Covenants of God
Week Two: Adamic
“Consequences with Grace”
Last week we began a new series called, “The Covenants of God,” in which we are rediscovering the ways in which God connects with His people and our response. The first covenant we see in Scripture is the Edenic Covenant, in which God offers humankind Paradise to both work and care for it, along with the freedom to eat of any trees in the garden of Eden EXCEPT from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; for on the day he does he will certainly die.
It was God who spoke all things into existence (“And God said”), including man. He could have remained governor over everything, but instead chose to give humans the authority and responsibility to steward God’s creation. This is a huge thing! And, finally, God has given humanity the free will to choose to obey God’s covenant or not.
Today we will look at the second covenant found in scripture…and it’s found just a chapter over. It’s commonly called the Adamic Covenant.
But before we can get to that covenant, we need to look at what led us there. It’s probably one of the most familiar stories in all the Bible. In fact, short of the salvation story of Jesus Christ found in the Gospels, the story of Genesis 3 might be the most important narrative we have. Why? Because without Genesis 3, we wouldn’t need the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We wouldn’t need to hear these words of Paul in Romans 5:8à “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
And that story in Genesis 3 is famously known as The Fall. Let’s read through the story [Read Gen 3:1-13]
I want to offer some thoughts about this epic failure on the part of God’s created humanity before we look at the consequences of the Fall.
First, a word about the other created being in this story; the serpent. BTW, have you ever wondered about a creature of the garden/wilderness being able to “talk”? What kind of creature IS this? Is this why the serpent was the craftiest among God’s creation? I think we’re just going to have to leave that as one of those questions for heaven, know what I mean?
But notice how the serpent went about deceiving the woman. First, the serpent questions the validity of the Edenic Covenant: “Did God really say?”
Any time we begin deliberation about whether to violate God’s Word with the question: “Did God really say?”, we are in serious trouble! Did God really say…
we should love the Lord our God with our heart, mind, and strength?
we are to worship God alone and have no other things in our lives that we give worth to like we do God?
The only way to the Father is through the Son? Did he really say that we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus, not in our own works or activities?
we must love our enemies as well as our friends? That we are to pray for our enemies…to bless them?
we must forgive others in order to be forgiven by our Father in heaven?
we must love Jesus more than our family or even our own lives?
we must refrain from sexual immorality? Did he really say that homosexuality was an abomination? Did he really say that fornicators (having sex outside marriage) did not have a place in the kingdom?
we must not take innocent life? (I take that to mean the life of an unborn baby, NYC!!!)
The serpent got the woman to question whether God really said what He said. How easy it is for us to do the same thing!
Also notice the serpent misquotes the Edenic covenant: “Did God really say, ‘You must eat from any tree in the garden’?” The serpent is confusing the woman by getting her to second guess what God said was available to eat and what was off-limits. If the enemy can’t get us to disbelieve God’s Word, he will try to get us to confuse us about the interpretation of God’s word.
(Gen 3:2-3). Now, notice how the woman misquotes the Edenic Covenant as well: “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
First, she identifies the tree being in the middle of the garden, which is half-true. There were two trees God planted in the middle of the garden: one was the tree of life and the other was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. One was needed to live forever…the other did NOT need to be eaten, since God was our source of goodness. He would guide in all things. God didn’t prohibit eating from any tree in the middle, only one!
The woman also added to the covenant: “you must not touch it.” She obviously knew that to even get close to this forbidden fruit was dangerous for her, so she told the serpent they shouldn’t even touch it!
(3:4-5) Now the serpent goes from being deceptive to outright lying about the Edenic covenant: “You will not certainly die.” The serpent is accusing the God of all truth of lying. It won’t kill you. In fact, it will make you “like God.” Listen: “God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The serpent understands the tree for what it is…a tree of wisdom (discernment). It is NOT a tree of evil, but of knowing about evil…something God is not.
(3:6-7) When the woman saw that the fruit to be “good for food” AND “pleasing to the eye,” AND “desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, “who was with her,” and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Rather than remember her covenant with God—that she was free to eat from any tree in the garden—she accepted the serpent’s interpretation of the Edenic covenant. She saw the fruit was good, pleasing, and desirable. It looked nutritious. It looked pretty. It seemed desirable for human development (wisdom).
So, she ate it and gave some to her husband. He was right there! She didn’t have to sell him on the idea because he was part of the conversation with the serpent. He, too, did not remember his covenant with God, but preferred his own reasoning in the matter.
Once they ate, there was a change within them. They “realized” something about themselves that moved them to cover their nakedness. It was a source of shame to them, whereas before human sexuality was pure, natural, healthy. Now there is a part of their human sexuality which is distorted from God’s intent.
(3:8-11) Now that they’ve broken the Edenic Covenant, when the Lord God wants to relate with his creation in the cool of the evening, Adam and Eve are afraid and hid themselves. Why? Because of their nakedness…something that before eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they never even considered.
God searches: “Where are you?” Man hides because of sin and shame:
“I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” The Lord God asks, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Two questions. One is directed at a person: who told you? This implies that God already knows a third party has been involved. The second is directed at an action: did you eat? God knows it was either one or the other…or BOTH.
(Gen. 3:12-13) The man threw his wife under the bus…AND seemed to blame God for good measure: “The woman you gave me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Rather than acknowledging the violation of God’s covenant, he made excuses. He might have been trying to say: This might not have happened if the woman hadn’t been in the picture. She handed it to me…what was I supposed to do? I did what any good husband does when his wife serves a meal…I eat it!
Isn’t this just like us, too? When we’ve been caught saying or doing the wrong thing—while we might or might not deny our culpability—we often will build a defense for our behavior. [give examples?]
Then the Lord God then questions the woman: “What is this you have done?” Explain yourself. What part did you play in breaking the Edenic covenant? The woman then blames the serpent: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The woman admits that she was deceived. She listened to the serpent’s explanation of the Edenic Covenant and preferred the serpent’s over God’s. She reasoned in her own mind that violating the covenant brought her more benefits than obedience did. THIS IS THE ESSENCE OF SIN!
(3:14-21) The Adamic Covenant
This leads us to the Adamic Covenant. The covenant God made with Adam and Eve has been broken by humans. As Dr. Richter put it in her book, The Epic of Eden, “Adam rejected the covenant, and all the cosmos trembled.”
Now, God responds both with curses and mercy. Let’s look more closely. [Read Gen 3:14-24] God proclaims curses to the serpent, the woman, and the man, in that order.
To the serpent, it will no longer travel easily, but crawl along the dust of the earth. But more importantly, there will be hostility between the serpent and the woman…between the Enemy and the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. I don’t want to give the serpent much air time but will come back to a vital part of this curse, what some scholars call the “proto-Gospel” or “first Gospel.” More on this in a minute.
To the woman, the curse is two-fold: painful childbirth and a change in the nature of the relationship with her husband. Let’s consider childbirth. Obviously, I have no experience, nor ever will, in the process of childbirth. I’ll never understand the bond a mother can have for the children she bears. (I do know that amazing feeling of holding my daughters for the first time.)
Imagine being promised to be the mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great grandmother (etc.) of all who live. This was Eve’s blessing! But now she who is called to be the source of life, will enter this experience only through severe pain and often severe injury. Prior to the Industrial age, childbirth was the leading cause of death for women…and still is for many parts of the world. In other words, producing the heirs of Adam’s race will become woman’s chief source of injury and death through the very act of childbirth.
What about this business of desiring her husband and him ruling over the woman? Dr. Richter confesses that nobody really knows what this original Hebrew language means, but it isn’t good! She suggests that—whereas Adam and Eve’s relationship was designed as co-regents…co-rulers over all the earth—that partnership has transformed into the competitive grappling of two hungry souls. While they are still in need of one another for partnership, affirmation, and intimacy, and admiration, they are no longer able to live their lives together with the same “mutuality.” A relationship that should have been characterized by mutual self-sacrifice, productivity, and joy will create instead the deepest of frustration and pain…and yet she will still yearn for this relationship.
And yet, even in her pains…even in her loss of mutuality…there is the promise of hope. God promises that her offspring, in the end, will crush the one who deceived her. THIS is the first prophecy of the coming of Christ!
To Adam, the following curses are given:
The soil cursed.
Introduction of thorns and thistles.
Survival is to be a struggle.
Death will be our inescapable fate.
To understand the curse of Adam, we need to look at the wordplay in this text. Adam has been created for the adamah (cultivatable land). Adam was a farmer. In the Edenic covenant, Adam was blessed to tend and cultivate the ground that would bring forth its very best for Adam.
I envy folks like L.E. and Phil Malone and Pat Woods. They get the joy and blessing of reaping a harvest of cotton, or soybeans, or corn that once began as a seed in some cultivated dirt. They toiled over that land, fertilized, and protected the plants. Until one day, by God’s miracle, a crop burst forth. But it was not without a lot of toil. Right, fellas?
Imagine being Adam, where the slightest effort produced the perfect harvest. The adamah was created for Adam to exercise authority over. Now, because of the broken Edenic covenant, Adam’s authority over the adamah has been shattered. The adamah was designed to serve Adam, but now it will rebel against them. The adamah “will produce thorns and thistles for you,” says God.
When what we do for a living is enjoyable, there is fruitfulness. But when we are forced to produce with little reward, then our work becomes toil and our human spirits are dampened. I sense that many of us go through life with this sort of attitude toward our vocations.
The Lord God tells Adam, “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.” It’s interesting that many translations use the word “brow” in this passage when the origin of this Hebrew word, אַף (aph) is the word for nose or face. According to one source I read, the phrase “sweat of your face” is an Ancient Near Eastern idiom that speaks of anxiety—sweat-inducing fear.
Richter suggests that, because of the rebellion against God and the subsequent expulsion from His presence in the Garden, humanity will now live their lives in an adversarial world with a constant gnawing undercurrent of dread that there will be enough, that their labor will not meet their need. Will there be enough for the mortgage/rent? Utilities? Retirement? What if somebody gets sick? Can you relate?
The curses get worse: “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” God’s image-bearers will now die like the beasts. Where humans had been made to rule over the earth, now they will rot in it…we will become the fertilizer!!! We were meant to live in the presence of God forever. Because of the breaking of the Edenic covenant, we were cursed to die. How? By being cut off from our source of life.
Look at verses 22-24: 22And 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.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
24After 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.
The Lord separated his image-bearers from the source of everlasting life. I would argue that this tree of life, while an actual tree, represented much more. It represented the eternal connection between God and his image-bearers. Now the people of God will live in exile from both God’s place and his presence. Friends, that’s the state of humanity as a result of the Fall: pain, division, struggles, anxiety, separation, and death.
Let me turn to play devil’s advocate. Some may question why God offered such a harsh punishment for what seemingly was a minor infraction…to eat of the forbidden tree. Many agnostics and other skeptics claim that God’s severe treatment of humanity is the reason they cannot believe in Him.
Zach showed me a YouTube video of a panel of theologians who were taking questions from the audience. Here was one of the questions: “Since God is slow to anger and patient, then why, when man first sinned, was his wrath and punishment so severe and long lasting? R. C. Sproles chimed in. “This creature from the dirt defied the everlasting, holy God…God had said, “the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die. And instead of dying that day, he lived another day and was clothed in his nakedness by pure grace. And at the consequences of a curse applied for quite some time; but the worse curse would come upon the one who seduced him, whose head would be crushed by the seed of the woman. And the punishment was too severe? What’s wrong with you people…The question is, why wasn’t it infinitely more severe?”
Now, in the time I have left, I want to return to the amazing grace and mercy that God has shown his image-bearers in this Adamic covenant. Notice in verse 21, this small yet significant act of the Lord God on behalf of his fallen creatures: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Because of Adam’s fall, something had to die. God took the life of another creature to provide a physical covering for his image-bearers. They didn’t do it on their own. God did it for them! Out of love and mercy, God protected their bodies from the elements.
Finally, and most significantly, as Sproles rightly put it, contained within the Adamic covenant is the grace-filled promise of an end-times judgment coming against our spiritual enemy. To the serpent God said, “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.”
This is a foreshadowing of the salvific work on the cross by Jesus Christ, the seed of Adam’s offspring. Jesus will suffer and die on the cross but will rise again and in His death and resurrection, Jesus defeats sin and death, making a way back for exiled image-bearers to be restored to God forever! God the Father, in the greatest act of grace, kills his only Son so that he could cover his image-bearers with the blood of Jesus.
Listen to how Paul puts it in 1 Cor. 15:21ff: 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
[PRAYZNMOR] Yes, the Adamic curses are severe and inescapable, but they are NOT the last word from God. The last Word is the Word made flesh. God promises that the one born of a woman would destroy Satan. Galatians 4:4-5 says, 4But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. There’s that “fictive kinship” idea again!
Even in the midst of the curses of the Adamic covenant, God’s gracious provision of salvation shines through. Let me close with the vision given to John in Revelation 19. It’s an image of the marriage of the Lamb to her Bride, the church : 6Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
The filthy rags of sin and death have been exchanged for fine linen. Our God reigns! Our God loves! Our God saves! And all His covenants…all his promises toward his people point us to this Good News! AMEN.