Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lenten #2: the beginning.

To understand Lent, we need to start at the beginning. That means we have to go all the way back to the Garden of Eden. In the first two chapters of Genesis, God created everything above, below, and on the earth.  Man was the final part of His masterpiece.  God placed him in a lush garden, where he had everything he needed.  Well, he had everything except a wife, so God created her, too.  

When Adam, the first man, was put in charge of the garden, God gave him strict instructions. He could eat from every tree except the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil.  If he did that, God said, he would die.  It was Adam's job to bring Eve, his new wife, up to date on the rules, but the transfer of information did  not go well. Either Eve didn't understand or she was a born drama queen, because she totally jumbled the rules.  When temptation came her way, she was quickly deceived, and did the one thing she was not supposed to do, then convinced naive Adam to join in her disobedience.

When God came to walk with Adam and Eve in the evening, as He always did, they were hiding, having just noticed that they were totally naked.  They ended up confessing the whole thing, both trying to place the blame elsewhere.  As a result, God assigned consequences and discipline.  To the tempter, God gave the first prophecy of Christ.  

And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." (Genesis 3:15 NASB)

This verse indicates that the tempter (Satan) would cause an injury (bruise) to the man who would one day be born, but the man would deliver a fatal blow (head) to him.  We know that Jesus came, the enemy succeeded in bruising him by the crucifixion, but it was not a fatal blow, because Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.  One day, Jesus will return and He will defeat Satan and all his demons.  It will be a fatal blow.  

It is easy to focus on all the consequences and miss one important point.  When they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they gained the knowledge of good and evil.  In so doing, they recognized their sin and their nakedness before our sinless God, and they were ashamed.  Now, God did not have to do this, but He acted from love and mercy.  He made them clothes.  These were not just any clothes, though.  "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them."(Genesis 3:21 NASB). God killed an animal (we might call it the first blood sacrifice) and used the skin to make their clothing.  Blood was shed to cover their sin and shame.   

From the beginning of time on earth, sin has required a blood sacrifice as payment. Ultimately, the sin problem was so enormous that God, in yet another act of mercy, once again covered our sin with a blood sacrifice, this time using His own Son as a once-and-forever sacrifice. How could a Loving Father do that? He could see past the Cross all the way to Resurrection.  He knew it was a temporary terribleness that would bring a permanent solution to our sin problem. 

It's hard for me to understand that kind of mercy and grace, and far too easy to take it for granted.  God clothed Himself in frail flesh and walked among us, died to save us, and rose to redeem us.  As we begin our Lenten Journey, we start by recognizing that sin is the problem, we are the ones with the deadly sin affliction, and Jesus is the only solution.  It's mind boggling, and even though we cannot understand it, it demands a response of us.   You and I must respond to Jesus and His outrageous sacrifice on our behalf.  It's going to require change. You might as well know that from the start, and get ready.