Pastor Kyle McIver
Shadows of Advent Part 1 ||
I will always remember the month of March from this past year. My Dad, older brother and I finally booked flights down to spring training to watch the Twins after years of talking about it. I won’t remember that trip for the baseball though. We only got to watch one game before Major League Baseball shut down spring training in its entirety due to COVID-19. Over the next few days, my Dad, brother and I watched from a condo down in Florida as the entire world seemingly fell apart. By the time we got back to Minnesota a few days later, it was as if I’d stepped off the plane into a different world.
It didn’t take long after COVID-19 locked down much of America with stay at home orders and mandatory quarantines for the internet to be flooded with all manner of jokes and memes trying to make sense and bring levity to the fact that 2020 had taken a turn for the worst. And really this constant stream of bad news, difficulty, and turmoil hasn’t ceased for much of the year.
We’ve had contentious political elections, violence in our streets, a global pandemic, limited or lost interactions with friends and family members, strains on our economy and small businesses, and much more. And through all of it, I think many of us have a growing desire for it all to go away. To pass, to be done. We want to return to the stability of normal. We are longing for the return of what we’ve lost, for the passing of this uniquely difficult year in many of our lives.
And yet amidst all of this suffering and hardship, there is hope. Our hearts are perhaps better prepared than ever for the season of Advent - because Advent is a season of waiting. A season of longing. A season of anticipation. And many of us are already feeling each of those emotions because of what we have endured these past eight months.
This Advent season, we as a church are going to focus in on the book of Genesis and step into the shoes of those who waited, who longed, long, long ago. My aim tonight, as is the aim of Advent itself, is to help us long together for Jesus. My hope is that we will see with fresh eyes the plight of humankind, the gravity of our sin, our desperation for rescue, and the abundant provision of our gracious God in the gift of Jesus - our Lord, Savior, and Treasure.
As we turn to Genesis 3 together this evening, we’re going to see how this longing, which first finds its voice in the moments after Adam and Eve fell into sin, echoes across the entire history of God’s people, and helps to give voice to our own longings still today.
So we’re going to do a quick overview of the chapter to set the stage, then we’ll focus in on God’s promise to send a Son who would defeat the serpent, and we’ll listen to the some of the echoes across human history which finally find their fulfillment in the birth of a Savior.
We can summarize this passage in three movements:
First, let’s look at the serpent’s deception which set up Adam and Eve’s defeat in the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 1-2 are the recorded events of God creating the world and all that exists. Naturally our perspective on this in the Bible is focused on the world we live in and the creatures who live in it, but there is also an underlying immensity to these chapters. Nothing existed outside of God himself - then God speaks, and the universe bursts into existence on a scale that we still in our day and age cannot even begin to comprehend.
And as the pinnacle of this creation, God makes human beings, male and female, in his own image. Bearing God’s image is what sets humanity apart from the rest of creation. We were made to relate to him, know him, and enjoy him in a way the rest of the created world could not.
And as we arrive at Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are enjoying the bliss of God’s fellowship, each other’s company, and the paradise of the world around them. But then along comes a serpent. This serpent is more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God made. He looks at this perfect paradise, these happy people and their happy God, and he wants to destroy it. He is Satan, the great enemy of gladness and the one who hates the Holy God and his people.
And being a crafty serpent, he makes war against God’s people with a simple question. Rather than coming out and blatantly denying the Word of God, he introduces a new concept into the world. In asking Eve “Did God actually say…” he invites her to subject the Word of God to her own judgment. And Eve falters.
In subtle ways she diminishes God’s word; she alters it and begins to deviate from the precision, wisdom, and goodness of the commands God had given. And then the crafty serpent strikes. He contradicts God, calls him a liar, and invites Eve to take for herself what rightfully belongs to God. And she does. The deception is complete - both Adam and Eve have eaten from the one tree God commanded them not to eat from.
And this deception gives way to defeat. Satan launched his offensive, Adam and Eve were deceived, and they were therefore defeated by their enemy. As we continue in the story, we see what that defeat meant for all of three of them.
Once Adam and Eve had eaten of the fruit, their eyes were opened. They did indeed gain a measure of wisdom and insight, but not by faith. They did not trust in God’s goodness expressed in his commands, but took for themselves what God had forbidden. And we see right away that this did not go off as wonderfully as they thought it would. As soon as they hear God in the garden, they run and hide from him. God pursues them and finds them, and then we see Adam blame Eve, and Eve blame the serpent.
And at this point, God speaks. God declares that each of them is in the wrong and stands in judgment over them. In each case, with the serpent, Eve, and Adam, he begins to unfold the effects sin will have on the world, culminating in Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life within it. So Adam and Eve have suffered a great loss because they believed the serpent and rebelled against their creator and king.
But within this defeat, we get a glimmer of deliverance. A promise that God will not leave his people defeated, but will raise up one instead who will defeat their enemy. Look at 3:15, which reads: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. This verse is often described as the “first gospel”, God’s first promise of deliverance for his fallen people. And it seems that Adam and Eve understood this as well.
Look at verse 20 in chapter 3: The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. Hadn’t they been promised death for their disobedience? Hadn’t they just received judgment from God for their sin? And yet here we have Adam naming his wife Eve in anticipation of life! They understood that even in this moment of judgment upon their sin, which deserves death, that God had also promised offspring - he had promised life. And not only that, but that one of these offspring would rise up and defeat the enemy who had deceived and defeated them in the garden.
And it’s this promise, found in Genesis 3:15, that we want to trace to several other places in the Bible as we begin this Advent season. What we have here in Genesis 3:15 is the origin of longing throughout the history of God’s people. As the devastation of sin continued out through human history from this moment forward, so also did the longing of the human heart for the world to be set right.
Think about it from the vantage point of Adam and Eve. They heard this promise, and based on Adam’s naming his wife Eve, “the mother of all living”, I’m convinced that they believed God! And now Eve bears a son, Cain, and then another son, Abel. And I can’t help but think that with both of these two sons, they must have wondered, “is this him?! Is this the one? Will he bruise the serpent’s head?” But of course it was neither Cain or Abel.
Continuing forward in Genesis and looking at the first recorded genealogy, I think the same thing is happening. This genealogy ends with Noah, and listen to what it says about him in Genesis 5:28-29: When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.
Here we have a direct reference back to the curse upon the ground that God spoke to Adam in the Garden, and we have a plainly articulated hope that this son, Noah, will be the one to reverse the curse. And as you read Noah’s story, there’s good reason for hope! Noah is described as finding favor in the eyes of the Lord. God determines to spare Noah and his immediate family from the flood of judgment he is going to bring upon the world. And many days later when Noah walks out of the ark as one of eight living people on earth, the question remains: is this the salvation that God promised his people? Is Noah the one who will bring peace?
But again, the answer of course, is no. After exiting the ark Noah plants vineyards and gets drunk with wine, conflict arises with his sons after one of them finds him naked in his drunken stupor, and then Noah dies. Noah, like Adam, was still under the curse. He was a sinner who received great mercy from his God, but he was not the one who would ultimately defeat the Serpent and reconcile men to God. And this hope, this longing, along with the failing of sinful men, continues across the entire arc of the Old Testament. There are many Old Testament saints who point us forward and serve as types of Christ, but ultimately all of them were sinners incapable of leading, loving, and saving God’s people.
And this highlights for us the ongoing significance of The Fall for us today. This was not merely an event that ruined the first two people who ever lived. This event, this moment of sin against God, continues in its effects all the way to today, and truly all the way until Jesus returns. Because Adam and Eve fell into sin, all of their offspring are born into sin.
The significant theological implication here is that Adam was our representative, sometimes also referred to as our federal head. As the first person God created, he was meant to represent humanity before God and lead the coming generations in worshipping the Lord. But when he fell, when he and Eve ate the fruit, all of us fell. This is why to this day, every one of us is born sinful. There is something wrong with each of us from the very start.
Now a common objection to the statement that Adam was our representative before God is to say that such representation isn’t fair. Some say they weren’t there when our first parents fell, so they shouldn’t in any way suffer consequences for their actions. And while I see where these people are coming from, the Bible states this - that Adam was our representative - as plain fact. Adam was our representative head - and when he fell, we all fell. His guilt becomes our guilt. And if anyone still finds this to be unfair, look with me at Romans chapter 5.
In Romans 5:12, Paul takes up this very argument. He states that sin and death entered the world through one man: Adam. He says that many died through one man’s transgression - that death reigned over humanity because of one man’s sin. The one trespass led to condemnation for all men.
But... There is more... because Adam serves as a type of one who was to come later. Indeed a type of the one promised in Genesis 3:15. Romans 5:14 expressly states this - that Adam was a type of the one who was to come. Now a “type” means a model or pattern - someone who foreshadows a future event or person yet to be born. Adam pointed forward beyond his own life to someone else who would be born later. And in the same way that we are all guilty in Adam, so in Jesus, the promised one, are all made righteous who put their faith in him.
In the same way that we were represented by Adam, so is everyone who trusts in Jesus now represented by him before God. Jesus became our representative who accomplished our righteousness and bore our guilt before God. So to anyone who feels it is unfair that we were first represented by Adam in his sin and fall, I’d point to Jesus and tell them that if anything is unfair, it’s that Jesus bore your sin! He’s the only innocent person in human history, and he suffered like a guilty sinner in our place.
So Jesus is our new representative. Everyone is either in Adam, or in Christ. You are either represented by Adam in his transgression and are therefore guilty, or you are represented by Jesus and His sacrifice, and are therefore justified by his grace.
Now you and I have the benefit of living after Jesus came to earth. We see more clearly than our brothers and sisters in the Old Testament saw. For them, their faith in God was characterized by waiting - by mystery’s and shadows and types. They were waiting for a salvation yet to be revealed. They read the promise in Genesis 3:15 and looked around wondering when He would come, who he would be, and how he would deliver them. Faith in the Old Testament was very much made up of this longing, this anticipation.
And Advent helps us to feel this. Our hearts will not rightly respond to Jesus as the great gift that he is if we cannot first feel a longing for his coming, for deliverance from the land of deep darkness.
Now I want us to run through our three points from Genesis again, but this time with an eye toward Jesus and how he overcomes the serpent for us. Remember that in Genesis 3 we saw deception, defeat and deliverance. The Serpent was crafty, he deceived Adam and Eve, and their sin gave way to defeat - their fall and exile from God’s presence in the Garden of Eden. Yet amidst their Fall, God promises deliverance in the one who will bruise the serpent’s head. We know this to be Jesus - and I want to look at a couple specific events in his life where we see Him overcoming our enemy. Satan won his battle against Adam and Eve - the deception was successful. And when Jesus was born thousands of years later, Satan tried it again. He sought to deceive and defeat Jesus in order to prevent the promised deliverance of God’s people.
Look with me at Matthew 4. Immediately following his baptism, Jesus is led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Did you catch that? Matthew 4:1 explicitly tells us that Jesus went out into the wilderness so that he might be tempted by the devil. Why? Why would Jesus head out into the wilderness knowing that he would be hungry, physically weak, and assailed by Satan? Because Jesus, as our representative, needed to do battle with the serpent. Where Adam fell, Jesus needed to stand. Where Adam and Eve abandoned God’s word and forfeited God’s presence in the Garden, Jesus needed to stand firm upon God’s Word and overcome the devil’s temptation in the wilderness.
Matthew 4 then, gives us courtside seats to this conflict. Satan comes at Jesus with three different temptations. He questions his identity as God’s Son, saying to him the first two times “If you are the Son of God… then prove it by a demonstration of your own power!” But immediately before heading out into the wilderness, Jesus was baptized, and what did God the Father say from heaven about Jesus? He said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus did not doubt his identity as God’s Son, and therefore Satan’s attacks against him were unsuccessful.
The final temptation Satan brings is to offer Jesus all the kingdoms in the world in exchange for his worship. He offers up the whole world if Jesus will simply bow down and worship him! But Jesus yet again rebuffs Satan’s attacks by citing a passage from Deuteronomy, and refuses to worship him. And in the end, Satan is defeated in this conflict. He flees having been unsuccessful with his deception, while Jesus remains, standing firm.
And this is so significant for us. In Adam, we are slaves to sin and dead in our transgressions. In Adam our enemy Satan has the upper hand over us because of our weakness, because of the sinful condition of our hearts. But where we were weak and incapable of defeating our enemy, Jesus steps in. He enters the conflict and overcomes our enemy. Jesus, like Adam, was tempted and tried by Satan. But Jesus, unlike Adam, stood his ground and turned away Satan’s every deceptive attack. Where Adam suffered defeat at the hands of Satan, Jesus defeated Satan on your behalf.
This is what the book of Hebrews is getting at in saying that Jesus is the Great High Priest who sympathizes with our weakness. Hebrews 3:18 says, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Christian - Jesus was tempted for you, and he overcame temptation for you.
And as good of news as that is for you and me, there’s more. Jesus didn’t just overcome temptation and defeat our enemy where our first parents failed. Jesus also disarmed Satan by taking away his weapons against God’s people. You see, Satan is both a deceiver and an accuser. And Colossians 2 tells us that God disarmed Satan and his demons and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in Jesus. ...you, who were dead in your tespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
You see, because of what we just read from Colossians 2, Satan can’t effectively accuse a forgiven sinner. Sure, he can remind you of your sins, he can whisper how unworthy you are, he can throw your sinful past at you, and all manner of other accusations. But in Jesus, God has spoken over his people. He has spoken his approval of you, he has declared you justified and forgiven. He has given you the Spirit of truth and opened your heart to understand His word. He has disarmed your enemy!
So as we come to a close tonight, I have just two brief Advent implications for you.
First, bring your longing to Jesus. We are all longing for something right now. We all feel the heaviness of responsibility, the frustration of lockdowns, the pain of strained relationships, the weight of our own sin, or any number of other genuinely difficult circumstances.
We all long for relief... we are all waiting for deliverance.
Our call to worship tonight was Psalm 25 - listen again to a few of those lines:
...Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame…
...Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
...The troubles of my heart are enlarged, bring me out of my distresses.
...Oh, guard my soul and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
...May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
...Redeem Israel O God, out of all his troubles.
Psalm 25 perfectly expresses the posture of a heart that is waiting, that is longing. And the direction of this heart is toward the Lord in patient faith. Whatever it is that you are longing for: peace, security, comfort, provision, relief - all of these things find their fullness in Jesus. So in a year that has been much harder than any of us could have anticipated, bring your longing to Jesus.
Second, in your struggle against sin and Satan, look to Jesus. All of us, like Adam and Eve, have fallen to Satan’s deceitful schemes. We’ve bought the lie and eaten the fruit of pride or lust or selfishness or laziness in an effort to satisfy our souls. But when Satan comes to tempt or accuse you, cling to Jesus. He withstood Satan’s every attack, and he is able to lead you through the temptations you face in your own life. Jesus paid for your every sin, so he is your advocate when the accuser comes to beat you down.