God’s Compassionate Judgment

God’s Compassionate Judgment

How would you describe the color blue to someone born blind?

How would you describe Handel’s Messiah to someone born deaf?

How would you describe the taste of chocolate to someone who had no taste buds?

How would you describe the feel of a kitten’s fur to someone who had no sense of touch?

How would you describe the smell of a rose to someone who had no olfactory receptors?

All of these basic, simple pleasures—experienced and taken for granted by those who have use of their senses—would be difficult to convey properly to someone who lacked any of one them. So, too, how would you describe the knowledge of evil to someone who had only ever experienced good? For prior to the Fall this had been the lot of Adam and Eve who had been made in the image of their good Creator. For however long they existed before Eve was approached by the serpent, their experience had been one of exclusively experiencing the good of their Maker, the good in each other, and the good of God’s creation. Prior to Eve being approached by the serpent, Adam and Eve had only ever experienced goodness. And out of his great love for his image-bearers, the one positive command and one negative prohibition he gave them was this: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”[1] So, again, how would you describe the knowledge of evil and death to someone who had only ever experienced goodness and life? What is more, why would anyone who had only known goodness and life want to have knowledge of evil the death it ensued?

Well here’s how the ancient serpent, the Devil who is the accuser and slanderer; Satan who is the adversary,[2] was able to make the knowledge of evil attractive to Eve:

First, as stated in verse 4 of this chapter, he denied the reality of death: “You will not certainly die.” Again, neither Eve nor Adam could have known what death was like for they had only known life and that abundantly. Surely even they would have known the threat of death to be ominous and dangerous and frightening for God had warned them of this result should they eat of the fruit. But what if the serpent, not God, was right and they had nothing to fear?

Next, God’s adversary sought to make the knowledge of evil as desirable as the knowledge of good. He sought to convince Eve that wonderful as her life may have been up until now, the sight she had was as blindness when compared with the riches of vision that the knowledge of evil would provide—again, Eve and Adam had only known good up until now. Evil, like death, had been unknown and unexperienced by them. Yet as stated in the first half of verse 5 the serpent promised, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened….” Satan promised sight yet the only vision he was capable of giving was vision of himself and the evil over which he reigned. This is how he ever functions, seeking to take away our vision of God, who is good, and so leave us blind. This was the work he did in the Garden; this is the work he continues to do today. As we noted last week Paul tells how “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”[3] And as we heard read for us earlier, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”[4] He specializes in closing the eyes of people’s hearts to God and opening them to himself.

Having denied the reality of death and having made the knowledge of evil as desirable as the knowledge of good, Satan sought lastly to make Eve discontent with her creaturely status as one who was dependent upon the God who had made her in his image. He sought to cause her to follow in his steps and those of the angels who had rebelled by not keeping her position of authority and abandoning her proper dwelling.[5] He promised Eve who was already like God, having been made in his image, that upon eating of the forbidden fruit, end of verse 5, “…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

And so Eve’s deception was now complete. She willingly walked into the venomous spider’s web. As we see stated in verse 6:

Though God had warned that eating of this fruit would lead to death, in her innocence she “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food.” She believed the serpent’s deception that she would certainly not die. She was deceived and believed the darkness that was masquerading as light;

Though God had abundantly provided fruit from all the trees in the garden save one, she saw only that one fruit as “pleasing to the eye.” She was deceived and believed the darkness that was masquerading as light;

Though God had made her like himself, in his image, knowing only good, she chose to be even more like him, knowing evil as well for she mistakenly believed that the fruit was “also desirable for gaining wisdom.” She was deceived and believed the darkness that was masquerading as light. Therefore she took some of the fruit and ate it and also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it.[6]

The immediate results of having partaken of the one fruit God had forbidden them must have been terrifying for our first parents:

They who previously had been naked before one another and felt no shame,[7] now, verse 7, “realized they were naked” so “they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” They probably didn’t even understand why they were doing so. How was it possible that one moment they were at ease in their nakedness before one another and the very next, upon tasting of the forbidden fruit, they felt the need to cover up?

Having felt the need to hide from one another, they next felt the need to hide from God. From God. From the very One who had made them in his image; from the very One who had given them the riches of the garden; from the very One who had placed them as king and queen to care over the creatures of earth, sea, and land he had made. As stated in verse 8, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Adam and Eve who had never felt the need to hide from our precious God, now tried to hide from him. How could this be? How could partaking of this forbidden fruit have had such catastrophic results?

Well as we saw last week the LORD God confronted in turn first Adam and then Eve and both replied truthfully about what had occurred.[8] But as we arrive at verse 14, notice that the LORD God did not ask the serpent what he had done for God knew the character of this formerly good angel who had sinned[9] and had now returned disguised as a serpent. God knew that this was Satan, his adversary. God knew that this was the Devil, the slanderer and accuser. God didn’t need to ask what had happened for he knew that the woman had answered truly when she said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Therefore “14 …the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” For having murdered his image-bearers in introducing death into their lives,[10] the serpent that had been said to be “more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” in verse 1 was now cursed by God “above all livestock and all wild animals.” God who is ever good ever curses evil.

But the more important part of this curse is how God enigmatically promised the serpent’s defeat in verse 15 by placing “enmity” between him and the woman, between his offspring and hers. Now the definition of “enmity” is “the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.” Christian scholars and theologians agree that this “enmity,” this active opposition and hostility to Satan, the devil, the ancient serpent, was to come in the form of Messiah. He is the one who would continue to protect the woman and her offspring against the serpent and his followers; He is the one whose heel the serpent would strike but whose head would be crushed by the Messiah. This is why this verse from Genesis 3 has been said to contain the protoevangelium,[11] the first mention of the Gospel. Though not well-known, in the third verse of Charles Wesley’s original version of Hark the Herald Angels Sings, he referred to Genesis 3:15 in writing:

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving pow’r,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.[12]

The “Desire of nations” and “woman’s conqu’ring Seed” is, of course, none other than Jesus Christ. He is the “enmity” God placed between the serpent and the woman. He is the One who not only would actively oppose Satan but would crush his head, guaranteeing his defeat. This is the Gospel, indeed. Satan may have caused humanity’s Fall, but never for a second did our gracious God give up on his image-bearers. Instead, by way of this curse upon the serpent, he promised destruction to him who sought to murder his image-bearers.

But notice that God did not curse Eve or Adam but instead judged them. Having protected his image-bearers and provided a way for them to escape eternal death, he then informed each one in turn about the consequences of their disobedience.

First he turned to the woman, verse 16: “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” The creation mandate of being fruitful and increasing in number and filling the earth would now be accompanied by severe pain in labor and childbearing as part of God’s judgment. So, too, whereas prior to the Fall Adam and Eve together were to subdue the earth and rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground,[13] now that task would become more difficult as the woman’s desire would be for her husband and he, in turn, would seek to rule over her. This is not what God originally intended. This was a judgment for their disobedience.

Next the LORD God turned to the man. Starting in verse 17:

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Now to be clear, Adam’s problem wasn’t that he listened to his wife—she was equally made in God’s image and equally given the mandate to increase in number and rule and care for the earth. The problem was that that he had listened to her when she offered him the fruit he knew God had forbidden him to eat. Anytime anyone tempts us to do something God has clearly forbidden, we shouldn’t listen to them. For having eaten of the fruit, Adam, too, was judged. Now the ground out of which he had been formed and over which he was to rule would be cursed so that tilling it would require “painful toil” for it would now “produce thorns and thistles.” This would be Adam’s lot until he died.

Adam’s judgment ends with God reminding him that he had been taken from the ground, mere dust, and that one day he would return to that ground into which God had once breathed his own breath.[14] This is the very definition of death—that a formerly living being was now capable of losing the breath of life. Though God had warned concerning the forbidden fruit, “…when you eat from it you will certainly die,”[15] Adam nonetheless ate and for having done so his life would certainly come to an end.

In verse 20 we see that despite this promise of ultimate death, Adam realized that for the time being, he and Eve would go on living. He “named his wife Eve”—which name is similar to the Hebrew word for “living”—“because she would become the mother of all the living.” Though Eve would undergo severe pains in childbirth, she would give birth to children. Despite their disobedience, she and Adam would be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth as God had ordained.

And as the chapter begins to draw to a close we’re able to see how the good God in whose image they had been made, extended his compassionate judgment even after they disobeyed him. First, verse 21, “[t]he Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” The fig leaves Adam and Eve had sewn together as coverings for themselves[16] would hardly suffice to protect them from the elements. So God, who had provided for them from the moment he created them,[17] continued to provide for them now. Yet these “garments of skin” were also a further disclosure to his image-bearers of what death actually looked like for an animal—or animals—would have had to have been sacrificed in order to make those protective garments.

Next, beginning with verse 22 we’re provided a glimpse of divine deliberation as “the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.” Humans were made to know good—the goodness of God; the goodness of each other; the goodness of the rest of God’s creation. Yet as a result of having partaken of the forbidden fruit, they now knew evil. Such knowledge only God is able to handle. Therefore whereas previously Adam and Eve had been permitted to partake of the tree of life and so live forever, God’s compassionate judgment was such that they wouldn’t be consigned to live in their fallen sinful state forever. Therefore they were banished from the Garden of Eden and Adam would no longer “work the ground from which he had been taken.” For having followed in the steps of Satan and abandoned their proper dwelling,[18] Adam and Eve were forced—by God—to leave their formerly proper dwelling in the Garden of Eden.

And to make sure that they wouldn’t return to the Garden of Eden and live in their fallen state forever, God’s compassionate judgment was expressed by placing some of his cherubim—the plural form of cherub, an angelic being—and “a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” The LORD God didn’t want his image-bearers to have to live in fallen bodies forever therefore he made sure they would no longer be able to partake from the tree of life.

This account of the Fall in Genesis 3 is the explanation provided in Scripture, God’s Word, for how humans went from being friends of God to seeing him as our enemy. Though God is not our enemy, Satan who is God’s enemy did his level best to guarantee that all of God’s image-bearers would choose his darkness over the light of God. Yet as was read for us earlier from 1 John, God had other plans for his image-bearers. He chose to express his undying love for them by sending them his Son, the Word that was with God in the beginning and was also God himself; the Word through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made; the Word in whom was life that was the light of mankind. That Word, the very Son of God, would come to the world and shine God’s love in the darkness so powerfully that darkness would not overcome it.[19]

And as also read for us earlier, when that eternal Word, God’s Son who was God himself, came to the world, it became evident that he was the enmity God had placed between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. As stated in John 12, as he anticipated his own crucifixion Jesus said “31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”[20] God’s innocent Son dying in our place is how the serpent struck his heel. But make no mistake, when Christ returns to complete his Kingdom, Satan’s head will finally be crushed,[21] his ultimate doom will be made sure.

Now the enmity placed between the seed of the serpent and woman resulted not only in the ultimate doom of Satan, but also in God in Christ undoing the murder and death Satan had wrought. As Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15, “[t]he body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” Again, the means of transforming our perishable, dishonored, weak, and natural bodies into imperishable, glorified, powerful, and spiritual bodies is none other than Jesus Christ. As Paul goes on to say concerning the first Adam and Christ Jesus, the last Adam, “45 …The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit…. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” One commentator catches well some further parallels between fallen Adam and our dear Savior Jesus in stating, “The coming heavenly Adam, who bears the curse of toil, sweat, thorns, conflict, death on a tree, and descent into dust, will regain the garden, tearing apart the veil of the temple on which the cherubim were sewn.”[22] It is through Christ Jesus and him alone that “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[23] For he, after he ascended to heaven, sent his Holy Spirit that all who believe in him might be sealed[24] and indwelt[25] with life eternal that neither our sin, nor death, nor Satan can ever defeat or undo.

Dear brothers and sisters, because of God’s compassionate judgment, placing the bulk of that judgment upon his Son, one day all who have turned to him will forget what the knowledge of evil is like and return to the knowledge only of good. Therefore let us exclaim with Paul, “thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[26] Thanks be to God, indeed!

Let us pray.

[1] Genesis 2:15–16.

[2] Devil means “accuser” or “slanderer”; Satan means “adversary.” Revelation 12:9: The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.; Revelation 20:2: He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

[3] 2 Corinthians 4:4: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

[4] 2 Corinthians 11:14.

[5] Jude 1:6: And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

[6] Genesis 3:6: When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

[7] Genesis 2:25: Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

[8] Adam answered God truthfully two times in vv. 10, 12: “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid…. The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Eve, too, answered truthfully when questioned by God, v. 13b: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

[9] 2 Peter 2:4: For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;

[10] John 8:44–45: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!”

[11] Or protoevangelion.

[12] https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Hark_the_Herald_Angels_Sing/

[13] Genesis 1:28: God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

[14] Genesis 2:7: Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

[15] Genesis 2:17.

[16] Genesis 3:7.

[17] Genesis 1:29–30: 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

[18] Jude 1:6: And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

[19] John 1:1–15: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

[20] John 12:31–32.

[21] See Romans 16:20: The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

[22] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 3:24.

[23] 1 Corinthians 4:54.

[24] Ephesians 1:13–14: 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

[25] 2 Timothy 1:14: Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

[26] 1 Corinthians 4:57.