Banished

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HOME FOR CHRISTMAS Series
“Banished” (Genesis 3:21-24)

INTRODUCTION: Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Our message series is called Home for Christmas, and this year for Advent I want to lead us through a series of messages around the biblical idea of home. The biblical story begins with us at home with God in the garden, the biblical story and ends with us at home with God in the new heaven and earth. But a whole lot goes on in between.

And so, each week we will focus on a different part of the story. And each week we will focus on a single word that captures that particular part of the story. The four words I’ve selected to represent these various parts of the story are: 1) banished, 2) wandering, 3) longing, and 4) home. Together these four words tell the story of home in the Bible. Our first word is “banished,” and we find this idea introduced in Genesis 3. (Read Genesis 3:21-24 and pray.)

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Home for Christmas! It’s a comforting thought, isn’t it? The ideal of “home for Christmas” brings thoughts of family, warmth, shelter, happy memories. Christmas is a special time of the year. It’s a time for coming together and for sharing special memories from over the years.

When it comes to Christmas, I think we can all echo Dorothy’s words in the Wizard of Oz: “Oh Aunty Em, there’s no place like home.” There’s no place like home for Christmas. There’s a sadness we experience when we can’t be home for Christmas. And that sadness reflects our current state with God apart from Christ.

God sent Jesus at Christmas in order to bring us home to him. But someone might wonder, why? Why do we need Jesus to get back home with God? Why was Christmas necessary?

This morning as we begin our series, we are going to go back to the beginning. We are going to see what our original home with God was like, how we lost it, and how we can get it back. Genesis is the book of beginnings, and so much of what we will look at today comes from Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

I. Home with God

In the beginning God gave us a beautiful home in the Garden of Eden. Let me share with you some of the blessings God invested in our original home.

   A. Blessed with physical provision (Genesis 2:8-9)

First of all, we were blessed with physical provision. We read in Genesis 2:8-9: “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:8-9)

Everything we needed God provided. He didn’t just provide one tree from which to eat in the garden. He made all kinds of trees with all kinds of fruit, tress that were beautiful to look at, trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. God gave Adam and Eve a home with a full pantry that would never go empty. We were blessed with abundant physical provision in our beautiful home.

   B. Blessed with meaningful work (Genesis 1:26, 2:15)

Secondly, we were also blessed with meaningful work. We read in Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26) God’s intention from the beginning was that we would find meaning and purpose in our work. God created the earth for us. God created us to rule over all the earth and to take care of his beautiful creation.

So, we should not be surprised when we come to Genesis 2:15 and read: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15) In the beginning God gave Adam a job. The Garden of Eden had a remarkable 0% unemployment rate. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that in our nation right now? Work is an important part of our lives, and even when we retire from our main jobs, we still need to find meaningful work and tasks to fill our days.

   C. Blessed with intimate relationship (Genesis 2:22-25)

Thirdly, we were blessed with intimate relationship in our beautiful home. We read in Genesis 2:22-25: “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:22-25) It was not good for man to be alone, so God created a companion for him.

It’s not easy living alone, and if you do live alone, it’s so important to form friendships and relationships outside of the home. That’s one of the purposes of the church. Church is a place we can truly call family, for we in the church we are truly brothers and sisters in Christ.

Of course, it’s not always easy living with others either. There are few things as painful as living with broken relationships within the home. This is one of the results of sin in our world, but our initial home in the garden had no sin. Genesis says that Adam and Eve were both naked, and they felt no shame. That means they enjoyed intimate relationship together in perfect harmony and peace.

   D. Blessed with sweet fellowship with God (Genesis 3:8a)

And then, finally, most important of all, we were also blessed with sweet fellowship with God. We read in Genesis 3:8: “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.” (Genesis 3:8a) Now God is Spirit. He does not have a physical form. He does not walk. He does not have legs. So, we should understand this as a poetic description of the spiritual fellowship Adam and Eve enjoyed with God in the garden.

What a beautiful home! We were blessed with physical provision, meaningful work, intimate relationship and sweet fellowship with God. What more could you ask? Sounds like the ideal home to me!

II. Banished because of sin

So, what happened? Why aren’t we still living in that beautiful home with God? The answer is we were banished because of sin. God spent all of Genesis 1 preparing this beautiful home for us. Then in Genesis 2 we see Adam and Eve enjoying this beautiful home God prepared for us. But then in Genesis 3 all that was ruined when Adam and Eve sin against God.

   A. Sin as disobedience to God (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6)

There are many ways God describes sin to us in the Bible, but perhaps the easiest way to understand sin is simply as disobedience to God. All sin is sin against God – even sin against other people, even sin when you are not thinking about God. All sin is sin against God, because all sin involves disobedience to God’s commands.

God gave us a beautiful home in the garden, but as with any home there were some house rules for Adam and Eve to obey. Look at Genesis 2:16-17: “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17)

House rules when done right are set up for the benefit of the home and those living in the home. In God’s wisdom it was good for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to be in the garden, but it would not be good for the man and the woman to eat from it. So, he gave them a very simple rule. Don’t eat from the tree! You have all these other wonderful trees in the garden, and you are free to eat from any that you wish, but don’t eat from this one tree right here in the middle of the garden.

So, what did we do? Genesis 3:6: “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.” (Genesis 3:6)

We have a saying these days when people mess up something simple. We say, “You had one job!” Well, Adam and Eve had only one house rule, and they broke it. They disobeyed God and introduced sin into our world.

   B. Direct consequences of sin:

And there were consequences to their actions. There are always consequences for sin, but the consequences for the first sin introduced into God’s perfect world were especially severe. Here are some of the direct consequences of sin.

      1) broken relationships (Genesis 3:7)

First of all, broken relationships. We read in Genesis 3:7: “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.” (Genesis 3:7) God had given Adam and Eve the blessing of perfect, intimate relationship in the garden. Now for the first time there was a rift between them. They no longer felt comfortable with each other. Soon they would start blaming and accusing each other. Broken relationships are a direct consequence of sin, and it was one of the first consequences in the garden.

      2) painful toil (Genesis 3:16-17)

A second consequence of sin was painful toil. Back to Genesis 3 we read in verses 16-17: “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’ To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat of it,” ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.’” (Genesis 3:16-17)

God blessed us with meaningful work in the garden. As a result of sin, we traded meaningful work for painful toil. By God’s grace we can still find meaning and satisfaction in our work today, but all work has been affected by the curse, and even our best efforts are stained by sin.

      3) death and dying (Genesis 2:17, 3:18)

A third consequence of sin was death and dying. God had told Adam in Genesis 2:17: “… but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) After Adam ate from the tree God told him in Genesis 3:18: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:18)

God had blessed us with abundant physical provision in the garden – everything we needed – no hunger, no sickness, no pain. Now we would experience the effects of death and dying, all because we sinned against God.

      4) separation from God (Genesis 3:8; Isaiah 59:2)

And then a fourth consequence of sin was separation from God. Remember how Adam and Eve enjoyed sweet fellowship with God in the garden? We read in Genesis 3:8: “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.” (Genesis 3:8) This time when God came walking, instead of enjoying sweet fellowship with their Creator, they ran away and they hid. Their sin had separated them from God, and the fellowship was broken.

And lest you think that was something that just happened to Adam and Eve, the Bible tells us that we too are separated from God because of sin. Isaiah 59:2 says: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)

   C. Banished from our beautiful home with God (Genesis 3:22-23)

These are all direct consequences of sin, and, as a result of sin, we were banished from our beautiful home with God. We read in Genesis 3: “And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.” (Genesis 3:22-23)

God created a beautiful home for us with him, and we were banished from that home because of sin.

III. Blocked from returning

But we are not only banished from this beautiful home God had prepared for us. We are also blocked from returning. We read in Genesis 3:24: “After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24) Adam and Eve were not only banished because of sin, but they were blocked from returning.

   A. Blocked from returning by our own efforts

We have also been separated from God because of sin, and we also are blocked from returning. But let me clarify that, because God has made a way back for us. That’s what the message of Christmas and the Bible and Jesus and the gospel is all about. So, when we say we are blocked from returning, we should really understand that we are blocked from returning by our own efforts.

      1) Blocked by God’s holiness (Genesis 3:24a)

Why are we blocked from returning? First of all, we are blocked by God’s holiness. That’s how we should understand the flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way back to the garden. Fire in the Bible can be a sign of God’s judgment, but it is also a symbol of God’s holiness.

We cannot understand sin and the consequences of sin unless we first understand God’s holiness. God is absolutely holy and just. He cannot allow any sin in his presence. When we sinned against God, we created the separation. The garden represented our perfect home with God. And we are blocked from returning to that home because of our sin and God’s holiness.

      2) Cut off from the tree of life (Genesis 3:24b)

We are also cut off from the tree of life. The flaming sword blocked the way back to the garden, but it also specifically guarded the way to the tree of life. The tree of life offered eternal life with God in his presence. But we cannot get back to the garden and the tree of life by our own efforts, for we are blocked from returning.

   B. Dependent on God’s grace

And that means we are completely dependent on God’s grace. And, praise God, we don’t need to wait until we get to the New Testament to learn about God’s grace. As terrible as the consequences of sin we find in Genesis 3 are, Genesis 3 is also full of signs of God’s grace. Let me share three of them with you in closing.

      1) God’s promise of a Savior (Genesis 3:15)

First of all, we find God’s promise of a Savior. God tells the serpent in Genesis 3:15: “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.” (Genesis 3:15) This is the first of many promises of a Savior in the Bible, and God gives it immediately after the first sin. In fact, God gives Adam and Eve the promise of a Savior before he even tells them the consequences of their sin.

      2) our faith in God’s promise (Genesis 3:20)

Secondly, we find a beautiful example of faith in God’s promise. We read in Genesis 3:20: “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” (Genesis 3:20) God had just told Adam that he and his descendants were cursed with death because of sin. Everyone would die because of sin. And yet Adam named his wife “Eve,” because she would become the mother of all the living. Adam believed God’s promise of a Savior, and he believed God’s promise of life.

We also find our way back to God through faith. We are blocked from returning by our own efforts, but when we put our faith in God’s promised Savior, we find our way back to relationship with God and the free gift of eternal life.

      3) our need for a sacrifice (Genesis 3:21)

And then, finally, we learn of our need for a sacrifice. We read in Genesis 3:21: “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) Adam and Eve were naked and in need of clothing. God graciously provided for them through the sacrifice of an animal.

That sacrifice, as with all the sacrifices in the Old Testament, points forward to Jesus. We also are naked before God because of our sin. But God sent his own Son as a sacrifice for our sin. And when you put your faith in Christ, God clothes you in the righteousness of his Son.

CONCLUSION: It’s been said, “You can’t go home again.” But that’s not what God says. God sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sins so that you could return home to him and be with him forever. And so, God says, “Come home!” Come home to God and the blessings he offers you in Jesus. Come home to God for Christmas.

© Ray Fowler

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