+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning’s message is based on the Old Testament reading from Genesis 3. It’s a fairly long reading so I won’t read again here. To summarize…God made His good creation and the devil came and tempted Eve to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Adam joined her in rebellion against God and the creation has suffered every since. The saddest thing in the reading is that, while Adam and Eve once loved God and enjoyed being with Him, now they hide from Him because of their shame.
There is a cartoon that shows a psychiatrist sitting by his patient. His writing pad is all filled-up as he jots down his patients list of fears. “Now (he says to his patient) besides your fear of nerve gas, irritating tars, sonic boom, human wolf packs, rock music, Wall Street, DDT sprays, plastic bombs, the Birch Society, labor unions, riots, intercontinental ballistic missiles, urban sprawl, inflation, unemployment, Red China, street crime, and revolving credit, do you have any IRRATIONAL fears?”
They had disobeyed God and they were afraid of what He might do to them. Their fear was real and quite rational. What do you do to hide from God? The first couple jumped into the bushes because they didn’t know what else to do. You can probably picture them peaking through the branches and leaves, checking to see if God knew where they were. Maybe one turned to the other and gave an anxious “sush.” He’ll hear you! They’re fear was real, soundly based and quite rational.
People, you know, do ridiculous things when they try to hide from God. When God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to them, Jonah said, “I don’t want to go there.” “I don’t like those Ninevites.” Beside, “if I preach repentance to them, they’ll probably repent of their sins and then God will forgive them and who wants that!?” Jonah, in a feeble and futile effort to hide from God, got into a boat to sail to Tarshish on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. He reasoned that surely God wouldn’t find him in Tarshish.
David, on the other hand, Israel’s King, in his guilt and shame, knew that there was no way that he could hide from God. He learned something by revelation that we all know to be true. “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”
God is all knowing and He’s present everywhere. Therefore, He knows us better than we know ourselves and He sees deeper into us than we are able, or, even willing to look. So, like Adam and Eve, we play our games with God. When we sin we are inclined to hide from Him. We bob and weave in a fruitless effort to escape His piercing eye and His angry judgment. And maybe worst of all we pretend that we aren’t as bad as we really are, or, that our sins, our failings, really aren’t our fault.
A mother, leaving the house to go to town, told her little boy, “Johnny, while I am gone, don’t get into the jam.” “No, Mom, I won’t,” he promised. When she returned, she noticed jam between Johnny’s fingers and in the corners of his mouth. “Didn’t I tell you not to get into the jam, she said?” “Yes, Mother, you did.” “Johnny, didn’t I tell you that when Satan tempts you, you should tell him to get behind you?” “Yes, you did.” “And I did tell him to get behind me, but, when he got there, he pushed me in.”
You know how it goes. Someone or something else made me do what I did and behave as I do. I’m not responsible. Someone else is. My parents were too strict. Or, maybe they were too permissive. We were poor. We were rich. We moved too much. We didn’t move enough. I was the youngest. I was the oldest. And you know how that is!
Eve blamed the serpent. “He deceived me, she said, and I ate.” For her it was the serpent’s fault and, at least at that point, she wasn’t willing to confess her part in her disobeying God.
Adam, on the other hand, chose not to blame the serpent. Rather, He chose to blame Eve, and, in doing so, he actually was blaming God! “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Did you hear that? “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” In other words, God, if you hadn’t given this woman to me, none of this would have ever happened. God, it’s your fault! My sin, my disobedience is Your fault! I do what I do because You made me this way! Besides, You put obstacles in my way such that I can’t really be expected to live a righteous life! God, it’s your fault!!
God, of course, doesn’t accept our excuses and rationalizations any more than He accepted Adam and Eve’s. Rather, He condemns the serpent, holds Adam and Eve responsible, holds us responsible, and then He promises that He, THAT HE, will make His creation right again.
Adam and Eve’s rebellion caused death in the Garden. God sacrificed an animal. He took its skin and He clothed His children. In other words, He covered their shame. Adam and Eve knew though, as did God, that their shame went deeper than their nakedness. It pierced the very depths of their souls, it left them wondering continuously about this God who wanted to be a part of their lives, it left them wondering if they could ever be good enough for Him to love them again.
God indeed did and would love them. He has and will love you. The “seed of the woman” promised in Genesis 3 came. The Son of God was born and His name was called Jesus because He would save His people from the their sin. In Jesus, God offered another sacrifice, one that would cover the shame and the guilt that pierces your soul and troubles your conscience. This sacrifice, though sinless and holy, would literally become the sin of the world. Yes, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin!”
My friends, this is a profound mystery. Jesus became your guilt! He became your shame! As He hung from the cross God hid His face from His Son because He became too hideous, too stained, too sinful to even look at. Jesus cried out! He wanted His Father to see Him, to be with Him, to help Him in the hour of His greatest need. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!” But, as the prophet had written, “God’s eyes are too pure to behold evil.” Jesus would die forsaken, hidden, as it were, from His Father, for He became the embodiment of evil for you.
Having given His Son, God comes to be with you and to commune with you once again. In Him, your fear of judgment, your hiding from God, your bobbing and weaving truly are IRRATIONAL. What is rational is what’s real, God’s grace poured out for you. “This is My body (He says) given for YOU. This is My blood, shed for YOU for the forgiveness of your sins.” In Christ, God not only calls you out of hiding, He prepares a place for you at His festive banquet. He makes you the guest and He willingly serves you as the host and as the sacrifice. “The holy Lamb undaunted came
To God’s own altar lit with flame;
While weeping angels hid their eyes,
This Priest became a sacrifice.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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