First Reading: Genesis 3.8-19 October 1, 2017
(English Standard Version)
Second Reading: Romans 8.18-25 and Psalm 8.4-9
(English Standard Version)
What are Harvey and Irma Trying to Tell Us?
by Rev. Bill Jennings
Introduction: Whenever we suffer from a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, inevitably in the aftermath, there is always the question: “How could a God who claims to be a God of Love allow such human suffering? Now, that we have been through back-to-back record-breaking hurricanes in Texas, Louisiana and Florida, sure enough, the question again made its appearance on national TV. The difference is that the young man who answered it gave an answer from the Bible. The frustrating thing was that, predictably, the TV station gave him only a minute to explain one of the most troubling questions that has disturbed mankind forever, namely, “Why is there suffering in God’s world?”
To Begin with: We need to begin at the beginning, that is, in the Book of Genesis, Ch. 3. Back in Gen. 1.31 we read that after God saw everything that He made, He, Himself declared that “it was very good.”
However, in Gen. 3, we find a “continental shift” in the moral environment of the Creation story! The Man, Adam and his wife Eve encounter a Tempter in the Garden of Eden and fall into rebellion by disobeying the one single solitary rule (!) that the Creator had given them by not allowing the eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, falling for the lie of the Tempter, thinking that they would never die, and the temptation to become like God! That is where our first Bible Reading begins in Gen. 3.8-19, leading to…..
The consequences of the rebellion and disobedience of Adam and Eve, commonly referred to by Christians as the “Fall”. There are multiple consequences: First of all, there were physical consequences to the snake and the Tempter behind him. But that is a subject of another sermon. More important to us were the consequences applied to…
Eve. Her whole relationship to Adam was changed from being a “suitable (competent or capable) helper” (Gen. 2.20-23) for Adam about whom he sang the first love song in the Bible to what Gen 3.16 (ESV) says:
“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.
Think about that! This punishment for Eve strikes at the very heart of the distinctiveness and unique honor of the contribution of women give to all of humanity: that of bearing our children! From then on, that honor and distinction would be complicated by increased pain!
Not only that, but the former harmonious relationship between husband and wife would also be complicated by Adam’s ruling over Eve rather than the former harmonious relationship. We saw that immediately after God confronted Adam, when he blamed Eve for “leading him” into disobedience (Gen. 3.12) and even blamed God for giving Eve to him! Next, it is…
Adam who now needed to hear his sentence and this is the one that has to do with how the whole created order has gone haywire! (or has been cursed to “futility” as translates Romans 8.20 in the ESV).
Let’s go back to Gen. 3.17-19 (NIV) to verify the source of the cause of this catastrophe:
“Cursed is the ground because of you [Adam]; through painful toil you [Adam] will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you [Adam] and you [Adam] will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you [Adam] will eat your food until you [Adam] return to the ground, for from the ground you [Adam] were taken; for dust you [Adam] are and to dust you [Adam] will return.”
There is no question from the Biblical perspective, from the Biblical world view, Adam is the guilty one for the cursing of the entire physical world!
Paul in Rom. 8.20 confirms that by writing the following (in the ESV):
“For the creation was subject to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it.”
Now, David tells us who it was who subjected the created order, in Psalm 8. 4-8 (ESV):
“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and all the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea. Whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”
It is clear that from the Biblical view, from the Biblical World View, Adam is the one who was given dominion and stewardship over the created order and because of his rebellion and disobedience to his Creator, opened the floodgates for the cursing of the entire created order.
Do you know what the name, the word, “Adam” means? [Look it up in the Dictionary] It comes from the Hebrew word which means simply “a human being”. If you want to go a little deeper, look it up in the Biblical Dictionaries in the Church Library and you will find more complete information about it, including that in the Bible “Adam” can also mean “mankind”! The Biblical lesson is clear: Don’t Blame God for these catastrophic disasters like Harvey, Irma, José or Maria. Blame Mankind! (Including, incidentally, “Womenkind”)
Now, what can be Done? Let me list just two examples of the frustration, the futility, corruption, decay and dysfunction of the created order: One is the natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes and earthquakes that we are seeing more and more these days.
Obviously there is little that human beings can do. The best we can do, is pick up the pieces after the disaster hits. Jesus proved that he could calm the storm on the Sea of Galilee which caused his Disciples to question, who in the world can give orders to the wind and the waves, and they obey him! The answer is God Alone! We just finished singing a hymn about that.
In the Old Testament, God proved that when he provided a strong wind that held back the waters of the Red Sea to allow the Children of Israel to escape the chariots of Pharaoh, and then released the wind so the same waters could cover completely those same chariots.
Now, we may not be able to control the foul weather, but we can still help those who have been harmed by that same foul weather, and that opportunity is offered to all of us today through the ministry of fine Christian organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and the Salvation Army.
The Other example of the results of the frustration, futility, corruption and dysfunction of the created order that we see every day are Birth Defects. I suspect that there is nobody here who does not know of a person, perhaps a loved one who suffers from a birth defect.
That same problem came to Jesus and his disciples in Ch. 9 of the Gospel of John. They encountered a man who was born blind. The disciples wanted to know whose fault it was, the man’s or his parents’. Jesus changed the question all together. This was not just a question of whom to blame; it was a question of opportunity: to glorify God!
It was also an opportunity to give a living illustration of what it means to be the “Light of the World”. Jesus immediately healed the blind man! And, he laid out a plan of action for his disciples, including you and me, with these words:
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9.3-5 ESV).
The disciples must have remembered the former words of Jesus registered in Matt. 5.14 & 16 (NIV):
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden… In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.”
Now, neither you nor I can do the miracle that Jesus did in healing the man born blind, but as disciples whom he called “The Light of the World” we can do our part by helping those in our society who do: The people at the Shriners’ Hospital who work to correct birth defect in countless children every day in America. They do not call them “works of God”, but they do call them “miracles”. If you are serious about healing birth defects, reversing the results of the sin of Adam, like Jesus did, check out the Shriners’ Hospital.
Finally, I want to return to Romans 8.20-25 where we read:
“For the creation is subject to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now, hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
That hope, of which Paul writes is the hope for the full “redemption of our bodies”. That is the Resurrection of our Bodies that will happen when Jesus comes again.
We embrace that hope around the Communion Table, when we partake of the bread and wine, as Paul wrote, “Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you announce the Lord’s death until he comes!”
Our final hymn this morning will be by Fanny Crosby, not blind from birth, but blinded at nine years of age due to an error in her diagnosis and medication for an eye ailment. Yet, she wrote this hymn, with these words in the second verse, “Perfect submission; perfect delight; visions of rapture now burst on my sight!”
How could a blind woman write those words? It was because she saw the Glory of God through the eyes of faith. Someone made sure that young Fanny Crosby knew the Lord Jesus because she, in spite of being blind, was able to see something that a lot of people with 20/20 vision do not see, mainly what Paul mentions when he wrote, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Let us pray…