Believe it or not, this morning is the first Sunday in Advent. It comes, it seems every year a little faster. Don’t you think? The Christmas season and all the sentimentality and the fun and the gifts and the Christmas present buying and all the trappings that go along with it. We want to try to make the most of the cultural opportunity afforded by the season to meditate on the person and work of Jesus Christ in the weeks that lead up to Christmas. And we are going to do that each week by taking one Old Testament text that points us to the coming of our Savior that teaches us about who He is and why He came and what it means to follow Him. We’re calling the series, Prepare Him Room, from Isaac Watts’ famous Christmas carol. You remember how it goes. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.” We’re being summoned to prepare Him room, that is, to receive and to respond to Him in faith. Of course, that summons has been going on from God in Scripture since history began. Across the Old Testament scriptures, as I hope we will see, God has been calling us to respond to the person and to the work of Jesus Christ.
And as we begin to think about the Old Testament promises of the coming of Jesus, the place to start of course is at the beginning. So if you would take a copy of the Scriptures in your hands and turn with me to the very first book of the Bible, Genesis chapter 3, Genesis chapter 3, we’re going to read from verse 14. Before we do that, if you would please bow your heads with me as we pray together!
God our Father, we thank You for Your holy, inerrant, and authoritative Word now spread before us. As we turn our attention to the reading and the preaching of Scripture, we confess how prone we are to warp and distort its message. Though it is true and without error and utterly reliable, we are not, and we much prefer to hear only those things that affirm our preferences. And we would rather distort the truth sometimes than bow before it. And so we pray to You that You would send us the Holy Spirit to take the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, and wield it with power in our hearts and in our minds so that our sin notwithstanding, we might hear what the Spirit says to the Church in this portion of His holy Word. For we ask it all in Jesus’ name, amen.
You remember some of the context – Genesis chapter 3. Satan has tempted Adam and Eve, our first parents, to sin by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that God had forbidden them. And in their shame, they’ve covered themselves with fig leaves and hidden themselves among the trees of the garden, but God has cornered them and brought them to confess their sin. And having heard their confession, He speaks these words of judgment beginning at verse 14 of Genesis chapter 3. This is the Word of God:
“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.’
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.’
And to Adam he said,
‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ 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.’
The man called his wife's name Eve because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever’ – therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”
Amen, and we praise God that He has spoken in His holy, inerrant Word.
Now you remember the story; I’m sure it’s familiar to most of us. Eve has succumbed to the serpent’s temptation to eat the forbidden fruit and Adam who was with her abdicated all responsibility to be a spiritual leader, didn’t he? Instead of immediately crushing the serpent’s head, blithely he allowed Satan to mouth lies into his wife’s ear. And then with the barest of promptings from her, he follows her lead in eating the fruit that God had forbidden. And swiftly the day of reckoning arrived. God came to our first parents in the garden and although they hid themselves from Him in shame, nevertheless with a few probing questions, verses 12 and 13, the Lord drew from them their confession of sin. “The woman,” Adam said, “The woman whom you gave me to be with me, she gave me to eat and I ate.” Verse 13, “The woman replied, ‘The serpent deceived me and I ate.’”
God exposes the facts and having exposed the facts do you see how God shifts His role? He starts out here playing the role of the prosecuting attorney, marshaling the evidence against Adam and Eve. But now that the evidence has been presented, He steps behind the bench and takes the role of judge. Now comes the moment for sentencing. And He pronounces three curses, three words of divine judgment. Do you see them in our passage? We read them together a moment ago. First of all, in verses 14 and 15, He pronounces the divine curse upon the serpent, upon Satan. Then secondly over Eve in verse 16, and then thirdly, 17 to 19, He pronounces judgment on Adam. And it makes for grim reading, doesn’t it? Notice the word, “curse” is used twice – once in verse 14; again in verse 17. That’s the nature of the judgment that is pronounced. He curses humanity and the world in which we live. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, I think, perfectly summarizes the curse as the “estate of sin and misery” into which we’ve all fallen in the wake of Adam’s first transgression.
Isn’t that where we are here in this passage? Isn’t that what we see, an estate of sin and misery? The serpent, we are told, will be utterly humiliated. The language of moving on his belly and licking the dust in verse 14 is intended to be a double entendre. It describes simultaneously the behavior of a snake and it provides a graphic metaphor of defeat and shame. “He shall eat dirt.” That’s language we still use, isn’t it, when we want to humiliate an opponent. They are to eat dirt. That’s what the snake will do. He will be utterly defeated and humiliated. The curse doesn’t stop there. The woman, notice, will have pain in childbirth and along with it, she will endure the constant fracturing of her most intimate relationships. “Her desire will be for her husband and he shall rule over her.” Notice also the ground is cursed. It will produce thorns and thistles, leaving the man to work it in toil and in the sweat of his face. Labor, which God ordained originally as a joyous part of our fundamental calling before sin, now becomes a burden and a source of terrible weariness as a result of sin. And to crown it all, verse 19, the wages of sin is…what? “The wages of sin is death.” And so, verse 19, “We shall all return to the ground for out of it we were taken. For dust we are and to dust, we shall return.” Death is the capstone of the divine curse. This is the estate of sin and misery into which Adam plunged the world in the wake of his first transgression. It’s a dark and dreary picture of life this side of Eden.
But right in the middle of it, in verse 15, there shines a note of bright, clear hope. Look again at the curse on the serpent. Not only will he be humiliated and defeated, made to eat the dust, but verse 15, “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.” In some ways, we might say that the entire storyline of the Bible is contained here in verse 15. Indeed, the whole story of human history right here in verse 15. This is life as we know it described in verse 15, but also hope for hopeless sinners here in verse 15. All I want to do with you in the time left to us is show you how that is so. Genesis 3:15 does three things, at least three things. First, it gives us a sober read of history’s progress. A sober read of history’s progress. Then secondly, a Gospel read of history’s center. At the very heart of history, there’s Gospel for us. And then thirdly, there is a hopeful read of history’s conclusion, it’s end, where things are going to wind up at the end of all things.
A Sober Read of History’s Progress
So first of all, we’re given here a sober read on history’s progress. Look at the text again with me. Verse 15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring.” The Lord, in speaking this word of judgment on the serpent, establishes human history as one long record of spiritual conflict. To borrow another phrase from a different context of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the history of our race will be the history “of one long irreconcilable war.” Across all the ages, a terrible conflict will rage between two classes into which all people everywhere are divided. We’re either the seed of the serpent or we’re the seed of the woman. We either live in the grip of Satan’s deceits or we are the heirs of redeeming grace and children of God. And between those two groups, God says there will be perpetual enmity, enmity between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman, between the world and the Church, between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of the light. And as you read through the pages of holy Scripture, isn’t that exactly what we see over and over again? Cain killing Abel – enmity. Noah mocked and rejected by his generation – enmity. Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Ishmael, Israel and the nations, the Church and the world – enmity, warfare, conflict.
The Serpent’s Seed
Or think about Matthew chapter 3 at verse 7 when John the Baptist is on the banks of the Jordan baptizing and many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come out to be baptized by him. They’re the religious elites of John’s day but John sees right through their hypocrisy. He sees right to the heart of their insincerity. And in response to their hypocrisy, John goes directly to Genesis 3:15 to describe them. He calls them, in our translation, “a brood of vipers.” What he actually says is, “You are the seed of serpent. You are the seed of serpents. You do not belong to the seed of the woman. You are the enemies of the kingdom of God.” Jesus does the same thing in John chapter 8 verse 41 and following. The Pharisees, who were engaged in debate with Him, were claiming that God was their Father to which Jesus responds, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God. You are of your father, the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning.” They are the seed of the serpent because they do not love Jesus but they do love the lies of the devil himself.
Conflict With the World
And so here in Genesis 3:15, at the dawn of human history, we have an intimation that life for a child of God is going to mean conflict. Now you may have been told that to follow Jesus will mean that your life will become so much easier and you can be so much happier and Jesus is going to iron everything out and fix everything – which He will do, praise God, one day when He makes all things new. But our passage here is teaching us the truth that to follow Jesus Christ, to belong to the seed of the woman, to be a member of the kingdom of light in the midst of a dark world, is to live in a war zone. You are a combatant on the front lines of a cosmic conflict. There is enmity, hostility. This first Christmas text, which as we’ll see in a moment points us to Jesus Christ, is a declaration of war. It is a declaration of war. It cuts through the tinsel and the Christmas lights with a weighty message. To be a child of grace, to belong among the offspring of the woman, is to live in unceasing conflict with the world and the flesh and the devil. No truce is possible, no ceasefire admissible. We’re at war.
And that is a sobering reality in a season of sentiment. We need to hear this reminder. There is a war on and we must never forget to cultivate a wartime mindset. We are to wrestle against flesh and blood, against the rulers and authorities and the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. To be sure, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal; we don’t use guns and bombs to prosecute this war. They do, nevertheless, have divine power to destroy strongholds. That is arguments and every lofty opinion that raises itself against the knowledge of God to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. We are to wage warfare by wielding the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and to be clothed in the armor of God, praying always that God’s victory through us might be seen. It is a spiritual war, to be sure, but a war nevertheless. And it’s a sobering picture, therefore, and one I think we badly need to be reminded of. So this passage generates a sober read of history’s progress. Every step of the way, every generation, there’s a war on. The battle lines are drawn and you, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, are a combatant on the front lines.
A Gospel Read of History’s Center
Then secondly, I want you to see how this passage generates a Gospel read of history’s center. A sober read of history’s progress but at history’s center there is Gospel. Look at verse 15 again. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” Notice at the heart of that age-old conflict that this passage predicts stands a climactic conflict between one individual and the serpent himself. “He,” singular, “shall bruise your head,” and “you,” the serpent himself, “shall bruise his heel.” Of the many who are the seed of the woman, one shall come, Galatians 4:4, “in the fullness of time, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law.” First John 3:8 tells us it was “for this reason that Jesus, the Son of God, was revealed – to destroy the works of the devil.” That is, to wage warfare and to win the victory. Jesus, you see, is the seed of the woman of which God speaks as He judges the serpent. The heir of this ancient promise, He is the one who will do what Adam ought to have done in the first place but did not do. He will be a second and better Adam who will crush the serpent’s head, though in doing so, the serpent shall sink his fangs deeply into His flesh.
You remember how when God drew from the first Adam his confession of sin, Adam nevertheless tried to dodge, he tried to blame shift, didn’t he? You remember what he said? “The woman, who you gave me to be with me, she gave me of the forbidden fruit to eat and I ate. It’s not my fault; it’s her fault!” Wasn’t he saying in effect, “She’s the guilty one! Condemn her; let me live! She’s the guilty one! Condemn her; let me live!” But Jesus, the second and better Adam, says the opposite. When God the judge pronounces sentence on our sin, Jesus doesn’t shift the blame, Jesus takes the blame! Adam said, “She’s the guilty one. Condemn her; let me live!” But Jesus says to God for us, “Though they are in fact the guilty ones, condemn Me! Let them live. Condemn Me! Let them live!”
The True Covering for Sin.
Many commentators, as you may know, point to the coverings of skin that God makes for Adam and Eve at the end of chapter 3 as the first intimation in Scripture that blood sacrifice would be part of the way God would save His people from their sins. Adam and Eve in their shame, remember, made feeble coverings for themselves from fig leaves trying to hide. But God provides the only adequate covering for their shame, though it required the shedding of blood. Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, will offer Himself to the condemnation of God that we might live, and by the shedding of His own blood at the cross, provide the true covering for our sin.
The Great Gospel Hope
You may turn, as is common at this season, you may turn to religion to deal with your guilt. You may run, equally common at this season, you may run instead to pleasure in an attempt to hide from your guilt. You may immerse yourself in the busyness of work to drown out the condemning voice of your guilt. Or you might fill your days with charity in the vain attempt to offset your guilt with some good behavior. But what is all of that in the end but so many fig leaves feebly sewn together in an attempt to cover our shame. To be a Christian is actually to give up the futile effort that we often make to cover our own sin and instead to receive the only adequate covering that God provides to hide our shame – the covering of Jesus Christ, His blood, and righteousness. The one born of a woman; the seed of the woman. The one who crushes the serpent’s head at the cost of His life at the cross; who gave Himself up to condemnation though He was not guilty that you, the guilty one, might have your sin covered and your guilt forgiven. You need to stop sewing fragile, feeble fig leaves together, all your own best efforts to cover and hide away. You need instead to come trust in Jesus Christ who’s the only one who may adequately cover your shame. That is the great Gospel hope we have at the center of history and it's the good news this first Christmas text preaches to us.
A Hopeful Read of History’s Conclusion
And because of it, that brings us to the third thing. First, a sober read of history’s progress. Second, a Gospel read of history’s center. And because of that Gospel at history’s center, we may thirdly have a hopeful read of history’s conclusion. A hopeful read of history’s conclusion. Over and over again in the Scriptures, there are allusions to this passage as the Bible talks to us about the final victory of Jesus Christ at the end of the age and the victory of the people of God along with Him. So for example, Psalm 72 verse 9 we are told that His enemies will “lick the dust” like the serpent in our passage, before the heir of King David, Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Micah chapter 7 at verse 17 likewise speaks of a day when “the nations shall lick the dust like serpents,” it says, “as they tremble before the judgment of the Almighty God.” And as we’ve seen, if you’ve been with us on Sunday evenings in Revelation chapter 20, John speaks of that ancient serpent, the devil, and Satan, bound by Christ and eventually, utterly destroyed by Him forever in the lake of fire. The Biblical message is simple – Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, the baby of Bethlehem, the man of Calvary, the Lord on the throne, triumphs and one day His victory will be complete.
The Curse Reversed
And up into that victory, the Scriptures say at the end of the age the Church, all of us, will be swept that we might participate in it. Isaiah 65 verse 23, for example, pictures the moment when all the curses of Genesis chapter 3 are finally and irrevocably reversed. Listen to Isaiah’s prophecy and keep your eye on the curses of Genesis 3 and notice how each of them is systematically undone in the promise of the new creation Isaiah gives us – all of them but one – the curse on the serpent. Listen to Isaiah 65; “They shall not labor in vain” – the curse on work undone. “Or bear children for calamity. For they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord and their descendants with them” – the curse on childbearing undone. “Before they call, I will answer. While they are yet speaking, I will hear.” The deeper alienation our sin has caused between us and our God, undone. “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together. The lion shall eat straw like the ox.” The natural world renewed. “And dust shall be the serpent’s food.” The judgment on Satan remains.
The Battle Belongs to the Lord
One day soon, do you see, God is going to make everything new. And His people shall dwell in peace through the triumph of Jesus Christ. That is our bright, confident hope as Christians. So this Advent as we look out on a dark world, an uncertain world, we do not ground our hope in mere sentimentality, the sentiment of the holiday season. The Christian hope is not an exercise in wish fulfillment of make believe. Nor is our confidence rooted in triumphalistic overestimation of our own abilities. It’s not an exercise in arrogance and self-assertion. Much less do we found our hope in politicians or earthly power. Our hope is not a function of earthly fixes to social ills. Our confidence and our hope lies in the baby of Bethlehem, born of a woman who has crushed the serpent’s head at the cross. And because He has, because the baby of Bethlehem became the man of Calvary, Paul could say to the whole church, Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” That is, the victory of the seed of the woman, the Lord Jesus Christ, shall be your victory also one day soon, dear struggling Christian. All his malice will end. Every temptation will cease. All the affliction and opposition, all the cultural pressure to conform or to tone it down or to back off will be over. Because the battle belongs to the Lord, the battle will one day soon belong to the Church as well.
And so we face the world this Advent season not in despair but with bright hope that even in the darkest moments the Lord Jesus, the Light of the world, shines brightly like the morning star shining in the darkness of the blackest night, reminding us that though things may look ever so bleak, dawn is coming soon. A new day, a new creation, when the God of peace shall crush Satan under our feet and every last vestige of the curse shall be eradicated and gone forever. That is our hope. Has it captured your heart? Do you live in hope like this? It’s not in ourselves, not in one another, not in our politicians and leaders. Our hope is in Christ alone and that is the message of our text, it is the message of Christmas, of the Advent season. It is our message for the world. There’s good news for you in the seed of the woman, the baby of Bethlehem, the man of Calvary, the Lord on the throne, a perfect Savior of sinners up into whose victory every believer will one day be swept. Amen, and may the Lord bless to us the ministry of His Word. Let’s pray together.
Father, we thank You for Your Word. We pray for forgiveness for sometimes allowing the darkness of the world to crowd out our hope. Help us to remember that Jesus Christ reigns, having crushed Satan’s head at the cost of His life. He is a perfect Redeemer to us all. Help us as we trust Him to go on in the daily battle, never signing a truce, but staying in the fight knowing the battle belongs to the Lord and the God of peace shall one day crush Satan under our feet also. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
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