It is such a mess, isn’t it? Adam and Eve have grabbed the fruit off the Tree of Knowledge, and God’s come to “chat” with his fallen children. And wow! They make such a mess of it! “Quick! Let’s hide behind the trees!” (As if the almighty, all-knowing God won’t find them?!)
“Adam. Where are you?” “I was afraid because I was naked.” (As if God wasn’t aware previously?!)
“The woman you put here with me – she gave it to me!” (As if God won’t notice him trying to evade responsibility?!) And on it goes. Oh, it’s such a mess! We see so much of what we don’t like in humanity. And perhaps even worse, we see so much of what we don’t like in ourselves!
But then comes verse 15. The word which jumps off the page is the word enmity. (At least, it jumps off the page in the Hebrew Bible!) Verses 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 had all started with the word, “And he said.” Yep, five verses in a row begin with “and he said.”
Then comes v15, which begins with “enmity.” The word jumps off the page. “Enmity.”
We’re thrilled to hear that word, because it means that God has come to deal with the mess. When Adam and Eve were first created, they were friends with God, with each other, and even with all of creation. But then they had chosen to trust the devil instead of trusting God, ate that fruit, and everything had changed! Now there was a sort-of “friendship” between Adam and Eve and the devil, and there was separation – enmity, if you will – between them and God. Oh, what a horrible mess!
But thank God, he stepped into the mess. “ENMITY I will place … between you (devil) and the woman, between your offspring (e.g. unbelievers) and hers (e.g. believers).” The enmity needed to go back to where it belonged! And the only one who could do that, who could return the enmity to where it belonged, was God!
Amazingly, he was willing to do it. He was willing to put the enmity back where it belonged, between us and the devil, not between us and God.
God carries the picture through in an amazing way. In the tabernacle, and later the temple, the curtain separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. The message was, “You can’t go in there, because God is in there, and your sins have separated you from God.” Oh, the High Priest got to go in there one day a year, on the Great Day of Atonement, but then it was only in the way that God described. If he dared to go in on his own whim, or in his own way, his life was forfeit.
And then came that Friday that we call “Good.” As Jesus cried out his last, that curtain was torn into two, from the top, all the way up to the bottom. (cf. Matthew 27:51) Why? Because that enmity had been removed, and had been returned to where it belonged! Now there was friendship again between God and humans! Now we can and do have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Christ! (Hebrews 10:19) Yes, you and I can go into the presence of God again! Oh, it was costly! The devil struck Jesus’ heal! But in return, he crushed the devil’s head, and in so doing, he cleaned up the mess between us humans and God!
And, dear pastor, you get to tell people about that, get to assure people of that. Yes, it’s true that often the lives of people become an absolute mess. Often we have little – or even no – idea as to how to advise people to take steps to straighten things out. And the world? Oh, what a messy place that is, and it seems to be becoming more messy by the minute!
But you get to say, “The ultimate mess – the messy relationship between you and God – that’s been cleaned up, by God himself. He promised to send a Son, the Son came, the Son lived, died and rose, and the curtain in the temple is torn into two. God has cleaned up your relationship with him.” Maybe that’s about all you can say. But in the end, is there really anything more that needs to be said?
Oh, and don’t forget one other point. This message – about a messed up, then cleaned up relationship with God – is for you and me, too.
Yes, we make a mess out of plenty of things. Too often as we are advising our people, at the same time our consciences are screaming at us. At least, that’s the case for me. You too?
God has cleaned it up for you and me, too, dear pastor. When that curtain came down, it came down for you. Jesus crushed the devil’s head … for you. God invites you – yes, you – to come into the Most Holy Place. Your relationship to your God is no longer a mess, because God has cleaned it up.
And in the end, is there anything else that needs to be said?