Monday, December 14, 2009

Far as the curse is found - The Fall

It was common among the ancient Greeks to picture time as moving in a circular fashion. You will still find that same idea in our own day. We speak of “the life cycle” and history repeating itself. Belief in Karma and reincarnation portray time in repetitious cycles. As a recent study by the Pew Forum demonstrates, those beliefs are no longer confined to eastern cultures.

Among atheists time is seen as a completely random movement. There is no God so there is no purposeful direction in time and space.

Endless repetition of cycles.

Meaningless movement toward an unknown end.

Of course the biblical understanding of time is radically different. God’s Word portrays time as moving purposefully in a particular direction not repeating itself in cycles. Time on a universal scale as well as the days allotted to each of us is under the sovereign direction of God. This means that history tells a story. It tells God’s story. And that story is punctuated by events that impact not only our individual lives but the entire cosmos. And standing at the ultimate pivot point of history is the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

These were actual historic events, not metaphors. They are exclamation points in actual history.

The story of Christmas begins long before the birth of Jesus some 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. It begins before the angel’s announcement to Mary that she would conceive of the Holy Spirit. It begins before Isaiah’s prophecies of a suffering Messiah who would bear away the sins of his people. It begins before God’s covenant with Abraham to make from him a nation of people made up of people from all the nations.

As far as human history is concerned the story of Christmas begins in a garden long ago. If we understand the events surrounding the advent of Jesus to be the most significant events in history then we should expect the story of his coming to be foretold from the earliest days of the human family. What is surprising is the context of that first announcement of the coming Saviour.

The story begins with…
The Fall

God created the man and woman as an expression of his joyful creativity and love. He created humankind to live on the earth, to multiply and be the crown of all creation. God created humankind for fellowship; for a unique relationship whereby we would glorify Him and He would pour out his love upon us. But the man and the woman, having listened to the voice of the Deceiver chose to be their own moral authority. They chose to reach for godhood themselves. They chose to do the one thing God had told them not to do.

In that single moment sin entered humanity, corruption entered creation, and what was innocent became guilty. We refer to this event as “the Fall.” Oddly enough this is where Christmas first enters the consciousness of God’s people.

God had warned the man and woman that if they chose to do the one thing he had commanded them not to do then it would constitute rebellion against him. It would be a wicked act of mutiny which is what sin always is. It is an attempt to dethrone God and place ourselves in His place. God had warned them that if they chose to sin then they would surely die.

In that moment of rebellion death surely entered the created order. What was incorruptible took on corruptibility and the man and the woman were driven out of that place of perfection. Mankind had been given the task of spreading throughout the earth and multiplying that paradise through their earthly dominion. But what happened instead is that paradise was lost. What is more God announced to Adam and Eve the curses which would follow in the wake of their sin.

Genesis three records perhaps the most tragic words in Scripture.

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. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (vv. 16-19).

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “This third chapter of the book of Genesis is absolutely essential to a true understanding of life, the whole of life as it is at this moment for each individual.”

Our story as individuals and as a people is in so many ways shaped by what we are told in Genesis three. It’s the story of how sin entered the world. It helps us understand why things go wrong and why people do wrong. The fall has had an incalculable effect on us all. Sin has effected us in ways that, whether we know it or not, we experience every moment of every day.

We are wronged and we do wrong. We seek things that are beyond our grasp. The happiness we search for is never quite within our reach. When we do have peace of mind we still live with the nagging sense that it could all change in a second. Our work is toilsome. Our marriages are hard work. We will not understand ourselves and our world unless we understand what sin has done.

Genesis three is not a fanciful story. It is not a metaphor. It is written in the style of genuine history. No less than Jesus the Son of God and the apostle Paul understood Genesis three as genuine history.

Again, from Lloyd-Jones:

“Here is the most important key to history that is available at this moment. It explains the past. It explains the present. It explains the future. Let me put it as plainly as this: this is not allegory. I have no gospel unless this is history. In addition, I have been pointing out that as well as being a literal historical record of something that actually happened, Genesis 3 is also, in the most amazing way, an account and a description of the very thing that happens to us one by one. For the astounding fact is that every one of us repeats the action of Adam and Eve.”

We carry within ourselves every day the consequences of the fall – the bitter fruit of sin. This is where the story of Christmas begins.


ramona said...

Was good to hear and now to read. Thanks so much for teaching week in and week out. God is good to give us such a blessing .

Todd Pruitt said...

Thanks for the kind words Ramona. It is always good to see you and Ken.