3rd Pentecost Sunday
June 10, 2018
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
Then 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. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then 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,
“Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
And 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.”
“How Does God Respond to Sin? How Do We Respond?”
1) Humans Immediately Hide from God
2) Humans Admit, but Excuse our Sin
3) God Promises a Savior…Forgiveness
4) Guilty Souls Confess & Rejoice in Jesus’ Redemption
Dear Disciples of Jesus the Christ,
How do you respond to a crisis? If I step on the brake as a traffic light turns red, but nothing happens – our car does not stop — what will I do? If our walking partner falls to the ground; clutches their chest, how do I react? If a friend biting into a bacon log we barbecued begins to choke; starts turning blue, what will I do? The question is: How will we respond when we face a crisis where death is possible? Connected question: Will we respond differently if we face death? If I am choking, unable to breathe — if my foot slips while I take a selfie standing on a bridge over a deep ravine — if my parachute fails – if I am falling fast, facing death, what will I do?
Falling, we understand, is a frequent fear. Babies often fall, bounce back up & go on living, learning to walk. But if our body’s balance begins to disappear with age, we may fear a bone-breaking misstep – we fear a fall hurting our body as well as our pride. A frequent, almost normal nightmare is falling – free-falling for no reason at all – spiraling out of control. We wake up, trembling with terror, to thankfully find our falling is only a dream. Our life will go on as it did before.
What if it is not a dream? What if I really fall – not off a bridge or out of a plane – what if I fall into sin? Please understand, our most critical falls are spiritual, not physical. Falling into sin more often than a baby falls on the floor, I face death every day — eternal death! What will I do? More critically, as God’s Word guides us back into the Garden of Eden, we want to know, ‘How will God respond? What will God when I sin?’ Seeing God’s rapid response to sin will, I pray, shape the way we react if & when we ever fall into sin while we live in this world.
Setting the stage for our text, we quickly recall our first fall into sin. Creating Adam perfectly – a holy soul in an unblemished body – giving Adam a perfect place to live in the Garden of Eden, could the Lord express his will more clearly? ‘God commands man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’ God quickly creates Eve, a perfect companion for Adam. Life is good. In fact, life is perfect…for an indefinite little while. Too soon, Satan, as a serpent, tempts Adam & Eve to sin. Attacking the same way he still attacks us today, Satan first questions their knowledge of God’s command. Do we really know God’s will for our life? Satan insinuates God is not acting in Adam & Eve’s best interest but will selfishly keep human beings on a lower level, not letting them become equal to God by eating fruit from ‘the Knowledge of Good & Evil’ tree. Satan finally insists God will not ever deliver death but is simply blowing smoke when he threatens punishment.
Eve eats forbidden fruit. Adam, who is with her, also eats forbidden fruit. How will God respond; how will humans respond to this first sin, responses repeated when sin after sin after sin still occurs in our life? ‘The man & his wife hear the sound of the Lord God as he is walking in the garden in the cool of the day. They hide from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.’ How typical of us today! We wrongly reason, ‘If the police do not see me texting while driving, I am not breaking the law.’ ‘If mom does not see me eat that cookie she labels ‘hands off,’ I am not disobeying her.’ Before we defy our parent, our teacher; the police — as well as after we sinfully break whatever rule authorities put in place — we want to hide with Adam. If no one sees what I do wrong, we assume, I cannot be judged ‘guilty,’ cannot be punished.
Does this make any sense, ‘If God does not see me, I am not sinning’? No, it is utter nonsense. If no one sees us break a window, the window is still broken. We are still responsible, if there is or is not an eyewitness to call us to account. Yet, like Adam & Eve, we too often respond to sin by first hiding. As if anyone could ever hide from our all-knowing, ever-present Lord God? With prophet Jeremiah’s lips, the Lord rhetorically asks, ‘Am I only a God nearby; not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so I cannot see them? Do not I fill heaven & earth?’[JER 23] As Job’s friend Elihu asserts, ‘There is no deep shadow, no utter darkness, where evildoers can hide.’[JOB 34]
In Eden, in our universe, there is no hiding place where God cannot find us. Before the fact, before we act, we do well to remember there is no sin God will not see. Humans hiding from God cannot escape our Creator calling us to account for whatever way we sinfully disobey his command for a Christian life. ‘Calling to Adam, “Where are you?” the Lord is not asking information. God is giving Adam an opportunity to step forward, to take responsibility for his sin. But Adam’s answer, ‘I heard you in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid’ begins a series of excuses we too often emulate unsuccessfully. ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ God asks. Created perfectly naked, did not Adam & Eve live shamelessly naked until sin ushered in guilt & shame?
Tying his shame to his guilt, God asks Adam, ‘Have you eaten from the tree I commanded you not to eat from?’ Again, God knows the answer before Adam opens his mouth. Not asking for information, God invites a confession – an admission Adam actually offers – ‘I ate it’ — but only after he first excuses himself, blaming Eve; even blaming God for creating her. ‘The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, & I ate it.”’
God does not immediately shred Adam’s excuse, yet he ultimately holds him responsible for eating forbidden fruit. But before the Lord will tell Adam what consequences are coming because he disobeyed the Lord’s order to lead his wife away from evil instead of walking into sin with her, God asks the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ Again, not asking information, the Lord allows Eve an opportunity to confess her sin. Like Adam, Eve admits she ate forbidden fruit, but she too will not accept responsibility. Shifting all the blame to Satan, the woman responds, ‘The serpent deceived me, & I ate.’
What is our immediate response whenever we sin? In a time of crisis – realizing I have fallen into sin; I am falling toward certain death in hell – what will we do? Whenever some accusing authority asks guilty souls what we are doing, humans might grudgingly admit we did something wrong, but I almost always excuse my sin by blaming somebody else. Do I misuse drugs? Do I disrespectfully question my parents’ instructions? Do I move in with my boyfriend? Shifting blame, we utter, ‘I was only doing what all my friends are already doing!’ ‘It is not my fault,’ we cry, ‘Everyone was stealing from the store. Everyone at the party was drinking illegally. ‘Satan tricked me!’ we essentially say with Eve. Now, what we say may be true – Eve gave Adam the fruit; the devil did deceive Eve — but we can never erase the fact we are responsible for our evil actions, for our unloving words; for our self-centered attitude. Before letting another unacceptable excuse slip out of our mouth, we would be wise to remember an inspired proverb warning, ‘Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses & renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.’[PROV 28]
Before futilely offering excuses for our sin, please recall John noting, ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves & the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful & just; God will forgive us our sins; God will purify us from all unrighteousness.’[1 JN 1] What a blessing for a sinner like me to see how God responds when we human beings first fall into sin! Never accepting Adam or Eve’s excuse – before he will lay out unwanted consequences flowing from husband & wife ushering evil into our world by disobeying God’s command to not eat fruit from one specific tree — the Lord quickly & lovingly promises he will send a Savior who will replace our evil with his goodness as he first addresses Satan.
‘I will put enmity between you & the woman; between your offspring & hers; he will crush your head; you will strike his heel’ beautifully assures Adam & Eve one of Eve’s descendants – Jesus, as subsequent prophecies will reveal with no room for doubt – Jesus will destroy Satan’s power by refusing to be deceived, by refusing to sin before he will suffer the death our sin demands, only to rise from his grave in triumph the third day. God’s Son Jesus, to be born the Son of Mary (the promised offspring of Eve), will take our place in life & in death – refusing to sin; paying our sin’s penalty!
Crisis averted! Our sin is undone! Falling into hell, facing eternal death sin deserves, God catches us in his gracious hands. ‘God made Jesus who has no sin be sin for us, so in Christ we become the righteousness of God,’[2 COR 5] Paul points out. Peter rejoices, ‘The precious blood of Jesus Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect, redeems us from a (sinfully) empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors. Chosen before the creation of the world, Jesus is revealed in these last times for our sake.’[1 PT 1] How does God respond to sin? God reveals our Savior, our Substitute, our Redeemer & our Righteousness! Better than a 9-1-1 call or an S-O-S, in spiritual crises – when we sin — God forgives.
How will we in turn, respond to Jesus’ forgiveness? While God gives us few details in his Word, Adam & Eve will endure their sin’s consequences in this world for more than nine-hundred years – thistles grow in Adam’s garden, Eve experiences pain in childbirth — before physical death turns them back to dust; before the Lord lifts them into heaven to again enjoy God’s gift of perfect life with our Lord & Savior.
How will we respond to Jesus’ forgiveness? While our life’s details will differ – while we will sadly fall into sin again & again in our weakness; in our ignorance – I pray we never try to hide from God. We cannot possibly avoid Jesus’ judgment. I pray we never offer any excuse for our sin. As Christ lives in us, there is no acceptable reason for us to disobey any one of God’s commands. I pray we rather freely & fully confess our sins & rejoice in Jesus’ full & free forgiveness!