Seed of the Woman
December 8, 2008 | Ray Pritchard
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
This is the first promise given after the Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It is also the first gospel sermon ever preached on the face of the earth. Theologians call it the protoevangelium–or first gospel. These words spoken by God contain the first promise of redemption in the Bible. Everything else in the Bible flows from these words in Genesis 3:15. As the acorn contains the mighty oak, so these words contain the entire plan of salvation. The great English preacher Charles Simeon called this verse “the sum and summary of the whole Bible.”
Although you may not see it at first glance, Christ is in this verse. He is the ultimate Seed of the Woman who would one day come to crush the serpent’s ugly head. In the process his “heel” would be bruised on the cross. In short, this verse predicts that Jesus would win the victory over the Satan but would himself be wounded as the same time.
These words would be fulfilled thousands of years later at a place called Calvary outside the city wall of Jerusalem. But all of that was in the future when God first spoke these words. Neither Adam or Eve could fully have known what these words would one day mean.
This morning we are beginning our Christmas series for 1995. Our theme this year is Christ B.C. That title may seem like a contradiction because “B.C.” means “Before Christ” and how can we speak of Christ before Christ? We can if we realize that our Lord, as the Second Person of the Trinity, being fully God in all aspects, existed long before Bethlehem. Jesus the man came into being with his conception in Mary’s womb but Christ the Son of God existed from all eternity. That is what our Lord meant when he said, “Before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). He was claiming eternal existence with God the Father.
That is why we should not be surprised to encounter Christ in the Old Testament. Sometimes he actually appeared on the earth as “the angel of the Lord.” But in a broader sense the whole Old Testaments bears witness to him through many symbols and images and also through direct prophecy of His coming to the earth. During these weeks leading up to Christmas we will example four major Old Testament pictures and predictions of His coming:
Seed of the Woman (Genesis 3:15)
Lamb of God (Exodus 12:3)
A Prophet Like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:1-10)
Born of a Virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
I have chosen these four because they represent central truths that help us understand who Jesus Christ is and why His coming is so important. I trust that these sermons will prepare your heart for Christmas and will increase your devotion to Jesus Christ, the prophesied Son of God born in Bethlehem so long ago.
I. Understanding the Context
Because this verse is so important in the history of redemption, we need to understand something about its context.
A. Time and Place
We begin with the observation that this verse takes place near the beginning of human history. Adam and Eve have just eaten the forbidden fruit and sin has entered paradise. Their first impulse is to hide from God. Their second is to make excuses for their sin. Adam blames the woman and Eve blames the serpent. No one is willing to stand up and say, “I did it. It’s my fault and I take responsibility.”
Suddenly paradise is not so beautiful. Eden has been ruined by the entrance of sin. Dark shadows fall on the ground as Adam and Eve contemplate what they have done. The smell of death is in the air. Under a nearby tree the serpent lies quietly. He alone is happy. He delights in what is happening for this was his plan from the very beginning. He intended to humiliate God by ruining paradise and now he has done it. He has shown the whole universe that God’s great experiment would not work–that no race of beings could ever be trusted to freely obey God. Left to themselves they always disobey, even in paradise.
B. Persons Involved
As God surveys the moral wreckage of the fall, he immediately begins to pass sentence. He begins where the sin began–with the serpent. Later he will come to the woman and then to the man, but he speaks to the serpent first.
Although you may not realize it at first glance, this verse is not directed at you and me, though it certainly applies to us. God is the speaker and the serpent is the one being spoken to. In two short verses God passes judgment on the serpent for his part in the fall of humanity. First, he is cursed above every other animal. Second, the serpent will crawl on his belly forever. Third, he will eat dust all the days of his life.
C. The Bad News
The bad news for the serpent is that there is no good news for him. God doesn’t ask him what he did or why he did it because the Lord had already judged Satan when he threw him out of heaven. There are no extenuating circumstances to consider, no motions to file, no high-priced lawyers to argue the serpent’s case.
Even though verse 15 contains the first mention of the gospel, that is no ray of hope for Satan because he is forever excluded from God’s plan of salvation. For the serpent, there is only a curse and a public judgment. As Spurgeon says, “”But now God comes in, takes up the quarrel personally, and causes him to be disgraced on the very battlefield upon which he had gained a temporary success.”
In some ways, the Fall marks Satan’s finest moment. When he deceived Eve and Adam chose to follow her, he wrecked God’s plan and gained the whole world for himself. For a few short hours Satan won the great battle with God. But his victory was short-lived. Everything since then has been downhill for him.
II. What This Verse Predicts
With that understanding of the context we turn to consider Genesis 3:15 and ask what does it predict for Satan and for us. We may summarize its predictive teaching in three short phrases. First, this verse tells us there will be an …
A. Endless Conflict
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” The key word is enmity, which means “hostility” or “animosity.” One translation says “I will set a feud.” Another says “There will be war.” Note that God himself takes responsibility for this state of affairs.
First Eve and the serpent will never get along. If he thought that by deceiving her he had her in his back pocket, he was all wrong. Eve made a huge mistake but she would never join the serpent’s fan club. Every woman dreams of living in paradise; now that Eve has been cast out, every hard day will remind her to hate the serpent fiercely.
But the deeper meaning lies in the word the NIV translates as “offspring.” In the Hebrew the word is “seed,” referring to the generations yet unborn that would trace their heritage back to Eve. That “seed” or offspring refers to the men and women of faith in every generation who have believed in God. This is the godly line that leads to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Ruth, David, Daniel, Esther and eventually culminates in the person of Jesus Christ.
Satan Has His Seed
But Satan has his seed too. Throughout history in every generation, in every country, in every city, in every village, in every tribe and clan and in every family, Satan has had his people. That line starts with Cain who killed Abel and goes to the wicked generation of Noah’s day, to the Pharaohs who opposed Moses and the Canaanites who mocked Joshua. It includes all the pagan peoples of antiquity as represented by Goliath who laughed at David and also at David’s God. Who was it that threw Daniel in the lion’s den? The ungodly line of Satan. Who hated the prophets and murdered them in cold blood? The ungodly line of Satan.
Then we come to the days of Jesus. When he was born, Herod tried to kill him. When he grew up, the Pharisees opposed him and plotted to take his life. Satan even infiltrated his inner circle, filling the heart of Judas with malignant evil. When he was arrested, men stood in line to lie about him. When Pilate offered to release, the bloodthirsty crowd cried out for Barabbas instead.
Matthew Henry puts it well when he says:
It was the devil that put it into the heart of Judas to betray Christ, of Peter to deny him, of the chief priests to prosecute him, of the false witnesses to accuse him, and of Pilate to condemn him, aiming in all this, by destroying the Savior, to ruin the salvation.
Who was behind the crucifixion of Jesus? It was the ungodly line of Satan. This is the real “Conflict of the Ages”–the struggle between those who believe in God and those who don’t.
Beginning with Genesis 3:15 there is now a fundamental division in the human race. Francis Schaeffer speaks of “two humanities” that arise after the Fall:
From this time on in the flow of history there are two humanities. The one humanity says there is no God, or it makes God in its own imagination, or it tries to come to God in its own way. The other humanity comes to the true God in God’s way. There is no neutral ground.
The “seed of the woman” and the “seed of the serpent” have opposed each other continuously across the centuries. The struggle continues to this present hour.
Not a Popularity Contest
Earlier this week I received an email message from a new attender who said that a certain family member likes to criticize Calvary because of our stand against homosexuality. She loves to take potshots at this church when the family gets together on special occasions. I’ve heard that kind of thing before and it never surprises me. I counseled my friend that he should not get into an argument because that never accomplishes anything. Just calmly restate the biblical position and then smile. You don’t need to do anything else. Most importantly, we don’t need to get angry or upset because someone else gets upset with us.
Genesis 3:15 predicted Oak Park thousands of years ago. This church stirs up controversy precisely because we know which side we’re on. A long time ago we decided that God didn’t call us to win any popularity contests. In the end, He will judge us on the basis of faithfulness, not on the basis of popularity.
Remember the words of Jesus in John 15:18-19. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Jesus never promised that people wouldn’t criticize us. He just told us not to worry about it. Being hated by the world is part of the continual conflict that goes back to Genesis 3:15.
B. Temporary Defeat
“You will strike his heel.” If you’ve ever had a heel spur, or pulled your Achilles’ tendon, you know how painful this can be. We normally don’t think about heels until we start having problems. But what happens? You end up on crutches, taking painkillers and perhaps having surgery. Heel trouble slowly you down.
But it doesn’t kill you. You can live with heel problems even through you have to hobble around.
When our text says “he” will strike “his” heel, it has two-fold reference. First, it refers to the fact that in this life Satan sometimes wins the battle. He has many tools in his arsenal and he shoots them at the people of God 24 hours a day. Sometimes we are “wounded” by discouragement, criticism, anger, bitterness, or perhaps by cherished plans that go astray, dreams that never come true, projects that never come to fruition, goals that somehow are frustrated despite our best efforts.
If you want proof that Satan wins a temporary victory, visit the cemetery. Every grave testifies to his infernal power. We’ll all spend time there eventually.
So this text reminds us that the Christian life is not a bed of roses. Not only is there continual conflict, but the bad guys win a fair number of the battles.
Nails Through His Heels
There is another meaning, however. When Christ died on the cross, Satan struck his heel. Where on his body were the nails pounded in? His hands and his feet–right through his heels. On Friday about sundown, when they took the dead body of Jesus down from the cross, it appeared that Satan had won the battle. On Sunday morning, the true Victor walked out of the grave, alive from the dead.
Listen to these colorful words of Spurgeon:
Look at your Master and your King upon the cross, all distained with blood and dust! There was his heel most cruelly bruised. When they take down that precious body and wrap it in fair white linen and in spices, and lay it in Joseph’s tomb, they weep as they handle the casket in which the Deity had dwelt, for there again Satan had bruised his heel… . The devil had let loose Herod, and Pilate, and Caiaphas, and the Jews, and the Romans… . That is all, however! It is only his heel, and not his head, that is bruised! For lo, the Champion rises again!
Satan delivered a terrible blow to Jesus on Good Friday. No doubt he thought he had thrown a knockout punch. But he was wrong. All he did was strike Jesus on the heel. As painful as it was, that suffering was nothing compared to what Jesus did to Satan.
C. Eventual Victory
“He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” Let’s compare these two phrases for a moment. First it’s the heel vs. the head and second, it’s striking vs. crushing. When Jesus died on the cross, he delivered a crushing blow to Satan. Who do you think won that battle?
Heel wounds are painful but they don’t kill you. No one survives a crushed head. The Cross was God’s death-blow against Satan. It was the payback for the Fall and more besides. When Jesus died and rose from, the dead, he utterly defeated Satan.
Phillips Brooks has a wonderful passage that shows how Jesus won the battle even while he was dying:
He was wounded sorely; a life all torn and bleeding He dragged out to the end; but when the end came it was victorious. Look at Him on the cross… . Sin has taken the Savior and fastened him there. It has driven in the nails and crowded down the crown of thorns upon the forehead. It has seemed to have its own way with Him, and all the while, with those hands closing in agony over the nails, He is crushing its life out… . Sin is tormenting Him, but He is vanquishing sin.
To say it that way raises one question: If Satan has been crushed, why does he still seem to be doing so well 2000 years later? We know that Satan is indeed alive and well on planet earth. How can a defeated being who was crushed by Christ exercise so much power? The answer is that at the Cross Satan was judged and his sentence pronounced. However, he is now free to roam the earth awaiting his final execution. This also explains why Satan’s destructive power on the earth will grow even greater in the last days.
But in the end he will be destroyed and all those who follow him will be destroyed.
III. How It Applies to Us
Let’s wrap up this message by considering how all of this applies to us today.
A. The Christian life will always be a struggle.
Struggle implies effort, sweat, exertion, and difficulty. That’s why Paul uses the image of a runner, of a boxer, of a wrestler, and of soldier. The Christian life isn’t easy; it’s hard work that demands your full commitment and the full engagement of your soul.
Until the day you die you will struggle against temptation. Sometime you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose.
Don’t get discouraged because the Christian life isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. We’re at war. Life is hard, times are difficult, the enemy attacks on every side. “Every man upon this earth must face temptation and win his battle.”
Salvation is free, but no one gets a free ride to heaven.
B. Our victories will not come without wounds.
If it pleased the Lord to bruise his own Son, how shall we escape the wounds of life? If Jesus suffered in doing the will of God, so will we. At the Cross Satan struck a blow and wounded Christ in his heel. And even after his resurrection his body bore the marks of his suffering.
The same will be true for us. You will struggle hard in this life and in struggling, you will be wounded. But do not despair that life is hard for you. Be thankful and struggle on! If you feel like running away from your struggles, remember that there is nowhere to run. If you leave the battlefield today, you will wake up to find yourself on another battlefield tomorrow. So you might as well stand and fight.
To quote Phillips Brooks again,
He is a foolish dreamer who expects an easy and bloodless victory for any noble plan. But yet, success waits before every good cause if it can only persevere and struggle on with its wounded heel.”
There is no victory without wounding, no progress without pain. The flowers of our Memorial Days are always laid on graves. This truth keeps us humble because even when we finally win, we know that we had to shed our own blood to gain the victory. That truth keeps us from boasting too much.
The coward who shrinks from the wounds and the boaster who forgets there are wounds have both missed the true meaning of our text.
C. God’s plan of salvation is wrapped in a Person.
Genesis 3:15 is the first mention of the gospel in the entire Bible. You might have missed it because the name Jesus isn’t in the text, but he is there nonetheless. Jesus the “seed of the women” who would one day make his entrance into this world in a most unlikely fashion.
As the centuries rolled on, Satan kept winning victories and God kept raising up men and women who would continue the godly line on the earth. I like to think of this verse as the top of a wide funnel. When the promise was given, no one could have imagined the coming Jesus Christ. The “seed of the woman” simply meant that he must be member of the human race. But after the flood the line was narrowed to Noah’s descendants, then later to Shem’s descendants, and later came to rest on one man–Abraham, the father of the nation Israel. Then to his son Isaac, to Isaac’s son Jacob, to Jacob’s son Joseph, and then to Joseph’s son Judah. Centuries later the line was narrowed to the house of David. Finally some nine centuries after that, the line came to rest on the firstborn son of a virgin named Mary. What started with the whole human race has narrowed to just one man–Jesus Christ.
He didn’t come in the usual way; he came by means of a virgin birth. No one before or since ever entered the world as he did. Thus he is the ultimate “seed of the woman” since no man was involved in his conception.
When God wanted to save the world, he didn’t send a committee; he sent his Son.
When God wanted to say, “I love you,” he wrapped his lovenote in swaddling clothes.
When God wanted to crush Satan, he started in a stable in Bethlehem.
Rise the Woman’s Conquering Seed
It may interest you to know that when John Wesley wrote the familiar carol “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” he included a verse based on Genesis 3:15. Modern hymnals often omit this verse, which is unfortunate since it contains excellent theology.
Come, Desire of Nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home.
Rise the woman’s conquering Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Adam’s likeness now efface, Stamp Thine image in its place,
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love,
Hark, the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King.
Paul Little’s Three Questions
I’d like to close by sharing the three questions Paul Little liked to ask when he shared the gospel with someone. First, have you accepted Christ as your Savior, or are you still on the way? Some of you are still “on the way” toward Christ and as you read these words, you realize that step by step you are coming closer and closer to a moment of decision. Second, if you are still “on the way,” where are you in your spiritual journey at this moment? Are you still far away and uninterested or do you find yourself being drawn to the Lord? Third, are you ready to receive Christ as Savior and Lord?
No decision is more important. No one else can make it for you. If you aren’t ready, then nothing I say or do can compel you to come to Christ. But if you are ready, then it’s time for you to do business with the Lord.
The Bible says that “To all who received him, to those who believed in him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Have you ever received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? Would you like to do that right now?
If you answer yes to that question, here’s a simple prayer that may help express the desire of your heart: “Dear God, I know that I am sinner. I confess that I have sinned many times in word and deed. I humbly confess that I have broken your law and that my sins have separated me from God. Here and now, I confess my sins and ask Jesus Christ to be my Savior. I believe that Jesus is Your only begotten Son who died on the cross for me and rose from the dead on the third day. With all my heart and all my soul, I am trusting Jesus alone for my salvation. Please forgive my sins and save me. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, and make me a brand-new person. These things I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.”