The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:8
It might feel a little harsh that everything except those in the ark were utterly and completely destroyed at the hand of God. Sin is a big deal to God and He doesn’t look on it lightly. It separates us from Him. It keeps us from living our best lives.
But there is another truth about God: He is slow to anger. He is merciful and gracious. He is patient with us. He has given us space and time to come to Him in our own free will. He knows we will mess up and we can’t fix things – fix sin – on our own. God wants us to come to Him and be reconciled. So much so that as God’s story unfolds, we will see He sends His Son to die to make the sin payment for us.
A time is coming when Jesus will return again and all will be judged; all those who have not accepted His payment for sin on their behalf will receive the punishment upon themselves. Sometimes we may wish for Jesus to hurry up His return to earth; to come quickly to defeat sin and suffering and death. But God is patient…for all those He loves who have yet to accept His gracious and merciful gift of salvation.
In our human nature, we are often quick to give up on things and people who continue to let us down. But God is patient.
God’s nature is love. He is abounding in STEADFAST – unwavering, unfaltering, resolute, persistent, committed-- LOVE for me and for you…and for that person you are praying for who is currently far from Him. He hasn’t given up on you or them.
God’s love is not for some perfect future version of who we could be, but who we are right here and now. Don’t waste this time you have been given. He is patient, but it won’t last forever.
Questions: What would things look like if God was quick to anger? How does God’s patience in the present often keep us from having a sense of urgency about others knowing Him?
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7
Cain doesn’t react so well to God’s lack of regard for his offering. It again reveals what is brewing in his heart and what God saw when Cain presented the offering. He has a heart full of anger and a focus on himself. God knows this is a recipe for disaster in our lives.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us how these temptations from the devil grow in us. It starts with a desire that isn’t of God; a desire to focus on ourselves and/or to do wrong. If it is not addressed, it gives birth to sin. And sin grows and grows and gets easily out of control. (James 1:14-15) This is why God warns us to see it and nip it in the bud.
A quote I often repeat when I am angry like Cain is, “the level of your irritation often reveals the depth of your idolatry.” Think about the things that tend to irritate you the most. They are likely tied to things you are clinging to over God. Your reputation, your social status, your security, things you think you deserve and don’t have, work you are doing or want to do. Not necessarily bad things, but they become problematic when we elevate them to a higher position than they should be and care about protecting them at all costs; when we love them more than we love God.
God warns Cain (and us!) that sin is crouching at the door. We must rule over it. Here is some good news…While temptation is never from God (James 1:13), God promises that with any temptation, He provides a way of escape so we can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). We have the power in God to rule over the sin crouching at the door.
Challenge: When you feel irritated this week, stop and examine the root of it. Is sin crouching at the door? Is an idol being revealed you need to address? Immediately pray about it and ask God to show you the path to overcome it.
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 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. Genesis 3:14-15
Back to the Old Testament and the backlash of that dreadful bite of fruit. God tells Adam, Eve and Satan what the consequences of their actions will be. For women, there will be multiplied sorrows and pain in childbirth. For man, work will now be hard. For all of us, there will be no more eternal life on this side of heaven. We will experience pain and death.
Sin is a big deal to God.
To Satan (the devil), God says that although he will bruise the heel of God’s people (inflicting a wounding and negative effect, but not destruction), someone greater, from the seed of the woman, will bruise Satan’s head. A mortal wound with complete destruction and death.
This is the first hint of Jesus’ work on earth to come. He is the one who will be victorious over Satan. As we progress through the Bible, we will read many stories of God’s people, but know that Jesus coming to die on the cross to save us and defeat sin and death was God’s plan of restoration from the beginning.
Sin is now in the world. Satan is doing his “bruising” in all of our lives. We continue to fall for his lies and manipulation. We experience pain and hardship and suffering. The heel-bruising is brutal, no doubt.
But have confidence knowing that sin and Satan and death will be defeated. God has a plan. He always had a plan. A plan that leads reconciliation and for us to be wholly restored and with Him forever. Our job is to believe and put our faith in His perfect plan.
Questions: Have you ever given much thought to the destructive consequences of sin? Why do you think sin is such a big deal to God?
“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Luke 12:2-3
A brief fast forward to the New Testament. Here Jesus is talking to His followers. He is reminding them that we may think things are hidden and done in secret, but God always sees and knows.
If we are honest, we all have secrets. There are some things we only do in the “dark” (in private, or with those we know won’t challenge us and hold us accountable). Whispers, untruths, unkind thoughts, hidden desires, impure motives, rebellious attitudes toward someone or something. Some things we do in the dark because we want to, and some things we don’t even want to do…they have a hold on us. Even Paul, one of the great early Christian leaders, wrote in Romans, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:19-20)
And you know what else? That thing that was done to you that no one knows about…God knows. It isn’t hidden. That person that seems to have gotten away with it…God knows. It isn’t in the dark.
We don’t have to feel condemned or hopeless as we step out of the dark places into the light. God is patiently waiting for us. He knows all we have ever done or will do, and He loves us very much.
As hard as it may be, we need to let God know that we know what He already knows. God desires our freedom. Shame, fear, and dread live in the darkness, but peace, restoration, and joy are found in the light.
Challenge: Take some time to reflect on things you may be doing in the “dark” – in secret, or maybe even in your thought life. Bring them to God. Ask for His power to help you get back on track. Make a commitment to live like everything is visible and out in the open; to not do anything in secret that you wouldn’t do in the presence of others – even God, who sees everything.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:6-7
We have freedom to decide whether or not we want to do what God says.
But because God is perfect and holy and just, our choices have consequences.
The first humans listened to the lies of Satan over the truth of God. They chose to do the ONE thing that was forbidden. They had everything they could ever want or need…but they wanted more. With that choice…that bite… sin entered the world.
Their eyes were open. What was once only good all around them was now corrupt. They recognized their nakedness, and filled with a new emotion – shame – they tried to hide and fix things on their own with fig leaves.
Instead of owning up to their disobedience, they tried to cover it up. We fall into that trap too, don’t we? We think we can hide from our sin and conceal it with what amounts to flimsy fig leaves.
But God sees and knows everything. We will soon see that those figs leaves don’t really cover up their sin, just like our efforts on our own will never cover our sins. They – and we -- need a bigger and more powerful savior.
Questions: What is your first reaction when your eyes are open to sin? Do you quickly confess or try to cover it up?
He [Satan] said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1b-5
So, things are pretty good for the first several pages of the Bible. There is no sin, no pain, no heartbreak, no toil in work, no jealousy…not even death. But it doesn’t last long. The devil is lurking around in the form of a serpent. We are told he is more crafty than any other beast of the field that God made. He seeks to plant doubt in our minds and destructive desires in our heart. Satan’s initial words to Eve (the first woman God created to live with Adam) were, ”Did God actually say…”
Oh, the pain that is caused by a strategically planted seed of doubt about who God is and what He says! The devil only has a few tricks he uses, but they are very effective: questioning the goodness of God and dangling things before us that are pleasing to the eye and ego. All rooted in pride, pleasure, and power. He does it by shifting our focus on things that look, seem, feel good…but we know are only destructive. Encouraging us to look out for ourselves instead of others. Convincing us we need something we can’t or shouldn’t have. Cheering us on to chase an upper hand or elevated position. Demanding we deserve revenge. Whispering doubt about God’s love for us.
The devil became the devil in rebellion against God, seeking a name and empire for himself. He is on a mission to drag us into his hell of the ongoing quest to find satisfaction and fulfillment in these things. Only our Creator can provide what truly satisfies us. Our job is to believe, trust, and obey Him.
Questions: What things generally tempt you the most? Do you see the root of the devil’s tactics in what draws you to these things?
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
Did you catch what one of the first assignments God gave man was? It was to work in the garden. We were created to work and it is a good and pleasurable thing.
God also told Adam all of creation was his to enjoy. There is only one requirement…one tree is off limits for eating. Only ONE thing was prohibited. He mustn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
In order for us to have free will, we must have choices. Without something being forbidden there is no choice. And God wants our love for Him to be a decision we make. He could have created us without the choice and forced us to obey Him, but that wouldn’t be genuine love. God wants our obedience and love to be something we willingly do, not something forced on us.
The forbidden tree is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Can you imagine a world where not only is there no evil, but you don’t even know of its existence? It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?! God doesn’t just tell Adam not to eat of the tree, He also tells him the consequences…death.
Absent of sin, there is not death.
As long as Adam obeys this ONE command – avoiding the fruit of the one tree among ALL of the abundance around him – he remains in the eternal and perfect presence of God.
Questions: Have you ever been in a situation where there were a million things you could do and one thing you couldn’t? Where does your mind usually go…to all of the things you have or the one thing you don’t?
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