Genesis 3:1-21

1st Sunday in Lent – 2/26/2023

What's wrong with everyone in our nation? Civility has gone by the wayside. Respectful disagreement is almost unheard of. When dealing with someone you disagree with, the preferred tactic is to shout them down, picket, riot, or otherwise deny them a platform to speak. Forget the First Amendment right to free speech. Congress may not be making any laws infringing upon our ability to say what we want, but the mob rule of political correctness is silencing people left and right.

Furthermore, what has become of the quest for truth? Many believe that if something doesn't conform to how I want it to be, I deny the indisputable facts of the situation and create my reality of truth for myself. Gone is any sense of integrity, honesty, righteousness, or fair play. The very fabric of our society is crumbling before our very eyes.

However, for those of us who believe what the Holy Bible teaches, none of this should baffle us. It's no great mystery why the world is in such utter chaos. Why do government leaders become corrupt? Why are scams and deceptive business practices prevalent in every aspect of human society? Even in our own families and personal relationships, we constantly suffer the consequences of greed, envy, lust, selfishness, and a general lack of true love for one another.

It's all laid out for us in the third chapter of Genesis. The cause goes back to the very first man and the very first woman. In dramatic detail, the Biblical author, Moses, delineates the loss of paradise and the origin of the hell of life in this world as we experience it daily. The consequence of Adam and Eve's disobedience has left all of creation under the curse of God. We read: "To the woman he said, 'I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.'" "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." And to Adam, he 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." "You shall eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, for you are dust, and to dust, you shall return."

At the heart of our dilemma, however, is our nakedness. This nakedness is not merely being without clothes. So Moses notes explicitly this at the end of Chapter 2. We read: "And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." Having no clothes was part of Adam and Eve's created existence. In the perfect conditions of paradise, clothes were not necessary. But with this statement, Moses is preparing readers to understand the significance of chapter three and what he means by the nakedness that Adam and Eve horrifyingly realize after their rebellion against God.

The whole scenario begins with the character of another creature of God, the nachhash—the serpent. As it reads in the English translation before us, Moses says this creature was more "crafty" than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. The word could equally be translated as "subtle," "shrewd," or even "insightful." It is used in the Bible in both a positive and a negative sense. However, the word is only used about an animal. It indicates that whatever the physical state of the serpent, or snake, at the beginning of creation and before the fall, it could relate to human beings better than any other animal. Jesus, Himself even acknowledged this remarkable quality of a serpent when He said to His disciples, "Be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16). Perhaps this is why Satan chose to use this creature as the vessel through which he would tempt these first humans into disobeying God.

In this "craftiness," the serpent directed the woman's attention to the one prohibition God had given her and her husband amid all the freedoms and opportunities He had afforded them. "Did God say you can't eat from every tree in the garden?" the serpent asked the woman, or "you shall not eat from any tree." Either way, the intent of the serpent, that is, the devil through the serpent, was to cause the woman to be suspicious of God's genuine concern for her and her husband. The insinuation was that God was holding something good back from Adam and Eve. God's very nature of being good and gracious to them was called into question!

Except for one tree in the middle of the garden, the woman acknowledged they could eat from any of the trees. She even added to God's initial command given to the man before Eve was even created by putting words in God's mouth with the claim that He said, "Neither shall you touch (the tree), lest you die."

Having planted this seed of doubt about God's sincerity in the woman's heart, the serpent next directly challenged the veracity of God's word with a direct assault: "You will surely not die." He then accused God of being unjust, insinuating that God was holding back a great good from her and her husband. He said, "For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Ah, to be like God—now that's a powerful temptation. God is not subservient to anyone. He calls all the shots. He makes the rules. Imagine if you had that power and authority.

Unfortunately, following in the footsteps of Adam and Eve, we know all too well how powerful this temptation to be like God is in our lives. We have all succumbed to it more than we could even know or would care to admit.

Is this not why we worry? We know that God can't take care of everything. We need to take things into our own hands. Is this not why we get angry with God when tragedies invade our lives? We would never allow such travesties if we were God and in control.

It all proved to be too much of a temptation for the woman. In her "divine wisdom," she saw that the tree was good for food and that eating the fruit was a delightful prospect. So she took the fruit, ate it, and then gave it to her husband, who was with her, and he also ate it.

The serpent was undoubtedly correct in one sense; she and her husband's eyes were immediately opened. However, the serpent was not right in the way that he had implied. They saw evil. They could see that it was right in their hearts! They could see that they had sinned heinously against their Creator, bringing upon themselves precisely what the LORD had warned them about. They were not like God. They were now subject to death. They had died in their relationship with God.

How did they know this? They immediately sensed their nakedness. The wickedness, rebellion, and lewdness of their thoughts and feelings were now wholly evident. They felt vulnerable and exposed. They were riddled with shame. They grabbed the nearest and largest leaves they could find, fig leaves, and covered themselves. They then tried hiding from the sight of God by hiding among the trees and bushes of the garden.

Moses does not say that Adam and Eve covered themselves but rather that they took fig leaves and made, literally, "loincloths." Their whole body was unclothed. Why was it they first sought to cover their loins? Their loins were never the subject of shame before. Like every other member of their bodies, their sexual organs were also good gifts from God. But now, their shame was felt most intensely in these organs of generation (reproduction). Now, their eyes were open to see that, in their rebellion, they had contaminated the very source of human life with their sin. All their descendants would inherit their fallen nature. They had brought the curse of sin and death upon all their progeny. (Stigers, p.75,76).

On top of this, in their nakedness, they also experienced something they had never known before, fear of being exposed to God's wrath. Adam and Eve hid in the trees not because they didn't want God to see them naked. He had created them and had always walked with them in the garden. But now, even the mere sound of God in the garden made them run and hide in fear of him.

Their relationship with God had changed, not for the better, as the serpent had deceived them into believing. The LORD God drew attention to this separation from Him by asking Adam, "Where are you?" God knew Adam's location in the garden. So did Adam. But now Adam didn't know where he stood in relation to God. He and his wife had every reason to be afraid. Their disobedience had left them exposed to God's just punishment.

Being so afraid of God that you want to hide from His presence is horrible. That's how those who reject Christ and refuse to believe in him will feel at Jesus's second coming. As the vision in the Book of Revelation pictures it, they will cry out to the rocks and hills to fall on them to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16).

However, Adam and Eve's attempts to cover their nakedness proved futile and inadequate. Not covering up their bodies could rid them of their guilt before God. No matter how flatteringly they dressed in the future, they could not make the horror and shame in their hearts disappear.

Likewise, no matter how they might try to keep any of God's future commands, it would be insufficient to cover or rid them of their guilt.

So where do we stand with God? We stand in the same shame-covered place Adam and Eve did after the fall. As descendants of Adam, you and I have inherited this nakedness before God. We have no righteous standing before God. By our very nature, we are, as Scripture says, "children of His wrath." Our hearts are full of lust and rebellions just like theirs. No covering over our exposed sin with our moral uprightness and perceived good works will be sufficient to clothe us. God says, "Your good works are filthy rags" (Is.). Like Adam and Eve, we possess a nakedness that only God in Christ Jesus can cover!

So the Lord God explained to Adam and Eve. Not only did God spare Adam and Eve's lives and not give them over to death right away, but as Moses writes in verse 21, "the LORD God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them."

What an extraordinary statement of God's undeserved love for His wayward creatures! He felt sorry for their shame and was responsible for adequately covering them. In the process of clothing them with animal skins, he also showed them what it would take to conceal their true nakedness. It would take the sacrifice of the innocent. Someone clothed in righteousness would need to be stripped naked in unrighteousness to cover their nakedness with His righteousness.

Obviously, no mere sacrificial animal could cover all of humanity's nakedness. Not even all the herds of goats and lambs sacrificed over the centuries in the court of the Jerusalem temple would even begin to cover anyone's shame. Such a substitutionary sacrifice would have to be made by a human being, and not just any human being, but one who, like Adam, who brought this nakedness to all human beings, could make His righteous work and sacrifice apply to all the sons of Adam.

Ironically, God proclaimed who this coverer of nakedness would be in the curse He announced to the serpent. Not only did the LORD God decree that the serpent would suffer the judgment of all his days spent crawling on his belly and eating dust with the mouth he used to deceive Adam and Eve. God also decreed to the real enemy behind the serpent, Satan, "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" (v. 15).

Only one fits the bill of being the "offspring" or "seed" of the woman. That is Jesus Christ, the Only One Born of a Virgin. Jesus is also uniquely qualified to replace all humanity because, as the announcing angel testified, "Jesus is the Son of God." The whole purpose of Jesus' coming into this world was to clothe the nakedness of all of us, sons and daughters of Adam. He came to give His life as a ransom for us all. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the world's sins.

As the 18th-century hymn writer put it, this is our prayer throughout Lent and every season: "Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to Thy cross I cling." "Naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless, look to Thee for grace." (LBW 761, v. 3).

Jesus is the offering through which the LORD God clothed your nakedness and crushed the head of the ancient serpent, thereby destroying his power over you. In Hebrews, we read: "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery."

Where nakedness is appropriately covered, all shame and fear are gone, even before God. That is precisely what God grants you in Jesus Christ. The holy apostle writes, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Gal. 3:26, 27).

Having been appropriately clothed in Christ, His sacrifice expiates your guilt and clothes you in Jesus' righteousness. Holy Baptism allows you to stand in God's presence with your nakedness fully covered. No one, not even the ancient serpent himself, can bring any charges against you to shame you any longer.

Yes, as long as you live in this world, still languishing in the results of the fall, you will suffer from the effects of your sins and those of others. You will know shame before others. But as those baptized into Christ Jesus, the Second Adam, the Promised Seed of the Woman, who in His death and resurrection crushed the head of the ancient serpent, you do not need to frantically run and hide from the truth of your sinful condition. You do not need to hurry around trying to cover your guilt and shame with lies, self-righteousness, or other fake clothing. You can live in true repentance before God and man and have every confidence that God, in His grace, has covered your nakedness before Him in Christ's righteousness and will clothe you on the day of Jesus' final coming, clothe you as He has promised in His glory! Go well-clothed and in peace with God and one another!

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