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The Tyranny of Adam
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." Ex 34:6-7
When the Holy God declared His goodness to Moses, He said He would "visit the iniquity" of the fathers onto their children to the third and the fourth generation - and only that far. The Hebrew word here for iniquity is avon. Avon not only denotes sin, but also the consequences of that sin. We "visit the iniquity" of a felon onto him by tossing him in jail. Therefore, avon refers to both the crime and the time.
Thankfully, the Lord declared time runs out on the ill effects of iniquity. He has promised "I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made." (Is 57:16) People may sit under the cold, dark shadows cast by their sinful parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, but those shadows reach no further and last no longer. They eventually dissipate and fade away.
Yet, Paul tells us in Romans that "sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" (Rom 5:12). But, why? Why does Adam's sin still darken the steps of men and women to this day? Mahalalel was the 5th generation from Adam. Why wasn't he, and every generation since him, free of the consequence of Adam's rebellion and disobedience?
The difference is we aren't merely feeling the consequence of Adam's sin as a generational hangover. No, when Adam sinned, we were all in him. Therefore, as Paul stated in the above quote, we sinned with him, and were sentenced with him.
If someone steals my wallet, they would also steal a lovely little picture of my wife that is in it. The thief wasn't interested in that picture. He may never even be aware of it. But, when he takes out the cash and throws my wallet away, then he will throw away that picture, too. The fate of that picture is bound up with the fate of my wallet. Adam was the wallet of mankind, and we were all tucked inside.
When Adam reached out for the fruit of the forbidden tree, we reached out with him. He reached out for all of us, not just for himself. We sampled what he ate. And, when God judged him, the sentence fell on us all. We all departed the garden with him. Our brows now sweat in toil till we return to the dust, because the curse pronounced against Adam struck him to his core, including all of his seed that was in him, and we are that seed.
"One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him" (Heb 7:9-10) .
In a very real sense, we are Adam. Eve was one with Adam, for she was taken from his side, and then joined in union with him. And the whole race, the Adam race, has emanated from them. It is Adam's life we are living, and that life is mortal. Mortality and futility are not generational curses lying like smog across the ages. They can't just be blown away by the breeze. They have been woven into the race and are intrinsic to it. We carry the curse in us, not on us.
Imagine for a moment you were a castaway like Tom Hanks in the movie. But, let's say, despite your best efforts, you were unable to build a fire. Then, one day, lightning strikes a tree on your island, and suddenly a fire is kindled! You may not be able to start a fire, but you keep one going. So, you run over and feed it, first with grass and little sticks, then with bigger and bigger sticks, till you have it blazing.
You'd be careful after that, to keep it going, wouldn't you? You'd also likely take a burning branch out of that fire and light another one, farther away. The location of the original fire might not be convenient. So, you might let the first fire die out - after you had successfully transferred some fire to a better spot. Over time, you might transfer that fire to several different locations. But, every one of those fires would have come from the first fire. All of your fire would've been the result of that single lightning bolt.
So it is with us. We don't create life, we procreate it. God is the creator, and He breathed life into Adam. That same breath is in each and every one of us. The single spark imparted at the beginning has multiplied and spread around the world and down through the centuries. Yet, all of it can be traced back to that original kiss. We each carry a dollop within us of the life first granted to Adam.
Consider, Jesus used one boy's basket of bread and fish to feed thousands of people. He multiplied the boy's food, he didn't add other fish and bread to it. Each person there shared in the same offering. And, the twelve baskets full of leftovers gathered at the end of the meal were all left over from the same solitary lunch. So it is with Adam. There may be billions of lives in the earth, but there is only one life being lived, Adam life.
The tyranny of Adam spans the globe. His iniquity is a congenital disease borne by all. We can't escape this evil, because we carry it in us, and with us, wherever we go. "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24)
There's an answer to that rueful question, and it comes in the very next verse: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom 7:25) It turns out, there was another. The Lord has started a new stream of life, one that does not derive its life from Adam. Like Adam, this one received a fresh spark directly from God. This one wasn't in Adam when he rebelled. He took no part in that treason, and stands free of the curse declared because of it. At the heart of The Gospel is this glorious truth: There's a green, new branch of life in the tree of Man. The Holy Spirit even called him The Branch (Zec 3:8, 6:12). We'll consider him next, and the grace of God bound up in him.
© Matthew Schilling January 2018
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