Saturday, January 03, 2009

Suffering and the Gospel- Part 3

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

Desecrating the Masterpiece

In Genesis 3, we read about an event that is infinitely horrific. The first man and woman, placed in the center of this glory-shouting universe, created to see and know and love and worship and glorify God- they chose to do the unthinkable. They rebelled.

They chose a piece of fruit, and what it would do for them, over the glory of God.

Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and they worshiped and served themselves more than their Creator (See Romans 1:18-25).

They willingly chose to disobey God, challenge Him and reject His Word in order to elevate themselves to His place. And they chose to disbelieve His word: that in the day they ate of the fruit of that tree, the would surely die (Gen. 2:17).

__________

As their teeth sunk into the fruit, what happened? As they defiantly swallowed the first bite of the fruit, did Eden immediately disappear, the sky grow dark, and thorns and thistles spring fully grown from the ground?

No. As far as we can tell, nothing happened to the external world right away. Their eyes were open to the reality of evil. But there was no blind law of nature that made death and suffering come into the world in a sheer action-and-reaction type response to their sin.

What did happen, according to Gen. 3:8-13, is that God Himself came down to Eden and called them to account. It was a very personal process. He asked them questions, and He made them answer. This was no blind process. It was personal communication.

God then responded to their actions. He talked to them. He addressed them personally. In vs. 14-15 He cursed the serpent. In vs. 16 He spoke to the woman, telling her of the struggle and pain she would now bear.

Yet the most sweeping statements are reserved for Adam. Adam was the head. Adam should have protected His wife from the serpent, and certainly not followed her into sin. Adam was the one responsible for stewarding the creation. That's why Romans 5:12 says through one man sin entered the world.

And speaking to Adam, the Lord of all said,

"Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gen. 3:17-19)

God cursed the earth because of Adam's sin. The crucial words come in vs. 17- "because of you," or, as some translations say, "for your sake."

What's going on here?

Here's what's going on: the Lord is calling the physical universe to display the horror and the reality of Adam's sin. "Because of you..." This all happened because of his sin.

Every morning that he woke up to go plow the fields, his work said: "your sin." Every drop of sweat that came down his forehead and stung his eyes said, "sin." Every time he bent down to pull a weed up, and pricked his finger on a thorn, and felt the pain and saw the drop of blood- that all said, "sin." And as Adam felt death began to work in his body, and saw one of his sons kill the other, it all said, "this is your sin."

This is why it is crucial to remember what the universe was designed for from the beginning: the communication of spiritual truth to us. When Adam sinned, God brought the perfect creation crashing down around him. And so, when Adam looked at the cursed creation, he saw the cosmic infamy of his own sin, displayed all around him in graphic detail.

This is the first major point I see in the Biblical teaching on suffering: Pain and suffering are a display of the reality of sin.


Next, we will consider the paradoxical truth that God's actions in Genesis 3 spring fundamentally from His grace and mercy.

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