Hosea, Joel, Amos

Hosea:
First-rate commentaries: Anderson/Freedman, Macintosh, Wolff

Second-rate: Mays, Kidner, Ben Zvi

Forthcoming: Dearman (NICOT), Daniels (HCOT)

Conservative: Kidner, Dearman; Moderate: Anderson/Freedman, Macintosh, Mays; Liberal: Wolff, Ben Zvi; Unknown: Daniels

Joel:
First-rate commentaries: Crenshaw, Barton, Wolff, Finley. Finley is the lone conservative of these four; Crenshaw and Barton are moderate, and Wolff is liberal.

All other commentaries on Joel are listed in the Minor Prophets post.

Amos:
First-rate: Anderson/Freedman, Paul, Smith (Mentor), Jeremias, Finley, Wolff

Second-rate: Mays

Conservative: Smith, Finley, Carroll; Moderate: Anderson/Freedman, Paul, Jeremias, Mays; Liberal: Wolff; Unknown: Dijkstra

Forthcoming: Carroll R. (NICOT), Dijkstra (HCOT)

Justification and Life

Genesis 3:20-24
A silver lining is a beautiful thing. It can be that unlooked for hope that stays with us and helps us in a very unhappy hour. They can be little things, like a good meal with good friends. They could be a phone call, just when we are most depressed. It could be a word of encouragement. When we are in a dark place that is really pitch black, the least little bit of light seems almost like the light of day.

Adam and Eve were in a very dark place. They had sinned. They had received their judgment. Now, they were wondering how in the world they could live in this world with such a curse placed on them, and God no longer being in fellowship with them. But there was a silver lining. Adam recognized it. That is why he named his wife the most unlikely name imaginable. God had just proved to Adam that he would die, and he names his wife “Life.” The name “Eve” means “life.” Is that not strange? Why did he do this? The truth is that he had listened carefully to what God had said about them. The promise about the seed meant that there would be children. And so, Adam reconciles with his wife by giving her this beautiful name. There had been a rupture of fellowship between Adam and Eve. Now, Adam heals that rupture, because he has been shown grace from God.

If verse 20 signals a restoration of fellowship between man and wife, the next verse describes the restoration of fellowship of God and man. Both were necessary if Adam and Eve were going to be able to live outside the Garden of Eden. Verse 21 describes a pure act of grace on God’s part. Remember that Adam had found that his paltry covering of fig leaves was not sufficient to cover him on the day of God’s wrath. He needed a covering both so that he could live, and also so that his shame would be covered. Adam could not do this for himself. He needed God to do it for him. So God kills an animal in order to give life to Adam.

We also cannot live by our own deeds. We cannot cover over our own sin by what we do. We need God to cover us with something that will stand up in the day of judgment. We need Christ’s righteousness to cover us, just like the garment of skins covered Adam. We need life to be taken in order for us to have life. Where we were disobedient, Christ was obedient. Where we should have suffered, Christ suffered instead. Christ is our garment of skins that covers us, protecting us from the shame of being judged guilty in God’s sight. Adam and Eve would not have thought of this remedy on their own. They thought that fig leaves were sufficient. But when fig leaves were not sufficient, they had run out of ideas. God needed to step in and fill the gap. It would not have occurred to Adam and Eve that they needed a substitute sacrifice. That is exactly what God provides. We often think the same way. We often think that we are pretty good people. We think that our good deeds out-weigh our bad ones, and that God will therefore be merciful. God does not work with that kind of a standard. God’s standard of righteousness is Himself. Therefore, in order to get to heaven, we need to be perfect, even as our heavenly Father is perfect. But we cannot be perfect. Therefore, we need someone else’s perfection to cover us, so that when God sees us, He sees Christ and His righteousness. When God sees that we have believed in His Son (and even that faith is God’s gift), then God declares in His court-room that we are not guilty. We have Christ’s righteousness credited to us, even though we did not earn it. Our sin is credited to Christ, who has done away with it already on the cross. This doctrine is called justification. It is “just as if I’d never sinned.” This is life for us. Clothing is life.

This is the origin of why we wear clothes. When you put on clothes in the morning, a very mundane task that you do every day, do you think about the fact that you need Christ to clothe you with His righteousness? I would like to challenge us this week: every time we get dressed in the morning, remember that we cannot clothe ourselves in righteousness. Remember that God needs to clothe us. If we believe that Christ died for us, then we are clothed. Let our physical clothes remind us of our spiritual clothing of Christ Jesus.

Verse 22 has to be interpreted very carefully. Every translation that I know of has mistranslated it. What the verse says in these translations is that man has somehow become better, knowing more. Then God gets jealous and fears that mankind has somehow gotten too close to Him. Therefore, God needs to push them down again, and the way to do that is to expel them from the garden. But if Adam and Eve are NOW like God after they ate of the tree, then in what sense could we call that act of disobedience a Fall into sin? It would seem that they received more knowledge. I believe that this interpretation fails to do justice to the passage.

You see, Satan was liar from the beginning. He said, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” This statement is not some kind of half-truth. Satan out and out lied here. Satan was implying that Eve wasn’t like God, and would become so if she ate of the tree. But Eve was already in the image of God. That means that she was like God already. She knew what good and evil was, because of the command not to eat of the tree. Verse 22 should be translated this way, “And the Lord God said, ‘Behold, mankind had been like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed (in this state of fallenness) to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’” Now this statement becomes a statement of grace. Instead of God being afraid that mankind will ascend to heaven on his own, God is making sure that the evil that Adam and Eve fell into will not be permanent. It would be a terrible thing if Adam and Eve, who are no longer like God, as Paul says in Romans 1, would eat from the tree of life, and live forever in this fallen state. Then God could never have fellowship with them again. So God casts them out of the garden. This also then is an act of grace. God does not want Adam and Eve to be tempted to change his condition by artificial means. That would not bring glory to God. The tree of life is for those who have life already. Furthermore, if death has already become a significant part of life, then eternal life in this state would not be a benefit to Adam and Eve.

In Revelation 22, we see that the tree of life is still around. It is being kept as an inheritance for the people of God. We will get to eat of the tree of life again. We must believe that Jesus Christ is our righteousness. We must be righteous. Then, when the consummation of all things is at hand, we will eat of that tree once again. We partake of it in a partial way when we participate in communion. In the Lord’s Supper, we partake of the body of Christ, which is life. Christ is the true manna that gives life. He died on the tree, and made the cross, which had been a symbol of death, he made it a symbol of life. Therefore, the tree of life points to Christ on the cross.

In verse 23, we see that God needed to cleanse his garden-temple. Just as Christ would later cleanse the temple of those carrying on illegal business, so also God cleansed the temple of Eden by banishing Adam and Eve from the garden. Remember, though, that we have seen that this is an act of grace on God’s part. There is a silver lining in the cloud. Yes, the warden is off to jail. Instead of guarding the garden, Adam will be guarded from the garden by the cherubim. And yes, this is parallel to the Exile of Israel in Babylon. However, Christ came into a state of exile. He entered into Adam’s condition (though without sin) so that we might regain what was lost. And Adam himself still had a job to do. He was to work the ground from which he was taken. There was grace there as well.

In verse 24 we see that though God as an angry father might stop short of depriving his son of the inheritance altogether, he will still punish him by throwing him out of the house. Notice where Adam is thrown out. On the east side. That is where the entrance and exit to the garden is. The tabernacle, and later the temple also had their entrances facing east. Out of the east, the magi came and entered the “tabernacle” of the stable, bringing gifts, and signaling that Gentiles would now be allowed into the temple through the person of Jesus Christ. Here, however, God says that they cannot come back into Eden. He takes steps to prevent them from doing so. He places cherubim there. The cherubim take over the job that Adam was supposed to do. Adam was supposed to guard the garden. Now that job will be taken over by the cherubim. Later, the Levites performed this function in the temple grounds. They prevented anyone who was not holy from coming into the temple. There is grace here, too. We may not be able to get back to Eden on our own, but we also need to remember that our inheritance is being guarded for us. No less than cherubim guard it and prevent anyone, including Satan from taking it away again. Eden was not destroyed in the Flood. It is our inheritance, uncorrupted, undefiled, reserved in heaven for us, as Peter says in his first letter.

There is also a flaming sword guarding the garden. This sword is not in the hand of the cherubim. It is a flashing sword that turns every which way to prevent anyone from coming into the garden by any way except through the loss of life. One of the early church fathers said this, “Blessed is He who was pierced and so removed the sword from the entry to paradise.” Christ, by being pierced by a spear, took away the barrier to our entrance. It was His life that was taken. And so, we can have life.

Notice one more thing: Adam and Eve were both driven out. Another early church father comments on this fact, “Where the one was driven out with his wife, having been conquered by his enemy, there the other might return with his spouse (namely, the church of the saints), as a conqueror over his enemy.” Where Adam and Eve were driven out, Christ and His church return, and make the Garden of Eden a new home. Where Adam and Eve had been conquered, Christ and his church are more than conquerors.

We have seen what the Fall has done. We have explored the depth to which Adam and Eve fell. Now, to apply these truths to our lives. How do we try to get back to Eden? Do we try on our own strength? Or do we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit? Maybe we rely on our own strength to reconcile ourselves with our brother. We go there thinking that we can just smooth it over, and everything will be all right. However, Satan tempts us by the unkind words of our brother, and we just blow up. We didn’t pray before the encounter that God would give us patience and the right words to say. We relied on our own strength.

Maybe there is a besetting sin that makes us doubt our own salvation. No matter how hard we have tried, we just cannot seem to get rid of it. Then we lapse into despair, because we think that that sin cannot be conquered. But we need to know that God is always making our inner skin conform to the outer skin of Christ’s righteousness. Our inner skin is being worked on by Christ himself. That outer skin that we receive in justification starts working on the skin underneath, to change it. That is why there is always hope. The struggle is never fruitless, if the strength is Christ’s upon which we rely. Of course, there is a struggle. We are to struggle with sin. But that very fact that we are struggling should be an encouragement to us. Unbelievers do not have that struggle. They don’t put up a fight. It is only the believer that has a war going on inside him. Put the flaming sword of God’s Word as a barrier to your heart. No demons can enter! Your body is the new temple of the Holy Spirit. We need to guard that holy temple with the flaming sword of God’s Word just as the flaming sword guarded the garden of Eden. Then when we finish this fight, run this race, and come to the end of our pilgrimage, we will find that the tree of life is open to us. Life forevermore, blessed by Christ’s presence Himself will be our song.

The Minor Prophets as a whole

This post will deal with whole commentaries on the Minor Prophets, since there are many sets. This will make it far easier to deal with individual prophets in future posts.

First-rate: McComiskey (probably the single best on the Book of the Twelve), NICOT (New International Commentary on the OT), Tyndale, Word Biblical Commentary, Sweeney (in Berit Olam)

Second-rate: Boice, ICC (International Critical Commentary), Pusey (available in Barnes’ Notes), NIB (New Interpreter’s Bible), von Orelli, Achtemeier, Limburg/Achtemeier (Interpretation), FOTL (Forms of OT Literature), NIVAC (NIV Application Commentary), NAC (New American Commentary), Luther volumes 18-20

There are no new complete sets coming out that I am aware of except the revised edition of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary. I believe that that commentary will be written all by one person: Michael Kelly (conservative).

Judgment Day

Genesis 3:8-19
Kids, have you ever been caught with your hand in the cookie jar? I’m sure you know the feeling: you got your taste of sweet cookie, but then your mother comes back into the room. She is sure that you have done something wrong, since there hasn’t been a peep out of you for at least five minutes. You try to make excuses, don’t you? “But Mom, I was hungry, and the cookie jar was calling for me! But Mom, this cookie forced me to eat it! But Mom, it wasn’t me, it was my brother that dared me to do it. But Mom, it wasn’t me, it was my friend whom you invited over to play with me!” That last excuse sounds a lot like the excuse that Adam is about to make, doesn’t it? The real issue here is that we ate out of the cookie jar when we weren’t supposed to. We had been given a clear command from God that we should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and we disobeyed. Let’s not call it by anything else, lest we fall prey to making the same kinds of excuses that Adam and Eve made. Sin is sin, and it is sinful. Sin makes us guilty before a holy God. That is the plain teaching of this passage. There is grace at the end. However, let us not get there too quickly. What happened?

We will remember that Satan bewitched Eve into twisting God’s word by adding to God’s command, softening the punishment, and belittling God’s provision. Then we saw that Satan lied outright to Eve by saying that they would not surely die, when God had said that they would surely die. Satan said that they would become like God in knowing good and evil, when the truth was that they already knew good from evil. We saw the tragic consequences of Adam refusing to step in to defend the garden from the intruder. We saw the tragic consequences of Eve subverting her husband’s authority. We saw the Fall into sin. We saw that they made a pathetic attempt to cover themselves with fig leaves.

Now this week, we see what happens when God comes back into the room. This eighth verse is mistranslated in almost all translations. Most translations give you the impression that Adam and Eve heard the soft rustle of God’s “feet” as He took a stroll in the cool of the day, which is supposedly at evening. That is not what the text is saying. I believe that the “sound” of the Lord is the sound of judgment, and that the phrase “cool of the day” would be better translated as “Spirit of the Day,” as referring to the Holy Spirit on judgment day. We are not to think of God as being ignorant of what has happened, and calling to Adam as if He did not know where Adam was. This question is as if God had said, “It is time for judgment. Come forth!” God comes like a storm. No wonder Adam and Eve were afraid! No wonder they sought to hide themselves among the trees of the garden.

Ironically, the place they chose was the middle of the garden, the very same place where they had fallen into sin!
What is happening here is a covenant lawsuit. God had made an agreement with Adam: if Adam obeyed God, then eternal life in a glorified body would await him. If he disobeyed, then death would overtake him. This is a covenant, and it is called the covenant of works. The basis for Adam’s destination is his works, whether good or evil. Since Adam broke the covenant, God brought a lawsuit against Adam in the garden for breaking the covenant. Adam pleads not guilty. Actually he avoids confessing his sin. He only refers to the last event in the sequence of the Fall. That last event was the realization of being naked. Adam pleads that he was naked, and that therefore he was afraid to be seen by his covenant Lord. So he hid. But even in confessing that he was naked, Adam showed his guilt. He was not ashamed of his nakedness before the Fall. That is why God asks him, “Who told you?” Then God asks the next logical question, “Have you eaten of the tree?” The connection between the two questions is that the Lord knows that Satan is around, and must therefore have tempted Adam and Eve to eat.

What comes next is oh so typical of us, isn’t it? We pass the buck. Adam does a particularly thorough job of passing the buck this time. He blames Eve and God. He blames Eve because she is the one who first partook of the fruit, and is the one who gave it to him. Notice that Adam talks about his extenuating circumstances first, before he gets to the end and says, “Yes, okay, I ate.” First he blames the woman, then he blames God. He says that if God hadn’t put this creature here to be with him, and therefore tempting him with her, then he would not have fallen. Of course, it was Adam’s responsibility to guard the garden from the intruders. But Adam is saying that it is God’s fault. He is saying that God is the one tempting him. We see this elsewhere in Scripture, don’t we? James says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ’I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” So what Adam says here is completely out of court. Notice that God refuses Adam’s plea of not guilty. Just because God moves on to question the woman does not mean that He has let Adam off the hook. He merely stops with Adam’s confession, and goes on to Eve. After all, Adam did in fact confess that he had eaten.

So when God questions Eve, the same thing happens. God’s question has something of the incredulous in it, as it were, “How could you have done something like this?” What is her response? She passes the buck off to Satan.

However, she does not blame God directly like Adam does. She admits to being deceived. Her confession being now laid on the table, God proceeds to judge the serpent. Notice that God does not even question the serpent. He goes straight to judgment. Satan thought to elevate himself beyond God’s throne. Instead he was cursed beyond all livestock. It is evident here that we are talking about more than a simple snake. God is cursing Satan. The snake was merely the instrument that Satan used to insinuate himself into Eve’s favor. Satan thought to make a new covenant with Adam and Eve. Satan thought to raise himself up. Instead he is crushed into the ground. Satan thought to be in close relationship with Adam and Eve. Instead, there will be enmity between them all their days. Here we see God bringing down the arrogant, but lifting up the humble.

What would have been just at this point would be for God to completely destroy these unfaithful covenant-breakers. God could have wiped them out then and there. Instead, He promised them salvation, even through being cursed because of their fall, and coming under the punishment of death. In the midst of a curse, we have this promise, that instead of friendship with Satan, we have enmity with Him, thus allowing us the possibility of friendship with God again. Instead of being annihilated, we will continue to live physically.

This raises an interesting question: if Adam and Eve lived physically after the Fall, then did God lie when He said, “in the day you eat of it you will surely die”? The answer is no, God did not lie. Adam and Eve died spiritually, and were put under sentence of physical death. So they did die that day. However, God made them alive again. God’s purposes were not to be thwarted by a lowly serpent. God would show the world that the ultimate judgment would come on the snake, on Satan, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, who was the seed of the woman. God did not tell Satan which seed of the woman it would be that would crush his head. Notice here that the NIV mistranslates the word, which is the same in both instances (strike or bruise). So Satan had to live in perpetual suspense about every single child that came into the world. “Was that the seed?” Satan would have to ask. Satan has always tried to destroy the children of mankind in an effort to destroy the seed of the woman. Now that Christ has come, Satan tries to do this to the church. We see this in Revelation, when the dragon tries to swallow up the woman. The seed of the woman there is the church. Then, when the earth swallows up the river of water that the dragon throws after her in a sort of reverse Flood, Satan goes off to make war on the rest of the descendents of the woman. Jesus Christ is the one who has finally crushed Satan’s head, though His heel was wounded in the process. But Satan’s was ultimately the more final. Jesus had power over sin and death, whereas Satan does not. Jesus has conquered! We celebrated this last week on Easter.

To the woman God gives a punishment. However, the punishment has a silver lining. In what defines a woman, namely, her capability of being a mother, and her capability of being a wife, she will be cursed. There is a great example of the pain in child-bearing in my sister-in-law Annie. She has eight children. When one of them was being born, the pain got so great that Annie just kept repeating, “Why did she do it?” Paul, however, gives women hope who are going through this. He says that women will be saved through the child-birth. This is in 1 Timothy 2. By the very means of the curse of pain, God will bring about salvation. This is because by the pain of child-birth, a woman brings into the world another enemy of Satan. In the fullness of time, Mary brought forth the ultimate enemy of Satan.

When the text says, “your desire,” it is not entirely clear what is meant. I think it means that a woman’s desire will be to rule over her husband, but the husband will have dominion over her. Now, Adam was still head of the household before the Fall. However, after the Fall that relationship would be twisted. Instead of a harmonious relationship, the relationship would be bitter and contentious. The problem of divorce in our day ought to be proof enough that this text is true.

Adam was cursed in what defined him: his relationship to the earth. Notice that Adam sinned because of eating. Therefore he will be punished in the area of eating. Instead of being easy to anywhere in the garden and freely pick out what he wanted to eat, Adam would have to work hard to eat. Instead of the ground bearing fruit easily, the ground would bear thorns and thistles, until finally Adam would return to the ground he was working. Instead of ruling over the ground, the ground resists him, and eventually swallows him. Instead of ruling over the beasts effortlessly, Adam would be stepped on by the beasts when he turned back into dust. However, grace was here, too. God did say that Adam would not starve. Adam would eat. Yes, he would have to work for it, but he would not starve. This prefigures the Sacrament of Communion, in a way. We eat of the body and drink of the blood of Jesus Christ, and it brings grace to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice that Adam is not cursed per se, but the ground is cursed on his account.

Jesus Christ shines throughout this passage. We must see that Jesus took on Himself the punishment of Adam and Eve. In Jesus Christ the woman is redeemed from the pain o child-bearing. Even though we still live in an age when women have pain in child-bearing, we know that that pain has a redemptive purpose. We know that Jesus Christ came from just such a pain endured by Mary. In Jesus Christ the relationship between man and wife can become harmonious again. We know that Jesus Christ said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father.” We know that Jesus was himself the bread of life. We know that Jesus sweated drops of blood in Gethsemane. We know that Jesus Christ suffered the pain of death for us, and that He conquered that pain when we could not. Christ leads the way out of the punishment inflicted on Adam and Eve. Now there is a new humanity. The seed of Satan is now those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, and the seed of the woman are all those who do believe in Jesus Christ. Which seed are you?

If you are the seed of the serpent, then know this day that God can change you. You can morph into the seed of the woman. It takes an act of the Holy Spirit. All you need do is believe that Jesus Christ died for you. He took on your punishment that you might come back into relationship with God. Which seed are you?

If you are of the seed of the woman, then know that temptation always comes like this. It looks so attractive. The serpent must have been a beautiful creature before the Fall, such that Eve was tempted to believe it more than in the word of God. That temptation looks as cool and refreshing as lemonade in the summertime. That temptation looks as attractive as a million dollars. Know that there is always a way of escape. God does not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. He will always provide a way of escape. But you cannot do it alone. We as pioneers like to try to avoid temptation on our own. But iron needs to sharpen iron. We need each other. We need the fellowship of the body in order to avoid temptation. Pray for one another. Hold one another accountable. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help in time of need. Know that Jesus Christ is even now interceding for you in heaven.

If you have sinned, then do not pass the buck. Do not blame your circumstances. Do not blame your spouse. Do not blame God. If you sinned, then you, and you alone are responsible for that sin. Satan is always going to be at your elbow providing temptation. Here is a secret, though: Satan cannot force you to sin. He does not have that power. Oh, he wants you to think that he has that power, but he does not. You only sin when your sinful nature decides to sin. So don’t. Don’t sin. “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Don’t you think for one moment that that bad sinful habit of yours can’t be broken. Yes, it can be broken. God has grace for you. I don’t care if you have been doing it for years, decades even. There is hope. God can bruise the head of that temptation just as surely as Jesus Christ bruised the head of Satan. Jesus did that so that we, who were stricken into the dust, and under sentence of death, being dead already in spirit, could be raised up with Christ, and be seated with him in the heavenly realms. No longer will we eat the dust. Satan will, but we won’t. So instead of having our hand in the cookie jar, there will be no temptation to sin in the new world. There will be cookies in the new world, I am confident. But there will be no cookie jars that are off-limits. Sin will be no more.

Calvin on Election

Contrary to what Steve Wilkins says about covenantal election (_Federal Vision_, pp. 55-59), Calvin teaches us that not all those who are in the church are of the church. Genesis commentary (older translation), volume 2, pg. 46, in commenting on Jacob and Esau’s election (via Paul’s discussion in Romans 9): “Who does not see that Paul descends from a general to a particular adoption, in order to teach us, that not all who occupy a place in the Church are to be accounted as true members of the Church?” On page 48, he says this: “That those whom God has chosen are not preferred to others, because God foresaw they would be holy, but in order that they might be holy” (emphasis original). The first quotation clearly indicates that Calvin thought of the visible church as containing true and false members, and that the false members were to be regarded as such (and will eventually be found out, presumably). The second quotation guards us against Arminianism, with their doctrine of “foreseen” holiness. Romans 9 completely eliminates that possibility.

Daniel

You could go broke on this book.

First-rate: Baldwin, Collins, Ferguson, Goldingay, Longman, Lucas, Montgomery, Young

Second-rate: Boice, Hammer, Leupold, Porteous, Tatford, Towner, Wright, Barnes, Smith-Carpenter (NIB)

Forthcoming: Carpenter (Tyn), Mitchell (NICOT), Marjovszki (HCOT)

Conservative: Baldwin, Ferguson, Longman, Lucas, Young, Boice, Leupold, Tatford, Wright, Barnes, Carpenter, Mitchell

Moderate: Goldingay, Hammer, Towner, Smith-Carpenter

Liberal: Collins, Montgomery, Porteous, and I don’t know about Marjovszki

Ezekiel

Lots of good stuff here. It should be noted that Calvin’s commentary only goes to chapter 20.

First-rate: Block, Zimmerli, Duguid, Eichrodt, Allen, Greenhill, Greenberg

Second-rate: Blenkinsopp, Darr (NIB), Taylor, Hals, Cooke, Brownlee (on the first 19 chapters)

Forthcoming: Rooy/Patton (HCOT)

Conservative: Block, Duguid, Greenhill, Taylor

Moderate: Zimmerli, Eichrodt, Allen, Greenberg, Blenkinsopp, Darr, Brownlee

Liberal: Hals, Cooke, and I don’t know about Rooy/Patton

Snake-charmed!

Genesis 3:1-7
“The Devil is wildly optimistic if he thinks he can human beings worse than they are.” Thus said the Viennese writer Karl Kraus. Maybe his statement is a bit pessimistic. But the truth lies there. Unless the severity of our disease is correctly recognized, the cure is also not known or desired. The more we minimize sin, the more will grace decline in value (Luther). But how do we minimize sin? One way we minimize sin is by thinking that had we been in Adam or Eve’s situation, we would not have fallen. But the plain and simple fact of the matter is that we would have done exactly the same thing had we been in Adam or Eve’s situation. Romans 5 tells us that Adam was a representative for mankind, just as Christ is a representative for mankind renewed by union with him.

So what, broadly speaking happened in the Fall? Calvin says that unbelief is the root of rebellion, just as faith alone unites us to God. Pride, unbelief and covetousness are the sins that Adam and Eve committed. Let’s take a closer look.

Back in chapter two, God gave a command to Adam (2:17). In a sense then, the whole dispute is about the Word of God. “Did God really say…?” Our passage starts with a word-play. It says that the serpent was “crafty.” This word sounds exactly like the word “naked” used in the last part of chapter two to describe the innocence of Adam and Eve. What does this word-play mean? It means that Adam and Eve wanted to become crafty, like Satan, but only wound up finding out that they were naked. Notice also here in verse one that the serpent was created by God. We learn from the rest of Scripture that Satan was the real player in the form of the serpent. Satan uses the form of the serpent. But the fact that God created the serpent implies also that God created Satan. Satan was originally a good being. We learn from Isaiah 14 about Lucifer’s fall from heaven. The point here is that Satan is not God’s equal opposite, though he would very much like us to think so. The Bible actually tells us that he is the opposite of Michael, the archangel. Luther was fond of saying that Satan may be the Devil, but he is God’s devil.

Notice one interesting fact. Satan got into the garden. We learned several weeks ago that Adam was constituted a priest of the garden. One of the functions of the priesthood was to distinguish between what was holy and what was unholy. Therefore, Adam and Eve should never have let Satan into the garden at all. There was then a sin of omission, something they neglected to do, before there was the sin of commission, that sin of disobeying God’s command.

Satan asks Eve a question. Notice that he attacks Eve. Eve was not created yet when Adam was given the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This fact made Eve dependent on Adam for knowing the command. That makes her more vulnerable to attack. The question that Satan asks her seems like a very simple question, asked in all ignorance, supposedly. However, Satan knows very well what God said. He knows that there was a small prohibition given to Adam. What Satan does is to magnify that prohibition by deliberate distortion. Instead of just one tree that is forbidden, Satan asks if it is true that all of the trees are forbidden to Adam and Eve. His tone is rather incredulous. “Is it true what I heard through the grapevine that I was crawling on?” This whole scheme is done so as to seem innocent to Eve. He wants to appear to be their benefactor, to be on their side. Note also that the word “You” is plural. That means that Adam was present with Eve during this whole discussion, and important point to remember for later. What Satan does is very crafty indeed. He introduces already the idea that we stand in judgment over the Word of God. Satan makes God seem unreasonable in this prohibition. That makes God come to the bar of our judgment, rather than we coming to God’s bar to be judged. Whenever human reason stands over the Word of God in judgment, sin is inevitable.
Satan’s attack works.

Eve’s reaction shows us three things that she did with the Word of God: first, she minimizes God’s Word. God actually said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, this one tree excepted.” Eve says, “Well, we may eat fruit from some of the trees in the garden.” She is already disparaging God’s free gift. So, she minimizes God’s promises and blessings. The second thing she does with God’s Word is to add to it. She adds the phrase “not touch it.” God never said that they were not to touch the tree. He said they were not to eat from it. Eve is already thinking that the prohibition sounds too strict. The third thing she does is to soften God’s Word. This does not really come across in the NIV. The ESV says it better: “lest you die.” The Hebrew here actually indicates that Eve was thinking of the probability of death, or, worse yet, the possibility of death. What had God said? “In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” Eve minimizes God’s blessings, magnifies the prohibition, and softens God’s promise of wrath against evil.

Satan now knows that he has her. You see, Satan is a bitter enemy of the Word of God, because he knows that our salvation rests on obedience to the Word of God. Once he lured them away from a strict interpretation of God’s Word, he could then openly contradict God’s Word. Notice that Satan never uses the name “Yahweh” to refer to God. “Yahweh,” you will remember, is the name used for God in relationship with His people. It is the covenant name for God. Satan wants God to seem distant. If God is distant, then his punishment will also be distant. That is why Satan directly contradicts God’s Word here. He says, “You have nothing to worry about. See, I know what God’s motives are. God is actually jealous. He doesn’t want you to get too close to Him. That’s why he ‘discouraged’ you from eating of that tree. The reality is that the tree is your passport to fame and fortune. You will be the ruler of your own little world. You don’t have to take orders from God, who is always such a cosmic kill-joy. You can rule over your own destiny.” Satan’s words indicate that he actually wants to rule over Adam and Eve’s destiny. But we must remember that Satan had already fallen from heaven by this time. What Satan really wants is revenge against God for casting him out of heaven. They say that misery loves company. Satan wants to pull as many people down with him as he can. Now, the hideousness of Satan’s accusations against God are revealed when we realize that Satan’s statements are out and out lies. They are not even half-truths. The real truth is that Adam and Eve were already like God. They were made in the image of God. They already knew good and evil, because God had told them that good was defined as eating from all the trees of the garden, and evil was defined as eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

This interpretation raises two important questions. If Adam and Eve already knew what good and evil were, then what was the lure of the tree? I would argue that the knowledge of good and evil that the tree was about was the determination of good and evil. The lure, the bait that Satan held out to them was that they could determine for themselves what good and evil was. The sad truth is that all they wound up knowing was evil in their experience. The other question is: what about verse 22 in our chapter, which seems to indicate that somehow Adam and Eve did become more like God? That verse should actually be translated this way, “Behold, mankind had been like us, in knowing good and evil,” with the implication that now, Adam and Eve are no longer like God. See my Accent Translation. Their hearts were darkened. They could no longer tell right from wrong. At this point, as Matthew Henry says, “Our first parents, who knew so much, did not know this-that they knew enough.” When Satan opposed his word to God’s Word, Eve had already so distorted God’s Word that Satan had an easy time in convincing her that God was only bluffing.

In verse six, we learn what made the fruit so appealing. As 1 John 2:16 tells us, the sins of the world come in three categories: the lust of the flesh (the fruit was good for food); the lust of the eyes (the fruit was pleasing to the eye), and the pride of life (the fruit was desirable to make one wise). Sin always looks like that to us as well.
The fruit here is almost certainly not an apple. That idea came from the Latin play on words: malus means “evil,” and malum means “apple.” But nowhere in our text do we find the word apple. In fact, the only specific kind of fruit tree mentioned is the fig tree. We do not know what kind of fruit it was.

Notice finally, the upside-down nature of the fall. Eve listened to the serpent, who was only supposed to be one of those many animals over which Adam and Eve had dominion; Adam listened to Eve, while he should have intervened and thrown the serpent out of the garden; and no one listened to God. Notice again that Adam was with Eve (end of verse 6). The fact that he did not intervene shows us again human nature: men like to abdicate responsibility, and women like to take responsibility.

What were the consequences of the Fall. The immediate consequence is that their eyes were opened. If you stop there, you might think that they got what they were looking for. But then we read on, and see that they only realized that they were naked. When they were first created, they were naked and unashamed. Now they are naked and ashamed. Remember that play on words. They wanted craftiness, but only received a realization of their nakedness.

Then we see their pitiful attempt to cover over their sin. They sow some flimsy fig leaves together to cover themselves. This is very much like what we do. We like to cover over our behavior with a veneer of excuses. “He made me do it,” “I couldn’t help it,” “If only my husband wouldn’t do this, then I wouldn’t do that,” “If only.” The truth is that our excuses are lame and temporary, just like fig leaves. The bad news of our sin will not leave us with any covering that will conceal us from the infinitely holy God. Notice that the fig leaves do not help Adam and Eve much when it comes to God. They have to flee and hide from His presence when He comes! Big help those fig leaves were. Any attempt to justify ourselves is just like Adam and Eve trying to cover themselves with fig leaves. What we really need is some good news. We have seen the very worst news that we could ever see this week. For some of us, it isn’t really news. But some of us might be thinking that we are pretty good people; we go to church, we pay our taxes, we don’t steal or kill, or commit obvious adultery. That kind of thinking is also just fig leaves that will blow away in the wind, or shrivel up in the heat of God’s judgment, leaving us exposed to God’s wrath.

So stop trying to justify yourself, and let God do it for you, for He is the only one who can. You see, Jesus was tempted exactly like Adam and Eve. When Satan came to him, he tempted him with the lust of the flesh: “Tell these stones to become bread, because God has really said;” the lust of the eyes: “Look at all these kingdoms that can be yours for the taking, if you will only worship me;” and the pride of life: “throw yourself down, because surely you are so valuable that god will be sure to protect you.” Jesus responded by correctly quoting God’s Word: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (no minimizing God’s Word, no adding to it, and no softening of it); “Worship only the Lord God, and serve Him only” (Jesus was saying that He would not worship any false gods like Satan, whereas Adam and Eve worshipped both Satan and themselves); “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (as opposed to Adam and Eve, who tried the most miserable failure of an experiment that ever was). Jesus succeeded in resisting Satan’s temptations where Adam and Eve had failed. Jesus was righteous where humanity had sinned. Jesus has a covering for us that he made himself. Instead of being clothed in our own righteousness, which is like filthy rags, or menstrual cloths, as Isaiah says, we can be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself. That is a lot better than puny fig leaves, which will not stand up in the judgment. We must believe in Him. If we do, then we will be acquitted in the throne room of God. Jesus’ righteousness will be reckoned to our bank account, as it were. Our sin will be forgotten, because Jesus bore our sin on the cross, and did away with our sin by his conquering of sin and death in his resurrection. This verdict of “not guilty” given to us by God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness given to us is called justification by faith alone.

We must also recognize temptation for what it is. It is always a distortion of God’s Word. “Has God really said that sex before marriage is bad? Has God really said that drunkenness is all that bad? Has God really said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that no one has access to the Father, except through Jesus? Has God really said that anger is murder? Has God really said that lust is adultery? Has God really said that my own righteousness is pure filth? Has God really said that He is infinitely holy and that I need infinite holiness to get to heaven? It may be true that Satan is wildly optimistic if he thinks that he can make human beings worse than they already are. But what that statement leaves out is the grace of God in changing sinners. God has really said that if you come to him and repent of your sin, which means to turn away from your sin, and believe in Jesus Christ, you will be saved. God has really said that if you believe in Jesus Christ, you will receive the Holy Spirit. God has really said that if you have the Holy Spirit, then there is hope for improvement in the Christian life, and that you are no longer enslaved to sin. God has really said that there is hope, even if you do not see it. God has really said that He is love. God has really said that he loved the world in this way: that He gave his one and only-begotten son, that whosoever should believe in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. So let us not be snake-charmed, deceived as Eve was, or sin knowingly, like Adam did. Let us obey the Word by believing in Jesus Christ.

On Shepherds and Sheep

It is the pastor’s job to feed the sheep, as Jesus tells us in numerous places. it is also the pastor’s job to fend off wolves. In doing so, the pastor will often be attacked, sometimes by the sheep, and sometimes by the wolves. That is what we all sign up for. It is unreasonable to expect that pastors will be safe in their study, unaffected by the attacks that go on in the theological world. This is a message for both sides of the Federal Vision debate: don’t expect an easy ride! Don’t expect that you will just coast along, and that no one has a right or a duty to challenge the pastors. It is the duty of pastors to hold other pastors accountable. This is for the sake of the sheep. The important thing is that the sheep are protected. I am tired of hearing about the unreasonableness of someone or so-and-so getting attacked, because they are a pastor. What did they expect? Paranoia has absolutely no place in the pastor’s job description.

Lamentations

A few really good ones and a great many so-so commentaries.

First-rate: Renkema (this is the single best; in the HCOT), Berlin, Hillers (2nd. ed.), Dobbs-Allsopp, Provan, Westermann, Dearman, Ryken

Second-rate: Harrison, Huey, O’Connor (NIB)

Forthcoming: Hubbard (NICOT)

None of these are all that liberal, even Westermann, who is usually off his rocker liberal. In fact, Westermann is one of the best here. But Renkema is the master here. Some are moderate: Berlin, Hillers, Dobbs-Allsopp, and O’Connor. the rest are pretty conservative.

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