Military Marriage Seminar – Part 3
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2005|
|Where are you? This question that God asked Adam and Eve was about far more than simply their location in the Garden.|
Military Marriage Seminar – Part 3
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
Dr. Michael Easley: Radio station KLTY in Dallas a number of years ago mentioned the smallest mistake and how it can make all the difference in the world. A cake decorator was commissioned to make a wedding cake for this upcoming ceremony, and they asked the decorator to put 1 John 4:18 on it. First John 4:18 reads, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” The decorator, however, left off the “1,” so it was John 4:18 which reads, “The fact is, you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” Just one little number throws things off.
Of course, they compile these from time to time, year to year, the best and the worst country western song titles, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?” “I Flushed You from the Toilet of My Heart.” “Is It Cold in Here or Just You?” “If the Phone Don’t Ring, Baby, You’ll Know It’s Me.” “If You Don’t Leave Me Alone I’ll Go Find Someone Else Who Will.” “My Wife Ran Off with My Best Friend and I Sure Do Miss Him.” “You Were Only A Splinter as I Slid Down the Bannister of Life.” And “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly.” Edifying.
Cindy had a friend send this to her a few years ago, and it has become one of our other convictions. If you want to impress your wife, how to impress her? Wine her, dine her, call her, hug her, support her, hold her, surprise her, compliment her, smile at her, listen to her, laugh with her, cry with her, romance her, encourage her, believe in her, pray for her, pray with her, cuddle with her, shop with her, give her jewelry, buy her flowers, hold her hand, write her love letters, go to the end of the earth and back again for her. Is that right, ladies?
Guys are a little easier to impress. Show up naked. Bring food and don’t block the TV. It’s good to be a guy. It’s simple.
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” If you study the Puritans and some of the nursery rhymes, there was a great deal of theology laden into these. They taught the alphabet along acrostics—A, in Adam’s fall, we did all—and so forth and so on to teach their children theology as they taught them the elementals of life. And while it’s hard to track down some of the origins of these, I’ve always been convinced that Humpty Dumpty was the story of the fall of Adam. He sat on a wall. What is an egg doing sitting on a wall? Why do they always depict him as an egg, by the way? He’s on a wall. Eggs shouldn’t sit on a wall dangling their feet, number one. He had a great fall. All the king’s horses—the strength; all the king’s men—the resources; couldn’t put him back together again.
In Genesis 3 in your Bible we looked at the fall of man and the consequences and how it affects us even today. And we’ve looked at some pretty high platitudes about marriage. And I remind you in Genesis 1 God has said, “I’ve given you all the resources you need to carry out My will for you.” I don’t know if you truly believe that, but He’s given you all the resources you need to carry out His will for you, whether you’re deployed, or her; whether you move 20 times or two times; whether you’ve been stationed in one place for 20 years or one place for 20 months. He has given you all the resources you need to carry out and conduct His will for your life.
He’s given you and me the task as a couple of worshiping Him. He’s given you and me the image of Him, that somehow our oneness mirrors God’s image, reflects back this design that He had for you. He gave you and me the charge to leave our homes of origin, to cleave to our spouse, glue, and become one flesh. And that process turns us into something that is otherworldly.
In that one flesh we have an intimacy that is naked and not ashamed. We are able to be not only physically, but emotionally, intellectually, socially with another person. And I will argue, no matter where you are in your marriage, whether you’re hurting or discouraged or you’re happy and glad, that the person that you’re married to should be the one person on the planet with whom you can be the intimate in all areas of your life. If Cindy cannot understand me and walk with me and be patient with me and vice versa, there’s no person who can.
Now certainly other people will come along and minister to us at certain points of life. I’ve had mentors that have been extraordinarily helpful in my life and career. And I hope I’m mentoring young men now. But, you know, I’m pointing them back to the cross; I’m pointing them back to their walk with Christ; and I’m pointing them back to being the men, the husbands, the fathers that God intends them to be. But they can only be naked and not ashamed with their wife, not with me; and you with your spouse.
This passage in Genesis 3, like much of the Genesis first 12 chapters, are very profound in motif and messianic illusions and all kinds of things that we can only begin to look at. But we have the death, the toil, the sweat of the brow, the thorns, the tree, the struggle and the seed all in this text. If we were to trace any one of these we come clear to the cross of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. We can see the messianic overtones and overtures and tips all the way through here, from the crown of thorns that He wears to the dust of death that He will die and He will be placed in the ground in a stone hewn tomb. It’s profound. It’s foundational. It is the fall that wrecked life.
I was talking with someone earlier today about John Hannah. Dr. Hannah has taught Historical Theology at Dallas Seminary for umpteen years, probably going on 40 years now. He’s a brilliant wry, very sarcastic, very dry wit, scary smart guy. And he was the first one to tell me when Adam fell he fell far. All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men can’t put him, you and me, back together again. So we live with this fallen nature. So how do we do it?
Well, let’s take a look at chapter 3 and let me pick up the narrative in verse 8. We’re going to skip over the serpent part. We’ll come back to part of it. Well, let me just read it all, chapter 3: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said?’” There’s two things wrong already. Why is a snake talking to her? And the question, “Indeed, has God said” something? “‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’? The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
“When the woman saw the tree was good for food, and was a delight to the eyes and the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden. The Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me and I ate.’”
We’ll look at the consequences of this. We begin this text with the action of taking and eating that will not be resolved until Jesus will say, “Take and eat.” And many of the messianic overtures that would take weeks for us to unpack, that’s the one I want you to see. We live in a culture that does not believe in sin. It’s fascinating that 20 something’s today have become morally relativistic, and it’s easy to see in what’s true for you: Well, what’s true for you; you have to be true to yourself. What you believe, your conviction, be true to yourself, which is palaver nonsense, gobbledygook. It’s insanity. But the average student on the average college campus in this country believes in moral relativism. And they define it in parts of a little further to say, well, as long as I’m not hurting anyone. As long as I’m not hurting someone else, then I can hold to my beliefs and believe what I believe. And then we shoot these flares up, intolerant, hateful, because we say no, that’s wrong.
And the morally relativistic lines continue to move, hooking up, casual sex, no big deal today. Pedophilia still seems to be a third rail. That one we still prosecute for, people go to jail for. But you know in the UK they’re pushing to redefine pedophilia as consensual; it used to be 16, they’re trying to go to 14 now. Male older perpetrators always prey on younger boys and that’s how it’s perpetuated. A young boy doesn’t one day decide at age 15 or 18 or 20, “I might be a homosexual.” He was exposed to something at some point in his life, generally an adult male perpetrator to where he began to think that way. But “as long as it’s not hurting anyone, and it’s consensual.” And we could have this discussion with many different issues. And so we live in a shame-based culture. If I say, “Well, that’s wrong,” then I’m shaming someone and I’m intolerant of their opinion.
I mentioned earlier the military and the chaplaincy program, “Conviction without Compromise.” You still have that privilege to have conviction without compromise. And the way you deal with others who don’t hold the same values that you have is a precarious issue, but you need the courage to do that. Two decades ago or more, Allan Bloom wrote a book called The Closing of the American Mind. It was an unbelievable read; an exposé on the American university. And he was showing 20 plus years ago how the university began to reshape and recast history. We call them revisionists. And they revised the stories of history about our country and our faith and what we believe. It was a remarkable book. And one of the lines I’ll never forget, he said, “Psychologists are the sworn enemies of guilt.”
We live now in a context where we’re going to sanctify everything you do and everything you want. We’re morally relativistic. You can do whatever you want, quote, “so long as you don’t hurt anyone,” close quote, and the way you define truth for yourself. That’s insanity, and yet that’s the way the culture is thinking today. And so if you are as pretentious and presumptuous to say that “I believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; no one can come to the Father except through Me,” you are intolerant and hateful. I think in our lifetime, it’s already on the edge, but I think in our lifetime the last thing you’ll be able to vilify without consequence is the notion that I believe in Jesus Christ and Christ alone. That will be the target. And in some ways it’s theologically on track, because Christ says, “Know that they will hate you, they hated Me.” Not a prophet, nor a distant cousin of one, nor even a fig picker, but I do believe things are getting worse, not better.
And so how do we as believers navigate in a fallen context in your marriage? Now, I don’t know about some of you, but I have to confess I don’t always drive the speed limit. I generally do on the highway, but I don’t in parking lots. My wife would attest I scare her to death in parking lots. You drive so fast in a parking lot! And I go, well, (a): there are no speed signs, (b): there are generally no police; and (c): I’m in a hurry. And so for whatever reason I drive fast in parking lots and it still freaks her out after 31 years. Now, if I’m on the highway coming over here as we were, was it just yesterday? We saw, as my son-in-law says, “There’s po-po’s out.” There were lots of po-po’s out on the highway coming from Nashville over here. I bet we saw eight or nine different highway patrol, state troopers, that had people pulled over, were giving them tickets.
And there’s nothing so exciting as driving along at 80 or 90 miles an hour and seeing those lights in your rearview mirror. It just sort of is a reality check, isn’t it? I mean, it just sort of gets hold of you, and if you’re smart you don’t hit the brake hard. You just sort of let your foot slowly off the gas and never touch the brake, because then you have acknowledged that you’re speeding. And then eight out of ten times he whips around you and gets the guy in front of you. But, of course, I never have that problem. I’ve not had, in God’s great kindness, a speeding ticket for a long time.
How do we justify speeding? Well, I’m an excellent driver. Remember Rain Man? “I’m an excellent driver.” We think we’re better than the average driver. The speed limit is for those idiots who can’t drive well. I’m an excellent driver. I can handle high speeds of 70, 80, 90 miles an hour because I know how to drive. Or, my favorite one: I’m driving with the flow of traffic. Now, I kid you not, yesterday on the highway we were going the speed limit, 70, and we were standing still. I mean, there were car’s passing us at 90 miles an hour and there were trucks passing us, and then when the trucks got really slow I knew something’s ahead because they’ve got their little thing going on how they find that out. Or we say, you know, there’s a lot of people driving faster than me. I’m only going 80. They’re going 90.
What are we doing? We’re justifying making excuses. That sign doesn’t change. It says 55, 65, 70. It never says 90. And, you know, if it did, we’d drive a 110. And that’s the problem with the law. The minute you put a sign up, “No fishing,” that looks like a good place to fish from. True story: Galveston, the hotel on the jetty. What is that hotel called, Cindy? Do you remember the name of that hotel on the jetty? Was it Flagship Hotel? They had a jetty which was rocks they just piled into the ocean. And all the way at the end of it they had a hotel at the end of it. And it was I don’t know, 10, 12 stories high, it was all glass. So you were like out over the water. That was the theory. Forget the fact that salt water doesn’t do well with hotels. But never mind that.
And they had these signs, “No fishing from the balcony.” So what does Bubba do? Hey, that’s a good idea. He goes down to the car, he gets his rig and he casts out, and what happens? When you’re 9 or 10 stories up the way it goes out, breaks the plate glass window on the 4th floor. And they had these “No” signs. They had these wavers you sign, “I won’t fish from the balcony.” And they kept busting out windows, busting out. They finally brought a consultant in from a glass company and said, “What can we do to reinforce this?” He said, “Forget reinforcing it.” You know what the solution was? Take all the signs down. And you know what? Very few people chose to fish from the balcony.
What does this tell us about man? Don’t eat one tree; all the others are for you. Don’t eat one. What do we want to do? I want to eat the one. It’s the human nature, even pre-fall; it’s the moral pull. And the fact that when the law enforcement lights go on behind us, and our rationales are now reduced to, am I in trouble, am I caught, reveals we’re sinful. We have a conscience, we have a standard, we have a guilty conscience, we have a Holy Spirit. But all these things play together in how we look at it.
Or to say it another way, we all become moral in the presence of an authority. When authority shows up, am I driving, do I have my seatbelt on, did I use my turn signal, am I weaving around lanes? How many of you live in a state now where it’s illegal to text? You know, how many of you still text when you drive? Just be honest, I mean, you know. I just read my text at the stop signs and a little bit when I’m driving, not too much. Someday they’ll outlaw that, I guess, too and we’ll still do it.
We lie, we cheat, we steal, we’re sexually active outside the bonds of marriage. We’re into pornography. We flirt. We withdraw. We absorb, we blame others, we become bitter. We harbor anger, we’re sullen. We’re self-absorbed, self-reflective too much. In 100 ways we try to hide our sin. And that’s what this passage is about. We can do nothing about our guilt and shame. When the lights go on behind you, you can have 1,000 excuses. If you’re a female of the species and you cry really well you might get off, but a male of the species who cries will probably be handcuffed and taken to jail. You take it like a man and you shut up and you don’t say anything smart to the officer with the gun. You say “yes, sir,” and “no, sir,” even though he’s younger than your son. We just say “yes, sir” and “no, sir” and you try to get under the wire. Give me my ticket; let me go home.
All of these attempts are flawed at dealing with the issue. And that’s what we see in the creation and fall account. We have three large blocks of this. We have the confrontation from the Lord; we have the oracle, what He pronounces we’ve not yet read; and then the provision that God gives. So if you look at verse 8 again. “When they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, the man and the wife hid themselves.” The shame has happened. Number one: God calls us to confess our sins. God gave an opportunity to the fallen man to pony up what he’d done. They “heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and the wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden.”
Several observations: the Lord God is walking in the cool of the day. Again, as I said last night, I don’t think it’s the day was hot and oppressive and now it’s cool in the evening. I think it’s more of the breeze, and that’s why they hear the sound of Him. They don’t hear Him talking. They hear the sound of the God-man walking. So it’s the pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. He’s a human being, in our terminology. He’s just like Adam and the woman, and He shows up to talk to, to fellowship with His image-bearers, and they hide themselves. Leviticus 26:12, “I will also walk among you and be your God and you will be My people.” Deuteronomy 23:14, “Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies, therefore your camp must be holy.” So we have other illustrations where God walks among the lives of His faithful. It’s a relationship of coming along side and being with His created image.
Now in Genesis 3, the Lord is walking, but the reader knows the story that’s happened, and we find them hiding. In chapter 2:25 they’re naked and not ashamed and now they’re hiding. In fact, in my Bible I have the word “naked” circled in verse 25, and I have it circled again in verse 7, and I have it circled again in verse 10, and circled again in verse 11, because the progression of this term reveals the humpty dumpty. They were naked and not ashamed and now they’re naked in verse 7 and they’re sewing fig leafs on themselves, and in verse 8, verse 10 the answer is, “I was naked and I hid myself.” And Jesus asks him, “Who told you, you were naked?” So what was once unashamed and wonderful and holy and good in God’s sight and pleasing in God’s sight, is now a shameful thing and they must cover themselves.
The irony is rich. They are in a garden full of trees, which they can eat any produce except one, and now they’re hiding in that garden. They’re using what was a provision for them to eat, as a provision for them to hide. And all the metaphors come, just cascading. Chapter 2, verse 17, Umberto Cassuto, one of the greatest Hebrew scholars on the first 12 chapters of Genesis; by the way, an Italian rabbi that believed none of it. He believed it was all myth. But he knew the Hebrew and had better insights than anyone has before or since. In chapter 2:17 he says, “It is tied to, ‘In the day you eat of it, dying you will die,’ in the literal sense, in the day they ate of it dying they will die.” And he argues way before there was a debate about whether there was a 24 hour day or millions of years of, you know, day meaning just a gap, he says, “A day was a day and the day they ate they started to die.” Day always means day unless you want to redefine it in chapter 1, but that’s for another series of messages. They’re banished from the garden. They’re prevented from the tree of life and the power of life is now turned over to death and sin.
Now, when they hide themselves among the trees of the garden again, they’re design for them to feed and to enjoy, and now they’re using them to hide. The sinner always tries to cover his sin. The sinner always tries to make excuses for his or her sin. It’s ironic that others do not; they don’t see they’re trying to hide, but God knows.
When I was a boy of about 17 I had,… when I was 16 I was working two part time jobs and going to high school, and by 17 all through my high school years I worked two part time jobs and went to high school. And it was a work program so I went from school till 6 in the morning till 11:30. From noon to 5, I worked at a photo lab and from 6 to 10 at a backpacking mountaineering, climbing shop. And I did that six days a week all through high school. And I loved it. And I bought my own truck and I had it all, some of you remember, some of you are old enough to remember the big white spoke jackman rims you had, and you jacked the truck up about that far, a 4-wheel drive thing. And I was a big backpacker, camper, kayaker, hiker guy.
Well, one night I was out partying with some friends and I had a little bit of an accident on my car. And it didn’t hurt the other car, but I had a huge dent in the side of my truck. And I was meticulous, always have been with my stuff. And so I had this big dent in my car and I come home and my parents see it and I lie. I say I came out of the parking lot and it was that way. So my brother-in-law, who was a wannabe body shop man, and I spend a number of evenings in the hot, humid Houston weather trying to Bondo and sand and fix this dent in the side of my truck. Well, he wasn’t very good at it. I was no good; under the hood I was good. Body work is not for me. And so we’d worked on it to a point where I said, “Let’s just forget it and just paint it.” And so we get the paint and one night when there’s no breeze and we have enough time we paint it. And just as he had put the last coat on—I had a shirt on with a shirt tail out—and my shirt tail leaned against the wet paint and it pulled off. And he looked at me and I looked at him and I said, “I’m done, I’m done.” It was on the driver’s side.
Every time I got into my truck I thought of Psalm 51, “My sin is ever before me.” Unbeknownst to me, a friend had ratted on me to my parents that Michael had been drunk and had a wreck, and so my parents and my older sister all knew about that I perpetuated the lie for a year. Finally I had enough money I went to a body shop and I asked the guy, I said, “Can you fix that?” He goes, “Who stubbed their toe on that?” I don’t know. I mean, I’ll tell you one thing, he’ll never do it again. And I had a professional body man repair it. But, you know, I still knew it was there. I couldn’t cover over it. Not long after that I apologized to my parents and told them of my lie. They were very gracious. They didn’t say all that much.
The sin in connection with the tree in the center of the garden is to give life to them. Rather, when they get that life, they’re going to find out they’re going to die. And this is where Satan tells the half-truth or the half-lie, depending on your interpretation in verse 8: “God knows in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened.” Yeah, your eyes will be opened, “and you’ll know good from evil.” That’s true. Will you be like God? Well, yes and no; because God knows evil, but you’re not going to be like God, not God-like, but you will know the consequences of this.
Allen Ross writes, “There’s no indication in the narrative of Genesis of a long delay between the events. It appears the temptation and the fall occurred immediately after Adam and the woman were created in the garden, possibly on the 7th day. And immediately after the sin was the presence of the One who know how to ask questions. The pace of the narrative makes it hard to substantiate the popular idea that humankind enjoyed a long period of unbroken success and fellowship with the Lord in the garden. After they sinned they sensed the awesome presence of God and they hid themselves.”
Now, that kind of rattles me, because I’ve got this romantic thing in me that they’ve spent, you know, a couple of decades there fighting off the temptation to eat the tree. And Dr. Ross, being one of the prominent Hebrew scholars in the United States, says, “Nothing in the narrative suggests any gap.” What a crash and burn—naked and not ashamed, and the next day you blow it and eat the fruit. Then we have to remember, as you and I would have done the same—maybe even sooner than the perfect man and the perfect woman—God calls to confess our sin.
Verses 9 and 12, there are two sections. He first confronts the man and then He confronts the woman. Look at it again: “The Lord God said to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden. I was afraid because I was naked so I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave from the tree and I ate.’”
Now, what is startling to the reader is the first thing God ever says to the man is, “Where are you?” The first question, the first conversation, “Where are You?” Is this hide and seek? They’re in the garden somewhere, and Jesus says, “Come out, come out, wherever you are.” “Where are you Adam and the woman? I can’t find you? Where are you? I want to talk to you.” No; where are you in relationship to Me, Adam? What’s changed? Does He know what’s changed? Yes. What’s He giving Adam opportunity to do? “I sinned. I ate the fruit.” He’s not forthcoming right away, but he does eventually admit that he sinned. From now on all sinners will fear the Lord God. Think about that. That’s why guilt and a guilty conscience and the conviction of God’s Spirit are such uncomfortable things. Once they chose to violate that prohibition—don’t eat the fruit—from then on there is going to be guilt. From then on there’s going to be fear of God because their relationship has been tainted.
The second question: “Who told you you were naked?” Where are you in relationship to Me? Well, I was naked and I hid myself because I heard You. “Who told you you were naked?” Another opportunity for him to be forthcoming. Where is your relationship to Me? What has changed? And then, He sort of implicitly answers the question. “Did you eat from the tree which I commanded,” literally is the way it reads. “Did you, from the tree that I commanded you not to eat, did you eat that? Did you violate the one command I gave you?” And of course, his confession, not quite forthcoming, blames “the woman, whom You gave me.”
Any of us with children understand this entirely. It’s always the other sibling’s fault. Never have my children come to me and said, “Oh, father of mine, I punched Sarah. It’s my fault. She didn’t provoke me. I did it because I’m a depraved sinful young boy. Would you please punish me accordingly?” And it’s always the other one. It never, ever, in 27 years of parenting, have they said, “My mistake, my fault, I did it.” There’s always the pointing finger, always a blame casting. “Well, she did this, he did that; she did this, he did that.” I’m so tired of this discussion. In fact, now Cindy and I, our form of parenting has probably devolved over the years. We just yell, “Stop it!” We don’t want to hear the stories because we know they’re both culpable at some level. We just go, “Just stop it! Separate yourselves. You have your own rooms and your own bathrooms,” which we never had when we were your age. “Go to your own rooms and bathrooms and close the doors and leave each other alone.” Ever since man has fallen these things continue and they will not stop.
Well, finally He says, “The woman whom You gave to me gave, and I ate.” Well, God’s confrontation to the woman, verse 13: “The Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you’ve done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me and I ate.’” This is the third question God asks man, “What have you done?”
“Where are you?” “Who told you you were naked?” “What have you done?” Think about this. In the record of Scripture the three interjections God asked man, “Where are you in relationship to Me? Who told you you were naked? Why do you have this shame? What have you done?” Kind of chilling, isn’t it?
Well, of course she blames the serpent. And it’s the old joke: Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent; and the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on.
Let’s think about some thoughts about this sin confrontation and confession. Questions God asks man. The effects of sin are both punishment and provision. The punishment is “in the day you eat of it, dying you will die,” literally, if you look over in chapter 2, verse 16. “But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat; for in the day of it,” literally the Hebrew says mowt tamut, “dying you will die.” You will begin a process, not drop dead, but dying you will die. And why? Because you’ll be separated from Me, from My protection and My provisions and you will enter a process of death. And, of course, the serpent’s deception is, “You surely won’t die. You’ll be like Him knowing good and evil,” half-truth, half lie, depending on your perspective. And, of course, now they will experience dying. You will die.
Look at what happens to the so-called curse passages. Let’s pick it up in verse 14: “The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all the cattle, more than every beast of the field. On your belly you will go and dust you will eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise you on the head; you shall bruise him on the heel.’” First, and technically, He curses the serpent. Look at verse 14: “Cursed are you serpent.” And the sanctified imagination has the serpent upright. Who knows what he was like pre-fall, but now he’s going to crawl on his belly. The serpents are still a loathed creature in most cultures. Only Americans and people in places like where there are anacondas, like to catch them and keep them as pets. God bless them. But only in the Hebrew culture it’s a cursed animal.
I remember spending some time in Nigeria in ‘92 and ‘93 and the Nigerians are terrified of snakes, terrified of snakes. And many of them have lost loved ones to a snake bite. I met a man who allegedly, according to his Christian friends, used to be able to turn a snake into a stick and a stick into a snake until he came to Christ. I don’t know if I believe it. It’s an imagery of the consequence of the curse. You’re going to crawl on your belly and eat rats and mice. Oh, joy! These are good things to eat and put on cowboy boots I guess. The serpent is cursed.
Notice what He says to the woman, however. Well, we can’t go into all of it, but the enmity. Verse 15 is the first precursor of the Messiah. “I will put enmity,” which means hostility, “between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed. He, Jesus, will bruise you on the head and you, the serpent, will bruise Him on the heel.” If you came up in a Catholic tradition you might have seen the statues of Mary and Jesus and a serpent wrapped around her leg biting the heel. And that’s where they got the imagery from. You’ll bruise Him. Another one’s the sacred heart where Jesus is crushing the serpent with His heel as it bites His heel. It’s a picture of it.
“To the woman,” verse 16, “He said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’” Now, He does not curse the woman. Notice this very carefully. I’ve heard this taught for decades about how He curses the serpent, He curses the man and woman. He does not curse His image-bearers. Look at it carefully. In verse 14, “Cursed are you,” He says to the snake. In verse 16, “To the woman He said.” In other words, there are consequences of the fall. She will live in the fallen context, but He does not curse His image-bearer. It’s a very important nuance for you to see, because they’re still His image-bearers.
A couple of things we should unpack quickly. Your pain in childbirth. A metonymy is a figure of speech we use. When you take the Lord’s Supper you say the bread and the cup. Well, you’re not worshiping the cup or the chalice are you? You’re talking about what? The content of the cup, the grape juice, the wine, whatever you have in the cup. So it’s called a metonymy. It’s not the literal, physical chalice like in the Raiders of the Lost, whichever one it was, when he had to pick the right chalice, you know. It’s not the cup itself. It’s the content. You with me? So the metonymy here has to do with in childbirth. Meaning, is the delivery, is that the pain? If that was the consequence big deal! A day later you’re fine. No. The picture of childbirth is the exquisite pain a woman has raising her son or daughter all of their lives. What mom doesn’t die 1,000 deaths for her son or daughter? It’s unique. Now certainly fathers are compassionate and have empathy toward their children, but not the way Cindy does. You die 1,000 deaths for your daughters. You die 1,000 deaths for your son.
My mother is 84. My dad died a little over a year ago. She’s inconsolable. She’s been married 62 years. She’s a lost soul without him. She’s grieving. She’s got health problems like you wouldn’t believe. And she worries about my oldest sister and my brother and me constantly. And she worries about her grandchildren constantly. And so I’ve learned when I talk to her I don’t say anything bad about what’s going on. I just avoid those issues. I ask her about her health, her blood sugar, how she’s doing pain management, blah, blah, blah. I don’t ever bring up, how’s Jessie, how’s Devin, how’s…. You know, they’re doing great, mom. They’ve got their struggles, they’re doing great. How are you? Because if I tell her anything about her grandchildren she just gets all spun up. And that’s what I think this means. It’s not just the act of the birth canal pain.
“In pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire is your husband, he will rule over you.” And of course, there have been 1,000 butchered sermons about you’re going to desire your husband. Well, some of you already know this already, but turn over to chapter 4, verse, the other time this word occurs. And this will clear your sinuses if you’ve not seen this before. This is Cain and Abel. Abel’s offering, of course, has been acceptable. Cain’s has not. Verse 7, God’s speaking to Cain. By the way, here’s the fourth question God asks, in verse 6: “Why are you angry?” Think about that. Where are you? Who told you you were naked? What have you done? The fourth question: why are you angry? You see the spiral of the fall? Why are you angry?
Verse 7: “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire,” it’s the precisely exact letter for letter word, “its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Or to put it another way, she wants to control him. Your desire for your husband means you want to control this person whom you were created as an image-bearer to help him as God helps us. And now you want to control him. And we have all the jokes about you know, he’s the head, but she’s the hand that moves the neck. You know, we have all these kind of axioms we use. And I don’t know what Cindy told you in the workshop; most of it’s probably true. But I know that in 31 years of marriage she will be candid, she’s tried to control me a lot of times, as I do her. But the consequence of the fall usurp the roles enough to really put us on our head.
Well, let’s look at the man. Verse 17: “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it;” cursed is the ground because of you.’” Is He cursing Adam? What’s He cursing? The ground. Don’t miss it. The context in which they live is now fallen and cursed, but He does not curse His image-bearers. Yes, dying they will die, once they leave the protection of the garden. “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles,” all imagery of Messiah, all imagery of what the crown of thorns, the pain Christ will endure for us. “You will eat of the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread.” Bread is the sustaining element in life. I am the bread of life, the house of bread. For which you have bread and something to drink you can survive in antiquity. You are going to scratch out a living all the days of your life for these things until you return to the ground.
There’s the word play. Adm, you’re going to be Adam again. You’re not going to live forever the way you were designed. You’re going to go back to the dirt because you violated the one prohibition. “Because from it you were taken; and you were dust and to dust you will return.”
Some high level things to this. Number 1, when we’re confronted with sin, don’t hide. Confess. I mean, how many of us parents, if your children, your child, is in trouble and he or she says to you, you’ve said, “Son, you know, I found this, you’ve been sneaking out and I found that you’ve been sneaking out. You’ve taken the car and I told you not to take the car. Son,” and if he said, “Dad, you’re right, I’m wrong.” What does every parent say? “I will be more merciful if you come clean, but you lie upon lie upon lie upon lie and you get mad at me for putting the truth in front of you.” Hello, McFly! “This is only going to get worse for you.” Are we any different?
Are we really any different? Think of the last time you said something you shouldn’t have said: you hurt your husband’s feelings; you hurt your wife’s feelings; you were insensitive to one another; you did or said something. The joke wasn’t funny. The sarcasm hurt. And rather than say, you know what, honey? I’m sorry I did that. Will you forgive me? I shouldn’t have done it…. Gary Chapman wrote the book, The Five Love Languages, and they later wrote a book called The Five Languages of Apology. It’s a very interesting book because a noted psychologist was using Gary’s tools to talk about how people process an apology. It’s, you know, “if I did anything, I’m sorry.” That ain’t an apology, right? “Honey, I’m sorry I did that. Will you leave it alone? You keep bringing it up.” You know, “honey, I’m sorry that I insulted you in front of that group when we were at that party and I made a cheap joke at your expense. It was unkind and disrespectful. Will you please forgive me for that?” Three very different apologies.
And they go through this book about how the love languages sort of parallel how people need to hear an apology. It’s an extraordinary book. Well, when Moody first published it, it was like, who’s going to buy a book on how to apologize? I mean, really, you know. The thing has been selling like crazy because we need to learn how to apologize. When you sin—not if, when—I sin, that’s what a short account is all about. Get it over. Get it out. Get it done. Acknowledge I’ve not been the kind of husband I need to be. I’ve not been the kind of supportive wife. I’ve been disrespectful to you. I’ve said things that were unkind in public.
Cindy and I have this pact: we do not disrespect each other in public. In private, we might, but not in public. We’ll talk very candidly in private, but we don’t disrespect each other. We try not to argue in front of the kids. Now, some of that is healthy. Sometimes they need to see us process a conflict. But when we’re mad at each other, not a good thing to do in front of the kids. But when we’re going through a conflict, talking about this—well, your opinion, my opinion, let’s find the middle ground; let’s find a solution—that’s a whole different way of processing. But if I disrespect her or I’m unkind to her, I say some cheap comment, then I’ve insulted my mate, I’ve insulted my bride, I’ve insulted my marriage. When you’re called to confess, don’t blame. That’s the simple moral.
Now, if something hard happens to you, it does not give you permission to sin. If your husband has an affair it doesn’t give you permission to have an affair. If your wife has an affair it doesn’t give you permission to have an affair. If your husband walks away from the church it doesn’t give you permission. If your wife walks away from God it doesn’t give you permission. And this is where the marriage union is an extraordinary thing, because God wants you to be the man, the husband, the father of God, regardless of your wife’s response. Women, He wants you to be the wife, the mother, the companion, the woman of God, regardless of his response. Because the only person you can change with the Holy Spirit’s help is you. You will never nag him or her to change, I promise you.
But if you change and you’re growing more intimately in your walk with Christ and you’re humble and you’re learning and you’re open to new instruction, how will that potentially affect your spouse? “Wow, Cindy’s really changing.” “Wow, Michael’s trying to be a little cooler. He’s not blowing up as much as he used to.” And both of us talk a lot, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s true we never had a thought in our brain we didn’t share. Sometimes you need to just shut up, Michael. I’ve learned one of the best techniques in listening to my wife is to learn to keep my mouth shut. Because more times than not she just wants me to listen. And what do I want to do? Solve. Let’s fix it. This is easy, let’s fix it. No, it’s not about fixing. It’s about how I feel; all the things that went on. And then she said this and he said that and this.
When our girls were in their teens, the older ones were teenagers, they’d come home from school and they would tell us about their day. And they would follow Cindy or me around the house and tell us all about their day. And I swear it would be shorter to relive the day than to listen to them talk about the day. “And then this happened, dad, and you,… and then this.” And I’m going, “So, you had a tough day at school.” “Yeah, and then,…” And it’s sort of like throws gas on the fire. And Jessie, our 22-year-old, was always the most entertaining. You have to grant her that. Because, you know, a story where she got pulled over with some kids with a SWAT Team is now 11 police cars and 30 guns wielding, you know. It’s just kind of fun to hear the stories because,… and she swears it happens, so we just believe her. And listen, and ask for clarifying questions, and restate some things.
After confession God makes provision. Verse 20: “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve.” This is the first time she’s called Eve in the Bible. Up to then she’s called the woman. Ish me-ish; the first time she’s called Eve. What happened? He called things what he observed them to be when God created them brought them to the man, when she is created from the rib, “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh,” me-ish, me-ish, from me, isha in the best voice you could muster. And now he renames her, because they’re dying. “Dying you will die.” Out of the garden and he says, “You are life.” He’s a brilliant man and she a brilliant woman, and they understand the consequences of this. She was the mother of living.
“The Lord made garments”—tunics literally is the word “of skin,” so we have the first animal sacrifice here—“for Adam and his wife and He clothed them.” They were incapable of hiding their own sin so God has to kill an animal, shed blood, and provide a skin for them. And this is the precursor of the atonement.
“And then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, man has become like one of Us,” there again the rabbis go bonkers, “knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat and live forever—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to cultivate.” Now go back to chapter 2, verse 15, he’s going to worship and serve to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. “So He drove the man out.” Drop over to 4:14 for just a minute. After Cain sins, “Behold, You have driven me out,” same language. The fall continues to progress even through Cain and so forth. “He drove the man out east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.”
So we simply say that the tree of life somehow had the power to make them live forever. And so, lest he take and eat and live forever and be in that state, “dying you will die,” so there’s mercy even in the curse. God’s made provision by the covering. He’s made provision they will not live forever with the weight of their sin. He’s making the ultimate provision in that His Son will become the sacrifice for you and for me.
You know, I don’t know your backgrounds. We’ve talked to some of you here, but no matter what we talk about: marriage and some of these issues, and how to encourage you in your walk with Christ, and uniquely in the military and serving our country and serving others, you really need to know for sure where you are in relationship to that question, “Where are you?” And if you’re here this evening and you’ve never come to that place in your spiritual journey that you know that you know that you know that you know that you know where you will spend all of eternity and with whom, The Cove and everything that Billy Graham and everything that Bible believing people hold is that He lived, He died, He was buried to confirm His death and He came back from the dead.
He’s the only one that’s ever done this. Confucius—in the grave. Others—in the grave, if they even existed. And hundreds saw Him, and thousands saw Him, and He sent His Spirit to indwell people. And the rumors that occurred around this Man 2,000 years ago continue to be perpetuated around the world, and people’s lives are changed. I had hair down to here. I was into drugs and alcohol and licentious living. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. I was an altar boy. I went to mass every day during the school year. I was an altar boy in the summers at 6:15 a.m. mass. By the scruff of the neck my mother took me to mass. And it was in that environment I was introduced to drugs and licentious living.
And tripping on acid one evening, listening to the Mark Allman band—anyone remember them? It was a song called, “What Am I Living For? Tell me my friend it’s all been done before.” Not a good song to listen to tripping on acid. What am I living for? Tell me my friend, it’s all been done before. And for the first time in my teenage years 15 years of age I thought, what am I living for? I have no purpose in life. I may as well kill myself. This is ridiculous. My friends are sponges. I work these two jobs. I buy drugs. They use the drugs and they’re not my friends when I don’t have money. And I had gotten myself into a spiral at 15 years of age, 16 years of age.
And that night I said to self, “Self, you can always kill yourself tomorrow, but you don’t kill yourself when you’re crashing on LSD because you’ll probably make a mess of it.” And there was something in the back of my head that just said wait. The next morning I awoke and I thought, I can’t believe I actually thought about taking my own life. Now, in today’s terms I was an addict. I was clinically depressed, all the things you could throw at it. I was ADHD before it was cool.
And I went on a search for truth. And I started reading this big black book. I didn’t know how to read it, what to read. And I came to a fork in the road: either what this local church had been telling me all my life or this book was true. God did not invent denominations or religions. He gave His Word for a relationship with man. And His question remains, “Where are you? Where are you in relationship to Me?” Because we’re Adam and the woman. We’ve all eaten the fruit.
Where are you? And the answer is, “I’m not near You. I’m out of relationship with You.” And so He makes the ultimate provision, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin, which is why in my sanctified imagination, that first animal killed in the garden was a lamb, was a sheep or a goat. When the bloodshed, and the metaphors of the thorns and the imagery and the blood on the ground of Abel and all these images spiral through Scripture to culminate, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Take and eat. Take and eat and you’ll be like God. No, you will die. Take and eat and you’ll live forever because I’ve accomplished for you what you cannot accomplish for yourself.
If you’re here this weekend and tonight and you don’t know that you know that you know for sure where you’re going to spend eternity; I’m going to pray a prayer as I conclude tonight, a simple prayer. The prayer is not a magic formula. It’s not something you rub and, poof, it’s all okay. It’s a way of articulating back to God and you can just close your eyes. I’m not going to embarrass you in any way, shape or form. And I’m just going to lead in this prayer. The prayer is something as simple as this.
Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, I realize I’m a sinner. I am not in relationship with You. I don’t even know what that means. But tonight for the first time it’s starting to make sense that You loved me, that You died in my place. You took my sin. You were buried to confirm Your death and You rose again to confirm Your power over death. And by faith, by trust, I put my faith, I believe in You. And simply by the action of believing in Christ, that You lived, died, were buried and rose for my sins, that You give me a free gift called eternal life. Thanks for this indescribable gift and this new relationship. In Christ’s name.
Where are you? He loves you. In your sin and your struggles and your challenges He loves you extraordinarily.