Series on Genesis, I God's Creation, l The Curse of Creation, Text:3:16-24, Title: The Final Dilemma Answered


Is God good? Or is He great? The world says take your choice, but you cannot have both. It is a philosophical enigma that has filtered down into the conversation of average people.  You will hear people say that God has made a mess of the world. Look around and see all the suffering, the misery and the catastrophe they will say. How could a good god do this? If you insist He is good, they will assert that He must not be omnipotent and that the presence of evil is something He cannot prevent. The ancient dilemma is dissolved in the face of a revelation that asserts that God is good and is almighty. Genesis one declares that almighty God made everything out of nothing and declared it was good. Genesis 3 reveals God allowing the introduction of evil because he chose this way to reveal his just and loving character. Romans 9: 20-24, But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?  What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? Proud men may not like the answer, but it is immeasurably better than a capricious world in which God is either evil or powerless. maybe you have heard that song "We Are the Reason". I appreciate the sentiment and I'm not trying to be critical, but although we may be one of the reasons Jesus came, yet we are not the primary reason. God made us and we exist solely for His glory, and God redeemed us solely for His glory. Our happiness is a by-product.  In a humanist society that's a hard pill to swallow. God is the reason. It’s not our happiness which is the ultimate goal-but God's glory. Against this background let us examine the curse on creation. We see it in three stages: the difficulty, the death, and the destruction.

I The Difficulty

Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward says Job, and we all recognize the truth of this statement. The key word here is pain. It can be physical or spiritual but pain fills our world. This pain was not part of the original created order. It has been added. The same word translated toil in verses 17 and 18, is translated pain in verse 16 in reference to Eve's bearing children, To 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.” To 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. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. The translators of the New International Version have helped us here by translating it painful toil. This does not mean that work is bad, or that everyone should retire as early as possible, anymore than it means that getting married and bearing children is bad. What it means is that without God's presence, help and blessing the normal activities of life will not bring happiness. Look please at Psalm 127:2, In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. The Hebrew is “toiling in pain” for food to eat. Proverbs 10:22 says The blessing of the Lord brings wealth and he adds no trouble to it. The word trouble is pain. so there is no mitigation of the pain that has been added to life except through the Lord’s help. That pain, specifically in the instance of the man is connected to his work. In the case of Adam farming, but it can be any sort of work. Adam was put in the garden to till it, but now the tilling will be painful. In the case of Eve her God designed role was to be the wife, the helper of the man, and to bear children, and so in that relationship and in that work she experiences pain. This is not a sexist thing. if a man could bear child he would do it in pain, and if the woman goes out to work she experiences the same frustration as the man. But also their relationship is ruined. Her desire is to her husband and he will dominate her. many explanations have been offered for this verse, but I believe that the best explanation is, that here, we have the beginning of the battle of the sexes. This insight is gained by comparing this passage with Genesis 4:5-7 concerning Cain,    So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” The language is exactly the same in the Hebrew. Sin desires as the woman desires and Cain must rule over it as the man rules over the woman. What is it that sin personified desires. it desires to dominate Cain. Of course the difference in our verse is that the woman's desire to dominate the man is met by the man not with loving leadership as God planned, but by sinful and cruel domination. All of this is part of the curse.

II Death

The second part of the curse is death V.19-21,  By 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.” Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. The man will return to dust. Now God had threatened Adam with death and he died spiritually with the eating of the forbidden fruit, but what we notice is that he didn't die physically until he was 930 years old. The current issue of “Archaeology and Biblical Research” has an article on the Bible, science and the ages of the patriarchs. In it they recount the numerous efforts made to explain these long lives. Suggestions are the years are months; age is really the age of a clan and not an individual; age is counted in moons; the ages have some secret meaning; etc. Besides flying in the face of the obvious Biblical statements these alternatives all lead to absurd conclusions. The fact is that these men lived longer because God made man fearfully and wonderfully, to live not die, and it takes hundreds of years for the full effect of physical death to take over until we come to Moses statement in Psalm 90 that the length of our lives is three score and ten and sometimes by reason of strength four score. The important thing is not why they lived so long but that they all died. The time of death may be uncertain but death is certain to all. We expect the old to die, but death seems to be a cruel thief when it steals the young.  Carl Jung said, it is "a period placed before the end of the sentence." Throughout scripture it is associated with sorrow, loss and dread. Jeremiah 21:8 says, This is what the Lord says, "I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death, but God is already dealing with the sin of man in mercy. He makes coats to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. The leaves with which they covered themselves are replaced by the skins, but the skins required death. Thus is born the principle of atonement, a life for a life. and this culminates in the cross of Jesus. Robert Hughes from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia said, “My father was a coal-miner in northeastern Pennsylvania. His job was to check the mines for methane gas before the miners went down into the mines. Every morning he went alone into the mines to check out the tunnels to make sure that there was no deadly gas. If the light of the safety lamp flickered, he ran for his life because methane gas was present. After checking the mine, he would surface, and tell all the waiting miners "it's okay; it's safe,” and Dr. Hughes said, "That's what Christ has done for us. Coming up out of the depths of death, He has announced to all who are gathered here in this life on earth: 'it's okay; it's safe. You can enter into death, into the darkness and the unknown. It's safe because I have been there and checked it out. It has not been victorious over me. I have overcome it, and I will be with you in death even as I have been with you in life."'

III Destruction

In verses 22-24 we're not talking about annihilation, but destruction, about eternal separation from God, and about the removal of hope and fulfillment from our existence. And 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.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.  After 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. It is too terrible for us to conceive of it, and it is shocking how flippantly some react facing death. The French writer Rabelais declared, "I am going to the great perhaps." Another writer, Turlogh O'Carolan, asked for a cup of Irish whiskey, and quipped, "it would be hard if two such friends should part at least without kissing."  Murderer Richard Loeb was stabbed 56 times by a fellow convict in 1936:  "I think I'm going to make it!"  James Rodgers replied to the question whether he had a last request before facing a firing squad:  "Why yes, a bulletproof vest."  William Palmer, who was hanged in 1856, was told to step on the scaffold's trap door.  "is it safe?" he asked.  Charles Wood, a murderer who died in the electric chair in 1963, faced witnesses and quipped:  "Gents, this is an educational project.  You are about to witness the damaging effect electricity has on wood."  Phineas T. Barnum, the famed ballyhoo artist last words were:  "How were the receipts today at Madison square garden?"  We like to avoid the word hell except as an oath because the subject is not only unpleasant but inconceivable. Yet it is true. Man is put out of the garden, he is expelled. The Hebrew word used for this expulsion is used elsewhere in scripture of divorce, of the sea throwing up its dirt, and of Pharoah driving out the Israelites after the passover. It’s used of Cain being expelled from the presence of God and of God expelling the Amorites from the land of promise, and generally of excommunication from Israel in the Old Testament. The cherubim who guard the way of the tree of life are pictured later in the tabernacle and temple worship. The ark of the covenant in the holiest place is the dwelling of God, His throne, and on the sides it bears the golden cherubim reminding the worshiper of the loss of Paradise, and showing that only through sacrifice, through the blood sprinkled on this mercy seat is the way back into Eden open. We need only turn to Revelation 21:1-4 to see that God has an answer to this destruction and that answer is Christ, Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” And so the curse is all around us. It is given to cause us to hope in God and not in ourselves. It presents problems we cannot solve and therefore should make us turn to God. The curse and its difficulty, death and destruction is lifted, as Paul says in Galatians 3:13, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”