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“Promises, Promises, Promises”
Genesis 3:1-21


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
First Sunday in Lent—March 13, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Promises, promises, promises.  God makes many promises to you in his Word.  The first promise in the Bible is recorded already in the third chapter of Genesis, in today’s Old Testament Reading.  Speaking to the serpent, Satan, the Lord gives Adam and Eve his very first promise, the promise of a Savior. 

“So the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,

                        ‘Cursed are you above all the livestock

                                    and all the wild animals!

                        You will crawl on your belly

                                    and you will eat dust

                                    all the days of your life.

                        And I will put enmity

                                    between you and the woman,

                                    and between your descendants and her

                                                Descendant;

                        he will crush your head,

                                    and you will bruise his heel.’”

On the cover of today’s bulletin is an illustration of the stained-glass window that is currently being crafted for east of our altar.  It will beautifully illustrate the creation account in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, and the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”  The scene of Adam and Eve admiring the forbidden fruit portends the tragic events of Genesis chapter 3, when they succumbed to the temptations of Satan, disobeying God, and sin and death entered our world.

Like Adam and Eve, we too have succumbed to the devil’s temptations; like Adam and Eve, we too have disobeyed God and broken his commands; like Adam and Eve, we too are sinners deserving to be cast out of paradise.  Because, as a result of their fall, the entire human race is now infected with the hereditary spiritual disease of sin.  As David says in Psalm 51, “Surely I was a sinner at birth, sinful from the moment my mother conceived me.”  “All have sinned,” Paul says in Romans, “and fall short of the glory of God. . .  there is no one righteous, not even one.”  No one is immune from this hereditary spiritual disease of sin, not even you, not even me.  As Paul explains in Romans, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”

Like Adam and Eve we all deserve what the Bible calls the “wages of sin,” death and eternal damnation.  But, God did not leave Adam and Eve alone, deserted, without hope.  Instead, he immediately gave them a precious promise, the promise of a Savior, the first promise in the Bible.

                        “And I will put enmity

                                    between you and the woman,

                                    and between your descendants and her

                                                Descendant;

                        he will crush your head,

                                    and you will bruise his heel.”

In those words, spoken to the serpent, Satan, God promises humanity that one of Eve’s descendants will crush Satan for us, and destroy the power of sin, death, and the devil over us.  “He will crush your head.”

For thousands of years God’s people throughout the Old Testament waited for that promise to be fulfilled.  That’s really what the Old Testament is all about: the promise of a Savior, repeated, reaffirmed, and amplified over the centuries; the promise of a Savior, believed in by God’s faithful people of old.

People sometimes wonder how people in the Old Testament, in the years “B.C.,” “Before Christ” were saved.  God’s people of old were saved in the same way you are: through faith in the promised Savior.  The only difference is that they were saved through faith in the promised Savior who would come; you are saved through faith promised Savior who has come.  As the book of Hebrews says, “For we also have had the Gospel preached to us, just as they did.”  Jesus put it this way, “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

Paul says in Galatians, “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman.”  Jesus of Nazareth is the Savior promised to Adam and Eve, Eve’s divine Descendant, the God-man, who for us won the war over sin, death, and the devil.  It was a hard-fought battle, as we see in today’s Gospel Reading, when he overcomes the temptations of Satan, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Gospels tell us he was “overwhelmed with sorrow” and “being in anguish he prayed so earnestly that his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  Hebrews describes his hard-fought battle for us: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears . . .  He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.”

“He will crush your head,” God declared to Satan, “and you will bruise his heel.”  The second part of this prophecy was fulfilled in the final sufferings and death of Christ, which we especially meditate on during this Lenten season.  Just as in the process of crushing a snake underfoot your heel might be struck by the snake with a deadly blow, in the process of saving us Christ himself was struck with a deadly blow.  “[He] was crucified, died, and was buried.”  God’s Son gave himself to suffer the wages of sin for you, in your place, as your substitute. 

Paul says in Romans, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  Because of his perfect life, lived in your place; because of his substitutionary suffering, endured in your place; because of his sacrificial death, died in your place; because of his resurrection from the dead, you are justified before God, your sins are all forgiven.  “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

Peter puts it this way in Acts: “You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.  But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” 

You may not know that Islam teaches Christ did not die on the cross, but at the last moment God substituted someone else, perhaps Judas.  Others teach that Christ only pretended to die or perhaps just went into a state of shock.  But, the Bible teaches that Christ’s death was a real, actual death, indeed the most excruciating and agonizing death of any person ever.  But, because he is both human and divine, his death was but a bruise, from which he would recover.  As Jesus told his disciples, “The Son of Man will be betrayed . . .  they will condemn him to death . . . mocked and flogged and crucified. And the third day He will rise again.” 

“He will crush your head and you will bruise his heel.”  Promises, promises, promises.  “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman.”  Just as he promised so long ago to Adam and Eve, just as promised over and over again to his people throughout the pages of the Old Testament, “when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son,” to be our Savior, to crush Satan underfoot, and in the process to be himself “bruised.”  As Isaiah says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.”

Promises, promises, promises.  Paul says in Romans, “If God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  You can rely on all God’s promises, because he has fulfilled the greatest promise of all.

Do you feel guilt and shame over your sins?  God has promised, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.”  God has promised, “I will wipe away your transgressions, and will remember your sins no more.”  God has promised, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

Are you afraid of death?  Jesus has promised, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live.”  Jesus has promised, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. . .  I am going there to prepare a place for you. . .  I will take you to be with me.”  Jesus has promised, “You will be with me in paradise.”

Do you wonder if God really loves you?  God has promised, “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God.”  God has promised, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”  God has promised, “My love for you will never fail.”

Are you in trouble?  God has promised, “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you.”  God has promised that he “is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  God has promised, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.”

Are you lonely, sad, suffering, in pain?  God has promised, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”  God has promised, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will hold you up with my mighty hand.”  God has promised, “Cast your burdens upon the Lord, for he cares for you.”

Promises, promises, promises.  God makes so many promises to you in his Word.  It all began with that first promise, of a Savior.  He will keep all his promises to you, just as he kept that first promise in the Bible, and in the fullness of time sent his Son to be your Savior.  As the psalm assures us, “The Lord is faithful to all his promises.”

Amen.

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