“So the Lord God said to the serpent: Because you have done this, you are cursed more than any livestock and more than any wild animal. You will move on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike you head, and you will strike his heel.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever gotten a stain on a new shirt? If you have, you know what an enormously frustrating experience that is. This new thing for which you had such great plans and high hopes is now ruined. Sure, it’s one small stain on a big shirt, but once it’s there, the whole thing is polluted by it. It affects how you see all of it. It won’t ever be the same again. And for the person who caused the stain, you have nothing but fury (especially if it was you). Yet what if it could be restored again? When the dust of Adam and Eve’s first sin exploding the previous perfection of creation into bits was still settling, God spoke words of judgment. But He also spoke words of hope and restoration. When He did, the seeds of Christmas were laid, and the world entered the first season of Advent.
There’s a common misperception of God that He is all anger and wrath. He’s looking for an excuse to bring judgment and destruction down on us. And it’s not hard to see how this misperception was formed from the Scriptures. If you don’t read very carefully or deeply, or if you just give attention to certain parts of it, it is easy to paint a picture of God that fits that description perfectly. Yet such a picture of God is no fairer to Him than if someone makes an assessment of your character based on only seeing you when you are angry. There is so much more to you than that. They just need to get a fuller picture to see it all.
When we give a bit closer an examination to God’s revealing of Himself and His character through the writings of the various guys who contributed to the Scriptures, though, it becomes much easier to see why that rather unflattering image of God is about as far from the truth as it could possibly be. And we start to see this really early on in the story – like, on the third page early.
In the beginning, God created a beautiful world that was perfect in every way. Every single part of it operated exactly according to His painstaking, intricate designs. Each cell replicated in perfect sync with its DNA coding. Every tree bore the right kind of fruit in the right season. The animals behaved just according to the instincts God gave them. We were overseeing the whole operation from our command post in the Garden of Eden. Everything was just right.
Then we ate the fruit.
The world often mocks that moment. Why would such a small thing be such a big deal? How could taking a bite from a piece of fruit break the whole world? Why couldn’t God have shown a little bit of that grace He’s supposed to be known for in that moment and brushed the thing off in order to get back to the business of enjoying the world He had made? Such a view, however, comes out of a place of ignorance, whether willful or naive. It completely misses the significance of that moment. The eating of the fruit was merely the physical sign of an internal change. We had set ourselves against our Creator. We had refused to recognize His rightful authority over our lives. We turned the entire order of creation on its head. It was a total and complete rebellion. We took our lives from their rightful owner and in the process deluded ourselves into believing this would bring us a freedom and autonomy, a wisdom and power God was unfairly keeping from us. Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth, but the die was cast, and our fate was sealed.
In that moment, the God who created everything just the way He wanted it – including us – and whose creation had now been egregiously marred by sin had every right to wrath and fury in abundance. It would have been entirely understandable for Him to wipe the slate clean and start over from scratch. No one would have questioned Him if He had scrapped the whole project and gone back to the perfect harmony He enjoyed among Himself before anything else existed.
But that’s not the kind of God He is.
And so, when everything was broken, and the weight of our transgression was dawning on our hearts and minds, God did speak words of judgment (which, if you think about it, were much more descriptive in their tone than prescriptive – something the “angry God” myth doesn’t consider), but He also spoke words of hope. While we were singularly responsible for the decision to eat the fruit, the serpent who led us there would one day be destroyed utterly. It and all of its ministrations would be wiped away, and creation would be restored to its intended glory once again.
With this declaration that the seed of the woman would one day crush the head of the serpent and its offspring, we entered the first season of Advent. We were officially put on notice to be waiting for when that moment arrived. Christmas, in other words, was always God’s plan.
Now we live in the second great season of Advent. Christ has come. The serpent’s head has been crushed (even though the time for its final undoing has not yet arrived in full). Death and Hell have been judged and their destruction has been decreed. Yet the fulfillment of all things is not yet here.
And so we wait.
We wait for that day when Christ will return and make all things new. The waiting indeed feels interminable, but like the first Advent season came to an end when the time was right, so will this one. And because, like with the first season, we don’t know when God will decree the time has come to a completion, our waiting must be an active one. We must actively be preparing ourselves for His arrival. We prepare by pursuing the path of Christ and committing ourselves to obedience to His command. We prepare ourselves by telling the world still living in darkness that the light has dawned, and they don’t have to live that way any longer. We prepare ourselves by cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and in the lives of the people around us as we make disciples. We prepare ourselves by regularly rehearse the worship we will be bringing to the Lord when the day finally arrives.
This current season of Advent is almost at its end. Just under two weeks remain. Are you prepared? Use this time as a reminder of the need to be preparing for the much greater season of Advent that still lingers but will one day come to an end as well as Christ descends from heaven with a shout of victory. Until that day, let us be getting ready.