“I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Jesus came to save sinners. That was His basic purpose in a nutshell. I mean, sure, there’s the whole thing about announcing the inauguration of the kingdom of God, but the growth of God’s kingdom happens as sinners are saved and enter into it. So, Jesus came to save sinners. What’s even better about this is that, as Paul wrote in Romans 5:8, He undertook this whole effort when we were still living in open rebellion against Him. That is, we weren’t particularly interested in being saved if it meant giving up our sin, but He came anyway because we didn’t really understand how bad off we were. His love for us was that great. This program of saving sinners, though, wasn’t something that came out of nowhere. It wasn’t like God finally got tired of our being separated from Him and suddenly threw a plan into action. It was the bringing to fruition of something He had been planning for a very long time. This morning, let’s take a quick look together at the first time that plan was announced.
Jesus’ story starts at the beginning. As we began our Advent journey together, that’s where we started yesterday. Because He was there in the beginning, He was ready when the wheels fell off the creation wagon to start the process of putting things back together. What this means is that the Advent hope we celebrate this season is a very old one indeed.
When God finished creating the world and everything in it, things were just right. Have you ever finished a big project and everything was just the way you intended? It was like that but on a cosmic scale. Everything was perfect. Not perfect the way we sometimes say things are perfect even though they aren’t really, but they’re good enough for us. It was literally perfect. Nothing was amiss. There was no sin in the world at all.
And then we broke it.
The serpent, which was more cunning than all the wild animals God had made, slithered up to the woman and said to her, “Did God really say…” Setting aside potential objections to the entire idea of a talking animal for now, things were set here on a slippery slope that quickly brought all of creation to its knees. The woman was hooked by the serpent’s subtle temptation and soon took a bite of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the one tree God had told the man to not eat from. That is, they did the one thing God had told them not to do. They could have done anything else in the whole of creation and would have been fine. They settled on the only thing that was off limits.
It’s easy for us to fall to wondering why there was such a big deal made over their simply eating a piece of fruit, but taking that approach completely misses the point. It makes it seem like God was being stingy with them and should have let them have a pass on this one. The trouble with that whole line of thinking is that it was exactly the line of thinking the serpent used to get them to do it in the first place. It assumes negatively on the character of God. It’s almost like we are trying to retroactively excuse what they did as if by doing that we could somehow excuse our own sin.
Looking at the situation that way, though, turns the whole thing on its head. Instead of fixating on the only restriction God put in place for them, we would do better to focus in on the vast permission God had given them to enjoy themselves. They were given full and unfettered access to creation. Anything in the Garden and beyond was theirs to enjoy. They could go where they pleased, eat what they pleased, do what they pleased. Their freedom was incredibly vast. It was truly beyond measure. And instead of running free in the enormous pasture God had given for their enjoyment, they went straight over to the fence and started pining after the dirty little scrap of yard on the other side of it. Only they didn’t see a dirty little scrap of yard. That’s what the serpent’s temptation did. It disguised the tiny lot like it was a paradise they’d been denied by a miserly God who was keeping the very best of creation from them.
So they ate.
They ate and their eating – that is, their sin – was rooted in a false understanding of His character. Worse, it was rooted in a rejection of His character, in a rejection of Him. Instead of letting Him be God, they reached for His throne to sit on it themselves. This rejection wasn’t necessarily angry or overtly hostile, but it was total.
If you’ve been a parent for very long, I suspect you’ve endured a moment of ingratitude from your kids. You did something for them into which you had put a lot of thought. You put a whole surprise together, set it before them, and they reacted like you had told them they would be eating nothing but Brussels sprouts for dinner for the next year. In that moment, how did you react? If you’re at all like me, your anger was probably instant and hot. It was instant and hot because of your hurt over their rejection of you, the gift you’d prepared for them, and your very character.
This kind of thing is what we should expect from God here. And He was angry. He thundered. He handed out punishments. But before He got to that part – at least for the man and the woman – He paused and started with something that in the moment was wildly unexpected. He started with a promise that one day this whole mess that was seemingly spiraling out of control was going to be cleaned up. The corrupting influence of the serpent was going to be stamped out entirely. There was a child of the woman coming one day who would accomplish this incredible feat, and the world would be set on a path back toward what God had always intended for it to be once again.
You see, God made us to be in a relationship with Him. That relationship was direct at first, but once sin happened, it was going to be through Jesus. The day for that relationship being made live would come, but in the meantime, God didn’t want us wandering about in the darkness without hope any longer than was absolutely necessary. So, as the darkness was still descending, He introduced the first whisper of that hope.
Well, Jesus has come, and His death and resurrection defeated death and sin for all times, but the final defeat and the great victory celebration is still ahead of us, and so we wait. We wait like our ancestors did. We look forward with great hopefulness to the Advent of Christ for the final time. What this verse reminds us of is that we don’t wait alone. Our hope is old and it will be fulfilled. That’s a reason to rejoice in this season.