When God’s love is doubted (Genesis 3:1-24)

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Genesis 3:1-24 / Key verse 3:21

When God’s love is doubted

“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

In an interview, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and his wife Melinda Gates said that their three children were not allowed to own their own cellphones until the age of 14. Gates said, “We often set a time after which there is no screen time, and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour.” We can understand the parents’ love. They imposed the rule to love their children, not to suppress them.
God commanded the man, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”(2:17) God did it out of His wonderful love. We can understand it because God’s created world was filled with beauty, wonder, blessing, and happiness in Genesis chapters 1 and 2.
In today’s passage, the serpent planted the seed of doubt about God’s love in the woman’s mind. It brought pain, sorrow, and eventually death to the man and the woman. But it was not the end. God continued to love them. He found a way to save them from the power of the sin and death. I pray that we can find God’s unstoppable, unshakeable love for sinners like us.

I. Satan really exists (1-7, 14-19, 22-24)
Look at verse 1. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
This chapter does not refer explicitly to Satan. But most scholars hold that it was Satan in the Garden of Eden who was speaking through the snake, not the snake itself speaking on its own. The Bible teaches us that Satan really exists. Satan has been caricatured so much by writers, artists, actors, and comedians that most people do not believe the Devil really exists, or if they do believe he exists, they do not take him seriously. But we have to listen to what the Bible says. The Bible teaches us that Satan is real, Satan is an enemy, and Satan is dangerous.
Revelation 20:2 says, “….that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan…” “Satan” means “adversary” and “devil” means “slanderer.” Although we do not understand much about his origin, the Bible describes him as a destroyer, a murderer, a liar, and a roaring lion.
Based on the nature of Satan, many people imagine that he looks like an ugly and ferocious monster. In movies, Satan has horns and a pitchfork in a red suit. But the Bible says that he can disguise himself, so people do not even realize who he is. Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Probably the snake in the garden of Eden looked beautiful, attractive and friendly to the woman.

We can learn from today’s passage how Satan works.
Satan always attacks our thoughts. He puts evil thoughts in our head, or even directly incites us to do evil. Look at verse 1b again. “He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”” Satan made the woman doubt God’s love for her. In Genesis 2:16, God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.” But Satan cunningly took away “freedom.” Instead, he grossly exaggerated God’s prohibition, claiming that God did not allow them access to any of the trees.
After the talk, the woman began to think that God was spiteful, mean, obsessively jealous, and self-protective. (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament written by Victor P. Hamilton) And she could not purely trust the word of God. She thought that God might hide something from her.

In John’s gospel 13:27, Satan entered Judas, one of the Twelve disciples. Only Jesus noticed it, and other disciples had no idea because Satan sneakily hid himself as he did in the Garden of Eden. Satan led Judas to betray Jesus and bring him to the cross. Later, Judas was seized with remorse and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5). Satan uses people and destroy them.
By the way, not all evil thoughts come directly from Satan. Often they come from within – from our own sinful hearts. So, when we have some thoughts in our minds, we have to examine them based on the Bible, and ask God to cleanse our hearts and minds and fill them with Christ.

Also, Satan attacks our weak points. It was the best strategy for Satan to tempt the woman first. A woman in my New Wineskin fellowship said, “Man is the head of the household, but woman is the neck that turns the head.” Adam loved the woman. He called her bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh (2:23). Satan knew that if he succeeded tempting the woman, Adam would be automatically tempted by the woman because he listened to her.
We all have weak points. Each person’s weak point is different. It can be lust, money, anger, fear, and so on. If we know what our weak points are, we can effectively guard our hearts from Satan’s schemes.
Now can we read verses 6 and 7 together? “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also 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.”
When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, their eyes were opened as what Satan said. But it was not what they expected. Their eyes were opened to shame, guilt, and fear (10). Later they blamed others (12). They had never experienced such emotions before, because these were not natural emotions. It was the result of sins. They had to cover their naked bodies with fig leaves, but they could not cover their shame, guilt, and fear. We can understand their hearts very well because we used to struggle with feeling shameful, guilty, and fearful, and we blame others.

And that’s not all about the result of sins. There were more consequences of sins.
Look at verses 14 through 19. The serpent and the ground were cursed. Eve would have pain in the labor of childbirth as well as submission to her husband, and Adam would have pain in his daily labor in the field. Also, later the LORD God banished them from the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 5:5, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died. The Bible says that at that time, people lived long. Adam had to endure pain for a long time. From sunrise to sunset, he had painful toil every day to eat food. And eventually, he would return to dust, which means death.

But it was not the end of the consequence of Adam’s sin. It was much more serious. Paradise was lost not only for Adam and Eve, but everyone else. According to Pastor John MacArthur who serves Grace Community Church in California, the whole race, people in the past, the present, and yet to come in the future are born in this condition because of what Adam did. What happened in the garden plunged the entire human race into sin and cursed the whole creation. Everything that is bad and evil and corrupt and devastating and deadly is because of what happened in this third chapter. We’ve all been plunged into a spiritual death; we’ve all been plunged into physical death, from the moment we are born we begin to die. We are all born dying and dead, dead spiritually and dying physically; we have no hope of life if all we have is the Fall.

II. God is love (8-13, 20-21)
Look at verse 8. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”
It looks like the LORD God came to the Garden of Eden to meet with them every day in the early evening. I imagine that God used to call their names with His gentle voice and they talked together. God used to listen how they spent the day and how happy they were in the paradise. God created the man and the woman to love them. They were God’s children in His own image.
Joe and Josephine Park can better understand God’s heart now. Their new born baby Enoch began to attend our Sunday worship service with them three weeks ago.

I usually think about the relationship between parents and children to better understand God’s heart for us.
Last Sunday I attended CBF worship service. Before Mrs. Belssi Chang Lee delivered a message, she told children to guess the words she had. The hidden words were “Give thanks.” Children began to tell alphabet letters one by one to guess the words. If the alphabet letter was in the words, they got one sour jelly as a reward. All children desperately raised their hands to have a chance to get the jelly. But little Lydia, the daughter of Frederick and Esther Naikal, had no idea because she was too young. (2 years old?) Esther wanted her daughter to get a sour jelly. So, she hastily went to Lydia and whispered one alphabet letter to her ear. I’m not sure, but I think that the letter was alphabet “K”. Lydia said, “K” and she could receive a sour jelly. As soon as Lydia had a big smile on her face, Esther’s face was filled with happiness and she had a bigger smile than her daughter’s.
This is the happiness that God had with Adam and Eve before they ate from the tree. Adam and Eve loved God, but God loved them much more than they did. But now they lost innocence. They lost God’s absolute standard for goodness. After they ate the fruit, they had their own standard about good and evil. Nowadays people argue if abortion is right or wrong. They argue if marriage between man and man or woman and woman is right or wrong. If they decide it is right, it is right although it is wrong in God’s absolute standard for goodness. Adam and Eve became like that. So, was God upset? Did God curse them to death immediately? No, He did not. God’s love was not changed at all because it was absolute love for them.
Because of the fall, Adam and Eve could see God’s deep heart that they had never known before. In today’s passage, I found three nature of God’s love for the fallen man.
First, a brokenhearted father’s love. Second, the love of discipline to make his children holy and righteous. Third, self-sacrificial love.

First, God’s love is a brokenhearted father’s love.
Look at verse 9. “But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
On that day when they ate the fruit, they could not meet God. God knew that they had eaten from the tree. He also knew that they were hiding from Him. But He did not force them to come out. Instead, He called to the man, “Where are you?” It was not angry voice. It was more like a brokenhearted father speaking in love and tenderness to his wayward children. (Be Basic written by Warren W. Wiersbe) God wanted to meet with Adam whom He created in His image. He wanted to spend time together and have a beautiful fellowship. But Adam could not do it. He was afraid and shameful. When President Donald Trump administration separated illegal immigrant parents from their young children, parents were devastated. When the sin separated God from the man and the woman, God was like parents who had lost their children. He felt alone in his grief.
But God continued to talk to Adam to restore the broken relationship with him. “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” But instead of contrition, he suddenly blamed both God and the woman. Look at verse 12. “The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”” When God asked the woman about the matter, she blamed the serpent. She said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”(13) God would have much more grief when He noticed that their trust and love relationship was completely broken.

Second, God’s love is the love of discipline to make their children holy and righteous.
In Part I, we saw what kind of consequences the man and the woman had. It looks like God’s penalty was too cruel. But here we can find a different form of God’s love. The pain purified Adam. After God drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden (24). Adam repeatedly thought about the happy moments with God and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He realized how great God’s love was. He began to put his trust in God. Genesis 5:3 says, “…Adam had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.” Seth was the ancestor of God’s people after Adam. So, I think that Adam became a man of God.
We want to live a comfortable, worry-free life. We want to get well-paid jobs. We want to receive a visa or a green card as early as possible. We want to have no disease. We think that we will be happy then. That kind of life was possible before the fall of man. But now we lost innocence. We have the potential to do evil at any time. Pain and suffering in our life makes us humble before God. It prevents us from going astray. It helps us to put our true hope in the Kingdom of Heaven. One of God’s image is holiness and righteousness. He wants us to bear the image on earth. God has a high expectation and vision for us.
It is like parents have high expectations for their precious children. Many mothers who have young children among us are eager to teach their children many things: Bible, Tennis, Cello, Piano, Taekwondo, Kumon (Kumon is a math & reading program), Korean school, and so on. If we have no expectations for our children, it is ok to go to the playground and spend time there all day long.
In the Bible, God loved King David so much. David was the only person who was called a man after God’s own heart. But one day he chose to do evil. He committed an adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, and he killed her husband Uriah, who was his loyal soldier. Because of this evil, King David had a very painful discipline from God. God let his new born baby die to show that the consequence of his sin was death. Also, God made King David run away from his son Absalom because his son tried to kill him. At that time, David fled, weeping as he went; his head was covered, and he was barefoot. (2 Samuel 15:30) David became exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.(2 Samuel 17:29). Without God’s intervention, he would be killed by his son Absalom. He suffered great sorrow and pain of God’s discipline. But it purified him. When he was 70 years old, he breathed his last as a righteous man of God.
God’s discipline is very painful. But the design of the discipline is for our good. The pain and sorrow of the discipline yields our holiness, our peace, and our righteousness. (Hebrews 12:10,11) This is God’s high expectations and high standard love for us. After that, He will lead us to the Kingdom of Heaven, a true paradise that has no shame, no guilt, no pain, no sorrow, no death when we finish our race on earth. We will live there forever with holiness and righteousness with our God.

Third, God’s love is self-sacrificial love.
Look at verse 21. “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”
Before God banished them from the Garden of Eden, He made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. It is called the first sacrifice in history because animals were killed for garments of skin. When God covered them with garments of skin, He also wanted to cover their shame, guilt, and fear inside their heart.
It reminds us of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins.
The cross has two meanings.
The first meaning of the cross is that you will certainly die if you commit sins. The cross was the death penalty at Jesus’ time. In some states of the US, prisoners who receive the death penalty can choose either electric chair or lethal injection. If Jesus was born in the 21st century, He would be put to death on an electric chair or by lethal injection. The cross shows that we were sentenced to death because we are all Adam’s descendants. We have to die painfully, sorrowfully like Jesus on the cross because of the evil inside us. But there is a far greater reality than that, and that is the reality of divine judgment after death.
The second meaning of cross is that God has forgiven us by sacrificing his precious, one and only son Jesus on the cross for our sins. Just as the LORD God covered Adam and Eve with garments of skin, he covered our sins and clothed us in Jesus. He removed the death penalty from us. Because of his death and resurrection, Christ crushed Satan’s head and won a complete victory over him (15). This is the good news. Gospel.

I have a 77-year old mother in South Korea. Ten years ago my father passed away. Since then, she has lived alone. After my father had passed away, her bodies were getting weaker and weaker. Now she has severe legs and back pain due to spinal stenosis. She had a spine surgery once, but the pain is getting worse. I talk to her on the phone once a week or once every ten day. She describes her pain as the pain of death. But she goes to church to pray for me in the early morning. I could not understand why she always thinks about me and talks about me although she is so painful. I am a grown-up man. But it looks like she regards me as her little boy. Sometimes I say, “Mom, please stop going to pray.” “Please do not pray for me.” But it is useless to say that. My image has been in her heart and mind all the time since she gave birth to me. She always remembers me as her precious little boy.
God created the sacrificial love of parents for their children. How much more does God’s love overflow to his children whom He created in His own image! Let me read Romans 5:6-8. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The Bible teaches us that God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. All we have to do is to say, “I am sorry. I did evil. Please forgive me. Please help me.”

Before the fall of man, we did not know how great God’s love is. But because of our sins, God’s marvelous grace and love was revealed among us in this way. Before I finish my message, let us read 1 John 4:9-12 together. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

In conclusion,
Never doubt God’s love for us. Trust that the word of God is true. Be grateful of what we have now. Say, “I am sorry.” God will lead us each step of our life journey until we go to the Kingdom of God because we are His precious children who bear His image.