Key verse: Genesis 3:15
Big idea: In the beginning, God promised a Son.
In Genesis 1 and 2, we saw God create a world to be a sanctuary of His glory and gave humanity a special role within it as royal priests. Adam and Eve were given a special responsibility to represent God and tend to this garden-sanctuary on His behalf. In today's chapter, we see them abandon their rightful duties and choose to serve a different master. We see them bring their own lives down from the heights of fellowship with God and His glory to exile and ultimately death. We see the creation they were entrusted with placed under a curse. But why?
There are different kinds of consequences for our actions: arbitrary consequences and natural consequences. If I am driving my car too fast, an arbitrary consequence is a ticket. It is just but does not really have anything to do with the crime. A natural consequence of driving too fast is a crash. There, the penalty arises naturally from what I have done. Being grounded for not picking up your toys is an arbitrary consequence; seeing them ruined by the rain when they have been left in the grass is a natural one. God told Adam that if they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die. This might seem arbitrary, but I think it is really natural. If they choose to sin, they cut themselves out of the presence of the Life. Death is the inevitable result of rupturing that relationship. They are given the life of God and fellowship with God to carry out their responsibilities as image-bearers and worshippers. When they abandon that responsibility, the resources which were given to support their work are withdrawn. CS Lewis put it this way: "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."
But if the consequence is not arbitrary, neither is the remedy. A man had lost the world and a Man would have to regain it. The first Adam had handed his descendants over to the dominion of sin, and a new Adam would need to be the spearhead of a new humanity. God did not intend to merely start over. He intended to rescue humanity from within, so He promised a Son. This Son would be human, to rightfully regain what was lost. He would take the penalty of that rebellion to finish it once and for all. But this Son would not fall into the same failure, because He would not be the Son of any human father, but of God Himself. For the rest of the Old Testament, we will work toward this promise, but over and over again, the Promiser will prove He is faithful.
Discussion idea: Why did God choose to send a Son descended from humanity instead of starting over? What does God's commitment to His creation mean for us?
Prayer focus: Lord, I know that your promises often seem delayed and that our slavery to this world often seems never-ending, but I thank you for your faithfulness in sending your Son to rescue us, and trust that as surely as He came to redeem us, He will come again to restore us.
Key verse: Matthew 3:3
Big idea: John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus the King.
When we are telling the narrative of our lives, there is no mystery about who the hero will be. A fundamental consequence of our sinful nature is the illusion that we are the most important people around, and everyone else exists to serve us. Like children who pick the guests at their birthday by who brings the best gifts, we treat others as a means to an end.
John the Baptist was different. He knew that he was not the main event and was always mindful that he was just the opening act. No one trying to develop his personal fan club says things like “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:8). John’s message was simple: The King is coming, so turn from your sins and prepare for his arrival. He baptized those who believed what he taught and showed it. They were buried in the water and raised again as startling symbols of their death to their old way of living and new life with God. Those who were baptized by John formed the raw materials that Jesus would use to begin building His church (something we will see in Acts 1:22). John viewed his whole life as a tool in the hands of a master craftsman.
John was never looking for personal glory. In fact, when his big moment came, he tried to turn it down! Jesus came to him to be baptized, and John wanted to talk him out of it by saying that he was the one who needed to be baptized (Matthew 3:14). Jesus was the one whose sandals John did not feel worthy to carry like a slave. But John did submit to baptizing Jesus to fulfill God’s righteous plan, and when Jesus came out of the water, the Father Himself declared His pleasure in the Son. The one who had devoted his life to preparing the way for the King was ultimately able to prepare the King Himself.
How different would our lives be if we saw ourselves as extras in a play where Jesus is the only star? Which humbling opportunities would we take? Which impressive ones would we leave on the table? If John the Baptist has been one of the countless Jewish rabbis that tried to build a following for himself, we would never know his name. Because he chose to seek God first, he has gone down in history as the one who prepared the way for the Lord.
Discussion idea: Which of your priorities would be different if you believed that your ultimate purpose was something beyond your own life? What patterns of selfishness do you see in your life?
Prayer focus: Pray for God to give you strength against the things which feed your self-centeredness and to give you the clarity of mind to see your place as part of a much bigger puzzle.