Tag Archives: judgment

Blessing to Cursing

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

God blesses and God curses. When God created Man in His image He blessed them. To bless means to kneel before and give a gift, as a father would kneel before his child and give them something precious. Here, God creates Man in His image, for relationship with Him, and gives them control over the creatures of the earth, gives them fruitfulness to fill the earth, and gives them the work of bringing the earth under their control.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)

When Adam rebelled against God, ignoring His specific instruction, God reversed His blessing. He turned what He had blessed into a curse. God’s blessing and God’s curses carry the eternal power of God to carry out and fulfill His decision. But, God did not take away what He had given. He still wants Man to be fruitful and fill the earth and subdue it. Man’s rebellion corrupted and compromised the ability to do that for which Man was designed. God cursed the ground not Adam.

God tells Adam his work, beginning with taking care of the garden which was his home, has gone from joy to pain, from fulfilling to tedious. The word “pain” is the same word God uses to describe the pain of childbirth for his wife and all women who follow.

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

There is no comparison between the pain and sorrow of having children and that of working. For the woman, the pain is intense but short in duration. For the man, the pain is continuous and lengthy. For the woman, the sorrow of raising children is daily, until they are mature and able to have and raise their own. For the man, the sorrow of growing food attacked by weeds and thorns is a constant struggle, “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.”

Life is now hard and unforgiving. Because of their rebellion, what was meant to be cared for with confidence and success now becomes tedious and frustrating. The ground will no longer yield to Adam’s direction and dominion, becoming resistant and rebellious to his direction.

The curse levied against Adam is the exact opposite of the blessing. The sentence takes away the ability to perform and function as he was originally created while leaving the image of God to draw him back to his Creator. God still desires relationship making the pain of work a tool used to draw Man to Himself.

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Pain

Studies in Genesis 3

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

God now turns His attention to the woman. His curse for the serpent was that it would crawl on its belly and eat dust. His curse of the Deceiver is that the offspring of the woman, someone down the line, would crush its head while it vainly struck at His heel. God’s judgment to the woman is two-fold, that she would have pain in childbirth and that her husband would rule over her even as her desires would be contrary to his.

Life, after the fall, is filled with suffering. I am a man and have no concept of the pain experienced in childbirth. Yet, the life of a child moves from the safety of the womb to the harsh environment outside the womb. But it is not the life and pain of the child God is addressing but the pain the woman will experience by having children. Her suffering begins during pregnancy, spikes during delivery, then continues throughout the life of the child even when the child matures into an adult.

When God declares “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” the word pain is also translated toil, sorrow, hardship, hurt. This word is used only three times in Scripture. God uses the word to describe the pain of childbirth in this verse. God also describes the pain of eating the fruit of the man’s labor in the next verse, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life” Genesis 3:17 ESV). The word is then used in Genesis 5:29, the hopeful prophecy of Lamech for his son Noah, to bring relief from the painful toil of work.

Jesus talks about the pain of childbirth as preceding the joy the child brings to the parent. In the context of His statement He alludes to the pain of losing Him to death is similar and will bring eternal joy of having Him after His resurrection.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:20-22 ESV)

Why pain in childbirth? Is the pain supposed to be a reminder for all women that their first mother rebelled against God? Is the pain supposed to point to the sentence of the Deceiver, who will strike out at the children of the woman and hurt them, or Him, but will then be crushed? Can we assume there would have been no pain in childbirth had the first couple had children before rebelling? According to Jesus, the pain of childbirth points to the pain of His passion, for Him and for those who are His, because it also points to the eternal joy of being with Him (see also Romans 8:18).

Please note, neither the woman or the man are cursed. They are judged and sentenced. They will die physically because that was the determined consequence for eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They will bear the consequences of their actions and those who follow them will also suffer because of their rebellion. One of the consequences of their rebelling is pain, suffering and sorrow for all, including Jesus who was fully God and fully man the way God originally intended.

Judgment

Studies in Genesis 3

The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15 ESV)

What does God mean when He uses the word “cursed”? To curse carries several implications. First, it is a judgment against someone who has violated an expectation or command. God cursed the serpent when He sentenced the Deceiver for tempting and enticing the woman to rebel. God’s curse is the sentence.

We know the curse, the judgment and sentence given to the serpent, was to crawl on its belly and eat dust.  If I am correct that there are physical representations of spiritual realities, then the curse of the serpent is a physical reminder of the judgment and sentence of that which inhabited the serpent. Serpents have not evolved out of their condition. God has not changed them. They have not sprouted legs or grown wings and feathers. God is in control and continually sends messages to those made in His image that His decree and judgment will not change because of circumstance.

The serpent could not repent. It is a beast created by God to fulfill its designated place in the order of the creation. Neither it nor the Deceiver when created were given the image of God. Man was given the image of God and made for intimate relationship with Him. God determined to make a way for Man to be reconciled to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. His judgment against the Deceiver points to this future event and reconciliation.

God turns, in a manner of speaking, from judging and sentencing the serpent, to judging and sentencing the Deceiver. Part of that judgment is the curse, the judgment and sentence, of enmity between the woman and the serpent. God puts enmity between the woman and the Deceiver, and between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the Deceiver. Enmity means hatred. To put means to appoint and fix, to take a stand. God appointed a hatred between the woman and the serpent. This can be understood both immediately and in the future. Immediately, the woman loathed the serpent, and serpents in general. To see a serpent is a reminder of the lie of the Deceiver speaking though the snake. Is it fair to suggest this loathing has continued through the ages? Most women fear and loath snakes?

Hatred is a natural condition of the Deceiver. It hates God and everything created by God. It wants to destroy, compromise and corrupt everything God does. Contained in this curse, in the sentence against the Deceiver, is the ultimate prophecy of how God will execute judgment. When God declares how He will executes judgment, there is the hint of the means of reconciliation between God and, the now fallen away from God, Man.

Hiding from God

Studies in Genesis 3

And 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. Genesis 3:8

When Adam and Eve “heard” God walking in the garden they “hid themselves” from Him. What they heard was the “sound” of God walking. Yet, the word for sound can also be translated voice or noise. This means God was not silent as He walked but was either deliberately making noise, something they were used to and knew to be God, or talking and singing to His creation. Perhaps He was humming. Nevertheless, they heard God and knew it was He.

They did not come to greet Him, which is what those with clear and wholesome relationships will do. Instead, they found a place where they thought He would not see them. This is what children do when they know they have done something they should not have done, when they have done something wrong. They will hide themselves from those whom they have wronged in the vain hope their wrongdoing will not be discovered.

Instead of greeting Him face to face they hid their faces from His. They ran away from His presence. Here is the evidence of wrong done and the evidence of a broken relationship. It is not God who runs and hides from them but they from God. It is never God turning His back on those He created for relationship but always those He has created to know Him turning their backs on Him.

Did our first parents not know God even a little to think they could hide from Him? What did they know about God? How intimate were they with Him?

God created them in His image. They could look at themselves and know what God is like. Not their physical likeness but their intellectual, emotional and willful likeness. Yet, they are not God so could not know Him completely. And they were young, still learning about God while maturing in their thinking and feeling. But God had given them enough information, the tools they needed, to know Him both intellectually and intimately.

As the first sound of Him in the garden reached their ears, I imagine they were startled, gripped with fear, immediately hiding because of the danger in which they found themselves because of their act of rebellion. These were new emotions. Before their rebellion, they did not fear death even though God had introduced them to death. Adam, at least, knew the command of God to not eat, and the judgment of eating, from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His rebellion was unthinking and unfeeling, a reaction to what Eve had done. Hid from God is also a reaction.

When they hid from God, when anyone tries to hide from God, there is enough of an intimate understanding of God to know they are facing, not a Friend but a Judge.

July 3, 2017

Second Death

Studies in Genesis 3

But the serpent said to the woman, “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.” (Genesis 3:4-5 ESV)

If I am correct in my thinking then God wanted Adam and Eve and all of Man to know the difference between good and evil. God, the Creator, knows the time He wills to introduce knowledge which will lead to maturity. This is not the time but is a test which would probably usher in the right time.

That which is inhabiting the serpent, the Deceiver, continues speaking half-truths. A partial truth is still a lie and still designed to deceive. It, the Deceiver, tells Eve that God lied. God said “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (dying you will die)” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV). Not only will you die if you disobey and eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but you will die again, a second death. For the Deceiver to state Eve would not die is a contradiction of the stated consequences of rebellion against God’s command.

Here are some educated assumptions. The Deceiver has already rebelled against God. Created by God for service to Him and at His pleasure the Deceiver did not originally have the design to rebel against God. Nothing God creates, and God created everything, was evil or designed for evil. There is, however, the ability to choose evil for those creatures given the capacity to do so. Man was given the image of God in a created body. Part of the image of God is the ability to choose, to decide, to act. Whatever the Deceiver was it had the ability to choose, decide and act and did so through rebellion. This does not mean creatures other than Man may have been given the image of God, for there is more to His image than the ability to choose, decide and act.

When the Deceiver rebelled God did not immediately bring death, but allowed it to continue to live. So to, the Deceiver told Eve she would not die. It knew, at least for a time, she would continue to physically live. God did not say judgment was immediate. He did say judgment was absolute. When Man rebelled death was not immediate but still guaranteed.

Those who are living cannot understand what death is until it is experienced. When the body dies, it does not immediately cease to exist. In fact, the physical properties of the body after death are slowly re-absorbed into the larger creation. God formed the man from existing material.  “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). So, when the physical body of Man dies it does not cease to exist but returns to the material from which it was initially created.

There is a second death. We can only know about this second death through personal experience and by the little God tells us. At this point, we know nothing of the second death other than there is another death that is probably spiritual because it is not physical. Rebelling against God brings God’s judgment which is a second death. The Deceiver knows this, deliberately lying to Eve and in doing so stating God is the liar.

Excellence of Creation

Studies in Genesis 1

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31 ESV)

God “saw everything he had made” and rendered judgment. “Saw” means to consider, advise, examine, study, to gaze upon for a time. “Everything” means the totality of all things. “Made” means the act of work to create and accomplish a specific, pre-planned task. From the tiniest atom to the greatest galaxy, from the largest animal to the smallest bacteria, God perceived everything He had made. Everything was first conceived in the mind of God then brought into existence through His creative power. This is His work.

Do not think of the “work” God does as what we are used to doing. God’s work is not something He does out of obligation or to fulfill a duty. His work is essential to His eternal character and being. It is what He does because it is who He is. When He created the physical universe, something out of nothing, it was according to an eternal plan which fit His eternal character.

After He examines and knows all He has done God renders judgment. “Behold, it was very good.”  “Behold” means to see but with the express intent of holding up for judgment and consideration. “Very” means vehemently, with the greatest stress and force. It is a mighty work, incomparable to anything else done by any other, lesser being. “Good” means pleasant and agreeable, excellent according to the highest measure and standard, rich and valuable. According to God’s judgment creation, all creation, meets God’s standard of excellence. There is no standard higher. Creation is perfect.

Perfect does not mean complete. Nor does God’s immutable character, that He is unchangeable, mean He does not act. God is complete and perfect, yet acts.

We must take care in the words used to not leave a wrong impression or lead in a wrong direction. We do not understand “perfect,” lowering to our own standards that which God has done. Even the most intelligent and creative, the cleverest and most passionate person, fails to measure up to God’s eternal standard. We will not know perfection or completion until we are in His presence. Until then we can only examine, study and maybe speculate about the beginnings of creation revealed in general revelation and accept His special revelation about His work and Himself.

Just and Unjust Judges

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. [Matthew 5:25-26 ESV]

Do we have to stand before a Judge before admitting when we have done something wrong? Are Judges known for being compassionate? Do they forgive offenses, willful acts, crimes against men and the state? Is it not their responsibility to look at the evidence and determine culpability? Are they not charged with upholding the law which constrains them? What Judge is going to set aside law for personal preference? If they do then they are not a Judge but as much a criminal as those standing before them. Those Judges who are just will agonize over their decisions because they want truth and compassion, justice and righteousness.

Christians are faced with unjust judges daily. All those around us will judge our actions and words against their arbitrary standard or a predetermined measure. They will assess not only what is right and good but every wrong. For the unjust Judge will build a case regardless of the facts, no matter the evidence. Those being accused of doing something wrong may not have done anything wrong. Christians who suffer for righteousness’ sake face accusers who are judging them because of their relationship with Christ. In fact, they have probably done everything right.

However, I do not think this is what Jesus is speaking about in these verses.

I think he is telling us to judge ourselves against God’s standards so that those who do accuse us have no evidence to substantiate their claims. If they do have evidence because we have done something wrong then we are responsible for righting the wrong. Jesus is using the world’s unjust system as an illustration for God’s justice. We cannot expect non-Christians to act like Christians.

We can expect Christians, or those who say they are Christians, to act according to God’s known will. We must say sin is sin. Jesus is direct in His statements about a brother confronting a brother about sin.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [Matthew 1815-17 ESV]

Again, I do not think this is what Jesus is speaking to in these verses (Matthew 5:25-26), though they are related. I think He is telling us to admit when we are wrong, confess sin, repent and turn away from sin, before being hauled in front of a Judge. We should not have to be told when we are wrong. A Judge will not be nice. God is loving and compassionate but not nice.

One of the underlying principles of the Sermon on the Mount is the desire of God to make those who are His whole. For the individual, wholeness means being remade, recreated by God into the likeness of His Son. We are created in His image, bent and corrupted by sin, then recreated by His Spirit and fit for here as witnesses and for eternity as citizens. God changes the person immediately but takes His time disciplining and developing the person for eternity. He makes the person whole intellectually, morally and emotionally and willfully. He molds those who are His into people who act obediently as His servants.

I hate the process for it demands I see myself as God sees me, as Christ sees me and as the Holy Spirit sees me. God sees me covered with the blood of Christ. Jesus sees me as one He is willing to die for and did. He who lives in the Christian, the Holy Spirit, sees me as a citizen-student being fit by Him for eternity.

This is important. Christians must not view themselves as they see themselves in the world. God trains us, when we are obedient, to see ourselves as He sees us, covered with the blood of Christ. We stand before Him, and before the world, in His grace.

Have you ever tried to defend, rationalize or excuse your wrong actions and attitudes before an impartial Judge? He will not let you. Either we judge our sin or God does and He may use a human judge which will carry much pain. There is an eternal difference between remorse and repentance.