Satan's Scheme to Devour a Baby Boy

(Advent Sermon)

Sermon Passage: Genesis 3:14–15, Matthew 2:1–18 | Preached to SGF | 12/20/20

By Peder Kling 

This Sermon was Not Recorded. Enjoy the Manuscript!

Introduction

Around Christmas time, we often focus on two different doctrines, or themes in the Bible. The first is what we might call Christ’s incarnation—God became a man. It’s easily the most astounding reality of Biblical truth that we Christians confess. That in Christ Jesus, a human, “the whole fullness of deity dwells in a body”. It makes the mind want to explode if you really think about it. Eternity, and perfect holiness, is wrapped in fallen flesh that could grow, get cut, and die—yet without sin. That’s the first doctrine we often think about around Christmas time.

 

But the other doctrine, or Biblical theme, we talk about is this idea of advent. You might think of advent calendars, and other advent festivities we do during the days and weeks prior to Christmas. Advent comes from the latin word “adventus”, meaning “arrival”. So advent is about that long-expected Jesus, and its not so much about his arrival as it is about waiting for his arrival. We often like to think about, and even act out, the process that God’s people went through as they waited for the Messiah to come. An advent calendar with chocolates and other fun activities which might call us to associate “waiting for the Messiah” with sweet and joyful things.

 

The Whole Story of Advent

So today, I want to do four things, generally speaking. (1) I want to define what we mean by advent—what does it mean to wait upon God, Biblically speaking. There is something in this passage that drew me to this concept of waiting upon God, and I want to show it to you in order to kick us off. Then, we will look at  (2) the origins of Advent—you see, advent began in the garden. This is something we often overlook. Then third, (3) we will trace the story of Advent through the OT. And then finally, (4) we will consider how advent applies to us today.

1) What do we mean by advent?

2) The origins of advent in the garden.

3) The story of advent through the Old Testament.

4) How advent applies to us today.

 

1. What do we mean by Advent?

With reference to the Biblical story, we often think of advent simply in terms of the 400 years of silence from God before Jesus came. So, we often think, “God was with his people from the days of Abraham to the last prophetic word spoken through Malachi, but then silence”. God left, or seemed to leave. And advent is a matter of waiting in still, quiet, silence—as God was quiet for 400 years. It’s like that moment of suspense in a story, just before the story reaches its resolution. 

 

Is that advent? Is that what it’s like to wait upon the Lord to fulfill his promises? Waiting in a still, quiet silence? In fact, to push this a little further—should we even refer to advent as only that 400 year-wait marked by no word from God? “God stopped talking, now we just gotta wait…”. Well, no, not quite. As I will show you in a moment, advent began in the garden of Eden when God promised the serpent that an offspring of the woman would crush his head, giving victory to the woman’s offspring. Advent is about waiting for the Messiah—and that is the story of the Old Testament. Advent is about Adam and Eve waiting. It is about Abraham waiting. It is about Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. It is about King David, Esther—all of the faithful remnant of God’s people who have gone before us, who waited patiently for God to fulfill his promise that a Messiah would come through their lineage. 

 

But, now, let me ask you this—if you read their stories, would you characterize their waiting as “still, quiet, easy and sweet like a box of advent chocolates”? Not at all. They experienced strife, and opposition. That opposition was not merely worldly opposition—it was demonic. It was from that great serpent, the devil. You see, all the way back in the garden when God cursed the serpent, the devil was told that an offspring of the woman would crush his head with a mortal wound. Now, if you received a promise of your destruction like that, do you think that might make you paranoid, edgy? Do you think you would keep your eyes pealed for a unique child to come from the woman? Do you think you might make life hard for that woman who at any time could be pregnant with this offspring? Hence—this woman, God’s people, saw oppression from the devil from the moment the offspring was promised to the moment the offspring arrived.

 

And of course, what happens when this child was born? This is where our passage comes into play today. You heard me read this in our passage today (Matt 2:16–18)—

 

Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under… . 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

        18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,

                        weeping and loud lamentation,

             Rachel weeping for her children;

                        she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

 

This is quite appalling, isn’t it? But it’s not ultimately a work of Herod. It’s a work of the devil—and it’s the same work that the devil has been doing since he first heard of the promised Messiah. Our passage today ties in with this theme of advent by showing us what advent involved for God’s people. It involved receiving hard blows from the serpent, as the serpent sought to thwart God’s plans.

 

Just to get this more concrete and clear to you, turn to Revelation 12. This chapter describes God’s people as a woman in labor with a male child who would rule the nations, and it describes the devil as a dragon. Look at this.

 

1b ... a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars [i.e., we're looking at a beautiful woman, Christ’s bride]. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth [i.e., to the Messiah]. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron [again, Jesus, a ruler of all nations and who was to crush the head of the serpent]… [we’ll stop there for now]

 

Does that sound at all familiar? Perhaps, maybe, when the devil moved King Herod to destroy baby Jesus. But think about all the imagery, here. The woman is for some time crying out in birth pain. She’s pregnant with the promise of the Messiah—and, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the birth pain she is experiencing is the opposition she received from the devil. From the garden all the way to Jesus as a baby boy, the devil sought to destroy this promised child and his heritage.

 

And that’s what waiting for the Messiah looked like for God’s people. It looked like a great dual between a damsel in distress, and a dragon seeking to destroy her. At times the woman’s situation seemed hopeless—and yet, because of God’s faithfulness to his people, and his power over the dragon, we see in the end a beautiful and awe-inspiring story. God’s people would wait upon God—not in silence—but through great opposition. And the story ends with a clear message that God’s purposes and power cannot be thwarted.

 

Waiting on God hard, isn’t it? God’s people have never been promised easy lives. If anything, we’ve been promised hard lives—lives of persecution and distress. We trust in a word that the devil hates, a word which this world hates because it condemns them. But God’s word of promise cannot be thwarted.  Even Herod’s decree could not kill the baby boy. Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 3:8,

 

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient…

 

And this should remind us that God’s slowness to fulfill his promises isn’t because he’s struggling with his opposition. It’s not as though the opposition he receives slows him down. God is not slow, he’s just right, according to his purposes. Galatians 4:4–5 tells us 

 

4 When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem [us from our sins]….

 

So, that’s what advent is, and what’s involved with it. It’s waiting on God’s promises, according to his good purposes and his timing, trusting in his power to save and deliver you. And I don’t say this to say you shouldn’t buy advent calendars with chocolates. I don’t say this to tell you to associate advent only with opposition, and that you should put your kids through a gauntlet of trials between December 1st and December 24th. Waiting upon God is sweet, it’s rewarding—and part of the reason for this is because God is rewarding. He’s worth waiting for, even through the trials and tribulations. He allows you to be tried and tested in order to show you that he is worth the trials of this life—that he can satisfy you through them. 

 

But still, advent was a weighty matter for God’s people in the OT. There was a serious enemy seeking to destroy God’s people as we wait for God to fulfill his promises. But God was faithful, and he was worth it to those faithful few who trusted and waited upon him.

 

Now what about the origins of advent? When did this season of waiting-through-adversity for the Messiah begin? Well I already gave you an answer—it began in the garden of Eden. But let’s look at that situation a bit closer.

 

2. The Origins of Advent in the Garden

Turn to Genesis 3 with me. Now, again, we just defined advent as a matter of waiting upon God to fulfill his promises, even through adversity. So, you might expect to find that when we go to the origins of advent, we will also see the origins of the adversity—or opposition, or trials—that accompany advent. And that’s exactly what we see in Genesis 3. In Genesis 3, we see that the first trial mankind ever faced was from the devil—the serpent, whose mission is to overthrow God from his throne. 

 

Now, notice what the devil does in order to oppose God. He goes to God’s people, and he questions God’s word before them. Verse 1, that well-known verse, “Did God actually say ‘you shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”. The first thing the devil does to oppose God is to get God’s people thinking about the validity and fairness of God’s word. One way the devil gets you to stop waiting upon God’s word is to get you questioning God’s word. That’s how this works. 

 

But then, once he has you thinking, and once your willing to mince God’s word, the devil will altogether contradict God’s word. Verses 4 and 5 of Genesis 3, “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

 

Now isn’t that interesting. First, there is an outright rejection of God’s word. “Sin will not kill you”. But then, he suggests worldliness to you. “when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. You will have power, wisdom, freedom and joy—oh, and it won’t kill you. It’ll actually give you life.

 

That’s how the devil works, and we should know it well. In 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul tells us “we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

 

Satan’s designs are tailor-made to thwart God’s word, and get us to stop trusting God’s word. He first deceives us so that he can destroy us. He deceives to destroy. And we see that all over scripture. And that is the scheme that put us, all of mankind, into curse. Adam sinned, and all mankind in Adam was cursed. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that “in Adam all die”. Adam’s sin brought the death of humanity. “You were dead in your trespasses and sins”, Ephesians 1. You are dead to God—born in sin, judged, cursed, with a great need for salvation.

 

And that’s where God’s mercy toward us, and his power over the devil enters the story. Look ahead to Genesis 3:14–15, where God curses the devil.

 

Gen 3:14   The LORD God said to the serpent,

             “Because you have done this,

                        cursed are you above all livestock

                        and above all beasts of the field;

             on your belly you shall go,

                        and dust you shall eat

                        all the days of your life.

15          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.”

 

The devil is cursed, humiliated to eat the dust, but also confronted with a great problem. He will experience enmity, or strife, with the woman. And not only Satan and this woman—perhaps Eve—but also Satan’s offspring and Eve’s offspring. Isn’t that interesting? Does the devil have offspring? What are we talking about? But then it gets more interesting. The end of verse 15, “He”—that’s singular, so a single, male offspring, “will bruise [or break] your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” In other words the devil will harm a future male descendent of the woman, but that descendent will give a mortal blow to the head of the serpent. 

 

Do you see the promise? And, can you see why, when you turn to Revelation 12, the devil is portrayed as “stooping over the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it”? Do you see why the devil might insight Herod to kill every child 2 years and younger in Bethlehem? 

 

But let’s back up here. Who is all this offspring exactly? There will be enmity between the devil’s offspring, and the woman’s offspring. That almost sounds like there’s more than one offspring in mind—not just some singular, male offspring. Can we be sure this is referring to Jesus, the promised Messiah? 

 

There are two more references to this kind of language in Genesis, and I think they are helpful to us. Let’s just look at one of them. Jump ahead to Genesis 22:16–18. This is that passage when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar. And, remember—God had already promised Abraham that the Messiah would come through Isaac. So, this time it almost seems like God himself—not the devil—is planning to snuff out the promised serpent crusher. But of course, Abraham trusted God to provide according to his word, God did provide, and God says this to Abraham—

 

“By myself I have sworn… because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore [interesting. That’s a lot of offspring there, not just one singular male. but then look at what he says next]. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

 

So, which is it? A promise for many offspring, or one? Paul picks up on this later in Galatians in a way that really serves to show us what a brilliant work God was doing through all this. In Galatians 3 verse 13, Paul tells us that “the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.” So there, Paul himself says that we are to see a promised, single offspring who will possess the gate of his enemies. He will destroy his enemy, the serpent, and all those who follow the serpent. But then Paul, within the same chapter of Galatians, goes on to say in verse 29, “if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

 

So, the offspring of the woman who would destroy the serpent can be regarded first as Christ, the Messiah who would crush the head of the serpent and possess the gates of his enemies. But then, the offspring of the woman is regarded to be as numerous as the stars—that is, those who belong to Christ, who waited for him in the OT, who believed in the promise of his coming, and who are today united to him by faith.

 

But what does this mean about the devil’s offspring? One person put it this way—“Those understood as opposing the purposes of God and his people appear to be regarded as the seed of the serpent”. And as we press into the biblical story, that’s what we see. Essentially, humanity is broken into two families that are not bound by blood, but by loyalties—the offspring of the woman, identified with love toward God; and the offspring of the devil who love the devil and his ways. Who were the pharisees? Well, they were physically descended from Abraham. But they weren’t offspring of the woman, that’s for sure. They opposed Christ. So Jesus says of them in John 8:42, ““If God were your Father, you would love me… [but] you are of your father the devil”. 

 

So, we’ve seen what advent is. It’s a matter of God’s people joyfully waiting for God to fulfill his promises about the Messiah, even if that waiting includes opposition. Then, we’ve seen the origins of advent—the serpent deceived mankind into sin, and God in turn provided a promised messiah, a single male offspring for God’s people to wait for, and for the devil to destroy (or try to). 

 

Now, let me give you a few brief points in the Old Testament where we see this showdown between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. 

 

3. The Story of Advent through the Old Testament

Now, you might be quick to guess that the showdown doesn’t take long to peak its head after Adam and Eve are kicked out of the garden. Right away, the devil jumps on the first victim he can—the firstborn children of Adam and Eve. For all we know, the offspring to destroy Satan would be the first child born to Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel. Satan enlists Cain to his ranks, and Cain kills Abel who seemed to show favor toward God—how showed himself to be a true offspring of the woman who was loyal to God. Jesus actually refers to this event in passing when he condemns the pharisees, and contributes Abel’s death to Satan rather than Cain—he says, “you [pharisees] are of your father, the devil… he was a murderer from the beginning”. Did Satan kill anybody in Genesis? His offspring did—Cain did, as he was filled with jealousy and envy, just as the Pharisees were. And what did the Pharisees seek to do, just like Cain? They sought to destroy the offspring of the woman, the Messiah.

 

But God would be faithful to Adam and Eve—who were the first people of God to wait for the appointed offspring. If you look ahead in Genesis 4 to verses 25 and 26, you see Eve say after giving birth to a boy named Seth, ““God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”” Then Genesis says, “26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” The seed of the woman continues, and God is praised despite opposition.

 

Now, as we proceed through the Bible’s story with this seed of the serpent and seed of the woman motif in mind, we actually find an answer to a passage that always troubled me. In chapter 6 you read about a time in history just before fall when “the sons of God”–a term for angelic beings—“took as their wives any woman they chose.” So, this is that strange passage when there seemed to be some angelic-human hybrid walking the earth. This may have been the Nephilim as well. But look what happened when this began. Verse 5—"The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”. Evil and wickedness spread like a plague. Some suggest that this was yet another plan of the devil to prevent the coming of God’s promised offspring. Fallen angels, demons, cohabited with man, and took the wives. The devil was trying to take over the human race—physically. That’ll do the job. Verse 8—“but Noah found favor—literally, grace—in the eyes of the LORD.” Mankind would be spared by God’s gracious love toward the only offspring of the woman remaining who was faithful to God.

 

Then of course, there’s the story of how God kept the family of his promise through Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. The lineage of the Messiah would end up in Egypt to find unbelievable oppression from the devil there. If you remember the opening pages of Exodus, a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph took the throne in Egypt and found that he was being overtaken by too many Israelites. They were overpopulating, too many seed. And of course, the Pharaoh (who, by the way, used the symbol of a snake to convey his power) solved this problem by decreeing that every male child among the Hebrews be killed. God did not respond lightly to this gesture, as the rest of the Exodus story tells us. 

 

Moving on, we find the story of Esther and Haman. Literally, the point of Esther’s story is to illustrate that even when God’s people were exiled, surrounded by offspring of the serpent, the woman and her offspring would prevail. Haman, if you remember the story, sought to literally destroy the entire people of Israel. But God’s promise prevailed through Esther.

And then, of course, we have already seen how Jesus treated false teachers. “You brood of vipers”, “your father is the devil”. When Jesus arrived in God’s holy city, the city had been overtaken by offspring of the serpent. People who taught lies, twisted the truth of God for a lie—all to destroy God’s people and God’s holy offspring. But then, of course, the Israelites were not only taught by the seed of the serpent. They were ruled by the seed of the serpent—Herod himself who would, like Pharaoh, seek to snuff out the promised Messiah by killing a generation of baby boys.

 

And that, my friends, is the story of advent—the coming of the Messiah. That’s what it looked like for God’s faithful remnant to wait upon God, and for his promised offspring to destroy the serpent. It is a story of adversity, of enmity between Satan’s offspring, and the woman’s offspring. But God in Christ won the battle for his people. He sent his eternal Son, God himself, into the flesh to destroy the devil and redeem his people from their sins. And as Christ said, “no one takes my life from me, I lay it down on my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”. 

 

So, we’ve seen that advent is a story of waiting for the promised Messiah—and it is a story of waiting through adversity. We’ve see that the story began in the garden when the devil received a condemning word that promised his destruction, and our salvation. We’ve seen how that story worked its way from Cain versus Abel, to Christ versus Herod and the Pharisees. Let’s now think about how advent applies to us today.

 

4. The Story of Advent in the New Testament (Today)

Advent is about waiting for the promised Messiah. He came, he conquered. What now? Are we waiting for the Messiah? Absolutely—only, we are waiting for his second coming with security in his accomplished victory, and his defeat of Satan.

 

So, does this mean we will not receive opposition from Satan and his offspring? Not at all. The devil has been defeated, but God has allowed him to roam this world until Christ’s return. But if he’s not seeking to prevent the Messiah’s coming, and if he’s defeated, then what’s he doing? Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 5:8,

 

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

 

He’s seeking to devour you. Does the devil think this is going to somehow save him—or reverse the tides back into his favor? No. Revelation 12 says that he is among us “in great wrath, because he knows his time is short”. 

 

So what’s he doing? He’s once again deceiving in order to destroy. And he’s doing a pretty good job at it. Let me close with the words of a man named A. W. Pink. This is from his book “Satan and his Gospel”. Pink says in this book that Satan’s work is no longer a work of anticipation—as though he is anticipating and snuffing out the Messiah’s arrival. Rather, his work is a work of imitation. He seeks to lead God’s people astray by imitating God and his gospel as much as possible.

 

A. W. Pink said, 

The gospel of Satan is not a system of revolutionary principles nor yet a program of anarchy. It does not promote strife and war, but aims at peace and unity. It seeks not to set the mother against her daughter nor the father against his son, it fosters the fraternal spirit whereby the human race is regarded as one great “brotherhood.” It does not seek to drag down the natural man, but to improve and uplift him. It advocates education and cultivation and appeals to “the best that is within us.” It aims to make this world such a comfortable and congenial habitat that Christ’s absence from it will not be felt and God will not be needed. It endeavors to occupy man so much with this world that he has no time or inclination to think of the world to come. It propagates the principles of self-sacrifice, charity and benevolence, and teaches us to live for the good of others, and to be kind to all. It appeals strongly to the carnal mind and is popular with the masses, because it ignores the solemn facts that by nature man is a fallen creatures alienated from the life of God, and dead in trespasses and sins, and that his only hope lies in being born again.

 

The offspring of the serpent continues today—and it’s not simply the white supremacist or the racist bigot. It’s the false teacher in the churches who advocates for that sort of gospel, that sort of humanity. So as you ponder the season of advent, and think about what it must have been like to wait for the Christ, remember that advent involves adversity. And with adversity, humility to trust in God alone. For he was faithful to bring the Messiah—not by any works of man, but wholly by his design, his power over the enemy, and his faithfulness to his word. 

 

Waiting upon God is hard. But his timing is best, and his ways are sure. The Messiah did come, and he will come again. And until then, he will show himself faithful to you who trust in him and his Christ. We need only to acknowledge that we are lost and helpless without him, and to receive his truth and promises by faith. So, diligently seek him, his truth, his ways, and rest in his faithfulness.