Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Beginning of the Curse

Part 8 of The Beginning, a series on Genesis 1-3

Text: Genesis 3:14-19

You can listen to this sermon here.

“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” (v. 15). 

The Curse of the Bambino 

“God saw everything he made, and behold, it was very good” (1:31). Today, when we look at the world, we can’t say it’s very good. In many ways, the world that God made is very bad. What went wrong? Sin entered the world, and with sin came the curse. In Genesis 3:14-19, we discover how the curse affected the serpent (Satan), the woman, and the man.

I’m a fan of the Boston Red Sox. In 1918, the Red Sox won the World Series. It was their fourth World Series victory in seven years. After the 1918 season, the owner of the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Babe Ruth had been a pitcher with Boston, but he went on to become one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball.

Fast forward to 2003. The Red Sox had not won another World Series since 1918, and the Yankees had won 26. In 2003, the Red Sox played the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. In the seventh and deciding game of the series, Boston was leading 5-2 in the eighth inning. It looked like the Red Sox would finally defeat the Yankees in a playoff series. But the Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the eighth and won the game in extra innings. Red Sox fans were heartbroken. They were constantly reminded that it had been 85 years since their team had won the World Series. Some Red Sox fans began to believe in the “Curse of the Bambino.” (“The Bambino” was one of Babe Ruth’s nicknames.)

The next season the Red Sox and Yankees met again in the ALCS. The Yankees won the first three games of the best-of-seven series, and once again it looked like there would be a sad ending to another Red Sox’ season. No team had ever won a playoff series after being down three games to none. But against all odds, Boston won the next four games to become American League champions and went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. After 86 years, the Curse of the Bambino had been broken. (Since 2004, the Red Sox also won the World Series in 2007 and 2013.)

The Curse of the Bambino wasn’t real. But sin’s curse is real, and because of it, life often doesn’t give us happy endings.

Life Stinks 

We struggle with the difficulty and the brevity of life.

  • We suffer physical pain. God said to Eve, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (3:16). 
  • We suffer relational conflict. God said to Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (3:16). (This verse probably refers to the struggle for control within marriages. The same Hebrew word translated “desire” is found in 4:7: “[Sin’s] desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”) 
  • We suffer occupational weariness. God said to Adam, “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” (3:17-18). 
  • We suffer death. God said to Adam, “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” (3:19). “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14, NKJV). 

Life often causes us to groan. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves…groan inwardly” (Rom. 8:22-23). “In this [body] we groan” (2 Cor. 5:2).

Reversing the Curse 

We try to reverse the curse of sin in many ways (anesthetics, marriage seminars, medicine). But we can never eradicate the curse.

Life causes us to groan, but God has planned a happy ending. 

To the serpent, God said, “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” (3:15). This verse is often called the “Protoevangelium,” which means the “first gospel.” Eve’s first son (4:1) would bring her sorrow, but there would come one “born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4, NKJV) who would bring hope to the world. His name is Jesus.

Once when I was raking my yard, I disturbed a snake. I hit the snake repeatedly with the rake until it was dead. But I broke the rake. (It was a borrowed rake.) In killing the snake, I broke the rake. In crushing the serpent's head, Jesus died. He “partook of [flesh and blood], that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14).

C. S. Lewis once said that “creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exist. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world” (Mere Christianity). We long for something more because we were made for something more.

The Bible ends with a vision of this other world. The apostle John writes, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Rev. 21:1-5). Later, John writes, “No longer will there be anything accursed” (22:3). Whether we realize it or not, this is the happy ending we desire. All who put their faith in Christ will experience this happy ending.

Happily Ever After 

One popular view of death is that it is simply a natural part of life that we must embrace. But no matter how we tell this to themselves, death never becomes easy for us to accept. Death is an unhappy ending to life, and we naturally crave happy endings.

When we are a fan of a baseball team, we long for a happy ending to the season. When we read a novel or watch a movie, we want the story’s main characters to live “happily ever after.” Years ago, instead of “happily ever after,” stories ended with the words “happily until they died,” which does not sound quite as happy. But it’s true that every life ends in death. And death is sad. It’s not a happy ending.

Thankfully, God did not accept death but sent Christ into the world to defeat it. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection began the countdown to when God would rid his creation of the curse. When “[God] will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more.”

In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Professor Dumbledore says, “After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” For the Christian, this is true. Death is not really the end. Death begins something new—a new story, a sequel. A story free from disappointment, conflict, frustration, suffering, and death. A story filled with never-ending chapters of joy, peace, pleasure, and fulfillment.

For all those who experience this new life, it can truly be said, “And they lived happily ever after.”

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