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“The Great Disaster”

Genesis 3:1-24
Bob DeGray
September 18, 2005

Key Sentence

All the world around us and within us has been corrupted by sin.


I. Temptation (Genesis 3:1-6)
II. Fall (Genesis 3:6-8)
III. Confrontation (Genesis 3:9-13)
IV. Curse (Genesis 3:14-19)
V. Consequences (Genesis 3:20-24)


        What is the greatest disaster the world has ever known? The confirmed death toll for Hurricane Katrina has now risen above 800; the toll in human suffering and material damage is incredible. Of course the tsunami had a much higher death toll, most recently estimated at 270,000. And prior to that we had the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, which burned images into our hearts and minds, as we watched the towers fall. So we’ve had our share of disasters, but are these the greatest disasters the world has ever known? Consider World War 2. As many as a million people may have died in the siege of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg Russia, where Bob and Suzanne Achgill live. And that was just one incident. If you take the war as a whole, from 1937 to 1945, there was a death toll of about fifty million. Imagine a hurricane that killed every single person in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. That’s fifty million. But I know at least one greater death toll. In 1347 people began to sicken from a strange disease in which large buboes and black splotches appeared on the body, almost always resulting in death. Bubonic plague, the black plague, swept across Europe killing between a third and a half of the population. The same plague decimated Asia resulting in a death total of about two hundred million.

        Now Bible students will say ‘There was an even greater disaster’. It’s hard to guess the population of the pre-flood world, but most would say more than a billion. And all but a handful died in the sudden violence of the worldwide flood. And yet the truly greatest disaster in world history, with the greatest death toll took place very quietly, in a garden when the woman took a bite from a forbidden fruit, and handed it to the man. This morning we’re going to walk through Genesis 3, that great disaster which resulted not just in many deaths, but in every death except one in recorded history. We’ll begin to see that all the world around us and within us has been corrupted by the disaster we call sin.

I. Temptation (Genesis 3:1-6)

        Genesis 3:1-6
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" 2The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " 4"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6When 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.

        Who is this serpent, this snake? Or more precisely, who is using this snake? Not surprisingly, the clear answer comes in Revelation, in a text that summarizes spiritual history, Revelation 12:7 “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.” The serpent was Satan, which means accuser, the one who afflicted Job, the same devil who tempted Jesus. This is the adversary who confronted Eve in Eden, not long after he had led a rebellion of angels against God. Isaiah 14 says “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; . . . I will make myself like the Most High." 15But you are brought down to the grave.” Satan was an angel of great power and beauty who should have willingly kept his place among the greatest of created beings, but who instead willingly defied God and tried to set himself up as God. This is the same idea he will successfully sell to Eve.

        Satan comes to her in the form of a serpent, occupying the body of an animal. It may be that the serpent was a kind of dinosaur. A recently discovered fossil gives us an idea what the original serpent may have looked like, thin and upright, able, when possessed by the evil spirit, to look Eve in the eye and be convincing. But it was the proud fallen angel who did the damage, and his temptation techniques haven’t changed over the years. His approach is to deceive and cause doubt. He comes to Eve and deliberately distorts the command of God, but he does so with an innocent question that introduces a new thought to Eve, that someone might question God’s word. “Did God really say this?” Notice the mocking, superior, tone, another technique followed by Satan and his emissaries ever since.

        But in addition to introducing a question about God’s word, the Serpent also implies that God was not as good and loving as Eve thought, that God was withholding good things. And Eve was obviously affected by this approach, because she’s no longer clear on God’s word. God had said, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely” Eve said, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat” She omitted the ‘any’ and the ‘freely’, which showed the generosity of God. In the same way Eve added to God’s word: “You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die” God never said ‘don’t touch’. Satan wants people to add to God’s commands, either from good motives, thinking to protect themselves from any hint of disobedience, or to deceive innocent people, making God appear judgmental, rather than good. Finally, Satan flatly denies that God had told them the truth or had their best interests in mind: “You will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan’s final words nail the temptation “You will be like God.” If you rebel against God’s commands you set yourself up as your own God.

        At this point Satan may have left Eve with her thoughts; and perhaps the most difficult temptations Eve faces are the ones that arise in her own mind. Verse 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. Don’t be too critical of Eve - we fail at the same places. The tree seemed ‘good for food’, appealing to physical, bodily appetites; ‘pleasant to the eyes’, appealing to esthetic and emotional pleasures, and ‘desired to make one wise’, appealing to the mind and to pride. These are the same kinds of temptations Satan later tried on Jesus. And 1st John confirms that “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

II. Fall (Genesis 3:6-8)

        So that’s the temptation, and we already know that Eve gave in to it. Verses 6 to 8: 6When 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. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8Then 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.

        Having studied that tree and imagined it’s benefits and satisfactions, Eve took the fruit and ate. And Adam, seemingly without hesitation, joined her in disobedience. It’s possible Adam was present for the entire event, listening, and assenting in silence, neglecting the leadership he should have taken. Or he may have arrived after the serpent left or after Eve had eaten. He probably asked Eve if the fruit had had a positive or negative impact: after all, God had said that they would die. But then, without any help from Satan, Adam followed his wife’s example. As a result, Scripture clearly places the blame on him and says that through Adam ‘sin entered the world, and death through sin.’ All future human beings were in Adam; it was through his offense that disaster came on so many.

        Verse 7 shows that the consequences of this sin are immediate. God has not yet punished Adam and Eve, yet shame and separation are already at work. Before this Adam and Eve had been naked without guilt; now they couldn’t even face each other without clothing. The most intimate part of their relationship, the sexual part, the physical expression of ‘one flesh’ became a source of vulnerability and fear between them. Not only that, but they dreaded facing God. When He came, as seems to have been his custom, to have fellowship with them in the garden, they hid themselves in fear, shame, terror. Though not yet physically dead, they were spiritually dead, separated from God. Isaiah’s words were already true: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you.”

III. Confrontation (Genesis 3:9-13)
        So God seeks the sinner, to confront the sin and begin restoration. Verses 9 to 13 But the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?" 10He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." 11And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" 12The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." 13Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

        When Adam mentioned his nakedness, he was in effect exposing his sin, since he would not otherwise have been conscious of being naked. So God seeks a plain confession: ‘Have you eaten from that one forbidden tree?’ And Adam tries his best to avoid personal responsibility: ‘The woman you put here with me, she gave me the fruit and I ate.’ It’s your fault God; it’s her fault; not my fault. Mike Bauer preached this passage not long ago, and we’re not going to spend much time with it today, but this is an example of the common human problem, Responsibility Deficit Disorder. Eve has the same problem. God says ‘What is this you have done?’ and she says “Oh, it was the serpent’s fault. He deceived me, and I ate.” Neither one of them is willing to take responsibility for their own sin.

IV. Curse (Genesis 3:14-19)

        So God imposes consequences for these choices, this sin; comprehensive consequences for the whole of creation. Verses 14 to 19 So the Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15And 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." 16To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." 17To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19By 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."

The creature, the serpent, the instrument of Satan, is cursed and subject to humiliation. If before he stood on his hind legs and looked Eve in the eye, now he will slither on his belly, in the dust, an object of fear and loathing. But verse 15 goes beyond the snake: it speaks to the serpent behind the serpent, Satan. There will, naturally, be a personal animosity between Eve and the serpent, but it’s more than that. It’s also ‘between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.’ This is called the ‘proto-evangelion’, the first good news. Despite the disaster of Adam and Eve’s sin, God is still planning to bless. One day the seed of the woman, whom Paul says in Galatians is Christ, will do battle with and defeat Satan.

        In this final conflict between the promised redeemer and the devil himself, Satan will be destroyed:“He will crush your head,” but the Messiah will also be striken: ‘you will strike his heel’. The Messiah will be pierced and bruised, but will see the light of life, victory over sin and Satan. Paul comments on this in Romans 5: “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Death and the curse are not the last word. Grace is the last word; Jesus is the last word; life in him is the last word, life we receive by trusting him. I could well ask you this morning whether you are in Adam or in Christ? To be in Adam is to be under the dominion of sin and the realm of death, but to trust in Christ is to have life and forgiveness. Are you in Adam, where you were born, or in Christ, born again?

        The curse of the woman, and the man, and all creation was given not just as punishment, but to help people see their need by leaving them in a frustrating, fallen world that doesn’t satisfy. God says to Eve: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” While salvation comes through the birth of a child, it will not be painless. The woman’s punishment touches the center of her existence, the bearing of her children. I can’t say how much less pain there would have been if a child had been born in the pre-fall world; I suspect it still would have been an intense experience. But the waves of pain and the degree of danger would be less.

        Also promised here is the disruption of marriage. We said last week that marriage is leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh. Now Eve is told that there will be conflict in that one flesh relationship. Her desire will be for her husband. Some say this is a desire to rule her husband, to act outside the bounds of the relationship and take the authority that rightly belongs to him. Others say that women still want a pre-fall one-flesh relationship, but men are no longer inclined that way. The created order, with man as the head of the family continues, but now with sinful men, so that wives are often exposed to error, harsh rule, and even violence. Having seen the beauty of God’s design for marriage, and wanting to have that in our own marriages, it’s heartbreaking that because of sin, we lose the full potential and beauty of becoming one.

        Just as Eve’s punishment related to the center of her life, so does Adam’s. He had been placed in the garden work it and take care of it, in an environment and an ecology perfectly suited to that task, but now that will be changed. "Cursed is the ground because of you.” What had been an ecology of blessing and life becomes one of toil and death: ‘through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.”

        I think this was one of those transformational miracles which characterized creation week, but which God was still free to do. Here it is the ecology that is transformed: the flood would later effect the environment. Before the fall we know that when God created all things, living things, he pronounced them good. There was no lack or imperfection in the created order. Second, we know that God created plants to be eaten by animals; that tells us that plants did die before the fall - they were eaten and digested, and the ecology had to deal with this use of plants, probably through insects and microorganisms to process the waste. On the other hand, before the fall the whole carnivorous side of our ecology was absent. Chapter 1 says animals were expected to eat plants, not each other, and there is no indication of animal death.

        Now, in this curse, the plant side of things was dramatically changed. Before the plants essentially cooperated with man to make food, now they would obstruct him. Thorn bearing plants and weeds and thistles had either not existed or not been very abundant before, but now they would dominate. Furthermore plant diseases and crop failures which would never have occurred before now become major issues. A whole new set of micro-organisms, not cooperating with but hindering human and animal subsistence were brought into play. A whole array of new and deadly diseases, blights and plagues was brought into the pristine world.

        What does this imply for animals? It’s my opinion that at the fall the same kind of changes were worked in the animal world so that the carnivorous side of our ecology very quickly emerged. Maybe it was immediate, or maybe the next generation of animals first displayed specialized features for hunting, killing and eating. The claws, teeth and design of the great cats, for example, are made for those things, and must have been a radical change in all cat-like plant eaters. In fact the fossil data in the flood sediments is full of carnivores: fierce dinosaurs, great cats, toothsome sharks. Scripture seems to require that these carnivores became what they are after the fall and before the flood. Insects which had been beneficial in the cycle of plant decay were unleashed as eaters in every ecological niche, from blood sucking mosquitos to crop destroying weevils.

        I hope you get a sense that this was the great disaster - the whole world was changed when God pronounced this curse, and the life of the world made infinitely more miserable. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that “the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Creation groans under the weight of death, and so does man. God says ‘you were made from dust, and to dust you will return’. Death is universal, not just in disasters, but in every life; painful, often undignified death that makes you ask ‘why, God?’.

        Don’t you have the conviction, as Jesus did, that death is wrong, that it shouldn’t be this way? Creation itself waits for Jesus to return and make it right. Then death, which Paul calls ‘the last enemy’, will be defeated. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. The ecology of death is a temporary disaster of the fall.

V. Consequences (Genesis 3:20-24)

        But for now death reigns, as Adam is removed from the Garden, the symbol of life. Verses 20 to 24: Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. 21The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22And 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." 23So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

        Adam’s response to God’s penalties and promises is revealed in verse 20: “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.” I think this act showed faith. He accepted his guilt and punishment, but focused on the promise of God that through the seed of the woman the Savior would come. And God is gracious: He makes garments for Adam and his wife from animal skins, to cover their nakedness. But he also drives them out of the Garden. He could have removed the tree of life, or the efficacy of its fruit, but if he had done so, the man and the woman would likely have clung to that familiar place and never gone out to be fruitful and multiply. Further, God’s association of the tree of life with eternal life was clear, and it would only invite further disobedience for this dying couple to be left with the temptation of that now forbidden fruit. Finally, man’s punishment of toil in growing his food would not be fully realized in that blessed place. Adam and Eve need to know the futility of life without God’s immediate blessing so they can cling to the promise of a redeemer; so do their descendants. For these reasons, again speaking of himself in the plural, God decides they must go forth from Eden.

        It’s interesting that the way back to Eden was guarded by cherubim. One thing we know about cherubim from later Scriptures is that they are associated with the presence of God: in the holy of holies of the tabernacle, in Isaiah’s vision of the throne and John’s revelation of heaven. So it seems likely this gate to Eden continued for some time to be a place where man could meet with God. Perhaps this is where Cain and Able brought their offerings. The curtain of the temple, and the imagery of Christ as the living way into God’s presence may have had their start at the gate of Eden.

        So what have we seen? A disaster. For each individual who has ever lived, except one, this is the disaster of sin, shame, and separation. For all have sinned; all of us have given in without a fight to the same desire and pride that undid Eve.

        And so sin is pervasive in our culture: we seek our own good and hate and hurt others. Sin is pervasive in different ways in every culture. Our culture shows reflects it in our materialism, our immoral excess, our divorce rate, our grotesque disregard for the unborn and the elderly, our inhumanity to many in need, and our inability to keep from hurting our loved ones. Everything is tainted by our sin. Furthermore death itself is the great and ongoing disaster that flows from the garden. Every death in history, the billions who have died in horror or in tranquility, had its genesis in that moment. And the causes of human death come from that curse: disease and plague, violence and war, famine and need. Some of these are directly caused by people’s sin, some not, but death comes; the mortality rate is still 100%.

        In fact every death in history except one comes directly from this disaster. I hope you’ve figured out that the except one is Jesus. Even in our text the promise of his rescue is given. And when he came, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin, he was the only man since Adam to be born without a sinful nature. He is the only one whose own sin would not lead to death. Hebrews says he was like us in every way, yet without sin. So he became a perfect and spotless sacrifice to pay the price for our sin. It’s really not right to say his death was not a result of the fall: it was the sin of our fallen nature that took him to the cross. He was placed there by the hatred of sinful men, that we might find forgiveness of sins and restoration to what we should have been in Adam. The death of Jesus was in many ways the ultimate fruit of this great disaster, and yet in it we find ultimate hope. All the world around us and within us has been corrupted by sin, but all who believe in Jesus are rescued and re-created in righteousness.