Expository Sermon on Genesis 3
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 7/25/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch
(To watch the YouTube broadcast of this entire service, click the link just below. The sermon starts at the 51:02 mark.)
Please open your Bible to Genesis chapter 3.
If you happened to be listening to my sermon last Sabbath, you might remember that I mentioned that I was starting a new sermon series that day. It’s on the “exiles” of the Bible.
I got the idea for that series because, as I mentioned last week, this pandemic is causing pretty much everybody to feel like an exile in some way. Just yesterday I got a phone call from one of our members who wanted to know what the latest was on opening our church back up again. He said forlornly, “I miss all the people!”
He’s feeling the same exiled feeling the rest of us are. We have been banished from this building, for our own good. We’re doing our best to provide a worship service which draws in some of the faces and voices we are familiar with, to help with various parts of the service, but that’s not the same as being here in person.
And if you’ve been listening to the news, especially about the increasing virus cases in King County, it looks as though it’s going to be a while before we can get back together. Let’s keep praying that the Lord will sweep this virus away, the way He swept away the plagues in the Old Testament.
Another thing I mentioned last week was that if there is a Bible person who got so famous that parents name their children after him or her, it’s most likely that that person was an exile in some way. Their faith in God made them stand out in a crowd, and most of that crowd were going in the opposite direction.
In last week’s sermon we talked about the first Bible exiles. In Revelation chapter 12, Lucifer was exiled from heaven. And later, because he savagely persecuted the brilliantly clothed woman who represented God’s faithful people, she was exiled for a time.
But in last week’s sermon we also learned two “good news” items. The first is that God treasures me. The second “good news” item is that the devil is determined to destroy me–and while it seems kind of weird to think that way, that’s good news. If the devil is annoyed about us, that’s a good indication that we are on God’s side. In about as counterintuitive a statement as you can make, Jesus insisted that “Blessed (or happy) are you when people persecute you for My sake.” Because that means you are bound for the kingdom of God.
This week we are looking at the exile stories in Genesis 3. Notice that I said exile stories, not “story” singular. As I studied this chapter this week, I discovered not one but three exile stories, and even the one we think is an exile story – the departure of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden – turns out to be different from what we might think.
And the way we did last week, let’s look at these exiles stories and discover how they can help us navigate through the difficult times ahead.
Somebody once said that if you want to summarize the Bible very quickly you can do it like this. The first two chapters talk about God’s perfect world that once existed. The last two chapters of the Bible talk about how God’s perfect world will be restored. The third chapter in from the front tells about how sin began, and the third chapter in from the back, Revelation 20, tells how sin will finally be dealt with. In between is the story of the gospel.
This week we’ll be looking at the third chapter in from the beginning, Genesis 3, the one where sin began. In the first couple of chapters, God has created a beautiful garden, the Garden of Eden, and has put Adam there.
Glance back at chapter 2, verse 15. At this point, Eve has not yet been created.
Genesis 2:15 – 17 [NKJV]: Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Well, once Eve is created from one of Adam’s ribs, Adam faithfully gives her this sobering message.
So now let’s go to chapter 3, and as we go along, let’s keep an eye out for the exile stories.
Genesis 3:1: Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
By the way, Revelation 12, the chapter we looked at last week, clearly identifies who this serpent is. Revelation 12:9 says that one of the names of Satan is “that old serpent.” In other words, that ancient serpent. Satan is using the snake as his ventriloquist’s dummy.
Notice how devilishly clever the devil is. Any other tempter would probably have said, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?’” But we always need to keep in mind that one of the devil’s main goals has always been to trash God’s reputation. The devil always accuses God of being cruel, heartless, and selfish.
So instead, what the snake says here – and I’m paraphrasing – is something like this: “Hey, what’s this I hear? Is God refusing to allow you to eat the fruit of all of these beautiful trees?”
There it is – the very first injection of doubt into the heart of Eve, the very first implication that God is evil and irrational. And it’s easy for those of us thousands of years into the future to sit here and act like Monday morning quarterbacks, but here’s what Eve should have done.
She should’ve stared at the snake in alarm, and called out for a guardian angel or two. And she should have urged that this snake be exiled from the garden. She should have at least turned her back quickly and found Adam, so that they could have joined forces against this amazing talking serpent.
Of course, it’s easy for us to say this. But let’s keep reading and discover the first tragic exile in this chapter.
Verses 2 – 5: And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
And here, of course, Earth’s future hangs in the balance. If only Eve had given the gentle response I’ve given to so many telemarketers who’ve called our home over the years: “Sorry, not interested in your product.”
And now, Eve makes her fatal mistake. She turns away from a clear, direct statement made by her Creator, and instead she tries to reason things out for herself. And when you do that, the results are fatal.
Verse 6: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.
You can see the wheels turning behind Eve’s forehead. Eve did not eat the fruit just because the snake told her to. She thought things through—or thought that she was thinking things through.
I wonder if this is good for me? she asks herself. Well, it has the same texture as that mango over there, and that’s good. And it certainly beautiful – even more beautiful than the mango. And if this snake ate this fruit and learned how to talk to humans, he must be right—this fruit must give great wisdom.
Excellent reasoning, I would say. Except that God said “Don’t eat the fruit of this tree.”
I think this is a good time to lay down Sermon Point One. What was Eden’s first exile?
Eden’s first exile was trust.
Yesterday I read an online political opinion piece. The writer mentioned that in his opinion the only thing that is going to get us safely through this pandemic crisis is trust. We have to figure out whom to trust. We have to take the time to read widely, from a variety of sources, to learn which people and which ideas have been the most consistently trustworthy.
And our primary source of trustworthiness is the Bible. The Bible, of course, is not expert on everything. The Bible does not contain the formula for a COVID-19 vaccine. And even within the Bible, we have to find out who’s doing the talking, and whether what they said agrees with what God or His Son or the Holy Spirit said.
When you’re reading the book of Job, for example, you can’t just assume that every verse makes sense, because God said at the end that it was Job who had made sense, not his three friends. So you always have to make sure you know who’s doing the talking.
But if God says something, and if it’s clear that what He said is universally valid – such as don’t worship any other God except Him, don’t defame His name, remember His Sabbath, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, lie, don’t covet – if it’s clear that what God says is universally true, then we mustn’t let anyone, man or devil, try to reason us away from those statements.
So now that we’ve discovered that Eden’s first exile was trust, what should we do?
Well, we need to make sure that we don’t subject God’s commands to human reason. It’s okay to reason about them, to try to discover why God command that we do or not do this or that. But we dare not let our reasoning cancel out God’s direct, universal commands.
We need to remember that there is indeed a devil, and that there is indeed a great controversy between Christ and Satan, and the devil does indeed know that he has a short time, and that his desperate desire is to make us disobey God’s direct commands the way he, the devil, has.
Now let’s move to the next exile this chapter contains.
Verses 6 – 8: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Here comes Sermon Point Two. What’s the next exile we see in this chapter?
Well, if Eden’s first exile was trust, its second exile was Adam and Eve.
“But wait,” somebody says. “They haven’t actually left the Garden yet!” Of course they haven’t left the Garden. But in their hearts, they are just as “in exile” as they will ever be. And that’s the most tragic exile of all.
I mean, if your Heavenly Parent is searching for you, calling for you, and you run and hide, and then you tell that Parent that you are afraid of Him, what has gone wrong?
Why were Adam and Eve afraid? Was it because of the death threat? I used to think so. But now I don’t. For one thing, Satan seemed to have convinced Eve, for the time being at least, that “you shall not surely die. Instead, you will become much wiser than you are now.”
In fact, Adam actually mentions the reason they were afraid.
Verses 9 – 10: Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
So there is the reason Adam gives for why he and Eve ran. They may not actually realize the full implication of what death is, since they have never yet seen it happen. But they do seem to sense that some kind of natural innocence has been lost, and along with that loss comes terror.
So, they ran from God. Running from God is what the unsaved will do at the end of time.
Revelation 6:12 – 17: I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
As I say, those are the people who—through their own selfishness—have allowed themselves to believe the devil’s slanders against God.
But shouldn’t they be terrified? At that time, yes. Because by this time it’s clear that they have callously ignored the Holy Spirit’s invitations, and would not be happy in an eternity with God and His love at the center. But at any point along the way, they could have done what Adam and Eve didn’t do—run toward God rather than away from Him.
Because when you run toward God, no matter what you have done, He will forgive you and restore you. How do I know this? Let’s read through the sad conversation the three of them had, and then watch what happens at the end.
Genesis 3:9 – 20: Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
I mentioned that no matter what you and I have done, if we return in humble penitence to God, He will forgive us and restore us. Watch how He does this for Adam and Eve.
Verse 21: Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
The Lord responded to their perceived need. He could have told them, “Don’t worry about clothing. That’s a side issue. You’ve got much greater problems than that! You disobeyed My crucial command. You chose to ignore My specific rule because a snake talked you out of it.”
But Adam and Eve felt miserably naked. So God clothed them. He could have given them a sewing tutorial, and showed them just the right natural vine fiber to tighten the seams on those fig leaves. He could have taught them how to weave linen or flax.
But He used skins. Skins from animals He had created. And for those skins to be available, those animals had to die. And as Adam and Eve wrapped those skins around them, those skins were probably warm, warm with the life that had been sacrificed for them.
So whatever you do, whatever you’ve done, don’t run from God. Turn to Him instead. He will forgive you, and restore you, no matter what it takes. Even if it takes the death of His Son. And He will change your heart if you ask Him to.
Because God fulfilled His promise that Eden afternoon. Adam and Eve did die that day—but they died through a substitute. The wages of sin is death, and death happened that day, death which foreshadowed the death of Jesus the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world.
So you and I deserve death, but Someone else has died for us.
1 John 3:16 – “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. . . .”
Titus 2:14 – [He] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people . . . . “
1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”
So whatever you do, don’t run from God. Turn to Him, and confess your sins, and He will forgive you and clean you up.
Because, as 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Have you done that? Will you do that daily, in the days ahead?
I can find one more exile in this chapter.
Verses 22 – 24: Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
This looks like exile, but it’s not. To hear God tell it, He didn’t banish Adam and Eve from Eden because He was mad at them. He simply did not want the selfish cancer of sin to dwell in bodies that would live forever. People suffering under tyrants like Hitler or Stalin can take comfort that, if nature takes its course, their oppressors will eventually grow feeble and die.
And there’s another important reason that our first parents’ departure from Eden wasn’t really an exile. In fact, here’s our final sermon point. What is Eden’s final exile?
Eden’s first exile was trust. Its next exile was Adam and Eve. And Eden’s final exile was God Himself.
Because God did not remain in Eden.
When I was a kid, reading this story, I always thought that Adam and Eve were sent stumbling out of the Garden all by themselves, and that God stayed behind, sitting on His throne, scowling, or maybe even grumbling His disappointment.
But God did not remain in Eden. What use was the Garden to Him, now that His two children were somewhere else? When Adam and Eve walked out of Eden, God went with them. All through the Old Testament God stayed a safe distance from us, but He always stayed in touch. God spoke, sometimes directly and sometimes through prophetic voices. And finally God became human in Jesus Christ.
Why such generosity from our Creator?
Because “The love of God is greater far than tongue, or pen, can ever tell.”
That’s our closing song—and it even mentions Adam and Eve! Let’s sing it together as we close.