Friday, September 28, 2012

Prayer – The Silent Treatment

James 4:2

23 September 2012



Main Text:     "you do not have because you do not ask." James 4:2

Point of Emphasis:     Hindrances to prayer

Memory Verse:    "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" Philippians 4:6


What happens when you are in a group (like Sunday School) and the leader asks, "Who wants to pray?" Many will avoid eye contact and then inevitably someone will reluctantly agree to pray for the class. Now think about ways in which we sometimes choose not to pray.

I remember in high school and college when having a meal with my peers at church all are sitting down at dinner and then all of a sudden someone puts up two thumbs and quickly the rest of the table follows suit until the last person realizes they have been slow and now they have to pray.

In both of these situations what we see is a reluctance of Christians to pray, at least publicly. Is that kind of reluctance just for public prayer or do we also have things that hinder our private prayers? This morning we are going discuss hindrances that exist in our lives that keep us from praying effectively.

Biblical Content

Ultimately the reason that we do not pray, or that our prayers are hindered, is because of sin. When we included confession in the A-C-T-S outline last week it was not just so we can check a box and say "yep did that", but so that we can talk to good freely without guilt. In Genesis chapter three we saw where Adam and Eve are pushed out of the Garden, and thus out of a relationship wherein they walked with God daily. Sin has ever caused a barrier from God for every human since then. This is especially evident in the realm of prayer. We will be discussing a few examples of sins that keep us from praying.

  1. Hypocrisy—Last week we discussed how not to pray like a hypocrite (Matt 6), but many do pray like hypocrites. Consider this passage: "Moreover the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 'Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.' But Ahaz said, 'I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!'" (Is 7:10-12) In this passage God is asking Ahaz to pray and Ahaz, for pious, religious, or spiritual reasons, refuses to pray. God has already seen the doubt in his heart, but Ahab chooses denial.

There are many times that people refuse to pray because they feel like they know better than God. Sometimes this comes because, like Ahaz, we believe that we are being more spiritual by not praying. Other times it comes out because we know that if we pray we might show our weaknesses in our faith to others and we want to keep a strong impression that we have it all together spiritually. Whatever the reason, hypocrisy is putting on an act before God and men that we have it together and believe we do not need his help.

The Bible, however, has much to say about how we should pray. In Romans 1:9 Paul states, "For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers." Paul was a man who indeed was spirit filled, but he needed to pray constantly, for himself and for others. In Philippians 1:4 Paul mentions that in every prayer he always lifted up the Philippians. He was unceasing in his prayers. In 1 Thessalonians 3:10 Paul mentions that he is praying night and day. In these three passages we see that Paul prayed, unceasingly, always, and night and day. This indeed does not look like the prayers of a hypocrite, one who knows better than God, but one who seeks after God for all things.

<What are some examples in which you have not prayed for the sake of appearances?.>

  1. Selfishness—We all know what selfishness is. We see it in our children, our spouses, and (most of all!!!) we see it in ourselves. It is a shame that this is a hindrance to our prayers, but it is a reality we must all face. There are times that we know we must go to the Lord to pray about something or someone, but we just choose not to. We have something better to do. What this inevitably does is show that we are not really concerned for others or more concerned with ourselves.

<Think about the prayers you do pray. How many are directed to God or are interceding for others? How many are about things that we want done in our lives? This is a good test to see the selfishness of our prayers.>

James 4:3 says, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." Praying correctly, as you remember from last week, involves humility, incorrect prayers are arrogant and selfish. James here highlights that selfish part of our lives. Another passage, Psalm 78, tells of the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness before coming to the promised land. In verse 18 it says, "And they tested God in their heart/ By asking for the food of their fancy." (Ps 78:18). 1 Corinthians 10:6 tells that this story is recorded so that we can learn to be different than the selfish Israelites. Often times we also test God in asking for things outside of his will. This is nothing but selfishness.

<How are we selfish in our prayers?>

  1. Doubting—Though it is not necessarily a sin to have doubts, it is a sin to doubt that God will work something out when he says he will. The Bible is clear that God will work certain things out in our lives. Mark 11:23-24 says, "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." Prayer, in faith, can accomplish much, the problem is that we do not believe that we can cast mountains into the sea, that God can do something more than find our missing car keys.

James tells us to pray in faith, "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." James 1:6. To not pray in faith, or to doubt God, is to shipwreck our lives. Moreover, it means that we are calling God a liar, saying that God won't do something, or saying that God can't do something. These are statements from unbelievers, not Christians. In Jeremiah 32:27 the Bible says, "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?" Let us not pray in unbelief for we have a mighty God who does mighty, miraculous things.

<How does doubt hinder your prayers?>

  1. Anger—Another hindrance to prayer is anger. This one is not too hard to consider. When we are angry we can do little else but think about what has made us angry. This is a big one for me. When I am upset about something it is difficult to accomplish anything. We are irrational and foolish. In these moments we know we need to take a breather and cool down. The same is true for our prayer times. Often we pray but have anger in our hearts, we must strive to remove the anger before coming to God with our prayers.

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:8 "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." Our prayers are to be devoid of anger, which means that we must have our hearts clear of it too. James 1:19-20 also speaks of anger, "So then,
my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." As we Adore, Confess, and give Thanks to God, it is difficult to do so without seeking righteousness. Anger hinders us from praying, as it also hinders are prayers when we pray.

<How is Anger a hindrance to your prayers?>

  1. Broken Relationships—Prayer is communication, and with any communication, when a relationship is broken we avoid speaking with that person. This is in part due to a fear of confronting the reasons for the broken relationship and a fear of how the other will respond. We do the same thing to God. There may be a sin in our life that is bad and we allow it to keep us from God. Last week we talked about Confession. This is the important prayer that helps restore the broken relationship with God, and though often painful it creates a feeling of healing and blessing.

Broken relationships with others also hinder our prayers. Matthew 5:23-24 says, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." This means that if there is a rift between us and another we must take care of that first before coming to God. Otherwise it is an obstacle to a prayer life. It is a nagging on our souls. The Bible is even clearer for the marital relationship. "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered."(1 Pet 3:7) If there is turmoil in the home, in our marriages, there will be prayerlessness. We must strive to eradicate any broken relationship so that our prayers may be offered.

<How have broken relationships hindered your prayers?>

  1. Unforgiveness--Lastly, if we are unwilling to forgive others then God will not forgive us. We studied the Lord's Prayer last week and it closed with these verses, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt 6:14-15). The ability to forgive others is directly related God's willingness to forgive us. If we are unforgiving then we are unable to pray and have any prayers answered.

Consider the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:

"Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

"But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.'
And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

"So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." (Matt 18:23-35)

<How has unforgiveness hindered your prayers?>

Hypocrisy, selfishness, doubt, anger, divisions, and unforgiveness, can either keep us from prayer or mute our prayers so that they are not effective. To put these things aside we have to value God's presence more than our offended feelings. Effective prayer has such a powerful potential we need to see that these things we sometimes feel strongly are not worthy to sacrifice our remarkable conversation with the Holy God who made us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Prayer – The Remarkable Conversation

Matthew 6:5-13

16 September 2012

Main Text:    Matt 6:5-13

Point of Emphasis:    How to Pray


Most people see prayer as a discipline or duty, something you ought to do, and are commanded to do; rather than a passionate desire of strong relationship. I want us to think differently about how and why we pray, so as to see prayer as a Remarkable

Here are a few quick examples of those who had great prayer lives.

"George Müller began each day with several hours of prayer, imploring God to meet the practical needs of his orphanage. Bishop Lancelot Andrews allotted five hours per day to prayer and Charles Simeon rose at 4:00 a.m. to begin his four-hour regimen. Nuns in an order known as 'The Sleepless Ones' still pray in shifts through every hour of the day and night. Susannah Wesley, a busy mother with no privacy, would sit in a rocking chair with an apron over her head praying for John and Charles and the rest of her family. Martin Luther, who devoted two to three hours daily to prayer, said we should do it as naturally as a shoe maker makes a shoe and a tailor makes a coat. Jonathan Edwards wrote of the 'sweet hours' on the banks of the Hudson River, 'rapt and swallowed up in God.'" (Philip Yancey, Prayer, 14)

Biblical Content

5 "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.

13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Your's is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

This passage contains the most famous prayer of Christianity. It is commonly called "The Lord's Prayer" or "Model prayer". The idea of a model is a good representation of what this prayer demonstrates. For the present this means that prayers are not magical formulas. Though there is nothing wrong with praying Scripture, just praying these words does not conjure up God's favor or grace. The purpose of prayers is something far more personal; it is a remarkable conversation between man and God.

This prayer is found in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus' most famous orations. The sermon addresses much that one should do in the Christian life, of which prayer plays a central role. In verse one of chapter 6 we see the larger category of the Christian life that Jesus is presenting. He says to not practice our righteousness before others and addresses this topic specifically in relation to giving, prayer, and fasting. These are the outward actions of a Christian, but are to be accomplished with the motive of seeking after God and not merely seeking glory for ourselves.

In verse five Jesus addresses prayer. He compares a person who truly prays with those of the hypocrites and Gentiles. The hypocrites like to shout their prayers from the streets and rooftops. The reason these people are called hypocrites is that the word for hypocrite in Greek is an actor. People who practice such prayers are merely putting on a show to be well regarded themselves and are not truly seeking after the purpose of prayer: to connect with the Almighty. This text shows that they have their reward. All these persons are doing is seeking the praise of men, but that is not the end goal of prayer, rather we should be seeking the pleasure of God.

Also, Christians are told not to be like the Gentiles when they pray. Now this means that we are to pray in Hebrew … no I'm kidding, rather the word is referring to those persons who pray to the pagan gods. Gentiles or heathens were known for praying many empty words to their false gods. Even the Lord's Prayer is often repeated by the unredeemed seeking favor from God. It is not the many words, but the repentant heart that makes an effective prayer.

So what then, how are we to pray? That is exactly what Jesus shows us in the Model prayer. For the sake of memory we would like to break down the model prayer into an easy to remember model: ACTS—Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.


The basic definition of adoration is "to love or respect" something. In prayer we place this at the beginning to rightly acknowledge the recipient of our prayer. If we really take time to ponder the person of God we soon become awed by his power, might, and holiness.

Psalm 93

The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The Lord is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord, The floods have lifted up their voice; The floods lift up their waves. The Lord on high is mightier Than the noise of many waters, Than the mighty waves of the sea. Your testimonies are very sure; Holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever.

Psalm 95

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.

Psalm 96

For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.

In the Lord's Prayer Jesus tells us to address God as "Our Father in heaven." As great as he is, God is still related to us, in Christ. He has chosen to come to us when we could not go to him. The second line says "hallowed be thy name." It is a fancy way of saying "God you are holy," and we say this in recognition of our sinfulness. Verse 10 continues this thought by discussing his kingdom and will, both will never end. This is a recognition of who God is, but it also is a recognition of who we are not, which leads us to our second point.


The contrast to the holiness of God is the sinfulness of man. Though God has a kingdom, we must recognize that we have none of our own. Though God's will always comes to completion we must realize the futility of our efforts apart from him. The stark differences between God and man should lead one straight into confession. Confession is the acknowledgment of man that he is a sinner, that he has done something wrong, and that he needs forgiveness.

In Matthew 6:8 Jesus tells us that God knows what we ask before we ask. He knows our sins before we confess them, but in order to be in a right standing with God we must confess our sins. Often this is a difficult thing for us to do because of our own pride, but if we have adequately acknowledged who God is in adoration we will want to do nothing else but beg for his forgiveness as we confess our sin before him. Though confession can be painful, we know it is good for the soul because, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 Jn 1:9).

In the Lord's Prayer we see that verse 12 is specifically looking at the confession of sins. We are asking God to forgive us our debts or our transgressions. It is only natural to see that if we are going to ask for forgiveness that we have a forgiving heart. Confession is something between us and God, but a Christian must also continually seek forgiveness for the wrongs they have done to others. It is even at these times that we realize that we cannot continue to seek God and not seek forgiveness from others. Confession must be sought on all levels or relationships.


Though not specifically addressed in the Lord's Prayer, giving thanks is one of the most common themes in the Bible.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It is especially appropriate to give thanks before moving to the final element of prayer.


The first three elements of ACTS, deal with humans before God and highlight our position before the Almighty. These three cannot be accomplished without humility. A humble heart before God is important, especially as we are prone to spend the majority of our prayer time asking from God for things. True supplication is a humble request. You cannot ask God of something without humbly coming before him.

In the Lord's Prayer we are taught to ask for the essentials of life, "our daily bread". How do we sincerely ask for this when we have refrigerators and pantries full of food? Well we need to think of all those who struggle for their basic needs, like our Manna kids, and remember that any of us could be in dire need of basic food. This is a corporate inclusive prayer "give us" so in this way we do not pray selfishly.

Some say that if you ask God for something he will give it to you. They may even say "name it and claim it." This is problematic because it does not take into account our position before God or God's own character. There must be an understanding that perhaps God's will may be, for instance, that he does not want to make us millionaires and that even though we pray to be one it is left unanswered. This by no means is a lack of faith, as some would say, but must be recognized as a prayer that is incongruous with the will of God.


  • When were you taught how to pray?
  • What are the roadblocks to your prayer life?
  • How can we be a hypocrite (as the text shows) in prayer?
  • How can we be a Gentile in your prayers?
  • What is your favorite prayer of adoration?
  • What is your favorite prayer of confession?
  • What is your favorite prayer of thanksgiving?
  • What is your favorite prayer of supplication?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Genesis 3 - The Temptation and Fall of Man

[Original sin is one of the most often protested theological ideas; and this story of the fall of man seems to really bother some people. The questions mostly revolve around temptation and why God would allow man to be tempted at all. In a world where we have thousands of temptations and countless opportunities to fail, I really don't understand that objection. They had one rule to keep, one prohibition to observe; what could be simpler? The world would only grow more complex as more people were added to the mix, so two people in one ideal place with a single rule is as uncomplicated as life could possibly be.]

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"

[Now you will recall that Adam was warned about the "tree of knowledge" back in Genesis 2

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

So right away we know that Eve has been warned about the "tree of knowledge" but that someone has added a "do no touch" to the warning that God originally gave to Adam. But at least Eve knows not to eat of that tree.

I was once asked by a skeptic "Why didn't God tell Adam to watch out for snakes"? He was asserting that the problem was with God's instructions rather than man's disobedience. But there is a clue in the text that reveals the flaw in that argument. The Hebrew word for serpent "nakhash" is the noun form of a word that means divining, enchanting or conjuring up spirits. You will recall from Genesis 2:19 it was Adam who observed and named each creature. So it is reasonable to conclude that the man, who named the serpent as creature divining spirits and whispering incantations, was aware of the deceptive potential of this snake. ]

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

[First the serpent tries to conceal the danger. "Didn't God give you all the trees? It's just another tree." Then he switches to envy to challenge the motives of God. "God knows if you eat of THAT tree you will be like Him." We still see these same challenges today. If you ever tried to warn someone away from drunkenness, drugs, or dangerous sexual temptations, they are likely to accuse you of trying to spoil their fun.

There is formula for temptation: 1. Diminish the risk "you will not surely die?" 2. Sell the benefits "you will be like God".]

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

[Whenever I read this verse it always reminds me of 1 John 2:16

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

So Eve had 3 desires leading her to take from the tree, her flesh "good for food", her eyes "pleasant to the eyes", and her pride "desirable to make one wise". So she took and she ate. Some people ask "where was Adam"? While it is possible he arrived after eve had eaten, the language of verse 6 "her husband with her" suggests that Adam was there the whole time.

What kind of a man lets his wife talk to snakes? We talked about the word for serpent and what that means, this is where a man should stand as the leader protecting his family instead of standing quietly by as a passive observer. But Adam was passive, and the costs to his family is devastating.]

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

[Genesis 2:25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Now they see themselves differently, sin has brought them shame, so they cover their shame with fig leaves. Ever notice how ineffective it is to hide your sin? Can anything really be hidden from God?]

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

["the sound of the Lord God walking", is better read as "the voice of God moving". "Lord God" is "Yehovah Elohiym". So they hear God, and hide from Him. Think of creation and all the stars and planets, how that God knows every part of it; and Adam and Eve try to hide behind a tree. This makes me think of a child covering their own eyes saying "you can't see me".]

9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself."

11 And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" 12 Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate."

[We are experts at self-justification, and avoiding responsibility. Contrast this passage with chapter 2 when Adam first sees the woman and rejoices over her "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh", husband and wife, "we are one"! And then the first man, fails to protect his wife from the dangerous incantations of the serpent, then blames her for his own sin, and even blames God for giving her to him.]

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

[Adam blames the woman and God, Eve blames the serpent, but no one takes responsibility for their own sin. It's like asking a kindergarten class "who took the cookies"?]

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:

"Because you have done this,

You are cursed more than all cattle,

And more than every beast of the field;

On your belly you shall go,

And you shall eat dust

All the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity

Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her Seed;

He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise His heel."

[It is no coincidence that serpents, firey serpents, and dragons pervade every culture as symbols of evil. The divining spirits of the serpent were demonic spirits who used to be angels before they were lead into rebellion by Satan himself. So the serpent is more hated than all the other animals, even the non-venomous ones cause your heart to race when you see them unexpectedly.

But even in the curse we see the promise of grace, where the seed of a woman would bruise the head of the serpent (to take away sin), and the serpent would bruise his heal, a far less serious injury.]


16 To the woman He said:

"I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;

In pain you shall bring forth children;

Your desire shall be for your husband,

And he shall rule over you."

[Ladies, what have you inherited from your mother Eve? Literally a pain in the uterus. Humans are fertile in every season; carry their babies for 9 months, and labor in great pain. Even with all that, most women desire a husband and children. Some have interpreted that desire in verse 16 as a desire to rule over your husband implying strife in that relationship for leadership of the family. Even in this difficulty the church is called the bride of Christ, and husbands are called to love, sacrifice and lead in the home, the way Jesus gave himself for the church.]


17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it':

"Cursed is the ground for your sake;

In toil you shall eat of it

All the days of your life.

18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,

And you shall eat the herb of the field.

19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread

Till you return to the ground,

For out of it you were taken;

For dust you are,

And to dust you shall return."

[As I suggested before, the wilderness outside the garden of Eden is a very different place. In the garden man had every fruit and nut tree that was good for food. In the wilderness man would find hard ground with weeds, and thorns, all these wild plants that were not good for food. So Adam's punishment included a constant frustration with trying to get a good crop out of bad ground. Also included in that is mortality, returning to the ground after death.]

20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

[I'm sure you've hear the term mitochondrial Eve. The mitochondrial DNA women inherit from their mothers, and genetic testing support the belief in one human family, just as the Bible teaches.]

21 Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

[The coats or tunics of skin imply a blood sacrifice of animals to provide the skins, and symbolize how blood atonement covers our sin, just as those animal skins covered the shame and nakedness of Adam and Eve.

Here we talk about death. Some have suggested that before the fall there was no death anywhere in the animal kingdom. I don't see a justification for that in the text. Everything we know about physics, chemistry, and biology is that it all works through entropy which is decay. Rather than believing immortality was in the body of man before the fall, I see verse 22 teaching that it was a special endowment provided to man through the tree of life.

Therefore evicting man from the garden, depriving them access to the tree of life, was the death sentence that simply allowed nature to take its course rendering us all mortal. This is what makes Genesis 2:17 true; "for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die", the day that man left the garden, and the tree of life, is literally the day that he began to die.

Some teach that Genesis 2:17 is talking about spiritual death, or separation from God. As I heard one preacher say "I would believe Genesis 2:17 is talking about spiritual death if it weren't for all the cemeteries". Verse 3:19 makes it clear God is talking about physical decay and death "to dust you shall return". I agree with those say the curse changes everything, but I think that was mainly carried out through this forced relocation to the wilderness. Today we reside in the wilderness, children of the fall, all in need of redemption. For temptations sake we left an ideal place God had prepared for us because of his loving-kindness. For temptations sake the world today neglects the grace of God, and a new place Jesus has prepared for all who believe.]