In chapter 1 of Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth – the universe – in 6 days. He looked around and said, ‘this is good.’ It was also on the 6th day that he created man and woman and then he said, ‘this is very good.’ The creation of mankind completed his work, and he was pleased. Then in chapter 2, the creation story of man and woman, Adam & Eve, is repeated in more detail, which is God’s way of showing the importance of mankind in his creation.
But before we get too ahead of ourselves – as most of you would know – history took a turn in chapter 3. Adam & Eve brought sin into the world: they were deceived by Satan and disobeyed God’s word. Perhaps the word ‘sin’ confuses you and you don’t know how to define it; well, here is the original definition. In fact, we can simply state it like this: when God created the universe he created it with purpose and with order – okay, sun, you stay in the middle, and we’ll get you, planets, to revolve around, okay, now on earth, I’d like the trees to maintain safe levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen, way to go, trees, and I’d like the ocean to simply tide itself on and off the land – and so on and so forth. Simply put: God created the universe, but he created the universe with a certain purpose, order and structure for how the universe should go about being the universe.
And the universe obeyed his word.
The same thing happened with mankind: God created us with purpose and with order, and with structure for how mankind should go about being mankind. But, unlike the universe, Adam & Eve rejected God’s purpose, God’s order, and God’s structure for them. And that was sin.
It still is.
It is in chapter 3 - after sin is introduced to the world - that we read one of my favourite passages of Scripture. In this text we see God addressing Satan, him being the original tempter of sin. The whole Bible can be read in light of this passage:
“I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:15
The poetic truth behind that passage is this: as history goes on, there will be two types of seed – one that follows Satan and one that follows Eve – there will be enormous hostility between these seeds, but eventually a Man will be born from the seed of Eve and he will engage in battle with Satan. And what will happen in that battle: the Man will strike the head of Satan with his heel – defeating him once and for all – but, in the process, Satan will strike the Man’s heel, causing him temporary pain. This verse is a very poetic image of what happened when Jesus died on the cross. So this is good news! Even though mankind had sinned against God, He will deal justly with Satan, the one who tempted man in the first place.
But it’s not all good news: God still had to deal with mankind. Although a plan was devised for Satan to be dealt with, the problem of sin still abounds. In fact it abounded with force, we see the immediate effects in Genesis 4 when Cain murdered Abel, and in chapter 5 – which some people call ‘the chapter of death.’ And sin and death have been abounding ever since – read a newspaper.
Thankfully, we do have good news on this front: again, in Genesis 3, we don’t just see how God responds to Satan but we see how God responds to sin, and this sets the rest of history in motion:
“The LORD God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.” – Genesis 3:21
Translation: Adam & Eve were ashamed of their nakedness because of sin, so God showed them the ugliness and consequence of their actions by finding an innocent animal, ripping its body apart – probably in front of them – and using its skin to clothe them.
This was a foreshadowing of what was to come. God chose Israel to be his people whereby the Promised Man would be born. But in order for Israel to be God’s people, God had to make a way for them to deal with their sin. By the way, they did not deal with their sin in a wishy-washy manner like shooting up a prayer, asking God to forgive them, and walking away feeling warm and gooey inside.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
What God began in Eden became the law for Israel: every year an innocent animal – in their case, a lamb – was brought to God as a sacrifice for their sin; the lamb was killed in front of their eyes but – more than that – it was killed in front of their eyes as they held its head. How personal is that? But let me state this in more positive language: real, personal sinners received real, personal forgiveness. That’s the message of this one act: sin is very real and so is forgiveness. You must believe that.
For thousands of years this was the law and practice of Israel – they sacrificed lambs to compensate for their sin and they awaited the Promised Man from the seed of Eve – until one day, in a place called Bethany, about 3kms from Jerusalem, this happened: