1st Sunday In Advent: A Glimmer Of Hope In The Midst Of A Curse
14 And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of
15 I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: it shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for its heel.
In Genesis chapter 1 and 2 we see that everything was good. Chapters 1 and 2 describe the creation. They describe the very creation account, six-day creation. Chapter 1 gives us the six days of creation, and chapter 2 gives us detail about the creation that God did on the sixth day, creating man and the animals. And when it’s all said and done, it is good. What God created was good. Everything in His created world was good at that point.
But in chapter 3, everything goes bad- and all human beings who will ever walk on this earth are affected by what happened in the third chapter of Genesis. It is the explanation of why things in this world are the way they are: why there is so much evil; why there is so much sin; why there is so much corruption; why there is disease, deformity, and death; why there is conflict, hatred, war; and why there are disasters of all kinds that fall upon man. It all comes from this third chapter.
Suffice it to say that Adam and Eve lived in a perfect world, in a state of innocence, free from sin, until they fell to the temptation of Satan, a temptation to call into question the integrity of God, the righteousness of God, the goodness of God, the wisdom of God. They became doubters of God. They fell, and with them the entire race fell.
Satan, who led that temptation, of course, had by this time – probably very, very soon before this – fallen himself out of heaven. He was the covering cherub; he was the heavenly choir director. He was one of the holy angels who desired to be equal to God, who elevated himself, according to Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. He wanted to elevate himself to be equal with God, to be adored and worshiped as God is. And you know that God cast him out of heaven, along with a third of the angels, according to Revelation 12; and they constitute the demon forces that purvey their corrupt evil against God and all divine purposes, and against men.
Judged already in heaven and cast out, Satan shows up on earth. And in this passage, he is the agent that brings about the temptation that causes the fall of the entire human race. Paul puts it this way: “As in Adam, all died.”
Here, Satan, having caused this sin, he will be cursed a second time. He was cursed the first time and judged when he was thrown out of heaven, and now he is to be cursed and judged a second time. I want us to focus on verses 14 and 15, for the first Sunday in Advent, because in the curse that God pronounces on Satan is the first expression of gospel hope, salvation hope, deliverance from sin and Satan; embedded in a curse is the Advent hope of mankind.
The definition of Advent is “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” So within this curse is the hope of the Messiah, the incarnate Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary.
We’ve all been plunged into a spiritual death. We’ve all been plunged into physical death; from the moment we are born we begin to die. We are all born dying and dead, dead spiritually and dying physically. We have no hope of life if all we have is the fall.
And yet, here in this very chapter which chronicles the fall, we have embedded in the middle of the curse, the prophecy of a future conflict between a Woman, her Seed, and the Serpent that deceived man in the Garden.
I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: it shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for its heel.
People often notice the “he/him” variant used in contemporary translations of Scripture because they remember seeing examples of popular Catholic art that depict a serene Mary standing over a crushed serpent. If they are familiar with the Douay-Rheims version, they may also remember the “she/her” variant from there.
So which is it, “he/him” or “she/her”? Well, the original Hebrew of the passage allows for either reading; the gender is simply ambiguous, that is, it has more then one meaning, and thus it allows for a he, she, or it reading.
Regardless of whether Moses understood the passage in the “she/her” sense or the “he/him” sense, the ideas expressed by both readings are true. In the ultimate sense, Christ did crush the serpent’s head and was struck himself by the serpent, both aspects of his death on the Cross. However, there is another sense in which Mary crushed the serpent’s head and in which she was struck at by the serpent. She didn’t do these things directly, but indirectly, through her Son and through her cooperation with her Son’s mission.
It was she, not someone else, who was the person that agreed to become the human channel through which Christ would enter the world in order to crush the serpent’s head (cf. Luke 1:38). And she was wounded when the serpent struck Jesus. Simeon had prophesied to her that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also,” a prophecy that was fulfilled when Mary saw her Son hanging from the cross (John 19:25–27).
Thus Jesus directly crushed the serpent and was directly struck by the serpent, while Mary indirectly crushed it and was indirectly struck by it due to her cooperation in becoming the mother of Christ.
From this chapter on, the rest of the Bible is the record of God’s grace and mercy and loving kindness to sinners. The rest of the Bible is full of God’s appeals to sinners to repent of their sin, and to come to Him as the One who forgives, is merciful, gracious, loving, and will grant forgiveness. From here on the story is about God’s love and mercy and grace, and how few people receive it, and how the world rejects it.
What we have here is essentially the source of human depravity. Human depravity can be defined as a condition of the human soul in which there is nothing truly good, spiritually good, in which there is no genuine obedience to God. It is the condition of the spiritual soul in which there is no fellowship with God. It is the condition of the human soul on which the sentence of death has been passed. It is the condition of the human soul in which it will not acknowledge the sinfulness of sin and concerns itself only with the consequence of sin, not the sin itself. It is a condition of the human soul in which blame-shifting and a constant effort to exonerate oneself and exalt oneself is a daily effort.
And this condition is true of every human born into the world. Paradise was lost not only for Adam and Eve, but everyone else. The loss of blessing defines the world; corruption defines the human race. The whole race – people in the past, the present, and yet to come in the future – are born in this condition because of what Adam did.
In spite of being born in this condition, there is hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
There is a seed...there is Jesus. The one, who as the Apostle's creed tells us, “was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” Here is where we find our hope. In the midst of the curse in Genesis 3 God gives us a glimmer of hope. And in the midst of the New Testament Gospels God brings that hope to fruition.
God has redeemed out of the human race, starting from that very incident in the garden through all of human history until the end of the age, a humanity that has been so transformed that that group of human beings, that massive group of redeemed human beings through all of human history, actually hate Satan and love God.
That’s the enmity that has been placed between you, Satan, and the woman and her seed. For this to happen there has to be a radical transformation of the human heart. There has to be a deep, deep change in the human heart to turn man back to God. It is so profound that the New Testament speaks of it as the new birth. It is so profound that the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah speak of it as having a new heart.
Put it another way: the old Adam has to die, and a new Adam has to be born. The old Eve has to die, and a new Eve has to be born – a new Adam and a new Eve, a new man and a new woman, and new men and new women who hate Satan and love God instead of loving Satan and hating God. And God is saying that change will come.
So here the gospel, the good news, makes its initial entrance into human history, embedded in a curse on Satan. The gospel is first given then, not in a promise, but in a curse; not in an act of kindness, but in an act of judgment.
Before God pronounces a curse on man and woman, before He expels them from the garden, He gives them salvation hope. Hope of regeneration. That they will hate Satan and see him as an enemy, and they will love God – regeneration – that there will come a Savior. That there will come One who will conquer Satan and therefore conquer sin. Even though He in the conquering will be bruised, He will crush that deadly enemy. What an amazing promise. What a gracious God. And it is here that the gospel begins. It is here where the prophecies of the Messiahs coming begins, And it is on this first Sunday of Advent where we ourselves, with great anticipation, are “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious coming of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)