a deceiver and corrupter from the world’s beginning.
ii. He asks as question – seems simple enough…
But the question is meant to plant a seed of doubt regarding the goodness of God; goodness that has been proved over and over again in the first two chapters!(vv. 2-3) The woman responds
i. She leaves something out and adds something to the commandment (and we don’t know why).
Doesn’t mention the name of the tree that is forbiddenShe adds that they aren’t supposed to touch it.Not sure what to make of this, but it seems that she has an understanding of what is required of her! She says, “if we eat it, then we’ll die.” I say that because of the serpent’s reaction. The serpent fires back
i. (v. 4) “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”
Direct contradiction to God’s word – He’s saying God’s word isn’t true.
ii. (v. 5) “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Impuning God’s motives – He’s saying that God can’t be trusted.(v. 6) And the woman was deceived.
i. She believed the lie that the knowledge of good and evil was more desirable than holding fast to the God who had made a covenant of life with them.
ii. Note that the text doesn’t say that the man was deceived, just that he was there with her and he ate. That makes his disobedience even more tragic! Important Note! – The serpent never tells them to disobey – Humanity was free to sin or not to sin.
The text (and God, as we will see in a second) holds Adam responsible, not the woman. This is the failure of God’s covenant representative, our old representative. This is the reason for our standing before God as rebels when we are apart from Christ…because we come from a family of rebels and we live up to our family history as we rebel against the good God every day because we would rather have something, sometimes anything, other than God himself.Isn’t this absurd? Completely, certifiably, outrageously insane? Augustine said we’ll never be able to make sense of this. He said it’s like trying to see darkness or hear silence. Consider the “very good” beginning of the Story. In the first two chapters it presents God as the Only God, the Powerful and Good Creator who loves his creation dearly and gives them his presence and welcomes them into his awesome work. Now those creatures, once in perfect communion with their Creator and perfectly fulfilling their purpose in the world, shatter the covenant through disobedience… and find that they are the ones who are shattered. That’s where the Story turns next.The consequences of the shattered CovenantWhen we defined a covenant we said that it, “…formally binds…parties together in a relationship; they are to be true to the relationship by keeping their promises of loyalty and commitment. There will be consequences for keeping or not keeping the covenant (benefits or punishments).” Now we see the consequences of shattering the covenant…(v. 7)
i. “…eyes were opened…” – There are two ways they could have learned about good and evil
Through obedience, they understand the “good” so well that they can immediately recognize evil.Through first-hand experience in doing evil. This is what they chose.
ii. “…they knew that they were naked…”
Shame enters creation for the first timePhysical (evidenced by action)Spiritual (evidenced by what happens next in v. 8)(v. 8) – They hide from their Father
i. Illustration – You can learn the sound of someone approaching if you spend enough time with them. (When Andy’s daughter has had a day of disobedience to the point she hears her mom say, “Just wait ‘till your father gets home.”....)
ii. They knew God well enough and had enjoyed his presence often enough to know he was coming. But instead of (what we can assume was their normal pattern of) running to greet him, they hide. Their deep fellowship was shattered.
iii. (v. 9) God called out to the man, “Where are you (masculine singular)?”
Adam is responsible before God as the Covenant Representative. When Adam fell, all of humanity, including all those who would come from him, fell. And the shattering continued…(v. 10) – Still hiding rather than repenting(v. 11) – God sees through it. (v. 12) – The Covenant Representative tries to pass off the blame on to “the woman YOU gave to be with me.”
i. Not only is man’s relationship with God shattered, but man’s relationship with his own flesh and blood is shattered as well.
(v. 13) – The woman follows suit in the blame game. No one wants to own their own sin.We don’t know what would have happened if Adam and his wife had repented. But we know they didn’t. The Story continues…(v. 14-19) – God pronounces His judgment upon the rebels.
i. Serpent – We’ll come back to him in a moment
ii. The Woman
Pain in child-rearing – not just birth…this can’t be avoided by an epidural.Pain in positional conflict (“desire shall be for (against) your husband”) There will be a desire to rebel against the failed Covenant Representative and take his place, but it won’t bring about a better situation than what God intended. Beware!
“Because you listened…” – he failed in his role of leadership when he didn’t obey God first“and have eaten of the tree…” – he failed to obey the covenant obligation“cursed is the…GROUND…”Life will no longer flourish for manNot simply work related, but all of life becomes laborious…then death comes. Compare that to what Adam experienced in the garden up to this point! Horror!Application: These consequences are truly justice, but they are also mercy that is meant to protect mankind from looking to our work or family as our replacement gods. No matter how much you love your family, you can’t become whole again through it. No matter how much you work, you can’t make this world right.
iv. (v. 23) Both are sent from Eden, never to return again. Can you imagine the sickness in their hearts as they yearned to return to paradise but couldn’t? What if you had a time machine and could go back and do something differently. What would you un-say that you tore someone apart with? What are you ashamed of; that shattered your life and the lives of those around you? Do you feel that yearning desire in your heart to leave behind the brokenness caused by your sin and the sins of mankind around you? That’s what Israel would have felt, too. They knew they had shattered God’s covenant with them just like Adam. They knew they deserved the same judgment Adam received.
But within this passage we see something unexpected, something that didn’t need to be there. When Adam shattered the covenant (and shattered himself in the process so that he could no longer enjoy the presence of God) God could have thrown him away like a broken pot. But He didn’t. Because if something you truly love breaks, you put it back together even if it takes all of your time and energy! You make it right, even if it costs you dearly. God had every right to throw the whole thing away, but he didn’t because he had put his covenant love upon His people! That was the amazing beauty of chapter 2 as we see a God who loves to be with His people and promises in the midst of the brokenness of chapter 3 that he will make a way for that to happen once again. We’ve seen the lie and the shattering of the covenant. We’ve heard some of the consequences of the shattered covenant.
Now hear the grace of the Covenant God that is mixed with His justice.(v. 14-15) Look back at the judgment on the serpent –
i. Only one whose existence is cursed.
ii. “on your belly” – position of cringing before a greater power
iii. “dust you shall eat” – biblical picture of utter defeat
iv. “her offspring” – singular person will deal a fatal blow at cost to himself
God is promising His victory over His, and our, enemy. Doesn’t say who exactly or how it will happen, but the promise of God is a sure thing!Remember the consequence of disobedience promised in 2:17 and what the woman understood in 3:3; Adam and his wife should have been dead at the end of all of this, but in light of everything we just heard God promise…
i. …what does Adam do in v. 20? He names his wife Eve, “because she was the mother of all living”!
“Eve” resembles the Hebrew word for “living”I would have named her Death, but Adam understood that grace had been shown to them both and that somehow, through Eve’s offspring, life with God would again be possible. He didn’t know when or how, but he trusted God’s promise.And there was more grace!
i. (v. 21) – God gives them better covers for their nakedness than they could provide for themselves. His grace was covering their physical and spiritual shame through his promises.
And there was more grace!
i. (v. 22-24) It might be easy to read the exile from Eden as a harshly punitive act on God’s part, but listen again to what God says:
“…lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever– “
Remember the nature of the tree of life; we understand that eating of it would have confirmed him in his state forever! Before the fall this would have been glorious. But after the Fall it would have been terrible; man separated from God for all eternity.We can hear the horror at the thought of shattered man living that way in God’s voice. To cut a sentence short this way is a mark of intense emotion.God sends man out of the garden as part of his justice, yes, but also in his mercy so that the promised hope could actually come about.
God was not willing that he would be separated from his creatures, his people, forever. He had made a covenant with them and they shattered it but even amid the rubble and the justice, God promised that one day a child would be born of Eve’s line who would defeat the enemy of God and man and ensure the victory of God. That’s the first Gospel, right here in Genesis 3 amid the Fall.
Over time, God revealed more and more about this coming one who would restore the shattered created order and defeat the Dark Power who spoke through the serpent. He would come as a little child. He would be familiar with sorrow and experience this shattered world. He, too, would face temptation in a garden to set his own desire above God…and he would remain faithful to the covenant through his perfect obedience. Jesus, at great cost to himself, suffered the shattering of his own relationship with his Father so that rebels could become sons again. He was broken under the curse of the covenant so that we could be whole again. He suffered the death that Adam and you and I deserved so that we could again enjoy life without shame in the presence of the Father! Jesus is God, keeping the covenant for us because we can’t and through him we will one day eat of the tree of life in the new heavens and the new earth and be confirmed forever in the full enjoyment of God.
If you have been given ears to hear and a soft heart to feel the beauty of this message today, don’t run and hide from your sin, like Adam in the garden. Repent and believe in Jesus and receive the gift of life in Him. Run through him into the presence of the Covenant Keeping God, the presence of the One for whom we were made. Even those of us who have already believed must live in this repentance and faith. So, fellow sinners, let’s repent of our selfishness in our marriages and find grace to put the interests of our spouses ahead of our own. Let’s repent of the games we play with God as we seek to control him through our words and our obedience and live as people who have already found his favor in Christ. Let’s repent of the secret sins that we secretly love and press on to walk in the light of the God who loves us even in our brokenness. Turn from those gods that shatter life and take life from us and run to Jesus, the Son of God, who laid down his life for you!