2nd Sunday after Pentecost (B)
June 7, 2015
“Stuff I Always Wanted to Know but Never Asked”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon this day is the First Lesson read previously from Genesis chapter 3.
My dear friends,
Today I want to begin a month-long sermon series that I am calling “Stuff I Always Wanted to Know but Never Asked.” For 6 weeks I gave you a chance to submit anonymous questions on any topic that I would then address in a sermon. Today I will try and address two questions submitted, and I will try and use the lesson from Genesis 3 to help our understanding. The questions for consideration today are first, “In Genesis, God said ‘let us make man in our image.’ Who is the us and did it include Lucifer?” and secondly, “In Genesis 11 is the Tower of Babel narrative. Why was God concerned about a united people on earth?” Okay…let’s begin.
Today’s lesson from Genesis 3 is the infamous and devastating narrative of the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. You probably know the entire sequence well. Satan approaches Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He asks them that doubt-laden question “did God really say?” and once the die was cast, there was no going back. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God confronted them and Satan, and in Genesis 3:15 we get the first Gospel promise; God reclaims His creation back from the devil’s persuasion.
But, our first question has to be answered before we can go any further. “In Genesis, God said ‘let us make man in our image.’ Who is the us and did it include Lucifer?” The specific text in question here is Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over… the earth.’” The “us” in question here is the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Last week when we confessed the Athanasian Creed we confessed the absolute Trinity in Unity without confusing the Persons or dividing the substance. Typically in the Church we ascribe the work of creation to God the Father, the work of salvation to God the Son (Jesus), and the work of sanctified living to God the Holy Spirit. However, those three persons are not divided, so all three were present at the time and work of creation. Martin Luther once said this about Genesis 1:26: “here both the plural and singular forms appear for God; thereby Moses clearly shows us that within and in the very Godhead and the Creating Essence there is one inseparable and eternal plurality.”
So, the short answer is that the “us” of Genesis 1:26 is the Triune God, all three persons present and accounted for at the time of creation. The image of God that we were created in refers not to a physical body, but to a reflection of God’s perfection and sinlessness, an image we lost after the events of Genesis 3. However, we will regain that image in the perfection of the new heavens and new earth…which is the topic next week.
Now, the next part of the question – “did (the ‘us’) include Lucifer?” The answer to that is no, it did not include Lucifer, a.k.a. the devil, Satan, the Accuser, the dragon, the ancient serpent, etc. You probably know who and certainly what the devil is and can do, but how did he get here? Satan, the devil, is a created spiritual being created originally as an angel. Well, when were the angels created, you ask? Let’s do a little Bible sleuthing, shall we?
Let’s begin at Job 38:4-7: (God said to Job) “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Most commentators (and I) agree that the morning stars and sons of God spoken of in Job are the angels. Makes sense, right? So, the angels are rejoicing at the time when the foundations of the earth are put in place. Back in Genesis, the earth itself is created on day three of creation. What this means is that the angels are in existence prior to day three of creation, but the Bible does not specifically whether that was day 1 or 2, so I won’t speculate either. Regardless, Satan leads a rebellion prior to the episode in the Garden of Eden and those who followed that rebellion all suffered the same fate: “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).
Next question: “In Genesis 11 is the Tower of Babel narrative. Why was God concerned about a united people on earth?” Okay…review time. In Genesis 11, the descendants of Noah are NOT doing what God had told them to do. God had told them in Genesis 8:27 to go out from the ark and “fill the earth.” Instead, the people decided to stop where they were in what would later become Babylon and not only set up shop as it were, but to take things WAY further than God intended. This wasn’t going to be some kind of temporary settlement; on the contrary, in their pride and evil design, the descendants of Noah decided to do something completely different and opposite of what God told them: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
The problem in Shinar isn’t one of a unified people. It has to do with a SINFUL people. Does the motivation of the people sound like “Glory to God in the highest” to you? Nope…sounds more like “glory to MAN in the highest.” People commonly want to sinfully “make their mark,” to be more divine-like than man-like, and be remembered for their greatness. But in doing so the people on the plains of Shinar rejected God’s instructions and will.
Now, don’t think that God actually physically came down to earth like some kind of heaven-sent building inspector; it’s a poetic way of describing what God saw. As a result, God instituted a more horrible judgment than the flood. The flood wiped out one generation of people; the Tower of Babel affair bred confusion, suspicion, and hatred in every generation since then right down to our broken, disorderly world. Rebellion against God ultimately leads to division among people.
And it is for those reasons – Satan, rebellion, a desire to be like God, pride, and so many others – that Jesus Christ came to die for our sins, to rise again for life, and promises to return to re-establish the perfection that we lost in the aftermath of Eden. That is why the heart-felt plea of the Church still goes out each and every day “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!”
Indeed…come Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.