God will always do what he says. That’s true at all times and in all cases, and that’s especially true when it comes to Genesis 3:15
Chapters 4 and 5, our text today, and really all of Genesis (and the even entire Old Testament) are meant to show us that God will do what he says in Genesis 3:15, and what God says in Genesis 3:15 is that the seed of a woman — the offspring of woman, a child born from woman — is going to come and crush the serpent’s head. That’s what God says and that’s the main thing we need to see and settle on before we get into these next chapters.
And that’s because from here out it’s going to get really complex — and I don’t mean complex in a negative way, but I mean complex in terms of there are layers upon layers of things going on that have all kinds of implications for us, and I don’t want us to get lost. So Genesis 3:15 is sort of like our compass that’s going to help navigate us through what’s to come.
So let’s just look again, closely, at Genesis 3:15, and then we’ll get to Chapters 4–5.
Understanding Genesis 3:15
So Genesis 3:15 — this is after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin; God speaks to them and to the serpent and he pronounces a curse, and he’s talking to the serpent here in verse 15. God says,
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Now, let me just point out something that you may be asking. I’ve already used the phrase in this sermon, and Pastor Joe used it last week, but we’ve said that this verse is about the serpent-crusher. We’ve talked about this offspring of woman coming to crush the head of the serpent — but when we read this in a lot of our English Bibles, the English word is not “crush,” it’s “bruise.” If you’re reading the English Standard Version like me, it says that this offspring will come and “bruise” the serpent’s head. And “bruise” and “crush” are different. So what’s the deal?
The Ongoing Hostility
Well, the Hebrew word used here is only used two other times in the entire Old Testament. And in those places, in Job 9:17 and Psalm 139:11, the word is translated “to crush” and “to overcome.” And both of those mean similar things, but the way you figure out which one to go with is determined by the context around where the word is used. This is always the way it goes with translation: context helps determine meaning.
So if you look at the whole of Genesis 3:15, I think saying “crush” is a fine word to use (I like that), but it only works as long as we don’t miss what else is being said here.
The stress in verse 15 is the ongoing conflict between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman. God starts Genesis 3:15 with saying there will be enmity between the serpent and the woman. There’s going to be conflict and hostility between the serpent and the woman, and then God says that this hostility is going to be passed on to future generations. Which means this is not a one-time battle, but this is an ongoing war between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman.
And that’s the idea, I think, behind saying “bruise.” The idea is that there will be a volley of punches back and forth, from both sides, over the long-term. This is not a one-time thing. Some translations use the English word “strike” — which I think makes good sense. The image is that both the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman are trading hits, trading strikes, and the difference comes in that the offspring of the woman takes it on the heel, but the serpent gets it on the head.
And the implication there is that the strike on the head will eventually be decisive and fatal, which means there is going to a be real skull-crushing. The serpent will be crushed. And the image actually goes more like this, instead of [punches], it’s: [stomp, stomp, stomp, and then boom, it’s over]. Satan will be destroyed. That’s the way Christians have read this verse since the Second Century, and most importantly, that’s the way the apostle Paul applies this verse in Romans 16.
There is going to be an ultimate head-stomping, dragon-slaying victory by the woman’s offspring, but it’s not going to happen right away, and it’s not going to happen without fight.
And that is really important for us to know as we keep reading in Genesis (and in the Old Testament as whole).
The Main Message
So before we get into Chapters 4–5, let me just state again the main message in Genesis 3:15 we need to see and settle on. It’s that:
God will ensure that the dragon-slayer, head-stomper, serpent crusher will come, but he will come with a war waged against him.
And we’re going to start seeing that war today, in our passage. So with that, let’s look at Genesis 4 and 5, and we’ll do it in three parts, or actually three sons. We’re going to look: 1) Cain; 2) Seth; and 3) Noah.
Let’s start first with Cain.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”
The whole purpose of Cain and his story is to say that he is not the serpent-crushing offspring of woman mentioned in Genesis 3:15. Now he could be because he is the offspring of woman, but he’s not the one. And in fact, I think Chapter 4 shows us that Cain actually becomes the symbol of the anti-Genesis 3:15. Cain is the ultimate anti-offspring, and let me show you why. Here are two (three) reasons for why Cain is the anti-offspring.
1. Cain is too much like Adam, and worse.
You may have already noticed this, but the whole scenario of Cain and his sin and his response, is eerily similar to Adam in Chapter Three.
First, here’s the background: Cain has a younger brother, Abel. And the two brothers, in the “course of time,” are worshiping God. Cain is a farmer, and so he brings God an offering of his crop. Abel is a shepherd, and so he brings God an offering from this flock. And verses 4 and 5 tells us that God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s, and this made Cain angry.
So God comes to talk to Cain about that. Which is remarkable. Could you imagine that when you get angry, God comes and starts talking to you about it? He starts asking you questions. That is what God does here. God wants to know why Cain is angry, and then God exhorts him, verse 7, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Notice how God personifies sin in verse 7. “Sin is crouching at the door.” Sin sounds more like a animal, almost like a serpent. It’s crouching, it’s coiled up at the doorway, and God says, “Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Sin wants to make you dragon food, Cain, but you must resist it. You must rule over it. That is a clear message from God. Cain, watch out!
Then the next verse, Genesis 3:8, “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.”
Cain sinned. He’s guilty. The sin that was crouching at his door has devoured him. And just like God did with Adam, he comes to Cain with questions. First, verse 9, God says, “Where is Abel your brother?” God first had asked Adam, “Where are you?” Adam said he was afraid so he was hiding, but look at what Cain says:
God asks, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain says, “I do not know” — liar! He knows where he is! And then Cain even turns the question back on God. He questions God’s question. He says: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And this is a little word-play. Abel was a keeper of sheep, we see in verse 2. And Cain, gets a smart-mouth with God, and is asking: “Am I am the keeper’s keeper?”
And God knows what is going on. God says that the innocent blood of Abel is crying up from the ground, condemning Cain, and so God curses Cain. Cain is exiled to wander, to be a vagabond, and he is sent out east of Eden (4:16), just like Adam was sent out east of Eden (3:24). And just like God clothed Adam with fig leaves, by mercy, he puts a mark on Cain, by mercy, to spare his life. [Which seems a little strange, but I’ll tell you what I think about it in a minute]
So Cain is a lot like Adam. He sins, he is questioned by God, he is exiled east of Eden, he is marked by God. But Cain is worse than Adam. Cain was warned about sin, and did it anyway. Cain doesn’t squirm and blame-shift when God questions him; Cain outright lies and then questions the premise of God’s own question. And worse of all is the most obvious, Cain kills his brother. Cain kills the offspring of woman. He wipes out the offspring in a murderous rage. So Cain becomes the anti-offspring.
And there’s another way we see this is in verse 1. It’s that:
2. Eve tried to do herself what God said he would do.
Let me show you this. Eve says in verse 1, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” But there’s a question about whether what she says here is positive or negative. The word “help” is added. She actually just says “I have gotten a man with the Lord” or “beside the Lord.” And the word for “gotten” means to create, or produce or acquire. So another way to translate this verse is to say: “I have created a man with the Lord.” And the idea would be that Eve is actually saying: I have created a man like the Lord did.
I think Eve, in verse 1, is saying that she can take this offspring thing into her own hands. I think she is saying that she can do what God said he would do. God said he would send an offspring to crush the serpent, and Eve is saying here, “Hey, I can create just like God!”
And I think this makes more sense when we see it in contrast to the birth of Seth in 4:25. Seth is Eve’s third son, and when Seth is born, Eve says: “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him” (Gen 4:25).
She’s saying different things here about Cain and Seth. When Cain is born, she says, “I have gotten” (or “I have created”) — it’s the Hebrew word qana, which is where the name Cain comes from. But then when Seth is born, she says “God has appointed” — and the Hebrew word for appoint is shith which is where Seth comes from.
So with Cain, it’s I have gotten, created — Cain ; then with Seth, it’s God has given — Seth.
It’s I have gotten vs. God has given.
I think Eve, in verse 1, foreshadows another women who will come later in Genesis who also tries to take into her own hands what God said he would do. Later in Genesis 16, God had told Abram and Sarai that he’d give her a son, but she takes things into her own hands with her servant Hagar who she makes her surrogate to give birth to Ishmael. It’s the same idea.
And this is a theme we start to see in the Bible: I have gotten vs. God has given. It’s the spirit of Babel versus the spirit of faith. And just like this sort of thing could happen back then, it could happen today. It could happen even in this church.
What This Means for Us Now
We’re a baby church. We’re not even two-years-old yet, and that means at least a couple things. For one, it means we have a lot of room to grow. There are all kinds of things we’re still trying to figure out, and foremost is how to effectively fulfill our mission to make disciples. And we’re doing things, but we want to do them better and more faithfully. So there’s a lot of room for growth. But then the second thing, being that we’re not even two-years-old, is that we can think back to a time when none of this existed. It wasn’t long ago when there was no such thing as Cities Church, and today, here we are. And here we are, in that you and me are here. You, me, us, we’re here, this thing is happening, and some of you have been here since it was just a pipe-dream in a living room. Many others of you have been here from the start. And God forbid that any of us would ever think about Cities Church and say, “I have gotten” instead of “God has given.”
We are, as followers of Jesus, called and commissioned to be active — amen — but, let us never think that we can take any of this into our own hands. God has given!— that’s the chorus, over and over again. God has given, God gives, and God will give. All glory be to Christ!
That’s how it goes here. That is our song. God has given. And there are so many more applications of this when it comes to your job and your family. You just name it. It’s not “I have gotten” — it’s God has given.
Okay, back to Genesis 4.
Cain’s not the offspring of Genesis 3:15. Instead, he’s the anti-offspring, and I think we see this decisively in 4:25 in the fact that Seth is born. So let’s move over to the second point, Seth, and let’s talk about him.
When Seth is born, Eve calls him offspring. That’s the exact same word used in Genesis 3:15, and there’s supposed to be no doubt here that Eve sees the connection. Seth is the offspring line flowing from Genesis 3:15, not Cain.
But why is that? Why does God makes Seth the offspring? Why doesn’t God just make the Cain the offspring?
Well, we might think it’s because Cain is a bad guy. He killed Abel. Cain is ungodly. And I think that’s true, — the New Testament, in 1 John 3 and Jude 11, Cain is a figure of sin — but I don’t think that’s the reason for why Seth is born and called the offspring.
Remember I mentioned earlier the mark that God put on Cain. I think the mark that God put on Cain to spare his life is meant to show us that his sin is not the decisive factor in what makes him the anti-offspring. Instead, the decisive factor is God’s election. God chose Seth instead of Cain.
God could have chosen Cain — flawed men are not a problem for God. God could have chosen Cain, and in fact, Cain is the older brother, and he’s got sons and even great-great-grandsons, and they’ve even built a civilization. They have a culture. They’re advanced. And God could have said, “All right, the offspring is going to come from this line.”
But instead God starts all over, with a baby. God chooses not the oldest brother with all his advantages, but he chooses the youngest brother, a baby, with all of his disadvantages. We’re looking at a whole civilization with Cain, and then with Seth, he’s just one baby. And God chooses the baby. And God does it this way because that’s the way God does it.
See here, at the end of Chapter 4, a theme gets kicked off that we see throughout the entire Old Testament leading up to (and even in) the Gospel of Matthew, and it’s a theme that’s been called “the drama of the son.” And it goes like this: we know God will send an offspring, he’ll send a son to destroy Satan, and we know that Satan hates him, and so we’re asking: Where is this son? When will this son get here? How is Satan fighting against him? What is God going to do?
And we begin to see this drama unfold little by little, and it has two basic pieces: 1) the son is always unexpected; and 2) the son is always under attack.
And we can easily see this un-expectation. It shows up over and over again in the theme of one brother being chosen when it could have been (should have been) another. . . . It’s Seth, not Cain.
It’s Shem, not Ham or Japheth.
It’s Abram, not Nahor or Haran.
It’s Isaac, not Ismael.
It’s Jacob, not Esau.
It’s Judah, not his 11 other brothers.
It’s David, not his 7 other brothers all stronger and older than him.
nd this story of David, I think, captures this theme perfectly in 1 Samuel 16. The prophet Samuel comes to Jesse, David’s father, because God has told him that one of Jesse’s sons with be anointed king over Israel. And so Samuel comes and sees every single one of David’s older brothers, all seven of them, looking for the anointed one to be king, and it’s none of them. And Samuel is a little confused, and he asks Jesse, “So are these all of yours sons?” And Jesse replies, “Oh yeah, I’ve got one more, but he’s just the little guy out keeping the sheep.”
“The little guy” — that’s what the Hebrew word means.
And Samuel says bring him, and when Samuel sees David, David is the one.
Always Under Attack
The son is always unexpected, and the son is always under attack. . . .
We’re barely out of the book of Genesis when Pharaoh tells the Egyptians to kill every Hebrew son that would be born. Satan is trying to wipe out the offspring in another murderous rage. He just wants to kill them all. And then in Israel’s kingship, there is unbelievable turmoil with the sons. David’s own son conspires against him, and then all of the sons after him fail to live up to their calling. Most of them are bad kings who forsake God, and in the worst days, the people of Israel actually sacrifice their sons to false gods. Israel has a history of sons under attack, sons fighting one another, sons being murdered.
That is what Seth is stepping into in Genesis 4. He’s stepping into a war. He’s stepping into a world of hostility between his line and the serpent. And then we hear about Noah in Genesis 5:28.
Noah — and this is our last point.
Look at 5:28–29. Remember this drama of the son. The question is: When will this son come?
When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”
There’s no doubt here who they hope Noah is, right?
Do you see what his dad says? Finally, we have a son who has come to save us from the curse of sin. Finally, we have a son who will give us rest.
They think Noah is the one. They think he is the serpent-crusher, and the story just lets it hang there for a while: Maybe Noah is the serpent-crusher!
Well, we’ll see this in the next two weeks, but spoiler alert: it’s not Noah. He’s not the one.
But there is one.
The true serpent-crusher — the true Son — he’s going to come later, and, like all the sons before him, he’s also going to come unexpected and under attack.
He’s going to come so unexpected — so different from what you think — that he’s going to be born in a barn. His parents are going to be under the rule of a foreign king, and they’re going be traveling to a little Podunk town called Bethlehem, and his mother is going to start having contractions, and of all nights all the motels rooms are going to be full, so they’re going to have to find a stable, and in that stable, with the cows and the chickens — in a raggedy old stable in a Podunk town, unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.
It will be so unexpected.
And he’ll be under attack.
He will be so under attack that the Pharaoh — I mean Herod — will say to kill every son under two-years-old — Satan, again, trying to wipe out the offspring in a murderous rage. That’s the kind of war that will be waged against this son. It will be fierce and vicious, and it will culminate on a hill called Golgotha, a hill named, of all names, the Place of the Skull, and there the serpent-crusher, the ultimate skull-crusher will be bruised. No skull-crushing yet. There, on the cross, the son will take his harshest wounds.
And the Bible tells us that the wounds he took he took for you and me.
He’s going to stomp, but then he’s going to die. He’s going to be buried. And then on the first day, stomp. Second day, stomp. Third day, boom! Death will be defeated. The serpent’s power will be smashed.
This is what Jesus has done.
The apostle John tells us that this is the reason Jesus came into the world, to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). And he has done that. Jesus has overcome him. And Jesus will destroy him forever on the last day when he throws Satan into the lake of fire. That is future day yet to come, and until then,
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord of hosts, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.
And he will. Jesus will come back and finish this thing — because God will always do what he says.
And this Table is meant to remind us of that.
This Table is where we proclaim the Lord’s death until he returns. We remember what’s done, and we look forward to when he’s going to finish it.
And we remember that he did it for us, for you. Jesus died for you, Jesus was raised for you, Jesus is coming back for you.
So I invite you, if you trust in Jesus, let’s come and remember that in the Table. . . .