Seeing the Relentless Love of God

Advent

A sermon from Dec 1&2 at Christ Community Church, Taunton MA

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The word “Advent” means coming and Advent is all about actively anticipating the coming of Jesus to establish the kingdom of God on earth. The kingdom of God was established with Jesus’ first coming and will be consummated at his second coming. Currently, we have a foretaste that is seen through the eyes of faith. Advent is anticipating His second coming as well as His first coming.

It might be helpful to think of the Advent Season as a four-lane highway…One lane that is easy to get caught in is the commercialism lane. We can get sucked into overspending in an effort to keep up with family or friends that have more disposable income than we do.

Another lane we can get stuck in, especially if you’re a type-A or a first-born, is the anxiety-riddled lane; wanting to make sure all the Christmas parties and family get-togethers are scheduled and well-planned and that packages sent reach their destination in a timely way. We can become an anxious presence instead of a non-anxious presence.

Another lane is the depression and grief lane. Feelings of sadness for the people you have loved who have died or walked away.  We don’t walk in denial, but also, we don’t let the feelings dominate.

The lane we want to encourage you to travel in this holy-day season is the lane of quiet prayer, reflection, worship, and anticipation regarding the implications of the magnitude of God’s gift in Jesus coming down from the comfort and perfection of heaven and descending into our brokenness of humanity to make a way for us to become part of God’s family.

To be sure, we all move in and out of the various lanes throughout the course of the Advent Season but what we’d like to do for these next few weekends (and Christmas Eve) is to provide a refuge for you, your family, and friends to move out of the commercialism lane, the anxiety-riddled lane, and the depression and grief lane and spend some time in worship, adoration, reflection, and anticipation of the gift that is Jesus Christ.

My assignment for this weekend is for us to consider the relentless love of God through one of the Messianic Prophesies recorded in the OT. If you’re new to the Bible, there are about 456 verses (or sections) listed throughout the OT that accurately describe the who, what, where, when, and how of the promised Messiah.

Pull out the insert in your bulletin for a list of some of the more important or specific prophesies pointing to Jesus. It would be worth your time to look them up…

The late mathematics and astronomy professor Peter Stoner, who wrote a book entitled, Science Speaks calculated the probability of one person fulfilling only 8 of the messianic prophecies in the OT to be one in 10^17 = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1.

Stoner concludes, “Any [person] who rejects Christ as the Son of God is rejecting a fact proved perhaps more absolutely than any other fact in the world.”—Peter Stoner [1] You might be thinking that is an outlandish statement??  It’s because of the sheer number and accuracy of the hundreds of messianic prophecies scattered throughout the OT that point to Jesus as the Messiah.

Today, I’d like for us to consider the first of these several hundred messianic prophesies. It’s found in Genesis 3:15.  Let’s consider some context before we read it…

Gen 1-2 are about Creation – when everything was as God meant it to be. SHALOM – much more than the absence of conflict, it’s undefiled harmony with God.  (Also, Rev 21-22)

In Gen 3 we turn a horrific corner—it’s referred to as The Fall where Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit. We’ll pick it up in v. 7 and I will read through v. 15…

“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 loin coverings.  8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ 10 He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’ 11 And [God] said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ 12 The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’ 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ 14 The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; 15 and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

What these verses are telling us is that Adam and Eve are plunged into alienation — both from God AND from one another. V. 15 is both perplexing foreshadowing. God says to the Serpent, “Because you have done this, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. Her offspring will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.” There’s a lot to be said here, but here’s what I’d like you to see…

Imagine a family at the park or, on a hike, and all of a sudden, a venomous snake slithers into their midst. One person goes after the snake and begins to stomp on it.  Finally, the head of the snake is crushed and the family is saved, but only after the snake bites the one who did the stomping—and the poison goes into him, and he dies.  That’s the picture.

So, what is God saying here? The snake is not just a snake but is the Devil, or Satan, who represents pure, unmitigated evil.  God is saying that one of the descendants of Adam and Eve, the seed of the woman, a human being, is coming and will destroy sin and death and, in the process, lose His life.  Gee, I wonder who that could be?

Gen 3:15 becomes the first Messianic Prophesy of the OT. What is truly remarkable about v. 15 is that as soon as Adam and Eve sin, God initiates a rescue plan. This is where we begin to get a strong sense of the relentless love of God.

Let’s look at v. 15 again… “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

V. 15 is such an important verse it has its own word: protoevangelium, which literally means “first gospel.” Not only is this verse the first Messianic Prophesy, but it is also the first declaration of the gospel in the Bible. It is from this point forward the gospel of God’s grace and God’s rescue plan to bring about redemption in and through the Person of Jesus Christ becomes the central theme of the whole Bible. Another way to view it is as the organizing theme for the rest of Scripture and the rest of human history. And if this registers in your heart and in your head, it will change the way you read your Bible.  You will begin to see the relentless love of God everywhere in the Bible as you read it.

“Genesis 3:15 is the perch from which to view all of world history.” When we align the plan of God with the seed of the woman, we begin to see the reconciliation and restoration of all things begin to come into view.

In order to get better acquainted with the RELENTLESS LOVE OF GOD, let’s go back and consider what just happened in Gen 3…Adam and Eve sin and destructively change the course of human history, but what does God do??

He doesn’t smite them, He doesn’t lose His temper, He doesn’t lash out…In the midst of this incredible disaster is this perplexing and intriguing response by God. God begins by asking some questions, “Where are you? What have you done?  Have you done what I asked you not to do?” What is God getting at with these questions? Certainly, God already knew the answer to these questions. The only reason God would be asking these questions is if He’s seeking to provide an opportunity for Adam and Eve to own-up to what they’ve done.  To say what they did.  Own it.  Take responsibility. But they didn’t do that did they? Adam blamed Eve AND God; Eve blamed the serpent.

What we see here is God is treating Adam and Eve as adults. He’s not treating them as objects, He’s not treating them as children.  He’s engaging in what people in AA or Celebrate Recovery would call an intervention. The bottom-line is that God is seeking them out in love. He knows they’ve sinned—and He still makes Himself available to them.  But shame keeps them hidden from God and now, from one another.  It’s important to see that God didn’t remove Himself from them, they removed themselves from God.

God is asking them honest and real questions instead of just telling them what they’ve done wrong. It’s actually a very beautiful and grace-abounding passage considering the magnitude of what has just happened. Now is a good time for us to consider our takeaway for today:

Whether you woke up amazed by God’s grace and mercy or shamed by the worst mistake of your life, the single storyline of the Bible declares God’s relentless and unending love for you.

Again, after a grievous sin God instantly quickly reinstates a rescue plan that is full of mercy and grace. It’s the same for you and me.

Finally, I’d like for you to notice one more thing about this Gen 3 passage: Notice that while God asks Adam and Eve questions, He doesn’t ask any questions of the serpent. Do you know what that means? It means that even after grievous, heartbreaking sin God holds out hope for sinners, but He will not compromise with evil. God initiated a rescue plan way back in Gen 3 that is still available to you today—no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done…

The first Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and allowed Satan to destroy his family, the Second Adam became obedient to point of death in the Garden of Gethsemane and created a new family…

Christmas is a time for giving. Not all gifts keep on giving, but there is one gift that is for everyone that does keep on giving. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as a gift to the World.

 

[1] Stoner: 112.

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