Let us pray: Dear Father in heaven, save us each day from the inroads of the Evil One. Deliver us from his seductive voice of selfishness. Thwart his attempts to stroke our pride at the expense of Your love. Remove his lying and deceitful voice from our ear. Take away his lack of thankfulness which inhabits us all. And instead of all this evil, put in our hearts the truthfulness of genuine repentance and the thankfulness of life-generating forgiveness through the love of Christ. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR FORGIVING LORD!
TEXT: Genesis 3: 8-15
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Smart people can be very stupid. What’s even more amazing is how often they pass their stupidity off as intelligence. At some point in their college career, university-trained people are forced to deal with the problem of evil. Simply put, the problem of evil is this: “How do you explain the reality of evil in this world?” Or: “Why do ‘bad’ things happen?” This discussion isn’t confined to philosophy class, either. No, you have to face it in literature class, history class, biology, social science, psychology, and every other discipline which touches mankind. Likewise, “Where does evil come from and why?” hits home every day whether you turn on your T.V., open your newspaper, or hear the sirens wail in the distance. The party line of the “smart” set is this: “We don’t know why evil exists, it just does.” How’s that for delving into the truth? O, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another university view, as well. Our liberal friends try mightily not to face up to the reality of evil by saying: “There really is no such thing as an evil person. They are just misunderstood, haven’t been taught the commonly accepted ways of society, and through education they are reformable.” Following that argument, rape, murder, and domestic violence would not be evil if society deemed them to be the “norm.”
I started out by saying: “Smart people can be very stupid.” I said that because the vast majority of smart people in our society reject God’s answer and solution to the problem of evil in favor of a shrug of the shoulders and a: “I don’t know.” And all of us would agree that: “I don’t know” isn’t a very intelligent answer. Historically there are two answers to this problem of evil. One is dualism. Most world religions fall into this category. Dualism says: “Good and evil exist together and life is but a continual struggle between them.” It’s the old “ying and yang” of Chinese philosophy. If you believe that, then you’re going to be very fatalistic about your life. For it means that the moment you’re truly happy, that joy will be snatched away. If good and evil are of equal force and you’re caught in the middle, you will have no hope for lasting joy and certainly no hope for heaven. Many of those smart university trained people have come back to this train of thought. It helps explain why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to bad people. The fact that the “New Age” movement, taken from Eastern mysticism and dualism, is on the upswing in our culture reveals this. We don’t like it, but “hey” we have to live with it and cannot change it, right? Wrong!
Christianity’s solution to the problem of evil has been roundly rejected by most of those “smart” people as simplistic and outmoded. However, only Christianity actually addresses the hard questions concerning evil. The Bible clearly teaches that God, the All-powerful Creator, is only good. It teaches that He made man in His image: sinless, untouched by evil. It teaches that both humans and angels were given a free will to willingly embrace good or to turn away from it—to evil. It teaches that for a human’s will to be truly free and not coerced, we had to be faced with such a free choice. And it also teaches that man made the wrong choice thus bringing evil into this world through the exercise of pride.
That’s the story of our text, isn’t it? But, the story doesn’t stop there. No, Christianity also teaches that because God is more powerful than man or Satan’s will, ultimately good will triumph over evil. Good will vanquish evil by making the ultimate sacrifice of love: God giving His life for His fallen creation. In other words, only Christianity conveys true hope for a better tomorrow. Only Christianity can hold out the certainty of heaven and the comfort that “all things work for good to those who love God.” Today’s lesson teaches all these things by answering the question:
WHERE DOES THE BUCK REALLY STOP?
Of course, the buck I’m talking about is the buck of responsibility. Who’s responsible for human evil? Who brought its curse into God’s creation? Who must pay for such a coup attempt against the Almighty? Let’s see what our lesson says about these questions.
Our first parents exercised their free will by disobeying God. Satan had inhabited the body of a snake and tempted them to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. For the first time they know evil. They know the guilt and shame that evil brings. Even though they are the only people on the planet, even though they are married, they are ashamed to appear naked before one another and before God. Their attempts at trying to sew fig leaves together to cover themselves is ridiculous.—Just as their attempts at eluding God are ridiculous. “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. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’” Obviously no one can hide their shame from God, just as we cannot hide our bodies from Him. The very fact that they tried to do so both shows the level of their stupidity and the shame that evil now brings.
“And God said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’” Why does God seek them out in the first place? Why does God ask this leading question, when, as God, He already knew the answer? The reason is this: God wanted to give them a chance to come forward and confess. He wanted to give them the opportunity to repent and try to make amends on their own. But they wouldn’t and couldn’t. For such is the corrupting nature of evil. Now, we see that failure to take responsibility for their actions played out in their dialogue with God.
“The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’” (Here Adam in essence blames God for giving him Eve, as if it’s God’s fault instead of his own.) “Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” Again, Eve passes the buck to the serpent instead of saying: “I’m guilty and I’m sorry.” That’s the nature of evil, isn’t it?—It never let’s the buck stop with it. Instead, it tries to be devious and shifty.
This first fall into sin has brought evil upon all mankind. Evil brings mistrust and fear into human life. Evil destroys openness and trust. Communion with God is no longer man’s highest delight. Instead, God’s ways and His goodness are shunned as vexing and something to be avoided at all costs.—Even the cost of one’s soul! But, the very fact that Adam and Eve are not happy shows us the nature of Satan’s cruel joke. It shows us that the buck of responsibility for sin rests squarely on the broken shoulders of human beings.—And that those broken shoulders cannot carry such a great weight.
Man must pay for his folly and arrogance! Satan must pay for corrupting God’s creation. The serpent must pay for being used in such a vile manner. “So the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.’”
The fact that the vast majority of humans abhor snakes today shows the reality of this judgment. And then, to all these pride-destroyed players, God goes on to say: “And 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.” In other words, every generation coming from our first parents will be forced to battle evil and Satan. We will be forced to engage in this cosmic struggle of knowing good and evil and trying to destroy evil with good, but not being able to do so on our own. That’s because evil always crops up again and again. Indeed, how often do you see goodly minded men use some sort of evil to combat a greater evil? Doesn’t that fact show that evil can never be destroyed by man’s well-meaning attempts?
However, the 2nd half of this prophecy for all time holds the key to our struggle against evil. It says that one Offspring of the woman, One Man will come forth and crush the ultimate power of evil which is fear of God, alienation from Him, and ultimately death. Yes, Satan will be able to bruise the Savior’s heel, or strike at it, as the Savior crushes him. But, finally, God will prevail. Good will prevail. And our fear of God will be removed.
You and I know that Jesus Christ was that Savior. He was the One Who restored openness with God. He removed the curse of evil which is death, by dying in our place. He was made to be sin for us, evil for us, and to die to and for that sin. And the purpose behind all this?—So that through faith in Him we could become holy, good, and loved by God once more.
In Romans 16:20 Paul states the outcome of Christ’s victory. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Likewise, in Hebrews 2: 14: we read: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.” My friends, that is God’s gift to you today through faith in your Savior! Where does the buck really stop? It stops with God, Who has lovingly repaired the damage of our sin in Christ and Who gives us the real answer as to why evil still exists—to show forth our love for Him in how we handle it. Amen